Shakes: The day of the Grounding
I didn’t sleep the day of the Rebellion. I don’t think any of us did. I stared at the ceiling for hours while my girlfriend Mary slept beside me, thinking of all the things that could go wrong. I wondered who out of all of us would survive.
I spent four years trying to escape a prison and I have only turned seventeen. This prison doesn’t have bars, it’s not a little cell. It’s an entire town surrounded by gigantic walls. And I’m not just trying to save myself. I’m trying to save over six hundred kids between the ages of eight and eighteen.
I held the name of a rebellion. Memory, Carbon, and I became the mascots of their future. We ran this town in secret, hiding from Snatchers and teachers, changing our identities as we went along afraid one day someone would steal us or kill us before we had time to break out of this holding facility and get back to the families that miss us.
I sat up, wrapping my arms around my knees. The bedroom was small and cramped in this basement. It’s a hideout we have created. I haven’t been able to go out in public in weeks as the situation between the Parents escalated. They sensed the day of our rebellion was approaching and they would do anything to end our winning streak.
Mary sat up beside me, running her hands over my shoulders and I leaned into her touch. She was four years my elder, twenty this past fall. She was a daughter to one of the teacher’s here and they voluntarily left her in this auction block. Mary was a bit overweight for this place and not a fast runner which was something that became a requirement when new to the school. I came upon her when she was getting beaten by the Mine faction, little runts that steal wherever they can. It wasn’t necessarily love at first sight simply because love wasn’t a thing here. But I did become rather infatuated with her and her infectious laugh. Laughter had stopped existing in my world a long time ago but being with her had revived parts of me I thought were gone for good.
“You need to rest a bit.”
“I can’t.” I rubbed my burning eyes. It’s near morning anyway. I might as well have gotten up. I pulled on pants, kissed her quick, and walked out the door.
Carbon was at the kitchen table, reading over the multiple papers we’ve written the last couple of weeks. It’s our final plan and he searched it for any fault. Every player had a place and it had to be precise. At the top of each page was the leader of every gallantry. Hail, Star, Nail, myself, Memory, and Carbon. We all have followers that we were responsible for. And together, we made an army. The army we called Nue.
I poured the coffee only halfway up the cup then I reached over to refill his cup. He was swift however to remove it from the papers and hold it out, assisting me. My tremors were worse when I’m nervous or tired or stressed and even with his help, I managed to spill a little. He ignored it, thanking me with a slight head incline. I leaned against the counter, taking a sip. “Any thoughts?”
“We should have killed more Snatchers.”
I suppressed a smile. Carbon was the leader of Coal. Four years ago, when we divided up and formed the clans, he took it upon himself to find the most malicious, the most vile of kids. It was to help weed out the mistakes. Never trust a Coal member. They were all deranged at some level. Any child not up to the extremities of Coal’s nasty ways were removed quickly and found new homes in Rain. However, he currently had taken in a pupil. A little boy named Ink. Carbon refused to explain why but we assumed he had a little brother outside the walls and that perhaps Ink reminded him a little of his lost family member.
The door opened and Star entered. She wore a black cloak and in the darkness of the night along with her pitch black skin, she was nothing more than a shadow. She pulled her hood down, revealing her thin face and the star tattoo on her forehead. “I figured you’d be awake.” She held up a bag, “I have donuts.” She leaned in and kissed Carbon, holding his chin in her hand, “You didn’t sleep.”
“I don’t need sleep.”
She rolled her eyes, glancing at me, “You hear that? He’s not human.”
He yanked her down onto his lap, “Quiet and let me concentrate.” He worked around her and she went about feeding him a donut which he mindlessly ate.
I felt awkward, their relationship had only recently come to light and it was odd seeing them so comfortable around each other. I grabbed a piece of paper off the table and held it up, if only to look at something else. My tremors made reading impossible and I tossed it back down, leaning over it instead. None of the work I have written myself. A year ago, my tremors increased too significantly and since I’ve been unable to write anything. Memory wrote everything out, with my words, my instructions. I know there is no flaw. But I cannot include human error. Something will go wrong. But I had a backup for nearly all actions. Except if the bombs don’t go off. That’s my weak link. If the bombs don’t go off, there will be nothing that follows.
“Do you think we should do two buildings?”
Carbon chewed for a moment, contemplating, “We only have enough for one.”
“But what if we don’t knock the entire building down? Just enough for a distraction.”
“We need the dust from the demolition to hide us. It’s not noise we are trying to create. One building is required.”
I chewed my thumb and let the conversation go. He’s right, of course. There was no reason why the bombs wouldn’t go off. Dust, our bombing expert had been making bombs for us for a year. We’ve only been able to test small, insignificant pipe bombs, nothing that would cause too much damage. But these bombs he’s made were meant to destroy buildings. I can only pray they work correctly.
“Boy, you’re stressed, little bro.” Star grinned, reaching out to rough up my hair. “Go spend this last hour with Mary.” She jumped up and grabbed Carbon’s hand. “We are going to go spend our own time together.”
