Ann was on her way to work, the cold winter air nipped at her ears and nose as she walked towards her building. The building she worked in was in a line of other buildings exactly alike. All of them were tall, gray and almost overbearing. They stood around the city like dominating guards, making sure that everyone inside their limits did as was expected. Ann walked into the building her feet barely scraping over the tiles, tiny grains of sand grinding across the ground into an even finer dust. The lobby of the building was empty and hollow, the walls painted a shade of dingy grey. A single overhead light flickered constantly. On the side of the room where she had entered was the door to the outside, on the other side sat heavy metal doors. She approached the large doors of the elevators slowly, taking a deep breath and ever so slightly adjusting her collar. She depressed the button firmly, her finger sinking against the plastic as it caved under the pressure. Stepping into the elevator Ann was transcended into a new world. The inside of the elevator was one of the softest green colors; it looked so soft that if Ann ever had the urge to reach out and touch it, she would have the sensation that she was petting soft moss. When the doors shut and sealed Ann into the elevator she could very clearly hear the soft piano music playing. The notes trickled down into the elevator and danced around the cold air joyfully. This was Ann's favorite part of her work day. She enjoyed the short ride from the bottom floor onto the 115th level of the building it's where she cleared her head from the monotony of her life. Where she thought of the things she could do with her life if she ever took a step out of her comfort zone.
The elevator sounded out that it was where she needed to be. The doors sighed open slowly and she took a cautious step onto her floor. The floor she worked on looked endless, it was a floor full of cubicles, lines and lines of cubicles, their dull grey walls slipping into one another. There were thin lines where the dark grey floor pierced through the cubicles, forming so many different paths that it looked like a maze from some twisted fair. The secret to the cubicles on the 115th floor, was that there was only one way in or out of the maze. It sat to the left side half way up, and directly in front of the only way in and out of the maze sat a man. He was a large man, of a very dark complexion. He wore a suit of black, and had muscles that were so well defined you could see how they moved even when he breathed. He carried a gun that was very visible on his right side. What the normal observer didn't know was that he also carried two large knives and a taser. However, Ann knew that. She knew quite a bit about that man, his name was Earl; he was hired by the 125th floor. Hired to "Clock you in and out" that’s what the floor had sent down in a memo. Ann knew better though, she'd seen what he really did. He was hired to keep them in line, just like the buildings were built to watch the city; Earl was hired to watch them. No one had tested him yet, but Ann had a feeling that it was coming soon, and that it wouldn't end well. Ann walked over towards, Earl her employee ID in her hand. He stood up briskly as she got close to him, his hand outstretched for the ID. Ann thought for the briefest of moments about not handing him her ID, about seeing if she could get him to enforce the rules she had memorized for years. She didn't though, instead she silently handed him her ID and he took it without as much as a nod of acknowledgment.
Earl looked closely at the ID he had just been handed. He read it, focusing on the name and the employee ID number. He turned on his heels and walked to the wall directly behind where he sat. There was a small black box attached to the wall. He pressed it's center firmly, it eased open effortlessly. Earl placed Ann's ID in the box, and it sealed it's self shut again. Even though she knew she should walk to her cubicle, Ann had stayed in front of Earl, just watching him. He turned to her, his steel blue eyes piercing as he watched her. Earl wondered why she was here still. He looked her over, how the dark grey suit that all normal employees wore hung on her frame so loosely that she was lost in it. Her green eyes continued to stare at him, almost in disbelief that he still hadn't uttered a single word to her. Earl cleared his throat
"Ann, please go to your work station." He said slowly, his voice was deep, rich it sounded like a finely tuned grand piano, his words were heavy and they fell like the final bass notes in a masterpiece. Ann stood there trying to force her body to move, to walk to her cubicle, to start her day, to obey the rules. She blinked her large green eyes at Earl and he begin to clear his throat again. With that noise Ann's body slammed into motion, she ran, full speed into the maze of cubicles. She turned left, then right, then left and she skittered to a halt in front of her work station, her heart pounding, sweat beginning to pop up along her brow. Ann took a shaky breath and tried to steady her racing heart. She walked into her cubicle, her legs shaky, she gingerly sat down in the office chair, her body still urging her to run, run until she collapsed. She fought the urge, she stayed seated, her hands gripping the bottom of her desk chair until her knuckles turned white from the effort. Her heart finally slowed, her mind finally cooled and she became nauseous. She laid her forehead against the edge of her desk, the cold metal cooling her hot skin. Ann slowly straightened herself feeling each disk of her spinal cord slip into the proper place. She glanced around her cubicle, and then clicked on the monitor that sat in front of her. The screen glowed briefly and then displayed a bright blue Welcome message to her. She carefully picked up the headset that sat next to her monitor. She spoke quietly and quickly into the microphone
"Agent number 203059 reporting for work on the 13th of June in the year of 2090" The monitor blinked, and begin displaying a blank chart. Through the headphones a stream of numbers begin to pour into Ann's ear. She repeated these numbers into the microphone and the computer displayed them in peculiar fashions on the screen. When the numbers quit pouring into her ears, she repeated the most common reoccurring number 10 times and the screen cleared and new streams of numbers begin.
Slowly the 115th floor begin to fill with more people in grey suits, just like Ann's. All of the people sitting in their own small world, whispering viciously into their microphones and staring blankly at their ever changing computer screens. The room filled quickly with the voices of over a hundred different people, all rambling numbers. Then at precisely 12:32pm the room became filled with utter silence. All the voices stopped, and then slowly but surely everyone stood and begin to file out of the 115th floor, stopping briefly to tell Earl their Employee ID number and to retrieve their ID. Then off they all went to the cafeteria for lunch. Ann waited until the very last one filed onto the elevator before she stood up from her desk. She walked slowly from her cubicle towards Earl. He was standing in front of his chair, eyes fixed on her, watching her walk through the maze, knowing she would end up at him, that she had to get her ID and see him if she had any hope of ever getting out of that maze. Ann kept her pace even, although her heart was racing as she approached Earl. His cold blue eyes stared at her as she stood before him, her eyes turned down.
"ID number 203059" She said quickly and almost a whisper.
Earl thought to himself that this woman, no this girl, was so scared of him that she couldn't look at him. She was petrified of what may happen if she were to ever disobey the company she worked for. Earl didn't fear the company and he didn’t fear anyone. He held out Ann's ID for her to grab, and as her small pale hand grabbed the ID he spoke.
"Have a good lunch break, Ann." His voice still held the melodic tones of a well played piano. This time though, the voice was gentler than it had been before. Earl had extended a small gesture, one that all of the other employee's wouldn't have noticed. Ann noticed, she looked up at him, her big green eyes stared into his soul. Earl stared back, his eyes where colder than hers, piercing and precise, Ann's eyes were gentle , innocent and curious as to what the world held.
Her voice shook but she couldn't contain herself, she had to speak.
"Earl, will you eat lunch with me?" She waited anxiously, as if she were a school boy asking out a popular girl. She had no romantic interest in anyone, let alone Earl. She strictly wanted to find out more about him, she wanted to opportunity to study him and see what he was honestly like. Earl was taken aback by the question, he had never considered someone here asking him to do anything, they were all terrified of him. He thought about it for a moment, went over the company policy in his head.
"I suppose I can." He said, almost emotionlessly he turned on his heel again and retrieved his own employee ID and begin walking towards the elevator. Ann walked briskly trying to keep up with his long strides, without running.
"Do you eat indoors or outdoors?" Earl asked casually, painfully aware that he and Ann most likely had nothing in common
"Either is fine, although I prefer the outdoors." Ann was slowly calming her heart, this behemoth of a man wasn't going to kill her, she kept trying to relax.
"I agree with you, the outside courtyard has less people." Ann panicked slightly, why would he want less people around? Maybe that way if he were to harm her it wouldn't be as obvious? Perhaps he just didn't enjoy people, she rationalized, after all she didn't particularly enjoy many other people.
The elevator doors opened and Earl walked in first, moving to the right of the elevator where the panel of buttons were making sure that Ann had plenty of room to get into the elevator. Ann stepped into the place she so lavishly enjoyed this morning by herself and felt that the air was now stagnant since it had been polluted by all the others coming to and fro from work. She rested gently against the left side of the elevator, Earl pressed the 4th floor button, the doors sighed shut and the elevator begin the decent down to the courtyard. The music that was soothing to Ann before now seemed awkward, where the notes joyfully danced before they now buzzed like mosquitoes, biting at the air with painful accuracy. They were silent the entire elevator trip to the courtyard, Ann stood there staring at Earl and Earl looked straight ahead, but in his mind he was wondering why in the world Ann would want to eat lunch with him when she was obviously scared of him. Why was she scared of him he wondered that as well, because he had never done anything to anyone that Ann had witnessed yet she had an innate fear of him, as if she could tell that he had killed before. Earl shook his head and decided that it would be better not to dwell on it any longer. As he was about to try and make small talk, the elevator informed him that they had reached the courtyard with its standard, ding. Ann had watched him the entire ride, she wondered what he thought about, and she became determined to find out sooner or later, hopefully sooner. The doors of the elevators opened outside onto a rooftop courtyard, it was filled with large oak trees their branches spreading out, creating large areas of speckled shade. In the shaded areas sat large tables made of heavy stone, they were hand carved and well worn. This courtyard was identical though, to all the courtyards on all the other buildings. They were created to make the work environments seem more friendly, to make the buildings seem less threatening, to make the people feel like the buildings were a gift and not a burden. Ann loved these courtyards though, they were so alive, they were so lush. The courtyards were one of the only places inside the city where nature still existed. Earl stepped out of the elevator and begin to walk towards the edge of the courtyard where there was a small creek, stone benches sitting alongside it, their smooth surfaces glistening in the sun. His steps were quick and measured, his pace made it so that as Ann got out of the elevator he was already half way to the benches. She jogged to catch up to him her shoes sinking into the sod as she ran. She met up with Earl just as he reached the benches, he turned to look at her as she begin to catch her breath.
"Why did you run?" He asked, crossing his arms as he waited for her response.
Ann took a deep breath and smiled. "I just wanted to be able to catch up to you, you have some long legs ya know."
Earl chuckled, which surprised Ann, but she made a note that his laugh was quiet, gentle almost, still deep, and it resonated even though it was so quiet. Ann pulled a pack of cigarettes out of her chest pocket, shaking loose a long white cigarette and placing it in her soft pink lips. She held the pack out to Earl, offering him one if he wished. Earl scoffed and shook his head.
"Those things are going to kill you, don't you read the labels?"
Ann shrugged as she lit the cigarette, inhaling deeply filling her lungs with the acidic smoke. As she spoke smoke billowed out of her mouth. "Anything can kill you, so why should I worry about this small luxury of mine?" She took another long pull on the cigarette and watched Earl as he stared into the creek.
"I suppose you're right, death comes in all forms and at all times so I suppose smoking won't really matter in the long run." Earl slowly patted the spot on the bench next to him, he decided that Ann was interesting and he wanted to ask her what she thought about him and the other employees of the company. Ann smiled and sat down next to him, crossing her thin legs casually as she took another drag on her cigarette.
"What did the company tell you they hired you for?" Ann inquired, as she exhaled a deep grey cloud of smoke. Earl chuckled and stated quite coldly and very formal "I was hired to clock you in and out and to make sure that no one was getting unregulated overtime hours." Ann stopped, her cigarette hanging in her hand loosely.
"You are kidding right? There is no way that’s what they told you your job was."
"That is what I'm supposed to tell you anyways" Earl smiled at Ann holding back a laugh.
Ann's face was stoic as she took the last drag off her cigarette and pushed it into the sole of her shoe, the embers falling into the grass by her feet and slowly dying out.
"Well then, I suppose I'm off to work " Ann stood and begin a quick walk towards the elevator, she was upset with herself for believing that this man who worked for this company would tell her anything, she was also terrified, she may have just done something incredibly stupid, what if he told the bosses? What if she lost her job? Or perhaps her life? Her body begin to shift into flight mode again, her legs quivering as she forced them to walk and not run. She didn't dare turn her head and see what Earl had done, he could be drawing the gun, he could be running at her, knives extended. Just as she reached the elevator, she felt a shock, and then her mind went blank and down she went.
Earl silently cursed himself, as he walked over to Ann's limp body. He scooped her small frame into his arms and heaved her over his shoulder as if she were a small bag of flour. He didn't want to taze her, but he couldn't have her spooked and running around the company like she had lost her mind. Earl jogged over to the staircase, a few feet away from the elevator. He glanced around carefully and checked his watch.
"Son of a bitch" he mumbled, he had 10 minutes before he had to be back at his station, and Ann needed to be back at hers. Dashing up the stairs by twos, Earl made it back to the 115th floor before, anyone else arrived from their lunch break. He quickly walked Ann’s lifeless body to her cubicle, he set her down in her chair and scribbled a quick note that he stuck on her headset. Ann grumbled and begin to move her head slowly just as Earl stepped out of the cubicle.
Groggy and and in excruciating pain, Ann opened her eyes. She smelt something sterile, and felt as if the air around her was so stuffy that she couldn’t breathe. As she slowly came to bearings she realized she was in her cubicle. She quickly looked around and saw that lunch was about to end, she thought perhaps she had fallen asleep at her desk, it wouldn’t be the first time. Ann reached for the headset to begin her transcribing, however when she picked it up, a note fluttered into her lap. She flipped open the small yellow paper, and read the hurried scribbles closely.
We need to talk, stay after work I will explain then.
The memory of the day was still fuzzy in Ann’s mind, but she did vividly remember the morning’s encounter with Earl. She glanced at him, as he silently took other employee’s ID’s and placed them inside the wall. She shivered as a cold sweat begin to form on her upper lip. She grasped her headset and slipped it on, trying to muster the energy to work as if nothing abnormal was going through her mind. She begin reciting her numbers, trying to make sure and pay close attention, she didn’t want to make a mistake, that would alert the others and she didn’t want any attention. The time seemed to drag on as she worked, she could here every minute tick on the clock, feel every second drag across the air as time elapsed.
It was six PM, the computers begin shutting down, people begin leaving, at first individually then in small clumps of close associates, then again down to singles walking towards the elevator, leaving the building, going home to eat dinner with their families.
Ann stayed seated, her headset resting gently against her monitor, her eyes staring at the screen. It glowed, waiting for her final command, the passcode for it to shut down. She couldn’t utter the command though, she was having a hard time breathing, she was terrified about the meeting with Earl, and she knew better than to run. The code moved from her lips slowly, each syllable falling onto the microphone with such terror that they seemed to penetrate her very soul. The computer screen turned off, the quiet hum of it shutting down, filling Ann’s ears. She slowly rose from her chair and begin to walk. Her legs rubbery, her hands sweaty she walked through the maze of cubicles, her eyes down, watching the grey fibers of the floor pass underneath her feet. As she approached Earl, she looked up. His eyes were cold, his arms crossed in front of his chest, breathing shallow and even.
“Ann,” Earl spoke her name slowly, his words staying in the air, long after they left his lips, his eyes never leaving hers.
“Don’t ask about my work, I won’t ask about yours. Things may have gotten to far already, this company is powerful.” Earl then produced Ann’s ID. She took it and stared at Earl dumbfounded, she didn’t have any sort of response left in her head , so instead she just turned on her heel and walked out, the elevator doors sighing closed behind her, Earl left standing alone on the now empty floor.
