Orchids Blooming, Leaves Falling
A Burning Road segment
by Shawn Phillips
"Get down!" an all-too familiar voice roared.
The air, so cold and crisp, shattered with gunfire, erupting from all angles. A crossfire was not a good thing, especially in the foothills of the Himalayas. At least that was where Tracy guessed they were. Once again, another conflict. Cylor didn't need to warn them, though she was slow to react to the skirmish. And she knew what was next. They would expect her to do more than sit idly by, as extra baggage. 'Fight.' 'Use the gun.' 'Are you going to help, or not?'
'I don't want to die,' she thought, those five words following every fold in her brain, presenting themselves over and over. 'That stupid Lauren can do this; they all can do this. Is it really that worthless to toss away any sense of a conscience? But do I want to be worthless?'
Tracy fingered the gun. Trembling, from the cold rock and ice, from possessing an element of death. Murder. Huddled against the jutting crag, she could hear the fighting. The horrid cries of pain and fear that accompanied crunches and tears of Cylor's attack. The yelling, the explosions, the rat-tat-tat of their weapons. The soft thump of a severed arm landing on the snow-covered rock in front of her.
Tracy yelped, backing away from the torn limb, shaking the gun at it violently.
Tracy whipped around towards the direction of the voice and fired. She did not begin to realise that she pulled the trigger until after the E.D.C. officer had fallen and disappeared from view. After the recoil had knocked her backwards and down to the mountainous surface. After the sulfur has risen to her nostrils, awakening her senses. Then, did Tracy come to understand. She gasped, and an acidic taste came up into her mouth. She brought her open hand to her lips, still gasping.
The gun. It was still in her hand. Tracy bent her head down to where her hand rest with the gun, her face paling. Could she still believe in her own words of peace and have this wrong perched on her shoulder? 'How can I live with this, with myself?' Her thoughts sped past her and back again in a swirling cloud of shock, horror, disgust and self-loathing. Then she heard the coughing.
"Oh my God! He's still alive!" Without any hesitation, Tracy left behind her fog of self-doubt, letting go of the gun, and scrambled towards where the injured laid.
A line of dark red trickled past the corner of his lips. He clutched at his chest, also stained. He could hear shuffling just beyond where he laid. fumbling for the nearest object...
Tracy gasped again, this time at the site of the dying soldier, the blood saturating the clothing, the mountain snow. All she could utter was an overly-concerned "ohh" as she knelt down beside the man, struggling to remember where to begin.
And then there was a sharp, intense pain in her stomach.
Bright metal protruded from her abdomen, the other end attached to a being of bitterness, contempt, hate. Every hue that she could see evaporated, disappearing in to the snow. Numb, so numb. She didn't even notice the metal object pull away. leaving her torso. She could feel herself floating, floating on her own disillusionment. 'Mother. Father. Where are you? I feel so empty, so alone.' Tracy closed her eyes. Metallic liquid seeped into her mouth as she was assaulted by lead missles, ripping at her already non-responsive body. She was soaring now. The mountain at her side and the opaque sky in view. Opaque like a cotton blanket over her eyes.
Tracy fell backward from the bombardment of the bullets from the man she retaliated upon, and then wanted to save. Slipping beneath the blanket of snow into a hidden sinkhole, she dropped down... into unconsciousness. Into the black. Into the end.
* * * * *
Mother. So kind. Doting. A soft smile. Father. Strong. Cherishing. A shoulder to cry on. Home. The stairs I played upon as a child.. The stairs I tread upon coming home or going to school. Friends I went to school with. Confiding my secrets in. My crushes. My irritation towards a certain teacher. Graduation. Valedictorian. Phi Beta Kappa in college. Number three in the University. Then, Los Angeles. Achieving a dream, within my grasp. Explosions. Buildings disintegrating. Crouds ripped apart. No chance. And then I was alone. Then, these... people. And... him. Cylor. Love/hate. Whay did I go with them? A chance to go home. They took me in. Love/hate. Together as survivors. All the mishaps. All this way. And now. I am alone once again. So many things left undone, unreturned. Blue skies. Rainy nights. Orchids blooming. Leaves falling. Warm sunrays. Chilling breeze. Spring wedding in the park. The brutal truth of a warfield. A litter of kittens, eyes barely open. The deteriorating corpse of a robin, flies swarming. In the middle of nowhere. Nowhere. Alone. Cold and alone...
* * * * *
'Pink? No. Eyelids. My eyelids. Where am I? I am no longer cold. In fact, I feel comfortable. Except my face feels a bit stiff. Where am I?' Tracy cracked open her eyes. White. She let her eyes open more. Still white. Ice. Focus. Rock. 'No.' was she still in this Hell? She moved her eyes around, taking in her location, leaning her head to the right. Slightly. And then to the left. Slightly. 'Yes. I am still here.'
Tracy began to sit up. Her line of vision fell upon her legs. Red and black. Focus. Red tiger stripes on black. She looked at her arms, then hands and torso. More red on black, and some sort of jewel on the back of her hands. Hauntingly familiar.
Tracy then started to look around more thoroughly. A cavern. Yes. She remembers falling. She must have fallen through a sinkhole. Why did she fall? In an instant she reached for her stomach. Nothing. She didn't feel hurt. Not in the slightest. She even felt... well. Tracy studied the cavern more, turning her head from her right to the bloody pile of shredded clothing across from where she sat. She could barely make out her coat, boots, and other garments she was wearing before soley by their color that wasn't sullied by her blood. 'Then it did...'
Tracy turned to her left. There, at the far end of what she could see of the cavern was Cylor. He appeared to be watching something intently, most likely an entrance. "You were dead." Cylor had not bothered to turn when he had spoken. Some steam wisped off his back. "I programmed your new clothing to protect and defend you in any further skirmishes. It will also provide you warmth in this particular climate."
He still had not moved. Tracy noticed a half-frozen puddle next to her, probably where Cylor had stood earlier. She looked into it and at her reflection. A pale blonde woman with ice streaked on her face below her eyes returned the gaze. Ice. Ice below her eyes. Had she been crying while unconscious?
Tracy turned back to Cylor. Still in the same position as before. She attempted to speak, but faltered. She tried again.
"Why... why did you save me?"
"Why?" Tracy could barely see his mouth move when he began to reply. "It would have been inconvenient for you to have died as you had."
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Orchids Blooming, Leaves Falling @1998 by veneer coffin works, ltd
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