I usually have something sweet and happy to post on Thanksgiving.
Just my luck, the saddest part of my serial story and Thanksgiving coincide this year.
Well, we’ll all just have to
sob our lungs out grin and bear it.
Maybe I’ll post some sort of happy short story thing later in the day?
And by way of keeping up with the spirit of the holiday, I’m thankful for you guys and the fact that you actually read this silly old thing. ❤
Anyway. New or forgetful people can catch up here. And I heartily recommend that you do so.
So, where we last saw Wolfgang, in this flashback-y part at least, was coming home to his family for the weekend.
Only their hometown got blown up. So that kind of messes up that plan.
So now let us join him again as he sneaks past the police line on his own rescue mission.
I usually think of dew as something that makes your sneakers damp. Not something I’d end up getting all over my face as I crawled through the grass.
Liza seemed to be a trained expert at this. She slid through the grass and ahead of me like a turquoise-headed snake, stopping occasionally to let me catch up. I would have told her to wait up, but we’d already agreed to not say anything. So I just shut up, ignored the grass cuts on my hands and kept going.
Only a few yards after we passed the flashing cop lights, I started hitting little burnt grass patches and bits of shrapnel. My hand hit a piece of jagged glass and I bit my lip to hold back from cursing.
Clenching my hand into a fist, I pushed myself up a bit and saw that the broken glass was just getting started. I’d prefer to be un-shredded for the rescue attempt, thank you.
“Liza!” I hissed.
She popped up, her hair whipping around her pale face. Her eyebrows went up questioningly.
“I . . . I think we’re good to just walk now. Just stay low still.” I got to my feet with a glance behind us at the cops. They had plenty on their plate in front of them, and we were beyond the lights of the cars now.
Liza stood, brushing off her jeans, and I walked over next to her. I rubbed at the middle of my back and winced.
She looked over at me. “Got anything on you?”
I frowned, “Huh?”
“You know . . . in case we have more run-ins with . . . them.” Liza tipped her head towards the cops.
Sure, I’d just seen her kicking and cursing at the cops, but asking if I was armed to fight them seemed a bit more extreme.
“I’ve got my knife and a gun,” I said quietly, “But I’m not planning on using them on any cops.”
She shrugged, her mouth in a serious line. “You never know.” And in a flash of turquoise, she’d started off again.
I tugged on the collar of my coat, frowned deeper and followed after her at a slightly slower jog. My feet kept catching on bits of metal and I heard the occasional tinkling crunch of glass under my feet.
Distant shouts and barks of dogs broke the silence every now and again and intermittent flashlight beams illuminated the gutted, broken remains of buildings. Flames still tickled along the edges of a few buildings, but most of the stuff was too charred to provide a decent fuel.
The old main street of the town.
It looked like a war zone.
I shivered and stopped for a second, breathing in through my nose. The air smelled like smoke and burnt plastic. And death. I hoped to heaven my family wasn’t included in that count.
Liza had stopped cold in the middle of the street up ahead. I swallowed the sick feeling at the back of my throat and came up next to her.
She stared straight ahead, not blinking. Following her line of sight, I saw what used to be an auto parts store collapsed in on itself. Bits of the windows and roofing lay at our feet.
Liza’s whole body looked frozen in place. Her face was blank. Like a plastic doll.
Except for her eyes. Wide and terrified. Staring at the crumpled wreck that was the building.
I stood there for a second, then put a hand on her bare shoulder, feeling goosebumps. She jumped at the touch, but didn’t look at me.
“That where your guy is?” I asked. My vote of confidence for his safety was fast diminishing, if so.
“He’s in there,” her voice was steady. She stopped and swallowed before continuing. “I’m going to go in and find him.”
Somehow I doubted that expedition would go anywhere fast without a light. I patted down my pockets. I thought I had a . . . there it was. I stuck my hand into my jacket pocket and pulled out a small keychain flashlight.
I hesitated. The only light I have and I’m giving it to a stranger? What about my family? I need to find them too . . .
I shook my head. Just a few minutes . . . that’s all.
“Here,” I held the flashlight out to Liza. “I’ll wait out here. Call me if you need help.”
