Chapter 43: Lyndsay
I couldn’t believe I had followed Natalia (of all people) into the city’s largest network of sewers. It was dark, we didn’t have a flashlight, and Natalia’s face was still a grim reminder of what had just happened to Goth Boy. I was glad to see Buddy acting a little uneasy around Natalia- this would definitely give me an advantage. As I looked around the sewer tunnel we’d just climbed into, trying to get my eyes adjusted to the dark, I noticed that I couldn’t smell any, well, sewage. “Why does it smell so normal down here?” I asked, sniffing again to see if I could catch anything. “It’s a sewer, shouldn’t it reek of waste and trash? And where are the rats? I haven’t seen a single rodent or animal carcass since we got down here and- Oh my God, Natalia, don’t do it!” Natalia had dropped onto all fours and was reaching a hand into the flowing water. “That is disgusting,” I declared, shaking my head.
“It’s clean,” Natalia said in slight wonder, shaking her hand dry. “Clean and cold and pretty shallow. its depth and overall condition is hard to see since it’s so dark in here, but it might as well be a natural river.”
“Are you sure?” I asked skeptically, not liking where this was going.
“Look!” Natalia exclaimed suddenly, pointing to a spot across the rushing water. I couldn’t see what she was looking at at first, but after straining my gaze for a moment I made out what looked like a rusty, hidden door. “We’ve got to go see what’s behind that.”
“It’s probably nothing,” I protested weakly, not wanting to touch the water. I looked to Buddy for support, but he stood staring at the floor, not saying anything. I sighed, wishing he’d at least act like his normal self around me. Natalia ignored me and took a tentative step into the water. To my surprise, the river didn’t even reach her knees. You could almost say it’s length and depth was an optical illusion, like the rumored “oceans” that were trapping us in the city. Buddy and I remained on our original side as Natalia made her way through the water and then up onto the opposite platform near the door.
“Guys, come on,” she said, looking at us with a face that seemed to say “You know you have to.” I glanced back at Buddy, who still refused to look at Natalia. This mini victory gave me the strength to follow Natalia’s lead into the river. To my pleasant surprise, it looked as if the other girl had been right; the water was as clean as anything that would come out of the tap. Not only that, but it was refreshingly cool. My pants weren’t exactly shorts, but they were short enough that they didn’t come between my skin and the rushing water. I clambered up next to Natalia after lingering in the dark river for a second and waited for Buddy to follow us. Surprisingly, he hesitated more than I had. I had always known Buddy to be the most loyal and trusting guy around- he went where ever his friends went because he always thought he’d be safe with them. Maybe he was second guessing that now. But eventually, he did make it over. Like Natalia, he hadn’t bothered to pull his pant legs up, so I was the only one whose pants weren’t weighing them down.
“Now what do we do?” I whispered, already knowing the answer to my question. Natalia jerked her head toward the door and then motioned for the two of us to be quiet. I held my breath as Natalia reached for the slightly rusty door handle and pulled it down- maybe a little too quickly. It made horrifying clicking noise that seemed to reverberate down the entire tunnel. Natalia quietly pushed the door open just enough for all three of us to slither through. We were in a hallway lined with dark colored doors, all shut and ominous. Domed yellow lights swung from the ceiling, casting an eerie glow on the sickly white walls. None of us said anything as we just looked around, hoping no one would emerge from the doors. Had Natalia been right? Was there something weird going on here?
“Let’s check each of the doors,” Natalia suggested. Before I could say anything, she was already tip-toeing towards the nearest one. I grabbed her arm and swung it around before she could touch the doorknob.
“Are you crazy?” I hissed, “There could be someone behind that thing with a loaded gun! Do you want us all-” my eyes flitted over to Buddy, then returned to Natalia, “-to get killed?” Something flashed in Natalia’s eyes and I tensed, hoping it wasn’t Kia or whoever coming out to kill me.
But the brunette girl remained calm and said, “No, but I do want to get to the bottom of this. We’re all going to be dead tomorrow, who cares if a few of us leave early?” She reached for the doorknob again, but I dashed in front of it and looked her in the eye.
“You seem really sure of what tomorrow will bring,” I whispered as calmly as I could despite my hammering heart, “Are you sure you don’t know what’s really going on? Death doesn’t seem to scare you.”
Natalia looked at me with a resentment and opened her mouth to say something, but decided against it and sighed. “You’re right,” she said softly, “It doesn’t scare me. In fact, I’m really angry that I’ve mutated. I can’t die now unless someone with my opposite power comes along and ends it. But what’s the opposite of having your split personality control your attackers mind and force them to injure them self?” I couldn’t help but feel a little concern when Natalia’s words came off as disappointed.
“Shouldn’t you be glad you can’t be killed?” I asked cautiously, not wanting to cause more trouble than was necessary.
“No!” Natalia replied a little louder than she should have. She quickly realized her mistake and lowered her voice before continuing, “No, I’m not glad. Believe it or not, I want to die. All my life I’ve just been running away form to town to town. I thought I’d found someone I really cared about, someone who really cared about me. But I guess I was wrong.” I knew she was talking about Buddy, but instead of feeling jealous and defensive, all I felt was sympathy. “I was going to jump today, actually,” Natalia continued, even quieter than before, “The apartment we’re staying in is tall enough. I guess I’m just not afraid of being shot or attacked down here because I was planning on dying today anyway.”
