Dying is not at all like what I’ve heard people describe it to be, in fact it’s the total opposite. There’re no golden gates with a kingdom of clouds behind it. There’s no smiling faces or voices of encouragement. There’s not even a purgatory, a void between life and death. There’s just a searing pain in two points of my body which I can’t quite pin point. You’d think when you die you’d get to lay on soft comfy clouds but no, its only a cold hard surface, concreate just like stone cold concreate. And why the heck is Scotty’s voice here. Oh, this boy better not be dead too after all the work I did to keep him and Bunny alive.
“No,” his voice hisses angrily.
Whoa, can dead people read each other’s minds?
“You have to let him fix her wounds or else she could die,” an unfamiliar voice hisses back. Ok so dead people can’t read each other’s minds and I guess I’m not exactly dead.
“Look lady, thank you for saving us and all, but we will not trust the strangers who got her in this mess in the first place,” Scotty says in a new tone of voice I’ve never heard before. Its low and seeping in a mix between loathing and determination. If I didn’t known Scotty as well as I do, I may be a tiny bit intimidated by how angry he sounds. I’m not fooled though. I know he’s just a big goof ball who loves to pull the tension out of situations. So why is he the one putting the tension in the situation now?
“She is going to bleed out soon,” the foreign voice declared to the stubborn Scotty. “Can you really afford for her to bleed out and die?”
“She’s been through worst,” very true, “this is just a minor setback. She’s the strongest person I know. She will survive this.”
“Even the strongest person who feels no pain can bleed out and die you idiot.”
“Did you just call me an idiot?” Scotty growls, his voice growing in volume.
“No, I called you a genius,” she sarcastically remarks. “Yes, I called you an idiot.”
“I swear if you weren’t a girl I’d-”
“You’d what?” she seethes.
“I’d make you regret ever calling me an idiot.”
I know Scotty well enough that I can imagine him standing with closed fists attempting to control his anger.
“What? You’d fight me? Maybe try to hit me where it hurts?” she laughs. Not a light laugh that you expect girls to have, but a good hearty laugh. Like it’s the most ridiculous thing she’s ever heard before.
“Oh, I would do much worst then fight you,” he growls, his voice stepping closer to where the foreign voice is.
“Like what,” her voice scuffs.
His voice takes on a new tone that make me want to laugh, I think he’s trying to flirt?
“I’d make sure your mouth is occupied with other activities,” he states in a husky whisper.
“If I were you I’d shut your damn mouth,” she sneers back at him.
“Why, can’t handle it Raven?” Scotty taunts.
“There’s nothing I can’t handle. Besides I can handle a little boy.”
Oof, that’s going to leave a mark on Scotty’s ego.
“I am not-”
“Guys enough,” Bunny whispers, her voice on high alert. I hate when she’s on high alert. She usually fears what’s got her on guard.
“If you two hadn’t noticed those gun shots just rang the dinner bell for every corpse near us,” she voices loudly. Did I just hear a little bit of determination in her voice?
“We need to get her out of here, not to mention I’m pretty sure that the corpses are attracted to the smell of blood, so let’s go.”
“We are not putting her in the hands of the people who almost killed her!” Scotty yells at his sister, unable to keep his voice down.
“Scotty, we don’t have another choice!” Bunny yells back, not backing down on her opinion.
“I don’t trust them!”
“I’m not asking you to trust them,” Bunny whispers closer to her brother’s voice, “I’m asking you to trust me.”
It falls quiet between them, that was till the faint sound of dead moans and groans echo around all of us.
“Of course, I trust you,” he says to his sister breaking the silence.
“I’m warning you Raven,” Scotty says, his voice deadly lethal, “anything happens to her and you can kiss you and your friend’s lives goodbye.”
Whoa, never expected him to say something like that.
“Is that a threat,” the foreign voice growls in a harsh way. Its light an has less gravel than a man’s voice. Scotty’s been arguing with a woman this whole time.
“Its not a threat, or a promise or even a warning. Its foreshadowing your future,” he growls at the woman.
