Chapter 45: Samatar
I knew I wasn’t, but in the back of my head I kept on thinking that I was on a Kamikaze plane and that I’d end up dying for some half-baked cause. But no, that didn’t seem to be the case. Instead, the rickety old airplane (that may or may not have been obtained legally) that I was on was heading to a makeshift runway in a small port city in Washington. Nobody in Pozik Sukaldea Poltsak had ever gone on a suicide mission, so could you even call us a terrorist group? I had never really “terrorized” anyone as long as I could remember, I was just in it for the little money there was. Besides, even if I wanted to quit, I couldn’t. Dr. -------- kept a close eye on us all, despite our large number, and although it didn’t seem like it sometimes, most of us were indispensable. We all had our little talents, our little quirks that were unique to us and us alone. I wasn’t quite sure what mine was, but Dr. -------- had seen something in me.
We weren’t exactly flying first class. I was sitting on a long semi-cushioned bench backed up against a wall side by side with seven other men. Across from us sat the doctor, flanked by four others, each holding different variations of machine guns. My own pistol was tucked away in my satchel, which remained under the seat like everyone else’s. “Are you all excited?” He asked us, a smirk forming across his face.
Excited for what? I wanted to ask, but I already knew the answer. We were going to see Dr. --------‘s American friend, Walker, to “see that everything goes smoothly”. Fermintxo had once sent a letter back to me mostly complaining about Walker, but when I had written him back, he hadn’t replied. Some of us nodded monotonously, hoping Dr. -------- wouldn’t think we were too tired and bored.
“Excuse me, sir,” I glanced over at the sound of one of the younger boys, about fifteen or sixteen, speak up. “But why exactly are we doing this?” My heart sank and I closed my eyes in silent prayer, hoping the boy wouldn’t be thrown out of the plane for his ignorance.
“Because it needs to be done,” Dr. -------- replied calmly, not meeting the boy’s eyes.
I was about ready to fold under the stress. All around me in the dark basement people were still muttering and talking amongst themselves. A few had left, but the majority remained. Tensions were high. As I strained my ears, hoping to pick up a detailed conversation, my heart leaped in surprise when I heard the words “This is all a scam…All of this is just some trick from the government….None of this is real.” A spark of fury and frustration lighted inside of me and I scream. “Hey! Everybody, shut up!” Everyone turned to look at me, startled, even Edwin. I took a few deep breaths and forced my voice to come out calmly, “I can tell that some of you don’t believe this is really happening, even though we’ve been in these conditions for two months now and nothing’s gotten better,” My voice rose a little and I forced it back down, “There is something I need to show all of you,” I said, “Please, follow me.”
No one spoke as I made my way around the pool table, through the small crowd, and out the door. They began to follow once I got to the bottom of the stairs and once I was sure they would come with me, I didn’t turn back. Once I got to the front door, I opened it and stepped through, leaving it open for everyone else. Nobody said anything as they all filed out neatly and organized, as if this whole procession was planned. Before I knew it, they were all standing in a clumped circle around me, staring at me with expectant eyes. “Look up,” Was all I said. At my command, everyone, including myself, tilted their heads up to look at the sky. It was completely cloudy, like it had always been, but there was something more eerie about it. Ever since the Destruction, we’d all kind of gotten used to looking up at a giant cloud instead of a blue sky and the sun- but today, the cloud was a little unnerving. It was thick and white for the most part, like always, but at times there’d be faint flashes of purple up in the distance, sometimes accompanied by soundless lightning. A moving speck of black and red would move in and out of sight one in a while and the fog would swirl and reposition itself.
We stood like that until our necks and backs ached. “Don’t you see?” I asked them all, “There’s something going up there, and I don’t think it’s a group of people coming to help us. For all of you who think this is just some ruse put on by an authority figure to see how we’ll survive, it’s not. <No one</i> is coming to help us,” I stopped and let that sink in for a moment. A few people fidgeted uncomfortably while others took second glances up at the sky. “This has happened to virtually every city across the county,” I added, meeting everyone’s gaze. “I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but it has. The how and why aren’t important right now, it’s the what and the when- as in, ‘What’s going to happen to us?’ ‘When is it going to happen?’”
“How can you be sure something’s going to happen?” A pale brunette boy asked from behind me.
I couldn’t answer that. Truth was, I wasn’t completely sure. I couldn’t give them an answer that would be satisfactory. Should I lie to get them to listen to me? No, I couldn’t. What would I even say to them? “Because Walker can’t be trusted,” said a voice from behind me. I turned around and saw Liberty addressing the questioner. “I know him better than anyone else here, and trust me, he’s got something up his sleeve.” My eyes widened slightly in astonishment as people seemed to agree with this.
Suddenly, what sounded like muffled shouting reached my ears. Everyone else must’ve heard it too, for we all turned our heads west at the same time. We all stood silently, trying to make out the words. “What is that?” I whispered to no one in particular.