The road, was desolate. Tree’s hanging lifeless along the side of it. Their branches swaying gently against the breeze, naked in the harsh weather. Ezekiel pulled the torn and tattered jacket across his chest, walking cautiously down the road. His deep brown eyes were blood shot. His face covered in a beard that hadn’t been trimmed in years, and his skin tanned the color of old leather. He looked, weak, old and worn down. He was. Walking slowly along the road, Ezekiel looked just like everyone else in his world, desolate and terrified. He carried a small pack, and that was everything he owned in the world. This highway his only salvation. When the world changed, he resisted and they threw him out. All of them were rejected, they were to rowdy, to much to handle. All he wanted was the truth, he got it. That’s all he got though, the truth and a boot in the ass for his trouble. He could be like his father and his brother, dead buried in some unmarked mass grave. Instead, he ran. He ran so fast and so far that he forgot where he was even going. He still was going though, still walking, fighting and trying to find the truth of this new world.
He remembered it clearly, what life was like when he was young. His father worked for a company in the city, he wasn’t sure which one, but it was big. He used to leave in the morning and come home, right at dinner time. Ezekiel went to school, a starched uniform he hated, his hair always brushed until it laid in the only way he disliked. He was pushed out of the house, into the throng of other children wearing the same uniform, carrying the same bags, and all walking towards the dreaded academy. But, it wasn’t as bad as his young mind made it out to be. He had friends, and they played games, laughing joyously at everything. The ate candy in class, and told bad jokes about the teachers. They were innocent, and more importantly they were really free.
He wasn’t free now. Ezekiel tried to maintain his freedom, fought for it from the company that begin to consume the world. He refused to treat them as gods, refused to accept the world they offered. He knew that people of a country should be able to have a say. The company didn’t like that, thought that he was going to corrupt the youth. They thought that he was going to incite riots, and destroy their carefully manicured lawns. He was reminiscing until he heard something. A creak, a sudden movement in the air, unnatural and mystifying. He dropped to the side of the road, reaching into his pack and pulling out an old revolver, its metal cold in his hands. His chest heaved as he scanned the area, his eyes darting from one thing to another, his gun following closely his finger dancing nervously on the trigger. There it was, a small amount of movement on the left of the road, he inhaled, and as he exhaled he squeezed the trigger. The crack of the pistol vibrated against his ears, his hands numb from the force of it. Then, the quiet click of the chamber sliding onto the next round as he cocked back the hammer. He laid their for a full minute before he got up and walked quietly towards what he shot. He was praying it wasn’t a person, hoping it was just some stupid rabbit. He hated shooting things, hated having to survive off of violence, but out here there was no other way. Ezekiel took a deep breath and looked into the bushes on the edge of the deserted highway. He exhaled quickly with a ping of regret, on the ground lay a child, a young boy, his sandy hair caked with dirt and grime from the surroundings. He couldn't have been more than six years old, his ribs were painfully prominent and his stomach was distended in a way that could only be one thing, starvation. The boy must have been barley alive when he shot him, his cheeks were hallowed to the point that the skin looked as if it were loosely laid over a skull. Ezekiel didn’t stand there long though, he trained himself not to, he made the symbol of the cross on himself and then sourly walked away, placing his still warm pistol back into his pack.
The old road signs were hard to read, the white lettering stained dark by the passage of time, as well as the smoke and soot from the many fires and factories. Ezekiel thought about when his family was running, trying so hard to get away from the company, the place that controlled the world. Those road signs were everything back then, just 100 more miles to freedom. Freedom was another country, freedom was anywhere where they thought the company didn’t know about. Freedom didn’t exist. The company was everywhere they went to, those road signs turned from salvation into damnation. Cameras, gps tracking lasers all laid into the flat interface as his family tried to escape.
Ezekiel shook his head of those memories, the cameras were long gone now, these roads and land were abandoned by the company. They walled off their cities and left the rest of the world to rot. On occasion people would try to enter the cities, and they were shot on site. The people inside the city had no clue. It was even worse for those who tried to leave the city though, those people weren’t just simply shot, which would be a blessing to what they would have to experience. They were either sent to camps, to train them that there was no outside of town, that there wasn’t anything else in the entire world at all. Or, the worst case scenario, they let them out, trapped them then in this dead world where no one had anything and everyone tried to to kill one another to survive off the meager means of theft and murder, sometimes cannibalism as well. Ezekiel had seen both situations first hand, and envied the ones who left this plain quickly. He had thought about running towards the gates of a city, many a times. He contemplated the way out, more than he would like to admit. He couldn’t do it though, he had to try and live, to prove to the company that they couldn’t control him so easily. He continued his slow trek down the desolate road. Heading north, towards the mecca of the company, the city where all of the leaders lived, where they altered time and history, where they controlled the world. As he walked he hummed an old song that he remembered from his mother. It soothed him and made the time drift by a little quicker, made it seem as if in a way the world was at peace for a moment. Ezekiel had been walking for a while, possibly 6 or 7 hours and then suddenly the ground shook. He snapped his head around trying to scan for what could have caused the rumbling. Again a violent shake, this one almost threw him to the ground. He quickly drew his pistol and hugged the ground as closely as he could, the dust from the road invading his nostrils. Ezekiel could hear something, rumbling, growling, slamming towards him. His heart beat began to quicken, he could feel it beat against his chest, in his ears, down his throat. He drew the pistol to the ready position, towards the god awful racket. Clouds of acrid dust were on the horizon, the noise almost deafening now. Then he saw it, he thought it was a tank, then he thought a truck. He couldn’t be sure, but he saw the week spot, and went for it. Shot right behind the front tire, pinged the axel in just the right spot, and off popped the tire. The vehicle came to a grinding halt the tire bouncing off the side of the road. As the truck halted, Ezekiel readied his gun again, heart beat quickening as he watched the driver emerge.
First to touch ground where a pair of old combat boots, covered in a muck that Ezekiel thought was either blood or dirt, or a combination of them both. Above them stretched dark stained cargo pants, that merged with a tank top that was more holes than anything else. Above the collar of the neck sat a face that was so covered in a beard that, it could have been mistaken for the back of someones head. Above the thin line of a mouth sat two deep set eyes, a color so dark they seemed like black holes. A wrinkled forehead sat under another mass of dark hair, that was straggly and stopped at his massive shoulders. In his hands rested what seemed to look like a tiny toy gun, that was misrepresented by the sheer mass of this man. It was really a very large sniper rifle, one that could rip a hole in a man a foot wide.
BJ was livid, he had heard the shot, and he knew someone had to be near. He was going to whoop some ass, even if it meant he was going to be delayed. Fuck he was going to be delayed anyways, his god damned tire was still bouncing aimlessly down the road. Scanning the road, he decided to open his mouth and see if the culprit had a spine.
“Come out, I want to know who shot my fucking truck,” He bellowed, his voice as deep as his eyes were dark.
Ezekiel ignored his better judgement and stood up, allowing his pistol to hang loosely in his hand, at his side.
“That’d be me, I thought you were a patrolling tank, sent to kill outcasts.”
“I still might be,” BJ said slowly as he raised his rifle, the size of the barrel becoming more clear to Ezekiel at this angle.
“So be it, then I suppose we are going to kill one another, and your truck will go to the scavvengers. The ones who are already chasing your tire.” BJ turned to see what Ezekiel was talking about, sure enough there were three small children chasing the tire down the road, whooping about something horrible most likely. Then with a final burst they caught it and off they ran into the woods on one side of the road.
“Fuck!” Bj grumbled,
Ezekiel took a deep breath and watched this giant of a man decide what to do.
“What if I struck up a deal with you?” Ezekiel asked cautiously.
Bj snapped his head up, he had been thinking about how he could fix the axel , he had a spare tire but not a spare axel.
“And what would that be short shit?”
“I’ll help you fix the truck, and be a look out, if you drive me to the Disney territory, specifically the city of Catagoria, section 529657.” Ezekiel readied his body incase he had to flee or shoot.
Bj thought about it, he liked the balls this guy had, he was a short little shit though. He decided he’d allow it, and if worse came to worse he could kill him still..
“Alright, only if you can fix the axel, so I can leave this shit hole.” Bj walked back towards the truck, slinging his rifle onto his back.
Ezekiel walked over to the sagging truck, he laid down on the road, and pulled his slender frame, under the massive vehicle. He felt clumsily along the axle and found where his bullet had hit. The bullet had managed to bounce around a bit and break the bolts inside of the wheel hub, he sighed with relief, it was the best of the possibilities. He fished into his pack and pulled out a few bolts, he only had three, about half of what he would need to secure a tire properly, but in a pinch they would do.
“Do you have a spare? Or am I going to have to chase down the children?” Ezekiel called out from under the huge truck.
“No, I’ve got one” Bj grumbled and stalked over towards Ezekiel, he wrenched the tire from the back of the truck and heaved it against the edge of the truck. The two men worked quietly and quickly together to loosely secure the tire. They agreed that they would both finish the job when they got to the city and where able to scrounge up more bolts. The truck swayed down the road, the rumbling of the engine diminishing almost any chance of conversation, Ezekiel took this opportunity, while in a seat, while protected from passing vagrants, to close his eyes and rest.
Ann was pacing in her one bedroom apartment, her smoke detectors piled on her small dinning room table, so that the cigarettes she was chain smoking wouldn’t set them off. Down the hallway, into the bedroom, to the wall, turn back up the hallway past the dining room table, to the door, turn. What have you done? She screamed aloud in her own head. Why would you question everything? Have you become some nut job conspiracy theorist? She was mentally screaming at her self, as she took repetitive long drags off of her cigarettes, the ash leaving a trail in her wake. What’s next? Screaming from the roof tops that the government controls everything? You are not logical she told her self. She was going to loose her job, she knew it, she was going to be homeless and begging for money out side of Disney world, just like she always dreaded as a child. Just like her mother always warned her about when they would visit.
“These are the people who didn’t do well in school” Her mother would chide, her father would always laugh and add “Or the ones that did too well” Ann had never understood her father’s comment until now, what if she had done too well? What if she asked the one too many questions? She would be shunned by the biggest corporation in her city, hell maybe in the entire world, she would be black listed by the Disney corporation and she would have no where to turn except begging or being a prostitute.
Her cigarette burned her hand, as it came down to the filter. She pressed it into the overflowing ashtray on the table, beside the neatly staked smoke detectors, and lit another smoke, tossing the empty pack onto the floor. She couldn’t think straight, she hadn’t eaten anything all day and she had smoked almost half a carton of cigarettes since she got home three hours ago. She had spent three hours just pacing back and forth in her apartment, smoking and walking silently cursing her self the whole time. She slowly begin to stop walking, letting the drags on her cigarette become more even and mellow, allowing her brain to slow down and try to take hold of the situation at hand. She decided that even if she was to be jobless soon, that there was no reason to begin denying her body food. She walked to the fridge and opened it, her eyes were met with the stark reality that all she had in the house was a box of baking soda and one orange. Ann grabbed the orange, and inserted her thumb nail right below its navel. She begin to peel away the bitter skin and toss it into the garbage. Prying apart a segment of the orange she popped it into her mouth, it was sweet yet tart at the same time and amazingly juicy, just like every orange that came out of Disney’s grove.
The grove was on the edge of town, and it was in the shape of Mickey’s head, just like most things from Disney. She had been there multiple times, occasionally the office would hold a picnic there on the grounds, underneath the far reaching branches of an orange tree. She would also go there to pick oranges for her self, it was cheaper than buying them from the store, and she thought they tasted better too. As Ann finished off the orange, her fingers sticky with the juice, she decided she would go towards downtown and find a restaurant to eat dinner at. Walking back to her bedroom she picked up another pack of cigarettes, packing them against her palm as she walked out of her door, and into the streets of the city, noises exploding over her ears and the bright pink sky of dusk settling against her.
Her feet begin the well known path towards downtown, her mind still wandering and reeling with the possibilities of what was going to happen to her. She tried to clear her mind, focusing on the changing leaves of the trees that lined the sidewalk, she always loved the changes in foliage, how they would fade from bright green to red, yellow and finally a dry brown that littered the ground and made every step crunch. They were to that stage now, the brown leaves sprinkling down from the trees the ground becoming lost to their color. She extracted a cigarette out of the fresh pack, placing it gently against her lips, lighting it with a flick of her lighter, the smoke filling her lungs along with the cold winter air.
She lost track of time, her feet were sore when she finally came back down to earth. She had stopped, in front of a building that was barely lit from the outside, a neon sign from a long time ago illuminated that it was still open. She decided that it might as well be time to feed the growling monster that was erupting inside her stomach. The door was cold and heavy it barely moved under her tiny frame. With a lot of effort she managed to ease the door open enough to slink inside the building. The interior was brightly lit, but somehow it looked dusty, as if it had sat untouched for a long time. To her left was a counter that seemed as if it must weigh more than she could even imagine. She walked towards the counter, running her hand along its rugged surface, her hand catching in the nicks and grooves. The counter top told a story, about its ancient past and rough life. As she stood there, her hand idly caressing the counter, she didn’t notice that someone had walked up from the back.
“Can I help ya miss?” the words cut through Ann’s psyche, jolting her back into reality and causing her to feel embarrassed. She looked up and there she saw a woman, her hair wild, no make up on and sleeves rolled up to her elbows. Ann couldn’t place her age, she had jet black hair, but a set of crows feet that didn’t match the vibrancy in her eyes.
“Do you guys serve food here?” She breathed out quietly, the words barely floating across the air to the womans ears.
“Of course darlin, what else would we do?” Her smile lit up the entire room, making the dust seem almost unimportant.
Ann smiled, and took a seat at one of the stools that was pulled up to the counter, they were old and heavy, looked as if they had been made out of pure metal, no plastic. That was odd for todays time, everything in her world was made out of almost all plastic and very little metal, if any.
“I will take what ever the special is.” Ann nodded at the woman, who still had a coy smile on her face, her hands scribbled something on the pad of paper she had somehow materialized out of thin air.
“Sure thing, it is what we call the truck stop special, by the way you can call me Darlene” she chuckled as she walked back to where she had come from.
A truck stop special? Ann didn’t quite understand, truckstops were outlawed in early 2015 when they were hot spots for prostitution, government conspiracy and gambling. Shortly after that most trucking companies went under as well, the only one left now was the Disney company and they had specific refuel spots that were manned 24/7 by armed guards. Ann had never seen a truck stop, but she heard about them in school, they were horrible things where waitresses chain smoked while they insulted you and tried to scam you out of your money. She was hoping that wasn’t going to happen here. Soft shuffling of footsteps were heard and Ann looked up, Darlene was coming back with a coffee pot and a mug, she walked like a model, her hips sashaying with every step, her eyes twinkling with a wit that was probably sharper than a knife.
“Here’s the coffee darlin, it’s black and thicker than the mud from the river.” Darlene poured her a cup, it was hot, steaming and smelt like heaven to Ann, she loved black coffee, and she hoped that this wasn’t as bad as most places, who seemed to murder the simple taste of coffee by diluting it with a gallon of syrup flavored like hazelnut or chocolate. Darlene left yet again, and Ann took a sip out of the mug. She was amazed, bitter, hot, and perfect. This coffee was so good that she was sure she would drink at least a pot and a half before she left, she took another gulp of the steaming liquid and enjoyed the feeling of it settling into her stomach.
She sat there enjoying the cup of coffee, right as she took the last sip, Darlene again emerged, this time she carried the coffee pot and a plate heaped with food, that smelt amazing. She refilled the mug and set the plate down infront of Ann.
