I knew they were going to attack, what I didn’t expect was that they were going to tag team me.
Bunny over the months gained speed even I couldn’t beat. So, when she sprinted out of the woods on stealthy feet I wasn’t ready. She reached me within five seconds and was already throwing punches at my un shielded face. I should of threw my hands up and went of the defensive. She landed a solid fist on the side of my cheek before I could throw my guard up. She dodged my left response but wasn’t quick enough to twist away from my kick. My leg snaps out away from my body and allows my foot to meet her side with a hard force. She lets out a startled yelp and staggers back a few steps. I made a mistake as I advance toward her. I forgot about her partner in crime, a certain red headed boy with strength and size, her brother Scotty. In a flash he was there with a fierce glare standing in front of his sister guarding her from anymore of my strikes. The three of us stand for a split second before I make my move without mercy. My arm darts from my side and intends to smash into Scotty’s face. With his reflexes now trained with perfect reaction time her blocks my arm on the way to its target. That’s when if really begins. Scotty comes at me with relentless strikes and Bunny moves to help him. They move as one, like the president’s secret service, they are smooth and stealthy. When Scotty lands a blow and pulls back to reload his fist Bunny is there to make sure I couldn’t hit him back. She was the defense and he was the offense. He was the sword and she was his shield. For a moment, I’m struck with a scary realization. They’re ready for the city. There’s no other excuses to keep them locked away here and learning lessons on self-defense. They know everything there is for me to teach them. In my moment of hesitation Scotty hits me with his final power move, he hits me with an upper-cut without knowing my inner turmoil. As I stumble back blindly Bunny drops to her knees and swipes my legs from out underneath me. I fall in what seems to be slow motion. The ground does nothing to soften the landing as my body takes in the full effect of the impact. That’s going to be sore in the morning. The impact of the fall was so hard it knocked off my shades. The sun’s glare is so strong up in the cloudless sky that I’m blind to the world for a moment.
Crap, they’ve beaten me.
The echo of a promise I made around five months ago sends the memory filling my sun blinded eyes.
Bunny twisted in her sleep toward her brother as he set her down on a pile of blankets. A small homemade fire pit laid a few feet away from her. I expected him to follow her down and get ready to sleep too, but he surprised me. He reached for a lone blanket and handed it to me.
“How long till what?” I asked confused by his question.
“Till we can go to the city. Till we can find our brother.”
I know he expected me to say what he wanted. He wanted to go right away, maybe even in the morning. I couldn’t give him the answer he wanted. I knew training them would take a long bit of time. I refused to let them go to the city before they were fully trained. Scotty raised an eyebrow growing impatient.
“When you and Bunny can both beat me at hand to hand combat and only when you both beat me, I will take you to the city.”
“Hand to hand combat?” he said. I could already see a plan forming in his head.
“Ok you’re on,” he determined. I knew he would do anything thing in his power to beat me. I was prepared.
The sound of celebratory voices pulls my out of my sun blindness.
“We finally did it!” Bunny shouts her voice high with excitement. She looks like she wants to jump up and down and wave her invisible pom-poms.
“Heck yeah we did,” Scotty yells holding his hand up high for her to high five. She really does start to jump then to try and reach his hand. He lets out a laugh at her attempts. In the end she just huffs and punches him in frustration. Scotty’s face lights up with a grin that reaches his eyes. He’s excited to go to the city, really excited. Bunny soon follows his lead and smiles brightly at him. The two siblings stand there smiling at each other. I guess this is really happening then. I sit up slowly and reach for my shades to the left of me. Once they are secured on my face I stand to my feet and dust dirt and bits of broken twigs off of my long sleeve hoodie.
“Keep being so loud the corpses will eat you before you can even get back to the barn,” I scold walking ward them.
“NoName!” Bunny gasps suddenly remembering I exist. She stops smiling at her brother and makes her way to my side. She scans me from head to toe for injuries.
