Sequel: Vale
Status: Taking it slow.

Wretched and Divine.

The Great Destroyer

School is so easy when you’re ten, and I guess you don’t realize how good you had it until you’re much older, studying alegabra and all of that.

When I got out, the sky was overcast, but the air still warm and humid. I live in Florida, where if the winds get a little above average, you get a day off from school for hurricane reasons.

My parents had long since stopped picking me up from school after we moved two years ago. We now lived a block from the school, an easy walking distance, and truth be told, I enjoyed the small walk to and from.

When I got home, Mom was working in her office, and Dad was out. I contemplated a quick nap, even though I could not stay with the Wild Ones as long as I wanted to. I'd have to wake for dinner or some other reason, and like every morning, right before I woke up, I had to stand facing those five miserable faced men who begged that I stay, tried bribing me into staying there, despite how dangerous it was in the desert. I had to say goodbye over and over again, each goodbye not without it's promises. I promised every morning I'd return, and in the short twelve hours before I slept again, I would not forget about them or grow up.

That seemed to be their greatest fear for some reason... It was like Peter Pan or something. They insisted I not grow up, and for no particular reason, really. They were just very urgent as they said so. So most of my childhood, I was under the impression that they were just trying to say adulthood sucked.

With a smile, dismissing my fears, I went to my room, kicked off my shoes and lied down in bed. Another unsual thing about me, according to my parents, was my ability to sleep in under a minute, also that I always slept soundly, never waking up to cry about monsters in my closet or anything.

I fell asleep, eyes closed, I could feel the atmosphere shifting around me. My cool, dim bedroom, and soon I could feel sunlight on my eyelids, a warm breeze ruffling canvas tents, and my soft mattress gone from beneath me, replaced by a cot of the same material.

I opened my eyes, and no one was there. Of course not, they weren't expecting me. I don't make frequent afternoon visits. Usually in the evening, though, someone hangs out in the tent until I wake up. And as far as I'm aware, I'm just Sleeping Beauty in this tent all day until I go to sleep in the real world. A corpse on the canvas, breathing, sleeping, unconscious until real-world me is.

I rubbed my eyes and sat upright, planting my bare feet on the cracked sand floor. I reach for my hiking boots and lace them up, before grabbing my dark green backpack from the ground beside the cot, standing up to leave when I was ready.

Stepping out into the blinding, boiling sun, I searched for a sign of life. It wasn't safe for the Wild Ones to be out in broad daylight, the soldiers of F.E.A.R would find them, kidnap and kill them, disposing of the rebels as they saw fit.

I knew where to find them, as I had seen and even holed up in every hideout before. I'd never seen a reaper in person, but I'd seen them before in the Prophet's detailed sketches he had in his journals. His tent was 90% books and maps, more things on knowledge than actual living space items like chairs and a bed. He had a lone cot, a decorative dresser, three towering bookshelves and nothing else.

But even though I'd never seen them, and a few others, it didn't stop us from hiding during the day. Like I said before, my afternoon visits aren't frequent - but they're enough. The reapers only search for us during the day.

I hurried to a deep valley, sifting sand drifting downwards, cascading over a large drainage pipe. I crouched down and scooted down the steep slope, sand granules slipping into my boots as I went.

When I stood on level ground at the bottom, I peered doubtfully into the dark tunnel before hoisting myself up and crawling in, my footsteps echoing all the way down, mixed with the dripping of moisture in the boiler room ahead. I emerged and stretched, greeted by a warm lantern light. A few rebels in that room looked at me in surprise, some jumped, not expecting company. It's not wise to move about in broad daylight.

“Evelyn!” Kate, a slender, tall girl with long, knotted white-blonde hair addressed me, surprise in both her tone and wide hazel eyes. “What on earth are you doing here?”


“It’s dangerous.” She warned. She didn’t give me a dirty look like the others did, I knew the risk... I could lure them to us if I wasn’t careful.

“Where are they?” I wondered, and she knew who I meant.

“Prophet is gone. Visiting Mother War. Mourner, Deviant and Mystic went to look for more refugees. Destroyer is in the lower levels of the Lifeline.” She nodded towards a dark manhole in the middle of the floor, where thin ribbons of silver water dribbled down the hole, making faint splash sounds at the bottom.

The Lifeline was the tunnel that connected all the districts across the desert. It was the smartest way to travel if you were moving during the day.

“Mother War?” I asked in surprise. It was a familiar name, of course, but no one spoke of her unless there was trouble.

“Yes.” Kate nodded, leaning agaisnt the damp, glistening concrete wall. “He left this morning after you did, thought he’d be back late tonight. Who knows?”

“Oh... Maybe I chose a bad time to come.” I worried, “I should have waited.”

“It’s okay, Evelyn.” Kate reassured with a stressed smile. “The Destroyer would love to see you while you’re around.”

The Destroyer had always adored my company, and it reminded me of one of my earliest memories, and one of the craziest things regarding the whole situation. When I was born, too tiny to even try keeping memories, I still came here when I slept, and when I did, I had a collective memory. I remember my first day here quite clearly, though it’s distant and fuzzy.

I was tiny, wearing polkadot pajamas when I showed up, spawning in the middle of the camp. Prophet was the one to find me, crying obnoxiously, bound to draw in reapers. To them - I was a ticking bomb, a trick. He scooped me up, and took cover in a tent, while everyone came out of hiding curiously. They didn’t know what I was, surprisingly.

He didn’t know what to do with me, other than holding me at arms length away from himself with a concerned grimace. That’s when The Destroyer came in, shouting about all the noise when he saw me.

“Hey, what’s that?”

