Two Witnesses at Eschaton

Chapter 1: Arziki

It finally happened. After years of blood and strife, on December 25, 2154, America finally lost World War III. Being the last standing country in the allied powers, its surrender to the Neo-Union was as pitiful as the cries of its fallen allies who watched and heard it happen. Several kinds of civilians lived in times such as these. Many were children younger than me. I know this because of how often the refugees would swarm my house for food, which I was excited to share. They were always adorable, yet much quieter than children should be. At least a lot quieter than I was. By this day of exaltation, my country had long since been a refuge for the surrounding losing countries. Then, as if a calling from Phobetor, my home would be taken not only from me but from the shrinking land of Saudi-Arabia as property of the Neo-Union. With our borders constantly shrinking due to soldiers closing in, the last announcement regarding the end of the war seemed as though it would have the least effect on the ruins of what used to be Jeddah. Everyone else was too busy to even notice that the most populated country had quickly fallen into disarray. After all, even if we were just as affected by the war, we were neutral.

As time passed, I found that the passionate and warm are the sort of people to start things but not finish them. War is no exception. Our borders were occupied until the Neo-Union of China, Korea, Russia, and the megastate of Iran and formerly conquered Iraq gained legal rights to the land they had already won. The only divisor between us civilians and the army were the cheap wooden fences that had been staked into the ground. At least, that's my understanding of why they were camped close enough for people to throw tomatoes at them over our wire fences. Not that I would ever taunt them back, of course—I'd be asking for trouble! At fourteen I have to admit I didn't have the most mature grasp on politics. 

What I did know was that soon, the Neo-Union would have access to every part of the land which is still habitable.It would undoubtedly happen, but only after all of our allies had fallen. Televisions on the lawns of burned and damaged homes were swarmed with enough people for me to understand what was going on without having to step foot off my front yard. If I stood upright on my toes, I could sneak a peek at my neighbors' television screen which sat on a crate in their yard. I recognized the Iranian government official, whose terrifying stare radiated through the screen.

"This is the Arabic broadcast of the victory of the Neo-Union of China, Korea, and Russia, and the Iranian-Iraqi powers. The world has fallen to a new world order, one where there is no pain because there is no feeling. There are no tears because without the eyes of the blind there is no fear of the dark. At 11:46 on Christmas day, we took America by force. Now, we will turn to Saudi-Arabia and claim it too as part of our new world. Do not fear. Do not panic. Do not resist. Anyone unwilling to comply will be neutralized." After the message ended, panic alarms rang across the city. Voices grew louder as the sounds of cleats rushed across the streets. People were desperate for weapons. Those who weren’t on foot were on the military vehicles which were stationed across the city. I was oblivious to the surrounding chaos, entranced by the death sentence I had been witness to.

At first, I assumed I misheard the man on the screen. I tend to do that a lot, both as a result of a minor hearing issue and as a result of a severe lack of focus. I told myself that this isn't the way it's supposed to turn out. Certainly, I had misheard him, or else that would mean there would be no one left standing to cheer on.  My neighbors pulled me in magnetically. It was to the point where any other sounds slipped through one ear and out the other—metaphorically speaking. My large shayla veiled me, wrapping around me several times before draping over the front. It covered my deformed ear. Only a moment after I moved in for a better angle did I find myself being pulled back by my collar. When I looked up, I locked eyes with one of my three older half-brothers.

"You should get to the panic room before they come." His posture was unusually authoritative, which signaled to me that he was preparing himself for the coming threat of dozens of soldiers from the Iranian-Iraqi powers of the Neo-Union. The soldiers and civilians had been taunting each other at the borders for months by this point. If my brother hadn't slipped me a reason to believe the fear he felt so severely, I would have thought him to be in denial. I looked past him to peer at our two older brothers who exited the front door with guns in their hands identical to that of the one in front of me. He mistook my hesitancy as defiance and restated his instruction. 

"It isn't a s-suggestion, it's an order," he repeated with a stutter. "We have no more than two minutes before the borders come down." That was two minutes left of freedom.

"You could come with me if you want," I suggested. "I know it's a little small, but I'd make room for you."

