Outside

Red Leaf Tress Near the Road

She wanted to go outside and walk through the falling leaves. She wanted to feel the wind full on her face and smell all of the earthy, autumn scents. Seeing everything from her window or the screen wasn’t the same. She needed to physically be there.

But she couldn’t.

This bed, this room, was her life now. She had no body, she was just a mind trapped within a rotting shell. And how much longer would she have to wait to be free? No one could tell her that.

She looked out of the window and tried hard to smell the nature. But someone had lit incense sticks again that was the only thing she could smell. She was sick of that and the scents of candles and flowers. She understand why they did it now; not to comfort her, but to comfort themselves from the hospital smells and her decaying flesh.

She longed for it all to go away and for her just to be outside walking barefoot through the woods. She shut her eyes and thought about the wind in the trees and the singing of birds. She could touch the tree trunks and walk in streams and mud, just like she use to do.

She sighed.

It felt like she would never go. Perhaps, that was her curse? To just carry on like this forever and each generation of her family having to care for her and go through the same emotions. Maybe, they’d get bored and just sign her care totally over to the hospital. Then either they would store her away in a freezer or some scientist, crazed with frame would find a cure and she could go outside again…

She wanted to know why it had happened to her. She must have done something wrong and being punished. But that didn’t make any sense. She had been good to the world, unlike so many people. She had chosen a quiet, animal and world friendly lifestyle. She had meditated, eaten right, helped everyone when they needed it and had never been selfish or needy herself. Surly that was how humans should be? Why would someone as good as her be punished with this crippling sickness?

She was too tried of trying the figure that out. It was something she tried to keep at bay, but with only her thoughts and imagination still in use, it was hard for her to keep away from that line of thought. Sometimes she would reflect on what the doctors, nurses and her family were saying, but most of the time it was the same things over and over again. It was easy for her to mute their words now, though she desperately craved them.

She looked at the window again and knew if she could cry she would do. When would she be back in mother’s natures arms and free of this hell?

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Abandoned (Part 2)

Pripyat, Ukraine, Chernobyl, Disaster, Abandoned

It was hard to see what the first building they came across was. April tried to peer through the mass of green and brown plants. Perhaps it had been a house? It looked small enough. The crew moved on, Gun reminding them about not touching stuff and that there mission was just to document the environment and air.

‘What does the reader say?’ April asked, falling into step behind Trigg.

He shot her look, which of course she missed due to the mask and helmet, then looked down at the needle.

April tried to see over his shoulder, but she still couldn’t make it out.

‘It’s got a little higher,’ Trigg explained.

Feeling uneasy, April looked around them. More buildings were growing up out of the vegetation and trees. It was hard to imagine that the city had once looked very different. Fallen branches, leaves and rumble crunched underneath their heavy feet. They walked slowly, each member of the group, but April, seemly getting on with their individual tasks.

After a few minutes, they came to a very large building that must have once been a high school. Whilst the others gathered on what once had been steps, but was now a level carpet of green moss and grass, April walked closer to the front of the building. She could make out no letters or signs, just the empty windows and was that sound beyond dripping water?

Deciding, she was wrong, April turned back and watched the men, digging around in their rucksacks for equipment. In her head set she heard Gun giving orders.

‘We need soil samples from these spots,’ he declared as he waved a plastic map in the air, ‘and air tests alongside them. If we find any water, we take samples of that too.’

‘What about animals or…humans?’ someone asked.

April guessed from the slightly nervous tone it was Babble. She picked him out, standing slightly away from the others on the left, in a faded blue suit with big baggy arms and a slightly wonky helmet. The glass visor on his mask looked slightly misty.

‘There shouldn’t be anything but us here,’ Gun spoke, ‘and if there is note it, but leave it alone. That’s not we are here for.’

‘Are we going to spilt up?’ Joe asked.

‘Not this time. Too easy to get lost and too dangerous,’ Gun explained, ‘we’ll start here, head towards the centre then come out again and go back.’

‘Sounds like a plan, boss,’ Nook cut in.

Gun carried on giving orders and make sure everyone knew they jobs. Finally, he got around to Nook and April. She had been walking back and forth in front of the building, trying to see further inside. However, the walls and roofs had fallen in blocking off what might have been classrooms and offices.

‘April get over here!’ Gun snapped.

April jumped and hurried over as fast as the heavy boots and difficult body suit would allow. Coming to stop between Nook and Gun, April thought she heard soft sniggering in her ears.

‘Guard duty here is extremely important. You need to stay visual at all times and report anything you see. Don’t just shot it. Remember the Code,’ Gun said in a low serous voice.

‘Right Boss,’ Nook rumbled back.

‘Don’t go wandering. There’s nothing worth salvaging here. It’s still all contaminated and we can’t risk bring any of that back.’

‘No problem,’ April put in.

Gun turned and addressed the rest of the crew with that statement. He ended with, ‘let’s get to work!’

Nook moved and began patrolling the area, drawing his gun as he did so.

