Prompt #68: Hero, Pt 2

title

Warning: Contains some sensitive material.

thecenter2

Several days pass.

004
I find Ophelia sitting alone in the kitchen.

001

She looks tired.

Sickly, almost.

002

“You’re back.”

I must have looked at her strangely, because she sighed and shook her head.

003

“Not right now, Pas. I’m glad you’re back. We weren’t sure… but I’m just too tired right now.”


005

“We can’t keep wasting time. We have to go to the Center, and we have to go soon.”

None of us had ever been to the Center before. We’d never even left Building C.

006

Ophelia leans in closer to me.

“Are you sure, Pascal?” She whispers. “I need you to remember, if you can. You might have something there, if you look for it.”

008

What is she talking about?

We’ve never been out of Building C.

Why would we? Why would anyone ever want to leave Building C?

Everything is so easy in Building C.


“Pascal doesn’t remember.”

009

Ripp looks at me. He has his mother’s eyes.

It comes to me, an isolated blip of useless trivia. Ripp has his mother’s eyes.

But who is his mother? Is she here?

I can see her eyes, peering out of his face, but I can’t see her face, or remember her name.

010

“They used to call us to the Center every two weeks,” Ripp explains, and there is a peculiar, needy strain to it. “They haven’t called for us this time, though.”

011

“What did we used to do at the Center?”

Ripp and Ophelia both struggle to answer, but neither one can seem to remember what exactly was done at the Center — only that we had been there, perhaps, it seemed, more than once.

012

“How are we supposed to get there?” Ripp asks Ophelia, and his mother’s eyes are wide and feral. The thought of traveling to the Center seems to agitate him. I wonder why. “We’re locked in.”

“We’ll have to get unlocked in, then,” Ophelia responds patiently. “We are out of other choices.”

013

So it seems.

So it seems.


014

We poll the other residents of Building C.

Nobody has any good ideas or viable escape plans.

015

A girl lies on the couch, coughing and moaning. She looks so sad and frail and I feel like crying when I look at her.

Sometimes, she cries for her mother.

But her mother isn’t here.


016

A man who calls himself Lazlo, and who my notes indicate is somehow related to me, has had a revelation.

“It’s simple,” he says. “We break the window.”

018

“And then what?” Ripp asks, annoyed. “We’re all too big to fit through it.”

017

“But someone will come,” Lazlo says. “If we break the window, they’ll send someone down to check on us.”

“It’s worth a try,” Ophelia says.

019

We break the window easily with a chair. The glass, it seems, was an ordinary pane of glass. Interesting. Privately, so as not to discourage the others, I had been expecting something sturdier.

There are no alarms, no shouts or reprimands.

But there is a curious sound now, one that filters in from the outside, faint and frightening and mechanical. Rhythmic, almost.

020

Laughter.


We had been trapped inside of Building C, waiting for a guard or other official to come address the window situation, and listening to the strange, angry laughter.

Nobody had ventured any thoughts or theories on the laughter. Questions like, “Who?” and “Why?” are impossible to answer, so nobody bothers to ask. We simply accepted it as part of the landscape. Like the sand, or the razor fences, or the big, white building that only some of us could remember visiting.

Like the occasional scratching we’d hear at the outer door.

At this point, we just try to ignore it.


Today passed without incident, although I think perhaps we are being watched.

021

It is unknown at this time by whom.

022

But I am almost certainly correct.


Still no sign of life outside of Building C, and increasingly little inside of it.

023

Ripp, Ophelia and I hunkered down at the poker table, so thoroughly bored and hungry and desperate that even a game of cards seemed like a fantastic treat. A real get-away.

We were cutting the deck, idly discussing the rules as we had each been taught them, and listening to the constant, bitter laughter when suddenly…

It stopped.


025

The sick girl – Jill, they tell me – has become non-responsive.

028

Ripp stands at the broken window, the one that we were all too big to squeeze through (Note: Except, of course, for Jill, who was not in a position to volunteer) and pleads for someone to help her, but his cries go unanswered.

026

Lazlo and I move Jill back to the dormitory and place her on her bed. Her limbs have stiffened, as if though some peculiar kind of rigor has set in. Her breathing remains even in spite of the sweat beading on her face, and the redness of her cheeks.

It is very alarming, but there is nothing to be done.

027

Lazlo wants to say a prayer for her, but when I ask who we are to pray to, he doesn’t seem to know.


029

Jill is still breathing.

That is the only good news at the moment.