"Dad didn't build it for war, he built it for you," the brother snapped. "There wouldn't be room for me. Go down there alone, and don't come up for days. We don't know what this will look like, but it will get worse if you show yourself to anyone. You know how bad it will get. We can't protect you." After contemplating his crucial choice of words, I took it upon myself to survey the crowds of civilians assembling to defend their homes. Tanks crafted from old cars rose over the hilly roads and held many men and women. One of the eyes locked glances with me only for a brief moment, but it sent jolts of panic up my spine which quickly accumulated into paranoia. It felt as though every barrel insight was pointed at me. Soon, all three of my brothers shared the same condescending eyes which I have grown to know so well. There was no longer a need to carry on a conversation about taking chances which could minimize the effectiveness of the bunker. 

I obediently dashed to the house, not looking back before locking myself inside my damaged home. The antagonistic aura quickly faded once I was alone. The house itself was not as severely damaged as the surrounding neighbor houses, but the lifelessness inside of it marked it as the epitome of destruction. On the outside, there was at least graffiti to bring color to the home. On the inside, everything had begun to gray. It was highly unlikely my home would be restored with half the livability it once had. At the back of the basement stairs, there was a rugged and faded carpet draped over a door. The small square door opened to a set of stairs that led to the true bottom of the house. The panic room.

When I reached the room, I entered the code on the padlock. Then, I took the lantern from the shelf and slammed the door shut with my back. Once the light flickered, my back slid against the icy door behind me. My family wasn't any wealthier than anyone else's, and we certainly knew how to divide our expenses. There was just a stronger need for privacy in our house than in anyone else's, and my family would never let me forget why. The truth was behind the words of my brothers and the way they look at me with such contempt. It comes from an entire family history's worth of curses and acts of vile hatred which accumulated into one generation. However, that wasn't what was plaguing my mind. My country was not my own anymore, and instead, it existed only as a property of the Iranian-Iraqi powers. It was not my home, for there would be no home to go back to, no matter how far my mind tried to run from the inevitable takeover which continued upstairs.

After that, I fell asleep for an unknown amount of time, albeit unintentionally. It wasn't that I was relaxed about my country being overtaken! I was merely emotionally exhausted and there wasn't much else to do in that room but nap. When I woke up, I immediately noticed something was different about my surroundings even before my eyes blinked open.

"Are you waking up?" a chipper voice asked in English.

I expected to be awoken by two sets of hands shoving me around, not one gentle set lightly slapping my cheek. I brought my hand up to scan the source of unfamiliarity. Then I sat up, opening my eyes abruptly to find myself sitting on the lap of a boy no older than six. He seemed the sweetest little thing and gave me an expression mixed with relief and eagerness. Wherever the two of us were, it was far from home. Nothing within eyesight was familiar except for the clothes on my back. The only things discernable were the little boy, the nameless faces behind us both, and the train we all were piled inside of.

My head swished in a panic to the window on my left. All of my inquiries were resolved by rough railroads and a scene identical to that of an abandoned refugee camp I had seen a dozen times over in the news. Al-Obailah was a small village that underwent extreme industrial development a mere two decades before the start of the war. It catered to groups of travelers and families of tribesmen who had roamed the captivating Rub al-Khali desert for years. A few months into the war, it had become a decaying battle site. Our resources used to defend ourselves from invaders were hidden under that city. By the end of the first year, the ground was coated in white ash from the concrete which fell from the buildings. its people renamed it Dearthville, combining the English suffix "dearth-", meaning missing, and the french prefix "-ville", meaning town or city, to describe their city which had been lost to the war. The taller structures appeared as if they were beginning to sink into the tan sand that engulfed the area. It was as if the world were gradually being engulfed by the residue.

Not everywhere was covered with ruin. While minor atomic weapons were still utilized throughout the war, the level of threat that came with breaking mutually assured destruction was shown to be much lower than it would have been a century before the war.  By the year 2099, there was already a significant shortage of Uranium, becoming so much an issue that several countries were dismantling large nuclear weapons to conserve the element. This made the next great war much longer and more drawn-out than expected. There were millions of casualties, but not enough to completely eradicate all traces of human civilization—especially because of each country's reluctance to waste the last of their precious element. The strongest countries lasted until their honorable ends, and the fallen countries across the maps still held onto the visible traces of the legends they left. Dearthville was similar to Jeddah in that way, but Jeddah was even mightier. I watched my city maintain its history of a bright culture and prosperous lifestyle, even as more land was lost to the enemy. That vitality was something Dearthville hadn't left behind.  

"How did I get here?" I asked. The boy's eyebrows raised skeptically.

"I don't know." He pursed his lips solemnly. I realized his young age might make him an unreliable source of information. Although, despite his small stature, he already seemed much more mature than most children his age.