“You’d better watch it little boy or else-”
“Or else what?”
I’d never get to hear the or else seeing how all their words fade into nothing. You know I’m really beginning to hate darkness.
“Why isn’t she awake yet,” Bunny’s soft voice asks by my ear. I want to open my eyes and say I am, but an unknown force is keeping them shut. No matter how hard I try to force open my eyes they stay closed.
“It’s got to have been almost two week or somewhere near that time, right?”
The uncertainty in her voice and worry hanging on each word is gut wrenching.
“She’ll wake soon, her wounds have been stitched up and she’s stopped wincing every time I go to change her bandages,” says an unfamiliar voice of a male. Who the hell is this?
“I think she’s just taking her grand time to heal,” he jokes.
He’s trying to lighten the mood. Reminds me of Scotty a little bit. Maybe when I get control back over my limbs I’ll thank him.
“NoName does take her time on what she wants, no one can rush her unless she wants to rush,” Bunny informs him.
She isn’t wrong.
“Why do you and Scotty call her NoName?”
“Because she doesn’t know her name.”
“Really? How can someone not know their name?” the boy questions shocked.
“The Branch,” Bunny spits out like it’s a bad taste in her mouth.
The boy goes silent, dead silent. He doesn’t utter a word.
“These guys came looking for her,” Bunny explains. I feel her slip her small hand in mine and give me a light squeeze, almost like she’s saying sorry.
“The leader went by Smoke. He said he knew her memories, taunted her even.”
“Smoke you said? Odd name.”
“You think that’s odd? The other guy was named Mouse.”
“Were you there when it happened?” he questions, “when they found NoName?”
“She had gone out to get some supplies before we went off to train, but I guess she found them at the site where she hid clothes and weapons. She came straight back to get us. Guess she heard them say the cabin was their next destination. She didn’t have to come back for us, but she did.” She explains giving my hand another light squeeze.
I never once thought I didn’t have to go back. I always thought I must go back. You’ve never been more wrong Bunny.
“She burst into the cabin scaring Scotty and I half to death and explained that bad guys were here. She hid us in the back room and faced them herself. She protected us. She got us out of there when she could have got the answers she wanted for a long time. Instead she stuck with us.”
“Is that why Scotty is so against Casey and I?” the boy questions.
“Yeah, she’s the closets thing he has to a mother figure since ours died. When Casey told him that it was you guys gun that went off and shot her not once but twice he doesn’t trust you two.”
“Do you trust us?”
“No,” Bunny answers automatically without hesitation, “NoName taught us not to trust anyone till they earn it.”
That’s my girl.
“What’s she to you?”
“She’s my mother, sister, trainer, dad, and best friend all rolled into one.”
I’m stunned for a moment. I never knew.
“Thank you Zippy,” Bunny says with sincerity lingering in her voice.
The stranger is surprised, he was not expecting her to say that.
“For making me want to trust you, for saving our NoName, for not being a monster.”
“Oh,” he shudders, “you’re welcome.”
“Without you two she would have died, and Scotty may be too angry to have noticed that now, but he will once she wakes up and he will thank you guys too.”
“She should wake soon,” he states confidently, “just be patient a little longer.”
Their voices fall away as if they’re waling away. My final thought, one that’s been buried deep inside of me since I first saw them in that hopeless situation, I can’t leave them. I won’t.
