With my arms wrapped around my folded knees, I look out on the water and watch the waves crash against the shore of a lake who’s name has long since been forgotten. To us, Jax and I, it was always Lake Sunrise, named after the extraordinarily beautiful sunrises that appeared over the mountains, filling the sky with their reds and golds and purples. Back then, those sunrises brought us happiness. Now they only fill me with pain and guilt.
Jax was the one who found our little spot. No one else seemed to know about it, and we kept it that way. He had found it on one of his hikes, hiking had always been his second love, but now I wish it had been his first. Maybe then he’d still be alive, maybe then I wouldn’t have to live the guilt of his death.
The memories flood back to me with every wave that crashes on the shore. The wind blows into my face and through my hair and suddenly, I find myself reliving the day my whole world came to an end.
I can remember it like it happened only weeks ago. There was five of us, Jax and me, another couple, and a boy who couldn’t have been any older than us. We were all running from something or someone, either from our past, or for our futures. Jax and I? Well, we were running from the government in hopes of a future, one together. As long as I am a part of the Supremacy, I will never be allowed to have children, never have a family of my own. I have a recessive mutation in my genes. I will never have to worry about losing myself to the mutation, I will just have to live with the government ruling my life.
The five of us are running through an open field, one that would have been used for farming before the invention of speed-cropping. The sun is beating down on our backs, making us all the more miserable. I can hear the yelling and the footsteps of the soldiers behind us.
“We just have to make it to those trees!” I hear Jax yell. I look up and see the forest at the edge of the field ahead of us. We still have a long ways to go.
“I don’t think I’m gonna make it,” says the boy running between me and Jax. He doesn’t look very good, his face pale and full of panic, his breaths getting quicker and shorter. I assume he has asthma, which would explain why he wants to get to Westloch, the base of the rebel group who call themselves Sindikat, or The Union.
I looked behind me and, much to my dismay, we were still being followed. About 200 yards behind us were three government soldiers. They had caught sight of us climbing the fence when they broke their habitual route, bringing them close enough to see us, something they weren’t supposed to do for another fifteen minutes. We had spent days watching their schedule and route, planning the perfect time, and it was all for nothing.
We were within fifty yards of the first trees when the boy suddenly disappeared from between us. I keep running until Jax fell back too. I turn and see him lift the boy up in his arms. “Go!” he yells, “I’ll be right behind you!” I take off running and trust that he will be behind me. That was my mistake.
I finally make it safely into the trees. “We made it Jax, I knew — ” I stop and turn around and see he isn’t behind me like he promised. I hurry back to the edge of the forest and see him lying on the ground, the soldiers nowhere in sight.
I run to him screaming his name, praying that he is alright. I remember thinking that he had just tripped, my mind unable to comprehend the more logical explanation.
When I reach him, the boy he was carrying was still passed out from the lack of oxygen. I push him off of Jax’s body. His eyes are closed. I see the blood seeping through his shirt around a bullet wound in his stomach, and I lose it. Tears stream down my face. His eyes flutter open and he looks up at me. He grins at me one last time, “You made it Cal, I knew you could,” he says.
“But we were supposed to make it, not just me, this was all for us! Please don’t leave me!” I plead.
“I – I – I love you,” is all he manages to stutter before he goes limp in my hands.
The last thing I remember is the soldiers ambushing me out of nowhere, and dragging me away from him. I remember feeling so numb I didn’t even realize I was still sobbing. One of the guards hit me over the head with the butt of his gun, and the darkness overwhelmed me.
The memory of the blow brings me back to reality. A cold sweat formed along my hairline, and a shiver shoots down my back as the wind blows around me. It’s was two years ago today, and so I came out here early this morning, like I have every year since he died, to watch the sunrise.
I watch the eagles fly around their nest in one of the tall pine trees as the sunrise fills the skies once again with its beautiful, one of a kind colors. As soon as the sky brightens and the colors fade away, I pack up my hiking bag and make my way back home.