"That's fine." I turned to face him. "What's your name, little guy?"

"T. M. Nye Pillai. My village is Thayanur and my dad is Mahesh Pillai. I am six years old," he stated while holding up seven fingers to himself. I smiled at him, but I knew I definitely wouldn't be able to remember such a complicated naming system. I continued to nod to his rehearsed introduction. Only such a genuine attempt at making a friend could be found in someone six years old. "I live with my two brothers, my mom, and my dad. Right now, I am on a train and I do not know where we are going. I have been here for. . ." His deep brown eyes danced over to the window behind me. As he attempted to make sense of the flashing instances of sunlight, his face morphed into one of confusion and contempt. "I don't know."

The retro train was lined with dark leather benches facing inward. In the aisle were dozens of people from many different places and cultures, but most were some variation of Arab, like myself. Everyone but the two of us was in a state of deep unconsciousness. Strangest of all, several people were bound to one another with rope as if they had lost a fight and were captured. I wondered why I woke up so easily if all of us were drugged. Then it hit me. I fell asleep. If they were using gas, they wouldn't need as much for me. Stupid, stupid, stupid! I repeatedly smacked my head with the ball of my palm to punish myself for succumbing to emotional exhaustion. Nye was most likely another token case who didn't require an abundant use of sleeping gas. Once my forehead was nice and irritated, I shifted my attention over to the only other person looking at me. 

Nye looked to me for comfort and reassurance. Before that moment, no one had trusted me so entirely. Until that moment, I thought I was someone completely devoid of all amenity, and I never wanted to go back to feeling that way. Sure--I might have been the least qualified person to play the hero, but the desperation to be good in someone’s eyes was eating away at me. So, I did the only thing I could do. I became the person he needed me to be.

"Well, we won't be here too long, Nye. We're leaving right now."

"Hey," Nye asked. "How did I get here?" Shocked by the immersive feeling of déjà vu, I stumbled over a stranger's ankle before instinctively putting my hand out on the bench for balance. With such minimal room to move in, I found myself gripping the outer cloth of a sleeping body instead. The man sprawled across the bench was unresponsive to my touch, which only sped up my already increasing palpitations. The initial shock led me to ignore how ill I felt. Whatever had been used to keep me sleeping was wearing off too slowly for me to hold my head up straight. "Are you okay?" Nye asked. "You look like you're going to throw up."

"Well if you do, please move," a harsh male voice snapped. What startled me was the body of the person I had just tripped over. It was only to be expected that tripping over someone would wake them up. "I've been making some noise trying to get up, but you haven't noticed me. My blindness defeats the purpose of me opening my eyes, which may make it look like I'm sleeping. So, where am I?" he asked, flipping around. Before Nye could tell him to open his eyes, the teenager's hands shot out to his side. "Where is my cane? And are these. . .'' his hands lifted as soon as he touched the near-comatose bodies. "Am I surrounded by dead bodies? What is this? This is so gross—"

"I think we're part of the raid on citizens of Jeddah. Since human trafficking is common there, everyone under the Neo-Union probably took advantage of the borders coming down." He snapped his head toward my direction.

"Well I don't belong here, I'm from Venezuela!" Despite his claim to be from the South American country, his appearance was European and his accent was American. When he stood up, I noticed he seemed to be about my age. His eyelids remained shut from what seemed to be severe underuse of the muscles, and his hair was blonde. It was feathery and fell a bit past his chin, but he roughly tucked it behind his ears when a few pieces got in his mouth. His outfit matched the cool weather brought by the nuclear winter which had been slowly spreading from the northeast.

He adorned a worn, striped wool poncho over a blue hoodie. Over his sleeves were tactical gloves which could have either been used for work or solely to keep warm. A dirty yellow bandana was tied around his left belt loop, and attached to his right belt loop was a dusty water bottle holder which contained a half-finished orange energy drink. His boots were tightly laced up to his shin, and the laces themselves were tucked away. The stranger rolled his eyes under his eyelids at my awkward silence. "Alright, alright, not really. I was staying with a foster family and I've been traveling for a while. My name is Gray. Gray Halseth. So, is this a train of slaves? You said we're in, um. . ." He waved his hand as if it would accelerate his ability to remember the foreign city. "Jeddah, is that right? Where is that?"

