Authors: Tracey Ward
Tearing Down the Wall
By Tracey Ward
Tearing Down the Wall
By Tracey Ward
Text Copyright © 2014 Tracey Ward
All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the author
, except as used in book review.
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, events, or incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to places or incidents is purely coincidental.
Table of Contents
To die would be an awfully big adventure.
“What do we do?” I ask Trent, my voice barely above a whisper.
In the flickering firelight his eyes watch me intently
, but I know he’s somewhere else. His mind is outside the room, out on the streets, gauging the distance and weighing our options. We both listen to the crunch of feet on loose gravel, the scuff of shoes on asphalt. The drag of the blade over rough ground. When he finally sees me again, I know we’re in trouble.
We wait,” he tells me, his voice too loud.
Shhh!” I shush him violently, glancing nervously at the broken windows. So far they’re still pitch black. They may be coming, but they’re doing it in darkness.
It doesn’t matter, Joss. They know we’re here.”
So we’re just going to let them kill us? Eat us for dinner?” I demand. I sit up, going into a crouch and scanning the room for something, anything. “Screw that, Trent. If I’m going down, I’m going down fighting.”
If we don’t fight and we don’t run, we may be able to talk our way out of this.”
My eyes snap to his
, shocked. “Are you serious?”
He nods slowly. The footsteps are coming closer. They
’re almost here and my heart is ready to implode.
I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen people taken prisoner by them before.”
Pft,” I scoff. “They were probably saved for a midnight snack. Kept warm with beating hearts and eaten later on.”
Maybe,” Trent agrees with a shrug, “but what do we lose by trying?”
I chew on the inside of my lower lip as I debate this really stupid plan. But h
e’s right and I know he’s right; I’m just fighting it like crazy because I don’t want to be taken prisoner again. I also don’t want to die, and I really, really, really don’t want to be eaten.
Okay, but you’re not doing the talking,” I finally tell him. “You’ll get us killed immediately.”
He raises a skeptical eyebrow
, but just like I know he’s right, he knows I’m right. He doesn’t fight me.
Agreed. But you won’t do any better. You’re not exactly Miss Congeniality.”
No, I’m not,” I admit reluctantly. My eyes go immediately to Ryan. “But you know who is?”
You better wake him fast. They’re here.”
I pounce on Ryan
, shaking him violently until he grumbles and moans, his hands flailing weakly to make me stop. But I’m relentless because I’m terrified and I know he’s our only hope. I shake him harder only to be greeted with more grumbling.
He’s out cold,” I say, exasperated.
You’ll have to—”
Knock, knock,” a voice sings from outside.
A pale face appears in the broken window
, grinning when he sees me.
I nearly scream.
As it is, I die a little inside—like Wesley in
The Princess Bride,
tethered to the machine stealing years off his life. That’s what this world is doing to me: killing me slowly one terror at a time until I’ll be the oldest seventeen-year-old ever to walk the earth. I’ll think I have years left to live if only I can keep my guard up, keep the monsters at bay, but then one morning I won’t wake up because my heart will have given out. And I won’t blame it one bit.
The face disappears from the window. The second it
’s gone, I wish it was back because at least then I know where one of them is. I can hear more people milling around outside the walls. They run their hands along the exterior, tapping lightly as they move, until the entire building feels like it’s humming. The walls are closing in on me and I’m panicking hard. My breaths are coming in short, painful gasps and my skin is nothing but a drowning victim under the sweat breaking out over every inch of my body.
’m scared of zombies. I’m scared of the Colonists. After the gun in my face, I’m a little scared of the Vashons. But I have never been so afraid of another living being as I am right now. I always knew I was disgusted by them, repulsed by their willingness to devour another human being like the monsters that stole everything from us all, but I never knew how deathly afraid of them I was. They’re human but inhumane. Living but dead inside. It’s a double-threat enemy I’d hoped to never face.
Yet here they are now in force.
“Trent,” I say urgently, not sure what I’m expecting from him. I think I want him to have all the answers and make this go away. I want him to know everything now. In fact, I encourage it. But what I get in response to my plea for God-knows-what surprises me.
Just as there
’s an eerily polite knock on the door behind me, Trent pulls a stick from the fire and lays it on Ryan’s bare arm.
What the f—” Ryan cries, jerking into a sitting position.
He blinks several times
, trying to clear his eyes. He looks pissed and I don’t blame him. If Trent ever tries that with me, I’ll make him eat that hot poker.
We have company,” Trent tells him.
Ryan freezes as he lis
tens to the sounds around him: fingers tapping on the building. Faces start popping in and out of the windows, some just passing by, some stopping to smile grimly before moving on. There are women in the group; somehow that makes me sicker.
The knock sounds at the door again.
“Who is it?” Ryan asks Trent.
Your neighbors,” the man outside the door answers. “We need to borrow a cup of sugar.”
To make their People Pies with,” I mutter.
I hate to admit it so I won
’t, not to anyone but myself, but I feel better having Ryan awake. I feel less certain that I’m going to die tonight.
He frowns at me now
, his warm eyes dark in the dying firelight.
Cannibals?” he whispers.
, my mouth tightly strung in a grim line.
He curses under his breath then jumps slightly when the knocking starts up again.
“Little pig, little pig, let me in,” the man sings mockingly.
