Authors: Katarin Haley Pope
Before I put the radio in my backpack, I thoroughly clean it with wet wipes. It’s disgusting, but it has to be done. I also put
the card in my satchel, as well. It’s time for us to keep moving. Soon, there will be a ton of Enlightened soldiers, and I don’t want to be around for introductions.
You got everything? We can’t come back this way if you forget something.” Agni states as he checks around the area.
“I think I do. I can’t
really tell with all this crap around.”
My nerves are real bad after watching the helicopter crash
and watching a man die, and I just have a feeling we need to get out of there as quickly as possible. I put Miss Kiki in the sidecar, and Agni makes King get into his. We start cycling away. We’re pedaling hard. We need to put more miles behind us for sure.
When I fe
el like we’ve made good distance from the wreckage, I ask Agni, “You really think the key and the card are for a weapon?”
“I can’t think of anything else that it might
be for, but it’s just a guess.”
Then I think we did a good thing by taking them.”
you say that?”
“Because if they do access weapons, we might have saved a lot of people, but then again, what if they have copies?”
Agni remarks, “Well, let’s hope they don’t.”
We ride on for another half hour before stopping again
. The helicopter crash site is out of sight. We can’t even see the smoke. I feel better already.
I take out the radio that
we stole from the dead guy. There is chatter on every station, and it’s picking up signals from places within India, Russia, China, Europe, and Africa. The languages are amazing to hear. We don’t understand what they’re saying, but we can tell the Enlightened has truly taken over the world. The ones we do understand, they indicate they’re still mounting those cylinders. Registration stations are being set up in every part of the planet. Camps are being built for those that will not comply with the Enlightened. There’s talk of mass extermination and methods in which to make it happen. Agni and I are in complete disbelief.
No one has mentioned
the helicopter crash, but that means nothing and doesn’t make me any less nervous. The site very well might be found already. I want to ask Agni his opinion about it, but I really don’t want to hear the truth considering we probably stole something really important.
about to sip on a drink pack, a familiar voice sounds off on Agni’s radio. It’s not my family or Agni’s dad to my disappointment, but it’s the man I spoke to when I was back in the cove. He asks a question, and a woman acknowledges him. She sounds extremely bored, and that man sounds like he’s absolutely livid. I bet he’s angry like that all the time. We listen to their conversation.
Blue Team Commander, I confirm the meeting in King Potrea has concluded without incident.” The woman says again.
“Excellent, continue forth with the next phase. Report
your status when completed.”
“How do you want to handle the
Allium Center incident? Shall I ask for a White Team?”
“No clean up. Leave the bodies where they are. This will remind the
m what will happen if they are against us.”
Dead bodies in the street can cause a health hazard, sir.”
Squad Leader, the health hazard in that place is not my concern. If the Commander of the White Team wants to send his medical personnel in, let him do it.” There is a distinct silence before the man continues, “Continue as ordered. I’m out.”
I shake my head
and say to Agni, “He’s a real prick.”
laughs and turns to the next channel. The people on that channel are talking about another meeting in Penny Valley that’s about to start in a few minutes. They report it’s the biggest crowd they’ve had so far on the island.
“We need to try and avoid that meeting, Agni. I don’t want to see anyone else get massacred.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea, Breanna. We’ll stay in the alleys and backstreets, and hopefully, we’ll make it.”
After our break is over, we look down
Sun Drop Highway. It is strangely empty. Not a car or a motorcycle of any kind in sight. Actually, since we’ve been on the road, we haven’t seen another soul driving at all. It’s very unsettling for me, but what evens it out is the view of the Gulf and the bright blue sky on the right hand side. Sometimes it seems like we’re riding to the edge of the island because the road goes toward it, but then it winds back toward the southeast direction. Other times the highway goes into wooded areas and high dunes where the ocean view is blocked entirely. Unfortunately, we have no time to really enjoy the scenery. We have to make it to Agni’s aunt house, and we have to try and get there safely.
The sign welcoming u
s to Penny Valley is wooden. There is a white five petal flower painted on the top right hand corner, and in the center of the painting is a crown of yellow stamen. The flower is actually very simple and beautiful at the same time.
