We all quickly jump up from our seats from the sound of the explosion. We’re all panicking a little since there hasn’t been a bomb attack in ages. Aniyah once suggested that the war might’ve hit a stalemate and there weren’t gonna be any more attacks for ages. Stupid, we were all stupid and naive.
“GUYS!” a voice shouts from across the room. We turn and see Astrid running toward us with Mara tailing behind her. Mara’s hand is gripped tightly in Astrid’s as they make their way over.
“Astrid! Mara! I’m glad you’re both...ok?” I say, but slow down when I notice their expressions. Astrid is panting hard and her eyes are wide in shock. Mara looks even worse, you can see her hands shaking and tiny beads of sweat trickling down her forehead.
“Um...is everything ok?” Aniyah asks.
“No everything is not ok. The shelter’s falling apart, everyone’s in a panic, and there’s been another bomb attack. At this rate I have a sinking feeling this place might collapse completely” Astrid explains. We all stare at her for a moment, taking in what she’d said. The shelter collapsing? It was a possibility. A possibility we had to consider.
“What are we gonna do? We won’t have anywhere to go if the shelter collapses” Nainika asks with a hint of uncertainty hidden in her voice.
“Yeah...so about that” Astrid says slowly while looking at the ceiling, then her shoes, and then at the ceiling again.
“Astrid! If you have something to say then say it! We don’t have time to stall” Ethan snaps at her. I look over at him and glare, just because he’s stressed doesn’t give him a right to be rude. He notices, rolls his eyes, and looks toward the ground.
“Right! I’ll make this simple. We can’t stay in the shelter anymore, it isn’t safe. So instead...we’re going to Middle Ground” Astrid says. We all stare at her for a few moments. Middle Ground? Does she mean the myth? The place rumored to be safe from all harm?
It’s silent for a while, but then Aniyah starts to giggle softly. Her laughing gets louder, and a bit louder. Ethan joins in (to my surprise, I never thought he was the laughing type) and soon their laughter is too loud not to notice.
“Middle Ground?! Ha! That’s funny Astrid, real funny. You sure know how to lighten the mood” Aniyah manages to say through her laughter. I stare at them and blink slowly. I think their reaction was a little bit much since there was a chance that Middle Ground was real.
“Guys no I’m serious, look” Astrid announces while letting go of Mara’s hand and pointing to her ring. Mara stares at her now empty hand and walks towards Nainika. Nainika sighs and rolls her eyes, but pats Mara on the head anyway.
“Oh yeah, it’s a ring. Very impressive Astrid” Nainika quips. Astrid shakes her head and whispers something to the ring. From what I can hear, it sounds like she says “1 7 7 6”. The ring glows a bright shade of blue before a floating blue arrow appears on top of it.
“Hello, I am Miri. Your safe travel assistant. Where would you like to go?” a voice from the ring says. Mara jumps, confused about why there’s a completely new voice in the room. Ethan looks at the ring skeptically, but both Aniyah and Nainika look impressed. And me...I’m not sure what to think.
“We want to go to Middle Ground,” Astrid tells it. The pale blue arrow blinks several different colors before settling on a robin egg blue. We stare at the arrow a bit before it shoots off towards the exit.
Please follow me. I will begin the route to Middle Ground in 15 minutes. If you are not in my vicinity by then, I will shut off.
“Only 15 minutes?! We have to pack supplies!” I cry. The arrow doesn’t reply and instead hovers by the exit. My brain instantly goes into planning mode. And in two seconds I’m barking out orders and getting everything ready. Nainika and Mara are going to the armory, Ethan’s going to get as many preserved meals as possible with Aniyah’s help, and Astrid and I are packing bags of clothes and other necessities for everyone.
We work quickly because in 10 minutes we’re all standing at the exit to the shelter nervously. The arrow blinks 6 times (once for everyone here) to make sure we’re all here. And once that’s confirmed, the arrow simply flies through the exit door. I take one quick look at everyone before heading out.
Astrid has a nervous expression on her face, debating if she’s doing the right thing. Aniyah’s confident demeanor kinda radiates throughout the group. Ethan has a solid look of determination on his face, with clashes with the fear on Mara’s. Nainika actually looks kinda excited for the journey and I can’t really blame her. We’re going to Middle Ground, a place believed to be a myth.
