Chapter 15: Natalia
As I sat down I quickly found myself feeling nervous. All around me sat five adults, plus Liberty and Derek. Well, they weren't exactly sitting around me; more like all of us were sitting around a conference table on the first level of city hall. After Liberty's speech and the shooting at Saper's, Esma had dragged me along with her to come to the first official "Council" meeting. She had dismissed my concerns about Lyndsay by saying that she, Buddy, and Brandi would wait up for them in the basement of their apartment. In all honesty, my concerns were more about Buddy and Lyndsay being alone than Lyndsay's medical condition, but I would never consider telling Esma that.
Aside from us, Liberty, and Derek those who sat at the table were Justice, Roland, Skip Rogers, and Agent Walker from the S.P.A. I knew Justice was a general from Sky Force and that Roland and Skip were wealthy men of business, but other than that I was without knowledge of them. I looked over at Liberty as she cleared her throat and stood up, "As you saw down at the grocery store today," she glanced over at Derek, "We'll either have to find a new way for people to get food, or rearrange the way things work down there," now she turned to face Derek completely, "Derek, is there anything you'd like to do?"
Derek looked taken aback, "I can't control them," he replied, "That's Preston's job," Liberty gave him a dry look.
"Come on, Derek, we all know that you're the one behind the Saper's gang. Preston is just a mask of authority," Justice snickered and looked doubtful of Preston's so called "authority".
"The Saper's gang? Is that what you're calling it?" Derek asked in mock disbelief, "And besides," he added, "Preston's as in charge of 'the gang' as you are of this 'council'. How old are you, anyway? 13?"
"Right, like you're one to talk, peasant boy," Esma spoke up, "I'm willing to be neither of you are eligible to drive yet. If we're going to 're-build' this city it should be with a monarchy founded by yours truly,"
"I will not live in a world that is run by Morcucorp!" Walker pushed his chair back and stood defiantly across the table from Esma.
"Agreed," Skip said, also standing up. Walker laughed.
"You?" He said, "You're just as corrupt as ever!" Soon Roland began to engage in the argument, adding more noise to the other conversations. Only Justice and I sat silent, unsure of what to do. I glanced up to see Justice looking at me. He cocked an eyebrow and nodded. I looked back at him quizzically.
He knows, Kia spoke to me, somehow heard over all the commotion, He knows about me. He reads minds, it's his mutation,. I looked back over at Justice, who was looking at me expectantly. What does he want me to do? I wondered. Get up, Kia replied.
As everyone continued to yell, I took a deep breath and stood up, "Hey!" I must've been louder than I anticipated for as soon as I'd spoken everyone fell silent and turned to look at me. I started sweating a little, but said, "We can't get anything done if we're constantly yelling at each other," I wanted to sit down but Justice nodded at me, wanting me to continue, "I'm not going to call anyone out, but I do think that if we're going to have any position of authority over the… remaining citizens of Reyesent we should have the head of the council be someone who has experience in leading people," I was hoping my nomination wouldn't be shot down immediately, "Therefore, I nominate General Justice from Sky Force," With those final words, I sat down and waited for the hurricane of objections to begin. But none really came.
Everyone who had been standing slowly sat down, except for Justice and Liberty, who switched places. Justice, who was now at the head of the table, now spoke, "Before we begin, does anyone have a problem with me leading our council?" His voice was gentle, but still commanding. Derek shook his head and Esma looked down at the floor, but otherwise nobody made a move. "Alright," he concluded, "Then I guess we'd better get going on some rules,"
Somewhere in Southwest Asia
Dr. - stood up and looked down at the map of the United States. At the push of a button he watched the replay of last night. Countless bombs interlaced with radioactive material exploded simultaneously in every city in the country, leaving death and destruction in its path. But something was wrong; the bombs were set to go off at the exact same time the terrorist group, Pozik Sukaldea Poltsak, was released, which they did. The problem; people had lived. Although, something else unexpected had happened too; strange creatures were popping up out of nowhere, some people had developed supernatural powers, and each city was now surrounded by some illusion of water.
Well, Dr. - thought to himself, At least they all will have to die at some time,. But he didn't really like the creatures that had magically appeared in America. So what do you do when you don't like something? You change it. And sometimes all it took was a map.
"So it's agreed, then," Justice finished, pushing a sheet of blank lined paper into the center of the table, "In order to find out who's dead, we'll have anyone with knowledge of any deaths write the names down on this paper. Natalia," he turned to me, "Post this paper on the nearest street pole. Wait- before you do, write down what's it's for on top. And take a gun too, just in case," he finished with a dark expression. I dragged the paper over to me and grabbed a pen from a nearby coffee table. On the top of the paper I wrote: NAMES OF THE DECEASED.
"Where can I get a gun?" I asked before I went out the door. Esma pulled one out of her jacket pocket and threw it at me. I let out a squeak of surprise when I caught it, hoping it wouldn't go off.