“Bacon cheeseburger, fries and a side of slaw and beans.” Darlene prattled off the list and smiled her illuminating smile at Ann again. “I mean hamburger too darlin, not one of those god awful ‘Mickey’ burgers that contain more cardboard and turkey then any self respecting person would eat. This is 100% beef, topped with American cheese and four strips of full fat bacon from a real pig.” Ann stared at the plate full of food, her mouth salivating, she had never had a cheeseburger before, they were only served in a few areas because they were deemed so unhealthy. She took hold of the burger and took a bite, her mouth went haywire. It was juicy, meaty, fatty, and amazing, just like the coffee. Ann felt like she had never really eaten before and that this was what true food was. Darlene laughed out loud as Ann begin to wolf down her burger and fries.
“I suppose you’ve never had food like this before have you? I mean you look like you weigh maybe 90lbs soaking wet, so I can’t imagine you’ve ever eaten real food before.” Ann slowed down and swallowed the mouthful of salty potatoes and blessed meat and took another swig of coffee.
“No, I’ve never had a Cheeseburger before, or fries that tasted this good, I thought they were so unhealthy that most places can’t afford the taxes to pay the government to serve them.” Ann realized she might end up paying a lot for this meal because of those taxes, but she didn’t care if she had to pay 1000 Disnollars it was worth it, this food made her feel alive. Darlene laughed again and refilled Ann’s mug “Who cares about ‘health’ taxes? What are they going to do to me? Sue me for serving people real food and not their processed bullshit?” Ann begin to dig into her sides of slaw and beans they too tasted like little piles of heaven on her plate.
Time passed and Ann finished her entire plate and another six cups of coffee, her stomach was full her spirits high and for a minute she forgot all about the possibility of not having a job, not having a home and possibly being blacklisted in town. Darlene had chated her up while she was eating, talked about everything under the sun, about Darlene’s son, Ann’s nicotine habit and the wonders of how they cooked such great food here.
“I suppose I should pay you now, “ Ann said as she stood up and stretched, feeling for her pack of cigarettes getting ready to step back out into the street to indulge her bodies want for a cigarette to finish this perfect meal.
“Sure Darlin, it’ll be ten disnollars or five dollars” Ann stopped for a minute and couldn’t help her self, she stammered out “Dollars? those haven’t been around for...years I mean...when I was a kid they outlawed them, because they were almost worthless.” Darlene laughed again, it was intoxicating that laugh, made you want to laugh and smile with her.
“We’ve been here for longer than those disnollars have been and I will tell you something, where we shop they are more worthless than the true dollar of this country.” Ann looked at her wide eyed and handed her ten disnollars, she didn’t own any dollars, she hadn’t even seen any in years. She thanked Darlene again for the amazing meal and stepped outside, the heavy door sliding closed behind her. She lit a cigarette and took one long smooth drag, her brain swimming with endorphins at the nicotine and her body happy that it was full. She begin the path back towards home, her steps jovial and her mood still lifted, but she couldn’t help but think about what kind of places still used dollar bills and didn’t pay the ‘health’ taxes on their food. Her feet kept moving as she thought about Disney, taxes, the government and the possibility of not having a job any more. As she walked, she stopped paying attention to her surroundings. All of a sudden there was a hand on her shoulder, her heart froze for a minute and she prayed that it was just someone asking her what time it was. As she turned to face the person to grab her, her heart sank, there before her in the same suit he had on this morning stood Earl, his face sombre and his eyes cold.
“You need to come with me,” Earl growled out and his hand grabbed her wrist tightly. “Don’t make this difficult for me Ann, you have to come with me one way or another.” Ann didn’t know what happened but before she could react fully, she was following Earl, running to keep up with him and prevent her self from being dragged. Earl ran into an alley, the ground slippery and covered with some liquid that Ann could only guess was piss from the smell it assaulted her with. She almost fell a few times, her feet slipping in puddles but Earl’s grip on her just pulled her up and made her keep going forward. They reached the end of the wretched alley and there was a door, that had no lights near it. If Ann hadn’t been right in front of it, she wouldn’t have any noticed that it was there. Earl wrenched the door open, effortlessly, and pulled Ann through it with himself. The door slammed closed behind them, the heft of it becoming apparent by the bang it made when it sealed them in to the room. There was a single light in the ceiling, no cover, just a bare bulb that illuminated the dank room enough to make out what was inside. There was a cot in one corner and a chair in another, there were books strewn everywhere and a laptop computer that looked like it had seen better days sitting ontop of a mini refrigerator. Earl deposited Ann on the chair and he sat on the cot, staring at her intently for a few moments.
“You are in trouble Ann, you can’t go asking questions anymore, do you understand me?” Ann was still too shocked to answer immediately so Earl just kept talking. “Look, I got a talking to from the boss, my boss, the head boss, he said that if you ask anymore questions they will have you dropped off out side of the city limits. You may think that it means you just go to another city, hitch a ride, whatever, but you don’t know what it really means Ann.” His eyes expressed concern, “Ann, there isn’t anything outside of this city for hundreds of miles, there are just scavengers and marauders, nothing else, you won’t get a ride you’ll get shot.”
Ann finally managed to open her mouth. “I won’t ask anymore questions then” She stated quietly, she was scared, she didn’t want to be in this single room with Earl, she was worried that she might not ever get out if she wasn’t careful.
“Make sure you don’t, I won’t be working on your floor anymore Ann, the new employee is being sent to watch you, he will kill you no questions asked.” Earls eyes were back to being cold, and his concern had faded. He was picking up the books now and putting them in a stack against the walls, “You need to make sure that you work flawlessly, no mess ups and no questions, otherwise you may end up like the marauders out side of the city, they beg at the gate and always end up dead, you don’t want that, you understand?” Ann nodded and made a move to get up, Earl looked at her and nodded towards the door, “Get the fuck out of here, I hope I never see you again” He growled .
Ann ran for the door, she tried to wrench it open, but it was heavy enough that she had to brace her self firmly to get it to open at all, when she did she slipped out and ran all of the way home, not stopping to even light a cigarette. When she got to her apartment, she slammed the door closed behind her and locked it tight. She stayed leaning against the door, breathing heavy, her chest heaving. Shakily Ann pulled a cigarette out of her pack, placing it against her quivering lips and lit it tentatively. Chapter IV
Darlene hadn’t expected anyone to walk into the restaurant tonight, but that didn’t mean that she hadn’t had fun with the spry young woman who came in and was obviously taken by surprise at their food. She was washing down the counter when she heard a bang from the back of the kitchen. She had sent all of the employees home for the night, there shouldn’t be anything making noise back there. Grabbing a small pistol from under the counter, a snub nose .38 special, the cool metal sliding effortlessly against her palm, her finger nestling against the trigger. Darlene quietly walked towards the kitchen her breath slowing as she neared the swinging door. She quickly walked through the door, keeping her back to the dining area, her eyes trained on the kitchen, her hand aiming the pistol directly infront of her.
“Hello?” Darlene called out sweetly, hoping that someone would mistake her for a sweet little lady, and think she didn’t know how to use the gun in her hands. Shattering from one of the windows hit Darlenes ears, and all of the sudden the kitchen was filled with a bright light, then Darlene couldn’t hear anything except a high pitched whining. It took her a moment but she realized it was a flash grenade that was thrown in through the window.
Darlene turned on her heels and ran, closing her eyes for a minute, trying to clear them from the flash. She rounded the counter in the dining room and headed for the door on the street. Just as her eyes cleared she caught sight of a large man in a jet black suit, barrel through the door of the kitchen. Darlene reached for the door into the street, just as she slipped out of it, she heard a bullet ricochet off of the back of the door, her heart racing. Her feet slammed against the pavement as she dashed south, towards a safe house that she had set up years ago. Quickly she ducked into an alley, her feet slipping in the grime, she didn’t care. Darlene ran as fast as she could, entered the back of an apartment building, her feet moving effortlessly up one, then two, then six flights of stairs, until she reached apartment 6C, there she slowed, took a deep breath and opened the door as normal as possible.
Inside the apartment looked like any other one in the city. Two portal chairs graced the living room, the goggles and diodes held neatly in their proper places. The kitchen had a quick cook Zapper and a traditional stove. The secret to this apartment was the bedroom, while it looked average to the naked eye, the closet had a trap door that lead to a panic room. Loaded with computers, state of the art tracking devices, ultrasound technology and a mass of weapons, the panic room was where Darlene was headed. She quietly walked to the bedroom, kicking her shoes off near the bed, and clicking on the holographic projector. Slowly a life like projection of an average looking citizen filled the bed, making it seem as if the apartments owner was sleeping. After she made sure the projection was working she quickly begin descending into the trap door. After a steep climb down, she reached a heavy metal door, a key pad was on the wall next to it, she punched in a code and the door sighed open automatically. Darlene stepped into the room and pulled the door shut behind her, pressing the lock into place, the air locks sealing her into an air tight chamber.
The room was sterile its cold metal walls, reflective. Slowly the hum of an oxygen pump begin to hum, making sure the air in the room was breathable. The walls of the room were covered in screens, maps and weaponry. Along one wall was a cot, in a corner sat a stainless toilet and the center of the rooms floor held another air locked door, an emergency exit. Darlene sat on the cot, her body shaking as she tried to calm down. Who was that man she wondered, how had he found the restaurant? Why was he after her? Did he work for Disney? Of course he did, everyone worked for Disney. Darlene told her self to calm down, leave the thoughts alone for now and focus on what to do next. She decided that the first thing she was going to do, was sleep. It was probably close to 4am and she had been up since the previous morning. Her eyes were heavy, and burned, she felt as if her body was disconnecting from her head, floating away. Darlene laid her weary body down on the cot, covered her self in a thick wool blanket, and let the sleep creep in from the back of her mind.
A slow steady beeping begin to creep into Darlene’s brain, her eyes snapped open. She bolted upright in the cot and looked around quickly to see what monitor was emitting the noise. The center of the wall, a monitor was flashing a red light, and beeping persistently. Darlene ran to it and enlarged the flashing area. It was the camera trained in the front of the apartment. She quieted the beeping with a sweep of her hand, and watched a terrible scene unfold in front of her, just a few feet above her. The same large man from the restaurant charged through the front door of the apartment, his blue eyes fierce and angry. He tore through the apartment, flipping the portal chairs over, wrenching cords of of them, looking for anything, he charged into the bedroom, spotted the hologram and paused for a minute. He couldn’t tell if it was real or not. Darlene took this opportunity to escape. She grabbed a back pack that was under the cot and stuffed it full of weapons and a few other devices. She slipped out of the floor hatch, sealing it shut again. Before she ran through the corridor, she punched a code into another keypad, the room she was just in begin to fill with cyanide gas, making sure that if anyone got into it, they would die.
Darlene ran again, her feet screaming in agony as the pounded down the hallway and towards an underground walk way. When Darlene passed into the underground tunnel, she slowed from her run into a walk. Allowing her body to try and catch its breath and her mind to focus on where she was going to go to escape this crazed maniac. She reached into her pack and pulled out a small phone piece, inserting it into her ear, she continued to walk through the tunnel as she dialed a secure line to a close friend. The phone rang and rang for what seemed like forever, than a cold voice answered.
“Hello Darlene” It was a male voice, deep and angry, not who she had intended on reaching.
“Who is this?” Darlene asked as she grabbed her snub nose out of the pack, holding it firmly.
“My name is Earl, I found your apartment, then I came and found a few of your friends.” A chuckle came from his end of the phone as Darlene clicked off, her heart sinking. The man who chased her, broke into the apartment, he said his name was Earl. He probably had already killed her only contacts, she had no choice to but run into hiding and stay there forever, or kill him first.
Earl still chuckling looked around the room he was in, his smile growing broader at the wimpers coming from the corner of the room. He walked slowly over towards a lump of cloth laying in the corner shivering. Earl ripped back a tattered blanket and exposed the naked body of a woman, she was in her late fifties and bound and gagged on the floor, bruises and fresh burns going up her back, sides, and chest.
“Now, what was it again? Loraine?” He pulled the gag from her mouth roughly.
“Tell me, Loraine, where would your dear old friend Darlene be going?”
Loraine spit at him, a mixture of blood and saliva. “I wouldn’t tell you for my life.” She hissed at him through clenched teeth. “Bastards like you are what have ruined America, that is right, America!” She spit at him again, this time her jaw was met with an angry boot.
“America doesn’t exist Loraine, You live in Catagoria, this is the epicenter of the world, or don’t you remember history?” Earls lip curled in a cruel smile, he bent down and grasped the old womans hair,
“Well I suppose you are useless then,” He placed the barrel of a gun against her skull. “I hope you like hell,” With the final words a loud crack filled the air, as Loraines body went limp and her blood pooled around Earls feet. Earl stood up and walked out of the room, his boots leaving bloody imprints across the concrete floor as he went.
Earl was angry, he almost lost his source of income because of Ann. He didn’t care about working for the corporation, for Disney, he had been in their military for 12 years before he landed this easy job that paid more than he could imagine. He was cold to the world now, he didn’t care who Disney told him to kill, who to arrest, all he cared about was where he’d get his next fix of heroin, the one drug he could still get high on. He also didn’t risk arrest like most other addicts, working for Disney did have its perks. Earl was walking down a set of stairs, to a dark door. He opened the door and entered the crappy one room apartment of his. He sat on his bed and shrugged off his suit jacket. That was the part he hated about his job, the damn suit. He pulled a needle out from under his mattress, and set it next to him. From his pocket he pulled a small bag, it was filled with black tar heroin. All Earl needed now was to find something to melt it in. He scoured the room, trying to find something, there it was a gleaming metal spoon. Earl quickly grasped it and dumped the contents of the bag into it, his hands shaking from the need.
A click, a hiss and an ignition of flame met Earl’s ears as he begin to melt the heroin. His mouth was watering from the want, making him nauseous. The heroin begin to bubble and melt, creating a smooth black lake inside the spoon. He let his shaking thumb release the gas chamber on the lighter, the flame dying away. Slowly he filled the needle with the heroin, the black liquid slipping carefully into the syringe. The second it was filled Earl dropped the spoon and tried to steady himself, he couldn’t shake and inject himself at the same time. His hands slowly steadied, and when he was no longer shaking, he rolled up his sleeve, slipping the needle into a vein on his forearm, slowly he pressed the plunger down, filling his body with the typical burning sensation of heroin, his mind reeling. Tossing the now empty needle across the room, Earl laid back on his bed and let his body float away, his mind settling into the familiar high, his body relishing in its addiction, its love. Earls body lay limp on the bed, his eyes glued to the ceiling, mind far off in some other plane of existence. He was so high and so far gone that he didn’t notice the door of his apartment being opened.
In walked a tall lanky man, his legs so long it made him look as if he was part spider. He was dressed in a grey ensemble, that made him almost entirely unnoticeable. His hands, were large, fingers so long they rivaled his legs. He looked around the apartment and shook his head. So disorderly, so dirty. Then he spotted Earl and made a quiet tsk tsk. There he was, his star hitman, high off his ass laying on a filthy mattress in a terrible apartment. He knew how much Earl was paid, he paid him. It was more than enough to live in a better place, but Earl spent almost all of his money on smack. Money wasted for him to lay in bed and dream of a life he could be living if he actually tried, what a waste.
