I jolted, blinking the sleep from my eyes, watching as the blurry red canvas splashing away in front of my eyes. After a few seconds, I realized that yes- that was the canvas roof.
“...Zach?” I turned, grabbing his arm and shaking. He shifted, groggy, before slightly curling up again. No, Zach, awaken! This is-
And then, the wall collapsed.
I screamed, as the heavy glass shattered against the floor, and I was forced to crunch up under the thick canvas. I believe Zach awoke, as I heard him curse, freaking out. “STARRY!”
“WHAT’S GOING ON?!” I scrambled, trying to pull myself out. My hand connected with shattered glass on the ground, and I felt it cut in deep.
More pain, this is what this dramatic situation needed.
After a few moments of flailing, I heard a pretty heavy rip- and then Zach’s hand held mine, dragging me through a tear in in the canvas. Seeing the red handled knife in his hand, I could easily see where the rip came from.
We had emerge into chaos.
The colors of the tents violently flying into the air, I couldn’t tell what to focus on in the half light- the frantic people, running and screaming. The tents knocking down, or floating away. The clothes and silks floating away into the air, on the breeze created by the two Star copters.
Oh no no no no no no.
“WHAT THE HELL?” Zach was screaming into the sky, as the large spotlight swept over the tents, before resting squarely on me. The other spotlight was focused on something else in the distance- not sure what.
“STARRY, WHAT THE HELL?!” Zach was repeating, one arm wrapped tightly around my waist, as he glared up at the copters above. They looked strange- whirring angels of death, I guess.
“IT’S THE STAR CHARTERS!” I yelled back, my heart beating insanely fast. I don’t wanna go. I don’t wanna go. I can’t go, I can’t, I can’t…
Why are they here..?
“STARRY, WE’VE GOTTA MOVE!” The yell from Zach numbed me, as he began to drag me. All I could focus on was my new shoes. The pretty, comfortable shoes, that we’re going to get ruined in the dirt…
And then, Zach collapsed.
With a scream, I felt his body press down in me and knock me to the ground, as he seemed to go dead. Was he dead? Was he dead? Was he-
Scrambling, I checked his pulse- and then noticed the thick tranq dart in his cheek. Ohhhh no. Oh no.
The ladders descended almost in silence, as I felt Zachs weight crush me down more- everyone, in their haste, was trying to get away. They were trying to run, and trying to leave, and trying to find their families…
And then I was hit.
The dark sunk into my shoulder, and o felt a strange burbling feeling in me- sleep. Sleeeep. But I can’t sleep- Zach is… Zach is… sleeping…
Fading, fading, fading was the world around me, as I saw black steel toed boots.
This seemed pretty familiar.
Really, really familiar.
But the silver faded to a gentle grey- and I was staring up at a grey ceiling.
This was not my ceiling.
This wasn’t any ceiling that I was familiar with.
What was the walls like..?
I tilted my head, and the whole frickin’ world tilted with it, sending my body spinning through an empty vortex. Ahhhhhhh, bad ideaaaaa…
I closed my eyes, nuzzling into the lavender scented pillow.
I opened my eyes again, feeling the smooth sheets, and the thick comforter.
Silver walls, thick comforter, lots of pillows, lavender.
Was I actually in the hospital? Did I just have a really weird dream?
As I clenched my hands, the cuts reminded me that no, what I had experienced had not been a dream.
“ZACH!” With a screech, I sat up, ignoring how the world tilted and spun and gurgled like it was going to throw me up. “ZAAAACH!”
Was he okay, what was going on?!
The thick white comforter was gentle under my frantic hands, as I lurched to the side, struggling to figure out what was going on.
In the small silver room, there was a queen sized bed with the thick comforter and the sheets. Upon yanking the sheets, I found they were attached to the bed- I had to slide in and out.
The pillowcases were sewn together onto the plush pillows.
The black metal frame of the bed was bolted to the floor.
The large painting of a dove, hanging over my feet, appeared to be bolted or glued down into the wall. Covered with a strange glass, it appeared to just be… part of the wall.
I think I was in a hospital of some sort.
The furniture was all white, clean, and made perfectly harmless- bolted down polished plastic or wood. The floor was a soft black rug, plush under my feet as I sat upon it, slowly crawling from place to place. My white shirt and white shorts was another reminder of a hospital- and with a dull thud, I realized this was like a suicide watch.
Everything was safe.
I couldn’t hurt myself or other.
Did they think I attempted suicide..?
“HELLLOOOOO?” I began to scream, my back against the bed, blackness tingling my vision. “HELLOOOOO?!”
I recorded to screaming. I was screaming my voice raw- I felt my face burn, my eyes water, my throats scraping itself to the brink of failure. Someone had to come. Someone has to help me. Someone, anyone…
Was I dead?
Was I in heaven?
Then, the dove painting flickered away, and a smiling face appeared in it’s place.
“Hello, Miss Astra Cathair. Are you alright? You seem to be in distress.”
“WHO ARE YOU?! WHERE THE HELL AM I?!” I screamed again, crawling back to the bed and dragging myself onto it.
“You seem to be in high levels of distress. Please, calm yourself down before I can continue.”
