“What is your one tragic flaw? The one personality trait about yourself that could ultimately ruin your life?” The teacher paces a path along the chalkboard. “Serena.” She absently twirls the chalk in her hand.
I move my foot into the aisle.
A jock, two desks behind me, stands and walks down the aisle. He doesn’t even see my leg, now nearly crossing the space between my desk and my neighbor’s. He trips, and in the space of time where he is teetering on keeping his balance and not, I think to myself, this looks like it’s going to be painful. He falls on his face, everyone laughs.
I don’t care.
I know I’m about to be sent to the office. I pull my leg back tight under my desk. “Oh, I’m sorry.” But, it’s too late. I‘ve done this kind of thing too many times.
“Serena.” Calm, deep breath. “Office.” Her spindly teacher finger shoots toward the door.
“It’s not my fault he doesn’t watch where he’s going.”
His girlfriend, two rows over, practically snarls at me.
I laugh at her. I just can’t help it.
I let the door slam behind me. When I get to the office counter, I just keep walking to the exit.
I step into sunshine. A serious treat compared to the extreme air conditioning inside the building. The administration probably thinks turning down the thermostat will keep the prisoners awake. But ahhh! Summer is coming. Yet, something pings in my brain and I realize, summer’s not coming this year, not really.
Nah. I brush off the bad vibe.
I head for the parking lot. I was late this morning, so I’m way in the back. A feeling hits me deep in the gut, right in the intestine. I know, sounds gross.[DC2]
I duck behind an SUV and wait. It only takes ten heartbeats and then the black and white school police vehicle slides down the row of parked cars. Officer Not-at-all-friendly doesn’t see me. That’s when I know my mom is going to hear about this one. I also know I’ll just tell her I almost made it a whole school day without getting in trouble. I’ll say, it wasn’t my fault my legs needed a stretch. I will finish her off with, “Mom, I’m a Blackwood. What would you have me do? Deny my heritage and stop practicing my—I’ll then change the my to—our gifts? After that, she’ll just shake her head and make me dinner.
It’s not a gift really—what I was saying there about practicing and heritage—it’s more like a skill. It’s like the basic idea behind chaos theory. Things in life can choose to go an uncountable number of ways and my family has always been able to see which way something will go. Not always, just a lot of the time. I’m not psychic and I’m not a witch. People think those things about me.
People hate me, hate my family, for it.
I don’t care.
Right now is a good example of how I’m not always on top of my skill. There is someone else hiding here, using this same SUV as cover. This is where prediction gets hard. I only have two choices. It’s either a boy or a girl. For some reason 50/50 choices are the banes of my existence. It’s weird. If I break life down into twos I can no longer figure anything out. Will there be mushrooms in the spaghetti sauce for dinner tonight, or not? I haven’t a clue. [DC3] But I do know that out of all the things I could have for dinner, I will have spaghetti.
“Who’s there?” I whisper it. I don’t know why.
“Don’t you know?” They whisper back and I’m still not sure about the person’s sex.
“How should I know?” I’m playing dumb now. So what? Girls have been doing it for centuries.
I realize the school police are heading back my way.
“It’s me, Jenny.”
Crap, it’s Jenny. The snarling girlfriend.
“And, as soon as that cop’s head disappears, I’m going to punch you in the nose.”
“How’d you know where to find me?” I seem to struggle when ever someone else seems to exhibit any sign of predictive ability.
“I followed you, stupid.”
I didn’t see that one coming. I also didn’t see her sneak around to my side of the vehicle. And though I knew she was indeed going to hit me and it wouldn’t be in the nose. I didn’t see her fist coming for my eye a second later.
I’m about to hit her back, but the cop car drives by just then and things start happening too fast for me to make any informed sort of decision. The one thing I do feel? All my previous predictions are gone, changed. I will be grounded the moment I walk in the door tonight and they’ll still have spaghetti for dinner, but I won’t. I’ll have to make myself a sandwich and go to my room early.
She hits me again, same spot. I fall on my butt. This will be the last time I wear white pants to school. Blood, from a cut above my eye, drips onto my thigh. Jenny is wearing a ring.
She starts running back toward the school. I follow, but my flip flops slow me down. Officer Not-At-All-Friendly spots me and I’m doomed.