Earl was finally starting to come down from his high, his world begin to dissolve back into reality. That is when he noticed someone in the room with him. He turned his eyes toward the chair, trying to make his mind focus. When he could finally focus on the person in question, he sighed. It was Ben, his boss. Ben’s hands were folded in his lap, his dull brown eyes just watching Earl. Earl tried to talk, but it came out garbled and mashed together, his high still controlling most of his motor skills. Ben waited, his patience thinning.
“Yes Earl I am here to talk about Loraine, and Darlene.” Ben tapped his hand against his knee, his fingers drumming out a dull beat. He hated having to wait for Earl to come out of one of his damn stupors, he should really stop doing heroin, it probably would make him a better hit man. As Ben continued to contemplate banning Earl from doing heroin, Earl finally spoke.
“Loraine is dead, Darlene drifted into the wind.” His voice was guttural, low and almost inaudible. Ben stood and walked over towards Earl his motions calm and calculated.
“Well, you better get your nose to the wind Earl, we need her. I also think we need to take care of that Ann girl, she already asked to many questions.” Ben squatted down next to the bed and looked at Earl closely. Earl glanced at him and nodded, his high now fading fast from such an unpleasant encounter. Ben stood and brushed off his clothes.
“Earl I think you should lay off the smack, it’s making you weak.” He walked out of the apartment and disappeared into the street, leaving Earl alone with his diminishing high.
Ben was the president of Disney, no one really knew that not even Earl, he kept his life very private and made sure that anyone who knew who he was could be trusted, or killed. He walked down the street, his lanky body barely sticking out amongst the other citizens of his city, his territory, their whole world belonged to him. He tried to visit the citizens on occasion, seeing what they saw. It was hard though, once you knew the outside existed, the territory just wasn’t the same.
Ben walked along the bustling streets, staring at his mark, it was on everything. The people only had a faint inkling as to how deeply he controlled their city, their friends, the world as they knew it. Citizens didn’t know about the other territories, didn’t know about what had happened before the territories were established, they didn’t know about war, or nationalism. They only knew about the Disney territory, they called it Earth, even though there was so much more earth than what little they were on. Ben knew of all these other places, he was in the process of talking to one of the other leaders, making trades and laughing about the ignorance of their respective citizens. He loved being in power, loved that he got whatever he wanted with the snap of his fingers, but could also walk around like anyone else in his territory.
He reached his apartment building, though it wasn’t a grand looking building as it only stood three stories high it held its own charm. It was in the more affluent district of town, mostly government officials lived in this area, or executive leaders, who to the citizens seemed worlds apart but in reality were one in the same. The door to the apartment building allowed access via DNA scan. Ben placed his finger against the cool metal of the handle and felt the gentle scrapping as it collected his skin cells. In seconds the door had confirmed his DNA and sighed open, giving a generic greeting to him. Ben walked through the lobby, his eyes ignoring all the filigree, instead focusing directly ahead of himself. His eyes locking with the old spiral staircase in the center of the lobby. He begin to walk up the stair case with ease, his long legs moving sleekly beneath him. He quickly reached the top of the staircase, landing on the third and final floor of the building. Ben walked towards a set of double doors, plain compared to the lobby, but made of old heavy cherry wood. Beside the doors was a small computerized screen. Ben touched it gently. It took a sample of his blood, through a needle that pricked him and then withdrew back into the computer its self. Seconds later Ben was standing on the other side of the doors as he pressed them closed. Home sweet home he thought as he turned to his apartments interior. Unlike most apartments in Catagoria his apartment wasn’t modernly streamlined. Ben’s apartment looked like it came from the pages of a history book.
The living room didn’t contain portal chairs, instead it contained a set of leather chairs that were fastened together with brass pins. They were smooth and a deep brown and they were sat against a back drop of floor to ceiling bookshelves, upon the opposite wall was a wood burning fire place that had a large marble mantle. Wooden floors were covered with an ornate rug of browns and reds that was inter weaved with pure gold thread. Ben crossed the floor and took a seat in one of the old leather bound chairs, his hands caressing the smooth arm rests as he sat down. The second his back begin to rest against the seat, a servant came around the corner. The servant was a small woman, dark hair tied neatly into a bun. She had a pale complexion and bright blue eyes. She silently handed Ben a martini glass, and walked towards the fireplace, kneeling infront of it and lighting the fire. As the fire begin to crackle and burn, the servant silently left Ben alone in the living room, sipping his martini. Ben sat there and sipped his martini, watching the fire burn and smolder to life, he closed his eyes slowly and slipped into the perfect lull of his life.
Everything was wet, soaking wet, dripping against the ground, the walls, everywhere it was amazing that the place wasn’t flooded to the point of no return. Darlene sighed as she surveyed the rest of the shed, it didn’t look like much but it was hard to find and that is what she needed right now. She picked up a broom from the corner closest to the door and begin to sweep as much of the water out from the shed as she could. The water slushed out from the shed quietly and lapped at the cold dead winter grass outside. Inside the shed was still moist, the floor remaining slick and the damage caused by sitting water making its self very apparent. Darlene found a few towels in a cabinet against the left wall of the shed. She used these to try and clean at least one area on the floor of the tiny room, so that she could set down her bag with out fear of ruining her technology. After she was able to dry most of the floor, she laid her bag down and laid the towel outside in the sun to dry. Stopping for a moment she surveyed where she was. Deep in the woods, about twenty miles outside of Catagorias city limits she was halfway to the small town of Protypria, there was only one road from Catagoria to Protypria, and it was 10 miles east of where she was. Nothing else was here in the woods with her, just this single metal shack, damaged by the weather and hidden by the trees.
Darlene sat next to her bag on the hard concrete floor of the shed, leaning her back against the cool metal of the side. Her head was still spinning from the phone conversation she had earlier with the man who called hm self Earl, he must have killed Loraine, there was no way he could have had her phone other wise. She had ditched the phone back in Catagoria, she couldn’t risk it being tracked and her location being found. She routed through the bag and pulled out a small hand held computer, its screen lighting up as she pressed the on button. Darlene tried to quickly establish a secure network, if she couldn’t find a secure connection, she could be found very quickly. She was able to create a network that when someone tried to track it, would reroute back to her dinner in Catagoria, leading them back to where they started. Now that she had a secure area to work from, Darlene begin to research and try to find out as much about this Earl character as she could. It was difficult to find anything about him, as all she had was his supposed first name and a general description.
Darlene thought about it for a moment and decided to use a fake access code and enter the government records for former and current military members. Supposedly, the records of the military were public records, but Darlene knew better, they were only public to an extent, which meant that if they really didn’t want you to know about someone, they just conveniently left them out of the searchable members. Darlene didn’t really understand why they tried to keep the military a secret, all they did was help the government enforce laws, there wasn’t even much of a rebellion to suppress, since almost no one read history books. Darlene had been raised in a small village outside of Catagoria, they knew about the history of the world, of America and they made sure to teach their children. The village was long gone now, it was assimilated into Catagoria, she missed the village, missed her family, her life.
She begin to slowly go through the Earls, that came up in her search. Hoping to recognize the dark complexion, paired with those stunning blue eyes. Then one of a sudden, his face slammed into her view, shocking her senses and making her stomach jump into her throat. He was highlighted in bright red, a sign that he was out of the military. Darlene slowly swallowed back her fear and looked through his information. He had been a member of the military, a branch stationed in Protypria. He had the highest security clearance and was a member of the Musketeers, the most difficult branch to get into, and the deadliest. The code that Darlene had used to access the military data did not have a high enough clearance to access the Musketeer database. She just stared at the screen, her heart slowly sinking into the pit of her stomach, her skin growing cold, clammy and almost sweaty. Slowly she powered off the device and hid it back in her bag. She tried to calm her self, she understood that this man was extremely dangerous now, more so than she had believed before.
Darlene thought about what the Musketeers really were, how they walked among the normal members of society and were undetected. The Musketeers were publicly known as the enforcers, they were sent around cities and towns to make sure that laws were enforced and that people weren’t running underground rings of gambling or prostitution. They seemed harmless, if you were caught breaking the law, they carted you off to jail and you went to trail, as if anyone else had reported you. There were rumors around Darlene’s village before it was destroyed that the Musketeers were actually trained killers who masqueraded as simple enforcers. The rumors were confirmed when the Musketeers, came strolling into the village, like they did all the time, except this time they begin to beat the village men. There was no explanation, just violence. The women in children looked on in pure fear as the Musketeers begin to pulverize the men of the village. When the men had stopped fighting, when they just lay there, bones broken and moans of pain filling the village, someone from the Musketeers spoke.
“This village is no longer permitted to exist you are now living in Catagoria, you are required to follow the laws of Catagoria, and send your children to public school.”
Protests from all members of the village begin to fill the air, shouts and screams, insults were flung at the members of the Musketeers, and at the government. Quickly the invaders begin to attack the men of the village again, their clubs and fists making the village silent once again.
“Please. pack up your homes and move into Catagoria, we have gotten you apartments until you can get jobs and support your selves. “ The man spoke quietly and calmly, his hands folding in front of him as he surveyed the entire crowd of villagers. The women were crying the men were bloody, eyes on fire with anger. The children were torn between fear and wanting to defend their parents. A young Darlene gave into the second urge, her hair wild, her face contorted with anger she marched straight up to the man who was telling them that their lives were over.
“No.” She stated angrily to the man, her small fists clenched in defiance. The man looked at the small child his eyes twinkled and a small smirk begin to cross his face, then he burst into the most raucous laughter Darlenes small self had ever heard.
“Go back to your parents little lady, you don’t get a say in this. You are all heathens and criminals, we could kill every last one of you with out any repercussions.” The man looked back over the villagers his eyes held no sympathy, no remorse only cold hatred and maybe even a bit of joy. Slowly the villagers begin to pack, the women trying to help the battered and bruised men to their feet, many of them unable to walk from broken legs or shattered feet. The men that were too weak to walk, or move on their own the Musketeers took off in stretchers, saying they were going to take them to Catagorias hospital, but they just took them to the edge of a set of woods and dumped them in a ravine, their distorted bodies laying on the bottom writhing in pain.
The day she moved from the village was the exact moment that Darlenes heart broke, the moment she knew that life would never be the same. She lost her father that day, lost her innocence and lost any love for the world as it stood now, all she wanted was the world of dreams and love her mother described to her as a child, she wanted to live in the place they called America, not here in Catagoria, or Protypria or any part of this world. She wanted to live in the place that her mother said was perfect, where people were allowed to do anything, ask all the questions they wanted and where they could create a business and not have to worry about being bought out by Disney.
Darlene shook her head, trying to clear the thought of the dangerous Musketeers and this horrible man named Earl. She knew that if she was going to try and stay in this shack for more than a few days that she was going to have to try a source of food and water and hopefully some way to make a fire so that she could stay warm. She stood up and took a deep breath trying to clear her head before she head off into the woods to try and find the means to survive. Chapter V
BJ drove the truck carefully, he didn’t want to knock the barely secured tire loose. He had already been on his way to Catagoria, and figured he could use the company of someone who had such good aim with a pistol. The kid was still asleep, he passed about about five minutes after they started driving and had been asleep for the last four hours. BJ edged the truck off the road, they were about 20 miles from Catagoria now, and he had to store the kid if he didn’t want to loose his head. He shook Ezekiel gently, making sure to watch his hands to be sure that he didn’t try to pull his gun. Ezekiel woke up, his eyes bleary his mind trying to remember where he was specifically. He realized that he was still in the truck cab with BJ, he turned to the other man, his stomach still jumped into his throat when he saw the huge man before him.
“Yeah? Whats going on?” Ezekiel asked, sitting up straighter in the truck.
“We are close to the town entrance to Catagoria, I am paid to deliver goods not other people, you need to hide until we get past the guards, or we will both be screwed” BJ raised an eyebrow at the young kid, he needed to make sure that he understood that if he was found they were both going to be dead. Ezekiel nodded and begin to look around for a place to hide,
“Where do you think I can fit?” Ezekiel asked tentatively, he was worried that BJ was going to just kick him out and carry on with out him. BJ pulled a blanket from the back seat upfront, and showed Ezekiel a small compartment below where it had been sitting.
“If you can fit inside the little cubby there I can make sure they don’t find you,” He motioned toward the blanket in his hand. “This is lead laced and it makes it so that the cubby essentially disappears when you x-ray or scan it in anyway.”
Ezekiel didn’t question BJ, he was skeptical but kept his worries to himself, he was sure the Disney corporation had such high tech scans that they could detect anything, even if it was hidden under a lead blanket. He crammed his body into the small hole and prayed that BJ wasn’t trying to get him killed. Slowly his already dim world went completely dark as BJ tucked the blanket around him and into every crevice that allowed light into the small cramped space. BJ steadied his breathing and begin to drive the last twenty miles into the east gate of Catagoria, his eyes staring straight ahead of him.
The gate into the town stood ahead of him, a massive steel and concrete structure that looked more like a sky scrapper than a gate, its solid frame held a single set of doors at the bottom, large titanium doors that were closed tight, a sign that almost no one will get in. BJ pulled up to the gate and stopped the truck, turning off the engine and waiting for a guard to come out and begin to question him. While he waited, he collected the paperwork and readied himself for a retina scan and a blood sample. From the gate a young guard walked out, his stride was cocky and his large rifle helped bolster his sleight appearance. Dusty blond hair grazed the young mans pale forehead his eyes were a pale gray and cold, trained to feel nothing. He stopped about twenty feet to the left and infront of BJ’s truck and yelled.
“Tell me who you are and what business you have here in Catagoria, be prepared for a retina scan when I approach you vehicle and please have the appropriate paperwork from the Disney Corporation.” The young man begin to walk towards the truck his rifle pointed towards the drivers side of the truck. BJ took a breath and cleared his throat.
“BJ is my name, I am here to deliver goods from the territory of Naturalocity, I have my paperwork and am prepared to be checked for stowaways and unrequested cargo.” BJ leaned out of the window, both hands holding onto the paperwork, making sure the guard saw all of his movements. The guard was relaxed, his hands were only loosely holding onto his gun, the name BJ had calmed his nerves, he had been told that a large man named BJ was always a regular delivery driver. He walked to BJ and held up the small scanner to scan both his eye and his paperwork. The sensor bleeped green, a sign that everything was in order. He smiled up at the huge man in the truck and nodded.
“Go on ahead BJ, you’ve got to get scanned ya know.” The guard walked over to the gate and punched in an access code, the doors begin to wrench open slowly. The world beyond the doors was so bright that you could only see the outlines of the scanning equipment. Slowly BJ inched the truck into the gap made by the open doors. He subconsciously held his breath as the scanner turned on, a loud hum begin to emanate around the whole truck, causing BJ’s ears to ring slightly. He prayed that his old trick to smuggle in illegal produce and meat, also worked to smuggle in an illegal person. There was nothing odd about the scanning procedure to BJ, but this time he could have sworn it took an hour where as he normally didn’t even notice the time. He sat in the cab of the truck, trying his best not to panic, not to give away his secret.
BJ traveled between all twelve of the territories, but out of all of them, the Disney territory was the scariest. In all of the territories the laws were strict and heavily enforced, the citizens were basically working drones and the leaders were monsters, but in this territory things were even worse. Here the citizens could be killed for asking a question, here Disney separated them selves from the government, at least in the public eye. Most territories just ruled with an iron fist and kept their citizens in the dark, like kingdoms or a strict dictatorship. Not the Disney territory though, they provided an elaborate scheme, and false sense of freedom to its citizens. This scheme made it so that some citizens might get curious and begin questioning their surroundings, that could be dangerous, so when they did that Disney killed them. BJ didn’t understand the reasoning behind the way they ran their territory but he also didn’t need to, all he had to do was know the laws and drive the truck.
