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Story Time Contest: Hero Edition
9th Jul 2012 at 4:32 AM
Round 1: Prologue
“In the city is left desolation and the gate is smitten with destruction” the words were scrawled across a crumbling wall. More incomprehensible mutterings were carved below: more than the last time Ax found himself in that foundry, hiding. A refuge for last hopes.
The empty room was so silent it echoed with memories past, but there was something eerily similar about tonight. The soft rain causing tiny streams to guzzle their way through mortar and moss; light drips that could eventually summate to a sad version of Chinese water torture.
Deep cracks ventured across walls, concrete floors, Support joists..; He had traced his fingers along each line, coloured the patterns with chalk and watched it all wash away with shuffling feet, pools of blood, and tears. Anywhere else but here, and it wouldn’t feel like home.
5 years ago.
Ax stumbled into that deserted foundry once more; the one he used to play in as a child. The stench of damp and dust flared at his nostrils, but that was roses compared to the raw iron wafts coming from his mother. He gulped back bile, careful not to release his grip on the woman who raised him. She was stumbling and weak, he free hand trailing on the floor as she doubled over in agony, Ax still urging her on.
They had barely escaped those hungry eyes, gnashing teeth and broken prying fingers, but it wouldn’t be long until they caught a whiff of that trail of blood. The unsteady, shuffling gait; the gargles and moans that erupted past flaccid tongues; filled Nightmares and hollow naps until horror and reality had merged and no one could every be sure they were awake, and that throbbing in their feet wasn’t an A-bomb gnawing on their toes.
Ax finally pulled his mother into the room furthest from the door without dragging her up flights of stairs. Beads of sweat coursed down her cheeks and splattered to the asphalt. His knees were weak with prolonged fatigue that there was nothing left to do but fall. Her semi-rigid limbs were splayed uncomfortably across his, as he held her gaze firmly with this.
“Just hold on Mom,” he whispered a sob. “they’re making a cure, I’ll find it, I promise.”
She shook her head and raised a hand to brush away a tear.
“Bless your soul, you've got your head in the clouds.”
Ax had never heard her speak that way, and it was the last phrase that ever parted her lips.
Her had was cold as it fell limply at their side. He longed for those terrible childhood memories of the two of them hiding in cupboards, her hand clasped firmly over his mouth so he couldn’t scream, barely breathe, and alert whichever officer or violent dealer who was raiding their home.
Staring at her now, he hadn’t noticed the shadow of the man in the deformed doorway.
“boy.” The voice rang like a bell through a condemned church. Ax barely responded.
“boy?” It was lower this time, and didn’t quite chime. Ax’s eyes shot up to meet his, the dual relief and despair were unquestionable.
“Boy, it’s time to go, there isn’t much time.”
Ax propped her up against the worn pillows he’d discovered and brought there as a child. She didn’t even stir; her pulse so slow; the man was right, there wasn’t much time. Ax forced himself into a sort of upright position, though he felt the floor crumbling beneath him. The man held him at arm’s length and checked him over for wounds before forcing Ax to look at him.
“We must be going!” The stranger was older but strong, his large hands cupping Ax’s face and neck like a child trying to show compassion to a doll. Ax tried to shake his head but shock had set in and he had no choice but to follow.
It was the sad look on Delaney’s face that brought them back.
The stranger, Frank, had taken them out of the city, to safety between the hills. But Ax always insisted on finding a cure for the A-bomb, that they had to creep back, through the cover of darkness.
Frank never dismissed that hope. In fact, he forged it further with stories and rumors and static over a radio. But most of all, Frank had found that sliver of a soul left in Ax’s wicked life, that wasn’t tainted with scorch marks, gunshot residue, or gang affiliations.
Delaney was Frank’s daughter, his pride and joy. The teenager he had stolen away from a party the minute news spread. Mascara still smeared across her face, she had said “I hate you” quickly followed with a call for her Daddy when she saw those blood streaked walls.
She was the only reason that Frank had followed that street boy back to his abode. He knew one day he would be too old to dodge those incisors and someone had to protect her.
The first time Ax had set eyes on her, Frank had hid her behind some crates in safety while he ventured into that warehouse, knowing an ‘explosion’ was imminent. He returned with a pale faced boy and a gun, vowing they would never be in this situation again.
They, three, left via an old abandoned road and returned, five years later. The exact same way. Frank had a lot more gray hairs but had succeed in teaching his little mentee how to defend himself.
Ax noticed, more than anything, that Frank unduly underestimated his daughter, she had his fight, his sense of humor, but most of all, she had his eyes. In a way, she kind of reminded him of his mother, the way she might have been had she never got knocked up.
Her strength was how he knew something was wrong when he saw that look. Frank was investigating something and ordered them to wait there, but somewhere between the drip dripping Delaney had left too, had followed him. Ax understood, his stomach rolled over to agree.
Minutes later they all burst through the rusted metal door and collapsed. Frank’s pallor rivalled the moon, and each swaying step they had taken sent him in and out of consciousness.
Delaney was bent over him, begging him to stay alive. “Please Daddy, just hold on,” she whispered.
Ax took his other hand. “We’ll find a cure, I promise.”
Frank smiled a little then, the lines on his face looking more like crack. “I know,” his voice crackling like all those others on the radio praying for sanctuary.
A vein pulsed in his temple as he argued his one last point. “Shoot me!” he said, bloodshot eyes focussed on Ax. Ax shook his head.
“We’ll find a cure,” he urged, though more to convince himself.
“Boy, I am too old to hang on any longer”
Ax knew this story, they had debated it at length. There was nothing left to do but pull out his gun.
A yelp escaped Delaney’s throat as her head flittered between them both, tears smudged her mascara into broken rivers; she was helpless.
Ax gripped the gun tighter as sweat escaped his pores. He’d killed men before, he’d robbed them blind and left them to bleed on the floor. But this was different; his pulse pounding; arms shaking. He dropped the gun.
Frank only nodded, turned it around and pulled the trigger.
It was Ax’s turn to be the strong one, to get them both out of that foundry once more.
CC Used: Tippy OMSP, My own items, LFB skin and Eyeshadow, Hair, Apocalypse Project terrain paint and Window boards.
Plot Point: Mysterious Past
Hero Type: The Atoner
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