“But what about us?” I asked. I knew it probably sounded a little insensitive, but the sooner I distracted Natalia from her disturbing problems, the sooner she’d stop talking about them.
“Yeah, sorry about that,” The other girl smile sheepishly for a second before returning to her stoic gaze.
“Are you really sure we’re all going to die tomorrow?” I asked, “Or is that something you were just saying because you were…” Natalia’s head jerked up at the faint sound of voices behind the closed door.
“Let’s go!” She whispered urgently and three of us took off running, even Buddy. We didn’t stop running until we flew behind a corner and resumed our normal pace. “To answer your question,” Natalia said, looking straight ahead, “I don’t know for sure. But I’m nearly positive that something is going to happen tonight that isn’t going to be good. Walker’s behind it without a doubt. Esma and Skip are helping him, along with Derek and Goth Boy. Maybe some others.” We turned another corner, but stopped dead once we came face to face with a door at the very end of the hall.
“This looks like the end,” I muttered to myself, “Should we go through it?” I asked, turning back to look at my two companions. I thought I heard Buddy murmur something incoherent, but Natalia’s nod was what made up my mind. The door was unlocked and I pulled it open without much of a hassle. Once the three of us walked in and the door shut behind me, I allowed my body to be consumed with pure awe, dread, and overall confusion.
Standing in front of us were rows and rows of soldiers that stood straight and still as a white picket fence. They each carried a weapon and looked ahead with shallow black eyes that gave you chills just looking at them. “What is all this?” Buddy asked himself, looking around. This sight had even been jarring enough to break Buddy out of his depressed trance.
“It’s death,” A voice answered from behind us, “Death at its finest.” I whipped around to see Walker standing in the now open doorway, flanked by four people in uniform I didn’t recognize.
“Hi, Walker,” Natalia choked out, shoving her hands behind her back. Walker shifted his gaze toward her and couldn’t hide his look of disgust and surprise once he registered her face’s new condition.
“What do you mean by ‘it’s death’?” I asked, suddenly feeling very bold.
“I’ll show you,” Walker replied. He motioned toward us and without warning three of the adults in uniform came forward and grabbed me, Natalia, and Buddy. I struggled in the tight grip of the one man who had gotten me, but I couldn’t get free. The fourth of Walker’s companions grabbed a chain from one of the soldiers and tossed it over to my captor. I could only bite my lip in pain and terror as the chain was hurridly and messily wound around my arms, pressing them up against my rib cage in the most uncomfortable way. The man kicked me in the ankle and collapsed onto the ground, smacking my forehead right into the stone. My head throbbed, but I managed to roll myself onto my back. I could barely see Buddy, who was a few feet away from me bound with a similar chain.
“Okay, so I can’t show you,” Walker began as he started walking around our three fallen bodies, “But I can tell you. See, tonight, the apocalypse is going to end,” Despite my condition, a flicker of hope sprung up in my heart. All of this misery and suffering was going to end? Tonight? “Things will begin to return back to normal. Once all of the threats are eliminated, all of America will return to the utopia it was before the bombs went off.”
“Threats?” Natalia asked from her spot on the floor. I was sure she was hurt, so why Kia wasn’t emerging was a mystery to me. Maybe Natalia didn’t care if she got hurt any more.
“Mutants, mostly,” Walker said, pausing to look down at her, “Plus any of the citizens here that could, well, pose a threat. In case that wasn’t clear, that would be the majority of the population.”
“What?” It was Buddy’s turn to speak. “That’s crazy, man! You can’t just kill everyone! Were you the one who started this whole mess in the first place?” Walker smiled and held his open palm five feet above Buddy’s face. Suddenly, a dark mass drained from the man’s hand and sunk onto Buddy, covering him from head to neck. He started to scream, but it came out muffled. His body thrashed around violently, causing the chains to jerk across the floor.
“Stop it! Stop it!” I cried out, trying to roll over to where they were. The dark tendrils retracted back into Walker’s hands and he smiled devilishly down at Buddy, was feebly trying to regain his breath.
“I’d kill you, but I’m not in the mood,” Walker said nonchalantly. “I already did that a few days ago,” his eyes looked up at the ceiling and tried to follow where he was looking. Dangling from the metal beams was the body of a dark haired woman swinging in the slight breeze, her head being held up only by the dirty looking noose that had been knotted around the beam. “That was former Mayor Rosalyn, in case you couldn’t tell. She’d been snooping where she didn’t belong. Here, in fact.”
“You still haven’t told us the significance of… of this,” I said, too angry and confused to worry about dying, just like Natalia. I was motioning the best I could toward the frozen armed soldiers. “How is that death?”
“You’ll see soon enough,” Walker replied, “I hate to be that cliché that waits till the last minute to unleash the true meaning and power behind the plan, but it was the roll I was born to take.”
Rosalyn’s body swung ominously above my own. Walker and his companions left the room and turned off the lights, leaving us lying on the ground with the soldiers. “That’s it,” Natalia whispered, “That’s it. That’s why these soldiers have all these different weapons. Walker’s going to unleash them on the city tonight. They’re going to kill everyone! We’ve got to get out of here and warn them!”
“We can’t,” I said into the darkness of the room, “It’s too late.” A rope snapped and Rosalyn’s body fell from the ceiling, making a dull thump on the ground.