PC: DH

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Chitchatkitkat, Aug 29, 2011.

  1. Prophet City: Dying Hope

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margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman","serif"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-size:10.0pt; mso-ansi-font-size:10.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size:10.0pt;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} --> </style><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";} </style> <![endif]--> Prologue <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p> </o:p>

    People say that “the darker it gets, the easier it is to see the light.”- They aren’t talking about “God” or a literal take on the phrase- they’re talking about hope and belief.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    But damn, it can’t get much darker than this.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Twenty-one years ago, a man by the name of “Robert Collumns” took over my birthplace, the world of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Prophet</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">City</st1:placetype></st1:place>. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    It isn’t much, never was much to begin with; it’s more of a small town than a city, really. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Maybe it’s not even that big.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Twenty-one years ago, I had just turned five, and in the course of that one day, I lost everything that I had cherished. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I lost my parents, my home, all of my belongings, even my own name. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    And my arms- for a short while.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    But my name? I’ll write it here so I remember it… I don’t like people saying it much… but that’s only because the wounds are still fresh... but I like to remember it.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Hope Chain, daughter of Collin and Mary Chain. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I don’t know if I’ll ever show anyone what I will write here- I honestly don’t know if I can.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The children wouldn’t be able to understand, they’re too young, too protected from the current world. I like it that way, though- I’d do anything for them. I will always protect them to my very last breath.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I don’t think Deus would understand either- perhaps because I haven’t even told him a portion of my past. I figure he’ll find out eventually, but I’d rather not talk about it until I have to. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    You’ll understand my reasoning soon. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The Beginning<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I was five years old, still shocks me that the world fell apart like it did back then in that instant. No one wants to think about their childhood when it’s been shrouded in so much pain. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    It had always been bad, but no one had expected it to get worse. The thought was inconceivable. “It’s not possible”- that’s what everyone thought. But the world before Robert Collumns was a heaven compared to this.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The second Robert Collumns took control of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Prophet</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">City</st1:placetype></st1:place>, though, everyone saw the potential for how it could be, or how it could have been. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    To put it simply, we all suddenly saw that we all were in for a ride that we wouldn’t enjoy and our thoughts became soaked in the past, amidst the “What ifs”. Everyone had a wish, one thought, one thing they’d want to change about that day twenty-one years ago.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Robert Collumns- I could go on for decades about the trouble that monster has done, and it still wouldn’t be enough. It wouldn’t even cover a quarter of all that he has done. To me; to others; to the entirety of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Prophet</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">City-</st1:placetype></st1:place> to the world, even. Only 5’4 and the man is in control of it all. Major “short-person” complex, that’s my bet. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    It hurts to think about the beginning, how this all started. I still jolt awake some nights, screaming in a cold sweat, my fingers grasping onto my arms, over the old scars, the taste of copper lingering in my mouth where I bit my lip or my tongue too hard and bled. One of the kids are always at my bedside when this happens, asking me if I was having a bad dream again. It’s common to them; they’re used to it by now. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    They don’t know much about it, even Deus, a friendly priest who helps me run this orphanage doesn’t know much about my dreams or my past. Just that I’m troubled. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Though, that’s putting it lightly.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I blocked out a lot of what happened that day. I still don’t think I’m ready to handle it, but a lot of it comes back in my dreams. Every little detail is sharp, with perfect horrifying clarity.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    But when I sit there, panting and sweating in my bed, the memories dissipate like smoke.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The known facts of that day, however, are ingrained into everyone’s heads.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Robert Collumns had killed all of the official government that had previously ruled over <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Prophet</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">City</st1:placetype></st1:place>, all 34 elected public figures, and all before the sun had crept upon the new day. Before noon, he had already replaced all court officials, judges and police with his own supporters.