The Warm World, My Cold World
The residents and the whiteys continued their march without stopping on their tracks. Their boots and shoes crunch on the snow, slowly digging into it as they head deeper into it. They change paths to lift themselves up and not bury themselves in the snow. Along the way, the vanguard, Krandal, spotted another grotto-like formation just a distance away to his left. He turned and led the others there for a moment’s respite.
Their figures disappeared into the curve and from a distance away, the reddish and yellowish sight has turned blue and cold. The man in a suit had lost sight of the group with his heat sensor installed in his helmet. He deeply sighed, hopped back on his bike, and zoomed towards their direction but a few distance away. But he didn’t pick up the heat signatured of the group he was following. He switched positions multiple times, but it seems he has really lost them. Going too close was a bad idea, so now he’s at a loss.
Meanwhile, the group has entered a cave like structure more than a grotto-like formation. It was deep and warm on the inside, so Krandal and Almera could relax more. It was still cold, but relatively warmer than outside, especially since they were not constantly being pelted by snow.
As they rested, the two noticed that the residents were slowly getting weaker. Some of them were even experiencing ‘hunger’ and ‘thirst’. Others felt even more fatigued and lethargic. This was not what Churche had explained. They had no idea why the codes were not working. They had no mobile control terminal with them to alter the codes, or even check it for that matter.
Seeing the state of the residents, somewhere deep in Almera and Kandral’s hearts, they wanted to abandon them. But they, too, would not be spared if spotted and restrained. Even if they had managed to leave and escape, they would not have enough food to make it to the old shelter. That would be the last of their concerns as well considering they don’t know where it was. They’re lost lambs wandering the frozen hell.
They had rested enough and it was now time to move, but a resident soughed and spoke in a soft voice. Soft yet it resounded so loudly to everybody’s ears.
“Are we… lost?” He asked the whiteys standing in front of the group. “Are we… going to die here?”
“Of course, not…” Kandral immediately replied with a loud voice, but backed away as he looked down.
Just his gestures alone brought dismay to their expressions. It was evident that they were lost, that it was a hopeless situation, and that they would die.
“If only I knew that this would happen, I would never have involved myself with you guys!” One of them shouted, distancing himself from the rest of the residents. “I thought everything would go smoothly, but that Churche or whatever was caught! Then the codes aren’t working properly! My friends are suffering even if that guy said we won’t! And now we’re stuck in this place! We don’t even know where we’re going!”
“C-Calm down a bit –“
“Shut up!” He shouted back and cut of Almera.
“I also thought we would be able to escape that mundane world. I mean, we did now. But it only led us here.” A woman spoke of her thoughts as well. “I’ve constantly been having this warm yet strangely painful feeling in my belly. And not this part of neck is dry. Like I can’t properly talk.”
She was famished and parched. The nanomachine’s functionalities have shown obvious signs of degradation. The codes installed into it also weakens, slowly making them more human than ever. But Erias, Zsally, and Esther and a few others still had no feeling of such.
“There must be something wrong with the codes.” Esther spoke. “Remember when Millia went with Churche ad Karina into that lab or something? WE saw the effects ourselves and nothing happened to her afterwards. Either something’s wrong with the code or the nanomachines.”
“Then what about you, Esther? What are you feeling right now?”
She was silent for a while until she opened her mouth and said she felt no change in her body as of yet. The other women also fell silent, hugging her legs and burying her face into her knees.
The situation didn’t look good. It wasn’t favourable for anyone at all.
“Those things might be gone soon.” Everyone had their eyes on one person. The person who usually talked almost complete nonsense but with some truth in them. “Maybe it didn’t fully… activate or something. We just need to wait a bit more.”
“What do you know? You always stay at the very back of every meeting. You ask stupid questions. If you’re trying to cheer me up with your sloppy encour –“
“I’m not cheering anyone up.” Zsally spoke with an indifferent expression. Far from her cheery attitude. “What ab out you? Have you been cleaned before? How many times? Do you know how many times we were cleaned? How many times our memories were cleaned and not able to remember anything? I think that’s much more terrifying than something like feeling tired, sleepy, or hungry or whatever.”
“Z-Zsally?! What’s gotten into you?” Erias tried calming him down, even going in front of her.
“She has been complaining the entire time. Ever since we got onto that vehicle. Always saying things like ‘Will we escape? What’s going to happen? Did I make the right choice?’. I could even hear her from behind me. If you’re so scared and in pain, you could run away now and travel on your own. You shouldn’t even have joined in the first place. We warned you what would happen. We warned you that you could die. We warned you –“
“Zsally! Enough!” Esther shouted at Zsally with a strangely enraged expression.
