Written by: heartsoflead
Amongst the rubble and destruction, Amara watched the city in complete chaos. It had only been weeks since another virus plagued the world. This time it took the adults that molded what was now left of the city- the ones who knew the secrets to surviving a true apocalypse. She had heard the stories of the Locos, Demon Dogs, and Jackals; she knew every story of every hardship that the Mallrats had faced to stay alive. She had grown up feeling hopeful for the future. Now that all that hope was torn from her, what was she to live for?
She knew the answer to that- Her mother, Amber. She had to live for Amber. She was the last to die of the virus. Amara made sure to spend every moment with her on her deathbed. Amber had been the leader of the Mallrats. From day one, she kept order within the tribe.
“I know I’m dying, Amara.” Amber had told her daughter. The rasp in her voice was almost unbearable to listen to. Her brow was sweating uncontrollably. She squint her eyes to focus on her daughter’s face. Amber coughed and continued on. “I don’t want sorrow. My life is over, as are my struggles. Yours have only just begun. My dream was to survive. I want you to keep that dream alive.”
Amara wanted nothing more than to survive, but how could she with all of the brewing chaos? How could she rest at night knowing there were tribes with access to weapons? Tribes had moved on from technological and religious take over. It was now all about force by gunpoint. Guns were like gold, and everyone had one while others wanted more.
She ran her fingers over the metal breastplate on her chest. Within weeks she had to wear metal all over her body for protection. Though she had access to guns, she never kept one on her. To take another life made Amara feel like she was one of them- a blood thirsty psycho.
A sudden round of guns firing caught her off guard. They sounded close. All of this chaos was diverting her mind from the real reason she was here. Looting. The adults kept food storage “hot spots” around the city. Since they began thinning out, kids would take what they want when they wanted it. Nobody took the time to trade, and if they did, they’d only trade weapons. She was sure that most of the kids living in the city now hadn’t seen a decent meal in a very long while.
Amara began walking, the satchel she was wearing bumping against her lower back. She’d already picked up a couple of loose cans from around the streets. It was nothing much, but just a few unmarked cans could keep her tribe satisfied for a few extra days. As she knelt down to pick up a rather dented can of peaches, a foot stepped on her hand. She yelped in pain as she looked up.
A face glared down at her. He was dressed like a police officer, though his trousers and shirt were ripped and stained with spray paint. He had gauges in both ears, large enough to fit two fingers. The two shining studs from his lower lip winked at her. “Well, what’s this. We have a rat out during the day. I thought your kind only looted at night?” He removed his foot from her hand, and as he did so, she turned to run away. He grabbed her arm, causing her to jerk backwards. “You’re in Bulldog territory, Babe. You know the penalty for looting in Bulldog territory, dontcha?”
Amara’s scream was caught in her throat. She tried to pull away, but his grasp was so tight. His hand reached for his back pocket. Amara knew it was a gun. Bulldogs were known for having guns on them at all times. She kept struggling in his grasp until finally she felt the cool, metal of the pistol on her cheek. Instantly, she was still. Her eyes widened. Was this how it was going to end for her? She was going to be shot by this kid who assumed he had the authority over whether or not she lived or died?
In a boom of sound, the grasp on her arm loosened and the kid was on the ground. Blood sputtered from his head as he lay lifeless on the concrete of the street. Amara turned to the source of the loud noise, a small smile slowly shaped across her lips. “Thanks.”
Her half brother, Bray, smiled back, putting his handgun back into its holster. “Looting at three in the afternoon? That Bulldog was right. Rats never loot during the day.”
“Yeah, well, we’ve been running low.” Amara ran her fingers through her dark hair as she glanced at the kid, his blood now spidering toward the sewer grate. “Food is running out. The lack of traders trading food has really affected us greatly. Plus, I think we have a thief on our hands.”
“Really, now?” Bray said, amused. “Must be one of the kids.”
“Maybe.” Amara couldn’t stop looking at the kid, dead on the ground. Life would no longer flourish in his lungs. His heart would no longer beat. He was just another dead body in the nameless count of millions. A chill flowed up her spine as she turned her attention to Bray. “Let’s go back, please? I don’t need anymore rescues at gunpoint.”
Bray laughed, wrapping his arm around Amara’s shoulders. “I think there should be more rescues at gunpoint! Did you see how precise that shot was? Damn. I’m getting good.” He boasted as they began the trip home. Amara couldn’t help but roll her eyes. Her half brother and herself could not be anymore different.
Walking back into the Mall was like a breath of fresh air after you’d been trying to breathe underwater. The tensions outside the Mall seemed to float off Amara’s shoulders the instant she set foot inside this safe haven.
“Saving my half-sisters life sure gives me an appetite.” Bray said, ruffling Amara’s hair. They both walked up the steps of the mall, to the kitchen. He made his way over to the pantry that Amara had instantly begun filling with some of the food she had looted in the city. “Looks like we’re missing a few cans of baked beans?” Bray noted as he grabbed one of the cans of peaches Amara had just restocked.
“We have a set amount of how much the members of this tribe can eat!” Amara shut the pantry, angrily. They’d had meeting after meeting about the food issues and still these kids didn’t get it. “What would Mom do?” Amara turned to Bray who was already gorging himself.
“I know.” Bray said, swallowing a mouth full of peaches. “Lock the pantry.”
Amara shook her head. “Locking the pantry would lead to a full out battle. I already can name a couple of people who wouldn’t be okay with that.” She walked over to the table that Bray was sitting at and sat across from him. She folded her hands together and rested her chin on her knuckles. “Things are just rough. Finding food is getting harder and harder with each passing minute. What we have stored isn’t enough.” The Mallrats had their own food storage and within a couple of weeks they’d been dangerously close to having nothing.
Bray wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “I dunno. You’ve just gotta fight to survive.”
“Fight?” Amara laughed. “I don’t want to fight. I want to just? be. What’s so wrong with that?”
“I guess you haven’t been out there, but they’re using guns now. Weapons. Things that the? what’s their names? The Technos and Locos and Chastened-”
“The Chosen.” Amara corrected him.
“Right. They never had the weapons that everyone has now. And even back in the Elders time, they had to fight. Face it. In society today, we will never just ‘be’. Fighting is just what has to be done from now on.”
“I think there’s another way.” She knew there had to be. What about Gandhi? What about Civil Disobedience? It worked in the past. Why can’t we use those techniques for our future?
“Alright, Freedom Fighter.” Bray replied, gulping down his last bit of peaches and drinking the syrup left behind.