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    My parents both worked with the law, my father was a high-ranking, well-known and beloved judge, while my mother was a regular cop.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The only reason they never saw it coming was because they were taking that week off from their work, since it was my fifth birthday.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    We had been at the park. The one, somewhere in the center of the city, the one with the huge statue of a male angel with giant wings unfurled and raised to the sky, every little detailed feather stretched out in the open air. There was a cloth floating around his nude form, making him modest. The whole thing was made out of silver, with gold and platinum inlays. Sometimes, if you were in the right spot, at the right time, the sun would be right above the angel’s head, framed by its outstretched wings. It really was a beautiful sight- that statue, however, is a pile of rubble now. All the precious metals were looted from it, nothing but pieces of crumbling rock without a purpose. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    We were having a picnic there in the park, in the shade of that huge statue, eating cake and some other treats. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I remember a sound from a little ways away, not knowing what it was, I was alarmed. I didn’t know before that day what a gunshot sounded like. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Then… I remember my father collapsing on top of me. I protested until I heard my mother crying and screaming, along with feeling the warmth of the wet blood soaking through my little white sun dress. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    It wasn’t too long before my mother was killed as well, in the midst of trying to lead me to a safe place. I remember only bits and pieces after that. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The next memory is where I’m laid down on my stomach, in between my parents, my arms outstretched in front of me, trying to pull myself away.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Then- blood and pain so fierce, I passed out for a period of time. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    When I woke, my arms were being sewn back onto my body.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The pain was excruciating, threatening to make me faint again, but what kept me up, was the sight of my parents’ bodies, decapitated. I could only stare, transfixed and unable to move as I looked at lay before me.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Those bastards had taken their heads, but had generously left my arms. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I couldn’t really use them for a year or two, forced to make-do, or try other methods on how to go through day-to-day activities. In this time, I learned to use my feet in place of my hands in some instances, while also learning impressive feats of balance. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a horrid klutz at times, but it helped.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    That wasn’t all, though, they took my name along with my parents’ heads. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    From then on, I was only referred to as “Ashley, of the First Generation”.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I’ll admit, Collumns had a plan and it was a damned good one. Cruel, ruthless, but exceedingly brilliant- the man was a genius in some senses. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    He killed nearly half of the native population of adults who hadn’t supported his cause or views. The children were shipped off in masses to the other side of town to camps; all were renamed, traumatized by the events, and unable to even lift a finger against the monstrosity that had crept into our homes. We did as we were asked, we did what we were told. We nodded our heads and did what we could to survive.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Most of us weren’t even fifteen yet. But, anyone older than fifteen was sent to a different camp. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I had family and friends before that had all happened.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Now I struggle to even remember their names or how they looked. It’s too painful, too much. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I wish it wasn’t, though. I wish I could find them all, or to be able to say their names, so that they won’t be forgotten, lost to time.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Other things, though, I still remember them like it was yesterday- memories that I’d rather forget one day. I don’t see that happening, though.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    After a few years, the world, it seemed, had forgotten what it had fallen from, what it had once been. It wasn’t much to begin with, but anything would be an improvement at this point.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I’m not saying that Prophet City was wonderful and perfect before Robert Collumns had taken over, but this man- no, this monster, transformed it into a living hell. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    That’s not a metaphor.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Robert Collumns, in the middle of this take-over, had opened doors to other worlds and dimensions. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I guess you could call my birthplace a sort of “limbo” now.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Sometimes, people from other worlds or dimensions just… appear in mine. Ever wondered where all those kids on the milk cartons really are?<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    They’re here, because he bought them here. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Young children are his favorite citizens- Too young to fight back, too old to ignore the world around them, but still pure, innocent, and untouched. Blank slates- free to be imposed upon and molded. Perfect in every way for his plans.