Week two began with everyone getting in line again for their injections. When it came to be my turn, I let the injection happen without protest or angry looks, thinking it would be the same as the week before. But, this time, it was different.
As soon as the substance entered my body, I fell to the floor in pain. It felt as if my blood was on fire and that I was burning alive from the inside. The two guards present dragged me out of the room and dumped me back onto the atrium floor. Unfortunately, we all accepted this place as our new home. I watched as everyone else was dumped on the floor as I had been.
Eventually, the doctor came out and congratulated us all for 'making it through the first week.' He continued by saying that twenty-five children hadn't been strong enough. This meant that now only 175 loaves of bread would be distributed to us every morning in the coming week.This predictable process continued for weeks, which turned into years and, eventually, a decade.
(With the decade passing, we jump to the present time.)
Only five of us are left, numbers 2, 6, 7, 13, and myself. We all had long since fallen into the same routine of getting a weekly shot. But now, with so few of us left, we had to fight each other directly for our food; no more brawling in a pile. I could hold my own against anyone, but it had become almost impossible to support 13. On a good day, I could get us both a loaf, but on a bad day, we either had to split one or go to bed starving with nothing to eat.
I could see the toll this was taking on 13. She was clearly getting weaker and weaker as the days went on. Finally, a new week started, and we lined up for our injections, but 13 stayed on the floor. I extended my hand to help her up, but she softly squeaked out, "I'm sorry, 200, but I can't move anymore. I just can't."
I sat on the floor next to her and wrapped my arms around her, not saying anything, just holding her close and gently rocking the two of us. Partially, out of a desire to comfort her, but primarily out of frustration and anger, I held her close. I closed my eyes and tried not to cry, knowing what was coming, when, suddenly, I felt a soft kiss on my cheek.
"My name... is... Rebecca."
I turned to Rebecca and gave her a gentle kiss on her forehead. Without meeting her eyes, I said, "My name is Leo. It's alright if you want to go to sleep, Rebecca. I'll be right here with you." With that, Rebecca fell into my lap with a gentle smile on her face. At that, after all the years of forcing myself not to feel, I couldn't hold back anymore. My only friend and the closest thing I had to family left was gone, and I burst into tears. All the emotions, everything I had been forcing down these last ten years, came rushing out of me.
Through the searing pain of my tears, I looked up to see 2, 6, and 7 standing over me, smirking. One of them, I don't know which, seemed to laugh as he spoke. "It's about time that bitch died. I don't know why the hell you kept her alive so long. It's not like she ever paid you back for..."
Hearing those words and the implications behind them, I let my anger take over. Hell, I welcomed the purity of the rage I felt, letting it drown out everything else I was feeling with its clarity of purpose. I felt the familiar feeling of the weekly injections in my blood, the fire engulfing all of my being, but there was no pain this time. I leaped up to face the three, and instantly my fist found the nose of 2, sending him sliding backward on the floor before stopping and laying there in a heap. As I turned to face the others, 6 hit me in the right kidney with his own punch. Impressively, it hurt like hell; but it was nowhere near enough to stop me. Still on autopilot, my head snapped forward and slammed into 6's eye socket, sending him onto the floor right next to 2.
Suddenly, I felt 7's fist catch me in the jaw, but there was no pain this time. He looked at me with terror in his eyes and turned to run behind two guards who were approaching with their swords drawn. The first lunged at me and sank his sword into my forearm. Without thinking or caring, I grabbed it by the blade and pulled it back out. Both guards began to slowly shrink away from me at seeing this, one of them even asking, "What are you?" with no small amount of fear in his voice.
I looked down at my arm, more curious than anything, and saw that the wound had already closed and a scar had taken its place.
Still driven by the wonderful, numbing rage, I stopped thinking and fought everything and everyone I found until there was no one left.
Eventually, I came down from whatever force had taken me over. I glanced around and saw that I was the only one still alive. Blankly, I returned to where I had left Rebecca's body and gently scooped her into my arms as though she were still alive. The warmth had not left her skin, and I had to fight myself and the desire to believe that she was somehow still with me. It took hours, even knowing the Atrium all those years. Still, eventually, I was able to find an exit, not caring what or who else I might find within.
I picked a direction at random, and with Rebecca in my arms, I kept walking until the building that had never truly been our home was well behind us and gone from sight. Looking around, I saw that I had come to be in the middle of a meadow filled with roses. I reverently laid Rebecca on a patch of bare ground and began to dig with my hands. I dug for hours, numbly moving handful of dirt after handful of dirt. Eventually, I deemed the hole big enough, and I laid her body in it, took one last look, and slowly covered her.
For some time, I laid on the ground next to where she was buried and cried silently. I whispered, "See you soon," to the soft earth, and closed my eyes, hoping that I would never wake up again from the sleep that overtook me.