All of the sudden the noise stopped and BJ steadied himself to hopefully drive the truck the rest of the way into Catagoria. The same sandy haired guard was walking towards BJ’s truck, his face cold just as before.
“Seems to all check out, though you are missing a few bolts from one of your tires, you can pick some up in the truck stop just ahead on the left.” The guard didn’t miss a beat and motioned for BJ to head through the rest of the gate and onto a small paved road. To the right was his drop off zone, where other guards were already waiting for him to arrive so they could help unpack the truck, he figured he better get that out of the way before he dealt with his tire and his stowaway. He pulled into the drop off zone and shut off the trucks engine, as the new found quiet settled over him, he jumped out of the cab and headed towards the back of the monstrous truck. He opened the back end of the truck and jumped in, beginning to hand supplies down to the guards who were nonchalantly ambling around in the area. They all seemed to snap to attention when he begin to hand out his wares, they rushed to grab them and bring them into their sorting facility. The wares the BJ had brought were considered rare here in Catagoria, things that weren’t often delivered and were almost never enjoyed by a normal citizen of the territory. He unloaded cases of beef and pork, large sacks of rice and beans along with the most coveted item on his entire truck, the news and books of the other territories. Bj waited to move that truck off the box until he saw the familiar face of Ben, the president of Disney coming his way.
“Hey BJ, do you have the box of literary material I requested?” Ben spoke calmly, and with such ease that you would think his words just poured from his soul and werent calculated at all.
“Of course I do, I aim to never disappoint.” Bj handed the smaller man the large box of written works, Ben handed him a small bag of gold coins, the universal trade agreement among all of the territories was either gold or other goods that were needed and BJ always wanted gold as he traveled between all of the territories doing business.
Once the truck was unloaded, BJ started it up again and drove it about a mile further down the small road and into the truck stop. Here he uncovered the cubby hole and looked in at Ezekiel, the small man was bent in an almost impossible shape with a very pained expression on his face.
“You can get out of there now, we are past the hard guards and onto the ones who slack off more than I do.” BJ helped him out of the cubby and sent him into the truckstop with a small gold coin to purchase a few bolts to finish fixing the tire. The bolts were put in place quickly and Ezekiel was getting ready to head out his separate way when BJ stopped him with a large hand on his shoulder.
“What is it you are going to do here in Catagoria? You can’t truly aim to deconstruct it from the inside by your self, you will be killed.” Ezekiel was surprised by BJ’s concern for him, but he didn’t really know what he was going to do, he never thought he would get back into the territory, he never thought he’d be this close to civilization ever again.
“I have no idea, I was going to try and find the small group of citizens that know this whole thing is a sham, I was going to help the movement, empower them and destroy Disney.” Ezekiel whispered his plan to BJ making sure that no one else heard him, he didn’t want to get killed before even making it into the real part of the city. BJ thought about this, thought about how he spent most of his life driving from one territory to the next, completely alone, how he spent so much time thinking about how all those other people could know about the rest of the world, but the leaders kept them all secluded and in the shadow about the true world. He got up his nerve and asked Ezekiel the question he had been pondering the entire drive to Catagoria.
“Do you think I could join the cause, I know things that even you don’t know and I’d like put an end to all this tyranny.” BJ watched the smaller man, his face had a look of complete surprise, but he managed to stammer out a response.
“If you really want to...yeah you can, I could use some help.” Ezekiel was terrified, he hadn’t been inside the city limits of any of Disney’s cities since he was a young boy, and he now was on the outskirts of the heart of their empire, the center of the world. Ezekiel hated that Disney had taken over all of the world, he hated that he had no place to go but back to the desolate waste land or into this hellish nightmare of a place. BJ thought about how he could tell Ezekiel about the rest of the territories, about how even if he manages to take down this territory, that the citizens can’t truly be free until they destroy the others as well. He decided that the first thing they needed to do was get in contact with the resistance here in Catagoria, BJ knew where they were as often delivered contraband goods to them.
“We can leave the truck here and walk the last few miles to the hideout of the Disney resistance, I’ve given them illegal goods before, they will let us in, but be careful they are a paranoid group.” Bj begin walking down a small dirt path to the south of the truck stop Ezekiel a few steps behind, his hand resting idly on his handgun, his eyes darting from side to side, paranoid that someone might jump out to stop them. Ezekiel watched BJ walk, he seemed calm and collected, if anyone were to see him they would only assume he had a right to be there and knew what he was doing. Ezekiel tried to mimic him, calming his nerves so that he wouldnt be so obviously out of place. As the two men walked down the path, they had no idea that inside of Catagoria, the resistance had almost been destroyed already.
Inside of a small shack on the edge of the southern limits of Catagoria sat a group of men and women, all over the age of fifty and all of them held more scars than most soldiers. The windows to the shack were boarded and the door was armor plated and bolted shut, the people inside all had at least one gun on them, whether it was strapped to their back, hip or any other place was an individual choice but being armed wasn’t. A slow and steady knocking begin to rise from the external door, deliberate and patient the knocks were evenly spaced. The oldest looking man stood up, his gleaming .50 calibre rifle slung loosely across his back. His gray hair was tousled and his eyes were so deep set that you could barely make out the green in them. He walked to the door and steadied his rifle, bringing it up to aim through a small hole in the center of the door.
“Who is knock knock knocking on my door?” He asked slowly, his finger weighing ever so slight on the trigger, a minuscule movement and the person on the other side of the door would be blown to shreds. Muffled by the door, but clear enough to understand, the man heard the rest of the riddle repeated.
“No one comes knock knock knocking on your door, but I am rapping on your door with my beak for I am a raven sent to help you find your soul.” The older man let his rifle hang by him again an begin to unbolt the door, his body relaxing with knowing that it was someone kind and not part of the corporation sent to kill off the last remaining members of the resistance, they got word that Loraine was dead and were know waiting to find out where in the world Darlene was, or perhaps they had gotten to her as well. As the old man stepped back from the opening door, he saw the silhouette of the large man who delivered them goods.
“BJ, what can we do for you? We haven’t asked for any goods, we are short on money.” The old mans eyes narrowed as he watched BJ bring in a smaller man behind him, “Who is that?” Again his hand instinctively reached for the rifle.
“Whoa, Arthur, it’s a friend, he wants to help you guys out. I found him in no mans land.” Bj tried to sound as reassuring as he could to the older man, he knew Arthur was sensitive about their group and was always worried someone was going to infiltrate and ruin them.
“I know that you didn’t order anything, I came to help as well, I want to help you get your life back, take down Disney and be free again.” Bj stepped towards Arthur, out stretching his hand to make sure that he knew he meant what he said. The older man took BJ’s hand in a warm handshake and finally let a smile crack his normally stern face. He was relived to have some strong healthy individuals to help their cause, now that two of their youngest members were now missing or dead.
“As glad as I am to have you both here, I have some distressing news to tell you as well.” The smile that had formed on his face, now turned into a solidly set line of doubt and worry.
“Loraine was found mutilated and dead on the edge of Catagoria yesterday, and Darlene hasn’t reported to us for days, we worry she may be dead too.” Arthur’s face distorted in pain, even though he tried to hide it. Bj looked back at Ezekiel and saw his eyes were wide with both surprise and anger, and before he knew it Ezekiel begin to speak in a fast, raspy, angered voice.
“We have existed in their world for to many years, we have followed their rules and they still abuse us. We listen to their lies and we let the other citizens believe them! We must stand up and fight for the true meaning of our lives, freedom! We need to march to there headquarters and demand that they give the government to the people, or we will forcibly take it back from them! You need to stop allowing them to trample on your spirits, you need to stop allowing them to brainwash your children and destroy the place we call home. We need to unite and challenge them to a battle they can’t win!” He was flushed by the end of it, his breath coming in gulping gasps his small frame looked distraught and ready to run into battle. The rest of the members of the resistance and BJ were stunned by Ezekiel’s outburst. They understood it though, the rage that was built up inside all of them, anger and fear that would accumulate into the burning hatred for the Disney corporation, but they’d gotten so used to it that they never spoke aloud of their feelings.
Arthur was the first to react, his eyes twinkling like they did when he was younger, when he was livid and ready to fight. He felt alive for the first time in years, felt amazing and ready to take on the Disney corporation once and for all.
“He’s right everyone, we can’t wait around for them to kill us all, if we don’t fight we will die of old age and the world will be the same or worse for our children.” He seemed to stand straighter than he had before his chest puffing out with pride. He felt the need to charge out of the door right that instance and march up to the president of Disney and blow a hole in him the size of a house. As he begin to walk towards the door, a large hand landed on his shoulder, he turned and was facing the large body of BJ
“Hold on Arthur, “ Bj said slowly “We need to have a plan, and we should try and group up with everyone before we charge out and attack anyone.” BJ slowly turned the older man back towards the group and guided him to sit down on an old couch against the left wall. Arthur sat down and took a deep breath, his body relaxing against the green and yellow cross stitched couch, folding his hands into his lap.
“You’re right Bj, you are I just...I am so tired of being under their thumb.” Arthur hung his head partially in shame and partially in exhaustion, he just wasn’t as young as he used to be. Just as he looked up to speak again, the small phone in his pocket chirped twice. It meant that he had an e-mail into his private account. His heart jumped, he was hoping that it was Darlene and praying that it wasn’t bad news about her from his sources that were out looking for her. He checked the phone quickly and there it sat a two word message from an address he’d never seen before.
“Catagoria-Protypria” is what the message said, Arthur’s breath collapsed out of him in relief he couldn’t contain himself any longer.
“ She’s alive! She’s in the woods between Catagoria and Protypria. We need to get her now!” He jumped up, his body feeling youthful again, his eyes bright again. This time even the large hand of BJ wasn’t enough to stop the old man from making it to the door.
“I’m going to get her, if any of you want to go then you better join me.” He took another brisk step out the door and with a sigh and a shake of his head BJ and then Ezekiel followed the old man, the rest of the group shouted good luck and bolted the door behind them.
Arthur started a quick jog down a dirt path to the right of the shack, leading into the woods behind it. After the three men got into the woods there was a small clearing, in the clearing sat a group of bicycles. They weren’t bicycles of modern times, they were bicycles from a long time ago, two wheeled contraptions that were moved forward by human movement on the pedals that were connected to a chain system that kept the tires in motion. Ezekiel had only read about these types of bikes and had no idea how to make one actually move forward. Arthur looked back and saw the look of confusion on both Ezekiel and BJ’s face and couldn’t help but laugh.
“You get on and sit down, your feet go on the pedals, you push and try to keep your balance, steer with the handles.” Arthur tried to demonstrate by sitting astride one of the bicycles. He watched as the other two men awkwardly tried to balance them selves on the bicycles, each of them toppled over a few times before they were able to stay balanced on them. After the men were balanced and ready all three of them begin to ride towards the south east border of Catagoria, on the path that lead to Protypria.
Darlene was pacing around the small shack, she had gotten a fire started in the center of the concrete floor, the door open to allow the smoke an escape route. She had managed to find a spring about two miles away and carried back a container of water from a bucket she had found in the shed. Food hadn’t been readily found though, but she was so terrified that her hunger hadn’t even begin to gnaw on her mind. She had spent roughly fifteen seconds to send one of the other members of the resistance a message, hoping that he understood her cryptic code, she couldn’t risk anything that would make sense, incase Earl or someone even worse than him, had a hold of Arthur’s phone like they had Loraine’s. There had been no response from Arthur, but Darlene wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or a bad sign. She was going to have to wait and see if he showed up here at this tiny out of the way shack that the resistance abandoned years ago. If he didn’t she was only going to assume the worst and begin her plan to take down Earl and hopefully the government and Disney. Darlene took a seat at the door way of the shack, her back being warmed by the smoldering fire inside, she looked into the woods and thought about what she was going to have to do. How she alone could save the world from being taken over by Disney, and how she could manage to free people, not just her people, but all people. As Darlene sat there and thought about how she could manage to do it all by herself she heard the rustling of leaves and the crunch of twigs. Darlene grabbed the gun that she had nestled behind her and went inside the shack, allowing her back to rest against the wall as she peered out of the door into the clearing and woods beyond.
Arthur BJ and Ezekiel were slowly peddling through the thicket of woods that was just off the main road to Protypria, there tires making there progress painfully loud. Arthur looked back at the younger men and then pushed forward a bit quicker, he didn’t care if the whole world heard him, he needed to make sure Darlene was okay. The men reached a clearing in the woods, to the left was a small shack, smoking slowly billowing out of it’s door. Arthur threw the bike and ran towards the shack screaming.
“Darlene! Darlene! Please be okay, Darlene!” Just before Arthur reached the door way Darlene stepped out, unharmed and smiling from ear to ear. The two embraced in a warm hug and then Darlene spotted the others and she begin to whisper viciously to Arthur.
“Who in the world are they Art? Why would you bring strangers here, what if they are working for Disney and are here to kill us?” The joy of seeing her old friend had vanished from Darlene’s heart, she had no idea who these two men were and one of them was big enough to crush her and Art in one blow. Arthur gave her a reassuring pat on the back and smiled even bigger.
“This is Ezekiel and BJ, they are here to help overthrow the horrible corporation with us! BJ has delivered us contraband goods for a few years now, and he picked up Ezekiel along the way, in no mans land.” He guided Darlene over towards the men, she was still weary of them but she nodded and smiled trying to gauge them by how they reacted to her. As Darlene extended her hand towards the larger man, the one that Arthur introduced as BJ, he grasped it firmly, looked her in the eyes and nodded a warm welcome. The smaller man seemed skittish but very passionate, his eyes were on fire and his hand was sweaty, despite the cold that nipped in the air.
“I’m happy to meet another member that wants to take down Disney!” Ezekiel exclaimed as he grabbed the hand of the black haired woman, his eyes staring into her soul deeply.
Darlene was surprised by how exuberant this young man was, he was filthy and skinnier than the small girl who had come into the diner before she had been chased out by Earl. She sighed inwardly at the thought of her Diner which was probably destroyed by now from the ransacking of it by Disney to try and find her whereabouts. She brought her mind back to reality and looked at the three men, and decided that they might as well get to talking about what they were going to do, she wanted to know if Arthur had heard the news about Loraine. She begin to walk back towards the shack as she opened the door she looked back at them
“We can sit inside, I have a fire, it should be nice and warm and it will be a little safer to talk.” The men and she piled into the small shack, they all sat around the fire, making themselves warm again and their faces ruddy with both warmth and a small amount of cheer just from having found out the others weren’t dead. Arthur took a deep breath and looked around and sighed, he decided he needed to tell Darlene that he got the official news that Loraine was dead, he took a deep breath and spoke up.
“Darlene, I got some bad news I found out that Loraine is dead, she was found mutilated on the outskirts of Catagoria, I’m sorry I know you two were close, do you have any idea who would have done that?” Darlene’s eyes welled up with tears, and she nodded her head, her hair falling loosely around her face.
“Yes I know who it was, he chased me out of the Diner, his name is Earl, he works for Disney and he used to be a Musketeer.” She looked down as she finished a single tear falling into the flames, sizzling as it dissipated. Arthur shook his head and cursed as he stood up inside the shed.
