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Escaping the End Chapter Six
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Alex’s eyes opened slowly at first then widened as Nima’s face closed to his; she appeared to be talking.
“What?” Alex asked.
“Mykala has gone.” She whispered and then stood to her feet.
Alex shot up and began calling out, “Mykala! Mykala!”
Nima covered her ears, startled at the noise Alex was making.
“Alex, calm yourself.” Gizmo crawled over onto a table, “Mykala is indeed gone to open another gateway. Though he has been gone for more than two hours; it is a concern.”
Nima traveled over to the work station that Mykala was working on and noticed the word Ahzureal. She put her finger to her chin and thought carefully on it. The name seemed familiar to her. She looked at Alex who scratched his head in frustration, then to Gizmo who worked his way toward her.
“Who is Ahzureal?” Nima asked Gizmo.
“Mykala believes he might have a connection with what happened to the both of you. While he was not forward on the matter, I did ascertain that Mykala may believe something even more profound about Ahzureal.”
“And what would that be?” Nima asked.
“That Ahzureal may be a key component.”
Alex walked over to the two of them, his mouth opened in a yawn, “We need to get some supplies.”
“Going after Mykala may not be wise. Should he return we will still be split up.”Gizmo argued.
Nima cleared her throat before saying, “Mykala has transient, yes? If I’m not mistaken, and please correct me if I am wrong, but he has an exceptionally powerful form of it. . .Mykala should be able to come straight to us, regardless of our location.” Nima looked at Alex who simply stared causing Nima to look away.
“How do you know that Mykala carries a rare form of transient?” Alex asked.
Nima did not want to answer his question. She just kept her head tilted away from Alex. She did not want him to know about her memories. Or that she could recall many things about everyone connected to the force that drove her and Mykala mad. When she looked at Mykala she could clearly see his abilities within her own mind. It was as if a part of them still remained in that dark place. Even now, she knew Mykala was safe and unharmed; she also believed Alex would never understand it.
Alex gave a look of annoyance but remained calm, “Okay, you don’t have to tell me now. But think about telling me, k?”
Nima looked at Alex in surprise and nodded.
Alex turned to start gathering items of use and said, “Nima is right. Mykala can transient to us at anytime he chooses. He does not need to know where we are.”
Once their items were packed and food gathered they exited the large room, through a series of dark hallways and out the main entrance. The sky was even duller than before and Nima could tell by Alex’s face that they both had the same thoughts: how much time had passed since they first went inside. Buildings appeared to have aged several years; the sun was duller than before. Even the wind no longer felt lively or refreshing.
“Our world continues to die,” Nima said softly.
The three of them simply stood for a moment, quietly agonizing over the desperate situation. Then Alex turned and walked down the street. Gizmo followed suit, but Nima remained for several minutes, staring at the sun. It no longer hurt the eyes to peer up at it and despite its looming death it was still a beautiful sight to behold.
Nima turned to walk after Alex, quickening her pace and following his prints in the dust. She could see him off in the distance, standing still. As Nima passed a beauty parlor she felt a bit of sadness. She had been in the one near her own home when she first lost control. She remembered it so vividly. A tear moved from her eyes as she quietly thanked the High Counsel that she walked out of the salon before becoming violent. While her burden was great, her memories eased her pain only slightly with the knowledge that she did not kill a single loved one.
Nima glanced up, noticing Alex again. The dust made it somewhat difficult to make out any details of Alex or why he was standing so still. Nima assumed he was just waiting for her, since he had gotten quite the head start. Just then a voice called out from across the street.
“Nima, where are you going?” Alex’s voice trailed off.
Nima turned and noticed someone, possibly Alex, standing across the street outside of a small building being hugged by two large buildings on each side. At that moment her mind felt fuzzy as she turned back to the person she was now only a few feet away. They remained still, with a wide gait and slightly hunched to one side. Nima moved forward to touch the person, extending her hand at the same time. She realized that they had to be naked, their form was far too thin to have any clothing on. When her hand touched their shoulder the body dropped to the ground, breaking apart into chunks of coal and ash.
Nima felt panic overcome her and her lungs expelled air as her mouth opened to scream, but she could not hear herself. Her hands shook violently as the strength of her legs gave-way and she fell onto her knees. She tried to stop herself from hitting the ground but her arms failed and with the thud of her head landing on concrete she passed out.