A CARTAR was a medical bot- Calming And Readily Trained to Assist Robot, sometimes just called CTs. They controlled electronics, trained to be therapists, and could even help perform surgery.
If this was a CTs, then it was definite. I was in a suicide watch facility. Or a weird hospital.
“Answer my questions!”
“Please, I understand you’re upset.” The CTs responded in an appropriate tone, her head tilted. It’s. It’s head tilted. It’s virtual head was tilted, it’s virtual messy yellow braid flopping across her shoulder, her virtual blue eyes looking at me through her virtual glasses- I don’t even know- “You need to calm down before I can continue. I can administer my professional skills to calm you down! We have a music selection, we can change the aroma of the room, we can change the various paintings on the walls, and-”
“Okay, I get it.” I grit my teeth, taking some slow, deep breaths.
“Yes, this is good! You appear to be practicing Prāṇāyāma, a breathing technique that first originated in India. It is pretty fascinating to me- calming yourself and even the possibility of changing chemical structures or even life force simply by breathing.”
...Actually, yeah. That does sound kinda cool.
“...OK. Answer my questions.”
“I’m sorry if I’m asking too much, but may I get a ‘please’? If you’d like, you could even say ‘pretty please’!” She was smiling at me.
“Thank you! Even if they seem silly, manners are a very good thing to keep up with!” She continued to smile warmly- it was easy to forget she wasn’t real. “You’re at the Lucas Fields Observatory for the Confused, otherwise known as L’FOC. And I am Celine, your CARTAR for your stay. How are you feeling? You could be feeling side effects of the trauma that was done to you.”
Trauma? “What trauma?”
“The trauma you experienced with the people living on the ground.”
“What?!” I sputtered, staring up at Celine. “Trauma?! No! I’m not traumatized! By any means! YOU all gave me trauma!”
She tilted her head. “What CARTAR unit gave you trauma? Can you state the name, where the-”
“No, no no no. When the Star Charters swooped out of nowhere and nearly KILLED ME!”
“The Star Charters rescued you from your abusers.”
“ABUSERS?! NO! THEY HAVEN’T ABUSED ME!”
“You may be suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Here are some of the symptoms: identifying with your abusers-”
“SHUT UP! WHERES ZACH?!”
“Who is Zach?”
“The… the boy that they tranquilized. He was with me.”
“I have no reports of a ‘Zach’ in here. Can you describe what he looks like?”
I almost began, but my throat caught, staring at the little red light that meant someone else was watching.
“...He’s not here.” I mumbled, laying back down.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I am.” I shifted, shifting. I was kinda… empty. “Do you have TV on you…”
“Yes! What would you like to watch?” She perked up slightly, and the red dot vanished.
“Um… news.” Who knows, maybe I’d get some insight.
The screen changed, onto the news channel. Showing a beautiful display of unlimited stuffed breadsticks from Pizza Garden. It’s as if I expected that news would be on the news channel.
I curled up on the comforter, kneading the pillows silently. Was Zach okay? Was Tilly okay? Was anyone..?
Was anyone up here with me?
What was going to happen to me?
Am I already on the medications that helped keep people ‘calm’?
Are they going to kill me?
Okay, that was a too little far out to happen. Like, if they were going to kill me, they would have done it already. So my brain can chill with those intense thoughts.
I paid attention to the TV, now.
“Good morning to you from everyone at Let’s Get Going, Laylynn.” the male newscaster was saying, smiling gently. “Today we have a few reports of a dog loose in the park today. Witnesses say he was quite friendly, and liked belly rubs. Our reporter went to investigate.”
It switched, now, to a live feed of a camera on the ground, with the cameraman and the reporter both gently petting the dogs soft golden fur. It stayed calm, panting gently, enjoying the attention.
It switched back, now.
“Aww,” the male reporter murmured to the other, and and they both smiled a little.
“Anyways,” the blond filed his papers. “Astra Cathair, along with Jasper Melody, were found today, having been captured by the rugged civilization on the ground.”
And there we were.
Zach, with a knife in hand standing next to me, as I stared in terror up at the copters which recorded my every move.
And then Jasper, being held by Joseph, and Joey was definitely in pain from… something.
...They’re telling the world that I…
I continued to watch, numb, as they filled out the details of my ‘torturing’. And then there was a warning statement later in:
“And one has connections with the ground civilization, and could be plotting terrorism with them. Jasper Melody has escaped custody, and could be armed and dangerous. If you see him, please call authorities immediately.”
Jasper, the kid that tried to kill-
Yeah, no. That’s not how it is.
“This isn’t how anything is.” I hissed, my voice rising in anger, tears leaking down my cheeks.
I was going to be stuck here.
I slammed on the door, I pounded on the screen. I screamed myself hoarse, promoting Celine to apparently call something, because the door slammed open, and I was shoved onto my stomach, by men in full suits. Screaming, I struggled as the needle slid in my spine, and the pain blossomed, prompting the darkness to grow.
Will I ever get out of here?
Is everyone okay?
Is it safe?
I was in another room when I woke up.
Slightly laying across a suede loveseat, it felt like I was simply made of chocolate. If I moved, I’d spill over the floor.