I hesitated for a bit before stuttering out our location, a slight lisp from the minuscule gap between my two front teeth making itself apparent in my stutter. "S-Saudi Arabia."

"You're kidding me! That's it, I'm leaving. You said you're getting out of here, right? Were you actually serious about that?" The tone in his voice implied he found my determination ridiculous--maybe even fake. My confidence might have been fake, but I would do anything to earn the title of a morally good individual. I nodded at Gray before realizing he couldn’t see me.

"Oh, y-yes!"

"Then kid," he said while shifting his attention to Nye, "how many carts are behind us?"

"Some," he said. "There were some."

"Some as compared to what?"

"A lot."

"How much is a lot?" I asked, eager to push him further.

"I don't know, how old are you?"

"How old am I?" I asked rhetorically. "Fourteen. Fourteen and a half. I'm almost 15." Sure, I may have stretched the truth a bit, but cross my heart, I was honest about being 14 and a half! A day before it might have been a fib, but it was my half birthday that day which means I got a bit older. Gray exhaled in a salty scoff.

"Oh. I didn't think you were that old. . ." Nye mumbled while holding a thumb to his chin. He looked puzzled. "I was going to say it was a little number, so maybe around how old you were, but now I don't know. Maybe, um. . ." He tried counting on his fingers before his face reddened with embarrassment. The sun peeped through the windows in flickers that blinded us, and Nye turned to the left to see the broken windows of sunken buildings. Ashen rubble paved walks once filled with dancing and singing.

"I'm going to go look outside to see how many cars there are." Nye nodded in response, and I let go to move to the window, kneeling on the bench around the sleeping slaves. I was able to peep through the window after sliding it down, but the wind forced me to squint at the wild sand before seeing several cars behind me. The carts seen through the malicious blur were more than far off, and the dusty wind burning my eyes didn't help any. Still, I only stuck my head further out the window and held my eyes open, examining the ones I could see. Inside my head, I took to fixating on the cars to come up with a plan for us.

There are thirteen cars in total. It looks like after every third passenger car is a caboose that connects to the next set of cars. The next caboose available to infiltrate is two from our left because the one on our right is bolted, I observed. If we were to reach the caboose, we could detach the cars breaking the train in two to slow ourselves down as opposed to jumping out the window right away since we're most likely going over 60 kph, and Nye's bones are fragile because of his age. The carts next to us are harder to see, so we won't be able to tell which side is the caboose until we go ahead and – lost in plans, my head turned to the left before I was smacked in the face by a sign that spun on a rusty pole.

"Ow-kay, okay, ow." I felt the blood rush to my short aquiline nose, warm and tingling. My face scrunched up as I cupped my nose before pulling my hands away. Nye was visibly worried about me, so I wiped my bloody nose and waved it off.

"I'm fine!"

"You just got hit by a sign, I heard you," Gray interjected. "This doesn't make me feel very safe about following you."

"I'm totally fine!" Although that was a truth overall, I was aware I at least had a fracture. Oh dear, I suppose that's what I get for running into things headfirst. 

"Didn't you hear me tell you to watch out?" Nye noted, visibly unimpressed.

"You were standing on my left, and to be frank, I'm wearing a—Smack. I had to bite my lip and slap my mouth before saying anything that might make Nye hesitant to follow me. Several strands of parted curls draped over a protective phantom mask. It was built to be as strong as bone, so no shards fell off to draw attention to it. Nye didn't notice, thankfully. It stretches around my ear, which is heavily muffled even without the mask on. If I gave Nye any reason to believe I was incompetent at leading him and Gray, neither one would follow me. My breaths halted before I swallowed and faced Gray. "I've got it under control."

"Oh, I bet you do," Gray snapped at me. I shook my head and directed him upward and through the sea of bodies. Some of their eyes were open but glazed over. The eeriness of the bodies made Nye hesitate.

"Don't look at them," I insisted. "We'll go right."

I grabbed Nye before putting my hand on the door. When his big, glossy eyes locked onto me with a heavy stare, I hesitated. The door locked from the outside, and when I turned around, I found the knob on the other side of the passenger car to be identical. Then, I clenched my eyes shut and desperately reached down into the parts of myself I hate the most to find whatever could be of use. I reached for the black cat inside me. For the first time in my life praying for its bad luck to spread. 

