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The Altered: Subsist

By Donise Sheppard All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Scifi

Blurb

After the government knocks on their door and takes down their mother, Katherine Mathews is forced to drag her younger sister behind her through the West Virginia mountains to keep them from being captured and ‘altered’ for social control. After being attacked by two of the altered, Kat and Izzy are taken in by Daren and his sister Kayla. To her surprise, Kat finds herself falling for her hero. The four have to fight to survive and encounter several obstacles before deciding enough is enough.

Chapter One

I’ve been running and hiding for my life for almost a year with my little sister Izzy. It’s my job to take care of her. I have to keep both of us safe and make sure neither of us are captured or separated.

Izzy’s only eleven and so afraid of being caught. We know it’s only a matter of time before someone finally catches up with us. We’ve come so close to being noticed or captured so many times, but somehow, we’ve always managed to escape. And here we are. Still running. Still hiding. Still fearing. Somehow, still hoping.

We hide occasionally in caves but mostly in the tall trees. It’s a good thing we switch it up too. They recently found one of the caves we had been staying in. So, odds are, they’re now checking all of the caves in these mountains.

“We need to go up north,” Izzy says.

I shake my head, “it doesn’t matter where we are. They’re everywhere. They’ll find us. But we do need to find somewhere else to stay tonight. Maybe we’ll start staying in the caves again; the bears aren’t going to be needing them.”

We’re whispering. We’re always whispering. Anything above a whisper would give away our position in the woods and we’d be captured.. If we’re found we’ll be turned. And that’s if we weren’t punished for running and hiding for such a long time.

I smile at my little sister. She has grown so much this past year. I can’t believe how much of a little woman she actually is.

She was born when I was only six years old. I remember my mom bringing her home from the hospital in a little dress. She was no bigger than my baby dolls but I wasn’t allowed to play with her unless mom was there. It would make me sad because I thought that she had been for me. She was my present. But the first time I picked her up and carried her to my room to play with me, I got punished. But she’s been my favorite person ever since. Even through the fighting and arguing I still ?love her more than anything else in the world. She’s my best friend.

I grab her hand and squeeze it tightly. She’s so thin. But she’s finally stopped losing weight. I’m grateful for that, at least.

“We need to go. Maybe we’ll be able to catch a fish or find some nuts and berries. I know you’re hungry. Dinner hardly existed last night. Fill your water skin before we do anything else.”

She nods. “I can start fishing if you want. While you look for berries. So that we can get on our way sooner.”

I shake my head. “No. I don’t want to separate. What if one of them spots one of us?”

“They won’t. I’ll tie a string to a branch and fish from a tree. If I see someone coming I’ll cut the wire. Just like you taught me. I’ve been watching you for the past year, you know. I kinda caught on.”

“I don’t know Izzy. You’re still my baby sister. I want to be able to keep an eye on you. I don’t think it’s safe.”

“I’ve been out here as long as you have. I know what to do. You taught me well. If I fish while you gather, we’ll cut our time in half. Then we can eat and leave. We have to get out of here soon, right?

I smile at her. “Alright. But be careful. Please?”

“I’m always careful,” she smirks.

Even though everything in me is telling me not to leave her alone, I go against my better judgment. I watch her start her line and climb her tree before I finally turn and walk quickly away. I need to hurry.

She’s right. It’ll cut our time in half to split up tasks. And being in the tree is so much safer than running around the forest floor scavenging. I’m the one who has to worry about being seen.

Luckily, I don’t have to go far from Izzy. I find a bush with plenty of berries on it. I’m so thrilled that spring has returned. I reach into the bush and pick as many as I can carry in my pouch.

I gather a couple more and pop them in my mouth before I move on. I can at least try to find some nuts or mushrooms before I go back. I search around for about twenty minutes before I spot some nuts. I hurriedly gather them and put them in the sack with the berries.