“Did we hurt you too much? Are you ok?”
A fussing Bunny is never a good one.
“Remember the rules Bunny,” I say reminding her.
“Don’t worry about the enemy’s health,” she states automatically. “But you aren’t the enemy. You’re family.”
A sharp pang hits me in the chest. Family? I don’t have a family, at least not one that I can remember. She looks at me expectedly, she wants me to say she’s my family too. Nope, can’t give them hope. Stick to the plan NoName. Find their brother. Give them to the brother. Get your book back. Find the Branch. Get answers. Instead of replying to Bunny I turn to Scotty.
“That was a good uppercut, but I know you were holding back. Never hold back especially on an enemy. I know you have strength. Use it next time.”
“My goal was to get you down, not to knock you out,” he remarks back to me.
“Bunny never leave your side unprotected.”
A sigh slips between my lips as I spin away from them toward the barn.
“You’re just going to walk away?” Scotty says his voice hinting toward his anger.
“We’ve got to pack before we go to the city don’t we?”
I can practically feel them turning toward each other and grinning like idiots.
Scotty cornered me when Bunny was in the car, which was a smart move.
“You really are part of our family now you know,” Scotty says grabbing the food duffle bag.
He chose to talk to me while Bunny is waiting in the car just in case my answer would hurt her feelings. He really is a good brother.
“Trust me when I say you wouldn’t want me as part of your family, I am a freak. I mean look at me Scotty.”
“I that what you believe? That you’re a freak and don’t deserve a family?”
Yes, since the first time I woke up to this world I knew I was a freak. The un-selfish part of me knows I’m no good for these two. But the selfish part of my wants nothing more than to be a part of their family. Deep down I know in the past five months I’ve grown to love them, but common sense knows I have no right to.
“Bunny is waiting,” I say avoiding has question.
He’s silent for a moment before he speaks again, “you are nothing short of a miracle to us NoName. We owe you our lives.”
With that he leaves me reeling in my emotions. Talk about a heartwarming moment. I can hear the muted thud of one of the truck doors slamming.
No Scotty, in the end I’m just praying I won’t be your twos downfall. My feet move defeatedly with the weapons bag slung over my shoulder. The metal jingle of the hatches, condensed bo-staff, and Scotty’s throwing knives echo through the now empty barn. My hand slowly pulls the barn door open as I glance around the empty space within. The memories of the past five weeks hit me like a tennis players racket hitting a little yellow ball repeatedly. Only I’m the tennis ball, and the racket are the too many to count memories.
The puddle never stood a chance against the two sparing siblings. It was frosted over with slush snow. The boots I had provided them made their feet warm in the slush. They took turns throwing jabs and un gloved fists at each other. Scotty let out a groan of discomfort as he fell backward in the stream.
“Say it already Scotty,” Bunny yelled out following him backward into the stream.
“Never,” he growled lowly before gaining his balance back. He charged forward making slush fly from his boots. Once again, they go back to sparing. Blow for blow. Dodge for dodge. They stayed in the slush stream for a good half hour not taking notice of its cold contents. The sun faded from the sky and I thought that it was time to call it.
Instantly they stopped panting and wiping sweat from their brows.
“Scotty never underestimate your enemy, no matter how small they are.”
He nodded in understanding as he tried to hide his smile.
“Bunny use your height to your advantage. Stay low to the ground and use your speed to overcome some your enemy.”
She nodded her eyes shined with the up most seriousness.
“That’s it for the day, go get cleaned up in the barn.”
They nodded at the same time and followed my instructions. They got as far as a couple feet away before Scotty opened his mouth.
The racket hits me again, hard.