“A-Ah! I-I-I’m really sorry!” Her usual attitude returned but was now meek. It was like something possessed her. Even Erias felt fear from that.
“I-It’s… no problem. I’m sorry as well. I shouldn’t have talked. Even knowing full well of our circumstances.”
Now it was just a series of returning apologies to each other that it frankly became irritating to Esther. So, she shouted and scolded them out of frustration. With that, things have become much calmer compared to the earlier tense atmosphere.
“Now, what do we do?” Another resident asked while rubbing his eyes. He was weary and exhausted.
“I think… the best action would be to get captured by those guys.” Erias had suggested something absurd but no one talked back. In reality, that single thought had drifted in their minds somewhere.
“I… agree.” The man and woman from earlier agreed to him.
“Well, I don’t. We’ve gone this far. Might as well see it to the end.” One man disagreed. Followed him were another three people.
People started voicing their opinions of what their next actions would be. Even those who were stunned at first by the soldiers voiced their opinions of not wanting to go back. Their opinions were divided with 12 people in favour of being caught and another 12 people in favour of seeing to the end. The last six remain undecided. Those six were the whiteys, the usual trio, and someone who was still sleeping.
They constantly pushed the five conscious people to vote on which side they should take to decide what plan to take. But that was all interrupted when Krandal shouted at the top of his lungs, screaming is paint. He fell down and was silent.
“Hund 03 here. Found the rats. Sending you my coords, boss.” A man in a suit spoke as he pointed his gun on the group.
Everyone panicked and ran everywhere. But it was a cave with solid walls everywhere and no other opening beside the one they came in from. There was a slight inclination to the entrance but it wasn’t as steep as the mountain side. They tried to escape but the soldier shouted.
“None of you move! Come any closer and you’ll end up like that man! Either that, or I’ll kill you!” He brought out another gun from his waist.
It was a bluff but the other party had no way of knowing that. He was ordered not to kill anyone but using the paralyser rounds of his pistols were allowed for restraining and fleeing people.
He pointed both guns at the residents, waiting for the reinforcements to arrive. Meawhile, Almera had a flash of thought. One so risky, it involved several of them staying behind and only a few escaping. She whispered her thoughts to the other residents but none of them wanted to be the scapegoat.
“I’ll do it.” Zsally seriously spoke after she heard it. “I’m not smart anyway. But if I can be useful, then I don’t mind being sent back to the shelter. I’m fast as well.”
“I-I’ll do it, too.” Erias volunteered. Someone who had no stamina whatsoever before the codes were activated volunteered to be a sacrifice for others to escape.
“Huh?!” The rest were surprised, especially Esther. After all, her younger sister and her younger sister’s friend, who were so young, volunteered to be sacrifices.
“Hey! No talking!” The soldier shouted. Although he could see their heat signatures, the cave was still dark. Even using a torch was somewhat useless.
“No. You kids run away. I’ll take him head on and distract him, even if that means going back to that mundane world.” Someone else volunteered, rejecting the decisions of Zsally and Erias.
He had realised that Erias and Zsally were the only children present in the group. They were the youngest. The thought had also emerged on everybody else’s mind as they looked right and left but only saw adults. They felt despicable.
“He’s right. You kids escape. You’re still stronger than us. You have your codes. Although it might disappear, but it might be enough to reach somewhere. Maybe even the walled city. Didn’t that whitey at the meeting say it before? That… Drablavs, was it… is much closer than the old shelter.”
The others were silent as his words floated on his mind. But someone also questioned where the that place is. They had no map or any other way of knowing where north is.
“We escaped headed to the west but because of the damaged tracks and chassis, we derailed to the east. From where we started our hike, we trekked going to the west. After resting in that grotto, we attempted to cross the highway but turned back and turned left. Although we turned left once more when we found this cave, the opening should be facing north.”
Almera whispered from the front. It was fortunate she took a mental note of their general direction.
“Well then, you kids take care. This bag has a lot of things we took from that vehicle. Take it and run with the others who still has their codes active.” Someone decided for himself and instructed the kids.
Almost everyone was in mind with that, except for the two children in question. They tried talking their way through it, letting everyone escape with them but it was useless. They would become dead weight in the end. They felt weaker and their body felt like it was failing. So, they had no choice but to become sacrifices.
No words were spoken afterwards, except from the soldier.