“Thank you.” She took the light mechanically and broke into a run towards the building. Moments later, the turquoise splotch in the dark disappeared through a mangled hole in the side of the building.
I stood there, with my hands in my pockets, waiting. And I wouldn’t exactly say it was hopeful waiting, either. Just more a tense, aching sort of pain.
“Eli?” I barely heard her voice over the distant sirens. It was less steady now. She kept calling and there was no answer. I swallowed.
So where is home in comparison to here? I turned and tried to make out my directions from this new set of broken landmarks.
There was our street, branching right off right into a little cul-de-sac. A few searchlights from further away, where they were apparently rescuing more worthy people, brushed the area for a moment.
The familiar range of housetop peaks from our neighborhood was smashed and smoking. That star Dad never took off our roof from Christmas five years ago was not to be seen.
My hands started shaking in my pockets and clenched them hard. Just wait a little bit . . . just wait until you get your flashlight back . . .
A noise that sounded like a yowling cat split the air and I jumped. I whirled to look over at the building Liza was in. No, it wasn’t from there . . . my hair prickled on my arms and neck.
It sounded again. Then words.
That was from our street.
I took off at a sprint down the road. My feet skidded on broken glass. I ran into a bent over lamppost and nearly knocked myself silly. There were about thirty other things I ran into, but I didn’t stop to identify them
My eye was nearly swollen shut and I was limping by the time I’d reached my rough estimation of where our house was. I came to an unsteady stop, my lungs burning.
“Ellie?” I yelled. “Peter?” My voice cracked and I gulped in air. “Guys, are you here?” The words didn’t sound like mine.
I never panicked.
“Dad?” a broken whisper came from the ground to my left.
I ran towards his voice, tripping over something right next to him and landing on my face. I pushed myself up again and crawled last few feet.
“Peter? Peter, c’mon . . . talk to me, buddy . . .” My eyes were slowly adjusting to the pitch darkness around me and I could see his outline. Grubby blue tee shirt. Crazy poof of hair. So still, though . . .
The poof moved a bit and Peter’s white face nearly shone in the darkness as he looked towards me. “W-wolf?”
“Hey, bud . . . hey . . .” I reached him. He was pinned under a giant piece of wood that was splintered on the ends. It was thicker around than he was.
I brushed his hair back from his forehead and looked him over with my one eye that would open. My gaze rested on the dark patch under him on the grass. It was growing and my fingers came away wet when I touched it. I felt like I could choke.
Peter’s brow furrowed as he looked up at me. “Where’s Mom?”
I swallowed, “I-I don’t know. Where did you see her last?”
He had to think on that for a second. “Inside. In the house.”
I looked up at the house. Our house. Home.
It was smashed beyond recognition. The colorful walls were reduced to toothpicks and a huge, twisted chunk of metal rested on top, sending the roof off in a V shape around it.
There was no way. No one was alive in there.
Mom. Dad. Eloisa. Leif.
Peter coughed and whimpered, “Can you get this thing off me?”
I jumped to my feet and started pulling, gritting my teeth. Anything physical. Something to distract from the pain and helplessness creeping into my brain.
Splinters pulled off into my palms and I savored it. Physical pain was so simple. Why couldn’t I have just been here sooner? A quick blast and I would have been gone with them.
I grunted, pulling on the beam again. The wood shifted and Peter let out a scream like I’d never heard before. I stopped and heard his soft hiccupping cry. I couldn’t do that to him anymore.
There was nothing I could do.
He would die.
My little brother.
Never pull my hair again. Never make up weird songs and sing them everywhere. Never hide under my arm when the Doctor Who episodes got too scary. I wouldn’t see him grow up and measure himself next to me, trying to be taller.
Stop it. He’s not dead yet.
I was down next to Peter again. His eyes were squinted closed and tears leaked out the corners. He looked up at me and whimpered a little.
I bit my lip, “There was a . . . bomb, buddy. It kinda . . . well, blew up.”
“Did it . . . did it smash our house?”
I couldn’t work past the lump in my throat, so I just nodded.
