I didnâ€™t say anything about hearing â€™s cough. Or that fact that seemed paler the next morning. He didnâ€™t act any different, but I knew. I looked away as I slammed shut the door to the back of my dusty old van. Not much was packed. A few cans of food, every ounce of water we owned, a first aid kit. We had only one gun. It was a small hand gun, that I didnâ€™t want to have to use. held onto it, he was more comfortable around firearms than any of us.
â€œEverything set?â€? I heard call from inside the van.
â€œYeah. Just loaded it.â€? I called in return. My boots crunched the dirt and gravel as I walked around to the passengerâ€™s side door of the van.
â€œGood.â€? said leaning out of the passenger window. I stopped a few steps short from the door. â€œWipe that look off your face, .â€? let out a short laugh. â€œIâ€™m letting you drive.â€?
â€œThanks?â€? I crossed in front of the van and opened the driverâ€™s door. tossed me the keys and I turned the key in the ignition. The van sputtered and died. Shit. I tried again. Still nothing.
â€œThatâ€™s not very good.â€? said.
â€œThanks for stating the obvious.â€? muttered under his breath. I took a deep breath and turned the key one more time. I waited to hear the sputtering sound again, but instead, the van sputtered to life. I released my deep breath. That is what I wanted to hear. I put the vehicle in drive and began to navigate down the empty streets of Wonderland during the twilight hours. The sun threatened on the horizon. We had to get out unnoticed. That was the plan.
Itâ€™d only been about an hour since we had last stopped to refill the tank when I noticed something was acting odd with the van. was asleep in the back of the van, complaining that the sun was too bright up front. took â€™s place, his feet were propped up on the dashboard. He wore a grim frown as he picked his nails with a knife. stared out the window, lost in thought, only stopping to bring his cup of water up to his lips.
I licked my chapped lips and focused on the road ahead, or lack of road. I had been driving across a what felt like eternal stretch of sand and rock. It was hard to be that this used to be acres and acres of grass, fields and trees. Did pollution seriously cause all of this? In 2009, we were just worried about the polar bears and gas prices, but now, in 2012, we were struggling to survive in a desert wasteland. It all happened at once, over a course of a week. It was too strange. I had a few conspiracies that I wouldnâ€™t dare tell a soul. I didnâ€™t want the lads to think me completely mental.
â€œ.â€? I took my eyes off the road. had sat up, his feet now on the floorboards. He leaned in. I looked out through the windshield. On the horizon were those towers of iron and flame. Smoke curled it to air, staining clouds black. I narrowed my eyes.
We were close.
I slammed my foot down on the gas. Surprised, my van double in speed, moved about one hundred feet than sputtered to a stop with a violent jerk. jumped up and stood from his seat. He leaned against the driverâ€™s seat.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€? He asked.
â€œI donâ€™t know.â€? I opened my door and slammed it behind me. opened the sliding door and hopped out. Together, we heaved the hood of the van open. Smoke billowed out and I waved it away. leaned over and swore under his breath. He pointed to inside the van.
â€œItâ€™s the hyrda cell!â€? He yelled. â€œWeâ€™re out of water!â€?
I slammed the hood down and banged on it with my fist. This wasnâ€™t possible! The crack in the hydra cell was even bigger now. Hadnâ€™t anyone checked it before we had left? It could have been patched with something. I kicked the tire rim. I hate this worthless piece of shit.
â€œWeâ€™re out, mate.â€? said poking his head out the window.
â€œWell, you know the drill, lads.â€? said walking to the rear of the van. â€œEverybody out and get to pushing. Looks like we are working the rest of the way to the Iron Werks.â€?
and joined at the back of the band. I let out an agitated groan before taking my place in the rear.
â€œ1, 2, 3----PUSH!â€? counted us off. All at once, we heaved and the van slowly began to roll. We were only about five miles away from the Iron Werks, not to far, but not exactly near either.
We kept pushing for another hour, stopping only once to fall into the sand and take a breather.
â€œIâ€™m completely knackered.â€? whimpered falling backwards into the soft sand. He closed his eyes. â€œWake me in ten minutes.â€?
â€œWe donâ€™t have time for that.â€? said. â€œWe need to finis--â€? His fist was raised to his mouth and he started coughing. He was nearly doubled over from the fit. We said nothing when he sat down in the sand. â€œMaybe Iâ€™ll just sit until I catch my breath.â€?
â€œYou stay.â€? I said. â€œIâ€™m going on.â€? I slung my half-filled canteen over my shoulder and started walking the opposite direction. Every moment I wasted doing nothing was another moment she might not be alive.
I was pulled to a stop.
â€œWhat part of stay together, did you not understand?â€? demanded. He dragged me back to the collapsed and . He pulled me down next to and sat down himself. He rested his elbows on his knees, hands clasped.
â€œWe need to figure out how the hell we are going to get in there without being killed, or worse.â€? said.
â€œWorse?â€? opened one eye. â€œWhat could be worse than death?â€?
â€œDo you honestly want to be tortured, ?â€? asked.
â€œThen shut up.â€? continued. â€œAnyway, I was thinking we could wait till nightfall and sneak through the back gates. Two guards will be there, but there is four of us, and two of them. They shouldnâ€™t have guns, only high ranking officers in the Iron Werks carry actually machine weaponry. I think we can do it.â€?
â€œWhy donâ€™t we just let them capture us?â€? I asked. â€œWeâ€™d get taken straight to the other prisoners. That might be where is.â€?
â€œThatâ€™s the first time youâ€™ve said her name all day.â€? said. â€œI was starting to think you were chickening out, .â€?
â€œIâ€™m not going to leave her there.â€? I spat.
â€œWe canâ€™t control the situation if we are captured.â€? exclaimed. â€œItâ€™s not good strategy.â€?
â€œScrew strategy!â€? I yelled. â€œBeing captured would be faster.â€?
â€œI think you are right, .â€? stammered. â€œBeing captured is faster.â€?
I turned around to face him. His face was pale as a ghost. I looked behind me and met the eyes of a woman a head shorter than me. Her skin was the color of spoiled milk. Her face was really round and framed with short black hair that stuck up in odd directions. Black make up stained her face. For being so small, she was intimidating.
And she wasnâ€™t alone, she was with friends. We were completely surrounded. We all jumped to our feet.
â€œTsk, tsk, tsk.â€? She shook her head and my hands were thrust behind my back by a very large man who looked like he had eaten four of me for breakfast. I saw that the others had been taken also. â€œFour handsome young men in the desert all alone, so close to the Iron Werks. You think they would learn to keep their noses out of trouble. She stopped in front of . â€œDo I know you?â€?
â€™s face broke into a cynical smirk.
â€œOh!â€? She exclaimed. â€œYou are the one I had a fun time getting to know. Did that cut on your face ever heal up? Too bad you wouldnâ€™t scream.â€? The woman brought a long black fingernail up to â€™s cheek. She traced the scar. â€œI wouldnâ€™t have had to mar your pretty face.â€?
â€œGo to hell.â€?
â€œDonâ€™t worry, sweetheart.â€? The woman said. â€œWhere youâ€™re going, no oneâ€™s getting out alive. Youâ€™ll wish you were in hell.â€?
She let out a laugh and motioned for the men holding us to follow her. We marched towards the Iron Werks, and hopefully to and not our doom.