Chapter 13: Things I'm Expected To Do
“So how do you feel now?” asked Baran. “Are you feeling more like your old self?”
“Oh my God, I feel great. Just great,” I said smirking. “I am a damn good shot. Did you see that? I’m not just dreaming this, am I. Is this all real?”
“No sweetie, you are not dreaming this. It’s who you are. You are an exceptional woman. You’ve always been one. I told you it all would come back to you, and it did. Just as I said.”
“Yes, I wonder what else I can do,” I said, as I felt a flicker of excitement in my lower belly.
“That’s a lesson for another day. We need to return now to make the last minute arrangements for the fight.”
“Oh? Where are you guys going to go?”
“We have received intelligence on the whereabouts of some of the palace guards, we have planned a surprise attack. Better to be on the offense, then on the defense.”
“How many fighters will be coming with you?” I asked.
“We’ll leave with 100, we’ll leave the rest to guard the premises.”
“Wow, you’re taking that many?”
“Yes, it’s time to play it big. Run and hide tactics are not giving us much.”
“So, is the prince of Drakons gonna be there?” I asked.
“Probably? Why do you care to join the fun?” he asked.
“Uhm, not today. I feel I’ll be more of a burden than a help with my state of mind,” I assured him. Yes, I knew I could shoot but, that did not mean I would be willing to shoot anyone. No, thank you. I’d use my option to stay back, even if at some point I would have to face the task ahead of me. But, not today. Definitely, not today.
“Take it slowly Sierra, this war is not ending any time soon. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to contribute in the future.”
“Aha,” I said, nodding. As we were heading back, Payal was giving some instructions to the new recruits. Her eyes narrowed menacingly as she took it all in, Baran and me walking side by side when we emerged out of the woods, the training equipment we had in our hands, and our rather relaxed expressions. Her voice was shrill, and on edge as she ended her class. It really hurt to see Payal and me like this, I was not used to having my best friend hate my guts.
“Just ignore her, she’s jealous,” Baran commented. “This is her doing, not yours. Never yours. What happened between Payal and me is not your fault. I made my own free choice. If she needs to hate someone, that someone has to be me,” he said softly.
Wow, he sounded so mature, just like the old Baran I knew and loved. As it is, his every word, and action muddied my mind. I wish he could be just mean, plain evil. That’d make things so much easier for me.
I didn’t see Baran or others until they left fully dressed in their fighting gear, driving in several vehicles which followed one another, as if in a funeral procession. Payal was one of those who left for the fight, and it was hard to miss her meaning when she muttered, “coward,” as she was passing me by before she got into the last vehicle. Of course, I was a coward, and there was nothing wrong with it. What did they expect for God’s sake? I was just a college girl who studied rebellions from a textbook within the safety of a confined classroom, I had no live experience with any of this stuff. I was thrown into a whirlpool and I felt like water was rushing from all sides to consume me. I had a right to be scared, I had a damn right to take all the time I needed to adjust into this crazy and miserable life style I neither wanted or sought.
When it was night, I went outside to where I’d left my cover and tried to make myself comfortable. But, sleep eluded me because now I was conscious of any buzzing that could indicate the presence of dragonflies. Eventually, I ended up covering my whole body from head to foot, just leaving a little of my nose outside, barely enough to breathe. I was in a perpetual cycle of light sleep and wakefulness, and I finally sighed in frustration as I threw off the cover and eventually headed for Baran’s room. After all, he was out there fighting, and the room was empty. There was no reason to waste the comforts of an empty bedroom, was there? I was thrilled to feel the softness of the bed for a few minutes, which almost felt like feathers beneath me compared to the thin mattress in the bunker, and the hard ground outside. But, then my consciousness decided to rear its mean head. I felt extremely bad and shallow for thinking about sleep when so many humans fought for their lives this very minute, and probably for an outcome which was not achievable without my help, whatever that might be. After turning this way and that way, I gave up, and headed back outside to wait for their return.