He frowned and I saw his chin quiver. “But . . . Amazing Man? Did Amazing Man come? They said . . .” he stopped and coughed so hard his whole body jerked, then went limp again. His voice was quieter this time. “Amazing Man would save us. He could get anywhere. Ellie said . . .”
Snippets of what I’d heard on the radio came back into mind and a tiny flame started in my chest.
A parade. There was a parade up north for Amazing Man, so he was too far away, being at that.
I couldn’t make my lips move out of the tight line I had them in.
Peter coughed again and his lips looked too red.
My grip tightened on his arm. “Peter. Stay with me, buddy. Think you can stand it if I try and move the wood again?”
He turned his head so it lay sideways as his blue eyes met mine. The broken pain I’d seen in them just a few moments before was gone. He smiled and swallowed.
I shook my head. “No. Come on, Pete. I need you to stick around, okay? Just stay with me for a bit longer? Please?” I choked on the last word. Both my hands were on his shoulders now. His muscles were relaxed. Mine shook. “Peter?”
Peter gave a trembling grin, “I’ll miss you.”
“No, don’t talk like that!” I almost felt like cussing at him.
He blinked slowly, “Goodnight.”
“Buddy, I can’t . . . you have to . . .”
His eyes closed and he let out a sigh. I felt the little guy I was talking to leave. I was left holding a shell of the last thing I cared about.
This couldn’t be happening.
Just a couple hours ago I had my whole family. We were going to have cake and milk and play some dumb board game. I was going to give Eloisa a new notebook. Dad and I were going to work on some banged up motorbike he’d found.
This was a nightmare. It had to be.
I swallowed hard, but the lump in my throat didn’t leave. It worked its way up and into my mouth, ripping out of my throat in a scream.
Gone. They were all gone. There was nothing I could do. No rewind button.
I was alone.
I curled inwards, holding the pain in my chest and choking on sobs over Peter’s grungy t-shirt. I felt blood seep into the knees of my jeans and hot tears dripped off the edge of my jaw, falling onto my little brother.
I felt ripped into tiny pieces inside.
God . . . why? How could you? What did they ever do? Why didn’t you save them?
Voices and sirens got closer, but I didn’t pay any attention. I didn’t want to move. I couldn’t leave them like this. Just more victims, more numbers in the statistics of a tragedy that people across the world would maybe shake their heads at before forgetting it two minutes later.
“ . . . area got the heaviest damage . . . not much chance of survivors . . .”
The voices got closer and I registered a few of the words, but didn’t go to see who had finally gotten here.
Then a voice I’d heard on the radio. On TV. In so many videos and promotions.
“I should have been here . . .”
My pain-dulled mind snapped into sudden focus and the tears stopped.
Yes, Charles Fernsby. Yes, you should have been here. You should have been doing your job. But you couldn’t miss your parade, could you?
I stopped shaking, all the broken pieces of me fusing together inside with the hot rage in my chest.
I stood, letting go of Peter, laying him gently on the ground. My hand went to the cold handle at my waistband. My gun.
Liza was right. I never would have known.
I strode out onto the street, now illuminated by cop car lights that flashed over the blackened buildings, and faced the group huddled down near the beginning of the street.
I zeroed in on the one with the cape and the perfect hair and started walking. Long strides, but not too fast. Even paces. Calm. I slipped my gun out smoothly as I came closer.
One officer looked up. “Hey!” He came forward, getting between Amazing Man and me “A survivor! Sir, did you . . .”
I shot him.
Various exclamations erupted and the whole group shifted. Guns were pulled out and aimed right in my direction, but I refused to notice.
I picked up my pace, still keeping a level aim at Amazing Man, calling him every name I could think of, over and over again. My finger inched towards the trigger, but another bang sounded first.
Pain blasted through my side and spread like a wave over my body. I didn’t realize I’d fallen over until I felt the back of my head hit the pavement.
Cops swarmed over me like vultures, blocking out the light and yelling various things. I muttered one last thing about Amazing Man’s mom before blacking out.
The ceiling was grey above me. I didn’t know anyplace with a grey ceiling. Certainly not my house.
My house was gone.
My family was gone.
I was alone. I’d killed someone.
