Chapter 13- Release
BANG. That scene looped in my head throughout the misty night. Lasping my anxiety with twists and turns within the sheets. I couldn’t sleep. Not with a racing mind telling me I could have done more.
Shuffling feet of the group pulled me out of bed. I rubbed my eyes, the dull light from the sky providing little light in my numbing abode. My body begged me to return to the warmth of the covers. But not even my covers could provide the comfort I craved. I slid an over sized sweater over my head, turning to the mirror to see my ghostly complexion.
A growl from my stomach prompted me to exit my room. The cold curtain wrapping around my wrist. Across the hall, everyone shared a mutual exhaustion. Slouched against the table, picking at their meals in a dreary manner. Blake sat misty eyed, closing themselves off from the others.
“Morning!” Helda called from the kitchen, distracting me from my objective.
“Good morning, Helda.” She beckoned me, hair tied up as she flipped pancakes.
“Would you like some?” Helda asked, an odd cheerfulness flowing through her figure. “I thought since you guys had such a rough day yesterday, I could cook you guys a meal!”
“That’s very kind of you.”
“It’s the least I can do. Everyone’s so depressed today. I think it’s cause Blake and Edith let Salena go.”
My forehead wrinkled, “What do you mean?”
“They didn’t make any progress, and Edith said keeping her here was a risk to our safety. She left her somewhere in the city this morning.” Helda informed, handing me a plate, “Pretty sad, right?”
“Yes…” I paced back, seating myself beside Blake.
“Is everything alright?” I whispered.
“Yea, I’m fine.” They mumbled dismissively.
My gaze caught Edith’s attention from across the table. Who, despite her authoritative demeanor, sat curled over her meal. Her eyes wavered, guilt clawing up her throat and strangling her from speech.
“...I’m sorry about Salena.”
Edith parted her lips, eyes fallen to the table. “Thank you.” She gulped. Tears pooling her lids.
Echos of our actions silenced all optimism. The clarity of the stiff morning air brought shattered our motivation.
“You know what? I have an idea.” Blake spoke up, repressing their negativity. “Why don’t I pick up some of our favorite food tonight, and we can eat together before Edith goes to work?”
“That sounds like a wonderful plan.” Catori clapped, attempting to shift the mood.
“I like that idea too.” Ralph admitted.
“Edith?” Catori glanced over.
“Then it’s decided.” Blake forced a smile to their lips as they cleaned up.
“Let me walk you out?” I followed them to the kitchen.
“You don’t need to do that…”
“But I’d like to.” I insisted, gesturing them towards the stairs. “Are you doing okay?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
I bit my lip, “Are you sure?”
“Yea. I’m just jazzed about work is all.” Blake forced a laugh, “I’ll be back later.”
I leaned in for a hug, squeezing them gently before letting go. I wanted to ask about last night, but I knew not to push them. They were fragile. Pretending to be strong to push away the concern written all over their face.
“Alright. Have fun at work.”
“Thanks, I’ll try my best.”
“Thank you for agreeing to this.”
Edith bowed her head, “Thank you for planning it.”
A wide variety of food was laid across the table. It’s smells bringing comfort to our minds as we settled to eat.
“Yes, thank you.” Catori commented as she made sure the rest of us had everything we needed.
“You made the right call today.” Ralph said.
Edith grinned, shifting uncomfortably in her seat.
“We know it wasn’t easy.” I added.
Bhaskar nodded with our comments, his hands expressing empathy in his speech that caused Edith to look up.
“Our safety is the most important thing.” She wiped a stray tear, “I’ll never compromise that.”
Catori’s hand brushed over Edith’s shoulder, brows curling with sympathy.
“At least we don’t have to worry about some blue suit spying in our home. Or, factory.” Helda retorted.
“Seriously?” Ralph punched her arm.
“What?” She exclaimed, rubbing her shoulder. “Who knows what kind of super secret spy people they have. They could be watching us right now and none of us would ever know.”
Blake chuckled to them self, “You’ve been watching too much Netflix.”
Should I… Should I know what this is? Just smile. Yeah, smile and nod like you know why everyone is laughing.
“T.v on drugs.”
What did Helda just say??
“Wrong era.” Ralph smirked.