I take a deep breath and open the door to the outside world. We enter a long hallway with very few lights and make our way over the ladder at the end of the hall. I start climbing first since I’m the leader. When I reach the top, I push open the trapdoor and smile as fresh air fills my lungs and sunlight hits my face.
I hate my life. And I’m not saying that because I’m a “bratty teenager” or whatever. I just genuinely hate my life. For one moment I’m (semi) peacefully walking the decimated streets of Westworld, and the next I find myself mugged and thrown into a river. Oh, and being an orphan doesn't really make it better. So yeah, I think I have a valid reason to hate my life.
I float in the water for ages, mostly because I’m too lazy to get up and swim to safety, but eventually I do. I climb out of the river soaking wet. My black crop top and black leggings even darker than they were before because of the water. I cough and gag because swimming is definitely not my strong suit. I sit at the bank of a river for a while. I have no idea what I’m going to do now.
I lay down and think about my options. All my stuff is gone except my earrings and the clothes on my back. I’m all alone and I have nowhere to go since the orphanage was destroyed during the bomb attack. I guess I could try and go to a bomb shelter, but I have no idea where to go. Maybe it’d be easier to just go back in the river and drown. At least if I’m dead I won’t have to worry about anything.
My thoughts are cut short however as I hear several voices coming towards me. I sit up and look around to see where the voices are coming from. There! A group of people approaching the riverbank. They have bags of stuff, and they’re being guided by some floating arrow.
Welp, things don’t get any weirder than that, I think to myself as I slowly stand up and make my way over to them. One of the girls notices me and stops. Everyone else walking with her stops and looks to see what she’s looking at. I wave a bit awkwardly as I approach them. Soon I’m standing 6 feet away from them, face-to-face, with no idea what to say.
“Ummmm, who are you?” a girl with dark brown hair with a mint streak asks. She pushes up the black and gold glasses framing her dark eyes and looks at me a bit skeptically.
“I’m Imana,” I say cooly.
“Hi, Imana, I'm Celeste” someone else replies. This girl has purple hair and weird rainbow eyes, something I’ve never seen before.
“So Imana, what exactly are you doing out here all alone?” yet another girl asks. This one is tall, muscular, and has an eyepatch with a skull engraved on it over her left eye. Her physique is intimidating I’ll give her that much.
“Oh nothing much, I just woke up in that river after the bomb hit and I’ve been wandering around ever since,” I say, knowing it’s not the whole truth. The thing is I’m not sure I can trust these people yet. They seem nice, but you never know.
“Oh! Then maybe you should come with us” mint streak girl suggests. I shrug, looking at everyone else there. They all glance at each other and nod.
“Well, that settles it! I’ll introduce you to everyone! That over there is Nainika” Celeste says, pointing to eyepatch girl. Nainika just nods at me.
“Aniyah is the one with the glasses” Celeste explains. So this Aniyah girl is the one who said I should join. That’s cool of her.
“The guy over there with the scowl on his face? That’s Ethan” Celeste says, and I swear I can see her cheeks go a little bit pink as she says his name. I look over to the person in question. Ethan has medium brown hair and sharp features, kinda a model-ish. His sour expression kinda takes away from it. Ethan doesn’t wave or nod at me, he actually looks the other way. I roll my eyes and hope I won’t have to deal with him too much.
“The small one over there? That’s Mara, she doesn’t talk much” Celeste points to a girl clinging to Nainika’s arm. Her dark hair barely goes past her ears, but her bangs almost completely cover her eyes. Her medium brown skin is covered in random bandages for some strange reason. The other weird thing I notice about Mara is the blindfold covering her eyes. I wonder what that’s for.
“And FINALLY, that’s Astrid” Celeste concludes. I look over at the girl with coffee skin and dark brown hair with blue streaks. Despite her average height, something about her makes it seem like she wouldn’t hesitate to dropkick you into the sun if she felt like it.
“Well, I think that’s everything. Welcome to the team Imana” Celeste smiles warmly. I look at everyone in the group and think that maybe, this can work.
End of Part Two! Whoooo, this was fun! Another story written in an hour, I’m on a roll! I hope you don't mind that this story was a bit more introductory, Part 3 might be better. Also, NEW CHARACTER! Say hello to Imana everyone!