Just seconds after I started to lose hope, Adam yelled out and swung the ball of his foot into a forceful kick in the shin of a nearby officer. I had looked back up in shock. The first officer yelled out at Adam and approached him warily. Adam then got up and eluded all the officers violently. He was closest to the door now and held it open, staring at me with puffy eyes as I continued to walk slowly. The first and untouched officer reached for something in their police duty belts. Adam spun around defensively and grabbed the back of their heads and knocked their foreheads together hard as he yelled out angrily, and both officers made a noise as the second officer quickly recovered from his evidently paining shin. Adam then grabbed the first officer’s shoulders and kneed him forcefully in the gut multiple times, followed by punching him in the face repeatedly. The third officer staggered out of the room, holding his head. Impulsively, I looked away as the officer passed. By this time, I was too far passed the cubicle anyway to see what Adam was up to.
“Stay down!” I heard an officer from inside the cubicle shout out.
“Restrain me!” Adam yelled tauntingly after a few seconds.
“Yup, we just might,” the officer said sourly.
The warlords didn’t seem to care about the action my brother got himself into. But that brief moment of weakness quickly disappeared as a flow of adrenaline coursed through my veins in replacement. I felt nervous…scared that this might’ve been the end. But then my plan resurfaced in my head. It was worth a try…
Julie had gotten up and was staring down disconcertedly at her lax body lying on the couch.
“You’re still beautiful,” the masked man standing next to her said, sounding muffled.
Julie jerked the second his deadened voice began to push through the silence. She looked up at his masked face. Terror filled her eyes as she trembled all over. She looked down at her naked body again and her trembling arms slowly rose to her chest and crossed themselves tightly. Still looking downward, she then hesitantly walked past the masked man standing there. She walked in the direction of where the front door used to be. He turned and watched her, seeming to allow her desired escape. To Julie, looking down and away from her captors was a supposed guarantee of successful escape; she couldn’t see them, so they couldn’t (or didn’t) see her.
“No, no,” the old man said, still smirking.
Julie stopped walking but didn’t look up. She still trembled as tears begged to well up in her soft eyes.
“See, my dear,” he continued while ambling for her, “This is why we chose you.” Julie listened to the heavy stomping of his boots as he slowly approached, wishing she was out of her residence now more than ever. “You are stubborn. You are persistent. They’re the exact qualities we look for in Chava. You have something special, Julie. Although…you are weak. You are hopeless. You are to blame for all of your encountered misfortunes. And still,” – he reached her now and gently lifted her chin. Her misty eyes watched him fiercely. – “The potential of greatness; a new beginning, is hidden under all of that.” – He let go of her head and let it fall heavy. He turned around. – “But I see it.” He looked back at Julie over his shoulder and then turned back.
“You are to blame for all of your encountered misfortunes,” echoed in Julie’s head. She questioned its inaccuracy. Maybe what the old man said was true.
I suddenly flipped around to my left and kept spinning around until I got behind the warlord who had been holding onto me. I pushed him as I grunted. As he and the surrounding warlords realized what just happened, I used that moment to run back to Adam’s cubicle. Undoubtedly, they were right behind me with their guns at the ready. I saw Adam standing closest to the door as the second officer stood feet away from him. I almost touched Adam’s shoulder and he spun around stiffly. I looked up at him and he was tense and breathing heavily.
“It’s OK, Adam,” I assured him softly.
He started to choke on every breath as though nearing a cry. His arms swung inward and I knew he intended to hug me, but his arms went through me.
“What the fuck?” he snapped, stepping back.
I couldn’t look straight at him, but I could feel him staring at me. He probably held a crease between his eyebrows.
“Julie,” a familiar hoarse voice said from behind me.
I shuddered at the sound of it. Finally, I looked up into my brother’s eyes. They had been staring down at me. He looked terrified of me.
“What are you?” Julie asked, her quavering voice slicing through the sudden silence like a blade. She was referring to all of the men in her apartment as a whole.
The old man turned back around. “Warlord,” he said thickly as a row of rotting teeth revealed themselves.