“Kristen.” Carbon chastised, keeping his eyes on the papers.
With an aggravated sigh, he stood. He was a foot taller than her. She was barely five feet and not a hundred pounds while he is over six and muscled. He lifted her over his shoulder and even as she squealed, they headed to another room.
I took Carbon’s seat. What if, just what if it all went perfectly? What if today, we got out? Memory, Carbon, and myself would be on our way to the police to tell them about this world and we’d come back with an entire government at our heels, saving our families. I’d celebrate my eighteenth birthday with Mary surrounded by perfection. It would be like this world never existed.
Once more, the door opened. Tara, Memory and Nail entered. Memory was giggling as she closed the door, laughing at whatever Nail said. He couldn’t stop smiling either. Tara on the other hand, looked beyond annoyed as she fastened to the counter to pour herself some coffee. Upon the bang of the pot, they both sobered and sauntered up to the table, “Hey.” Memory greeted, glancing warily toward Tara who apologized sarcastically. Her blond hair was a mess and she undid her ponytail to fix it up. Nail rubbed his lips, getting her lipstick off his skin. He looked at his hand and noticed the marks and he stepped up toward Tara. She dutifully scrubbed the smudges from his skin.
“Where is everyone?”
“Oh, donuts.” Nail grabbed the bag and shifted through it. When Memory tried to peek, he slapped her hand and turned his back.
Memory leaned over the table at all the papers. “Are you ready?”
She grinned, wickedly, “I’m always ready, lil bro.”
“Would everyone stop calling me little? Aside from you, we’re all basically the same age.”
She winked, and Nail responded, “But you’re short.”
“Not that short.”
“Still shorter.” He grinned. “Little bro.”
I kicked out the chair under the table and hit him in the leg. He laughed sinfully, jumping back. I suppressed a smile, hating how they were getting me to relax. Today wasn’t a day to relax. It’s our rebellion. Everyone needed to take this seriously. I hated that I was the only one that’s acting like it’s a big deal. I had Carbon but Star had to ruin it.
Memory turned the chair with the back pressed against her chest, “The percentage of our victory is more than fifty-three percent. If half of our defense fails, we still end up with a forty eight percent chance. It is meager but larger than any other opportunity thus far. Stress invokes mistake. Positivity will create positive results.”
“God, Becca,” Nail leaned down, kissing her neck, “I love it when you make no freaking sense.” He nuzzled her as she giggled, pulling away and yet leaning into it. “Talk like a human being. Not all of us are geniuses.”
“I’m not a genius.”
Nail and I both recited her typical phrase, “You just have a photographic memory.”
She stuck her tongue out. “I’m repeating things I’ve seen in books. Sorry.”
Nail sat down next to her, “Now say it all in French.” He provoked, and she elbowed him. “German?”
These were languages that she knew but he was clearly picking on her and she stood from the table, grabbing Tara’s hand and stalked off to Mary’s room. Nail chuckled, chewing on his donut, snatching up my coffee and taking a sip.
He was depressed as he focused on all the papers in front of me. I looked at them too, understanding what they meant and the chances that most of these people we recruited won’t make it to the end of the day. It was another reason why I kept looking at them, trying to find ways for everyone to survive.
“When we get out, you have to hide, Nail.”
“I know what I got to do.”
“I’m serious. You can’t be seen again. The Parents will come after you. They will come after your clan. Slate, Oscar, Ruler. Have you told them yet?” He shook his head, “They need to hide. You’ve been on the Parents’ side for too long. You are opening the door to let us out. They’re going to know.”
“Why can’t I come?”
“You know why.”
He chewed the inside of his lip in silent aggravation. He fingered crumbs on the table, unwilling to look me in the eye.
“You’ve taken kids off the streets for this school. The cops have your face. I don’t want to ruin our chances of someone believing us because of what you’ve done.”
His eyes snapped up, “I did what I was told to do.”
“I’m not saying this to guilt trip you.”
“You and the rest are always fucking looking at me like I’m different from you. But you all are the ones that told me to join the Parents. Four years ago, we said we needed an inside man and that’s what I became. We knew I’d have to do some fucked up things.”
“Tobias.” His name came out softly, interrupting his tirade. “It’s alright, man. I didn’t mean anything by it. But that’s why you can’t come. We’re gonna come back. We’re not gonna forget anyone. I'm leaving behind my girlfriend. Trust me. We are coming back.”
He took a bite of his donut, nodding and the atmosphere became stiff and awkward. I didn’t know what else to say. Part of me believed in what he said. But another part of me wasn’t so sure anymore. He seemed to like hurting others more than any of us. If it was just an act, I don’t know how he managed to look at himself in the mirror without shame.
Carbon slapped open the door and came out. Sweat glistened on his chest and he panted as he entered the kitchen, throwing open the refrigerator door and chugged down a bottle of water. Nail and I glanced at each other before we started cracking up.