030

There is a young woman with blonde hair she weaves into two loose braids, and wide, innocent green eyes that make it hard to guess her age. At first I mistake her name for “Erin Honey,” because that is how everyone addresses her. I found it odd that they would use her name in its entirety, but no more so than anything else that had recently occurred.

031

Eventually, I discovered that it is “Erin, honey”, last name unknown, and that is how I address her when I find her staring blankly at the enormous fish tank. (Note: An odious stench has begun to emanate from the tank; most of the fish are dead and rotting; it occurs to me too late that they would have made a passable snack)

033

“Are you okay, Erin, honey?”

032

“I had a brother,” she says vaguely. “His name began with the letter L, but I don’t remember the rest.”

We watch the fish float by in the brackish water.

034

“I sort of remember his face. Parts of it. But only parts. We had the same hair color.”

I sense that a response is not required at this time, and allow her to continue, uninterrupted.

069

“Sometimes I dream about him. Sort of. I can’t really see him. He’s walking too far ahead for me to catch up, and there are so many people in the way. I try to call to him, but I can’t remember his name.”

035

She looks at me, then, and her eyes are wet with tears.

“Why can’t I remember?”


036

Kristen (female, approx. 24 y/o. Brown hair, brown eyes) is in the exercise room.

She is not exercising, though.

037

“Looks like my kind of program,” Ripp says.

038

Kristen smiles without looking at us. Her eyes are vacant. They make me think of the empty stare of baby dolls. The kinds with the clicking eyelids and thick lashes.

“We are going to die in here,” she says.

039

“Well, that’s a positive outlook,” Ripp mutters to me. I can’t help but notice that he doesn’t try to argue or deny it.

“Cheers,” I reply, dryly.

040

Finally, as if though noticing for the first time that she was no longer alone, she looks at us, and her mouth peels back into a hideous grin.

“I’m gonna lead the parade,” she says, and Ripp and I quietly retreat.


I am sorry.

So terribly, terribly sorry.


043

Whenever the light shines
And the stillness is shaken

047

And the drug of your smile has gone
And left me alone

044

I need it bad
I need it now

045

Won’t you come and give me some?

063

I need it, sweet baby, please

046Won’t you answer the phone?

042

Step into the light, baby
Just give me the word and I will begin

048

Step into the light, baby
And see the trouble I’m in

049

The light has gone
My love has gone

050

And the good times have gone
Away

051

I have to ask, I need to know
Was it ever love?

052

I need it sweet, baby please
Won’t you come and give me some?

064

Step into the light, baby
Just give me the word and I will begin

065
Step into the light, baby
And see the trouble I’m in


053

The still desert silence has been broken by the steady rumble of thunder.

No rain, just thunder.

There is something fitting about this development.

But it makes my chest hurt, nonetheless.


054

A woman (blonde, approx. 41 y/o, covered in soot and dirt and other interesting stains) appeared at the broken window.

“Be quiet,” she said. Her command was obeyed largely, I suspect, because her mere presence had rendered us all stunned into silence. “They’re sleeping right now, so for the love of God, be quiet.”

Then, she disappears.

A second later, there is a metallic groan, and the door creaks open.

061

“Anyone healthy enough to follow me must do so now.”


055

Outside of Building C, the thunder rumbles menacingly. I am not one to fear the weather, but something about this particular storm makes me uneasy.

057

“Who are you?” Ophelia asks the woman who has seamlessly inserted herself into the role of our leader.

056

The woman doesn’t answer at first, and nobody pursues the matter.

She is our savior. For now, that is enough.

062

“My name is Lyla,” she says after some time. “I’d tell you more, but I don’t remember much, and I don’t trust what I do.”

Lyla.

070

Something like Ophelia’s snapshots occurs then, although I’m not sure what to make of it.

But that name is important.

058

“Where are you taking us, Lyla?” My head turns to the sound of Ripp’s voice. He more than any of us is suspicious of her.

059

He came mostly because Ophelia did. Erin stayed behind with Jill, and… the others.

060

“To the Center,” Lyla says simply, and we all go quiet.


066

The Center is unlocked.

I should be thankful, but it makes me nervous.

Those doors should not be unlocked.

067

“You’re in for a world of ‘should-not-be,’ pal,” Lyla says.

Shameful. I didn’t realize I’d spoken aloud.

068

She holds the door open for us, and one-by-one, we file into The Center.


Special Thanks:

strangetomato for Lyla Grunt.

“Step Into the Light” – nearly

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