“I’m done, I can’t stand this anymore we are going to ban together and attack as soon as we can get the rest of our members. They can’t kill us anymore! We aren’t pathetic creatures, we are human beings!” His face was flushed again this time with anger and not the heat of the fire.
Ezekiel was getting boiled alive inside by his anger, he had watched this company destroy his family years ago when they threw them out of town and tried to kill them. He couldn’t imagine watching them slowly killing your friends in family when everyone else thought they were saints. His rage was so close to spilling over that he himself stood up with Arthur and decided to speak up as well.
“I agree, they chased my family out of town and they killed everyone except me, they left me to rot in that wasteland out there, where I had to kill to survive! They are a horrible corporation and they lie to all of us!” While Ezekiel was standing with Arthur, BJ decided now was the time to let them all in on something he knew and they didn’t.
“Well, they lie to everyone, including all of you Disney doesn’t own the entire world, Catagoria, Protypria, all of the world that you know of is only a small portion of the world.” He watched their faces as they all were stunned, even Ezekiel who had lived in No man’s land the area that connected all of the territories of the various corporations. He decided that before they could begin to bombard him with the millions of questions they had, that he was going to explain to them what exactly was going on.
“Disney owns what used to be the Mid-west and Eastern coast of the country called the United States of America, there is another corporation that owns the other part of America, it is called Lexacon, then there is Xeniphino which owns all of Europe and a portion of what used to be Russia. There are twelve territories in all, including Disney’s. They all lie to the citizens, they all know about each other and they trade with one another, right under your noses, they don’t let anyone know about one another so that you can’t connect the resistance groups and take over the governments and rule the world like it used to be, by the people.”
Darlene’s eyes were wide her mouth a gape and the color from her face drained. As she stared at BJ, Ezekiel slowly sunk to the ground his eyes filling with tears, his hands cradling his face as his head hung down and his back slouched. Arthur stayed standing, but his grip on his rifle slipped and if it wasn’t for the strap attaching it to him it would have clattered to the floor. The three of them sat there in their own personal worlds, all of which were slowly crumbling apart.
BJ sat there and watched as all of their faces travelled the complete range of human emotions. The first to speak up was Arthur, his voice was shaky, his hands trembling as he spoke.
“But I was alive before Disney took over, and...I don’t remember anything except this world...it just used to be called America, that’s what I remember...” His eyes turned to the fire and he let his voice trail off, as he searched his memory for what the world could actually be. Darlene was next to make a comment her words were slow and it felt as if she ripped each one from the bottom of her soul.
“How did they even do this? How did people let them?” She looked at BJ her eyes looking for answers that her soul so desperately needed. As BJ opened his mouth to begin explaining Ezekiel spoke, his head still looking down at the ground.
“Does that mean...that I could have gotten to some other territory when I was wandering around in that desolate waste land!?!” His voice escalated as he spoke, his eyes looking up and locking with BJ’s. With a sigh BJ looked around at these three people gathered around him, all of there eyes longing for an explanation only he could give. “I can try and explain everything, but it make take a while, please just let me try.” He looked at them, there faces almost hollow from the need to know what had been hidden from them their entire lives.
“Before there were separate and isolated territories the world was a much more violent place. The governments that ruled the nations and countries were always fighting one another for control over natural resources, religions, anything that they could think of they would fight over. Some years after a particularly violent war between the major powers of the world, they all met together and made a pact. The governments decided that they would isolate their countries and keep away from the others, so that hopefully the wars would stop. What ended up happening though, was that the eleven strongest governments slowly took over the rest of the weaker countries. America was one of the biggest governments, but it split in two shortly after the treaty was signed. A few years past by, and slowly people begin to forget that the world existed out side of their country. The governments decided that they would allow at least twenty miles between each border in every direction so that the people would never meet one another. A decade or so went by and people didn’t know anything except what the government told them. That brings most of you up to speed on how you remember things isn’t it? You thought you were free under the original government and they slowly Disney inched in and bought them out, took over your little villages and made you follow rules you’d never heard of. Chased you out of town right, Ezekiel? You thought those highways you traveled were no man’s land, but they were cut out of Disney’s borders recently, so that they could become even more secluded from the other territories. Well similar stories happened to every other government and every other country slowly was taken over by a large corporation.” Bj stopped, took a deep breath and again waited for them to process and absorb what he said, he wondered if they would believe him, or if they would shun him and chase him out of their circle. None of them said anything though, no one even breathed it seemed, they all sat in perfect silence, perfect stillness for what seemed like an eternity. Then slowly the world begin to come back together and almost all at once they begin to talk, excitedly, snippets of conversations flying at BJ plans for redemption, reuniting the world and destroying all of the companies. BJ jumped in head first and begin explaining his ideas as well, the shack becoming a frenzy of flickering flames and jumping conversations, an air so similar to happiness exuded from the shacks small walls. Chapter VI
The streets were colder today then they had been the day before, making her walk to work seem more painful then normal. Ann was nervous, she was worried that what Earl had told her was going to come true, that she might end up dead in some ditch because she had asked to many questions. She took a deep breath trying to clear her head and reassure her self that as long as she didn’t ask more questions that no one would notice her. She pulled a cigarette out of her pack, her fingers trembling from the cold as she fumbled with her lighter. The inhale of the smoke mixed with the cold morning air made Ann’s nerves stand even more on edge. As she checked traffic and begin a slow jog across the street, she was met with something that made her stomach jump into her throat, across from her, waiting on the other side for her, stood Earl. He looked different than he did the last time she saw him, the same suit, the same man but this time his eyes were fierce, his body language spelt violence to a deadly tee. Ann almost stopped dead in her tracks in the middle of the road, instead, she turned and ran, full sprint back the way she came. The crisp winter air shattered around her with the pounding footsteps of Earl behind her.
Ann didn’t know how to get away from him, she had no place to go where he couldn’t follow. She turned quickly and darted down an alley and towards one of the main streets of Catagoria, hoping to loose him in the sea of other citizens. She dodged quickly into a group of similarly dressed individuals, but as she looked back over her shoulder, Earl was there, his breath making clouds of steam around his face which was red from exertion. She ran again, this time dropping from the crowded city streets into the almost desolate park, her feet slipping against the frozen grass. Ann made a decision that she couldn’t look over her shoulder anymore, that she had to run until she was sure that no one was near her and then only then could she stop and breathe. Her feet hit the road on the other side of the park, a small street that lead to Protypria, the closest town to Catagoria. She ran down the side of the road, her breath coming in halting gasps as she ran as fast as she could, her lungs burning from the cold air as she inhaled. As her body moved from the fear of death, her brain went hay wire she had to get away in a place where he couldn’t find her, but she couldn’t run on foot forever, if she did he would eventually over take her and then she would be doomed. She slowed down and looked around, she couldn’t spot Earl, but she knew that if she stayed still too long he would be there. That is when she spotted it, a bright yellow taxi, letting out a man dressed in a sharp suit, almost like Earls at a bank across the street. With the last of her physical strength Ann ran towards the taxi and slid into the back seat of the cab.
“Protypria, please and hurry.” She said breathlessly to the driver, her hand pulling all of the money she had and pouring it into his lap.
“Please” She said again, her eyes desperate. The driver nodded and gunned the cab down the almost abandoned road and toward Protypria, and Ann hoped toward freedom.
Earl cursed under his breath, he couldn’t believe that he lost her, a small woman and he couldn’t catch her in a full out run. Earl bent over to catch his breath his mind reeling, maybe Ben was right, maybe the heroin was effecting him. He’d lost her after she ran into the empty park, the dodging around benches and trees had made him loose sight of her, and when he turned onto the old road to Protypria, she was gone. Earl decided that she must be headed towards Protypria, towards another city where she hoped he couldn’t find her. Earl grabbed a small phone from his pocket and dialed Ben, hoping that he could help set something up in Protypria to snag Ann in her attempt to evade them. The phone rang three times and then Ben’s voice met Earl’s ear, his voice crisp and curt.
“Did you handle the Ann situation?” He asked, no hello, or how are you doing, straight to the point. Earl swallowed hard before answering, the lump in his throat almost choking him.
“No, sir...she got away from me.” His voice was almost mouse like, his face showing the dread that was building up inside of him.
“Got away?!” Ben’s voice was harsher than Earl had expected his words cutting through him like butter.
“She dipped into the Park and I lost track of her, I think she is heading toward Protypria, can you call someone to lock down Protypria, or are you not that high up?” Earls voice was shaky, and his mind was reeling from wanting to score another hit of heroin but he tried to stay focused at the issue at hand.
“Yes, fine I’ll lock down Protypria, but that is it, this is your mess Earl, you need to clean it up.” Ben hung up the phone, the silence deafening to Earl.
Earl almost crushed the phone as he put it back into his pocket, his anger boiling toward the breaking point and quickly. He cursed under his breath again, and begin the trek towards the company garage to pick up his transportation in hopes to head off Ann, before she managed to disappear on him again. He pushed passed all of the people on the sidewalks, making people curse at him as he passed by. Once he reached the company garage he went to his spot and couldn’t help but smile, his bike, his baby sat there glistening in all of her glory. The body of his beauty was completely parallel to the ground, the sleek undercarriage reflecting the pavement it was parked on. Gunmetal gray and black, the bike was a masterpiece of mechanical engineering. Earl ran his hand over the front of his bike, his fingers grazing the metal and barley touching the tire in the front.
“Adelina,” he whispered to the bike, its lights surged on and the engine revved,
“Good evening, darling.” The bike’s on-board computer purred to Earl, along the undercarriage, a bright glow of blue neon lights begin to shine. Earl straddled the bike, and placed the matching helmet upon his head, his body leaning forward to become more aerodynamic, his breath sounding restless inside the helmet. He revved the engine himself and gunned the bike in reverse, coaxing the computer to override the safety calls and push the limits of the bikes ability so that he could get to Protypria in a matter of minutes instead of hours. As Earl and the bike, Adelina tore out of the garage they left a faint trail of smoke, and from her dual exhaust you could see the sparks of blue flames.
Ann sat in the cab as it rocketed forward, her mind reeling, she had no idea what she was going to do once she reached Protypria and had no where to really go, and no money to pay for anything to save her self. As she was on the verge of a panic attack, the cabs radio went off, a robotic voice filled the cab.
“Protypria is heading into lockdown mode in twenty minutes, you may enter but you may not leave until
the lockdown is complete.” The voice cut off and the cabbie looked at Ann and shrugged his shoulders.
“Hope whatever you need is in Protypria.” his voice was nonchalant and casual, trying to make small talk hoping to get even more money out of Ann, even though she had paid him almost triple what the fare would be. Ann begin to panic now, she knew why they were locking down Protypria, so they could look for her, search for her, find her, and kill her. Her palms begin getting clammy, beads of sweat breaking out on her forehead, she couldn’t go to Protypria now, she couldn’t risk them catching her there.
“STOP!” She screamed at the cabby, her voice almost breaking in the process. The car came screeching to a halt, Ann’s body jerking forward and smacking into the dash, her head cracking against the window. she winced but didn’t let it slow her down, she wrenched open the door and got out, her body in flight mode once again, her feet flying and her mind reeling she ran towards the wood on the side of the road, the only chance for survival would be to hide, hoping they didn’t realize where she went. She darted into the woods, her ribs burning from the exertion and the smack they took from the dashboard. She managed to run straight back, the road disappearing through the brush as she ran deeper into the woods. Ann saw a small break in the woods ahead and slowed down to a walk, trying to catch her breath and slow her heart as she moved further away from the road. As she stepped into the clearing she realized it was a small river, running through the woods. Ann decided that this was the perfect time to sit for a few seconds and get a drink of water to try and help her system. She hadn’t had a drink since the encounter this morning and her mouth felt like it was full of cotton. Ann sat down on the side of the river and cupped a handful of water and brought it to her lips, drinking deeply. The cool water eased the stifling feeling inside of Ann’s throat and also made her body more responsive, and unfortunately more aware of the pain it was in, her head reeled slightly and she lay down on the bank of the river, her body slipping into a deep sleep.
Ann was roused from her sleep by the feeling of cold water running down her nose, her forehead was soaked and she almost jumped when her mind and body connected that she could be at risk. Her eyes flew open and were met by a face she recognized. She drew in a sharp breath and relaxed when she recognized Darlene, the waitress from the little restaurant she had visited the night earl had told her she was most likely going to be killed. Darlene’s face lit up when she noticed that Ann had awoken.
“We thought you might die on us darlin, you look half dead.” her voice trickled down to Ann’s ears, the sound soothing to her pounding headache. Slowly she pulled her self up, she had been laying on a pile of clothes on a concrete floor in a small shack. As she sat up she looked around and realized that Darlene wasn’t the only person there. Sitting along the other wall of the shack there were three men. The farthest to the left was a slight man, his skin turned dark by the harsh unrelenting sun, it looked withered and rubbery like leather, his eyes were a deep brown. A beard almost the size of the man himself sat upon a face drawn taught with hunger. He looked like he had spent the majority of his life outside, rugged, and barley able to survive.. Beside him sat a man the size of a house he too had a massive beard, but his was matched by a mane of hair that extended down onto his shoulders. His eyes were dark and fierce his mouth set in a straight line, hands folded across his massive chest, muscles bulging through a tanktop that was torn to shreds. The man furthest to the right, looked a lot less like the other two, he was old, his skin sagged with age his hair was whiter than snow, his eyes looked weak and pale, not full of life as the others were. His hands lay lifeless in his lap, they looked as worn as he did, tattered and broken down. Ann’s heart bounded in her chest, what if they told Earl where she was, what if they worked for him, she jumped to her feet and went to run towards the door, when her head spun, the shack distorting in on its self as her knees begin to crumble. The large man in the center of the group, rushed over and caught her as she crumbled, saving her head from the hard concrete floor, his dark eyes were the last thing she saw before she faded into darkness again.
Darlene shook her head as the tiny girl crumbled again, she was going to kill her self if she continued to push her self like that, there was no question about it. The young girls face was pale and when she had woken up she looked as if she might die from fright by seeing them all there. Darlene wondered what kind of trouble the girl had gotten her self into. BJ moved the small girl back to the pile of clothes on the other side of the room, resting her head gently down and sighing.
“When she wakes up again, maybe you can tell her we aren’t going to kill her?” He mumbled gruffly, straightening his back and staring at Darlene his eyes feverish.
“I don’t enjoy watching someone as young as her basically have a heart attack the first five minutes of coming too after being passed out.” He paced around the small shack and shook his head, he was getting antsy, nervous about staying in one location with so many people when he knew that Disney was looking for at least one of them, and he and Ezekiel were both here illegally, he thought any minute now someone was going to burst through the woods and kill them all. He looked around at the rest of them, Arthur looked sad, downtrodden and defeated, Ezekiel looked jittery and starved for nutrients and Darlene strode among them like a mother hen, protective and almost flamboyant.
“I’m going to walk the perimeter, you guys wake her up and figure out what we are doing, we can’t stay in this shack forever.” With that he walked out of the shack, grabbing his rifle as he left, his body becoming guarded, searching the woods for any sights and sounds that might be benevolent.
Darlene shook her head and went back over to the limp body of Ann, she once again dipped her hand into the cool bucket of water grabbing the towel, and slowly wetting Ann’s face, whispering softly to her to wake up. Once again, Ann’s eyes begin to flutter open, as her eyes begin to register who was above her, Darlene spoke slowly and calmly.