“I said no talking!” He shouted and warned the residents. But he noticed one of them slowly walking towards him. “Don’t move. Stay where you are or I’ll shoot.” No one listened. Beside him were other residents slowly making their way towards the soldier.
“I warned you!” He spoke and fired two shots that directly hit two residents. They screamed and later fell on the ground.
While that happened, the rest ran towards the soldier. Trailing behind them were those whose codes were still working perfectly. The soldier shot another two more rounds, paralysing two more residents. But that was the limit of what the guns could. It loaded quite slowly and because of that, the residents caught him, pinned him down, and let the others escape
Out of the initial 27 people, 14 had lost or is losing the effects of the codes, so they decided to remain. Even Almera, who was a whitey, remained. Zsally tried coercing her to escape with them but was declined. She was a normal human who had no nanomachines installed inside her, so it was useless. She only waved them goodbye.
13 people continued marching to what they think was north. With them were bags that had a myriad of supplies. First aid kits, ropes, clothes, carabiners, torches, and many more. They were stuffed. But carrying all these started to weigh down on two people. They were breathing heavily and had dramatically slowed down. The codes were starting to show signs of malfunctioning and failure. Besides fatigue, another one felt unusually drowsy to the point she fell flat on the snowy surface. No matter what they did, she wouldn’t wake up.
“You guys, go ahead. Take our things if you need it. We’re lost causes now.” A man suggested and handed over the bags to them.”
“Let’s at least find a place to hide.” Esther told the man but was rejected.
“There’s nothing here from as far as I can see. It’s just peaks and slopes and white fields. We’re going to die anyways.” He handed over the bag again towards the remaining people, but they refused.
“Hold on to that. In case you get cold, you can survive longer until the blackies find you.”
That’s true.” He laughed heartily while coughing dryly. “Now, go on.”
From the 13 that escaped, only ten remain.
It was truly only snow, slope, and peaks that was in sight. There were no caves or even any curved formations to shield them from the blizzard. As they desperately searched another two had succumbed to fatigue. Their codes were waning. It might have even completely exhausted itself. A woman was shivering so strongly it looked like her teeth could shatter at any moment. Frost was forming from her eyelashes and icicles forming from the nose. It was the most sever they’ve seen yet.
“Go! I’m a gonner!” She tried pushing them when they noticed her slowing down. “I’ll try to survive until the others come along.”
No words were spoken. Just pained expressions and a wry smile from everyone.
“I’ll stay with her. I can feel some pain in my belly as well. It’s warm yet painful.” Another woman spoke while grasping her belly while making a pained expression. “I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Zsally spoke while smiling cheerfully. “We’ll be sure to bring you to the walled city once we arrive.”
“That’s reassuring. Hope I hold out till then, huh?” The woman replied joyfully in response. “Now, get going.”
The remaining eight people continued their march.
As they continued their ascent, they spotted a curved formation nearby. They were elated at the sight, gasping cold air and coughing because of a space to rest. But when they realised something, it was too late. Four of them were already experiencing a great deal of fatigue. In fact, one of them vomited. It wasn’t brown or clear in colour but it was red. She vomited blood and cried in pain while coughing. There was nothing in her stomach and now that the codes and her body are failing, her whole system was close to shutting down.
She cried so much her tears frosted and turned to icicles. The more she cried, the more her vision became impaired until she could only see a black void. The other three comforted her, trying to hold themselves back from crying as well. They knew that was the end of their journey. It hadn’t even been a full hour since their escape from the cave and now they were all collapsing, slowly.
It was only Erias, Zsally, Esther, and Arthur who were left. Arthur had been silent for most of the trip and had been silent for the most part during the meetings in the past, but he is a trusted man. Only these four had remained.
“What are you waiting for? Go!” Another man spoke, urging them to continue moving.
Esther was on the verge of crying as well, clenching her fists. Unable to hold it any longer, she hugged the other four. They are her close friends ever since they were in the shelter. Ever since she could remember, they have always been by her side. But now, she was to leave them. It hurt her quite so and caused her to cry, but her tears hadn’t turned to ice. Arthur touched her shoulder, gesturing her that they need to move to get as much distance as possible. Even her friends told her the same.
With a final goodbye and wave, they continued marching. Her friends tried their best not to tear up, but it was painful holding it in. Their visions slowly turned black as well. The figures of Esther, Arthur, and the two children slowly dimmed and disappeared. That was the last thing the four had burned into their mind before their sight had completely turned dark
NOTE: Very sorry again for the late post. Been so busy as of late