APROXM: SHORT STORIES

CRASHCOURSE

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PREFACE: "Errkay…" I wrote, somehow.



Flailing my arms around wildly, I struggled trying to regain composure. I tried to breathe but only snorted water. As my vision came back, I realized I was underwater. Air bubbles flowed from my mouth and nose as I struggled to push myself up. I then lost control of my arms and legs and my vision blurred. I closed my eyes and left myself to darkness.

The flight attendant came up to me and smiled. "We hope you are enjoying flying with us tonight, sir!" I gave her a big grin, but no smile. I don't remember how it happened because I was so little but I knocked some teeth out and adult teeth never came back in, so my smiles were a wilting rose. As she continued walking and checking on the others, I turned around to find my two friends sitting beside me, one snoring with a magazine lying across his stomach, and the other with a thoughtful expression on her face. Jack and Val, respectively, aged 19 and 25. While Jack grumbled in his sleep, Val turned to me and asked, "Sooo, Sally, what are we going to do first in England?" I ignored her remark and remarked, "I told you I hate being called Sally. I go by my middle name, Sam, remember?" I wasn't amused and my facial expression sure showed it. "Nah Sam sucks too, what if I call you uh… Think off the top of my head… Servus!" Now my facial expression showed confusion. "… Servus? Where did that come from?" Val responded, "I saw it in a Latin book once. It starts with an S so why not?" I frowned and lay back in my chair. "Yeah okay, sure Val." Val quickly got up and said she had to use the bathroom. "Errkay…" I muttered. Taking out my phone, I saw I had a message left from a missed call from my mom. Upon pressing it, it played, "Hey sweetie… We know you're going to be gone for a while, but we don't ever want you to forget we love you! We love y-" Shaking filled with screaming, the plane coughed and headed for an unpredicted descent.

An arm grabbed me and pulled me out of the water. I gasped for breath and had relief painted all over my face from the satisfaction of breathing air. I turned to my rescuer. "V-Val!" She told me to hold on and quickly dove back into the water, leaving me to float on some sheet metal. I glanced around, and although my vision was blurry and wet, I examined the situation. Parts of the plane were everywhere, scattered across the ocean surface. Flames danced like ballerinas all across. Bodies, oh god, so many bodies scattered, bobbing up and down. Then I squinted and noticed a figure! I attempted to call out to him, but my voice was weak, and the best I could muster sounded as loud as a squeaking mouse. He swam to what I could see was the shore of an island, and ran off, looking back only once. I tried to drift towards him when Val pops out with Jack in tow. She lays Jack onto the sheet metal and pushes us towards the shore. Once again, my eyes slowly close as I drift towards both land and darkness, physically and mentally…

Seagulls squawking. I awaken and rise up quickly, startled to find a glistening ocean front and a bleached white shore. I rubbed my eyes and felt pain as sand infiltrated. I dove into the ocean and washed the sand out, then walked back and found Jack lying down as well and Val pacing back and forth. The realization hits me as Val turns to me: We're stranded on an island. She starts towards me and tries to comfort me but I shove her aside and fall to my knees. My eyes strained and my breath drawing, I throw up. Val lowers herself to my level and assures me it's okay, we'll be fine, there's nothing to be afraid of. I turn towards her and scream, "How could you possibly think that?! We have no supplies, we're stranded, there's just four of us, we're stranded…" Val interrupts me, "Hold on. Did you say four?" I respond by telling her of the figure I saw, who darted out of the water and ran full speed ahead. "Is that so… He can help us. Let's find this mysterious stranger then!" Her sheer confidence and smile was enough to comfort me for now. I slowly rise up and walk over to Jack and attempt to wake him up. He grumbles and sits up, stares at the ocean for a few seconds, looks at me, looks behind us, looks back to me, finally looks at the ocean again, and throws up.

What was once a sandy shore was now an overgrown forest. Val, Jack, and I slowly paced through the leaves as we searched on a clueless hunt through nature's harmony. Val is calm and composed, Jack has only a curious look on his face, but I'm a complete mess and can't stop thinking about my parents when an idea pops up. I take out my phone and surprise, it's broken. "Never mind.." I mutter to myself. As the path leads on we eventually come to a clearing, when Jack yells out. "Hey! Up in the vines!" As we all look up we find a backpack wedged in between the branches. Wanting to feel useful, I go up to it and try to pry it apart, but to no avail. "You keep pulling that branch, and I'll pull this one, and Jack, you try to shift the pack out of there. Go!" In only 10 seconds flat, Jack stumbles back with our prize.

