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A Mind Full

“Mommy, where is sissy?” Kaylie’s voice rings out in the frigid air. 

"Not now, my love," I quell her moanings, trying to look through the lengthy shrubbery. The greenery ran wild, withholding precious information from me. I look back at my husband, hushing Kaylie and her brother. What would I do without him? 

I push through the overgrowth, eyeing another couple as they usher their children away. I turn back and nod to James. It's time. 

We rush forward, shoving at their cabin door. It sticks, but with a secondary push from James, it hurls ajar. 

“Sissy?” Kaylie whispers behind us as James begins to rifle through the rotting cupboards. He whirls around, eyebrows lifting. 

I look over his shoulder to find shelves full of canned food. I slam open drawer after drawer revealing the same stockpile. This could feed us for months! I look at my family, their thin frames and hollow cheeks. I motion for them to come closer.

“Listen, take as much as you can. Understand? It doesn’t matter what that means for that other family. We can’t think about that. We have to survive. That’s all that matters. Alright?” I feel my pulse race as Kaylie looks at me with her wild blue eyes, trying to make sense of my words. They were more for my sake than hers anyway. I look over to James. He’s chewing at his bottom lip while his left-hand jiggles. He’s strumming. He’s doing everything he can to relax himself right now. We’ll last a little longer, my loves. 

A can tips from Kaylie's arms, sloshing into the ankle-deep snow. A small giggle escapes her—a slice of heaven against the torment raging in my heart. This was necessary. We had to take their food for ourselves. We will die otherwise. Ever since the nucle—

A gust of wind hurls her down as she bent to gather the fallen can. She tumbles forward, cans splaying out as well as blonde curls. 

“What’s happening?” her wild eyes stare at me. I shake my head, a little laugh escaping my gloom. 

“Let’s get you up. James—a hand?” I shuffle the cans to my other arm, trying to help her to her feet. James assists, setting one can after the other in her small hands.

Soon, we reached home. The underground shelter was nearly indiscernible amidst the wintry muck. I held open the door as everyone made their way in. A shadow lay against the stone walls, but I didn’t look. I never looked. I wouldn’t.

“Organize everything in the corner. Check dates. We can’t risk getting sick. Not while the world is trying to recover its humanity.” I watch Kaylie and James work. They twist and turn with the cans, reading and moving one before the other. My family. All four of us. 

A scratching noise sounds outside, making Kaylie turn abruptly. 

“I don’t want to hurt,” she sobs softly. 

“Hush now, Kaylie. It’s just the weather,” I rush to her, smoothing her hair. 

The door slams open. The wind roars through the small space, forcing me to shield my eyes. 

“Wha’ ‘av we got here? Gin! Lookit her! Plump! Meaty!” a rough voice rips through the whirling storm fighting its way in. 

“Leave! Don’t touch my family!” I scream above the weather, trying to force myself away. I slither slowly until my body hits the wall, the stone cooling down my heated skin. I slowly open my eyes to two men, their bones jutting violently against their flesh. Their skin was grey, covered in bruising and dirt. Their eyes were primal, taking me in and looking around. 

“She mus’ have been gatherin’ this food for weeks! Aye! Where’s this family?” He crouches down, grinning at me. 

I look over to James and Kaylie. They just keep moving the cans. Organizing. Looking at the dates. They keep moving. 

“Don’t hurt them! The war already took so much!” I scream at them, trying to stop the trembling in my limbs.

“She a crank! Aye! You hear me? She a crank!” The one closing in on me yells to his partner. I look over to Kaylie. Her wild blue eyes are watching me now. 

“Don’t hurt me, Mommy,” she softly mouths. I shake my head, the world around me growing darker. 

“Grom, leave her be. Les’ jus’ take her food.”

“Ya. Think she wasted her family like las’ one? Gah, she was a vicious crank if I eva’ saw one, ya?”

“Shut it. Just get the food. Grom! I said leave her!” 

Cool fingers stroke my cheek. I feel the tug of dry skin as he skates lower. A scream rips through me, sending him flailing back. I grab a blackened knife, arching it toward him. 

“Listen here, crank! I’ll kill you!” He grabs his own knife, coated in differing colors of fluids. He lunges for me, his cheeks blowing out in a rough exhale. 

Pain blossoms and trails down my torso like a lightning strike. My scream turns into a gasping gurgle. 

“Ah, why’d you have to do that? She was jus’ fine.”

“She pissed me off! Nearly got me.”

My vision begins to blur as I see Sophie's face. Her soft blue eyes watch me as I wave to her. She turns her back and leaves. No! Sophie, don’t go! It’s going to happen. The world’s about to erupt! Sophie!

A blurry face appears over me. Kaylie? Imagine the pain your sister went through. They say nearly everyone in that area died slowly–choking for hours. I can’t let that happen to you too. Not you too. Not my James… Not my loves.

I close my eyes to the sounds of Kaylie’s voice. 

“Mommy? Why won’t daddy wake up?”

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