Despite dozing off a few times beneath the cover, I remained alert to any sound from the returning Andra team. They came in the morning, the purring of the engines replacing the morning silence. I got up, trying to shake off my sleep. Little did I know that the gory scene yet to greet me would do that job swiftly.
“C’mon careful, try not to shake her. Put her on the ground, quick now, we’re losing her,” shouted Baran.
They lay her on the ground, a girl I’d never seen before, her face was pale, her eyes closed, her face contorted in pain. Somebody was pressing on her chest wound with a crumpled shirt that was already soaked in her blood.
“Sierra,” Baran said, noticing me. “Come here, I need your help.” He turned to others and shouted, “Somebody, bring in the hot water, and the medical kit quick.”
I heard the shuffle of feet, and the thump of the shoes on the ground, and everything else was dizzy as my eyes were glued on the color red, which seemed to have washed this poor girl in its vibrant color. The thick blood was pouring out of her, draining her life source. I watched her, nauseated, and horrified. Somebody dropped a case on the ground, the sound of which shook me out of my stupor.
Baran took out a knife from it, dipped it in hot water and alcohol and then handed it to one of his men, “Set this into the blazing fire inside, and bring it back to me, asap.”
“What are you going to do?” I asked, in disbelief. This girl needed some serious medical attention, didn’t they have doctors here in this world?
“What can I do? I’ll help you retrieve the bullet and then I will cauterize the wound of course, “he said, his voice laden with resolve.
“Help me retrieve the wound? What? No, I can’t. I don’t know how to,” I cried out, fear gripping my whole body.
“Sierra, this is so not the time,” he said impatiently, stopping me before I could make any further objections. “You always help me with this shit, you know that. I need you, you are good in retrieving the bullet with minimal damage. You’ve always had a thing for this stuff, do you want Ella to die?”
Holy shit, this was so unreal, so nightmarish, and so damn wrong that my whole body was shaking. He poured alcohol over his hands and mine and then he started cleaning her wound with a clean piece of cloth, hot water, and alcohol to prevent infection. He got the tweezers out from the medical kit, disinfected them in alcohol as well and then handed them to me. To me, for God’s sake.
“I’ll spread the flesh open, while you pull out the bullet. C’mon now, Sierra she doesn’t have time for your hesitation,” he urged me.
Screw this, I was gonna kill this girl, and blood would be on my hands. My hands were shaking so badly, I couldn’t even hold the tweezers, which so far in my life, I’d only used to pluck my eyebrows. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, I was damn scared.
“Sierra,” I heard Baran’s loud reprimand.
How hard could it be to fetch a bullet? It was child’s play, I assured myself. I took a deep breath. I had to believe none of this was real, which was the only way I’d be able to pull this through. I closed my eyes, feeling a wave of calm spread to my body, I steadied my hands. Baran had opened the flesh, new blood was pouring from it, and the guy who was previously pressing on the wound was now constantly dabbing away the blood. Thankfully, the poor girl had already fainted. The I ’s rays were providing enough light on the wound, I lowered the tweezers going by the feel of the bullet, making small movements heeding not to cause any further damage.
I wanted to shout in joy when I first made contact, the feeling was much more invigorating than getting an acceptance from Northwestern University, getting an A in calculus, or dating one of the hottest guys on campus, it was simply indescribable. I focused on holding the bullet, which happened in only two attempts, and I succeeded in not dropping it afterward. Apparently, Baran was right, I had a knack for this thing. I pulled it out slowly and I heard his relieved sigh. The man brought the knife right at that moment and I gasped, as Baran pressed the hot metal on her wound without a second blink, holding it long enough to seal it. He applied it in short intermissions, continuing until bleeding had fully stopped. Then, he cleaned the wound for the last time.
“Thanks, Sierra," Baran said.
“No problem,” I said, and then I saw my bloodied hands, the shock of what had just happened finally settling in, and I felt myself losing consciousness.
I woke up in bed. I blinked my eyes in confusion to realize I was in Baran’s room.
“Honey, are you okay?” Baran asked, touching my face gently.
“Yeah, what happened?”
“You fainted, nothing less, nothing more,” he chuckled.