The sun shining on the wet grassy field put Bunny in her element. As quick as lightning she pulled the pin on the top of her bo-staff and it elongated in her hand. Instantly she’s was a tornado of quick fluent movements. She spun the bo-staff in her hand over her head, then behind her back, then over her chest. She’s so quick I’m having trouble keeping up. Her eyes are pinched in concentration as she beguan to move her feet. She stepped forward one step slowly then another faster. As time went by she moved faster and faster while she took bigger steps. She was so concentrated she didn’t notice that she was fighting Scotty and his daggers. He was careful not to try and cut her with the daggers, but he was still determined in trying to disarm her. They moved, countering each other’s moves trying to get the best of each other.
“Stay balanced Bunny, don’t give him the upper hand over you,” I scolded as I noticed her left leg begin to slip backward throwing her off balance. Scotty doesn’t give her the chance to recover. He moved his hands till his daggers are in his boots and he had gotten a firm grasp on her staff. He shifted his leg to drag Bunny’s left unbalanced one from underneath her. She fell releasing her staff from her hands to try and have some type of way to stop her fall. As she hit the grass Scotty spun the staff over his head before he pointed it at her throat.
“Kill shot,” he stated. He was mad.
“How many times do I have to say not to let who I am affect your fighting?” He hissed holding a hand out to her.
“I’m sorry,” she said placing her hand in his, “it’s hard to see you as an enemy.”
He pulled her to her feet and she dusted herself off when she got both feet under her again.
“Let’s go again.” Scotty demanded handing her staff back to her.
She let out a huff of irritation as she took her staff again.
“I won’t go easy on you.”
“I wouldn’t want you too,” Bunny said getting back into her stance with her staff.
Another hard hit, one of the hardest.
The leaves crunched under their feet making it easy to dodge them both. Scotty came at me from the front. He automatically relied on the strength in his fist rather than his head. He swung blindly at me.
I watched as he drew his fist back and it darted forward trying to reach my face. He was fast, but I was faster. I embraced his fist in my hand. His eyes widen in shock before they narrowed with the intent of escape. He tried to pull back, but it was no use. I had already made my move. I twisted his arm away from my body and twisted it in a painful angle.
“Owe, god! Ok loosen up NoName,” he yelled as I kicked the back of his leg out which made him fall to his knees.
“Never swing blindly, always swing with a purpose.” I corrected him.
“Ok oh wise master.” He said sarcastically. I rolled my eyes and twisted his arm back farther. He let out a shout of pain.
“And no sarcasm when you’re fighting me.”
I only let go when he nodded. He fell face flat on the ground. Just as I went to turn around and face Bunny she was already there. She shocked me when she darted under my arm and threw a weak punch at my side. Now that’s having a purpose. I spun around to face her and her terrible stance. She was hopping around like an overly hyper teen. The urge to laugh climbed up my throat as she edged me on with her pointer finger. I gave her a shrug and advanced on her. She tried, I’ll give her that much. Before she could even try to throw a punch at me I had her on her butt.
“Never go into a fight without having a game plan,” I said laughing as I remembered her jumping around mere moments ago. The image of her bouncing around still had me laughing as I walked away from them on the ground.
“NoName, let’s go, we’re losing daylight over here,” Bunny says sticking her head out the passenger side window. I shut the red chipped barn door with hesitation. I won’t be back here in a long time, I’ll miss this place. Shaking my head, I swiftly make my way to the driver’s side of the truck.
“What took so long?” Bunny questions me as I’m handing Scotty the weapon bag to set in the back.
“Just saying goodbye, I guess.”
I dig in the front pants pocket for the truck’s keys. I’ve found them when the cold metallic metal sends a shiver through my hand. I quickly fish them out and automatically put them in the ignition.
“So the city?” Scotty says leaning in between Bunny and I’s seats. It seems to be his favorite place to be.
“What about it?”
“What’s it like. What should be expect? Bandits, thieves? Ohhhh pirates?”
Scotty’s silly guess makes Bunny giggle behind her hand. The truck atmosphere charges with a curiosity. It’s almost suffocating.
“Can you tell us everything you know about the city?”
I hesitate, my hand not moving to turn the key anymore.
