“She’s not breathing.”
My body feels light and my head feels airy, I feel as if I could fly away. I could soar through the sky, spinning through the clouds and falling with the wind.
My toes feel cold against the city’s winter sidewalks. Small pebbles and dirt stick to the bottom of my feet as I walk. I run my fingers along every street sign, remember every face that walks beside me and every shoulder that bumps my side.
“God please…don’t take her now.”
I’m not breathing. My chest is not rising. My chest is not falling. But I’m alive. People glare at my bare feet, eyebrows curved into a worried look for a young woman walking alone with no shoes just before midnight.
“You need to work faster. Hand me the…”
Lily. My name softly floats through one ear and through the other, shooting a warm sensation down my spine and piercing my heart like a fishing hook. Caught. Sunk. Dead.
“She can make it. She has to, I know…”
The voice has a delicate sound, almost as if an angel was desperately trying to capture my attention. Lily. I faint but I don’t hit the ground. Before my eyes shut, a group of men wrap their arms around my own, carrying my limp body against theirs. I catch one familiar face through a glimpse. “Barrett…” I whispered. His glistening emerald eyes flashed over me like a spotlight in the dark.
He saved me.
Three days before.
We spent the nights in father’ old barn, cramped between each other and the hay. The blankets stuck to our sides like glue, our jackets zipped up to our chins. I tended to Claire’s side as much as possible. At first, we all believed it was just a cold that she was suffering from but then, she actually began to suffer. She was paler than the snow that covered the ground and colder than the wind that came with the storm. She was getting sicker. I hand fed her soup,shared my blanket and held her tiny body against my chest. Her shivering kept me up through the night, influencing my thoughts and encouraging a fear inside my heart that I refused to face. Sometimes, I oftened held her away from myself but kept her in my arms just so I could watch her sleep. She seemed peaceful but I knew whatever she was facing, was horrifyingly terrible. Claire couldn’t speak but she could scream and cry. Every third hour came the screaming, followed by the crying, triggering the shaking. She became our internal clock. 3:00 AM screaming,check on the fire, 6 AM screaming,time to gather more wood, 9:00 AM screaming,time for everyone to wake. It was Wednesday and we were running out of food, I had to take the risk of hiking to the nearest grocery store. Becks took care of Claire while I was gone, he was much larger than her and most likely radiated more heat than I ever could. “Don’t forget your rifle.” He said, his voice piercing the silent barrier that swarmed over us for weeks. I nodded,grabbed my bag, double checked it for all of my supplies,reloaded my rifle and took off through the woods. “Goodbye.” I whispered, my voice crushed by the pillow of white that appeared every time I exhaled. You never knew when it was your last day, a goodbye was always needed.
The crush of twigs and snow beneath my feet reminded me I was not dead. The hoot of the occasional owl, the whine of a hungry coyote and the sway of the dying trees made the world seem more alive than I had seen in weeks. I kept my hair inside my jacket for warmth, the tips of my black crown of glory reaching all the way to my mid back. My mother loved my hair, my father loved my eyes.I had my mother’s eyes and my father’s hair color, I was a sign of their undying love for eachother, a bridge between their affection. Lily Grace Abel, the living proof that two humans could love, the living proof that their love still existed…even when they’re dead.
I pushed the thought out of my head and felt a cold tingle slide down my cheek. Crying is for the weak and you are not weak,Lily. You are not weak. I nodded at the remembrance of my mother’s words as I made it to the road. Traveling along the road was risky, it made you an easy target. “I’m right here! Shoot me!” It almost said but I had no other choice, the tree line ended where the city started.
The crunch of pebbles beneath my black boots was the only sound I could hear for miles. I loosened my scarf so that I could wrap it just below my eyes and lowered my black knit cap to just above my eyebrows. I didn’t want my face to be recognizable. They could be watching but not willing to attack, they knew I would be back, they knew they could wait. My bag hugged the small of my back and my rifle kicked against my shoulder. I kept one hand on my weapon at all times. If you didn’t, their was a chance you wouldn’t survive. I could see the muggy grey shade reflecting against the clouds, the city was close and I could see the buildings climbing in the distance when I heard the spitting sound of a helicopter over head.
My adrenaline kicked in with the swing on my rifle into both hands. The roads were flat but my eyes refused to stop searching for even the slightest ditch. Spotted. I ran 10 feet to my right and slid down on my stomach where the ground in front of me was slightly higher than myself. The helicopter was nearly 250 feet away and close to the ground. I lifted my rifle to the side of my face and looked through the microscope. I could see three of them.A pilot, a co pilot and one scoping out the land from the stomach of the helicopter. “Where are you going?” I whispered into the snow, the heat of my breathe melting the thinnest layer of ice beneath my lips.
I waited twenty minutes in the snow,watching the helicopter disappear into the size of an ant over the city and then waited twenty more. I began walking, keeping a faster pace and going over the directions of what streets to follow in my head. Take a left up 4th avenue, right at 84th and up the block and over.
I slid across the sides of the buildings, rifle glued to my face with my finger bouncing against the trigger. I watched all around me, taking in every detail. I looked to see if the street lights were swaying, if their was anything but the ruffling sound of my jacket around me or if any shadows could be spotted moving from the windows above. The entire mission had to be done in one swift movement, one step out of place could cost me my life. I bent my body around the corners, rifle sticking out before myself and then running to the next building. When “Johny’s Market” came into site, my heart skipped with joy.My brain smacked my heart into shape, “focus you idiot” It said. Exposing myself to food markets created two enemies, one being other hungry civilians and them,the