Upon opening, my eyes dazzle with the loot. Food, water bottles, clothes, and a bowie knife fill up the pack. I question my friends, "Do you think… You think that stranger left this for us?" Jack dismissed it but Val responded, "Not a far-fetched possibility… All the more reason to find this man." I still feel terrible and miserable, but it's good to think someone's out there looking for us. I take the knife out but quickly drop it into the sand. Jack asks why I did that. "I.. I don't like knives. You take it.." He puts on a confused expression but grabs it anyway, and I return to the sack, pulling out the different supplies and examining it. Then, my face is a picture of complete horror. My skin turns pale white. "Sall- Servus, what's wrong?" I reach in and pull out a worn photograph and show it to my friends. They both equally turn white and Jack sputters out "Th.. Is tha.. That's you!!"

We continue walking through the forest with Jack hacking away swaying branches with the knife and Val doing her best to comfort me. My mind practically explodes with thoughts. How did he get this? Who took this? Who is stalking me? What the HECK is going on?! Tears eventually form around my eyes and a soft, steady stream flows. Val quickly hugs me and assures me, "Please don't cry… We're going to make it. You and me and Jack and.. we're going to make it, I promise, I pro-" Jack is slammed against a tree. "JACK!" I yell. A leopard leaps from the trees and jumps onto him and starts mauling him. I freeze up, but Val darts for the knife and slams it into the leopard. It backs off but frees itself of its wound and the knife dully drops to the ground and takes a shot at Val, reeling her back. Then it turns towards me. Jack is dazed and muttering but Val clearly screams, "GRAB THE KNIFE! GRAB IT! IF YOU DON'T WE'RE GOING TO DIE! GRAB IT!"

I could never hurt anyone or anything. I am not a fighter. My name is Sally and I'm 21 and my friends are 21 and all I want is to spend the summer in Europe. I could never hurt anything… not an animal... Knives scare me... I… Can't… I grab the knive. Adrenaline pumps throw my veins. I am a machine, with parts kicking into high gear. In what could be hours, I sidestep and the Leopard quickly tries to change its path, but it's too late. I bury the knife in its head and scream. I scream and then I cry. I screamed and then I cried…

We were tired and beaten but kept walking. Jack and Val both had scratches but they weren't bleeding. My hands were covered in blood, and I firmly gripped the knife that was once my enemy. I was not letting go. We managed to walk for another hour, snacking away at what was packed and rationing our water supply, when we came across a cottage mostly in rubble. Val tried to stop us from exploring it, saying that we needed to conserve as much daylight as we can to find a shelter suitable for staying in. "But couldn't this work?" I asked. She replied, "A piece of paper could break in and kill us, Servus." While we bickered, Jack slipped in and shrieked the girliest scream possible. We ended our conversation immediately and ran over to him, and then it was my turn to scream. An entire wall of the cottage was covered in my photos of me. As a child, as a teenager, as an adult, I filled the wall with me playing in the park, riding my bike, taking my driver's test, graduating, and the list goes on. I don't cry though. I can't make myself cry anymore.

I examine them all and notice a peculiar one that shocks me more than I already am. Me as a baby was one, and that's impossible, because my parents said they never took any pictures of me as a baby. It was impossible, because this wasn't even my city or anywhere near… This was taken with me in a lush, tropical forest. I sputter, "I.. I think.. That's.. That's the forest we're in. Oh my god, it's the cottage. It's this cottage!" I stepped back and panicked and dropped the knife. Before my friends could stop me, I dashed past them and ran blindly through the jungle with them trying to keep up. I ran until I tripped and fell. Adrenaline had coursed through my veins, but now I was getting angrier. Jack helped me up but I shoved him aside and told him I didn't need his help. He looked hurt but I didn't apologize. I turned around and kept running, never stopping, when I finally felt the final leaves brush my face and I stood before a fallen village.

All sorts of buildings like the cottage previously visited were littered across the landscape. They were not populated with those of the living however, only dust and echoes lived here. Skeletons in various poses were scattered along with rubble, debris, and the remains of whatever these houses once were. I was confused, however. I should be feeling emotions of passion and anguish but I felt anger. I didn't even care about getting home anymore, I wanted revenge. Val and Jack were behind me, yelling to get my attention, but I ignored them. I was fully convinced this was all due to the mysterious stranger. "That's right…" I started babbling. "He caused this, don't you see guys?!" Jack started to look a bit scared. "He caused the plane crash. He made a leopard attack us. He destroyed this town. And it is he who has been taking our pictures!" And then, I saw something come out of the shadows: the stranger.

The next events happened like a whirlwind. Jack screamed and crumpled to the ground, then Val took the knife and beat me with the butt end. As I fell and slowly blacked out, the last images I witnessed were her running after the old man. Then, blackness consumed me yet again.