Later that night, I sit on my bed staring at my sandwich crusts. My room is way up in the fourth story attic behind a false wall. I guess beer was brewed secretly in this space in the 1920s. It’s a good story for street cred, but it’s lonely. I can’t hear anyone else moving around in the house. Which is okay, but now I’m alone with my thoughts. My mom is totally right. I shouldn’t use my “skill” for such destructive means. It’s going to come back at me and I’ll have to answer for my actions. But when does that happen for other people? When do they get what’s coming to them? I try to argue with Mom’s logic in my own befuddled head. Not to mention, I’d bet good money that most people, if they could predict what was going to happen, they’d have fun with it too. So people shouldn’t judge me. Not that it matters.
I don’t care…
[DC1]Say this in a way that she is showing this is her character flaw.
My character is certainly flawed: I’m mean.
[DC2]Decide if I want these pains. I leave them out after the first few chapters here. I’m not sure it really makes any sense since she isn’t psychic. Maybe this is butterflies instead. A twist of nervousness.
[DC3]Maybe is has something to do with only being right half the time.
Sun is shining through my eyelids and someone is banging on my bedroom door. I pull my thick mass of black hair [DC1] over my eyes and try to pretend it’s still night. “What?” I try to yell, but I have no voice yet. I sleep with my mouth open, so there’s no saliva in there at all.
I try again. “Go away, Jeremy.” It’s my stupid cousin. It always is. Too easy to predict. He’s two years younger than I am, but he thinks he knows twice as much.
“It’s 6:30. Come on!”
Six thirty on a Saturday morning. What are most people doing right now? Well, not me. I’m getting up so I can tromp through Blackwood mansion’s forty-five acres of forest with a sling shot loaded with marshmallows. We train in all sorts of different ways, but Saturday, every Saturday, is officially field training day.
“Why do you always have to be the one that wakes me up?” Seriously, I get sick of his temper. The kid needs a cup-a-Joe and maybe someone could be there as he opens his little peepers, some morning, to roll him out of the happy side of the bed. I know that if just once I could be woken by sweet bird music and the smell of bacon, I think I could die a happy girl. [DC2]
“Hey, Serena.” I hear a taunt in his voice. “What will we have for breakfast this morning? Toast or nothing?” He thinks he’s so funny. He doesn’t have the same problem I have determining 50/50s. It’s such a dumb issue. All situations in life can be assessed mathematically. It’s the easiest way to determine truth. But with these 50/50 choices the variables are just as difficult to determine and I have a habit of assigning the wrong value. Seriously bites the big one.
What is the ‘big one’? I’ve always hated that expression.
“We’ll have YOUR FACE.” My voice is in full action. I rub my eyes and wince. The black eye, my lovely gift from Jennifer, is coming along nicely.
He just sends a swift kick to the bottom of the false wall. It spins open just a crack and I hear his feet clomp down the stairs.
Jeremy came to live with us about a year ago. My uncle made a prediction that he and my aunt were going to die in a car crash, so they sent Jeremy to live with us a couple of months before the accident to make sure he was going to have a good life without them. That prediction came to fruition just the way my uncle saw it. Jeremy’s pretty unhappy, which makes me an even worse person, since I’m always mean to him. It’s not like he doesn’t ask for it though. Besides, he’s a Blackwood. He’ll find a way to cope.
I jump out of bed the same way I would jump into a cold lake and open my curtains. It’s another bright sunny day. Still a chill in the air at this hour, but if I don’t think about the temperature, I can really feel the freedom. Of course, like yesterday, there’s a sharp stab in my stomach and I’m again struck with the realization that there won’t be a simple, carefree, school free summer this year. It feels like something serious. I will have to talk to my grandfather about it. Sometimes we can predict and incite change. It’s cool. We can’t always though, like with my aunt and uncle. We tried and tried, but the crash was the only outcome. Even if they would have stayed home in bed that day, a bus would have rammed through the dining nook and into their bedroom[DC3] .
I slide out of my pink silk jammie bottoms and tank top and grab the military fatigues I keep wadded in a ball behind my closet door. I carry my boots down to the dining room with me. It’s oatmeal for breakfast and I realize that Jeremy threw off my entire game with his 50/50 breakfast nonsense. Of all the food choices in the world, oatmeal didn’t crisscross my mind.