Nima’s eyes opened in frenzy, darting left to right. Alex was over her, trying to comfort her. He was singing to her and she recognized his face. Even so, her mind was departed from reality. She felt as though the only thing that might be real was the beating of her heart and the fear inside.
Just then Nima noticed a screwdriver in a package hanging from a hook. The words, ‘kill, kill, kill’ filled her mind. Her thoughts moved from trying to find reality to how she might utilize the screwdriver to kill Alex. She brought her hands to her face, her nails were long enough to scratch out his eyes. She must do something; the urge to end his life was growing. However, she knew him. He was important to her, but those thoughts felt as distant as the real world. Then his singing rang past the fear. Alex's voice was anything but melodic, but it was soothing, the deep tone bringing peacefulness to her thoughts.
Nima glanced back at the screwdriver, then to her hands and then to Alex’s lips. She focused on the song and slowly the urge to kill passed as reality took root within her thoughts. Alex pulled her in closer, holding tightly as Nima cried. Nima knew she was crying, but the sadness felt distant; her mind still trying to reconnect.
Nima slowly pushed Alex away as she wiped the tears from her eyes, “What happened?”
“I’m not sure. I tried to call you away, but you appeared insistent on touching the body. Then you screamed and passed out. So you tell me, what was goin through your head?”
Nima looked away, “I thought I was seeing you, but when you called from across the street I suddenly felt funny. I couldn’t help but to touch it. How were they standing like that? Dead and yet standing?”
Alex sighed and leaned against a brick and mortar wall, belted with shelves and hanging hooks, “Well when they tried to burn the crazies using a kind of fire bomb it hit some regular people too. Many were turned to ash right away. Some were just outside the main of the attack. At the perfect point I guess to be cooked just right to be turned into statues.”
“Oh. . .” Was all Nima managed as an awkward silence took over, thinking Alex’s description of their demise was cold, but she knew he meant nothing by it.
After a few agonizing minutes Alex broke the silence, “It wasn’t a complete loss, Gizmo was able to repair a computer and get it running. Unfortunately the networks are all down, but he was able to pull up some maps of the city and surrounding areas.”
Nima glanced over at Gizmo typing away at the computer. It was curious to her that Gizmo had to repair a computer in a store full of gadgets and computers. It was in fact an electronics store with all the tools one would need to make just about anything computerized. Calculators, microchips, curcuit boards, AI modules, robotic components lined the wall, yet something was not right.
She looked past Alex who seemed to be taking in her curiosity with his own. Behind him was a long counter about waist high and covered in dust and webbing. A droid laid over the counter, rusted, but undamaged. Its chrome appeared faded and yet it was a newer model. A lot of the metal in the store was worn, as if the store had not been managed for years.
Then Gizmo started smacking the side of the box emitting the computer controls and screen. He complained about it failing again and plugged a wire into it from his own circuits. Nima glanced back at the screwdriver and reached up to pull it off the shelf. The plastic wrapping broke away easily, too easily. She looked at her own brown coat and pulled at the sleeve, the sleeve broke apart and fabric particles went into the air.
Reaching and putting a hand on her face, Alex asked, “What is going on in that pretty head of yours?”
Nima just looked at the torn sleeve in her hand and replied, “Why is that droid out of power? Why is Gizmo repairing a computer in a place that should be full of functional computers?”
Alex retracted his hand, thinking a moment, “I hadn’t thought about it. But you’re on to something; everything does appear way too old. Even I feel a little tired, despite having gotten plenty of rest.”
"It is a wonder that we did not notice it until leaving the facility." Nima added.
"I would wager the gate was protecting the place." Alex responded.
Nima nodded and looked at Gizmo, “Very well could be. It would make sense, but we don't know enough to affirm that just yet." Nima nodded toward Gizmo, "He could be next, even before us.”
Alex glanced at Gizmo, a look of panic came over his face. He leapt to his feet scooping up all of their belongings, including the screwdriver Nima unpackaged. Nima stood up too, and both watched Gizmo crawl toward them.
“Oh, Nima, you are awake. Good.” Gizmo scanned her body, “You look good for your condition, but we should rest here a day or two.” Gizmo noticed both just staring at him, “What is it?”
Alex leaned down toward Gizmo and asked, “How are you feeling?”