Unfortunately, that’s the only thing that’s beautiful. The town
ahead is chaotic. We can see smoke spilling from several buildings down the street, and there are people running around. We can hear screaming, and then there’s the distinct sound of gunfire.
“What are we going to do now?” I ask him
We’re taking the side streets and alleys like I said before, to the end of the island where she lives.”
I don’t want to go. What we’re seeing is worse than what we saw in
Allium Center. It’s at a much bigger scale.
We can see where the shooting and the fires are, and we’ll try to avoid all that. Hopefully, we’ll make it to my aunt’s house in no time. Come on.” Agni pushes off on his bike.
We go behind a gas station across the street from the welcome sign. We’re meandering through small alleys and unoccupied
backstreets just like Agni said. I can still hear gunfire going off, and it sounds like it’s getting real close.
Agni is cautious
before we cross roads. He’s checking around corners before we make any movement out into the open. I feel really safe with him.
When we get to Sunflower
Boulevard, we peep around the corner to the right and see a line of soldiers marching away from us shoulder to shoulder. They’re shooting at anything that moves.
Agni tells me we have
to cross the street. I guess it makes sense, but I don’t want to be out in the open like that. Those soldiers don’t have pistols. They have automatic machine guns, and they’re firing at any breathing thing. I look up the street in the other direction, and they’ve left a trail of destruction behind them. I am so freakin’ scared! My heart is killing my chest, and sweat is pouring out of every pore. What if they turn around and start shooting at us?
“Breanna, are you ready?”
“Heck no,” I say as I back up while straddling the bicycle.
“We can’t stay here.”
“Are you sure there isn’t another way?”
Agni exhale with impatience and says, “No, Breanna, there isn’t another way. We’ve avoided the soldiers so far. We’ll be fine. We just can’t mess around getting across the street.”
“You go first.” I remark.
“I’m not going without you. We go together
That’s why Agni is my best
ie. He never leaves me hanging. His courage gives me courage. I take in a deep breath. I count to ten, and then I nod at Agni. I’m ready as I’ll ever be. We push off on our bicycles, and we’re pedaling across the four lane road. We’re leaning forward and looking straight ahead at the alley in front of us.
We make it safely across, and I can’t help but to smile. It seems like the hardest part is behind us.
Every round of the wheels brings us closer to Agni’s aunt. I can’t wait to get there and away from the shooting and the fires. Maybe, I’ll have a chance to eat a decent meal and get a good rest before setting out to the mainland tomorrow.
Agni is ahead of me again. He comes to another
street. He checks again to make sure the coast is clear, and he gives us the signal to go. We make it across, and he looks back at me with a smile.
We’re riding in a long alley
now. On both sides are long fences, and there are garbage cans beside each gate. The alley smells awful from all the nasty garbage, and some of it has spilled on the ground. I pedal faster to catch up with Agni, but he’s moving out.
Right before Agni gets to the end of the alley, the
third gate before the last one flies open, and he crashes right into it. King only slides forward in the sidecar. Agni lunges forward and hits the gate with the side of his face and his stomach hits handlebars. He lands hard on the cement ground on his left, hitting his head in the process. A middle age lady that opened the gate has landed on the ground, as well. I can see her pick up her glasses that’s within arms’ reach of where she is. She stands and puts them on. The woman also pops her head from behind the gate and sees Agni. Then without warning, she slams the gate shut, and I can hear her running back to her house. I move his bike out of the way, but it’s difficult because the front tire rim is bent.
“Agni,” I call to him as I
kneel down beside him. “Are you okay?”
His eyes meet mine, but I don’t think he can really see me.
He really hit the gate and ground pretty hard. He has a scrap on his left cheek, and it’s swelling already.
doesn’t seem to be hurt, and he leaps out of the sidecar. He comes over and licks Agni’s face. Miss Kiki joins in and jumps on his chest. Agni grunts and blocks his face with his arms.
“Say something, Agni.” I say to him.
“Something Agni,” he repeats with sarcasm.
He’s okay! I help
him sit up, and he places his hand behind his head. He brings his hand back to the front, and there’s blood. I move around to see what the bruising looks like. His blonde hair has dirt, tiny rocks, and blood. When I move his hair out of the way, I can see a bloody scuff mark.
“It’s not that bad,” I tell him. Of course,
it’s absolutely horrible looking, but I don’t want him to worry.