And I still had to kill someone: That joker who called himself a hero.
I blinked at the ceiling and noticed my side was starting to hurt. I figured that was normal for the aftereffects of being shot.
My stomach and chest started to hurt worse. I started shivering. My throat felt tight and I swallowed, closing my eyes again.
It had to be a nightmare. Mom would call up and say I was sleeping in too late. Leif would tickle my toes and run squealing down the stairs. I would open my eyes and see the yellow ceiling of my room.
I opened my eyes again.
Still grey. Cold. Empty.
I blinked and my nose started feeling funny. Tears blurred the edges of my vision and I blinked them away. I forced my thoughts back to here and now.
If I wasn’t at home, where was I?
Wincing and ignoring the painful dizziness, I propped myself up on my elbow and looked over my surroundings with a pained squint.
White fluorescent lights shone down on the cement walls and floor. A window thing with a microphone was in one wall and a chair sat by it. It looked like one of the things at theatres when you’re buying tickets.
Another cot was up against the wall across from me and a middle-aged man with a beard sat with his gaze fixed on the ceiling. He wore an orange jumpsuit, belted around the middle, and clunky shoes.
I pulled an indifferent expression onto my face, pushing down my emotions.
My side throbbed, reminding me I should really lie down. I ignored it and sat the rest of the way up, examining my own garb.
Yep. I had a jumpsuit too. Prison it was.
The orange hurt my eyes and I looked away, putting my back against the cold wall. My stomach hurt. And my heart hurt. I swallowed, scowling at my hands in my lap.
I saw the man across from me shift his position a little. His gravelly voice broke the silence and made me jump.
“Heard what you did.”
I looked up at him, then back down at my hands, forcing the hurt in my chest to solidify again.
He sat up straighter and his voice got lower. “I wish you’d hit ‘im.”
I snapped my gaze up to meet his. Sincere. Anger and hurt hiding in his light brown eyes. He set his jaw and sat forward, giving a single nod. “I lost my Sarah.” His voice broke and he refocused his gaze on the ceiling.
I watched him. “What’s your name?” My voice sounded dragged over a field of cactus.
A second of silence.
“Chris Brown,” the older man answered. I opened my mouth to say my own name, but he cut me off. “I know your name, kid. Everyone in here knows your name.”
I closed my mouth. Considering this was prison, everyone knowing my name probably wasn’t a good thing.
I jumped again. There was a distinctly displeased face at the microphone window when I turned to look. The officer made a “come here” gesture.
Chris stood and helped me up from the cot. The room tipped and I just about faceplanted, but he somehow managed to get me fully upright and over to the window.
I held onto the chair and closed my eyes until the room held still. I opened one eye. The other one was still kind of swollen to do that.
The officer cleared his throat, “This is not an official interrogation, Mr. Dankworth. However . . .” He didn’t finish his sentence.
I finished it for him in my head.
You’re a nosy cop, so you just had to pay me a visit.
“Did you know . . .” he trailed off, “that was Amazing Man you were shooting at? Do you remember it or . . .?”
I bristled, “My eyesight is in working condition, sir. As is my memory.”
His brow furrowed in a very non-friendly way. I had a feeling I’d probably lost one of the few cops who maybe sympathized with my cause, but I didn’t care. The burning in my chest had started up again, taking over so I barely noticed the throbbing in my side.
“So it was intentional?”
I clenched my jaw together and didn’t answer, but I was saying plenty inside.
Yes. Yes, it was. And there will be plenty more intentional attempts before Utah’s superhero sees the last of me.
I held that thought, that hurt, that burning feeling, and pushed them deep down inside.
I made them promises.
The Dankworth family wouldn’t be slaughtered without a fight.
There was still one left.
And I’d make everyone else wish I’d died with the rest.
So yeah. That was the only part that I cried at.
I’ll know the cause if flooding occurs in my area.
To be continued… next Thursday, as always.
In the meantime, be thankful and go cheer yourself up with pie or hack up a few pumpkins to let off some steam.
Happy (or otherwise) Thanksgiving, everyone!
Please comment, as always! *barricades myself and puts on a helmet* (No really, I got this. Fire away.)