"Just make sure you don't break it," she said, "And give it back to me when you're done. I think I can get Brandi to get you a gun of your own," I inwardly rolled my eyes as I headed out the door.
As I walked out of the conference room and into the main lobby of city hall, I realized that someone had left the door open. Running over to the entrance, I tentatively stepped out, looking to my left and right. The one thing that I found the most disturbing wasn't the ominous smoke that shielded the sun, or the toppled buildings, but the quiet. At this time yesterday people had been driving around, talking to one another, getting ready to celebrate Independence Day. But now, as I looked onto the street, I saw only smashed cars, what looked like a decomposing body, and a fallen light.
Shaking the feeling of disturbance, I hurried over to the nearest telephone pole, clutching the gun with my right hand. When I got to the pole I realized I hadn't brought anything to stick it to the pole with. I spotted one of many staplers that had been left attached to it and pulled it out. As soon as I was able to finally stick the used stapler into the paper and onto the pole, I felt the unmistakable feeling of being watched.
The grip on the gun tightened as I turned around, expecting to see someone. I didn't see a "someone". Instead I found myself cornered by about five rakes, all of them staring straight at me, their bottomless black eyes somehow focusing on my terrified. One started growling and took a step forward. I pressed my back against the pole, afraid to move.
"Human," a scratchy voice emitted from the rake closest to me, "Prepare to be killed," as its mouth opened I could smell the stench of death and see blood dripping from its jaws. There was never a time when I wanted to scream so much in my life, but I remained silent. As if on cue, two of the takes leaped at me while the other three started closing in. Lifting up the gun, I took chance and closed my eyes, pulling the trigger. A flash of pain went into my hand and up my arm as the gun jumped when the bullet left it. I could feel my palm vibrating, turning an ugly shade of red. I heard a gurgling sound, like someone choking, and realized I had hit one of the rakes dead on.
Trying to block out the pain in my hand I pointed at the second rake. It had been a little put off by the deafening noise of the shot, as had I, but had quickly regained its vigor. The first shot I fired at it missed and it leaped in the air. I shot it again, right in the stomach, but not before it had scratched my left cheek. My own blood was not the only thing my face was covered in as the bullet entered the creature and practically exploded right in front of me. I felt lucky that only the blood had gotten on bits of my clothes, as appose to its organs or something disgusting like that.
The three remaining rakes began advancing slowly. I spread my feet apart more firmly and held the gun directly in front of my face, aiming at the one in the middle. But before I could shoot, they were gone. Gone, just like that. It was like they had vaporized. One second they were there, and the next, poof. Gone. Breathing heavily, I slowly lowered my arms and dropped the gun on the ground. As soon as it connected with the ground I became aware of the pain in my cheek. I lifted my hand up to the wound and touched it gently. It stung horribly and when I took my hand away I saw dark red drops trickling down my fingers.
Shaking it off and attempting to ignore the wound, I looked back at the paper on the pole. It was stained with the blood of rakes, which was probably appropriate, since so many people had probably met their end, staring into those black eyes.
I picked up the gun and headed back to City Hall. When I got to the main entrance I took a step inside and looked behind me. Someone had tentatively come outside with a pencil and written a name on the paper- the first of many. Quietly, I closed the doors and ran back into the conference room.
"Natalia, what happened to your cheek?" asked Roland. I ignored his question and sat down. Putting the gun on the table, I slid it over to Esma without saying a word.
"When I was putting up the paper I was attacked by a small group of rakes," I explained, "I shot two of them, but not before one of them scratched me," Everyone remained silent, waiting for me to continue, "Then, the rest of them just disappeared,"
"What do you mean 'disappeared'?" Derek asked, folding his arms across his chest.
I sighed, "I mean, they disappeared. They're gone. It's like someone pressed a button and then 'poof', all gone,"
"Hmm," Justice sat back in his chair, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, "So the rakes are gone. Are you sure you didn't do anything to make them leave?" I shook my head. Did you? Kia asked. No, I responded. "I don't like it," he continued, standing up and turning away from us.
"How could you not like it?" Skip said, indignant, "Those rakes must've slaughtered hundreds and now they're gone. They were a major problem, and now you're saying that you don't like that they're gone?"
"No, no," Justice waved his hand dismissively and turned around to face us, "I'm glad they're gone, but I just don't like how. Creatures, no matter how unnatural, don't just disappear like that. Natalia, did anything else unusual happen?"
I thought for a moment, "Yeah, actually," I said, "One of them talked to me in kind of a raspy voice. Its jaws were dripping blood,"
Justice's eyebrows rose for a second, then narrowed in thought, "This just doesn't feel right," he repeated. He turned away from us again and walked toward the window. The view wasn't spectacular, considering we were on the first floor, but from where he was standing Justice could clearly see the list of the deceased quickly filling up. "We'll probably need another page," he said.