I didn’t explain anything to Nye. No amount of explaining ever helped the fact I was born with demonic, paranormal abilities which juxtaposed everything I stood for. It was not a gift. It was a curse. It was if I was the 'chosen one' but from the devil's choosing, not some benevolent prophecy. That’s why my family hated me. They were afraid of me. That’s why they called me a witch. I acted like one. That’s why I was so willing to indulge my savior complex through what some may have called a suicide mission. My hand stiffened, and I narrowed my eyebrows in resolve. Then, I heated my hand until it glowed a bold blood-red and immediately pushed through the steel door, melting the dense material. I could always generate heat from nothing. It was like a fire which started from my heart and ended at my fingertips. I had no time to be surprised by my success at melting steel. 

"What are you doing?" Nye shrieked. Gray frowned, lowering his head in concern.

"Why do I smell smoke? Is there a fire?" The distrust in their voices choked me with anxiety. All I could do was ignore their concerns. Small cries escaped my throat as I fumbled around for the lock on the outside of the train. My hand soon numbed from the speed of the surrounding wind, but I felt enough to recognize when my fingers reached the coldness of the handle. With one push downward, there was a loud click and the door flew open. It banged loudly against the railings and struck fear into Nye, who turned to hug Gray. I turned to them with what I imagine was a visibly strained expression. Neither one of them moved, as Gray was waiting for Nye who was questioning his loyalty to me. The intense winds blew my hood down to fully reveal my mask, and I could tell he saw the hint of disfigured skin which covered my eye.

Nye gripped the railing and I turned to the door of the second car. I pulled back, putting one foot on the latch between the two cars before putting my weight on the door. With one push of vigor, the door sprang open. I picked up Nye and threw him inside before abruptly turning to Gray. I couldn't stand the thought of acknowledging Nye's fear of me. When I guided Gray across the divide between the cars, I was careful not to grip him with my boiling wet hands. He flashed an expression of mild confusion as the fumes began to reach him, but in the end, said nothing. When he felt Nye tug on his sleeve, I slammed the door shut behind me and locked it.  

"Is that you there, Jamie?" Gray asked. Confused as to who that was, I turned around to find whoever Gray was speaking to. That gave me enough time to see the scar on the mysterious older teen's neck. Gray leaned in to whisper in my ear, but he was barely audible to me as my attention remained absorbed by the scar. "I don't know him, do I? I bet he's a soldier."

"No, I don't think so," I answered, not facing him. Above the mysterious young man's olive skin sat a clear "Ω" mark on raised scar tissue. It was stark white and spread across three centimeters, standing out against the skin which appeared closer to a sickly gray than its natural color. So, he can do what I can do, I realized. He can understand me. My hand grazed over the back of my neck. As I lit up with unsettling genuineness given the situation at hand, my fingers continuously traced over the "A" mark on my skin. He looked to be about 20 centimeters taller than me and appeared out of place. Even so, he sported a travel backpack, which told me he was prepared for whatever traveling he was taking part in. I opened my mouth to speak before being shut down.  

"You're not supposed to be here—

"What's your name? I'm Arziki, but people usually shorten it to Arzie since it's a bit long," I clumsily interjected, stumbling over my own words. Although I was elated to meet him, my giddiness was also partially due to the anxiety at his standoffish demeanor. Meeting the mystery man was such a thrill of excitement, especially when I noticed his strange lack of reaction to the steam emanating from my hand. It was as if he had seen such strange abilities so often that I didn't faze him at all.

"Name?" He blinked slowly. "I'm referred to as Intelligence Specialist 096-824."

"Intelligence Specialist? What are you doing here then?"

"To answer why I'm in this particular car, I needed to use the bathroom. Also, this is the largest pull-in of trafficked slaves from one area yet. Emir Sam said I should be on board," he said matter-of-factly. This mystery Emir might have been the orchestrator of the entire mission, but none of us could know for certain. However, Gray and I were anxious to have that question answered, so neither one of us would be leaving if given the chance to stay or go. "Get back in your car, and . . . oh. Your hand is steaming." His disinterested glance was enough to wash me over with a wave of relief.

"Yes, you get it! Hey, do weird things happen to you because of the mark on your neck? Can you do weird things, too? I was born with mine. It means Alpha. Yours must be Omega. We're a matching pair." I pointed my thumb to the back of my neck. All of the expression in the room seemed to come from me. My eyes searched grayish taupe ones for any sense of life in them. I had always wondered about the eyes of the one person who could come to understand me. Never in a million years would I expect them to be so hollow. They were covered by tired eyelids, drained of color, and replaced with a void. I bet they were just like his heart was. Something about his whole aura struck me as being very, very wrong. Suddenly, the excitement of meeting a possible kindred spirit turned to a deep-seated trepidation which I couldn't ignore. 

