Become a Book Nerd
When you’re not reading books, read our newsletter.
The convoy screeches to a stop behind a nearby building, and the hydraulics release a shrill, winded breath. The target location is just behind us, a few feet away in a three-story building matching the characteristics of the image in the file.
The building is mangled and foreboding, with half of the tiled siding gone and now lying on the brown, grassy ground. Graffiti is bountiful all over these deserted buildings, in Cyrillic writing, weaving in between coats of new and old. Dark acidic streaks drip from the building’s windows, some of which are broken. And the moment we disembark the convoy, I’m overcome by the sudden piercing silence of this graveyard of a city.
“Alright boys, take a knee.” The Sergeant orders in a hushed voice. The men and I join him behind the vehicle and I notice them confused by my lack of protection. Their suits are boxed and bulky, where as mine is streamlined and vascular.
“We’ll let Usain over here do the perimeter and make sure this d**k h**d isn’t on the offensive already.” He points to me. Considering the twists of confusion in my comrades’ faces, I can wager that he hasn’t filled them in yet. I ignore their pleads for Sarge to reconsider as he continues.
“If they aren’t, we’ll move in quietly from the east entrance and do a thorough floor assault until we find the target, and engage.” The men nod, and all questions end.
“This sick f**k has kids in there. So prepare yourself for anything you might have to come to grips with seeing. Keep a steady head and we’ll get through this.” He whispers and raises a fist to his men. “Hooah!”
“Hooah!” We whisper back collectively before we break apart into squads. The Sergeant puts a hand on my shoulder and walks me over to three guys, one in his forties, and the others about my age.
“Son, you’ll be with O’Maley, Rogers and Davis. Find them after you do the perimeter.”
“Yes, sir.” I answer, nodding to them as we pass and head to the front of the group.
Sarge turns back to the group and sends the s**t talkers a smirk.
“Ok, kid. Why don’t you show ’em what you can do?”
Before the jokers can start, my legs burst as I careen around the building and zoom back to my initial position within a few seconds.
“Clear.” I say, as most of the jokers are speechless with their mouths hanging open and the others are smiling in disbelief.
“Okay, kids, save the autograph sessions until after, please. In position, go, go, go, go.”
I join my squad and we jog silently to the building. We enter the east entrance and the other half of the group heads to the other ward of the building.
The first floor room identified the building to be a kind of hospital, with old wood reception desks and waiting areas. The walls of the room are neglected and look as though layers upon layers of paint are peeling off and falling onto the bare cement floor. Wires and piping hang from open shafts in the ceiling and old, wooden examination room doors are broken and splintered.
My squad mates creep around and clear the floor, one room at a time. The only sounds I hear so far are the reverberating footfalls of my squad bouncing around on the metal and cement and a creeping silence that tells me something is very wrong.
“Nothing on this floor.” Rogers whispers as we regroup. “We sure this is the right building?”
Our squad leader, O’Maley looks to be picking up on the same things I do. He squints and listens for a second.
“I don’t like this. It’s too quiet.” He says, signalling us up to the next floor.
As we walk up the decaying wood staircase, I catch the hint of a smell of something… Something I can’t quite put my finger on, but it’s… familiar.
We reach the second floor, of which, there is only a short, windowless hallway leading to two double doors. The hallway is dark without the presence of windows, however, a tiny burst of light beams from the gap between the doors ahead. By the time we enter the hallway, the smell is overwhelming. There’s something else in it now, something vile. And by now, the silence is deafening and riddles us with unease. We’ve heard nothing from the other group yet and have no reason to stop or call for back up.
As we slowly approach the doors, I realize there are ropes tied around the knobs and pulled tight from the inside to keep someone out. Rogers pulls a knife from his belt and goes to cut them when-
* SCREECH *
The three of us suddenly jump at the squeal of a nearby rat as it waddles back into a nearby hole. The four of us share a laugh and calm down before Rogers cuts the rope. Before we open the doors, O’Maley pushes me behind the other guys, considering that I am the only one not carrying a weapon, should things get violent. With Military hand gestures, he tells us to get any children out first and then engage the target. In return, we all throw up a silent fist to tell him that we understand his orders.
Suddenly, O’Maley counts down and slams the door open to expose the horrific smell in it’s fully drenched severity. The three men ahead of me don’t move enough to let me see the scene, but as O’Maley drops to his knees, Rogers joins him to vomit. I take a few steps into the room and my heart sinks, covering my face to keep from vomiting at the sight and the smell… one I can finally verify.
The smell of blood.
In this large, now barren room are the fresh corpses of over 50 children and young adults. Each splayed one over another. The only thing accompanying them being the shells of bullets littered around the room. The youngest child of about 6, draped in an older girl’s arms. Their faces peaceful, yet sad. The younger sister’s tattered shirt soaked in her blood from the bullet wound to her chest. The older sister, to the stomach. I feel a lurch in my chest like I’m about to weep uncontrollably but forcing myself to look again, I see two young teen boys clutching each other. As if they’ll be together, even in death. There’s copious amount of blood spatters on the wall behind their bodies, like they were lined up and extinguished, one by one. The lurch returns when I notice the milky effects beginning to take effect on some of their eyes. I look harder and start to see things coming together in my head. A young woman with large scars on her shaven head, another little boy with a severed arm, another child with their left eye taken out. These children were used for experiments just like it mentioned in the file. I clutch my hands into fists and launch myself in seconds to the small door a few feet ahead of the scene.