“Ann, we aren’t going to hurt you, are you okay?” She helped Ann sit up this time, bracing her back against the wall, smiling a warm smile at her, the same smile that Ann found so illuminating in the diner. Ann tried to calm her mind, it was still in flight mode, screaming at her to run, far away and find a cave and lay there until the world ended and she was finally safe. She fought against the instinct though and stayed, her eyes adjusting to the light inside the shack as she took a shaky breath.
“There is a man named Earl, he is trying to kill me.” she said quietly, her eyes welling with hot tears as she finished, her mind reeling.
Ann felt a soft hand on her back, it was gentle and reassuring she looked back and saw Darlene there, her eyes large with fear, her breath coming in short bursts. The old man that Ann had noticed before stood up, his eyes no longer looked lifeless, his hands flying into the air.
“That’s who killed Loraine! That is who is after all of us, he and all of Disney.” The man stood now, pacing about the room, his loose skin moving as he walked back and forth back and forth. The smaller man that was covered in his beard had eyes that were alive now, fierce and full of vigor. He stood up with the other man and joined in his angry ramblings.
“They killed my family” He cried, wringing his hands together, “threw me out into no mans land and left me to die” He and the old man continued on in this fashion, pacing and ranting, leaving Ann sitting on the floor perplexed. What in the world were they talking about she wondered, where they all in trouble with Disney for asking to many questions, did they all work for Disney? She found that hard to believe since she thought Darlene worked at the diner, and the old man looked as if he was to feeble to be much use to anybody for work.
“What do you mean? Disney killed someone? Did you all ask questions they didn’t like too? Do you work for them like me? What is going on?” Ann stammered out, her words dribbling from her mouth with no real pauses, just a stammering utterance of naivety that caught everyones attention. Slowly Arthur stop walking, his muttering slowed and his eyes widened. Ezekiel looked shocked as well and Darlene looked as if someone had wrenched her heart out.
“You mean, you don’t know about what Disney does?” Darlene asked slowly, her eyes searching Ann’s face for any kind of understanding. The girl was quiet and shook her head solemnly.
“I thought they just ran the amusement park and a slew of other businesses.” Ann wasn’t sure what they were talking about, so she waited for them to explain. Darlene sighed, and looked at the two men, shaking her head slowly.
“Sit down boys, I think we need to explain everything to Ann, including what we just learned from BJ.” Arthur sat down sighing, and Ezekiel shook his head and muttered “I’m going to go patrol with BJ, I can’t stand to listen to this again.” With that, he left the shack, the door letting in a fresh burst of cold air, chilling Ann through to her bones. Darlene tried to give a reassuring smile, and with a gentle voice begin to explain everything to Ann, what was really going on in her world, about Disney and the rest of the territories and why Earl was really trying to kill her. Ann cried and for moments didn’t believe what Darlene was saying, couldn’t believe what had happened to her diner, to her home and to her friends. Eventually, Ann understood and with that understanding came a whole new level of fear that she had never experienced before. Chapter VII
Protypria had been shut down for nearly three hours now and Earl still couldn’t find a trace of Ann, he realized that she must not be here. His body was shaking and he felt sick to his stomach, he had to get more heroin, if he couldn’t find it soon enough he feared he would kill someone innocent, and even though he was important, he wouldn’t get away with murdering a citizen. He ducked into an alley, his heart pounding in his chest so loudly he would swear that everyone could hear it. In the dark he heard the breathings of someone against the wall, the light of a cigarette illuminating the taught face of the drug dealer. Earl walked towards him his eyes glancing around the alley as he dug out money from inside of his suit.
“I’ve got 5,000 disnollars, give me as much as liquid gold as you’ve got.” Earl stammered out, sweat pouring down his face, his hands shaking. the junkie shrugged and handed over a few small bags of black tar heroin, his voice was slow and slurred when he spoke to Earl,
“There, that’s all I’ve got, now scram, you are going to scare my normal costumers.” A shake of the dealers hand shooed Earl away, his body jonseing heavily for the heroin in his hands. He didn’t have a place here in Proytypria so he headed off to a bar across the street from the alley, outside of the bar sat a line of obvious junkies, their hair askew and hands shaking, cups out begging for change to get there next score. Earl strode into the bar, an air of confidence and determination exuding from his body. He walked straight back to a table on the left, sitting down with his back to the crowd, his face towards the wall. He gave the bartender a look that made it perfectly clear that he did not want to be disturbed. Earl then proceeded to get his first hit of heroin ready, his mouth watering from the thought of getting high. As he sat there, the heroin coursing through his veins his eyes drifted into the back of his head and his body relaxed as it begin to succumb to the effects of the heroin.
Ben had gotten the call from Earl earlier about not being able to find Ann in protypria, and his heart begin to race, how could he loose a small little insignificant person like her, she couldn’t be that smart, Earl was supposed to be top of the line in what he did and what he did was find girls and kill them. He knew it was the heroin that was making him sloppy, faltering in his once perfected lifestyle, he had to either let Earl go, or get him off the crap. He was pacing around his apartment, trying to decide what to do with Earl, and figuring out how he could find and kill not only Ann, but the rest of the resistance here in his territory. Ben decided that if he wanted to get anything done then he was going to have to do it himself, he knew that somethings were just too important to leave to incompetent drug addicts. He didn’t say a word to any of his servants in the house, he just coldly and calmly walked out of the apartment, his legs caring him effortlessly down the stairs and into his private garage that was under the building. He didn’t know how he was going to find Ann or the rest of them, but he knew that if he didn’t find them that they would systematically destroy what he and his family had worked to maintain for years, the perfect world. Ben sighed and got into the back seat of an old town car from the mid 1900’s his back resting easily against the worn leather of the seat, his hands laying idle in his lap.
“Drive slowly along the route to Protypria please, and make sure you keep an eye out for anything suspicious.” Ben said slowly and quietly to a man who sat down discreetly in the drivers seat. The man nodded, his bald head glistening from the interior light inside the car, his bright white suit almost blinding as he drove toward Protypria, the sun shining into the car as he left the garage.
Ben watched as the city of Catagoria gave way to the woodland between the two cities, his mind wandering as he watched the buildings fade and the trees crop up. Ben thought about his childhood, about growing up in private, away from the entire world. Being taught at home, taught things that no one else in his world would ever learn about. He remembered meeting the children of the other leaders when he was twelve, remembered what it was like to be able to talk to children his own age and how much he despised them. At twelve Ben had done more intellectually than most adults accomplish in their lifetimes, he had read all of the greats and was already making political decisions for his father’s territory, but no one at the meeting of all of the territories had known that. That meeting is where Ben had met Susan, the daughter of the ruler of Lexacon, the only territory that was actually bordering his father’s territory. He hated her with a passion, she was the only threat to his father’s territory, the territory he stood to inherit upon his death. At that age, Ben had grand visions of expanding the territory until it encompassed all of the North American Continent, but his father always chastised his dreams, sighting them as childish and uninsightful. He understood now that if he overtook the Lexacon territory it would be difficult to control the citizens, they knew different histories, different worlds. He would have to run two separate worlds, and that was nearly impossible.
Ben’s mind wandered back into reality and away from his dark distant memories. He didn’t want to think about when he became the leader of the territory, and that is where all of those memories lead, always. He was entering Protypria now and noticed a large man, laying on the sidewalk in the slums of the city. Ben sighed as he recognized Earl, tweeking and higher than Ben had ever seen him.
“Stop the car.” He said calmly to his driver, the car stopped almost immediately and smoothly. Ben pulled his long body out of the car and walked over to the large man, his temper boiling closer and closer to the edge with every step he took. As he reached Earl his anger was too great, he delieverd a swift and well placed kick to Earls last rib, the crunch of it breaking echoing through the noisy street. Earls body moved a good six inches but his face never changed, the contorted grin and drool that was coming out of his mouth stayed exactly the same. Earl was so deep in his high that he was lost in a world of orgasmic bliss. Ben cursed loudly and placed another swift kick to Earl’s ribs another crack rang out, another rib snapped in half.
“Gather him up, put him in the car.” Ben told the driver angrily. He walked carefully to the back of the car and opened the door, “Make sure he is secured and can’t get out. He’s basically useless right now.” Ben slid his lanky body into the back of the car, his legs coiling into the empty space in the back. His anger was fuming now, his large slender hands shaking.
“Go back to the house, now and quickly, he needs to be dealt with immediately.” He gestured towards Earl, his face contorting with malice as he thought about how he was going to deal with Earl, and whether or not he was worth keeping around anymore.
The trip back to Catagoria was much quicker than Ben had expected, but he was glad of that. As they pulled into the garage at Ben’s house Earl begin to come down from his high slowly, his lips moving as a barely audible moan escaped his lips. His eyes finally connected what they had been seeing the whole ride over to Catagoria, his heart begin to fill with panic. Slowly his mind begin to understand that he might wind up dead if he didn’t figure out a way to get out of this situation.
“Let me explain...” Earl started to speak, his words seeming separate from his body. “...Ben, I can get clean...” As the word clean left his mouth, it was met with a sharp punch to the jaw. Ben had gotten out of the car and opened the passenger door where Earl sat strapped into the seat.
“Don’t you tell me, what you can and can’t do I am making those decisions from now on.” Ben’s voice was no longer calm, but angry, tinged with a rage that Earl had never seen before. The driver walked over quickly and effortlessly lifted Earls bulky frame from the car and begin to walk the short stretch to Ben’s apartment. Earl was distraught, how could a man, half his size and twice his age lift him up with out any difficulties. He struggled against the small mans hold, hoping his weight could knock him off balance. The man didn’t falter in the least, his steps where mechanical, his movements methodical. Earl again rocked his body, this time adding a kick into the other mans ribs, trying to shake his hold and get free. The grip tightened around Earl’s body and he realized that he wasn’t going to get free, no matter what he did.
Ben opened his apartment quickly ushering in his driver and the now submissive Earl, his body resting limply against the drivers back. He made sure that Earl was settled securely into a large wooden backed chair. Once the driver had him situated he, made sure and tighten down large leather restraints to Earls wrists and ankles. Earl looked around and tried to pull at the restraints, but his movement was not enough to gain control of his extremities.
“Ben, please don’t kill me, it is just a drug addiction” Earl’s voice was shaky, his body begin to sweat, and his mind reeled with a way to get out of this situation with his life. Ben didn’t respond to Earl’s panicked question and walked to a globe that sat in the left of the room. He ran his hand over the edge and found the small clasp that allowed the globe to open and expose the small compartment inside of the globe. From within the compartment he withdrew a small vile and an extremely large needle, his hands were steady as he drew the liquid deep into the syringe. Earl’s eyes grew wider with every second that passed, the syringe filling with a liquid the color of the summer sky.
“This should help you to readjust to living with out the high of the heroin you have become so dependant upon. It might kill you afterwards, but as long as you can wean off of it, you can survive.” With the last word, Ben effortlessly and expertly inserted the needle into Earl’s arm, his persizon so dead on that the vein instantly filled with the liquid, a burning sensation flashing through out his body quickly. As the needle withdrew from Earl’s arm, Ben uttered a final warning, “Of course only I know what it is, and how it’s made so if you want to live I suppose you will have to earn your life from me, one godforsaken needle full at a time.” Earl could feel his usual strength returning to him, his limbs feeling strong and his flesh returning to a healthy pink, his eyes glistening once more, as they had before the drug addiction. Ben undid the restraints on Earl’s limbs and allowed him to move about freely. seeming unaware that if Earl so felt the need, he could attempt to harm him in an instant. As Earls limbs were freed he thought briefly of killing Ben, maiming his body until he couldn’t be recognized. However just as quickly as the thought entered it fled, he remembered the man who effortlessly carried him, manipulated his body as though it were playdoh. He also remembered that Ben said if he didn’t get the right amount of the liquid, he would die, he didn’t want to die.
Ben smiled at Earl, a smile that didn’t fill Earl with comfort or reassurance, but fear and trepidation. His face contorted in a way that reminded Earl of a wicked jester, his eyes sparkling with malice and ill intent. His words flowed quietly and smoothly from his mouth as he spoke.
“We are going to squash this resistance and rebellion once and for all, they will not live to speak another blasphemous word.” his hands punctuated his sentences with swift movements that cut through the air as quick as a well practiced butcher divides a cow. Earl wasn’t sure how to respond, he just stared mindlessly at Ben, his eyes fixed upon him in true amazement how had this man become such an unadulterated lunatic.
“We can make sure to inalate them, abolish them, destroy them. We will make sure that the history they speak of and try to teach is buried so deeply that no one will ever be able to find it.” With the snap of his fingers the driver was back by Ben’s side his face stern and emotionless, waiting ready for orders.
“Make sure that Earl here goes with you and try and find the hideout that they are all at. I believe it is somewhere in the forest between here and Protypria, since that is where we all managed to loose them.” the driver nodded and motioned for Earl to follow him, he steps just as methodical as they had been when he carried Earl into the apartment. He remembered the cold feeling he had felt when he was being manhandled into the chair and quickly followed him out of the door and into the lobby of the building. This was the first time that Earl could actually take in his surroundings, his eyes were filled with the filigree and beauty of the lobby. He couldn’t believe there was a building in Catagoria that had this kind of pure beauty. It was if he was walking through the entrance of a hotel in the late 1800’s his world full of ornate details and baroque style paintings. The trip quick through the lobby seemed like an eternity to Earl as his mind drank in the new images and smells that assaulted his newly renewed senses.
Once the driver and Earl had made it into the garage, the driver finally spoke, his voice gravely and deep, his words chilling Earl to the bone as he spoke. “Don’t make me look bad.” His eyes stared at Earl, peering into his face with a complete lack of emotion. “I have never disappointed the boss before and I don’t plan to start now.” His face was blank as Earl stared at him, his eyes never wavering as he stared at him. Earl looked away and walked towards the car a few more steps “I don’t plan on trying to disappoint him either. I would like to stay alive.” The driver nodded and opened the car door, and slid his lanky body into the drivers seat, cranking the ignition and bringing the car to life. Earl quickly jumped into the passenger seat of the car, his elbow hitting the dash on the way, causing him to curse out loud. This made the driver turn to him and press a hand against his shoulder, driving him back into the soft leather of the seat. “Be careful, don’t do anything that messy when we are looking for the rebels, if you do they will kill us on the spot.” Earl pushed the drivers hand off of him and gave him a look that made most civilians piss their pants. “Touch me again and I will show you why I was a security measure for Ben.” The driver laughed coldly and quickly, he didn’t say anything about Earl’s statement, instead he just begin to drive the car through the garage and onto the street. Earl wasn’t sure if he should try and strain the already tense car ride with small talk, so instead he set to scanning the world around him to see if he could spot any sign of the hiding rebels. The streets of Catagoria begin to melt away and the woods begin to appear again. As they exited Catagoria, the driver slowed down to a crawl and eventually pulled to the side of the woods and stopped the car, getting out without saying a word. Earl had a feeling that the driver wasn’t going to be much of a talker the whole trip. Earl silently followed suit and begin to slowly walking along the road, his eyes intent on the woods. As the driver turned and headed back to the car, he saw it. A break in the woods, a group of broken brush that seemed to extend into the woods at least twenty yards. He trotted over to the driver and showed him the break in the underbrush. The driver pressed a .38 calibre pistol into Earl’s hand, and they both begin to quietly walk through the crushed path into the woods. Chapter VIII
Ann, Darlene, and Bj were still sitting in the shack, trying to decide what to do. Ezekiel and Arthur were patrolling the outskirts of the clearing, guns drawn and bodies alert the two men nervous about staying in an unsecured location for so long. As the Ezekiel headed toward the river, he heard the noise of crunching twigs and leaves being rustled. Quickly he turned toward the noise, his stomach lurching, praying that it was just a rabbit disturbing the foliage. Arthur was across the clearing gun drawn and body taut as he patrolled his side and listened to every noise carefully. As Ezekiel walked towards the woods, Arthur begin to follow him, protecting Ezekiel’s back. From the brush a loud snap emanated as what ever it was traveling had broken the alarm that the men had set up, a large group of dead twigs, meant to make a lot of noise and alert the patrol. After loud snap, a quiet curse was heard from the woods, that was all it took for Ezekiel to realize it was an intruder and not just a rabbit. Ezekiel snapped his head back towards Arthur and motioned for them to fall back to the shack, time to alert the others and decide to run, or to fight.