The next time I wake, no voices are near me anywhere. My eyes, to my relief, open to a tinted vision. One of the kids must have told the strangers not to take them off. Stiffness has never been a problem for me because I was always active. As I sit up on a bed stiffness becomes my newest enemy. It takes all my strength not to just lay back down and not move. Taking my time, I stand to my feet groaning in pain as twinges of pain ping in my side and shoulder. I look down to see that I’m still wearing my faded frayed hoodie and jeans, the same outfit I was wearing when I got shot. Dried blood covers most of the hoodie. This is disgusting. My eyes slowly take in my surroundings and look for any immediate danger. I’m on a platform lifted from the main level of the loft. Overlooking the rest of the loft makes a strange feeling settle in my throat. Bunny and Scotty’s blankets are on two couches in the middle of the loft by two big concreate columns. The columns look to be holding the piped ceiling. A little to the left is a kitchen with what looks to be canned food and bags of filled water bottles. To the right of the couches is a work station? A long work table holds all sorts of junk including a half taken apart TV. Behind the couches is a walk way to the door, a set of three steps lead up to the sliding door. I’ve seen odd places since the apocalypse has started but this takes first place. Above the sliding door are two big plates held up by metal ropes. I don’t even want to know. My bones creak internally as I make my way toward a case of narrow spiral stairs. Each step makes my bones rub uncomfortable in my body. Of all the time I can remember I’ve never felt so utterly sore, not even when I trained in the rain for three days straight. I go on guard just in case anything decides to pop out as I land on the main level of the loft.
Where are the kids?
A small panic begins to slowly stir in the pit of my stomach as I look around the loft. There’s only one exit and it’s the sliding door. I slowly creep toward the door. As I draw closer I notice metal hooks I hadn’t seen from the higher platform. On one of the ten hooks is my bow hanging there limply. A slow smile stretches across my face, but drops just as quickly. My arrow bag isn’t beside it. I’ll have to look for another weapon. Turning back to the loft I enter once more on the mission to find a weapon. My feet guide me to the kitchen thinking stupidly that there would be a knife there. I look on top of the granite counter top, no knife. I look back into the living room makeshift area, no knife. I look to the work table, bingo. On top lays a small pocket knife. Not what I really wanted but beggars can’t be choosers. I grab the pocket knife and flip it open giving a small smile, almost as small as the pocket knife.
“- hope she’ll wake soon,” a muffled voice says behind the sliding door. I quickly dodge out of sight and duck behind the work bench. It’s a small space behind the workbench and the cement wall. As I land behind the work bench a searing pain explodes from my side. It takes everything in me not to scream in pain. Despite the blinding pain I attempt to clear the pain out of my head and focus on the stranger about to enter the loft. The door slides open and I watch as two strangers step through, a blonde haired boy and a raven haired girl. They stand for as long as two seconds before the weapons they are holding gets swiped out of their hands and fly upward.
“Ugh, Scotty forgot to turn it off before we left,” the girl says distaste in her voice.
“Give him a break, he’s been through a lot,” the boy answers moving to the side of the doorway.
“I swear I could hit him with my swords sometimes.” She glares at the floor as if it’s Scotty himself. I can feel my eyes narrow at her faint threat in her words. No one is hurting the kids.
“Do me a favor and move so I can turn it off and not worry about you losing an arm.”
She moves down the steps and the boy flips a switch that was on the side of the wall. The weapons they had tumble to the ground with a loud bang making me jump a little. A sharp pain hits me and I bite my lip to keep my groan of pain from escaping me.
“Where are they by the way,” the boy asks making his way to the small weapon pile to pick up a black bag and glasses I hadn’t seen before, “the kids.”
“Left them down stairs to lock up,” the raven girl says picking up two long sword like weapons.
“You do realize they’ve got enough on their plate’s right? They don’t need home held chores to add to.”
“It’s exactly why I left them the task of locking up, maybe it’ll get their minds off the girl upstairs.”
“Perhaps,” the boy says shoving a pair of reading glasses on his face before walking into the loft. He sets his black bag on the kitchen counter and beings to pull out more cans of food.
“And besides now they are earning their keep,” the girl says following the boy into the kitchen. She hops on the counter and watches the boy.
“We’ve already talked about this Casey,” the boy states warily to her.
“And I’ve told you anyone who stays with us needs to earn their keep, shot relative or not.”
“Casey this is the first time since we left The Branch years ago that we’ve actually met worthy people,” the boy claims pulling out another can. Did he just say what I think he said? These strangers know of The Branch? Do the kids know this? My fist clenches onto the knife harder till my knuckles go white.
“I’ve told you never to mention that name again,” she snarls.