My sling shot sits next to my bowl with a bag of marshmallows. It’s a forty count bag and I will have to make every one count. NO snacking! There’s a clock high on the wall over the kitchen entrance. It’s counting down ten minutes. That’s all the time I get to eat and lace my boots.
Jeremy barges in. “Got you, didn’t I? With the oatmeal?”
“Good.” He grabs his bowl and heads into the kitchen to eat with our cook, Lois. She’s twenty five and gorgeous. I try not to hold that against her. The girl can make a mean tuna casserole.
Grandfather enters, clearing his throat. “Six minutes left. Why aren’t your boots on?”
I drop my spoon and comply. It’s never a good idea to go toes with my grandfather. He has a way of predicting which situation would make a person fall on their face. I was actually practicing his method yesterday in school, when I made Jock Bobby take a tumble. He wasn’t even proud of me when I told him about it.
“We aren’t training for nothing, Serena. You better start predicting a little farther into the future. He narrows his owl-brows at me. If you had done your predictions last night, you’d know just how bad things are going to get today. Have you seen any tears in your future? I have.”
I don’t know if he’s saying this stuff just to scare me or if he means it. He’s going to make me cry during training. “Maybe I did do my homework? Did you think of that?” I try to give him my best, you should feel really bad about yourself for doubting me, look.
According to the butterflies in my stomach, I’ve just said the wrong thing. I see a cliff hanger in my future, the real thing, an actual 30 foot drop-off.
“I’m sorry, Grandfather. I was really upset that Mom sent me to my room and I didn’t get to eat with the fam.” These little ploys of sympathy used to work on him when I was small. I guess that being 5 foot 7 and possessing the ability to lace one’s own boots, constitutes big girl status. I just keep making my situation worse it seems. I can see in his face he knows I’m trying to manipulate him.
Now he’s going to make me play with spiders, predict whether or not they’ll bite me. That’s as 50/50 as it gets. I hate spiders. I’m sure they hate me too. It’s like a spider looks at a person and thinks, Dude, food for life. [DC4]
I argue my last few minutes away. Lois comes in and takes the rest of my oatmeal from me. I’m so mad that he thinks it’s okay to put all my greatest fears into one training session. That’s his plan for me today. I did the math. If I’m going to be honest, this all goes much deeper. I realize what my grandfather did. He made one assumption that probably had no fact behind it. The rest was me. I have done this to myself. I have made my own miserable day. He’s changed my future, at least temporarily. This much circular thinking gives me a headache. Just what I need when facing heights and spiders, probably at the same time. If I had been on my game, I could have predicted he was going to play me. I call shenanigans!
He walks out the door into the back yard ahead of me and I immediately start running predictive math combinations in my brain, putting in variables like two clouds in the sky instead of one, in the X and Y positions and focus on which direction the highest concentration of squirrels are in the forest. I’m thinking that we’ll be hunting them later this evening. It occurs to me that there is a newly decaying coyote carcass to the north that Jeremy will step in if we start that direction. I know which way I want to go.
My mom and dad are already there, at the edge of the northern part of the forest, waiting. They’ve already discerned our route. My mom’s face is painted in camo colors. I figure we’ll be hunting her with the marshmallows today. What family hunts each other for fun? Mine does. Last week they hunted me. I got knocked out of a tree and everyone laughed. Jerks. You don’t realize how bad Skittles can hurt until you’re being pummeled by every color in the rainbow.
I’ve been doing this so long, I feel like I should be better at it. I remember being three and my dad would hold cards in my face and I’d have to tell him what shape was on the other side. I couldn’t just guess either. I was doing the math first. I’ve been doing the math so long and so often I really do feel psychic sometimes. I barely have to think the formula and I’ve solved the equation. I can do it faster than anyone in my family too. [DC5]
But I shouldn’t brag. I’m about to get my arse handed to me.
“Good morning.” My mom has a big idiotic grin across her green face. Her teeth are big and white. She digs this stuff.
“If you say so.” I smirk and look away.
Mom takes off into the woods and it only takes me moments to know she’s going to hide in the same tree I fell from last week. But just as I say it, Jeremy says, “I bet she’s in a tree.” And the future changes. [DC6] Now it’s a matter of my mom predicting what we are predicting and so on.
