Waking Other Lives

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Chapter 18: The Fight

I watched as he extended his hand to Ozy. Seth acted completely composed, showing no trace of his previous rage, as if it had all been a figment of my imagination. Though watching him use his fists again had not been a pleasant scene, what had scared the hell out me was how familiar it all had seemed. I almost felt transported back to the cafeteria when he’d beaten the hell out of those two football players. Grandma had been mistaken when she’d said, “Everything and nothing will be the same.” Those words surely did not apply to Seth, so far, he was exactly the same, with the only caveat that he did not remember anything about his previous life.

“And, who might you two be?” asked Ozy as his beady eyes wandered causally over me, and then returned back to Seth.

“I’m Seth. And this is Sierra,” said Seth briefly, his finger pointing at me.

“Where do you guys come from?” Ozy asked.

“We were attacked by the Drakons. We’re both from Baran’s rebel unit, “I explained.

“Baran, of course,” he nodded. Then he gave a lopsided grin, as if suddenly enlightened. “Wait, don’t tell me you are that Sierra?” he said.

“Uhm,” I muttered, unable to confirm or reject his insinuation.

“Oh, you are, right? I knew it. You are his Sierra. That boyfriend of yours sings your praises everywhere. The last time he was here, he was drinking and chatting like a bird over your beauty and skills. I’ve never seen a guy so in love with anyone. And, where is he?” he asked, that stupid grin stretching his mouth.

I saw Seth tense, his eyes narrowed, and a muscle kept ticking in his jaw, but he remained silent. He then turned around, and I could no longer observe his face.

“I don’t know actually. We were all running, somehow we’ve lost track of everyone. Is this rebel unit 2?” I asked.

“It surely is. Ozy, at your service,” he said, bowing dramatically as if performing on stage. This guy was a joke.

“I’m sure others will be joining us soon enough,” Ozy said. “Let’s not worry about them, let’s worry about you. C’mon, let me introduce you to others,” he said.

“How many men do you have?” asked Seth, nonchalantly. He seemed more controlled now, as he fixed his eyes on Ozy.

“About 250. It seems we will be more now that Baran’s unit will be joining us, or at least whatever is left of it,” he said.

“Lovely,” Seth mumbled under his breath. “And how many total rebel units are there around?” he continued asking.

“Probably a hundred all over Rawonia. Are you a new recruit?” Ozy asked. “We surely can use someone like you in this war,” he said, examining Seth’s stature closely.

“Did I pass the test?” Seth asked, rather curtly.

“You sure did,” Ozy replied, ignoring the sarcasm. “Follow me guys,” he said.

“What about him? He needs medical care,” I said, pointing at the beaten guy who’d fainted on the floor.

“He deserves to die,” spat Seth.

“And, you have that right to demand it,” Ozy said, grinning.

Was he real?

“Seth,” I warned him, touching him on the elbow. I felt his muscles tense beneath my fingers. He looked at me, as if in pain, then disentangled himself and took a few steps away from me. Apparently, he didn’t like me touching him.

Ozy had bent over, and was laughing. I did not understand the joke at all.

“I guess not, huh? Well, don’t worry about him, Sierra. I’ll send someone to take care of him," Ozy said, trying to control his fit of laughter. “This is not the first time he’s been beaten like this. My cousin can be hard to digest sometimes. So far, he keeps breathing because of everyone’s respect for me, but he’ll run out of luck someday. I am glad it wasn’t today.”

Nevertheless, it surely was weird that he could laugh at all in this situation.

We followed Ozy to a spacious room, I looked around to see a similar setting to Baran’s warehouse with lots of junk furniture, and dirt cluttering the room, not to mention the dampness and the humidity, reminding me of the bunker, which permeated the whole air around us. There were a few lanterns mounted on the walls, providing a shadowy and flickering light inside.

Ozy introduced us to a several Andra, and then he and Seth began to talk about the war.

“We need a more united approach,” Ozy kept saying. “These assholes can only be beaten together. Time has come to unite all the rebel units, and thankfully, Haley is gathering a meeting.”

Seth nodded in thought, then he asked, “Who is Haley?”

“Man, you really are a new recruit. How about you Sierra, didn’t Baran tell you anything?”

“Uhm, I’m suffering from a mild concussion, and I’ve been having memory issues since then,” I replied. He didn’t have to know how bad it was.

“That boyfriend of yours has to take care of you better sweetheart,” Ozy answered. “Anyway, Haley is the commander.”

“So how is she different than you?” Seth asked.

“I am saying, ‘the commander’, hello? She’s the commander of all rebels. And, she is calling all the rebel unit heads together, I think that’s exactly what she has in mind. A big war is looming. I don’t know when. But, it’s coming, I’m telling you.”

“I hear you,” said Seth, angry. He certainly didn’t like Ozy, it was apparent.

“The question is will you be part of it, or not?”

“Oh, I will be part of it, you can be sure of that,” Seth smirked.

“Glad to hear it man, glad to hear it.”

“We’ll see about that,” said Seth.

What the hell were they talking about, I had no clue. But, my attention was diverted when somebody started distributing food in trays. Oh man, was I hungry! We hadn’t eaten anything last night when the rain had poured over us. It was probably dawn by now, not that there was any way of knowing in this tunnel, which was completely cut off from sunlight.

I picked a bowl of soup and a piece of bread. The color of the soup was rather dark, and there were threads of meat mixed with thinly sliced potatoes and onions. Seth and Ozy picked one, too and we started eating. I started with the vegetables, and they were quite yummy. When I took a piece of the meat in my mouth, I found that it was rather sweet.