If there even was a floor.
I heard clicking- it almost sounded like a… a keyboard. Or a keyboard on a tablet.
I lifted my head enough to look around, to try to see what was even in the room. Where was I now…?
I was greeted with an odd sight.
She was cold, seated in a grey chair that almost seemed like a recliner- yet stiff and unwieldy. The black metal desk before her housed a black, sleek computer- a thin screen that was actually see through, curved towards her, and a slender keyboard, seemingly connected to nothing. Wireless
I could see Dr.Leslies face through that almost see through screen- it worked like a one sided mirror- as she continued to type. Her eyes were as blank as her walls- the tan brown housing nothing, but a large window behind her displayed the city from her view.
The room was empty, except for the loveseat, her, the chair, the computer, and her desk.
Empty, cold, and lacking life.
I attempted to sit, my head spinning slightly, my hand pressed down on the couch.
She didn’t even bother to move, her pristine white suit not even wrinkling in the slightest.
Dr.Miller continued to type, in silence.
“...Miss Leslie Miller?” I tried again, sitting up. “I don’t know what’s going on, but… Zach and then didn’t hurt me. I wasn’t hurt by them. They didn’t torture me, and I don’t have Stockholm syndrome, and… and…”
She wasn’t even paying any attention to me. At all.
“...Miss Miller?” I was slightly shaking. Cloud, I felt so hungry. “You-”
“I know what those people on the ground did and didn’t do to you.” She was calm. “And I know you were fine in their care.”
I felt a tinge of relief in my arms, as I sagged. “You… do? Then… why is it that everyone thinks I was hurt..?”
“Because I wanted them to.” Her fibers never stopped tapping the keyboard.
“...” I was speechless. “You… you want them to…”
“I wanted to think that a young, impressionable had suffered under the treatment of these people that infest the earth below, clinging onto dead ways.” Her hard eyes never lifted. “A young person that fell to earth, because of a broken trolley, and perhaps died.”
“...” fury dug a pit deep into my stomach. I attempted to stand, but the world was too dark and too bright. “You wanted me to die? You wanted me to.. to die?! Is this because I- I didn’t get with someone?! Huh?! That I wasn’t screwing who you told me to?!”
“You’re very narcissistic, aren’t you?” Her voice was dry. “Yes, Astra. I personally targeted you, and only you, because you are the most important person in the world. No one is more dangerous then you. No one matters more then you.”
“..t-that’s not what I-”
“And I didn’t say I was targeting you, either.” She tilted her head as she typed. “But you took it that way, didn’t you, narcissist?”
Why is she acting like this?! What the hell did I do?
As I stared, she continued. “That trolley goes directly to The Dropoff- and it’s in the poorer district in the city. It is used, and yet, not too frequently. But the Dropoff is a teenage hangout- and a teenager, or even many, who fall down in a broken trolley, damaged by sick minded people from the earth, and then those teens die.”
I could feel bile tickling my throat, now. Oh cloud. Oh cloud. Oh cloud oh cloud.
“And if they survive… they’re raped. Tortured. Brainwashed to go against us and our city, and all of the niceties that we offer. And when they’re rescued…”
Without warning, she stood, knocking her chair over, and pulled out a small pistol from her black purse.
I screamed, leaping behind the sofa, as she shot. I was going to die I was going to die I was going TO DIE
“...They turn against us.” She finished.
I heard the slam and crack of her glass computer screen, and heard the loud thump of her desk hitting the ground.
“STOP! STOP THIS!” I was screaming as loud as I could, tears bubbling down my face. I could feel the sticky mucus on my upper lip as I sobbed, choking. The noises were so loud, so, so loud…
“I can’t stop what’s been started.”
As I lifted my head, I saw her turn the gun around, and shoot it. It twisted through her side, destroying her pretty coat with blood.
She shot herself in the side.
SHE SHOT HERSELF
IN THE SIDE
I was numb. I’m numb, I’m very numb. I’m so numb.
“In the old cartoons…” her voice was floating through someone elses ears and reaching me. “The villain would walk away, leave the heroine to herself. Or even better- spill her story. Why she’s doing this. Do you want me to tell you why, Astra?”
I was shaking, my teeth clacking. Boy I wasn’t in my own body, I think.
“I,” she looked pointedly at me, lifting her red hand up, and gently placing it on my chest. I jolted, still shaking, as she pressed me down.
“I, Astra.” A smile. “I want a war. I want to watch everyone below my beautiful world collapse into a cesspool of their own making. And then, the higher world as a whole, will cling to each other and build ourselves back up again. And we’ll celebrate the eradication of the discarded.”
Before I could react, the sleek metal barrel was on my f o r e h e a
Sometimes, the heroine doesn’t get to live out their own story.
Sometimes, their story is lived out by others.
People who saw them pass by on the street.
Complete strangers that saw trip trip it laugh too hard with their friends.
Sometimes, these heros and heroines die by their own hand, unable to see how the book ends.
And others have the pages brutally torn away from them by others, like our Astra Cathair.
And these heros and heroines should be honored, mourned, missed.
They should be loved.