Gizmo had not done a self diagnostic in days and performed a quick overview of his systems, “I appear to be functioning within normal parameters, but some of my code is corrupted. Minor systems are giving errors and my power source is drained twenty-seven percent below normal capacity.”
Nima reached down and grabbed up Gizmo while saying, “So you are aware of the dilemma now? We need to figure a way to keep you up and running.”
“According to my readings of the maps the decay appears to only be at the epicenter of the city. The further we move from the city the less we will decay at an accelerated rate.” Gizmo paused for a moment, his thoughts scrambling for half a second, “Excuse me, we need to move away from the center of the city. Which is exactly the opposite direction we were heading.”
Without another word Alex and Nima, with Gizmo in arms exited the store and moved into the dust filled air. They traveled for several hours before getting past streets lined with housing or buildings. They even passed Mykala’s house and Alex looked upon the pile of ashes and coal in the yard with tear-filled eyes. During the travel Gizmo had weakened even further, his power source drained to nearly sixty-seven percent. The upside was that he was stabilizing, his power had dropping a mere half percent in the last hour. The only question on everyone’s mind was just how to get him back to one-hundred percent once they exited the suburbs.
The walk was tiring for Alex and Nima, but especially for Alex. He even noticed a couple grey hairs on his own head as they stepped past some windows. He looked like he aged several years and the stress on his body was taking its toll. Nima was still vibrant and beautiful, however. She was tired, but she did not appear to have aged at all. Nima noticed Alex staring at her from the corner of her eyes and smiled at him. She rather liked his aged self, he appeared more distinguished; though she was shy to admit it. She had noticed that she had not aged in the same way, and figured it was either related to her curse or the nanites. The ordeal made her wonder even further in which way other things might be affecting her being.
An hour passed in silence as the housing ended rather immediately, but the road continued onward. It was covered in spacious landscapes where country housing dotted the road. The air was instantly fresher and crisper, and plant life became livelier the smaller the city appeared behind.
Gizmo spoke for the first time since their departure, “Turned about. . . .heading in wrong directive- direction rather. Mykala. . .he will fix me.”
“Hang in their little guy, “Alex replied, “Besides Mykala will find us no matter where we go, remember?”
Gizmo beeped faintly, “Yes. . .well. . .no.”
“It is okay Gizmo, you’ll be back to yourself soon.”
Gizmo just beeped in affirmation. Alex sighed as he turned down a driveway toward a white-sided and stone foundation house. The roof had a steep pitch and was covered in angular metal designed to reflect sunlight and too keep the inside cool during the summers. Nima just followed down the roadway as they neared steps going up to a porch.
A dark stain, almost like strokes of a large paint brush, ran down the stairs and along the porch from the doorway. The rail along one side of porch was broken apart and in Nima’s own mind she could see someone being thrown through the rails. It was always in her nature to analyze things and hypothesizes on them. This was no exception, beside there was little to hypothesize about. It was clear what happened to the poor people who lived here.
The door into the house squeaked open, leaving no surprise to their entering, but it mattered little. Alex investigated the house while Nima watched over Gizmo, when he returned he nodded to confirm the house was vacant.
Nima handed Gizmo over to Alex, her arms practically dropping to her sides. Gizmo was relatively light, but having carried him most of the way was a strain on her arms. The relief was cold, but pleasant.
“I will look for food.” Nima said to Alex.
Alex disagreed with her, “I will do that, you need to stay and rest.”
Nima appreciated Alex’s care for her but gave a rebuttal, “I am not as weak as I appear, Alex. Besides, I know you noticed; I haven’t aged much – if at all. You are the one who needs to rest. Not to mention the clothing I’m in had torn several times, it has been difficult to remain decent during our trip. So unless you want these clothes to just disintegrate from my body, I need to also look for more clothing!”
Alex blushed hard to her comment and was speechless, he certainly tried to argue, but words escaped. Instead he just nodded as he glanced at the many tears in her clothing. Nima turned around and smiled to herself. She liked making Alex blush, and knew full well he not only needed new clothing too, but would probably like seeing her in less clothes. Yet Alex was a respectable man who valued the dignity of others, an aspect Nima greatly admired about him.