Why isn't he reacting? I asked myself. We're alike, after all. "Look," I started. "Haven't you ever wondered why you're such a weirdo?" The man's eyes widened in what was most likely mild mortification. At that moment my eyes dropped down and I suddenly realized he had a rifle, which he held at level with my torso. "W-WAIT, I MEANT 'WE'!" I managed to squeak out. "I'm so sorry, t-t-that's not what I meant! Can I backtrack here?" I pleaded with him. Some may say I have a way with words, and that my way is just a terrible one. I cite this terrible meeting as proof they are right. Sadly, the narrowed eyes of skepticism coming from the man confirmed his agreement. My foot leaned back and his hand tightened around the handle of the intimidating weapon.

"Backtrack? I'll be liable to shoot you if you carry out that order." He really backed me into a corner. I couldn't afford another slip-up as long as he was waving that thing around.

“I'd say that's fair if I was being literal here. You're the one with a... a…gun." I swallowed while placing a finger on top of the barrel, pressing it down and away from me. Whichever side he was on seemed to matter less and less to me as the seconds went by. When I next spoke, my voice took a more empathetic tone to better reach him. "Don't you want to know more? I'm telling you I have the curse mark too. If your experience is the same as mine, I know you must be lonely. If your family abandoned you too, then we will figure it out together." He stopped at my abrupt note, twitching a bit as if he was answering in his head. I had pinned him! I hoped that I found what I was looking for. That's why it made so little sense when he slipped away like I never had him. Several seconds passed before he answered me flatly.

"I don't need a family to do my job. Now," he nodded to the door behind Gray and me, "go back. If you don't, I'll put you back." His rifle waved as he used it to point to the back door. "Now go back and leave me alone. I don't want to talk to you anymore—"

"No!" My response hardened as if the barrel hadn't been placed against my torso. His eyes widened at my apparent obliviousness to the fact I purposefully walked along the line between life and death. My refusal to leave him was what blew his eyes wide open, yet I was puzzled as to why. It was like he was woken up for the first time, and he raised his voice.

"What is wrong with you?"

"Nothing's wrong with me!" My voice cracked, but still growing more defiant as seconds passed. "What's wrong with you? You said you 'don't need a family? I'm sorry, but that might just about be the dumbest thing I ever heard!" My blunt words surprised Gray and Nye as much as the soldier. "If 'Emir Sam' or whoever you mentioned made you believe such a thing, you should start questioning him because that's one thing he's wrong about!" What a blow to an impressionable psyche my speech turned out to be. I hadn’t planned on it being that good. I bet he might have called it an echo of a passing dream. A revival of a feeling that never lived to be felt. I could tell that it twisted him, aggravated him to the core, and left him with nothing but confusion. It got under his skin and ripped it up. I took advantage of this fleeting moment to push my friendship onto him, and maybe I wouldn’t be alone anymore.

"If we become friends, we can figure out why the marks chose us." I raised my hand and held it out to him. "But I can only help you if you let me be your friend. I can help you." I didn't expect him to take my hand right off the bat, but I never expected the fear I saw in his eyes. I figured it must have been because I held out the hand covered in melted material. After realizing the condition of my hand, I promptly switched to my left one. The room was silent. His eyes widened in frustration and he decided to fire the shot.

"HEY!" Gray yelled.

The barrel of the gun roared through my head, and before I knew it, I was on the ground covering my mouth which began to pour out blood like a leaking faucet. The other hand covered my torso, which soon had a deep red soaking through the fabric of my sweater top and shirt. Nye's feet went out to me before he was responsibly pulled back by Gray. Good children didn't need to see this.

"Don't look!" I wheezed to Nye. "Turn a-around . . ." I heard some voices buzz in a distant walkway of a place that seemed so faint to me. Men in the same dress as the young man with the numbers came and began to grab me, hoisting me up and taking me away while Nye pleaded for any god of hope to save him. Although, it didn't seem to matter, because every breath I took was an articulate struggle. All of this was to find some sign of the hollowed-out soul of someone I swore was like me, but he disappeared in the masses. I knew I would never be that tired again. Before long, the darkest hour came and hovered over the single and lonely passenger car, as if attempting to break in and snatch us all into a malicious hell.