The last memory I had before I’d fainted flashed right before me, and I grimaced at the horror of what could have been. We could have lost the wounded girl, and it would have been all my fault. Thankfully we hadn’t, still, I found little consolation in that. There was a huge gap between what they expected me to do in this world, and what I really could. And, one day that gap would catch up with me.
“Ella’s doing fine, we gave her some antibiotics, she’ll be okay. But, I have to say, you were wonderful,” he assured me. “You need to get some rest, I’ll wash at the lake and then I will come to join you. We could all do with a few hours of sleep,” he said.
“Join me?” I asked, my voice coming out like a whisper.
“Yes, baby, just like I always do,” he winked at me.
Uhm, okay. I could do this. Just for today. I was too tired anyway, I hadn’t gotten much sleep last night, and now the comfort of the bed lured me like a siren’s voice.
“How was the fight?” I asked, my voice catching him just before he’d closed the door.
“I don’t know to tell you the truth. It’s always as if they get some warning of our arrival beforehand, it’s very difficult to explain. All I know is they’d been expecting us, which is why we suffered so many loses, yet again. I’m beginning to wonder whether we have a spy in our midst.”
“Really?” I asked, surprised.
He nodded, his face sad. It was paining him to think that one of his men was actually betraying him. “I’ll be back,” he said, grabbing a bar of soap from the closet.
When he came back to the room, his clothes plastered to his wet skin, I was half asleep. I saw him take off his clothes one by one, and then walk to the bed stark naked. What the hell? I was up and sitting up in the bed, now widely awake, with my fingers nicely wrapped around my eyes. But, alas I had a few seconds in which I’d not been fast enough to react, and those had already given me a peep show.
“Are you crazy, you cannot come to bed naked,” I said, suddenly finding my voice.
“Why waste clean clothes when I’ll be taking them off anyway?” he smiled.
“What do you mean?” I said, my voice cracking.
“You know what I mean Sierra,” he said. “It’s been a while now, and I missed you.”
“Oh no, mister. We are not doing that thing,” I said.
“That thing?” he said, pausing. “Why not? We’ve been doing it for two years,” he said, puzzled.
“That was the old Sierra, and this is the new me. And this new Sierra is not doing it,” I said, raising my hands to ward him off. My heart had started pounding in my chest so wild and loud, I was sure everybody outside was hearing it. I’d never had a physical relationship with Baran back at home, we’d never have taken it that far and I had no interest in changing that in this world, especially after what I knew, after what he’d done.
I saw him gaze at my raised hands, observe my face which was now tense with the fear mounting from inside.
He sounded hurt when he said, “What? Do you think I’ll force you? How badly do you think of me Sierra?”
I couldn’t really answer that question. After all, he had pulled the trigger on me once. Forcing me now in bed sounded much more benign than that.
It was the sound of the shrill alarm suddenly resonating in the whole room which snapped me out of my present concerns. Dietrich entered the room, and without knocking. That, by itself, indicated something was drastically wrong. His face was flushed, rather panicky.
“What’s going on?” Baran asked as he started getting dressed again. Somehow seeing him put on some clothes no longer provided the relief I sought.
“The Drakons are here, they are everywhere,” Dietrich explained.
“What, how?” Baran bellowed. “Never mind! Take those who cannot fight to the bunker, they should be safe there. Everyone else should meet me in the weapons storage.”
I wondered whether he included me among those who were meant to go to the safety of the bunker.
“C’mon Sierra, we don’t have time to argue. Let’s go, we need to grab a gun.”
And, I had my answer, just like that, and rather quickly to my dismay.
“But, what are we going to do Baran?” I asked, knowing full well what was coming. Yet, somehow, I still hoped he had an escape plan for occasions like this, and all that needed doing now was to have him talk us through it.
“We are going to fight,” he said. “We are going to fight to the death.”
Unfortunately, once the queen of evil showed her face, she didn’t let go until she played her full hand. I was thrown from one nightmare to another, and it seemed I was not going to find reprieve any time soon.