Cradles the Brain: A Book of Short Tales

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Conductivity Episode 2 (Pt. 1)

“Hit him right between the eyes,” Hayley said, her young voice steady and strong. She held binoculars to her eyes, gazing at the small boy from behind a fallen tree.

Hanna butted the rifle up to her shoulder, her vest setting up a barrier between her and the carbon. She squinted into the sight and pulled the trigger.

A red splotch took place in the middle of the boy’s forehead. He fell to the pine needles below.

Hayley hissed, “I said between his eyes!” She elbowed Hayley in the side.

“Hey! I got close enough!”

“Close enough won’t cut it when the enemy is on the approach. Next time, hit on point.” Hayley scanned the clearing with her binoculars, taking special care to check the trees. “Clear.” She pulled herself from her belly and crawled under the fallen tree. Hanna followed closely behind.

Hayley pulled her head out, clawing at the dirt below her. An object dropped in front of her.

“Grenade!”

Hanna backed up, but not before Hayley’s feet kicked her in the face, smearing mud on her already grimy skin. They scrambled off of the ground and ran, backtracking the route they had planned.

An explosion of orange spread behind them, almost catching them.

A scream erupted from behind them. “Coming for you!

Shit!” Hayley sprinted far ahead of Hanna.

Hanna, weighed down by her pack and gun, thrusted her legs forward through the pain.

Sirens sounded in the distance.

God damn it!” Hayley smooshed her face in her hands.

A woman’s voice filled the forest. “All soldiers return to Station One, returning all equipment to the training zone.

“Don’t be so mad.” Hanna shrugged.

Footsteps. Hayley flipped around, spotting the boy with a red splotch on his forehead walking toward them.

“You died like a hero today, Munster.” Hayley smirked and approached the boy. She slapped him hard on the back and walked with him, leaving Hanna behind.

Through half a mile of forest they trekked, other children joining them, each with their fair share of paint.

“Ah, green. The gas grenade get you, Louise?” Hayley asked, putting an arm around the half green girl.

The girl shook her head. “Those bastards had it out for me. I think someone snitched about my hideaway.”

Hayley nodded. She raised her voice, “I don’t doubt it. We have some real bitches—”

A heavy hand landed on her shoulder.

Hayley’s hair stood on end. She snatched the hand and flipped it over, hoping to pin the person. As she turned around, the hand shoved into her chest. She landed on the ground with a thud, bouncing on the pine needles.

“Three hours in Station Seven, Canin One,” a broad man said. He stood over Hayley, a towering six foot, eight inches. His bald spot twinkled with the hovering sunlight. He gritted his teeth and growled, “Get up, soldier.”

Hayley stood on her feet, brushed herself off, and gestured for him to walk ahead of her.

He smiled and stepped forward. As he passed her, she hooked her small foot under his and kicked upward. She yanked his hand back as he fell and leaned into the fall with him. Twisting his arm, she pinned it to his back.

Face in pine needles, he screamed. Hayley, being of no weight compared to his, struggled to stay atop. He flipped over like an alligator, throwing her a few feet off. Glaring at Hayley, who smiled like the winner she was, he snarled, “Make it one hour.” He spat into the dirt in front of him and stood up with a huff.

She watched him stomp off in his camo uniform, a smile plastered to her face. The kids that were once around her paid it no mind, having never stopped in the first place. She got up and ran to the group, catching up to Hanna.

Hanna smirked. “I heard him scream.” She chuckled. “Did you get him good?”

Hayley nodded. “Yeah, why didn’t you stop to watch?”

“Ah, it’s sad seeing such a large man taken down by a runt like you.” Hanna cackled, catching the attention of two boys in front of them. They craned their necks back, making eye contact with the girls.

Hayley growled at them, “I’ll take you down if you get in my way, too.” The boys picked up the pace, facing forward again.

Station One came into view. What appeared to be stacks and stacks of cargo containers happened to be the biggest kept secret in the United States.