“Adam, please,” I began in a soft voice, and I didn’t notice the apprehension it was filled with until the words settled in the air.
Adam started to walk back slowly, clenching the hair at the sides of his head as short exhales of shallow breath left his gaping mouth and he slowly shook his head. The police officer there looked back at Adam as he slowly passed and then through me and the men behind me, perplexed.
“Run,” I said stiffly, staring at Adam, sure that apprehension had now found its way onto my face.
His back hit the far wall and he kept his body as close to it as possible.
“Julie, come with us,” the same familiar voice said simply.
Seconds passed, and then there was a gun shot. I shouted out abruptly as a bullet exploded into the wall next to Adam and he and the officer dropped to the cold floor. I turned back at the warlords as more bullets flew passed me, and then I looked back at Adam. He was curled up on the ground, protecting his head, and staying as still as a rock. I had to help him. My plan was still in the process. I walked over to my brother with my subconscious sure that bullets would continue to dodge me. And even if they didn’t, I would heal quickly. A part of me remained cautious though, afraid of the potential pain.
The woman from earlier stumbled into the apartment. She had a man with her.
“I’m a doctor,” he declared, rushing passed her frenetically.
The old man turned around and all of the masked men held their guns up at them both as they approached the lifeless Julie on the couch.
The doctor knelt down next to the couch as the woman stood next to the Julie she couldn’t see, holding her hand up by her mouth. Julie examined the worry and sympathy in the woman’s face. She then looked down at her original body awkwardly. The doctor held his index and middle finger to its neck and then put his ear to her chest. Julie looked uncomfortable.
“Fools,” the old man said, staring down at the doctor.
Julie’s eyes shot up to the movement she had noticed in her peripheral vision by the dining table. Rolo had picked up his stun grenade from the tabletop.
I knelt down next to Adam, and wanted to touch him; show him I haven’t left him; assure him comfort.
“Adam,” I said loudly, over the sounds of exploding bullets and crumbling cement and debris.
He wouldn’t move.
“We have to get out of here, please. It’s still me. I’m not here to hurt you, Adam –”
“Fuck you,” I heard him interject, muffled.
I hated the sound of it, but somehow, it made me want this even more now. Just then, the bullets stopped. I looked up at the masked men as they seemed to lose much energy suddenly and some of them dropped their guns. Police men ran through them. The officer curled up on the floor slowly uncurled. An officer knelt down to him as the rest ran over to Adam. They picked him up off the floor and my heart dropped. I stood up with him, frantically searching for the way this was going to work out.
Then, it struck me.
I ran toward the warlords and picked up a gun that had been dropped. As the warlords seemed to be regaining their sense of reality, I aimed the gun up at the police officers holding Adam. Adam looked up at me, his eyes stricken with fear and incredulousness.
“No!” he shouted out, and of course, the officers paid no mind to him.
My eyes shut painfully tight as I mustered up the courage and pulled the trigger. An officer dropped to the floor and the surrounding officers were shocked. I continued to shoot and this allowed Adam to run…finally. I dropped the gun, completely ashamed of what I had just done and stared down at the bleeding officers on the floor. I turned around as the masked men picked up their guns and aimed them at me. The old man began to clap slowly and repetitively. It only made what I just did feel worse. I cringed at every clap. It was then that I realized that Adam wasn’t in the room anymore. But I couldn’t see through the men to see him.
“Didn’t know you had it in you,” the old man roared.
“I don’t,” I said hesitantly, in a soft tone.
I stepped over the gun and walked alongside the old man. Once out of the cubicle, I spotted Adam. His back was up against a wall and his hands were hiding his crotch. He turned his head against the wall and watched me walk away. He was breathing heavily and glistening with sweat. I supposed that now that he was so close to freedom he didn’t know what to do with the opportunity. I looked up at the old man as we walked and then back at Adam. I stomped on the old man’s boot and he stopped walking. Regardless of if that hurt him or not, I ran. I ran to Adam. As I ran, bullets passed me again. As one blew up in my arm, I cried out. Adam shouted out with me, looking horrified.
“We have to leave this place,” I told him lackadaisically.