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    It makes me sick, but the others from the First Generation, have become numb to the horrors around us. They’ve come to accept their fate with a dull and dead look in their eyes. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    It’s disturbing to me, how easily people give up. It makes me sick.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I’m not like that. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I refuse to accept this. This world is hell for me, and I’ll never ignore the evil in it.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    But, to appease our ruler, and to mollify my own goals, a year ago, I was allowed to run an orphanage, for unassigned or discarded persons. For children or people that Robert Collumns either saw as too much trouble to train or they wouldn’t believe what he told them when he greeted them after pulling them from their worlds. Or… they just… popped into existence outside of the assigned “door” into <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Prophet</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">City</st1:placetype></st1:place>. No one knows how this happens- it’s not supposed to, and it causes much more confusion than one might expect.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Either way, I’ve ended up with over twenty-five children on my doorstep, all of them under sixteen years old, all of them instill me with a maternal sense that I doubt Collumns could even begin to understand, or want to. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Half a year ago, Deus showed up on my doorstep, told me he came from some world called “Earth”… or something, least, that’s what he told me. Had a wife and two kids and was in charge of a large body of people in a “church”, but just phased into this world, outside of that door. I’m not sure why he appeared here, but he did, and he became our priest, whatever that means.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    He told us a lot about his god, read to us about it, wrote about it. Told us so many stories, and thinks he’s here for a reason. In his view, he told me that he thinks that if he got us to become “Christians” that it might help our predicament.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I don’t have the heart to tell him that he was probably just a hiccup in the process. I think he knows, though, in some small way at least.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    He’s a good man, Deus. That’s all I’m supposed to call him by, won’t give me any other name. He’s a bit older than me, and surely a man of impressively tall stature, compared to my 5’6 nature. Has wavy, maintained auburn hair and crystal blue eyes. Thin but a healthy build. All and all, he’s a reasonable man, amicable as well, with good guidance in his ways. I envy his assuredness in his notion that he has a reason, a calling here. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Though I’m not sure on this thing…. “Christianity”…<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    We've both been trying to pull our own weight, really. He helps me take care of the children, and I appreciate that more than he'll ever know. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The children; I could never get tired of talking about them. Each of them are so special, unique and so sweet. The youngest, Grace Lavender, is only four years old, and is a bit of a little genius. She loves reading books, and she's not choosy on what she wants to go through. I'm not joking when I say that I've seen her read a dictionary out loud to her doll, Jezebel. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Her sister, Genevieve Lavender, is six years old (And three-quarters) and is the exact opposite of her sister. She's much more active and if she can't play one game, she'll play another, though she is quite capable of creating her own games. She has a hard time going to sleep, and so I was quite glad when we all found out that all she needed was for Grace to read something out loud. I kid you not- the younger sister reads the older one to sleep. It's adorable and it fills me with a kind of happiness that I just can’t seem to explain. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    That’s only two of the twenty-five children that I guard with my life. They truly are a blessing to a person like me. Deus is a blessing as well, though, I'd wish that he'd stop trying to teach all of us about what it is that he believes in. There is still so much that man has to learn about the world that he now resides in, though it is hard, due to the fact that, somewhere out there, he still has a family. That's a good and bad thing, I suppose. It keeps him focused so that he might learn how to get back to them, but at the same time, he's always daydreaming. It's a double-edged sword. I don’t envy him for it in any way. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I hope he does find his family again, though.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I've never heard of it happening before, though, a person being able to leave <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Prophet</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">City</st1:placetype></st1:place> back for their place of origin.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I hope it is possible, for his sake. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    He was a bit of a mess when I first found him on my doorstep; he had apparently been yanked from his world only moments after his wife had given birth to their second child, a baby girl. But, luckily, it seemed like the children I watch over gave him some comfort, but at times, he still seems to be lost in his own little world. It’s easy to tell when he’s thinking about his home- his family back in some other world.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Now he helps me, and honestly, I don't know what I'd do without the man.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I just wish he wouldn't ask so many questions. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I can't just humor him with his every question about my scars, or my odd eye color, or the fact that Collumns somehow created doorways into other worlds. I don't want to know how big <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Prophet</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">City</st1:placetype></st1:place> is, and it's the only civilization that I know of in this place. I don't know how he and I speak the same language, or why it always seems like it is about to rain here now and days. The sky hasn’t been clear for years. It’s always overcast.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    As I said, I don't want to put up with questions from him most times. Because, frankly, the man knows exactly how to ask the questions that would require a response that would include an emotional input from me, which is something I reserve for the children, really. It’s rather annoying.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I'm not sure how to phrase it to get him to stop asking questions, and nothing seems to work, really. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The children are catching on, though. And that's something I don't know how to process. It's good that they're starting to adopt his questions into their heads, because some day, they can find out those questions on their own, but for right now, all they're doing is asking me these questions. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I'll give them some semblance of an answer, though, since they're just kids. It wouldn't do any good to give them silence to their questions. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I'm not saying my answers are true, though.... unless I suddenly find out that I really was born with silver eyes... which I know isn't true- my eyes were originally blue; I’ll explain that later. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    This is my family, for right now, we're getting along just fine... but things are about to change for the worse, I can feel in some deep recess in my body. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I can only hope that what is to come will not take away the last motivations I have left to live in this godforsaken world.<o:p></o:p>
     
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margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman","serif"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-size:10.0pt; mso-ansi-font-size:10.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size:10.0pt;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} --> </style><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman","serif";} </style> <![endif]--> CHAPTER ONE<o:p></o:p>
    Spots of Blood<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Our little story starts in the center of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Prophet</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">City</st1:placetype></st1:place>. The orphanage is on the edge of the outskirts of the city, but I have to go in deeper to get basic items for the children, Deus, and myself. All I need to get are a few groceries, and then go back to the orphanage as quickly as I can, dodging glances from other citizens as I go. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    If the name "Ashley" is called, I don't hear it, and with the blood rushing in my ears, I try to walk as fast as I can without making a spectacle of myself. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I'm afraid of being spotted. I'm afraid of being hauled in, in front of that tyrant bastard. I'm sure if he sees me again this month, it won't be nearly as easy to pull myself back from as last time. My own mortality becomes too apparent when I’m in his grasp. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    To explain that statement, after I was put into that camp- after I was renamed, and parentless, along with the fact that my arms were little more than useless for a time, only allowing me to wriggle my fingers. Anything other than that was too strenuous for my recovering limbs. I still managed to be a thorn in his side, though. I didn't want him to think that he had won everyone over. I refused to let him think that he had everyone bent over backwards to accommodate his every command. I refused to let my fear and trauma control me.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Obviously this never ended well for me. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    This led to the fact that my irises are silver now, and the fact that I have three black dots in a row, under my left eyebrow, and three white dots in the same formation, above my brow both are painful tattoos I earned long before I could really strengthen my pain tolerance. This is why my body is covered in a mesh of scars that intersect and cross over each other. All I can say to this is that I am glad that I was young enough to heal quickly enough from it all. If it wasn't for that, I'd probably be dead. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    All and all, the man hates me now, and I have enough sense to know that I should keep mostly in hiding from him. I was honestly surprised when he agreed to let me even open this odd little orphanage. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I all but ran when I had retrieved what I needed from the store, when I ran across a body, collapsed in an alley across the street. It wasn't anything new, there were always some reason for there to be bodies just... strewn about the city, though something struck me about this one- Something vaguely familiar about it.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I grew worried and I grew cautious, but I needed to be sure of a sneaking suspicion in my head.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    So, I crossed the street and headed for the alley, to check the body that I could now see was face-down in a copious puddle of its own dried blood, though I could not see a wound from what I could see in its current position. It was female, with a hat pulled tightly over its head- some kind of stocking cap and a form-fitting business suit, almost as if she had accidentally pulled on a suit that was two sizes too small for her. I didn’t want to say it… but the woman looked like she worked the streets.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    My hand reached out, trembled slightly before pulling the hat away from the woman's head, and a rush of blond curls spilled out from it. The hair gave her away immediately. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    It was Mary. A woman from my generation, though she had been two years older than me. The last time I had talked to her was months ago, when I had argued with her over the state of Prophet City in some stupid little ...grocery store but she was scared... too scared to even think of gaining a view apart from Robert Collumns’. I don't blame her at all, but I couldn't bear talking to someone who tried to empathize with that man and turn a blind eye to their own world. Especially one who had let herself become so lowly. It was just too much to watch her go through life the way she did.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Now she's dead, and I'm sitting there next to the body, my knees stained in her drying blood, it cakes my jeans, the feeling of the fabric soaking up her blood sent chills over my body. I wish I had talked to her again before this. Our last conversation ended with me calling her a sheep and a whore to this new world.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I turned her over slowly, trying to find the cause of her death... and perhaps to make sure that it was really her. But there it was- dark blue eyes and a small up-turned nose along with ruby-red lips and porcelain skin. It was her alright. With a face that immediately told me of how she had felt in her last moments. Lips stretched away from teeth and her eyes were wide, in shock or fear. She had died in agonizing pain. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    She had been stabbed in the chest- repeatedly. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I looked around for a moment, and then suddenly spotted something on the dark gray brick wall next to the body. A paper was plastered there, this is how it read:<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Attention citizens, <o:p></o:p>
    It has come to my attention that some of the First Generations are not as happy with our city as I'd like.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    So I'd like your help in rounding them up for an execution. There will be a sizable monetary reward for each that are turned in, as well as a few other gifts and rewards for your loyalty. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>​
    That bastard was really starting to work my last nerve.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    So that's it. You cause him too much trouble, and he gets you killed. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    That's just how it works now and days, and somehow, my old friend got the short end of the stick. She was just trying to survive this hellhole, and they killed her. Wonderful. If they can kill a girl like Mary, they'd have no qualms about killing me. I'm sort of... well-known for going against Robert Collumns' rules. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I grabbed my groceries, and ran all the way back to the orphanage. If I left the house again after this, I'd have to wear something that would conceal my identity. Damn it all. Damn it all. I’m sick of hiding and dodging glances. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I can't even really allow myself to cry over this after all that had come before it.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    It's almost like it didn't process in my head. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I wish it could, but I had enough to worry about. I have twenty-five children, plus Deus to occupy my skull for the moment. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    As I entered the house, I could hear Deus orating some verses, probably from that book again, the “Bible”, as well as children playing. My heart was still pounding from discovering Mary. I almost didn’t hear anything else but my own body frantically trying to calm down. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    No, I wasn’t sad about her death, I was frightened. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Not for myself, but for the fact that I have basically twenty-six people depending on me. If I die, there isn’t a soul in the city who would help them that I could think of. I need to figure out a way to safely introduce them to this world in case something happens to me, but I hope that doesn’t need to happen. But it’s true, no one would help them in this current state.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Although, I can’t even muster it into my body to be regretful for anything that I have done to deserve this, all I wanted was to have done more. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    There isn’t much a five year old can do to a grown man. There isn’t much a ten year old can do to a grown man either. When I was sixteen, I was allowed to leave the camps. Most of my generation, however, stayed in the camps for four more years. I don’t blame them one bit, if it hadn’t been for the situation and my anger and drive for revenge, I would have stayed as well.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    There was nothing left for me in those camps. There were too many reasons for me to leave. It was… too much to be directly under that man’s thumb. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I chew on this thought for a while as I stocked the kitchen with what I bought, though it didn’t help me, after finishing my tasking with the groceries, I was still in quite a state, trying to figure out what to do. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I decided on taking a bath to calm my nerves.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    A couple children shot past me on my way to the bathroom, and I scolded them for running, but cast a gruff smile in their direction. It was all I could manage today, but they understood. I’m sure they even understood the bloodstains on my jeans. After a year, I guess these children got used to me. They got used to my weird little behaviors and quirks, and I’m sure they’ve grown to accept this life. There’s nothing else for them anyways.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The small group walked away slowly, and I could hear them speed up again once they were out of view, though it wasn’t worth the trouble of chasing them down and scolding them again. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I continued on to the bathroom and closed the door behind myself. The mirror was a little dirty and foggy, so I rubbed at it slightly with my forearm, my skin covered in the fabric from my jacket, and as a reflection came to view, I brushed the messy black bangs away from my silver eyes and looked at myself for a moment, then noticed the smear of blood on my cheek. I must have touched it with one of my hands; they were probably bloodstained too… It was a wonder that the children didn’t fear me. I question that sometimes, though, I never get many answers on it. I don’t understand how they can look at me without fear sometimes. I suppose that is the beauty of children, though. Always trying to strip away the fear and the evil from a person to try and see what lies beneath. It was a blessing and a curse, though, because I’m sure that they didn’t understand many of the nuances of my daily life, or why I had to hide when I went out.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I touched the mirror for a moment, and then shook my head, remembering too late that my fingers were smudged with drying blood, and then wiped it away from the mirror with a nearby towel before shedding my jacket, then my shirt.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I turned away from the mirror before I peeled away my bra. Then I took off my shoes and socks, and my pants, and anything I had left to preserve modesty. Free of every stitch, I started up the bath while I combed out my black hair until it spilled down over my shoulders and to my waist without any knots before I pulled it back into a bun while I slipped quietly into the comforting warm water. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    It felt good against my grimy skin, and I felt myself relaxing. My eyelids started to droop and I felt myself slide deeper into the water. At last, the surface of the water was above my head and I was calmly holding my breath. For a moment, I was content, and then the door was opened, and suddenly my body was being pulled out of the tub of water and unceremoniously dumped onto the ground by a very panicked-looking Deus. Great.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I’m not even going to ask what the man is so worried about. He usually takes care of that for me. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    “What the hell are you doing?” I heard him ask, and without even moving to speak, he continued on. Here comes the speech. “Why on earth are you so covered in this dirt and… is that blood? Ashley, what have you been doing today?!” Yeah, no one knows my real name anymore, as I said before, I don’t… I can’t bear to have it known right now. Either way, the man looks pretty worked up, then after a few moments, he finally seemed to remember that I was naked. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    “Honestly, I worry when you go out- Sometimes it feels like I don’t know if you’re even coming back!” He spouted while he tossed a towel at me and turned away, and then seemed shocked when I crawled back into the bathtub, towel around myself while I laid back into the water. I still didn’t answer, but that’s only because I know he’s not done talking. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    “Ashley... Some of the children… said you looked… sad before you went into the bathroom… and… you were completely submerged in the water when I came in… and you’re not talking… Are you depressed?” The man asked as he sat down, his back against the tub, facing away from me. I suppose that was more comfortable. I didn’t really care if he saw my body or not- there were worse things in the world.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    “No. I’m just tired. It’s been a long day, and it’s not even over yet.” I respond quietly before grabbing the small bar of soap on the edge of the tub and gently start to run it over my skin. The film of dirt that rested there was cleaned away rather quickly as I worked the soap over my arms, then dipped them into the water, watching as the dirt clouded the liquid for a moment before settling. “I appreciate the concern, but I’m fine.” I hear myself trying to assuage his fears. No, I’m not suicidal in the least, I know that much. I don’t mention that I found an old friend murdered, or the fact that I’m going to have to go into hiding, since my life is more or less in danger now. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I should have gotten more groceries. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    “You know, you can talk to me, Ashley… I won’t judge you.” Deus spoke quietly; his tone was dead-serious. I’m sure I could tell him everything, and that he wasn’t lying that he wouldn’t judge me.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    But I’m pretty certain that it would scare him. He’s frightened enough by this world. I wouldn’t make that adjustment harder for him. Who knows if he’ll ever get out of here- so I’d rather keep him and the children in the dark for a while longer… <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    “I kno- My words are cut short as I hear one of the children calling out my name, and I rise from the tub, drying my body off with a different towel, hoping that I could get back to cleaning myself after I tended to whatever I was being called for. Wrapping the new towel around myself, I lock eyes with Deus for a moment, and somehow, I think he knows that I’m keeping information from him and the children… I think he has an inkling of an idea of what I might have gone through. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I walk out of the room and head towards where I heard my name. I find one of the children near the door, looking at it uncertainly. I felt my hackles rising and my heart started thundering in my chest. Perhaps it was just paranoia, but after all this time, I have a sixth sense about when my luck’s about to hit rock bottom. Children are a good indicator of it as well. Normally they just come get me if someone’s at the door, they’ve never called me while they’re standing there, like some little miniature guards. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    “Sarah, take the rest of the children, go into the back rooms, alright?” I asked quietly to the little girl that had stood there and waited for me, offering a bit of a kinder smile, and absentmindedly, I hope that I remembered to clean that spot of blood off of my cheek, then lick a finger to rub at it, just in case. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    The girl nods at me, firing one last look at the door before gathering up the rest for me, doing as I asked. As I said- They know me well enough at this point. That wasn’t a request, and she knew that I was on edge. They’re good kids and know when not to push me. I fucking love those little brats, and I mean that in the most endearing way possible.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    While the children relocate, I spy through the little hole in the door at my would-be-guest, only to find one of Robert Collumns’ men outside my door. He was wearing one of those all-black uniforms, with a white stripe on his right arm which meant he was one of the upper class of the officers. Wonderful, great, all I need now is a summons to Robert Collumns’ place. That would really make my day perfect. Really. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I swore quietly under my breath at my own sarcastic thoughts then sigh as I watch him knock on my front door.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I walked back the way I came, back to the bathroom and swore again before I spoke as I passed by the room and went into the bedroom, changing quickly into any clothes that were within reach. “Deus, get my gun from the armory- get the one I got for you, too, and come with me.” I spoke in an urgent, hushed tone while I circle back towards the front door, listening as I heard the man knock and listening as I heard Deus rummaging through one of the closets near my room, which I had nicknamed the “armory”, he got my gun, and I heard him lifting his from its place on the wall, coming back towards me. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Deus followed me quietly back towards the door as I heard the man’s voice on the other side of the door, muffled. Another knock and he speaks again, this time I understood. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    “Hope Chain, AKA “Ashley of the First Generation”, please step outside, I wish to speak to you.” His voice was calm and even; though, there was an underlying tone that I understood. If I didn’t comply, he wouldn’t be too upset if he had to force his way in and pull me out himself. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    “Hope Chain?” Deus asks quietly, his voice was sharp and distrusting, and I waved him off, checking my gun then cocked the hammer. I wasn’t in a mood for this today. I nearly felt like firing the gun right now.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    “Come back later? I’m in the middle of reading the children a story before they take a nap.” I call out through the door, and I hear him knocking again-is he deaf? <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    “I’m sorry, but I can’t come back later, I’m a busy man, please step outside, this shouldn’t take too long.” My hackles are rising again, and I motion Deus to one side, out of sight should one come in through the front door, then I just barely crack the door open and flash a smile at the man, only to have a gun pressed against the tender flesh of my throat. “Please, step outside. No weapons.” The statement was commanded of me with an assured grin, and my gun clattered to the floor after I released the hammer and made sure it was safe again. Then I came out of my house, closing the door behind me, looking the man in the eyes with no ounce of fear, I would not allow this man to see how on edge I was today. He wasn’t allowed that privilege. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    He led me to the side of the building and searched me, patting me down silently before turning me around and putting me at gunpoint again. I’m sad to say this, but I’m so used to my life being threatened that it barely fazes me anymore. He was a quiet man, but direct, and I suppose I was thankful for that, as opposed to having to endure the officers that believed themselves to be chosen by Robert Collumns due to their entitlement of the job. They were truly stupid. I usually tended to cause more trouble with those types, though; I didn’t really know who it caused more trouble for, them or me. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    “He wished to speak to you in a couple weeks and commanded me to send you this message.” The man spoke as he dug out a piece of paper from his nearly pure-black outfit while he continued to hold me at gunpoint as I quietly read it to myself, almost acting oblivious of the gun inches from my body. I tried to imagine I was somewhere else. Somewhere peaceful, some place where I felt safe. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I then mentally cursed again.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Hope Chain, <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I hope this reaches you in good time. I will require another visit from you in the near future. I’ve heard that you’ve been causing problems again, and I suppose I have to rectify this. How much longer do you intend on rebelling until you see that I merely exercise the same power that a parent would over a child? <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I will admit something, you’re not the only one, and I’m getting rather tired of it.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    This city needs discipline. <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    But I’ve done things for you that you shouldn’t take for granted. I could have said “no” to your proposal to open up a little orphanage. Keep that in mind.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    R. Collumns <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    Damn it.<o:p></o:p>
     
  3. No more of this story will be posted here, but if someone wants to see more, pm me. I'd like some feed back if possible ^.^
     
  4. what kind of feedback are you looking for? :]

    general feedback, criticism, or just what i thought of the piece so far? ;D
     
  5. Grammar critiques, Critiques on story or plot and such ^.^