We cover a lot of ground going from one possible outcome to another for a good three quarters of an hour before we even get our first glance at her. She’s pretty decent at counter prediction. I wish I was. [DC7]
“Over there,” my dad says. He looks to my grandfather who is just staring down at a clipboard making notes of successes and failures. He’s all about the data.
Jeremy runs after her and I follow.
Mom is climbing down from a couple of large boulders. I stop chasing Jeremy, pull back my sling shot, and take aim.
Jeremy shouts and my projectile falls short. He’s stepped in the dead coyote. Mom runs off. I laugh so hard I don’t notice the spider that lands on my shoulder.
“It’s time, Serena.” Grandfather says. “Will it bite or not?”
I look at my shoulder and the answer is obvious. “Not if I don’t give it a chance.” I realize this is not really a prediction, but an instinct and I swipe it off into a reeling spiral through the air. My granddad is so amazing. He anticipates the spider’s flight path and intercepts it. It crawls out of from between two of his fingers. A heebie jeebie travels down my back.
“You have to continue to make predictions even when you are scared. It is the most important time.”
Jeremy complains about the stink of his shoes. I feel a slight breeze in the air. There’s a pine cone on the ground two feet to my right. The solutions come to me in an instant.
Grandfather will throw the spider in my hair. It’s weird how when I know something for sure I get a weird feeling in my stomach, butterflies in a blender, a strange physical manifestation of truth.
I try to back away from my fate. Back one step, two, three, one heartbeat, four steps and my feet don’t feel earth beneath them. The spider lands in my hair as I fall. My hands reach out for anything the cliff has to offer.
It feels like I fall forever, but it’s just one of those eternal seconds you read about in books. My hands, one fist on top of the other, grab a root. I’m only a foot from the top, but it might as well be a mile.
I hang there, thinking about my grip that is holding strong for the moment, a sharp piece of rock just in front of my nose, a bee peeking out of a crack, the spider crawling on my forehead.
“Slow your heart, sweetie,” Mom says. “And do the process.”
She’s kneeling just above me and all I want is to be safe in her arms. My eyes feel hot. Warm liquid I won’t call tears, fill my bottom lashes and I take a deep breath.
Mr. Spindly Spider bites down right between my eyes and it even surprises me when I don’t panic. As I’ve already said, I knew all along the answer was yes. I’m still holding strong to the root. I take a second deep breath and find more roots just below my feet. It holds me easily and I have enough sense to shake the spider off me[DC8] . Of course this causes me to look down and I scream. I see myself at the bottom of the river bed below, eyes blank.
But that’s just one possible result. I also see myself using the root to pull myself up and kick my legs onto the ledge. I like that strand much better.
When I get back on the ledge I get a pat on the back from grandfather before he walks on.
Later that evening when we finally make it to the edge of forest and lawn, we all stand staring at the mansion all lit up in sunset and window ambiance[DC9] . My family is probably all choked up about how majestic it looks and all. But I’m thinking about how many squirrels I beamed with marshmallows. More than anyone else. I’m also proud in a strange way. I faced some fear today. I can’t say I conquered it, but I certainly overcame it for awhile. I know I’m capable. I could almost hug Jeremy. Just kidding.
“I got the strangest feeling just now,” Mom says.
“Me too,” my father repeats.
“Mm hmm.” Jeremy nods. “There’s something big that’s going to happen and I’m excited about it.”
“Right. And I don’t think we’ll ever see this view again.” Grandfather’s eyes are narrowed and unblinking.
My mom wordlessly walks over to me and hugs me. I wonder what she’s figured out. I don’t ask though.
I know what they feel. It’s in my gut too. But it’s not excitement or wonder. My cheeks are suddenly wet. It’s just plain fear, more than I conquered earlier today. And I hate that.
I try not to care.
[DC1]Reword this. I don’t like the way it feels like she’s just giving a description about herself.
[DC2]Revisit this later. She wakes up to the singing of birds and the smell of something roasting. She’s died and gone to heaven, she thinks.
[DC3]Maybe predictions are inaccurate when not enough variables are taken into account. This could explain how in the beginning chapter, the future of her dinner is changed.
