8:15am May 12th, 2157
Rationed oatmeal and boiled water from the drop boxes delivered three times a week. That was Thomas’ breakfast. He sat in the kitchen of his family’s sad little dilapidated tent. Soon, Thomas would have to make some repairs. His mother, Cynthia Frost was the head doctor at their little pathetic village’s “hospital”. His mother always seemed to be wearing what must have been a doctor’s white coat before the Parish. Thomas had heard stories and seen pictures of doctors wearing white coats and something they called scrubs all the time. Being a doctor was just something the Frost family did. You were born into it. Soon, Thomas would start his training. He would have to read all the medical books and everything his predecessors had done to follow in their footsteps. Thomas didn’t have a doctor’s passion. His father had always told him that he had a Hunter’s spirit. He always wanted to be out and exploring. A Hunter is what the people in his village call someone who patrols the village to make sure none of the Lost Ones get in. The Lost Ones are those who succumbed to the disease the Parish had followed. Before the world got turned upside down, people started to get sick. They wouldn’t be able to move, nothing medical could help them. Sooner or later their insides would start to literally destroy themselves, they would hemorrhage and bleed from every place they could their eyes, ears, nose and mouth. It would be incredibly painful. But that wasn’t all, once they died though the disease would change them. It would reanimate their corpses and make them do awful things. Thomas had heard stories of infected people ripping their families apart. Like literally ripping them apart. Limbs and all. One time, a family member from one of those circumstances survived a case like that and Thomas had to assist his mother in sewing the severed arm stump closed to keep the victim from bleeding out. Thomas was good at being a doctor. The only problem was he didn’t have the passion his mother or his younger sister Jewels possessed. He hated the idea of spending his life just waiting for someone to get hurt so he could do a job. His father had understood him. That was of course before he was killed protecting the village. His father, Norman Frost was one of the high ranking officers of the Guard. Thomas had planned to follow in his footsteps. Being a Hunter was something Thomas could get behind. It was a full time job dedicated to the protection of the people in the village. That was something he could do for the rest of his life.
“Are you coming in to help me this morning?” His mother asked as Thomas pushed around a clump of oatmeal around his bowl.
“I suppose.” Thomas said reluctantly. “Where’s JJ?” He asked JJ is what Thomas had always called Jewels.
“She’s already down there opening up.”
“Jesus, it’s not even nine.” Thomas said his mother sighed from behind him where she was cleaning up her cooking supplies.
“Don’t curse in my house, Thomas.” She said Thomas rolled his eyes. He was a seventeen-year old man of the house. It was about time his mother stopped treating him like a child. He had three younger siblings that would never take him seriously if she didn’t stop scolding him for juvenile things in front of them.
Thomas was the eldest of the four children. There was his sister Jewels who was fourteen then his other sister Jamie or Jem who was six then his youngest sibling Leto who was five. He was the only boy of four children.
Thomas was working two jobs to make sure his siblings remained clothed and without need but there was only so much shifts to be made and wages weren’t high enough to take care of three siblings and your mother. Thomas looked through the window of their tent and just barely saw the wall that surrounded the company through the roughed up aged buildings that were probably once grand sky scrapers and condo buildings. He stared at the wall, the only tall thing standing that looked to be in good shape. Baxter Industries came out of the ashes of the Parish turning into some big corporation. Some kids volunteered or were selected to help them conduct research or something like that. It was called the Savior Project. If you were a chosen individual, you were brought into the walls of the company and your family was compensated very well for your help. Thomas had been thinking about volunteering for the program since his dad died. His father’s income was very healthy and that’s what kept the family going. Now that he was gone his mother’s doctor salary was barely cutting it. So much so that both Thomas and JJ had started to work at the hospital to try and help out. But by the laws of the village Thomas and JJ could only be paid so much since they were both under eighteen. Jem and Letty didn’t know anything about it yet. They were too young to understand that their family was drowning.
Thomas used to be proud of being a Frost. His father was an Elite Guard and his mother was a head doctor. He felt on top of the world. Then his father died and his mother slipped into a depression. It was Thomas who had to step up and care for his siblings. They burned his father, which was what you were to do with the dead and buried the jar of his ashes under a wooden cross with his name on it. That’s all that was left of a man Thomas had grown up cherishing. That’s where he was planning on going before his shift at the Med Tent everyone insisted on calling the hospital.