April reached for her’s, finding it against her hip in one of her belt’s pouches. She took it out, barely feeling the weight of it in her leather gloved hands. She checked it then felt for her knife at her other hip. Feeling it there, she dropped her arms and began pacing in front of the building, her eyes darting everywhere and her ears listening for any other noises.

The minutes ticked by and April felt like they had been there a long time, though really it had only been about ten minutes. Gun hustled the crew along and they moved to the next marked spot on the map.

Coming to stand at what might have been a supermarket once, April clutched her gun tighter. The lack of bird sounds was really getting it her. It was well known that animals would go nowhere near the worse effected areas long after the third world war ended. Even now that was proving to still be the case.

She tried to recall things she had read and heard in the briefing about Pripyat. Beside from a little history about the original nuclear disaster and then the second one triggered by the war, she couldn’t remember anything else. She shivered and decided she had lost her interested in the place and wanted to go home.

The crew moved, leaving little green flags behind them at the marked spots, so anyone who came again could see where they had been. They arrived at the centre and April felt better that their mission was almost complete. Tall buildings rose on all side of them, battling with the trees to be seen. April felt a slight tugged to explore some of the buildings, the eagerness of seeing what lay within, but she stood her ground. She watched the four men taking all the samples. Gun and Trigg looking at the reader and talking softly about it whilst further away Nook walked slowly around them all, eyes glued to the ghost buildings.

‘We’ve got everything,’ Joe’s voice came loudly through.

‘Let’s pack up and move out. This place gives me the creeps,’ Gun added.

A muttering of agreement followed.

April sighed deeply and went to put her gun away, but a disturbing noise from behind her stilled her movements.

Abandoned (part 1)

Pripyat, Ukraine, Chernobyl, Disaster, Abandoned

The first thing April noticed was the lack of sound. It felt unsettling. She looked around taking in the tall green leaf trees and bushes that almost hid city. Breathing heavily through her mask, she wondered if the communication system had broken again. She reached her gloved hands up and felt for the mic at her throat.

A crackling stopped her searching fingers and she heard Trigg’s voice muttering. She turned and looked over her shoulder, frowning. He was only a few steps behind her, looking through his rucksack. He pulled out a toxin reader and then announced he had found it.

Turning fully, April watched the rest of the crew preparing to move on again. The six large men who had either been standing or sitting, seemed to move as one and gather their rucksacks up.

April patched herself through to Trigg.

‘I can’t hear anything,’ she said.

Trigg looked up at her, ‘did you get sand in your speakers again?’

‘No. I cleaned my mask before we left. Come over here.’

Trigg pulled on his bag and went over to her. Together they stood on the ridge looking down at the city once known as Pripyat. They could just make out the collapsed roof tops of the tallest buildings and what seemed to be a Ferris wheel in the distance. A gentle wind ruffled the trees and above them the dark blue sky was growing with grey clouds.

‘There’s nothing to hear,’ Trigg said in a low voice.

‘I know there’s been a lack of animals since we got here…but I thought with all this green we’d at least hear birds,’ April responded.

Trigg looked down at the device in his palm and pointed a finger from his other hand at the screen. A small red arrow was waving between an arch of numbers. April’s eyes read it, but her brain didn’t understand it.

‘There’s still radiation. It’s low here, but further on it’ll get higher,’ Trigg explained.

‘Is everyone ready?’ Gun’s voice called through both their headsets.

A rattle of positive voices replied from the rest of the crew and with a wave of his hand, Gun started walking. The other men fell into place behind him. Their metal boots easily making work of the rough nature taken over ground.

‘Don’t take your helmet off,’ Trigg hissed.

‘Huh?’ April replied.

‘You didn’t all ready did you?’

‘Of course, I didn’t. And I won’t. How dumb do you think I am?’

‘Very,’ Trigg muttered.

April whacked him on the shoulder, ‘I’m not!’

‘Hey! You can have your lovers tiff later, come on,’ Nook cut in.

They both glanced at him, taking in his big grey body suit and black mask, then looking away.

Trigg moved first and walked passed him to catch up with the others.

‘Knew bring a girl would cause trouble,’ Nook added, ‘you gonna stay there or come?’

April tried to shake her head, but the mask and helmet made it difficult to. With a sign, she gripped a last look at the long abandoned city below and trudged over.

Nook pushed her in front of him and April began struggling her way through the jungle like scene. Keeping focus on Trigg’s rucksack with the bright neon orange stripes, she wished she could pull her knife and cut back some of the foliage. The rules which she knew off by heart, rang in head and she started muttering them under her breath.

‘Always wear your mask, gloves, suit and boots. Plan everything down to the last detail and know what you are doing. Keep someone in sight of you at all times and make sure someone can see you. Take only what you must. Leave everything else untouched. Note all discoveries. Don’t cut, damage or kill plants and animals on the surface. Don’t look directly at the sun.’

‘Do you really believe that?’ Nook scoffed in her ear.

Ignoring him, April switched off her mic. She then stepped over a fallen tree and found herself on what once had been a road. She stopped looking both ways and saw to the left the burnt remains of a small car.

‘Document that,’ Gun’s voice sounded in her ears, though it wasn’t directed at her.