Trent thinks you can talk to them,” I whisper to Ryan. “He’s seen people talk to them and not end up dead.”
Not right away, at least,” Trent corrects.
What do I say?” he asks incredulously. “Please don’t eat us?”
Maybe don’t lead with that.”
Lead with what then? The weather? Ask about his kids?” Ryan demands, whispering harshly.
Maybe start with opening the door,” I suggest.
Ryan takes a calming breath
, then nods his head.
Weapons hidden, give nothing away,” he mutters to us as he stands.
, I think it’s important to note, was our reigning poker champion in prison. Even Trent, with his robot’s heart, wasn’t able to beat him. Trent has no tells, no emotional outbursts or giveaways to exploit. Ryan, on the other hand, has many, but most are lies. He’s an incredible actor—or a liar, depending on how you see it. I think it’s one of the reasons he does so well in the Arena. He has a charisma, an easy kind of charm that pulls you in and makes you trust him. Even as he’s taking all your money.
My blood is rushing in my ears as he turns the door handle. I think someone says something from outside but I can
’t hear it, not over the sound of my own fear and panic pounding in my ears. Ryan nods, steps aside, and a man dressed entirely in black walks in. He gives the small room a once-over, his eyes barely falling on Trent and I. It’s something I’m a little insulted by. He’s looking for threats but I just got passed over like I was nothing. Like I’m an office chair or a roller skate.
’s skin is painfully pale. His dark hair is a shock against it where it droops over his forehead, looking clean and shiny. This is how I judge people in the apocalypse: do they have a shower and do they use it? Yes on both counts for this guy, meaning they’re living relatively well. No one showers first and drinks water to survive second.
So,” he says quietly, turning back to Ryan with a stern eye, “who are you and what are you doing here?”
We washed up on the shore here and weren’t prepared to travel at night,” Ryan says, his voice surprisingly deep and strong. “Not through this territory.”
No. Colonists’ either.”
And how do you know we’re not Colonists?”
You knocked,” he answers wryly.
The man grins. It
’s not as horrifying as I thought it would be. Not like when Trent does it. It seems more natural. Easier. Like he does it all the time. I remind myself that the truly horrifying thing about the cannibals is that they look just like everyone else—right up until they’re pan-frying someone’s calf muscle over an open flame. Then you can feel it in your bones, smell it in the air that they are wrong.
You were on the ships then? You’re Colonists.”
No,” I blurt out. I snap my mouth shut the second I say it, but it’s already done. All eyes are on me now.
Really?” the man asks, stepping toward me.
I see Ryan tense beside him
, but then another man steps inside the door to block his path. The first man looks at me intently. I don’t feel as terrified as I thought I would meeting his stare. His eyes are strange, too large and too dark, but they’re not crazy. Not as insane and empty as I expected.
Yes, really,” I say, worried my tone is too sharp, but I’m not great at censoring myself. I clear my throat. “We’re not with the Colonists, and before you ask, we’re not with The Hive either.”
Are you sure? That was a Hive boat you sailed out on.”
, glancing quickly at Ryan. How do they know about the boat?
Did it sink?” the man asks. “We lost sight of it in the chaos.”
Capsized,” Trent says as a matter of fact.
And you left it like that? Uh oh,” he tuts, feigning concern. “Marlow won’t like that. You’ll be indebted to him now. That’s never a good place to be.”
You know Marlow?” I ask.
I know of him. Never had the pleasure of making his acquaintance.”
You’re not missing much.”
He grins again.
“So I hear. Clear something up for me, would you? You sailed to Vashon Island on a Hive boat, but you’re not with The Hive. You clearly aren’t with the Vashons because here you sit, on the opposite side of the Sound. You say you’re not with the Colonies and I’m inclined to believe that. So if you’re not with The Hive, the Vashons, or the Colonies, who are you exactly?”
No one,” Ryan says, his voice dead.
’m surprised by his answer but then I remember that it’s true—that I did that to him. He’s no longer a Hyperion because he betrayed them for me and that’s going to eat him up inside. That was his family—a piece of his life with his brother—and I’ve taken that, giving nothing in return. But he’s not no one. Even standing in an empty room without a weapon or cent to his name, he’s so much more someone than I’ll ever be.
Well, whoever you are, you need to come with us.”
And if we don’t?” Ryan asks.
’s not a threat exactly, it’s more like a truth. One I feel in my gut. He’s right, we’ll go with them because we don’t want to die and it doesn’t even have to be said that that’s what will happen if we resist. We all know it. I can feel it and they can probably taste it and there’s no sense in denying it.
I stand slowly. Trent does the same in my peripheral but I keep my eyes on Ryan. He
’s watching me rise and I’m worried that I can’t read his face. He’s gone into Arena mode: he’s a fighter now, dead and calm inside. I envy him that. I recognize that trick as one I used to be able to perform, but my skills have slipped or fallen entirely away and I’ll never be able to do it again. Even now as I look at him I can feel emotions swirling inside of me. I feel scared, anxious, protective, angry. And it’s all for him.
’re led outside into the dark and the cold. We leave our fire burning inside and I have the fleeting, ridiculous thought that we should put it out before it burns the building down or draws someone to it. But it’s not my home and the moths are already here. The damage has already been done.