One look inside the office shows me the fate of the b*****d that was responsible for all this. The doctor, sits in a chair, a bullet hole in his forehead and two of his associate lay dead on the ground, both shot in the back of the head, their blood still wet. An old record player sits on the desk next to the doctor, strangely the only thing not frozen in time. A record, with Cyrillic writings, still rotating on the spindle, a soft Russian Aria gently humming through the air, nearly inaudible.
This was his only way out. A way to keep from paying for his acts, like a coward.
His research, I assumed by the large pile of charred paper remains, was gone. I told O’Maley of my findings and he radioed the other half of the group to join us. As they began going down the proper protocols for the situation, I stepped outside the second floor room. With casualties accounted for, there was no necessity for me to remain in that room…
As I push open the door back into the stairwell, I suddenly recall for the first time that the building was three stories tall. Caught up in the moment back in that room, we’d forgotten to check the third floor. Likely empty, I was just looking somewhat forward to at least getting some fresh air.
Climbing the remaining steps to the third floor, I noticed that for the first time since realizing my abilities, I had to catch my breath.
As I enter the third room, it’s no surprise that it’s conditions match the previous floors’. The same cold, damaged concrete, the paint still peeling from the aged walls. But this room has a stranger set up. And lucky for me, there is a large dusty window on the other end, sending soft light against the objects ahead of me.
From the entrance I can see several make-shift partition walls of medical linen stretched between a metal frame. These partitions create a weaving path from one end of the large room to the other, containing several strange work stations.
The closest station from the entrance appears to be an operating table… With metal dollies of surgical tools and a large overhang light. Next on the left is an archaic looking recliner chair with thick straps and a small cabinet behind it. After that, back on the left, seems to be a dusty medicine cabinet and desk with a thick stack of files laid on it. Hundred of horrific procedures using these tools come to mind, but I shake them away as I move to the fourth pair of partitions that leave me speechless.
Ahead of me sit over thirty small, rusty hospital beds, arranged about six across and five down. Some still adorned with shabby teddy bears and messy sheets. I run a hand through my hair in disbelief and approach the window to open it.
The air is empty and almost feels as though the oxygen has been sucked from it. I take a second to close my eyes withdraw a shaky breath.
But when I open them again, the edge of my vision catches motion behind an unused partition leaning against the edge of the back wall. I turn my head and take a shock to my system at the discovery of a person. A survivor. A young woman in a hospital gown crouched in between the wall and the partition. She’s brought a hand to her mouth to silence her breathing and her knees are pulled up to her chest. I have to blink to confirm that she’s truly there, and not a figment of my imagination.
Two bright blue eyes glare back at me in absolute terror and despair.
I whisper, turning my body too fast and spooking her. Impossibly, she raises a hand and thrusts it forward, sending me off my feet and crashing into the wall behind me without the slightest touch. I realize she’s gifted like I am. But not with the same kind of gift. My gear has protected the extend of the hit, but sent my ears ringing from the impact. The boom of my body hitting the wall has definitely alerted my team, who are probably marching up the stairs.
Psychokinesis..? I think as I pick myself up, in my recovery time, she’s been able to start heading for the door. No doubt she’s one of the victims that got away from the horrible events one floor below. One of the older ones, around my age. I regain my stance from the blow, but see that she’s barely cleared half the room, which leads me to discover the bullet wound in her thigh and the blood erupting from it. Her breathing stiffens as she covers the wound with a hand and looks back at me like I’m a threat.
Suddenly, with her eyes still on me and not where she’s headed, her shoulder catches on one of the partitions and sends her crashing to the ground on her injured side. I drag myself up and run to her, now lying on the ground in a scream of agony. Her voice stripped raw from fear. I reach her and she whips her head back to me, eyes blazing.
She clutches her wound with a hand painted red with her blood and jerks out another as a warning to stay away. I throw my hands up in a cease fire and she withdraws hers a little when she spots the flag on my vest.
I take a step too soon, however, and she sends me flying backward again, onto my knees.
The floor entrance bursts open with my team, guns blazing. Her eyes leave me again and she cowers down at their orders until I see her hand prepare to thrust toward them. I let my speed kick in and leap between them and her. On my knees with an arm outstretched, my other hand goes behind my back to lower hers.
“Don’t shoot!” I say, silencing the men ahead of me, now lowering their guns. “She’s a survivor!”
The tension in my chest relaxes and I turn to notice the shock on her face.
“подібний?” She speaks in Ukrainian as she pulls herself back up onto her knees and spreads her bloodied hand on my chest. “окаянний?”
With this girl so close, I notice the appearance of old bruises, old stitches, scabbing cuts. Signs of abuse. Her deep blue eyes sparkling with tears in them.
“безпечний. ти є безпечний.” I say back as fluently as I can, using one of the only words I know.
I smile and plant two of my gloved hands on her shoulders. She searches me for a second before she breathes her first sigh of true relief and smiles. Within seconds, her eyes droop and she suddenly collapses, face first, into my chest.
Panic races through me and I’m suddenly become aware of the large pool of blood now dripping from her wound and the pale, porcelain like look of her face.
“She’s hurt!” O’Malley shouts.
“Medic!” Another screams down the stairwell. “We need a medic!”
However, the sound of the room is sucked from my ears and a ringing takes over. I don’t speak, but only scoop up her slender lifeless body and cradle it, trying to protect this last little spark before, it too, is snuffed out.
When you’re not reading books, read our newsletter.
Join the conversation