I’m walking away feeling rather pleased with myself when I see them. I quickly duck behind a bush. I want to cry. I can’t breath. I pray that Izzy is still in her tree and not down looking for me or disconnecting her line from the branch. I watch the two as they walk with precise footsteps, barely making a sound.

They’re both wearing skin tight track suits, all black, of course. And their hair is sleek and shiny, per the norm. The woman’s hair is pulled back into a tight ponytail. The man’s is cut short and greased down. They’re uptight in their appearance. But I’ve learned well enough to know that they could take me down easily. They’re soldiers. They have to do what they’re told. They were apparently told to hunt and capture. And they usually never fail once they find their target.

This is what we’re afraid of becoming. They would take us to a lab and probably implant a chip into our brain to make us just like them. Robots. Zombies. Our free will would disappear completely and we would become equal to everyone else. All average. We would never feel emotions or think thoughts of our own again. And if we did, we would be trapped in that robotic body anyway so there would be no noticing the crying and dying human inside. Or at least that’s what it appeared to be. Maybe the human part of us would die completely. Hopefully.

They walk past me, looking around slowly. They don’t see me. I’m careful not to let out a sigh of relief. I smile, momentarily, feeling safe. Until I watch them walk away with barely a sound. Izzy. I have to get to her. She has to be safe. What if they get to her? What if they drag her away?

Please let her be in the tree. Please let her cut her line in time. Please don’t let them find her. Please keep her safe. Don’t let me fail her.

My mind is racing and my heart is pounding. I won’t be able to calm down until Izzy’s safe. I have to get to her.

I wait a few minutes until I can no longer hear any footsteps. Then I take a few steps in the direction of the stream and Izzy. I hide behind a tree and wait to make sure nobody is tracking me. I have to be sure not to lead them to her. After a moment, I start on again. I have to go faster; I have to get to her. She has to be safe. Please let her be safe.

I walk quickly then stop when I hear her struggle. She’s crying; screaming my name. Begging them to let her go. My pulse explodes as I watch them pull my little sister down from the tree. She had been trying to hide, and they found her anyway. Why did I leave her? She doesn’t even like fish. She would have been content with berries.

I look around frantically for a weapon. Anything that I can use will help. Please. There has to be something. Anything.

Then I see a branch that had fallen from a tree. It’s big but I can handle it. I pick it up, grip it in both hands, and run at the two altered who have their hands on my sister. Before I can even think about it I hit the man in the back of the head. The woman turns around just as I swing again. I crack her in the side of the face. Neither of them bleed. Maybe I had been wrong about us fighting to get out of our own bodies once altered. Maybe there’s no blood in us anymore. Maybe I was right and once they get a hold of us we’re no longer alive. No longer human.

I look at Izzy who is staring at the two bodies that are laying lifelessly at our feet. She looks mortified. She’s frozen to the ground.

But I can’t give her time to panic. We have to get out of here immediately. We can’t wait for them to wake up, pissed.

“Let’s go,” I say, taking her hand.

“Did you kill them? Are they dead?” she asks, tears in her eyes.

I shake my head. “I don’t know. I wish. But I doubt it. Either way we have to go. Just in case they aren’t dead. Or just in case there are more around.”

She nods. “Okay.”

We grab our backpacks and run as fast as we can. I don’t know if we’re going North or South and I don’t stop to check. I just have to get Izzy away from danger. I have to get her away from the two altered that I hit. They’re going to wake up wanting revenge. I’m not going to give them that kind of satisfaction.

By the time they wake up, Izzy and I will be long gone. Maybe in a new town. Hopefully somewhere North so that we won’t have to backtrack and step onto their land again.

I glance at Izzy’s face. She’s still crying from fear. Once again, I had failed her.

They had almost taken her. She knew that if I wouldn’t have shown up she would have been captured and turned. But I had been there. I’m relieved they had walked past me first. What if I would’ve went in the opposite direction? I may not have heard the struggle. I may not have known they were even in the woods. They would have gotten her. They may have gotten me too.

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