Peace was asked for in the 1960s and peace was brought by U.S. leaders. By the 1970s, citizens assumed wars were only history. If only they knew. People gave up their violent ways, and their children the government deemed violent, in support of the Peace Union.

Hanna and Hayley dumped their paint guns and extra ammunition into metal drums, watching as children painted in reds, oranges, greens, and blues passed by, filing into categorized hallways.

“Another day clean, another life saved,” Hanna and Hayley said, shaking hands.

“I will see you at 1700,” Hanna said, turning away to walk in line with the rest of the kids heading to Station Three.

Hayley nodded and jogged off to the doorway that would wind on and on, eventually leading to Station Seven. Her eyes scanned over the heavy graffiti that covered the walls of the hallway. Large penises and swear words layered each other, mixed with mean faces and names.

When Hayley was first placed in the school, she found herself touching the walls, staring at them every chance she got, mesmerized by the sheer tangle of expression. Her eyes still found the wall exciting, but she had more purpose than when she had first arrived.

Hayley caught up to the other kids as they waited outside the gymnasium. The plaque on the door read Quarrel Room. Kids screamed and yelled at each other, pushing and shoving around. Each child in the school was between the ages of the rare five year old and the more common fifteen year old, obviously varying in size.

Hayley stood three foot, eleven inches. She was one of the youngest recruits, right beside her sister. Glaring at the other soldiers, Hayley thought about the last time she had entered Station Seven.

It had only been a week before, but she knew she had improved since then. In Station Seven, no sergeants were allowed. The lead soldier in each class that week got to command the room, meaning anything could happen. Hayley had heard stories of the entire class teaming up on one soldier, sending their body out to the dump.

Last week’s class had ended with her on her ass, embarrassment plastered on her face along with streaks of blood and sweat. This week would be different.

The door hissed and opened. Kids filed in, excitement barely contained in whoops and hollers.

“Alright!” a girl, eldest of the group called. “Where are second and third from last week? Kammon and Canin One.” The girl smirked and emphasized One as siblings being put into confinement was rare.

A boy of fifteen and Hayley stepped forward. The boy smiled while Hayley kept expressionless.

The girl scanned over the paperwork on her clipboard. “You two will be taking part in a blackout routine.” She eyed Hayley. “But I think I know who’s going to be blacking out.” She laughed, eliciting giggles from the rest of the class.

Hayley remained motionless, not taking her eyes from the lead soldier, Griffin. She despised Griffin for her pretty face and strong ways. Hayley couldn’t wait to take her down.

“Enter Square One. Headmistress will be watching.” Griffin winked at Kammon as the two headed to Square One.

No weapons were allowed in the Quarrel Room. It was strictly hand to hand combat.

Hayley kept an uneventful look on her face, thinking about what Hanna had told her.

A few days earlier, out in the field, the two had been whispering back and forth. Hayley had said, “I need to take him down to get to her. If I can get past him, I’ll at least have a chance to claw that bitch in the face.”

Hanna had pondered it for a minute. “Remember that time Henry had to go lie down in the middle of us playing tag last summer?”

Hayley rolled her eyes. “Yeah. What about it?”

“It was because I hit Henry in his privates,” she stated it matter-of-factly.

“His privates?” Hayley had gawped at her sister.

“Yeah. Mother told me it hurt him and I kept asking why, despite protocol.” She snickered. “I think our birth was against protocol.”

“Yeah, so what did Mother do?”

“She took me to her bedroom and whispered, ’Hanna, do not tell anyone this. You are not supposed to know.’” Hanna sighed. “She said, ’Henry has different parts than you and when they get hit, they hurt him, badly.’ I had asked what she meant, and she finally explained what it was! You know all the drawings everywhere?” Her voice raised in excitement.

Hayley slowly nodded, her grey eyes scanning Hanna’s face.

“Those two circles with a lump on top?”

Hayley nodded again, eager for Hanna to get where she was going with this conversation.