She started walking over, but Nook grabbed and spun her. April slammed into Trigg’s side.

‘Keep a hold of your little lady, hey,’ Nook rumbled.

‘She’s not mine!’ Trigg snapped back and pushed April passed him.

‘What’s going on? Quit it. This isn’t a place for messin’ around in,’ Gun growled.

He came in-between them, but Nook and Trigg had already stepped away from each other. Quietly, he gave them both different tasks then went back over to Len who was jotting notes down on a crumpled pad of paper. He totally ignored April.

Leaving the men to it, April walked down the road. The stillness of the place still unnerving her.

 

To be Continued…

 

*These characters were originally from the story Obsolate and Plane, published last month; https://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/obsolete/ I really like them and am seriously thinking about writing a dystopia novel with them.

**This story was inspired by The Daily Post’s daily prompt: Abandoned

 

Obsolete

Aerospace Storage, B-52'S, Bombers, Military, Jets

April pulled the mask down from her face and took a deep breath of dry, hot air. Small, loose strands of her dark blonde hair escaped and brushed against her red round cheeks. Her sharp blue eyes scanned the abandon desert scape, taking in the metal shells that had once been aeroplanes. She heard the sound of sand grains gritting across each other and the plane hulks, but beside from that there was nothing else.

Taking in another forbidden breath, April began to climb down the outside of the tunnel shaft. Gripping tightly on with her gloved hands and focusing on the pale grey concrete surface framed between the rungs, she went down, slowly. The rusty ladder creaked, but held her too small nineteen year old body weight as she placed foot after a foot on each rung. She glanced down at the last few steps and thought about jumping. The image of Cal twisting his ankle last time quickly changed her mind.

Her heavy metal and leather boots hit the sand, causing a small dust cloud. She turned and pulled her mask back on. The planes, which hadn’t seem so daunting from ten foot above, now took on a different form. They rose above her and April felt threatened by their giant emptiness. She sidestepped and wiggled out of the rucksack that was too tight on her back. Holding it, she looked through it and checked the items inside.

Above her, came the sound of more boots clumping on metal. April looked up and saw through the cloudy protective screen, two people standing on top of the shaft. One waved to her then began descending. April waved back. Dropping her eyes back to the inside of her rucksack, she made sure, for what had to be the hundredth time that the tops of her water canteens were on. Feeling they were, she fastened the straps and slung the backpack on again.

Not wanting to look at the decaying planes, April watched Trigg, who was the same age as her, came down the ladder. He was fast then she had been, more confident in his feet. Soon, he was beside her and they were staring at each other through the cumbersome masks. She watched him press the mic button and heard his voice hissing in her ear.

‘You took your mask off, didn’t you?’

‘Just for a few seconds,’ April responded back, ‘it doesn’t do any harm.’

Trigg shook his head, ‘beside from the fact that everyone is going to know. I can see it fogging up from here!’

She sighed deeply and looked away as he tugged off his rucksack.

‘I’ve a got demister…somewhere,’ Trigg muttered.

‘Joe’s almost here,’ April pointed out, watching the older man coming down the ladder.

Trigg held out a small plastic bottle with a spray top on it. April quickly took off her mask and let him spray it. She held her breath.

‘Problem?’ a voice crackled through the speaker.

‘No,’ Trigg replied back, ‘just condensation. April was breathing too hard.’

April bit her lip and held back a nasty reply. She put the mask on and took a deep breath of filtered air. Looking out her vision was now clear. She focused on the planes, disliking herself for it, but knowing she couldn’t meet Trigg’s or Joe’s eyes now.

‘You okay?’ Joe asked.

‘Yes. It was nothing,’ April said quickly.

Trigg reached out to pat her shoulder, but April dodged him and began striding across the sand. She left deep footprints behind as she approached the first plane. It was a small two person craft and looked like it had been over salvaged all ready. April remembered it from last time and walked past it.

Over the intercom, Trigg called for her to slow down, but she ignored him. Gun was the leader on this mission and the only person April planned to fully listen too. However, he had been late and so was the last to come up. Plus, she was the only woman on this eight man crew. So, she had to stay strong.

Coming to stop beside a discarded plane wing, April turned and saw Trigg and Jo trailing behind her. In the distant, there were two figures standing at the bottom of the ladder, another two at the top and one man climbing down. She looked away, out across the plane graveyard and wondered what they’d find today.

 

To Be Continued…

Farmhouse

The wind howled through holes in the cracked windows and rattled the branches of the dead trees against brick and glass. An unexpected hailstone wave tapped along the broken roof tiles and caused the drivers of cars on the motorway opposite to turn on their windscreen wipers and slow down. To them and any other travellers, all they saw a farmhouse and a collection of farm buildings which seemed long abandoned. Moss, ivy and other plants clung desperately to the walls and roofs, finding their way inside through gaps of all sizes. Rats and mice scuttled through the crumbling structures, forever fearful of the starving feral cats. Cobwebs flapped in the many corners with spiders’ exoskeletons and the remains of flies still clinging on. The bones of a black bird were scattered on the driveway and inside the front room Mavis lay slowly decaying.