Adam reluctantly tried to help me, but he couldn’t physically touch me. I looked up at him and hated seeing the pain and frustration in him. I then quickly regained enough strength to proceed.
“Follow me,” I told him, and then ran in the opposite direction of the warlords while weakly holding my bloody arm.
Adam followed me. We ran aimlessly as I tried to find an exit.
Julie watched Rolo carefully as he approached her. He placed a hand on the old man and he turned his head slightly to allow Rolo to whisper into his ear. Suddenly, the old man wrapped an arm around Julie and jogged with her to the narrow entrance hall leading to where the front door used to be. On their way, Julie looked back and there was a deafening -BANG-. She couldn’t see anything. Tinnitus overwhelmed her as she flew into the hallway. Black smoke burst into the hallway and she coughed within it. She managed to crawl but soon lost all sense of balance and fell flat on her front.
After a few long minutes, the fire sprinklers in the building discharged. People started to come out of their homes and evacuate the premises. She looked up and barely saw the blurred hazy images of people, but could clearly see that they didn’t see her. She grabbed onto the nearby wall and slowly got herself to her feet. A fire alarm sounded and she was suddenly overwhelmed and looked even more disoriented than earlier as she staggered in the opposite direction of her home. Once she got to the end of the hall, she spun around and her darkened hair clung to her face and neck. Through the displacing people and thinning fume, she could vaguely see the old man looking at her from the doorway of her one bedroom apartment. As water showered over them, Julie examined the disappointment in the old man’s face for a minute. Reluctantly, she turned back and disappeared around a corner.
It wasn’t long that police officers and the shooting warlords were after Adam and I. Adam had run ahead of me a little and was panting, and I knew he didn’t know where we were going. I was just so close to getting us both free…I could feel it. Just then, as officers fell from the bullets I knew they probably couldn’t see, a few of the lucky officers passed through me and got to Adam. I winced and made a noise as I fell to my knees. I had to hold the floor so I wouldn’t fall forward. My free hand flew to my paining belly. I had blood on my legs…on my arm…and now, the blood from the wound on my arm streaked down to my hand and over my fingers. It begged to coat my belly. The pain in it was growing and I groaned through clenched teeth.
“Julie!” I heard my brother cry out.
I looked up at him with utter anguish as the bullets stopped flying. The surviving officers were restraining Adam and yelling at him. He tried to fight back.
“We can help you,” a familiarly rough voice emerged from behind me.
I wouldn’t turn around. I was suddenly scooped up into the arms of a masked man. He cupped me like my dad used to when I was a little girl, with the crooks of my legs in one arm and my upper back in the other. I looked at him, shaking uncontrollably. The old man walked in front of him and looked at me.
“We understand you’re in pain, because of your baby, and we can help you feel better,” he told me softly.
I looked at my brother, who was on the ground, struggling underneath a few officers.
“You are to blame for all of your encountered misfortunes. And still,” – he reached her [Julie] now and gently lifted her chin. Her misty eyes watched him fiercely. – “The potential of greatness; a new beginning, is hidden under all of that.”
I took the old man’s word for it. I looked back at Adam one last time.
“Adam,” I called to him, trying to get down.
The masked man let me down and I stood weakly. Adam looked over at me with a cocked head and red puffy eyes as the officers lifted him to his feet.
“I’ll come back for you, I promise,” I told him, watching him sadly.
He didn’t say anything and just looked at me like I was out of my mind for saying that as the officers took him away. I looked down and took a deep breath, wanting to feel ashamed and hopeless, but I surpassed it. I was going to come back for him…I had to. The masked man who had scooped me up before tried to again.
“Uh-uh,” I expressed, holding my hand up in his face as I turned to him.
Outside, the wind blew my hair in front of my face, forcing me to bring it behind my ear. I couldn’t help but wriggle my toes between the blades of a fresh patch of grass under my feet, as I looked up at the even hue of blue cloudless sky. The old man walked up beside me.
“I think it’s fair that you know what will happen after you give birth, and you will give birth” he told me, and I looked at him instantaneously while he watched the sky, suddenly scared…and angry, “Everyone on Earth will die.”