She’s absolutely pissed right now. She’s not the only one.
“We can’t keep acting like it’s a cursed word that will get us killed!” the boy retorts just as mad.
“It will get us killed one day,” she says lowly. “After all they’re out to kill us for what we did.”
Tired of hiding in the shadows and not getting what I want to hear I decide it’s time to make my presence known. I crawl out from behind the work table unnoticed before shooting up to my full height the second I have free space too. Bad, bad decision. Horrible decision on my part. A white pain blinds me for a moment. A look of shock is plastered on both of their faces once my vision is cleared.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” the boy scowls.
“Excuse me?” my voice says. It’s almost hard to recognize. Its raw and un-used. How long had I’d been been out?
“You ripped your stitches,” he scolds me like a child.
I don’t look down because I know the blood is bad considering how many white flashes of pain are wrecking my side.
“How do you know The Branch?” I question holding the small pocket knife in their direction. The girl barks a laugh, then she folds over holding her stomach.
“Do you honestly think you are going to hurt us with that little thing?” she laughs standing back up.
“I wouldn’t underestimate me.”
The pain fades from my mind as I stare down my two new targets of interest.
“I won’t ask again.”
“Good, because we aren’t answering,” she snickers still laughing at the knife. My hand trembles, not for exhaustion of my wound, but because of how much anger is flowing through me. Does she really think I can’t hurt her?
My body moves on its own regardless of my two wounds. In a flash I’m over one of the backs of the couch and standing in front of the girl with the laughable knife at her neck.
“Some of the smallest things on earth are known to cause the most amount of pain,” I sneer at her looking her straight in the eye. “I won’t hesitate to show you how much.”
A glint of respect flashes through her eyes before anger chases it away.
“Why is it your people like to dish out threats?” she lowly asks me.
“I taught them well,” I shrug pressing the knife to her neck a little harder, “now the answer I want.”
“How do you know them, The Branch?” the boy asks from behind the girl. My eyes stay glued on the girl, I’m not taking a chance of her escaping.
“They’re after her, us actually,” Scotty’s voice says at the door. Completely forgetting about the girl under knife point I whirl around. The kids, my kids. I’ve never felt so much relief flow through me. They’re safe.
“NoName!” Bunny yelps stepping around her brother to make her way toward me. I drop the knife from the girl’s throat and walk toward her. She charges at me unshed tears in her eyes. She reaches me throwing her arms around me squeezing me tight. Once, when I first found them I would of pushed her away, probably would of asked her what the hell she thought she was doing, but not now. Now I take her into my embrace and hug her tightly. I’ve grown attached, so attached I don’t feel ashamed when a tear falls from the corner of my eye. Maybe the tear is from the pure joy I feel right now, or maybe its form the return of the pain. Her right arm squeezes my injured side to tightly. I try to hold in my groan of pain, but it slithers through my teeth and she hears it. She jumps back and notices the blood coating her light blue jackets.
“She tore her stitches open by playing predator,” the boy claims behind me a tint of anger in his words, “I need to stitch her back up again.”
“Not until you answer my question about The Branch,” I grit through the pain, turning to face the two strangers.
“The Branch?” Scotty’s surprised voice asks stepping to my side facing them.
“You let me stitch you up and I will,” the boy tries to negotiate with me.
“Why don’t you just tell her what she wants to know?” Scotty, my overprotective bodyguard growls.
“Because at this rate she’ll bleed out!” he exclaims. “Look at her! She’s losing to much blood again! If you haven’t noticed there aren’t hospitals anymore. If she loses anymore blood, she’ll need a blood transfusion and we don’t have the right equipment for that!”
Everyone stays quiet, Bunny’s the one to break the tense silence.
“How about he tells you while he stitches you up again?” Bunny gingerly asks touching my side.
Leave it to Bunny to keep the peace.
“Fine,” I agree letting my body sag a little while it releases tension, “better get on it quick. I think I may pass out again.”
My body agrees seeing how it stumbles and has trouble staying up right.
Getting shot? So not recommended.