As I’m helping him back to his feet, King becomes alert. He’s growling at the fence. Miss Kiki
stands beside him, and she’s growling, too. That’s a signal for us to get out of there and fast. I look over at Agni’s bicycle. The front tire can’t be fixed.
We’re leaving both bikes,” Agni says breathlessly.
“Are you sure?” I ask in a near panic.
“I can’t ride it in the shape that it’s in.” Agni says with annoyance. I don’t argue with him. Obviously, he’s angry.
our backpacks from the sidecars. Agni takes his from me. I call for the dogs. Miss Kiki understands and runs to my side. King does not move. He’s still growling at the fence. I call for him again.
only response I get is a big overweight guy with a handgun that jumps from behind the gate. He’s shaking, and I’m terrified that the gun is going to go off. Before he can say a single word, King clamps on his arm. The man’s gun flies across the alley and slides under the gate into someone else’s backyard. The guy is screaming like a banshee as King takes him down to the ground and is tearing into him.
Agni yells, “King! SIT!”
The command is like a light switch. King not only releases the man, but he’s already sitting and watching the guy with a keen eye, waiting for him to make one more stupid move. Agni calls him over, and he obeys the command. That dog is on point. He listens, and he doesn’t falter in obedience. At least, when it comes to Agni, he doesn’t falter.
grabs my hand, and we back away from the man, who is watching the dog with fear. We take off, and the dogs are right with us. A couple more dashes in and out of alleys, and we’re south of the main town. The houses are farther apart, hidden behind walls of evergreens, underbrush, and palm trees. The loudest thing we hear is the wind blowing. This peaceful, untouched neighborhood is a much needed comfort.
I let go of Agni’s hand
. We have to stop running for his own good. I know his head is pounding like crazy, and jarring movements aren’t exactly the fix he needs after the spill he had. Agni gladly slows his pace to mine. I think we’re going to make it now. There’s no doubt in my mind, and we can take this last trek at an easier stride. I’m sure we’ll need the energy much later.
his aunt’s house is just a matter of making it to the end of the current road we’re on, and making one last left on Fuji Mum Court to the dead end. Her house will be the last one behind a wrought iron fence, a fifteen feet tall gate, and thick natural barriers. I just hope she’s home when we get there.
Agni is looking at the call box like it’s supposed to do something miraculous, and then he looks at the gate. He presses the button and stands back. The gate starts humming, and
“She must have a generator.” Agni
remarks as he adjusts his backpack.
“How do you know?”
“The gate needs electricity to open.”
“If she has electricity, do you think she’ll have running water?” I ask in the hopes of taking a hot bath.
“I don’t know. We’ll find out soon enough.”
We enter the property, and the gate slowly closes behind us. The last part of our
walk is tiresome as the driveway goes uphill. It’s winding through a dense forest, and there’s one spot where it looks like someone ran off the road and hit head first into a tree. Bark is missing off of it, and there’s the telltale skid marks on the asphalt and upturned grass. Agni notices this, as well, and we look at one another.
I ask him
, “Have you seen that before?”
“No,” Agni answers.
“You think that could mean there’s a problem at your aunt’s house?”
“Probably not,” he remarks. “
Mark probably ran off the road.”
He doesn’t know how to drive?”
“He knows how to drive. He’s just terrible at it
We finally get to
the part of the driveway that enters a huge wide field. The land is still rising, and at its peak is a large two story home. The house is surprisingly rundown. The paint is chipping off. The roof is missing shingles. Some of the windows are missing shutters, and the ones that do have shutters are crooked. The land actually looks better than the house does. The grass is cut. The flowers are blooming. I can smell the stinky mulch in the beds, as well. Strange how her house looks like it’s about to fall apart, but the yard looks like it’s kept up immaculately. The view is topped off with a panoramic display of clear skies and calm waters.
Just standing there makes
my day a whole lot better, like everything we’ve gone through so far is an unreal distant memory. The sight doesn’t escape the dogs either, and they take off chasing each other.
rushes out onto the porch. She stops short of coming down the steps and waves at us. Agni rushes up to greet her. He is glad to see her, and I’m glad he’s found family. Their reunion makes me long for my loved ones.