“That’s a penis! That’s what boys have where our hoo-has are.” She laughed. “And if you hit them good, boys are down,” Hanna paused to snap her fingers, “like that.”“Hit him right between the eyes,” Hayley said, her young voice steady and strong. She held binoculars to her eyes, gazing at the small boy from behind a fallen tree.

Hanna butted the rifle up to her shoulder, her vest setting up a barrier between her and the carbon. She squinted into the sight and pulled the trigger.

A red splotch took place in the middle of the boy’s forehead. He fell to the pine needles below.

Hayley hissed, “I said between his eyes!” She elbowed Hayley in the side.

“Hey! I got close enough!”

“Close enough won’t cut it when the enemy is on the approach. Next time, hit on point.” Hayley scanned the clearing with her binoculars, taking special care to check the trees. “Clear.” She pulled herself from her belly and crawled under the fallen tree. Hanna followed closely behind.

Hayley pulled her head out, clawing at the dirt below her. An object dropped in front of her.

“Grenade!”

Hanna backed up, but not before Hayley’s feet kicked her in the face, smearing mud on her already grimy skin. They scrambled off of the ground and ran, backtracking the route they had planned.

An explosion of orange spread behind them, almost catching them.

A scream erupted from behind them. “Coming for you!

Shit!” Hayley sprinted far ahead of Hanna.

Hanna, weighed down by her pack and gun, thrusted her legs forward through the pain.

Sirens sounded in the distance.

God damn it!” Hayley smooshed her face in her hands.

A woman’s voice filled the forest. “All soldiers return to Station One, returning all equipment to the training zone.

“Don’t be so mad.” Hanna shrugged.

Footsteps. Hayley flipped around, spotting the boy with a red splotch on his forehead walking toward them.

“You died like a hero today, Munster.” Hayley smirked and approached the boy. She slapped him hard on the back and walked with him, leaving Hanna behind.

Through half a mile of forest they trekked, other children joining them, each with their fair share of paint.

“Ah, green. The gas grenade get you, Louise?” Hayley asked, putting an arm around the half green girl.

The girl shook her head. “Those bastards had it out for me. I think someone snitched about my hideaway.”

Hayley nodded. She raised her voice, “I don’t doubt it. We have some real bitches—”

A heavy hand landed on her shoulder.

Hayley’s hair stood on end. She snatched the hand and flipped it over, hoping to pin the person. As she turned around, the hand shoved into her chest. She landed on the ground with a thud, bouncing on the pine needles.

“Three hours in Station Seven, Canin One,” a broad man said. He stood over Hayley, a towering six foot, eight inches. His bald spot twinkled with the hovering sunlight. He gritted his teeth and growled, “Get up, soldier.”

Hayley stood on her feet, brushed herself off, and gestured for him to walk ahead of her.

He smiled and stepped forward. As he passed her, she hooked her small foot under his and kicked upward. She yanked his hand back as he fell and leaned into the fall with him. Twisting his arm, she pinned it to his back.

Face in pine needles, he screamed. Hayley, being of no weight compared to his, struggled to stay atop. He flipped over like an alligator, throwing her a few feet off. Glaring at Hayley, who smiled like the winner she was, he snarled, “Make it one hour.” He spat into the dirt in front of him and stood up with a huff.

She watched him stomp off in his camo uniform, a smile plastered to her face. The kids that were once around her paid it no mind, having never stopped in the first place. She got up and ran to the group, catching up to Hanna.

Hanna smirked. “I heard him scream.” She chuckled. “Did you get him good?”

Hayley nodded. “Yeah, why didn’t you stop to watch?”

“Ah, it’s sad seeing such a large man taken down by a runt like you.” Hanna cackled, catching the attention of two boys in front of them. They craned their necks back, making eye contact with the girls.

Hayley growled at them, “I’ll take you down if you get in my way, too.” The boys picked up the pace, facing forward again.

Station One came into view. What appeared to be stacks and stacks of cargo containers happened to be the biggest kept secret in the United States.