[DC4]Now he’s going to make me play with spiders, predict whether or not I’ll be bitten. Sure it’s a 50/50, but It’s safe to say the answer is 100% yes. I hate spiders. I’m sure they hate me too. It’s like a spider looks at a person and thinks, Dude, food for life.
[DC5]I think I need to rework this part.
[DC6]Okay. So here I’ve changed the future easily. I need to change this to, her realizing she needed to look further for variables. So she didn’t calculate correctly.
[DC7]Counter Prediction. This may negate what I said in that last comment. Think it through later.
[DC8]I need to mention this spider bite later.
[DC9]Probably doesn’t make sense.
“Serena, you need to get out of my face.” Jeremy puts up a hand. “Your eyes,” his voice is suddenly slow and deep, and for a moment I’m thinking he’s about to start a poem. “Are like the black, evil, omen eyes of the crow. Hideous and beastly.” His lips snarl to show his crooked teeth.
This most creative dis doesn’t bother me. I’ve been a product of the public school system forever now. I crane my head around his hand and stare wider. “CAW,” I squawk. The plan is to see if I can mess him up in our evening prediction exercise by infuriating him.
“You’re a freak,” he says.
With the whole wide world of comebacks to choose from, this is the best he’s got and I know my plan has worked. He’s clueless. I wait for the next set of commercials to come on.
Really, I’ll do anything to get my mind off the creepy feeling that has totally taken my appetite. Jeremy looks down at his notebook and scribbles. I pretend to be into the show on the television, but really I’m working the formulas. There will be a commercial in T-minus 10 seconds. I write down the restaurant it will advertise in my notebook and peek over at Jeremy’s. He holds it away, far over his shoulder. While he’s distracted, I write down what the commercial will be after the restaurant.
“After the restaurant commercial it’ll be a car ad,” I say, arching an eyebrow.
“Ugh!” He throws his head back. “Stop distracting me.”
“I’m just trying to help. You’re supposed to keep predicting even when you’re annoyed.” I laugh at him, not with him. “Wauh wauh. It’s okay to lose sometimes, I guess.”
He throws his paper down on the coffee table. “I’m going to bed. You’re lame.”
“Ouch! Wounded to the heart.” I like to think I’m mean to him so that he doesn’t have time to sit and think about sad stuff. I doubt he sees it that way at all.
He grabs his shoes from under the coffee table and exits stage left.
“Goodbye, Jeremy.” And it really feels like a goodbye, in a so long old pal, farewell, god speed, kind of way. And I don’t know why I dismiss him like this, but it feels appropriate.
I shut off the TV when he’s gone and let the place values and variables filter through my mind. After about an hour of this I’m still no closer to figuring out what horrible thing is about to happen and I give up.
Once in my room, I slide into my silky PJs and practically fall asleep as I fall face first on the comforter.
I wake, not to Jeremy’s voice, not to the smell of bacon, but to bright light shining through my eyelids, all deep red and veiny. I try to open them, but it’s so bright I can’t and they water. I don’t feel like I’ve been sleeping long either.
“Is someone there?” Like maybe grandfather is trying to play a joke on me, teach me a lesson with a million candle powered flashlight. Those should be illegal. I swipe out around me and feel empty air. I work on opening my eyes again. I can’t get enough variables to make any educated assumptions with them closed.
It takes about thirty blurry seconds, but when I do get them opened and focused, my room is lit up like noonday. I push open the curtains but don’t see much. The lawn is white down below, and I can’t see the sky, it’s so bright. But it’s enough to get me started: light, Granddad, middle of the God forsaken night, etc. and all I know is I have eighty-three seconds to get from my third story bedroom to the cellar. And I’ll only make it in one piece if I can avoid the danger on the way. What kind of danger is still a mystery. I’m not fully convinced this isn’t a drill. Or maybe I don’t want to believe otherwise.
That’s when the noise starts, an ear splitting screech like metal bending. It grows louder and I add it to the list of possible routes the future can take. Light, Drill, danger, Mom, Dad. The outcome isn’t good and my hands start to shake. This is fear I’m feeling. Not the fear I felt earlier when I thought I was going to fall off that cliff, but the kind of fear that means I’ll never be the same again. I do not like this result and I don’t want to deal with what the numbers say. I could be wrong, right?