He finished his breakfast, cleaned up and headed out grabbing his military shoulder bag that had belonged to one of his great-great grandfathers or something. He stepped out into the sunlight and did what he always did, he looked up at the dismembered city that had supposedly once been magnificent. Thomas found that hard to believe. He wasn’t like his family who could see beauty in ruined things. He was a realist. He didn’t see that as something that was once great, he saw it as something that was once somebody’s home those people had died painfully or had been killed by the Lost Ones… Or there was the living in fear but still managing to have lives somehow. He started down the path smelling the foods that were cooking at the street markets, hearing marketers advertising their goods. Their village that was called Seneca was a very lively place. He saw the Guards patrolling the streets and thought of his future once more. He was going to have to do something in order to keep his family’s heads above water. That was either joining the Guard and becoming a “Hunter” or signing up for the Savior program at Baxter. He hadn’t exactly talked about it with his mother yet but he had a feeling there would be an argument. She would make the weak argument that he would be fine working at the Med Tent. She wouldn’t want him risking his life in the Guard or joining the program at Baxter. She didn’t trust that company. He reached his friend Preston’s family shop and decided to step in.
“Preston? Are you here?” He said welcoming the shade the make-shift wood and tin roof provided.
“Tom?” He came out from behind a shelf, his blond hair was tussled and messy as a smile broke onto his face.
“Hey, buddy.” Thomas greeted returning the one armed hug Preston gave him.
“Haven’t seen you in a couple days. What’s been going on?” Preston’s face showed genuine concern. Thomas shrugged. “Letty hasn’t been liking her classes at the school.”
“She should be grateful to have one. Some villages don’t have that privilege.” Preston said adjusting bags of grain on the shelf. Thomas nodded resting his elbow on one of the shelves.
“She’ll get over it eventually, I hope.” He said Preston walked deeper into the store, Thomas followed him as he spoke.
“She’s got to learn the basics if she wants to survive.” Preston said Thomas hummed in agreement as they reached their destination.
“Here you go. Been keeping it fresh for you.” Preston held out a flower to Thomas. Flowers were really rare now, since the Parish things have been a little inconsistent with growth. People really only put effort into growing things you could eat or use for medical reasons. No one cared if something looked or smelled nice in their home anymore. Thomas took the flower and thanked Preston.
“Are you headed out now? Wouldn’t want to be late for your shift. Your mum might ream you out again.” He said with a chuckle, Thomas echoed him and felt a smile grow on his face. Since his father died Preston was the only one that could make Thomas smile or laugh genuinely besides his family sometimes. He had met Preston when he asked to buy a flower for his father’s grave one day. Preston had seen how upset he was and gave it to him for free. They had been just boys then. Letty had just been born. It felt like decades ago since then. Both of them had aged out of school and started working. Preston for his Dad at their shop and Thomas for his mother at the Hospital. Preston wasn’t a stranger to death. His mother had been infected and become one of the Lost Ones. Preston’s dad had to put her down when she tried to kill him. Preston sometimes told Thomas that he wished he could have siblings to talk to like him because it would be easier, he only had a big brother that had a personality where you couldn’t talk about your feelings. Thomas always made him feel better by saying he and his siblings never really talked either. It was true, Letty and Jem were too young to really understand and JJ always had her nose in whatever book she could get her hands on. He could still tell Preston would always want them despite whatever he told him.
After saying goodbye to Preston, Thomas headed towards the Cemetery. Crossing through the gates he felt the change from the sunny paths of Seneca to the dreary foggy sadness of the people buried here. He hated the fact that he had lost his father. He had even gotten to know him as well as he wanted to. He found his father’s grave easily since he went there almost every day to visit. He stood and stared down at the sad little wooden cross. Scraped into the wood then highlighted with charcoal was his name.
Norman Reginald Frost
His date of birth and death below. He sat down brushing the old dry ones away before placing the new flower at the base of the cross.
“Hey Dad.” He said “It’s my birthday in a few days. The big eighteen.” He said with fake enthusiasm. “That means I’ll be able to get a better job. But, that also means I’ll have to talk to Mom about it and well… You know how she can be.” Thomas said he tapped his fingers on his knee awkwardly. “I’m thinking about joining the Guard. But if they won’t take me then I’m thinking about joining the Savior Project, you know the one that Baxter Industries is running? It will provide compensation that will keep mom and everyone else living well. They’ll have enough money as long as I’m working there or helping out, whatever they want from me.” He said he paused as if to hear his father’s reaction or opinion but just sighed and got to his feet.
“Don’t go anywhere, Pops.” He cracked the same morbid joke he always made when he was leaving. He knew his father would have laughed at it. His father always knew how to bring humor into bad situations to make you feel better about things. That’s what Thomas was trying to do for himself. Fill a void of humor that hadn’t been in his life since that Lost One tore his life apart.