Peace was asked for in the 1960s and peace was brought by U.S. leaders. By the 1970s, citizens assumed wars were only history. If only they knew. People gave up their violent ways, and their children the government deemed violent, in support of the Peace Union.

Hanna and Hayley dumped their paint guns and extra ammunition into metal drums, watching as children painted in reds, oranges, greens, and blues passed by, filing into categorized hallways.

“Another day clean, another life saved,” Hanna and Hayley said, shaking hands.

“I will see you at 1700,” Hanna said, turning away to walk in line with the rest of the kids heading to Station Three.

Hayley nodded and jogged off to the doorway that would wind on and on, eventually leading to Station Seven. Her eyes scanned over the heavy graffiti that covered the walls of the hallway. Large penises and swear words layered each other, mixed with mean faces and names.

When Hayley was first placed in the school, she found herself touching the walls, staring at them every chance she got, mesmerized by the sheer tangle of expression. Her eyes still found the wall exciting, but she had more purpose than when she had first arrived.

Hayley caught up to the other kids as they waited outside the gymnasium. The plaque on the door read Quarrel Room. Kids screamed and yelled at each other, pushing and shoving around. Each child in the school was between the ages of the rare five year old and the more common fifteen year old, obviously varying in size.

Hayley stood three foot, eleven inches. She was one of the youngest recruits, right beside her sister. Glaring at the other soldiers, Hayley thought about the last time she had entered Station Seven.

It had only been a week before, but she knew she had improved since then. In Station Seven, no sergeants were allowed. The lead soldier in each class that week got to command the room, meaning anything could happen. Hayley had heard stories of the entire class teaming up on one soldier, sending their body out to the dump.

Last week’s class had ended with her on her ass, embarrassment plastered on her face along with streaks of blood and sweat. This week would be different.

The door hissed and opened. Kids filed in, excitement barely contained in whoops and hollers.

“Alright!” a girl, eldest of the group called. “Where are second and third from last week? Kammon and Canin One.” The girl smirked and emphasized One as siblings being put into confinement was rare.

A boy of fifteen and Hayley stepped forward. The boy smiled while Hayley kept expressionless.

The girl scanned over the paperwork on her clipboard. “You two will be taking part in a blackout routine.” She eyed Hayley. “But I think I know who’s going to be blacking out.” She laughed, eliciting giggles from the rest of the class.

Hayley remained motionless, not taking her eyes from the lead soldier, Griffin. She despised Griffin for her pretty face and strong ways. Hayley couldn’t wait to take her down.

“Enter Square One. Headmistress will be watching.” Griffin winked at Kammon as the two headed to Square One.

No weapons were allowed in the Quarrel Room. It was strictly hand to hand combat.

Hayley kept an uneventful look on her face, thinking about what Hanna had told her.

A few days earlier, out in the field, the two had been whispering back and forth. Hayley had said, “I need to take him down to get to her. If I can get past him, I’ll at least have a chance to claw that bitch in the face.”

Hanna had pondered it for a minute. “Remember that time Henry had to go lie down in the middle of us playing tag last summer?”

Hayley rolled her eyes. “Yeah. What about it?”

“It was because I hit Henry in his privates,” she stated it matter-of-factly.

“His privates?” Hayley had gawped at her sister.

“Yeah. Mother told me it hurt him and I kept asking why, despite protocol.” She snickered. “I think our birth was against protocol.”

“Yeah, so what did Mother do?”

“She took me to her bedroom and whispered, ’Hanna, do not tell anyone this. You are not supposed to know.’” Hanna sighed. “She said, ’Henry has different parts than you and when they get hit, they hurt him, badly.’ I had asked what she meant, and she finally explained what it was! You know all the drawings everywhere?” Her voice raised in excitement.

Hayley slowly nodded, her grey eyes scanning Hanna’s face.

“Those two circles with a lump on top?”

Hayley nodded again, eager for Hanna to get where she was going with this conversation.

“That’s a penis! That’s what boys have where our hoo-has are.” She laughed. “And if you hit them good, boys are down,” Hanna paused to snap her fingers, “like that.”

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