No time to double-check.
I cover my ears. And elbow first, I push open the false wall that hides me from the rest of the house. I throw danger into the X position and follow it with the other variables I’ve been collecting.
My knees start to shake.
“Mom!” I can’t hear my own voice and I know she won’t answer anyway. I skip stairs as I fly down to the next floor. I’m hoping to see my family running around, Granddad telling me where I’ve gone wrong in these predictions. Maybe he’ll even be holding a stopwatch and a clipboard, totally ignoring that horrible cracking wood, bending metal sound. “Dad?”
At least now that I’m out of the attic I can tell that the noise was coming from just above me, the roof.
I head down the next flight of stairs to the kitchen. No family.
Wouldn’t it be nice if they are already in the storm cellar? Maybe they predicated this last night. It makes sense. It’s more logical than my house dismantling by a bright light.
Forty-five seconds to go.
Yet I only have two seconds before I’m beamed in the head by a dive bombing bowl of fruit and it’s not even funny.
I duck. A cantaloupe barely misses me and now I fully understand the danger I’m in. A speeding toaster grazes the top of my head, catches a strand of hair and plucks it out. Through squinted eyes, I watch it fly off behind me and see a swirling mass of other appliances, knives, and glassware gaining a gale force momentum.
The area rug under my feet starts to slide, taking me with it and I jump off as it catches air and joins the rest.
I know my seconds are counting down, but I’m frozen here watching my home come apart at the seams.
Wood panels are pulling away from the walls, revealing more blinding light from outside. Everything in the house heads to light when the walls disappear. I take a deep breath and hit the floor. I role over to see a ceiling fan pin wheeling just above me. I feel an urge to order it all back here this instant.
I search the variables for weather phenomenon. This is not a tornado, hurricane, or magnetic pole shift. This is the end.
Fifteen seconds. Control the fear.
I charge to the back of the house fighting the same force that’s grabbing everything else. My legs move in slow motion, quicksand has replaced my muscles. I have got to do this. I’ve been trained and it’s not like we haven’t practiced this kind of drill, the unexpected event emergency escape drill. The plan is simple. Get your butt to the bottom of the house. Close the storm door behind you. Grab nothing, worry about nothing. I try to let instinct take over.
I have five seconds. I will not make it. I will feel pain. It is now clear, by my most recent prediction, this could be death by umbrella. I look around for the object. I don’t see it. I almost call out for Mary Poppins.
The trap door to the storm cellar is just across the room, but I’m barely moving. I drop to my knees and yank each limb onward. My fingernails scratch into the hardwood until it too starts to lift away from me.
Negative one second. The umbrella comes at me like a missile. It’s not open like I expected. Its sharp metal tip hits me in the sternum and there’s a mix of stinging and burning that fully encompasses my entire torso. But, I’m not dead. It could have hit anywhere. Chaos isn’t always easy to predict.
My legs want to lift out from under me and I grab onto the trap door handle as tight as I can with one hand while the other is throwing back the bolt. I’ve made it this far and the relief is so intense that tears sting my eyes. Once it’s unlatched, the door flies off its hinges and the whole thing goes up, up and away into the white light.
I slither down head first into the rabbit hole. I have to use tree roots and my toes to pull and push myself along. I can twist my head around just enough to see that now the roof, third floor, second floor and even the ground floor are gone, swallowed up by the sky. There’s still a twirling mess of household goods out there and for a moment, as I get a glimpse of my black sweat shirt, I consider backing out to get it. This is not the right occasion for pink silk pajamas. “This sucks,” I shout just to hear my voice again.
As I get closer to the metal cage, I’m still not seeing any trace of the rest of my family. I’ve never wanted to be more wrong about a prediction. But I just don’t have enough of the equation to figure out what happened to them. I can only assume the light in the sky got them.
"Mom, Granddad, don’t leave me?” The tears don’t just sting my eyes they burn this time. They burn all the way down my cheeks.
Something crawls across my hand and I shake it off, hard. Even at world’s end I hate bugs, but at least it reminds me that I’m not fully safe yet.