”Everyone, pay attention! is what it sounded like. The voice was coming from the direction of City Hall and it kept on repeating this phrase over and over again.
“Come on,” I whisper quietly to Edwin, “We’ve got to find out what’s going on.” In a flash, the two of us took off running in the direction of the voice. We were exhausted from hunger, but a cold feeling of dread for what we were about to see kept us strong. A second later I could hear the pounding of footsteps behind us and I knew the crowd had followed me.
It took too long before we got to City Hall. The small stage that had been set up the night Skip was giving his anti-mutant speech was still there and was currently being used. A decent sized crowd was standing around it, trying to get a glimpse of what was going on. On top of the stage was what looked like half of a wooden telephone pole jammed into the center. How did that get there? I wondered, before I looked over and saw Goth Boy behind the stage, staring up at the pole. Looking closely, I saw that he had a rather large bandage strapped across the back of his head, along with some fresh scratch marks on his face.
But the giant wooden pole wasn’t what surprised me the most, it was what was tied to it. Strung against the wood was a small bloody figure with a scarred face and greasy dark hair. I quickly recognized her as one of the girls who had left the meeting early- Claire, wasn’t that her name? Some people at the front of the original crowd cheered as another figure hopped up on stage. Someone behind me gasped in fear and out of the corner of my eye I could see an old dark skinned man whose eyes glowed with hatred at the sight of the new comer on the stage.
“James!” Someone from the crowd called out in admiration and the guy, James, smiled down at them with proud, devious grin.
“Thank you all for coming!” James said once everyone had quieted down. Although words were coming out of his mouth, I didn’t bother to understand them. Other thoughts kept on racing through my head, thoughts like; Do the people at City Hall know this is happening? or Why is Claire tied to a pole? What’s going to happen to her? She’s a mutant, she can’t be killed. As James continued talking, two of his friends came up on stage. They didn’t seem to be doing much, they just stood there and surveyed the scene. “And so, in conclusion, I’d like to deliver my gift to all of you!” James declared, his face beaming brightly.
My heart thudded in my chest as the tattooed man felt around in the pocket of his rugged denim vest. While he was searching in his pockets, one of his accomplices pulled out a small tank from behind the stage. I watched, unblinking, as they opened the tank and brought it over to Claire. Without passion or haste, they dumped the foul-smelling transparent liquid all over her. Her body seemed to wake up and she began to writhe in her ropes, spitting out the liquid that had gotten in her mouth, trying to break free. As the scent drifted over to me, I realized with shock and fear that the contents of the tank had been gasoline. Finally, James found what he was looking for; a pack of matches. “What is he going to do?” A guy behind me asked himself. “She’s a mutant, she can’t die. He can burn her, but other than causing her great pain, what good will that do in the end? It looks like her neck’s already broken…”
James struck the match unceremoniously and dropped it at Claire’s feet. In an instant the entire pole was on fire and she screamed in agony. All but her head was entirely engulfed in flames, and when the fire reached her mouth, her screams were abruptly cut off. The smell of burning flesh was everywhere and thick, sickly smoke rose into the sky. People cheered and James laughed, lighting a cigarette. “Kill the fire!” He commanded suddenly, and another one of his friends doused as much of the fire as he could. I held my breath and stared at Claire, waiting for her to move. My jaw dropped in astonishment as the charred ropes fell away and the girl fell to the ground with a dull thump, eyes still open. The lower half of her body was completely black the rest of her was either burned open or streaked with ash. James knelt down next to her and, unflinching, lifted up a limp arm and held her wrist in between his fingers.
“No pulse!” He announced after a few seconds. The crowd erupted into cheers and applause. Another crack of lightning manifested in the fog, audible for the first time.
“Oh my God, she’s dead,” A voice whispered from behind me. Or had it been me who had whispered? I turned away from the smoking body and the laughing crowd and tried to fight the smell of burning flesh from my nose.
“We’re here,” Dr. -------- said as he looked out the window. Curious to see what America looked like, I ran over to the nearest window to get a look for myself. All I could see were thick clouds with a couple flashes of wrecked buildings here and there. But once we got closer and higher, the only thing we could see was an unnatural purple glow and a herd of drones coming our way.
“Thank you, James,” Walker seemed to come out of nowhere as he joined James up on the stage. “That was a wonderful introduction.”
“Who the hell are you?” James asked, his smile fading away at the sound Walker’s smooth voice.
“Ladies and gentlemen, my good friend James here is setting a good example,” Walker announced, ignoring James’ confusion. I continued to gawk at the scene in front of me, not wanting to believe what was going on. “The mutants are polluting the air- literally. Look up,” Again, all heads tilted toward the foggy sky. “It is because of them that we are dying, because of them that we are suffering, and it is because of them that you’ve lost your homes!” He yelled, suddenly excited beyond belief. “So come,” Walker said, spreading his arms wide. My eyes flitted over to the now open doors of City Hall, where hundreds of soldiers began to follow out, each with a weapon and without expression. “Come and take your city back!” That’s when the fighting started.