Ann and Darlene had just finished packing the final amounts of the supplies they had when Ezekiel and Arthur burst through the shacks rickety door. As Ann begin to speak, Ezekiel’s hand covered her mouth and shook his head, a slow quiet stream or words coming from his mouth. “There is at least one man outside, near the clearing trying to remain quiet and stealthy. We need to either leave or fight and we need to decide quickly.” Despite the obvious need to stay quiet the shack erupted in a burst of noise as everyone begin to talk at once. Shouts of fight fight fight emanated from the small room, the air becoming electrically charged with the need to get revenge for their families and friends deaths done by the government of the Disney territory. It was decided then and there that there would be no more running, no more tucking their tales between their legs and hiding, if they ever had a chance of gaining the truth they had to stand up and fight for it.
With a new sense of vigor and spirit, the members of the resistance stepped out into the clearing, guns drawn and war faces on, eyes glittering in the sun with a fury that rivaled the heat of a volcano. Once they had all stepped out into the clearing, the first shot rung through the air, whizzing right past Ann and into the head of the old man, Arthur, his body falling limp to the ground, a shudder passing through his body as the nerves received the final dying message from him brain, now spread across the barren dead grass. As if on the switch BJ, Ezekiel, and Darlene fell to the ground, bodies pressed flat against the earth as they crawled for cover. Ann however stood there eyes open wide, staring blankly ahead into the deep abyss that was Earl’s cold eyes, her mouth hung slight agape as she tried to process the smoking gun in his hand and the dead man two feet behind her. As the gun moved to level between Ann’s eyes a hand pulled her leg out from underneath her, causing her body to fall to the ground, the rifle she was holding pressed into her ribcage causing a searing hot pain to radiate through her chest and a loud crack to echo through the clearing. The wind rushed out of Ann and she gasped, not only from pain but to replenish the oxygen that left her system. Soon the clearing was filled with the loud burst of the guns, the bright flashes emitting from the muzzles and a thick smoke filling the small area. Through all of the chaos Ann lay there on the ground, eyes stinging from the smoke her lungs burning from inhaling large amounts of it, the world moving in slow motion around her.
From the dry and dead grass Ann could see the people she came to trust, defending not only their lives, but also hers. Darlene was in front of her, her body low to the ground, gun pulled up eyes trained on the muzzle blasts from the other side of the clearing. As Darlene returned fire of her own, Ann could see her body ripple from the repercussion of the gun as it fired, three shots rapid fire followed but another three and on and on until Ann herd a quiet clicking sound of the clip running empty. Her attention floated two BJ, whose body was unmoved from the vibrations of his large rifle. The noise from his gun made Ann’s head whirl every shot he took. His shots were slower and more deliberate the muzzle blast blinding her each time. Head spinning Ann closed her eyes, the scene that played behind her eyelids was more gruesome than the one playing out in front of her limp body.
Ezekiel tried to focus his attention on the two men shooting at them from the other side of the clearing, but his mind kept drifting back to the women from Catagoria that lay limp on the grass behind them, her gun slung limp against her body, her breathing sounding labored. He worried that she might die from a punctured lung and that would mean they had no inside access into the company, and their jobs would become a lot more difficult. As he focused he squinted his eyes and made one final shot, his gun cracking loud against the smoke filled air in the clearing, and as he watched the muzzle flash die down, suddenly the other side fell quiet the only noise the sound of someone running through the woods, feet striking dead leaves and branches as they crashed towards the road. The smoke began to clear and as the three rebels stood they saw that on the other side amidst the expended clips and the used casings lay a man in a jet black suit, his body limp and a gun strewn beside him. BJ was the first to venture towards the body his gun drawn the entire time, muzzle pointed at the other man, eyes steady. As he bent down to feel for a pulse his body relaxed.
“He’s dead, someone got him right between the eyes.” Even though BJ said this with an enthused tone, one that was happy that the man was no longer a threat, his body sagged his eyes darting towards Arthur, the old mans body laying mutilated and cold on the grass, and a few yards away from him lay Ann, unmoving but breathing. Slowly they all begin to migrate to their downed members, leaving the large man’s body abandoned on the other side of the clearing, his blood seeping into the ground, feeding plants that had been without rain for months. Darlene bent down towards Ann’s body, her hands warm from gripping the gun she tried to shake Ann gently awake. BJ was at Arthur’s body his hands gently lifting the old man off the ground. Arthur seemed even smaller now, his body being dwarfed by BJ’s his body was cradled against the larger mans chest. As BJ walked towards the shack, his steps slow and deliberate a single tear falling down his face as he laid the body down in the shed. He turned back to the crowd now formed around Ann, his face turning to stone, the tear wiped away with a brisk hand.
Ann opened her eyes, expecting to see nothing but carnage around her, however she was surrounded by BJ, Ezekiel and Darlene the group of them talking hurriedly about how she needed to get up so they could high tail it out of there. When they realized that she had her eyes open, they focused all of their attention to her.
“Ann get up, we have to go, right now before they come back with more.” Darlene’s words drifted down to Ann’s ears slower than she ever thought imaginable. She saw her mouth move and the words didn’t register to her until after Darlene stopped moving her lips and begin waving her hand infront of Ann’s face trying to see if she was actually conscious. She sat up her head spinning with the rush of blood and her eyes straining to see the other side of the clearing. A large mass lay on the other side, it had a similar curvature that Ann recognized. With out any regard to the words coming from the others she walked towards the body. Its suit of black making her heart jump. She recoginzed Earl instantly her heart was hammering inside her chest and a scream was building in her throat, she could see the bullet hole, the blood seeping into the ground. With out any explanation Ann begin to kick Earl’s body her feet thudding against his solid frame, his body unmoving from her kicks her force weakening as she realized she couldn’t hurt a dead man.
The others watched in silence as the tiny woman tried to take out all of her pent up rage on the corpse of the man dressed all in black. As Ann begin to stop kicking him, they all walked towards her. They used small smiles and quiet gestures to pry her away from the corpse. Once they were walking away from the corpse, Ann hand and hand with Ezekiel, the panic started to set in. They realized that they just killed someone who was most likely working for the government. They just moved them selves from annoyances to true pests that would need to be exterminated as quickly as possible. They quickly ran back to the bikes that the men had brought with them, the girls doubling up on Arthur’s bike and they begin to ride as quickly and quietly as they could towards Catagoria. Ann who had remained quiet since they left the clearing finally opened her mouth, when they were now halfway to Catagoria, the woods beginning to melt away around them and revealing the growing city before them.
“I’m sure that my apartment is bugged, and I’m sure that your diner is gone. But I think I can still get us into my work, maybe there we can find out something to find the leader of this place and put an end to all of this tyranny.” Her words were cold and calculated the once vibrant curious face of Ann was now stern. Her green eyes could pierce through even the thickest of steel. The group agreed that Ann should lead them to this office building, and they were all relieved to realize it was Saturday, meaning the office should mostly be empty except for a few hard workers who most likely wouldn’t even look up when they came in. They all slithered into Catagoria through back alleys and streets, their bodies melding into the slum of the city. The tires of their bicycles slid through the dark liquid that covered the alley ground. Winding through the alleys they finally reached the side of Ann’s workplace, a sole door stood staring at them, its matte grey surface covered in spider webs and dust. For a while all they did was stare back. Each one of them steadying themselves for the inevitable doom that they were about to put them selves into. They knew that penetrating this building and the secrets that it held meant that they very may well die for their cause.
Darlene was the first to move, she let her bike slide to the ground, the metal clattering against the wet concrete. Her hands were steady as reloaded her gun, her eyes however showed the fear that was running through every single one of them. They all took suit after her initial movement, guns were silently reloaded, and breaths were taken to steady the souls of those who were turning away from their old complaint lives and into new rebellious roles. No one spoke, the only noise was the sloshing of their feet in the wet alley as they walked toward the matte gray door. Ann was in the front, her gray suit an exact match to the color of the door, behind her came BJ his large frame almost making it impossible to see anyone else. As they entered into the building, Darlene and Ezekiel silent shut the door behind them all and followed them up a back flight of stairs, making the long and tedious climb to the 115th floor one grueling floor at a time. Between the amount of time it took them to walk up the stairs, and the amount of time they spent making sure that no one was behind them, they didn’t reach the 115th floor for nearly three hours. When they did arrive on the floor, they were all sore and ready to get the snooping started. The floor was completely empty, the lights flickering ever so slightly making the gray of everything seem even duller.
“Since the floor is empty, we can take our time, and try to find out everything we can about the company, let me explain what I used to do here so that maybe we can figure out what to look for.” They all stood on the far side of the 115th floor and listened to Ann describe her routine of number repeating that she had done for the last 15 years of her life. Then, after she explained the basics of her job to everyone Ann took a deep breath and decided to explain to them something that she had never shared with anyone, and something that she knew was dangerous information to have. She was going to tell them all what the numbers meant, and what she had really been doing with them all these years. “About a year ago I did a little internal digging and discovered what it was that I was actually doing with all of these numbers.” Ann said quietly, her voice barely audible to the others, even though the floor was empty. Her eyes stayed down cast as she begin to describe the horror she uncovered not very long ago. “The numbers represent human beings, some of them young, some of them old, some of them citizens and some of them names and faces I’d never heard about. The numbers also correlated with something even more tragic, than just giving all human beings a serial number, it deals with who lives and who dies. I found out that the number that would occur more often, the one that I would end up repeating, is the number that decides whether the people in that list either lived or if they died. I in a sense was the executioner that pulled the lever on thousands of peoples lives.” A single tear rolled down Ann’s cheek her eyes staring at the gray carpet, the color so familiar to her it made her stomach hurt. The color was the gray that marked everything that represented the company, her uniform, the floor, the wall, the god damned cubicles that she had spent almost her entire adult life in. She hated the gray color now, she looked at it as most people look at criminals, as if that color had been what sapped out her naive innocence and fool heartedness.
Darlene watched Ann, her heart sank as the young woman's voice stopped talking, she could see the weight this secret had put on her young mind. She didn’t know what to say to make it seem that it was okay. She couldn’t find the words that would make Ann’s spirit pick back up and carry on with there mission, she couldn’t do it but Ezekiel could. “Well it is a good thing that you are here now and not helping them any longer. Let us all put a stop to this atrocity and make sure that they can never pull the plug on anyone else again.” His voice bolstered as he spoke, it climbed from calming and quiet to excited and hope rousing. Soon everyone of the group felt more passion. The soreness from their climb started to fade and was replaced with a revived need to stop these horrible people from continuing there reign. Slowly they begin dispersing, Ann showing them how to gain access to the computers her mind racing on what they could possibly get from the hard drives.
Over the next few hours, the group worked together to make sense of what was on the computers. Eventually the got to the point where they could tie the numbers with a list of names that was stored on the central computer that sat where Earl once did. They found out that every single person in all of the territory, all of the world that Ann had ever known up until a few days ago, had a number. Every human being at birth was given this serial number, a number that would eventually be used to decide if it was time for them to die or if it was okay for them to remain living. Corresponding which numbers meant death and which meant life was something they couldn’t figure out though. There was an infinite number of possibilities to whether one meant life or one meant death. The only thing they were sure about was that they were all most likely on a list that was meant to be destroyed at once.
“Is there another floor, that might have more information on it? I don’t know if these lists alone can topple such a large empire.” BJ said slowly, his large hand resting against one of the cubicles, making it look as though it were just a cardboard box. His might was entirely terrifying, Ann was thankful that this beast of man was on her side and not against her. It took Ann a moment to realize that the question was directed at her and that everyone was awaiting her response, this brought a blush to her cheeks and made her stumble over her words as she spoke. “Uh, yeah yeah there is, about 10 floors up is the highest floors the 125th floor, that is where all of the important executive decisions are made. You know, the higher the floor the more important the people.” She chuckled at the last sentence, knowing that she once had inspired to reach the 125th floor through hard work, now realizing she would have only reached there through treachery, deceit and true evil. A group sigh went up when Ann said it was yet another ten flight of stairs up to the next place they were going to go. Quickly Ann pointed to the opposite side of the room, to the elevator. “We can always take the elevator, especially now that is after one am, there should be no one left in the office at all.” Even though they were trying to take down an evil corporation, free the world from a true tyrant, the fact that Ann pointed out an elevator made everyone laugh, it started with Darlene, a bubble of laughter came out and like magic it slowly made everyone else laugh. From the bubbly laughter of Darlene to the deep true belly laugh of BJ, the 115th floor sounded happier than Ann had ever heard it, with all of them standing there laughing. Letting the fear melt away and there exhaustion subside for just a moment felt so good that for just a brief moment, they all managed to forget that they could be killed for what they were doing.
Slowly as the laughter subsided they all begin to trudge to the elevator, their footsteps falling heavy on the monogray floor. With all four of them in the elevator, it was a tight squeeze, the green walls seemed suffocating now, the melodic music an accompaniment to the sounds of everyones breathing. Their breathing was anxious, nervous even because of the small surprise they had left on the 115th floor, the same sort of prize they would leave on the 125th floor as well, one that would be sure to let their enemies know they meant business. They had left three tennis ball sized c-4 clusters on the 115th floor. However, they weren’t just c-4 they contained thermite, a highly volatile combination of powdered aluminium and iron oxide. The c-4 would cause the initial explosion and fire and the thermite will make sure everything inside the building burned. At least that was the hope of BJ who had smuggled the bombs out of the truck of deliveries meant to go to, the Disney territory’s military personnel. Aside from smuggling them in, he had also smuggled in the necessary equipment to rig them to explode on a switch that he held in his pocket. All Bj had to do when they were safely away was press the switch and the building would be gone. With that thought securely in his head, and floating around the mind of the others, he was confident as he stepped out onto the 125th floor. Chapter IX
Ben was sitting quietly in his apartment. His eyes glassy as he stared out into Protypria, into his city, into his world. He had gotten word of Earls death, he still had his driver though, his secret weapon. The driver was standing behind Ben’s chair, his hands folded perfectly across his chest, his eyes scanning the world below them, just as Ben was. Ben stood, shook his head and walked quietly back toward the door his footsteps neatly echoed by the drivers.
“Where are they? Did you follow them back to town or did you let them escape from you as well?” Ben’s voice was hard, unforgiving and tinged with anger. The drivers footsteps slowed behind him and finally came to a stop, just as he begin to speak. “Well sir, I left once Earl had been killed so that I could inform you of his demise.”
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