I awoke and faced a black sky with a billion shining stars splattered across the canvas of night. My head ached and felt like an angry old man dancing across my brain. I pulled myself up from the ground and was surprised to see my knife was there. I stood and tried to regain composure, then tried to rethink every event that just happened before I blacked out. Val knocked me and Jack out and tried to kill the old man. I kept trying to rationalize what she did but I could only think she betrayed us, and that only made me angrier. My hands started shaking and my legs wobbled. Then I heard the howls. Four rabid dogs started emerging from the darkness, growling, obviously rabid. But fear was not my emotion, only anger. I gripped my knife and threw myself upon them without even thinking. They sinked their teeth into my skin but I flinched not once, and managed to kill them all. My gaze became red and I started shaking. In an instant, I sprinted back towards the city. I kept running until my legs refused to cooperate any further and I fell down. When I raised my head, I stared into the face of Val, and at the corpse of Jack, lying in a corner surrounded by equipment.

My red eyes faded back to white and I no longer felt anger but curiosity. I gripped my knife and slowly walked towards Val. I managed to say, "What… What have you done..?" Tired, I fell and she seated me at a wall. "Simple. My patience has paid off." I start to feel anger again. "What the HECK did you do to Jack?! He was my friend! Our friend!" She met my response with a smirk. "You think you have friends? You think you have a family? You think you have a life? Then buckle up kiddo, it's time for a revelation." I stared wide eyed as she went full force into her tirade. "First of all, the name's not Val. It's Vulnus, and you aren't Sally. Your real name is Servus. That, friend, is Latin for slave. You're my slave." Confusion washed over me. "S-shut up! Right now! Shut u-" She ignored me and continued, throwing baby pictures at me. "You were born on this island, kid. You were born into a glorious tribe, one of two that controls the island, the Interitus tribe. But the other tribe was a group of savages. We were civilized, they were brutes. They are the Fidus tribe, and when we decided that the island belongs to us, we waged war. But the battle drew on for ages, lead under my father. He recognized we could not win without something to turn the tide of battle. Something, anything. Now, he was always a bit of a scientist, as far as we go, and when he learned my mother was pregnant, he was granted an idea from the Gods: Manufacture this baby into a weapon of war. When she was born, my father went to work. He instilled chemicals into the child that would take years of growth to reach full potential. If they grew into the child, then by the time she would turn 21, she'd be ready for the catalyst."

I stopped her. "STOP. YOU'RE INSANE! YOU'RE INSANE! YOU'RE INSA-" But she continued again. "The catalyst was so brilliantly designed. Nostalgia. You see, if the child stayed here for 5 years and then would leave immediately and come back, she would be overwhelmed and her mind would act out. If she was placed into a state of shock, her mind would be malleable, like clay. Introduce her to pictures of her in the past, and then show her pictures of her on the island, and her mind would turn against itself. Rage would form, and anger would be her passion. Kill one thing, and she'd unlock her potential." She smiled. "You are that child, Servus. You think you have a life, but you don't, because you aren't a human, you're a weapon. The plane crash sent you into shock, the photographs brought back nostalgia, you killed the leopard, and finally, you found the picture of you on the island… Your potential has been reached. You're fully loaded."

"My father, of course was a patient man, bless his dead soul, and he instilled these beliefs into me. For 25 years I have waited and helped you. I bought us plane tickets to Europe, knowing we'd pass right over this giant mass. When I ‘went to the bathroom,' I sabotaged the plane and brought it to its knees. I had you placed in seats that I knew would have the highest chance of surviving impact. I cut open dear Jack and used his pure blood to create… this." She produced out of her pocket a long syringe, glowing deep red. "This was the final part of the experiment. This is your ammo. When injected, it will open your mind and allow all of our work to come to fruition. You will forget who you are, what you are, everything that makes you human. It will turn you into a machine that kills. You will enact revenge for our now fallen tribe and wipe out the Fidus tribe. And then, your mind will reach full capacity, and you will lose your sanity and become a slave without emotion or thought. Won't that be lovely?" I spit at her when she tried to come close and screamed, "What if I resist?! What if I decide I won't kill them!" She smiled and stared into my eyes. "Then it will activate a secondary catalyst that will cause your mind to basically evaporate. You will die in under 20 seconds if you so as to even to think about willpower." She then came close and injected the syringe into my skin. It hurt and I moaned in pain. She tucked the syringe back into her pocket and grinned. "Judgment Day…"

My eyes shot open. I was up off the ground in an instant. I saw everything warped. Red haze filled my vision. Without even noticing, my legs started moving and I ran at insane speeds towards the opposing village she directed me towards. I ran, snarling like a beast, and finally came to the gate. The tribal men yelled at me to stop but before their sentence could be finished I smashed through the gate and into the village square. Tribals ran around screaming hysterically as I ran around with foam around my mouth. I leapt upon a little girl and raised my fist. I was ready to kill. The inner me tried to stop me, tried to enforce willpower, and it felt like I was going to retract my fist, but the haze turned blood red and my heart felt as if it beat its last. In a flash, I was pulled off the little girl, and the mysterious stranger who I saw come out of the wreckage punctured my skin with a needle. My vision danced and various colors filled my gaze. Then, it went black.