I make it to the metal doors and the tunnel opens up. I get to my feet and feel for the latch. The light from above has skipped over this hole and I can no longer see a trace of it up there. For all I know it’s all dark and peaceful up there now. I don’t’ want to do any more predictions. I can handle no more bad news tonight.
I step inside and hear the door close and latch behind me.
I head toward the back of the room toward the lamp and trip over what is probably a jug of drinking water from the sloshy sound it makes. As I fall, I know that I am going to hit my head. I remember when I made jock-boy Bobby fall in class and I once again think this is going to hurt. No one is here to laugh at me though. And that's worse than the karmic retribution I'm receiving.
When skull and cement meet, I only have a moment to recognize that I will need stitches, I won't get them, and I'm going to lose consciousness. But first I feel warm wet blood tickling my cheek.
When I wake later, I am completely disoriented. I can't tell how much time has gone by. I'm still alone, I think.
My brain is pounding against my skull and I can't tell if I have a concussion or not, 50/50 monster strikes again. Whether I do or not, I have to just deal with it.
If nothing else the pain is keeping me from thinking about my missing family. I hurt too much to be crippled by depression. Always count the blessings.
I can't hear anything. I don't know if it's because the walls are too thick or if the catastrophe outside is over. I set my mind to thinking about what's going on. Maybe without all the racket I can take some better readings.
After a few minutes, I know only a few things. My family is gone and they aren't the only ones. I know that there is danger above ground. I know that it's going to rain today and the water will fill the tunnel entrance. I won't be able to push the door open because of the pressure and I will die slowly in this shelter that’s supposed protect me.
What more incentive do I need? I can't die, not without answers at least. I squirm my way to the back of the room and feel for the oil lamp. My head protests, but I don't have the luxury of whining about it.
I find it, pump the oil and strike the igniter. The room lights up in warm yellow and shadow. My head swims with the shock of light to my eyes and residual pain from the cut on my skull. The walls are lined with shelves. I grab a backpack loaded with nutrition bars, water, a slingshot, a neatly folded solar blanket, a flashlight, sealed matches, a switchblade, and a compass. I grab packets of dried fruit from another shelf and cram those in too. There are thick soled boots and socks on another shelf. I slide them on, lace them up and search for anything else I can carry.
It's weird that I have such a potent need to grab all the supplies, like I'm truly going to need them.
There is no other clothing here. I'm stuck with my tank top and pink pants. I can't believe we didn't think to put clothing in here. It just seems like the obvious thing to do. There is no one here for me to yell at, but it doesn’t keep me from being mad at my family for this over sight. And I can't quite explain just why it makes me so angry, so unprepared feeling. Is fashion really that important to me? No, I don't think that's it. I feel so out of sorts. I just can't predict the vastness of what's about to happen outside that door. I’m lacking variables.
I don't know if it is raining yet, so I go to the door and open it just slightly. This is totally against what we've practiced. My father says to stay back from the doors for at least forty-eight hours, just to keep from being fooled into a false sense of security[DC1] . But I have no idea how long I've been in this hole. I feel pretty rested,
I just want to feel the air from outside on my nose. It's cool and damp. I look to my feet. Water is creeping in on my boots.
I do some more calculations and know that this is the time to go if I want to stay mostly dry as I head up to the surface. I take one more quick look around for anything else to strike me.
The word slingshots, plural, fills my mouth. I'll need more of them. I open the other four backpacks and take them out. While slingshots are awesome weapons, they only seem to have a certain number of shots until they break. I'm pretty good at repairing them, but they're never as good. The realization slowing comes on me, I’ll need a weapon and I will be using it a lot. The idea kind of scares me. What am I going to have to shoot? I can’t fathom it.
I put the rest of the food supplies on the highest shelves, hoping I can come back later for more. I know I'm going to be hungry in the near future and food is going to be a very important thing to me. I'll have to learn fast on the surface. Learn what? I'm not positive, but it’s all about survival.
I pull the door the rest of the way open. Rain is coming down and into the room fast now. I close the door behind me and start crawling on my knees, upward. It hurts and I bump my head on the tunnel ceiling. The cut on my head starts to bleed again and I want to give up. It hits me that I may have changed [DC2] my future of dying in the dark storm shelter, but that was the easier way to go. The death that awaits me outside is going to be much worse.