Annabelle

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Annabelle moves behind the old picnic area, a covered pavilion that still sported memories of happier times. She knows the inside too well, the feeling of the carved letters of couples in love and inked-out declaration of people who were here.

She steps up into the structure the world has forgotten, along with everyone else who made their small, indelible mark. Time and hardship destroy most things. Most of the people who proudly marked their love, their happiness, and their defiance no longer existed.

That is just the way of things, Annabelle thinks sadly.

Today is Annabelle's statement, the day she will declare she is meaningful and memorable. Drawing a small Swiss Army knife from her bag, Annabelle carves her name into the wood. When she finishes, Annabelle colours in the newly sculpted message with black and red permanent markers.

Annabelle was here, it proclaims. Annabelle will not be forgotten.

Under the words, she carves a heart, taking her time. There is no one around to stop her, and she is in no way suspicious. Dressed in a flattering but modest outfit that curves in at her waist and billows out at the hips, Annabelle looks like any young woman spending the day outdoors, looking forward to the coming of Spring.

Of course, her mere presence in the empty landscape is enough to draw suspicion for the few who care. No one spends time outdoors anymore, not unless they are looking to do something terrible or have nowhere else to go.

Both statements describe Annabelle. She has a place to go, but she doesn't want to be there. She has done terrible things, but no one would ever know that. She is the epitome of a proper lady.

Laws and the proper ways humans are meant to behave in society are a distant memory. Every once in a while, a police officer will show up to check out something suspicious.

After thousands of years of laws, judges, and juries, the annihilation of ninety percent of the world's population was a good reason to invent a new way of doing things. Suspicious people and those accused of crimes immediately vanished into thin air. All of the money saved by the death of society made considerable advancements in weaponry possible.

Police are now called the Blue Squads, dressed in fancy blue and white uniforms from days of old.

The Blue Squads exist to keep peace in a world that is already dead. Along with the Protected Classes, people of status and privilege, they hope to see the Earth rise like a phoenix from the ashes. They believe it is humanity, emotion, and empathy that destroyed the world the first time. Free will is now order.

There is no room for a twenty-year-old girl proclaiming her existence on a structure that time forgot. Annabelle loves the pavilion. It is a place of freedom, a concept Annabelle shouldn't even know. It is for traitors.

Annabelle remembers the day she walked into the town for rations, only to see the Blue Squad holding a hysterical young girl of about eight by the arms. The child cried for help, for her parents, she called out to an entity called God who did not exist anymore.

Trying to save the girl would expose Annabelle, so she did the worst thing possible. Annabelle did nothing. She can remember the explosion inside her mind as the bright blue laser enveloped the child.

She is just an innocent girl. Why does no one help her?

It didn't take very long for the blue to turn to a bright orange glow, and then to black. The pile of ash that once was the crying girl made Annabelle's heart crack in two.

She watched from her hiding place as the Blue Squad picked something up from the child's remains. "It's a grenade. Suspect #1,978,777 is guilty of her crimes and appropriate sentencing completed."

Annabelle's hands flew to her ears. She knew what would come next, and held her breath, hoping the grenade disappeared in the opposite direction. It flew south of where Annabelle was hiding, causing a loud explosion and cries of panic. Five shacks that were once ordinary suburban dwellings existed no longer.

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