Nima followed a set of stairs with torn carpet to the next level of the house. The floral wallpaper did little to brighten the dark interior and she reached into a pocket for a light she was carrying. She had pocketed it at the research center, but now it was not in her pocket. Nima thrust her hand further into the pocket and found that her hand went through a hole. She swore beneath her breath and tried to remain brave.
Alex had already checked the rest of the house, but her imagination kept chipping away at her courage with each step. She could see things in the dark, like a lamp table on one side of the wall, doorways and even pictures hung up in the hallway. She entered into the first room and felt the sensation of crusted carpet beneath her. She cringed at the thought of what it could be, but noticed a self-powered light beside the door-frame. She reached out in a panic and slapped it causing it to spark on. The light was dim at first, but the longer it worked the brighter it became.
Once the room was well lit Nima looked at the crusted carpet. The carpet was crusted with old blood that came from under a bed in splatters. The bed was damaged, having one leg broken and the frame was worked apart from the headboard. Gouges were all along the edge of the wooden frame, and pink blankets once neatly tucked in were now a mess. A small chunk of matted hair laid tossed in front of a small wooden dresser.
Nima swallowed hard as she went to the closet with a slide away door. The door was jammed, but Nima managed to break it open and immediately gasped into sobs. The closet was full of clothing belonging to that of a young girl, maybe eight or nine, Nima believed. She did not know why, but it hit her hard; no child deserved such a violent end. Yet she would have done the same thing if opportunity had knocked during her time as a crazy.
Nima collected herself and moved out of the bedroom, going from room to room. When some time passed Alex grew anxious and started calling for Nima. When no answer came Alex climbed the first step and noticed Nima stepping around a corner. She was in slacks that her slightly too big for her, a pair of woman’s work boots, a grey tank top with a button-down shirt that fell loosely past her waist. In her arms was a small bundle wrapped in layers of blanket.
“Oh Nima. . .what are you doing?” Alex asked sympathetically.
“It isn't right, it just isn't right. She didn't deserve it. She deserves a proper burial, not to be left alone and under a bed.” Nima said in a tone of determination.
Alex sighed as she slowly came down the stairs, “We cannot bury every . . . ah . . . victim we come across.”
Nima stopped as Alex turned to let her by, her eyes stared into his, “Watch me.”
Alex stepped back, he had never seen such determination in someone before. It was almost intimidating. Nima went outside and to the back yard of the house. Before she could even set the child down Alex went dashing across the side yard with a light in hand. He broke open the locked door to a shed and went in for only a second. He emerged with a long-spaded tool and jogged over to Nima.
Handing her the light, Alex spoke softly, “I won’t let you do this alone. I’m here with you.”
As Alex plunged the shovel into the ground Nima looked at the light. It was the light she lost, and felt herself smile within. But she could not bring herself to smile outwardly, instead only tears came. But she kept quiet. She wanted to be strong. Strong for herself, strong for the child in her arms, strong for all those lives she took.
Written by J. L. Tracey
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About the Author
Born in 1986, J.L. Tracey was given to a loving family, and brought up by good parents. It was at a young age that J.L. Tracey began to study and learn about Jesus and eventually give his life to his Lord and Savior. Though gaining a desire for writing in his early years, J.L. Tracey’s passion did not blossom until his adulthood; with the aid of his wife and support from his family. Before writing more full time, J.L. went on taking various jobs and gained valuable skills and a strong work ethic. Eventually his career choice settled on Computer Engineering and he started off by going to technical school ATI in Florida. There he learned a wide variety of skills pertinent to the today’s rapid growth in technology. While attending ATI, J.L. Tracey was married to a beautiful young lady, who would become his best friend. Through the next few years they started a family with two wonderful little girls and the story of Last Hero slowly unfolded and evolved. After the unfortunate passing of his mother to stage four lung cancer, J.L. Tracey and his wife moved to Michigan to continue to raise their children and grow in the Lord as a family. After just a year, J.L. Tracey’s life was further changed by an accident that led to back surgery and kept him from doing many physical activities for the next couple of years. However, what was at first a tragedy became a blessing; affording him time to work on his book and spend time with his family. As of this writing, J.L. Tracey and is wife are the proud parents of five beautiful children, has a second edition of his book “Last Hero” out, is working toward the goal of competing in the Iceman Challenge, is working on the second book in the Last Hero series and online series Escaping the End.