Ms. Tillie Lexington is a thin petite lady
, shorter than Agni, with platinum blonde hair that lays perfectly on her shoulders. She has green eyes that stand out among her features and a thin nose, and her smile beams from behind light pink lipstick. She’s wearing a cream color dress that matches her one inch high heel shoes.
“Agni, I’m so glad to see you.” She remarks as she
squeezes his arms. “You are so brave to come all this way and with all the fighting going on out there.”
“I had to check on you, Aunt
Tillie. Are you okay?”
“Everything is fine, just fine.”
Agni pulls me closer and says, “Aunt Tillie, this is my friend, Breanna Raven.”
She gives me a hug
and says, “It’s very nice to meet you, Breanna.”
“You too, M
“Aunt Tillie, please.”
She opens the door wider for us to enter. “Come on in. If you’re hungry, I’ll have Mark throw something on the grill. I apologize but I don’t have much when it comes to amenities. We’re using a generator until the electricity comes back on, but we use it mostly for the fence. Trying to keep unwanted strangers out, you know.”
You really think the electricity will be turned back on?” Agni asks as we follow her inside.
“I’m just hoping.” She says with a subtle smile.
The moment I enter the house, I am blown away. The room we are standing in has a ceiling that seems to touch the heavens with a huge chandelier, and there’s a circular stairway on the right side leading up to the second floor. A round wooden table is in the center of the foyer, and there’s a vase with dead roses as a centerpiece. There’s no other furniture in the room, and the walls don’t have any pictures. On the left side is a small empty room. Straight ahead is a hallway that leads to what looks like the living room.
Aunt Tillie can get the door fully closed, King comes barreling in. Miss Kiki is right behind him, and Aunt Tillie looks at them as they run directly towards the living room.
I speak up quickly, “I hope you don’t mind. We couldn’t leave them behind.”
“Both dogs belong to you?” She asks as she points in the direction they went.
“Well, the small one does.” I answer.
“King belongs to my neighbor.” Agni reveals.
“As long as they’re house trained, I don’t mind.” She remarks.
“They are.” Agni says confidently.
“Excellent,” she says as she closes the door fully. “
Right this way.”
She takes us down a short hallway.
The only door we walk by is closed, and we enter into the living room. The ceiling is just as high in this room as the foyer. A big blue sofa is in the center, and there are two end tables with Tiffany style lamps on each side. A large flat screen television is mounted on the wall. The light from the back windows are illuminating the room.
There are two other rooms separate from the living space
to my right, and one appears to be the dining room with a rectangular table with chairs, and the other directly behind me is bare. An entryway between the dining room and the empty space opens up to a kitchen and what appears to be another family room. Maybe, it’s a dining room, as well, but from what I can tell, it looks empty, too. There is another closed door on the left hand side of the living room, as well.
I put my backpack on the sofa and so does
Agni. He opens his, and reaches inside to bring out the medicine bottles. He hands them to his aunt, and she smiles gratefully at him.
“You brought me my
blood pressure meds, Agni. You’re such a sweet boy. Thank you so much.” She hugs him once more.
“I was worried about you. I wanted to make sure you didn’t run out.”
“I thought your dad will be bringing these.”
reports, “He can’t. He’s stuck in Titan City.”
Oh no! Well, I’m sure he’s fine, Agni. Don’t worry about a thing, okay. Why don’t you go out to the back deck, and I’ll bring out the steaks. There is a pump in the yard if you want to wash your hands. Unfortunately, I don’t have inside running water. Feel like we’re living in the dark ages. It’s just awful. I’ll be outside in a minute, okay. Go on, dear.”
I get the distinct impression that she’s trying to avoid talking about Mr. Green, but I’m not going to say a word to Agni. It’s best if I just keep my opinions to myself.
The dogs are sitting at the back entrance, and Agni opens the door. They run out onto the deck, and we follow behind them. The view is even more breathtaking. I can see the ocean until it meets the sky in the far distance. The air is salty, and the wind is blowing. Her back yard is pretty big, as well, but it isn’t like her front yard. It is fenced in, and there’s a separate fenced area for her pool to the left that’s covered up.
“Breanna, look,” Agni says as he’s pointing over to his right.
There are several black and gray ships sailing. They are different sizes, and they have huge gun barrels sticking out on top of the ships. From where we stand, those things look like they are taking over every inch possible of the ocean landscape. I wonder if that’s the American Navy coming to fight back. I sure do hope so.