“Um…” Helda’s slim figure curled as she pondered.
“These younger generations, don’t know shit.”
The room stopped. Bhaskar and Catori choked on their food as Blake and Ralph’s eyes grew the size of their plates. All eyes shot to Edith, who smirked at her own comment.
“You’re in high spirits tonight, dear.” Catori turned nervously.
“It’s a full moon, why wouldn’t I be?” Her glossed eyes glanced outside.
“I don’t mean to sound ignorant, but, what does she mean?” I whispered to Blake.
“Ooo,” Helda wiggled her eyebrows.
“Did you uh, do your ritual before dinner?” Ralph piped.
I’m so lost…
“I have work after this, so yes.” Edith’s squinted eyes narrowed beside her smile.
Wait. She’s a witch, right? She must have been doing a “witchy” task. Agenda? Was she wearing a pointy hat??
“Someone smoked a bit too much.” Blake snickered to themself.
Ralph gasped. His jaw dropped on the table as everyone turned to Blake, fear covering their eyes. The air held still as our gazes lingered over a shocked Edith.
Bhaskar erupted into laughter, slapping his hand against the table. The strained noise caused Catori’s composure to wither, her face deceived her as she too lost herself in laughter as she turned lovingly to a giddy Edith.
“Perhaps.” She grinned, causing the rest of us to chime in.
“Anyways!” Helda was the first to regain herself.
“Anyways…” Blake lifted their hand.
“Where were we? Radios! But uh, you can see images through it! Please tell me you at last know what those are.” Helda pleaded.
Blake folded their arms. “How old do you think Ray is?” They smirked.
“I don’t know them well from my time. But I’ve seen a lot here. In the car, right? And also at that restaurant.”
“Okay good, you had me worried for a second.”
“And then people performed on the street with them. I thought I saw someone when Ralph and I went out last week.”
“That was probably a trashy street performer who try to make up for their lack of talent with background music. Not you Bhaskar, you’re great.” She swayed in his direction.
“You know, I like you better when you’re high.” Blake teased.
“You’re a little more tolerable this way.” Edith admitted.
“Moving pictures through glass!!” Helda exclaimed.
“Ray’s seen a t.v before.” Ralph laughed.
“Like your computer, but bigger.” I confirmed.
“You guys literally have a t.v right there!” Blake sunk into their seat, gesturing the t.v beside the couches.
“Mm.” Ralph acknowledged.
“Did you forget?!” Helda looked like she was about to burst.
“To be fair,” Catori began. “Most of us are accustomed to a life without technology.”
“And I’m always at my computer.” Ralph shrugged.
“Ugh, fucking boomers.”
“Watch your mouth young lady.” Ralph scolded.
“OoOo so scary… I’m sorry, boomer.”
“I WAS BORN IN 1923!”
“Alright chill, chill…” Blake laughed, “Why don’t we teach Ray how to use a t.v, give me a moment.”
Ralph and Helda exchanged glares as Blake played with a remote by the coffee table. Catori had refocused her attention on Edith, who had gotten up to get ready for work. Bhaskar’s palm nourished a tiny flame that he used to reheat his food.
“See Ray,” Blake called, “This is how you-”
“We have breaking news for any of our 5pm viewers who are just tuning in. Minutes ago we received information from the NYPD about the tragic murder of two employees of the Lothar Corporation. Their bodies were found in an alley beside Prospect Park-”
Prospect Park? We were just-
“-where, and this is where I need to disclose that this information is not for some of our sensitive audience members, Mary Smith and John Black were shot dead.”
Who? We didn’t see any...
“An unidentified black man was found at the crime scene and is believed to be officiated with the left wing group Colored Against Corporations that has been responsible for riots against the Lothar Corporation and it’s partners over the recent months. It is speculated that they had orchestrated dozens of attacks across the metropolitan area in these areas. We ask our viewers that if you see any suspicious behavior in these areas, report to your local department to keep your neighborhood safe.”
“What the fuck.” Anger licked from Edith’s tongue at the doctored news footage.
“But we didn’t shoot them…” My heart pounded.
Catori wrapped her body around Edith’s arm, “The media doesn’t know that.”