“What is this?” I asked Ozy, as I took another spoon to my mouth. It was not the best of soups I’ve ever had, for sure, but it was edible.

“Our very own delicacy. It’s fresh rat soup,” Ozy said, as he slurped his soup from the bowl.

The food spurted out of my mouth, and I gagged, uncontrollably. Eew! I was eating one of those gross rats which had electrified me. Apparently, Ozy’s unit enjoyed and benefited from the abundant supply.

I put the bowl away. “Sorry, I think I’m full,” I said, just munching on the bread.

“Here have my bread,” said Seth, giving me his piece.

He was so sweet, “Thanks,” I said. “But, you gotta eat, too.”

“I’ll have your soup,” he replied, smiling.

“Are you sure?”

He nodded.

Ozy was enjoying the exchange, he was grinning from ear to ear, as he murmured, “Interesting.”

My attention was grabbed by the smack of a chair on the table at the other end of the room.

“I told you, boy, you will not eat”, a huge man said.

“But, I’m hungry,” the boy, whose back I could only observe, said.

The guy seized the boy by the collar and punched him. The boy got up on shaky knees. And, then I could finally see his face, recognize his curly honey colored hair, his matching eyes, his tall, yet undeveloped body, and I gasped.

“Travis,” I shouted, as I ran to him, pieces of bread forgotten in my hand, which were now crushed within my clenched fists.

I hugged Travis, who had no recognition of me. He was scared, his body was shivering.

“Whoa,” Ozy hollered behind me. “What are you doing now Sierra? Do you know this boy?”

“Of course, I know this boy. He is my little brother,” I said.

“Is that right?” asked Ozy.

Travis was utterly mute, but I could detect a glimmer of hope in his fearful eyes.

“Even if that’s the case, you can’t intervene, I’m afraid,” Ozy explained. “It’s the rules.” He turned to the bulky man, and asked, “Do you want retribution from this boy Jack?”

“Hell yes, I do. It’s my right.”

“What is going on in here?” Seth asked calmly.

“We have rules here, I’m afraid. It’s simple, we care about the survival of the fittest. Anyone has the right to fight, but the disputants are expected to fight till death. That way, not only do we have fewer fights but better soldiers,” Ozy said, as though he was talking about the weather.

“Are you mad?” I screamed. “What kind of a rule is that? He’s just a thirteen year old boy and he certainly does not want to fight. What is this about anyway?” I asked turning to the bulky guy, Ozy referred to as Jack.

“He offended me,” Jack, said shrugging.

“Okay, what did he do?” I asked, trying to calm myself, but desperately failing in the task.

“I wanted his portion and he didn’t want to give it to me.”

“Well, that was his portion, so you had no right to it. There, it’s all resolved now,” I said turning to Ozy.

“It’s not that simple, Sierra. This is a perfectly justifiable cause for a fight.”

“Are you telling me that Jack had the right to demand a teenage boy’s food and he now has the right to kill him?” I asked, shaking all over.

“Yes, that’s right honey,” Ozy said. “Those are our rules. Anyone can pick a fight, as long as they are ready to face the consequences.”

“There are no consequences for him!” I screamed. “What kind of humans are you?” I raged.

Ozy just shrugged. “We have rules Sierra, it’s what keeps this unit functioning. It’s a tough world outside, and only the strong will survive anyway.”

“You are all crazy. This is nonsense. We are leaving,” I said, as I clutched Travis’s hand.

“That is not possible,” Ozy said. “The grievance has to be addressed.”

His men surrounded us, making his point crystal clear. There would be no escape. I was beginning to think I preferred the Drakons to these inhuman creatures.

“Fine, I’ll fight for him,” I said, finally.

“Damn it, Sierra. Step aside. I’ll be the one doing any fighting here,” Seth said.

“You see, now we have another problem. We allow only one person to make a declaration to fight in another’s place. Sorry Seth, but Sierra already said the magical words.”

“Well, ignore hers then,” Seth, said.

“Rules are rules,” Ozy sighed. “I’m afraid I can’t do that. Believe me, I’m not enjoying this either. Baran is a good friend.”

“Friend my ass,” I yelled. “You are all acting barbarically!”

“I’ll show you what you can do,” Seth said as he raised his punch. But, he never got around to landing it on Ozy, as five people attacked him from behind. He punched one opponent, knocking him out, and kicked another in the guts, but somebody managed to inject a needle to his neck. Seth struggled a few times, attempting to continue the fight, but then he collapsed on the floor.

“Seth,” I cried out. “What did you do him?” I said, my eyes blazing with fire.

“Nothing Sierra, we do not mindlessly kill anyone here. It’s just to prevent his interference in the fight. He’ll be fine once the dose wears off.”

“Assholes,” I shouted, taking Travis behind my back.

“Do you accept the challenge Jack?” Ozy asked.

“Oh, yes I do,” he said, smiling.

“Let’s leave room for the fight, guys,” Ozy declared. “And, let’s have the bets before the game starts. Boys?”

“I’m betting for Jack,” somebody laughed.

“Me, too,” chuckled each one, one after another.

“This is no fun, perhaps, we should bet on the exact minute of her death,” one of them said.

“That’s a good idea,” others hollered.

Afterwards I heard them list minutes, 1 minute, 4 minutes, 7, 8 minutes.... Was it a coincidence that no one said a number above 8? I didn’t think so.

Their voices blurred in my head, as I tried to keep myself calm, a task that was proving to be impossible. Seth was on the floor, and I was the only one who could protect my little brother. I was facing a bulky guy who was twice my size. They were all betting on the time of my death, and frankly, it all seemed rather hopeless.

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