I awoke on a medical table but could not move. Out of the corner of my eye, I recognized the mysterious man, but he was no longer a shadow any longer. He formed a complete figure for me. Long, black flowing hair and facial hair as well. He smiled and revealed a face of scars and wrinkles, and looked to be in his 50s. He injected a needle and spoke softly. "Stay still. I had you under paralyzation, but with this medicine, you'll be released." I obeyed and let him do so. Slowly I rose and stretched, and dang, it felt amazing. He was cheerily said, "Aha! Then it worked! I reversed her effects…" I inquired what he meant. "I've been watching over you since you were an infant, Servus. I used to belong to that evil tribe… I realized what was wrong with it and how the experiment was a mistake. But your mother took you and your sister away to a far off land. As far as I know, she set you up with a fake family. She took pictures of you and brought them back to complete the experiment... She's dead now, bless her soul for corrupting like mine once did." He started to tear up a bit, but told me to not to speak, for he must finish. "While you were gone, I toyed around with chemicals, promising myself to create a combination that would cure what had been instilled in you. I had many years to do it, because I knew once you turned 21, you'd come here."

I could stay silent no longer. "Sir… Who are you, exactly? How do you know all of that?" His face created a frown, and he looked at his shoes solemnly. "You are my daughter, Servus. You and Vulnus are my children. I created you to become a weapon." I grabbed him, but any murderous intent I had was gone, and instead I sobbed into his chest. "I'm sorry… I'm so so sorry, child…" I looked up into his eyes. "A storm is approaching. Vulnus will know you didn't do the deed, and I fear she may try to enact revenge herself. It isn't easy, but… to protect my people…" I didn't let him finish. I looked him in the eyes once more and revealed everything. "My life is a lie. I am not human and won't ever be. I'm going to go and convince her to stop all of this. I can promise you… I'm going to protect this town. But when I'm done with her, I'm sorry, I'm not coming back." His little eyes seemed misted. He gave me a big hug and then spoke one last time. "If this is what you wish, child. We will remember you, not as Servus, but as Voluntas. That, child, is Latin for will." I smiled for the first time in a long chain of events. I then walked out the door to greet the city's newest guest. Vulnus.

She stood at the gate, with both guards dead behind her feet. She carried the knife I had been using before, already dripping with more blood. She gave me a menacing look and demanded I tell her how I am still alive. This is my chance to convince her, I thought to myself. "Va... Vulnus! Our father is alive, and he saved me!" Her face twisted into horror. "He regrets what he's done and he wants to save you too!" She responded in anguish, "I DON'T BELIEVE YOU!" I motioned for my father to come out, and in that moment she melted. He called out to her, "Sweetie, please! Stop this nonsense! Just stop! I'm begging you! Please!" Her eyes widened like oranges. Her pupils stared at us. It was minutes of standing there waiting. Then she snapped and yelled "THEN YOU WILL DIE FOR BETRAYING US!" and threw her knife in a perfect arc at our father. I instinctively ran and jumped in front of him, having it bury deep into my chest. She roared like a maniac and took out a sword and started slaying anyone near. I lay on the ground with blood flowing. My father kept shaking me to get up or we'll die, but I couldn't move. Then she came near.

My father backed up more and more towards a wall. She grinned and walked slowly, licking her sword coated with blood. "I know now my purpose, father. Not to serve you, but to serve our tribe. And if killing you satisfies my lust for vengeance, then ultimately… it must be done." At this point I was regaining movement as adrenaline pumped through my veins once more. I wrapped my hands around the knife and pulled. "The Gods dictates action, father. I please them with this kill." I slowly rose up, gently, and felt pain never felt before. My eyes trained and were tainted with darkness. But I forced myself to move. "I am complete." She says no more. I sprint with all my force and leap unto her. She shrieks as I stab the knife into her neck. I puncture her neck and her face becomes contorted. I whisper to her as I feel death approach us both. "We are both complete." She slumps over, and I fall backwards, entering the field of darkness for the last time. We are complete.