“And we have the honor of getting a hold of Lothar Corporation’s CEO Alexander Lothar for an exclusive interview. Mr. Lothar, we are deeply honored that you’ve joined us this evening.” The news anchor greeted.
“A real pleasure.”
His voice crawled up my skin. A velvet lie poised to deceive. The wrinkles caused by a polite smile masked his sins. The power this man radiated… Was beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Those calculative, piercing blue eyes ready to sway an audience to his will.
This is the man we’re supposed to take down...
“Now tell us, how are you handling this tragic news?”
“It saddens me to hear I’ve lost two valuable members, family members, of my corporation. We do our best to serve our community and we’re currently working with our local law enforcement to snuff this domestic terrorism. A threat to the corporation, is a threat to you. I’ve already settled an investigation towards the Colored Against Corporations. This despicable group will pay for the lives they have taken today and will be stopped before they take anymore innocent-”
The screen went black, Blake’s finger hovered over the remote as they turned to everyone. Everyone yielded a different emotion. Each bubbling up to the surface in this suffocating silence.
“He’s orchestrating to kill innocents.” Ralph spat, hands thrown towards the screen.
“Doesn’t matter.” Edith pushed away Catori’s comfort. ”He has the support. And he’ll be able to cover up any deaths within police custody, he’s a goddamn billionaire.” She held her temples.
“He’s going to slaughter our brothers and sisters of color…” Catori covered her mouth, tears slipping from her lids.
“But he can’t do that! Can he?” Nothing has changed, has it?
“He has so many political officials wrapped under his finger. With enough money, he’ll be able to sway an order to wipe out that group.” Blake confirmed.
“And you guys wonder what I mean when I say ‘eat the rich’.” Helda joked.
“I’m going to kill that son of a bitch.” Edith stormed off.
“Edith, please take a breath.” Catori followed her, panic in her tone.
“We should have just killed Nura when we had her here.” Helda remarked.
Edith stopped. Immediately twisted back to us, palm extended with thorns jutting from her fingertips. “Watch yourself.” She growled as she loomed over the unphased teen.
“You’re really gonna hurt me? Should I remind you of the power I have?” Helda smirked, standing to be taller than Edith.
“Use it.” Edith taunted. “Let’s see where it gets you.”
“Knock it off.” I raised my trembling voice. “Please.”
The group turned to me. Helda and Edith shared a reluctant glare before backing off each other.
“One death.” Helda held her finger. “As opposed to the dozens Alexander just said.”
Edith crossed her arms. “We don’t trade lives like that.”
“Well the world doesn’t seem to give us that luxury.”
“What do you know of the world?” Edith snapped, “You’re just a teenager.” Her sharp jaw clenched. “If we start trading lives, then we’re no better than the Lothar Corporation. Their legacy is sickening, and has spilt more blood than you could ever imagine. I know because I’ve been around for most of it.” Edith stepped back, exhausted by the memories she had revisited.
Helda rolled her eyes, turning her back towards Edith as she grabbed her plate. “Stop acting like you’re so special just because you saw a couple of people die.”
Edith’s despair channeled newfound rage. Her body language grew aggressive with the formation of a thorned vine she launched around Helda’s wrist. “You will never understand what it’s like to watch the people you love most die right in front of you. It changes you. And you’ll hold that guilt with you for the rest of your life. And I know for a fact that the people I lost would never let me become the monster he is.”
Catori grabbed Edith’s wrist. Urging her to disintegrate her thorns. Helda’s hand wrapped around her now injured wrist, looking to us for defense. But no one spoke up. She scoffed, storming off to her room where our gazes fell to the floor.
“Edith…” Blake reached out, but pulled away. “I- I’m so sorry. I should’ve tried harder. I should have done more to save her!” Anxiety pooled off their body.
Edith composed their anger, “You tried your best.” Her ocean eyes glossed with tears.
“But”- “Stop. I shouldn’t have pushed you that much in the first place. It was unfair to ask that of you, and I’m sorry Blake. That wasn’t right.”
Pulses of dread latched onto my thoughts as Blake’s breathing strained. With their lips pursed, they tightened their fists.
They turned from my voice, disliking the attention brought to them. I took a step forward as they ran off.