"Enna." My mother appears at the top of the trapdoor and jogs towards me. The apartment is full of injured people, but not all of the ones we've saved. Some people must have left already. I hug her for a long time, as though hugging her will make everything better. I know it won't. The image of Josh in the Warehouse haunts me, and I remember the words he spoke just hours ago: "It hoped that life might change for the better, at least once, and it was disappointed. Just goes to show that misery is inevitable." I make a silent vow to myself that I won't let Josh die, wherever he is being taken. I will find him.
"What do we do now? Where do we go?" I ask my mother.
"I think the safest place to go now would be your grandmother's apartment," she replies. "I would suggest staying here but, seeing as the Depot has been infiltrated, that is no longer an option. You remember where it is?"
We exit the crowded apartment and enter the empty street, Matthew at my side. I lead the way. Debris scatters over the road, and smoke makes the air thick. I begin to wheeze again, from smoke inhalation and shock, and Matthew supports me unsteadily. A habit, I stare at the ground as we walk. It becomes a game: I step over the cracks and maneuver around sidewalk litter. I stumble on a charred stuffed hippo, and catch myself just before I fall. It's strange how I'm making the old trek to my grandmother's apartment again: except, this time, through smoke and ash. Suddenly, something catches my eye: a streak of red on Matthew's foot.
"Matthew... You're hurt," I say sluggishly. I feel like I could pass out at any moment.
"Don't worry. I just got grazed."
"Drop it." I do.
It seems to take an eternity for us to reach the old brick building. I pull a key out from under the small welcome mat and use it to open the door. We tumble inside over the carpet, and I slam the door behind us, locking it. The familiar smell of soap and fresh fruit greets me again as I stare at the small armchair in the corner, and suddenly it all rushes up to me. My grandmother and brother are as good as dead. The only Resistance I thought existed was a scam. The government is conspiring to control me. Sam is a traitor. Josh is in the enemy's custody. Matthew got shot. Leah and my friends are probably on the run in the streets...
For the first time, I cry. And it's not a pretty cry. Some people try to hold it together when they're around others, or try to keep it in until they're alone. But not me. Unlike before, I don't care if I look weak for showing emotion, or vulnerability. Now, at least I know I have it in me to be strong. Matthew gathers me against his chest and I sob into his t-shirt, now stained with blood. He doesn't futilely try to comfort me, and I'm glad.
"Come on." He picks me up with ease and carries me down the hall into my old bedroom, leaving my mother behind in the living room. He lays me on top of my small, pink bed and drags my brother's blue one over, shoving it against mine in an effort to create an adequately-sized bed. Beginning to feel embarrassed, I wipe the tears from my eyes and sit up, leaning against the wall. Its dull yellow paint is starting to peel.
"I'm--" I'm about to say I'm sorry, but then I realize that I'm not sorry for anything. Instead, I say, "I'm tired." Matthew nods.
"So am I."
I run my hand through his hair and look into his eyes, troubled. He closes them and sighs.
"Why do you think I'm being targeted?" I ask. Of all the questions I want answered, I think he can answer this one the best. He pauses for a moment, then replies.
"Because you're pure and they're evil. You threaten their agenda and they want you out of the way."
I'm slightly taken aback. "What do you mean?" He smiles a little and grabs my waist, tugging me towards him.
"Remember how I said you have too much compassion towards other people? Remember how it was so hard for you to fight a droid?" I nod. "They hate that. In fact, they despise it. Sam wanted to get rid of you because he knew you wouldn't have the guts to fight for the Resistance or the 'elite'. You were useless in his eyes." I tilt my head, thinking about what he said. Maybe the way to fight back is by not fighting back. Why fight fire with fire? But then, there still has to be some way to battle the impending forces of evil...
"You think so?" I whisper. He searches my eyes desperately, then nods.
"Of course. No one in their right mind would risk their life for mine." I know he's trying to joke, but I still detect some doubt in his gaze. I touch my fingers to his lips, stained with blood, and he presses his forehead to mine.
"Why would you say that?" He seems to struggle with something for a moment, then he shakes his head.
"You should sleep, Enna."
"Okay." I lay on my side and Matthew does the same. We stare into each other's eyes for a while, and when he dozes off my gaze drifts lazily to the scar on his left temple. Despite all of the events that have recently occurred--all of the betrayals and deceptions and plotting and agenda-making--I still hadn't changed my mind about one thing.
Whether you recognize it or not, a human being is a human being. We all have blood in our veins and breath in our lungs; we all have the ability to laugh and speak and hug and smile. And even in the most broken person, there has to be an ounce of understanding, or passion, or free will. It is for this small yet beautiful slice of humanity that I fight and struggle and resist. Now I understand why Matthew believes that happiness can be found anywhere: it can be found wherever there is beauty, wherever there is humanity.
Inches from sleep's welcoming arms, I stare out of the small window placed in the middle of the wall. The yellow paint around it has faded and crumpled, leaving a blank whiteness in its wake. Unusually, the blinds are open, and I can see the street beyond.
My eyes flicker automatically to all of the places in the city scenery where I know cameras hide: shop windows, street lamps, fire hydrants, cars... They're everywhere.
But far above them, a multi-colored arch stretches across the sky, faded by bomb debris.
TO BE CONTINUED
YOU ARE READING
Unplugged: The New World (#1, Unplugged Trilogy)Science Fiction
Choose to Rebel. RScreens (Reality Screens) are all the rage in America's future, just a few years after the climax of World War III. They were invented for sport, convenience, and -- most importantly -- surveillance. Enna Price, an 18-year...