“Please?” Bunny pleads flashing her puppy dog eyes at me. I’ve learned that puppy dog eyes are her specialty.
And apparently my weakness.
“The city taught me to always wear shades. People are often scared of what they don’t know.”
They stay silent and watch me as I turn the key.
“It was when I first woke, I’d stayed in the barn for a bit of time before I ventured for food. At the time I hadn’t known how to hunt. The closest thing to food that was in the barn was the hay. Not exactly suitable food. One day I gained enough courage to go into the city with a bow I barely knew how to use.”
The truck remains silent as I back away from the barn and drive away.
“When I reached the city, I saw my first corpse. It was horrifying. The skin was burned off and its eyes were dilated till all that could be seen was most of the pupil and a sliver of tarnished yellow. The surrounding eye was red, the veins had busted. Before I could react, it attacked me.”
A tiny gasp of shock came from Bunny in the passenger’s seat.
“I fell to the ground and my bow flew away from me. I was officially defenseless. I thought I was going to die. I had no fight anymore at the point. I might as well of wanted to be killed. I remember closing my eyes and waiting for the corpse to bite me, it never came. I heard it before I saw it, a bullet had gone clean through the head of the corpse. For a small moment I thought I had been saved, I was wrong.”
I turn onto a concreate road, the first in a long while.
“The stranger offered me a hand and I took it not bothering to worry about who’s hand I was taking. I was still in shock from the previous attack, how could I have been prepared for the attack he was going to throw at me. At that time, I had no shades on, my eyes where wide open for anyone to see. The moment the stranger saw the color of my eyes he dropped me like I had been the corpse and was about to bite him. He turned the gun on me.”
Scotty lets out an angry huff in between the seats. He doesn’t like my story.
“He demanded to know what I was. I just kept yelling ‘I’m human, I’m human!’ It didn’t matter what I told him, I knew he was going to pull the trigger. No matter how far I scooted away from him, his gun and him followed me. There was no escape. I guess fate wanted me to die at that point.”
“What happened?” Bunny whispers captivated by my story.
“One of his group who hadn’t seen my eyes stepped in front of me and knocked the man’s gun away from me. He yelled at his friend and wanted to know what the hell he thought he was doing. I didn’t wait to hear the gun man’s answer. My instincts kicked in. The moment they got into a big fight and paid me no mind I was on my feet and running for my life. I haven’t entered the city since.”
“Then why are you going back now?” Scotty says furiously. He seemed disgusted by the idea that I was willing to go back to the city.
“Because I promised to help you find your brother. I don’t break my promises.”
“We could of went back to the trailer park, we still can. You don’t have to do this NoName.”
“We both know he won’t go back there. Let’s face it, if your brother is as smart as you say and as desperate to find you two as I can image he will try to find help. The closest place that would have help is the city. And now it’s too late to go back.”
“Why?” he says annoyed at me and the situation.
“Because we’re already here.”
A faint orange hovers over the city. The sky scrapers in the distance hack gaping holes in the sides of it. The sides of the buildings are over run with winding weeds and green plants. It’s a total waste land. The highway over the course of time has swallowed old rusted cars and it’s a hard path to navigate. At this rate we’ll reach the city by dark. I’m going to have to pull off soon. It’s too dangerous to enter the city while it’s dark. Besides we can’t enter the city driving the truck. We’ll have to go on foot. The truck falls quiet as we roll along the road. We approach the sign that says welcome to New York only the words New York have been crossed out by black spray paint. In graffiti letters the sign now says, Welcome to The City of the Dead.
“Bunny?” Scotty whispers. I can tell he’s completely focused on the sign in front of him.
“Yes?” she says her voice wavering in nervousness.
“Does that say what I think it says?”
He’s quiet for a moment before he explodes.
“Whelp I think I may need a new pair of pants after this NoName.”
My smirk can’t get bigger, Scotty being scared is the perfect opportunity, it’s payback time for the bruised jaw.