Zeke and I had calmed down after a while, and we’d moved to the small lounge area. He was in the recliner and I sat on the couch. I knew it was time to confirm what I already knew, but I didn’t want to. But there was no avoiding it.
“Zeke?” I said.
“They’re dead, aren’t they? Mom and Dad, I mean.” It was difficult for me to say the words. A part of me wanted to run away from the question. No one can avoid reality forever, though. No matter how hard you tried, it always caught up.
He sighed. “Yes.” It was a simple answer, but the effects were profound.
“What happened to them?”
“Mom died the day they took you away,” he started. “I was still unconscious when it happened. Apparently, she broke away when you were out of sight. She started to run after you, but they didn’t let her get far. One of the men grabbed her. It was in the dining room, and we think she hit him with a chair. Dad freed himself in time to see them kill her. I won’t go into the details. Dad got knocked down and they ran.”
“And Dad?” I asked.
He closed his eyes, clearly in pain. “I think you’ll need a little more background for that story,” he said. “Soon after everything happened, and the Colonies had stopped taking people, and all the major cities were wiped out, those of that were left began to form settlements. There weren’t really any governments left that were strong enough to help, so we had to fend for ourselves. Dad helped found this one when all the people from the area closest to the colony were chased out. There were several others that helped create this place, but Dad had the most knowledge about survival tactics, construction, and energy and power.” That made sense. Dad loved camping, and he loved to read books about various ways to survive in the wild. He was also a structural engineer, and had taken classes on renewable energy in college.
“He started by assigning others to help. The first was Mr. Michaels. He had a large farm in the area, so he knew about planting. We did have to feed everybody, and the canned food wouldn’t last forever. Then he assigned others to help with rest. He mostly tried to focus on construction and figure out how to get power. Since there weren’t really any energy companies left, so we had to come up with a solution on our own. This area gets good sunlight, and there were several fields we could spare we managed to create a solar farm. Actually, it was a joint effort between us and a close settlement a little to the east. They had a few guys who worked as technicians on solar panels, and we had some guys who knew how to rig the system that transferred the power to our towns.”
“So you must be pretty close to that other group then,” I said.
“Yeah, we are. We share a lot of our resources, but they’re able to make more weapons, and more medicines than we are. So we trade our surplus of food in exchange for that stuff. Anyways, after a few years everything was mostly set up. Our system was established, and life was falling into a new normal. It was two years ago that we lost Dad. He had taken over some of a man’s patrol shifts, since the guy had a new baby. He was patrolling a neighborhood near ours, when a Colony convoy passed through. We don’t know why, but they opened fire on our patrols, and Dad was shot. Our people managed to get out, but his wound was serious, and by the time they got back, there was nothing Dr. Michaels could do. He died less than an hour later.”
I couldn’t hold back the tears. I was surprised I even had any tears left after all the crying I’d done. My brother moved to the couch, and held me, just as I’d done for him earlier. I don’t know how much time passed as I cried, but Zeke never let go.
“Why don’t get some rest, Lee? I’ll wake you up when it’s time for dinner. I know it’s a lot to take in, and you’re injured.” There wasn’t much I could say so I just nodded. We got off the couch and I followed Zeke to the room closest to the front. He opened the door, and we went in.
The walls were bare. I’d noticed none of the walls here had paint on them. A desk of sorts sat against one wall, and there was a wardrobe against another. There was a bed with a pillow and a sheet to cover the mattress. But on top of that bed was my quilt. The one Abuela made for me. I looked to Zeke, startled.
He gave me a wry smile. “We brought it with us from the house. Mom and Dad’s is on the bed in my room. They reminded us of those we’ve lost.” Again I said nothing. I just went to my brother and hugged him. “Alright, now. You need sleep, miss,” he said, going to the bed and pulling back the quilt. I got in, and he tucked me in. Then he left.
Zeke had been right. I was exhausted. So much had happened today, it wasn’t even dark outside yet. I was overwhelmed. I was so used to calm and quiet, that when things started happening, I didn’t know how to cope. I had to change my life, and myself. I had to learn to adapt to this place. I had been unknowingly hiding from reality for the past 7 years, it had caught up to me. I was scared of this, but at the same time, I felt free. Now that I could think on my own, I wanted to create a path to follow for myself. My life was in my hands, and there was something beautiful about that.