“There’s a lot more out there,” an unfamiliar voice says from behind us.
Sitting in a chair next to the built-in grill is a man with unkempt wavy blonde beard. He has familiar green eyes and hair that falls to his shoulders like Agni. He has a nasty white t-shirt on and blue jeans. His black boots are scuffed up, and he looks like he hasn’t bathed in several days. He’s gulping down a beer while several drops are dripping from his mouth to his beard.
“Hey, Mark,” Agni speaks with a look of disgust.
He answers after a foul burp escapes his mouth, “I wasn’t expecting to see you again.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Haven’t you heard what’s going on lately? The world is coming to an end.” Mark sounds very contemptuous, almost angry. “How did you get down here without getting shot? There were demonstrations in town. I’m sure you couldn’t have missed that.”
“We took the back roads.”
Agni answers as he looks back at the ships.
comes out onto the porch and hands Mark packages of meat. “We’re having steak for dinner.”
“We need to save
She firmly states
, “The meat is going to spoil if we don’t eat it immediately. Go ahead and throw it on the grill, Mark. We all need a decent meal.”
Without saying another word, he sets the beer can
down beside his chair. Mark gets out the charcoal, lighter fluid and lighter from a cabinet behind the grill.
“Are you guys thirsty? I have water inside, room temperature, if that’s okay.” Aunt Tillie offers.
“I would love some water,” I answer.
Agni still has his attention on the ship
s. Aunt Tillie goes back inside without getting an answer from him.
says as he turns to face him. “How many of those ships have you seen?”
I don’t know. Maybe a hundred,” he answers.
stares at him in disbelief. I can’t believe it, either.
Mark informs us as he continues getting the grill ready,
“Those battleships you’re looking at are not American.”
“How do you know?” Agni asks him.
“I know what an Iowa class looks like. I know what an Indiana class looks like. I know what all American battleships and destroyers look like. I even know what other foreign vessels look like, but I’ve never seen ones like those out there before.”
Agni and I just stare
at them in amazement. They are enormous with what looks like rotating satellite dishes, huge barrels of guns, antennas sticking out, smoke stakes, and what looks to be helicopters on landing pads. If they’re not American or any other foreign nation, then they must belong to the Enlightened.
say mostly to myself, “That’s a lot of ships.”
There were a lot more this morning,” Mark comments as he fires up the coals.
“I wish I understood what they were really about.” Agni says as he brings out the yellow sheet of paper from his back pocket.
“You don’t know what the Enlightened is about, Agni?” Aunt Tillie asks as she comes outside with two glasses of water. She hands me one and Agni the other.
“Breanna and I were in
Allium Center when a woman from the Enlightened gave a speech about it, but people started shouting over her. Then the shooting started.”
Come sit down and tell me what she said?”
We do as she requests with our drinks in hand.
Agni speaks up first once he’s seated. “She said that the United States doesn’t exist anymore, and that we need to register with the Enlightened. She said there will be consequences if we don’t.”
What did she say the consequences were?”
“She was implying death, but she didn’t say it outright.” Agni answers.
“The Enlightened has a goal in mind, and they are determined to reach it, Agni. They have been around for decades.”
Agni and I look at each other.
She knows about them? I find that surprising.
How long have they really been around?” He asks curiously.
I’ll tell you everything you need to know in a minute. I’ll be right back.” She rushes back into the house before either one of us can stop her. Maybe, she’s trying to avoid this subject, too.
Agni asks Mark, “Is she for real?
Does she really know about the Enlightened?”
“Yep, she sure does.”
“Do you know about them?” Agni quickly asks.
little bit she’s told me. They are a worldwide consortium with millions of members. Each person has a specialty and a purpose. Each one works to better society.”
him, “Does she believe in the Enlightened?”
She should. She’s a member.”
That isn’t good. What if she tries to make me and Agni register? I’ll have a real problem with that. I try
not to let this bother me. I’ll listen to this woman and see what she’s about, but if she tries to push any of that crap on me, I’ll leave, with or without Agni.
“How long has she been a member?” Agni asks.
“Ever since she married Philip,” Mark says as he moves the coals around. “He’s a member, too.”