“I don’t know!” Prophet shouted back, on the verge of panic.

“It kinda looks like a tiny human-thing. Here.”

He took me away, some sort of fatherly instinct, I don’t know. I just remember I couldn’t stop crying.

“It’s going to draw them right to us! Shut it up!” Prophet panicked.

“No it’s not. Mystic!”

Mystic scared me more, walking into the tent with an annoyed expession and clown makeup, a violin across his shoulder.

“Play something calming!” The Destroyer ordered. Mystic hesitated, trying to figure out what I was, before laying his violin down his arm, and playing a soothing tune. I felt all the fear and terror drain from me, leaving behind a hazy, artificial calm.

“What the hell is it?!” Mystic shouted over the music.

“...A baby.” Prophet finally replied, putting his extensive knowledge to good use. “Never seen one before.”

How could they not? You may wonder... What I’ve figured out by now, is that the Wild Ones live in a frozen time period. Events proceed, time moves forward, but no one ages. No one has kids - they’re too scared to.

“It’s a kid.” He clarified when the others looked at him in confusion.

“Where the hell did it come from?” Mourner asked, showing up beside the Deviant.

Prophet shrugged, looking at me, lying in an awkward knot in Destroyers’ arms. He didn’t have a clue how to hold me.

They became accustomed to my regular visits after that, and erected a tent just for me, since I always awoke in the same place. The tent became my own, and sometimes they’d wait for me to visit. I was an oddity to them, something completely unknown.

Frequently I’d sleep hugging my father’s history textbooks, just so I could awake with them and give them to Prophet to study. He’d spend hours in the armory tent, poring over every page to absorb the information. Once I brought them a shoebox of polaroid snapshots (Trust me, that was not comfortable to sleep with, or easy to explain to my parents when they caught me sleeping with it)

I showed them my family, old pictures of myself, as well as a recent color shot of me and my Grandpa at Disney World. They were facinated by it, by the colors that the desert lacked. They pinned up that snapshot in the armory tent.

It was the following night that I brought my Dad’s old polaroid camera, and got photos of myself with all of them. They hung those up as well. I wished so badly that I could bring one back with me, but the effort could not be reversed. I couldn’t bring anything back, not even the sand in my boots.

I dropped down into the manhole and began to climb down the slick ladder, the steam rising from below sticking to my skin, matting my hair to my forehead and neck.

Once I’d gotten into the lower tunnels, I could hear the faint sound of 50’s folk music. I followed the sound through the intersecting tunnels, seeing small hoards of rebels sleeping in corners and on the floors. The music was coming from the dimly lit door at the end of the hall.

As I approached, I walked slower, and stopped, knocking on the concrete loud enough to announce my presence, and I waited. Awkwardly, I made my way closer to the doorway, hearing the gruff sounds of people from inside. I knocked on the wall again as I moved slowly towards the opening.

“Destroyer!” I called into the room, and I could hear cursing, mattresses squeaking, and an annoyed voice ushering someone away.

“Don’t come in!” He called back, fumbling around the room like a madman. I sighed, pressing my back against the concrete outside the doorway, listening to the sound of fabric being tossed, and the clatter of a belt buckle being frantically latched.

“Normally it’s the Deviant who’s doing the weird hugging.” I commented in a sing-song voice.

“Oh... Er... Yeah...” He replied awkwardly, preoccupied with something. “Okay, come in.”

I turned and skipped inside, and a flustered, annoyed, red-faced Destroyer stood there. Leaning back against an ancient writing desk, hair a knotted mess, more than usual, looking like he was up to no good.

“For a ten year-old, you’re a lot of trouble.” He says finally after a long pause, narrowing his eyes at me suspiciously, smiling slyly.

I shrug, “You’re the only one around. Kate said the others left.”

“...Yeah...” He trailed off, pushing his frazzled hair off his forehead. My grin grew. “That’s why you were hugging! You were lonely because they left you.”

Surprise crossed his face as he struggled to form a normal sentence. “...Yes?... Yeah, that’s why.” He smiled wistfully then, “I like hugging.”

I nod, pacing the small room slowly, looking at all the dials and levers to control the water levels in the sewers. “I do, too.”

He cleared his throat, face growing a deeper shade of red. “Uh... It’s a different kind of hugging.”

“How so?” I wonder absently, looking over the control board, out a clouded window, the steam and hard water trails so thick it was hard to see much.

“It just is.” He assured, “Hey, want to go for a walk?”


We left the control room, heading back down the hall. “Where are we going?”

“Library.” He responded, making a right turn.

The library, was a large side room in the Lifeline level of the sewers. It had row after row of handmade shelves, but still did not have enough room to contain the massive ammounts of books Prophet had. The remainder were in his tent, as well as another. But since most of them were in one collective place, besides his sketch journals with details on our enemies, all the rebels could come here and study for battle if they wished.

“Why are we going there?”

“To learn.”

“About what?”

“How annoying little ten year-old girls can be.” He says with a serious tone, but after I shoot him a glare and shove his ribs, he cracked a grin. “No, we’re studying aquaponics.”

“Aquaponics? Isn’t that growing plants in water? With no dirt?”

“That’s right.”

“Are we farming?”

“Well, the heafty storage of canned beans and pork isn’t exactly a mesmerizing meal anymore.” He laughed. They’d been living off that alone for a little more than a decade.

“Isn’t the dirt safe to grow in?”

“Not exactly. The stuff has asorbed all kinds of lethal chemicals over the years. It’d have to be treated, and I don’t even know where to get the chemicals to do that. It’s just easier this way.”

I nodded and followed him. “We’ve never tried that before.”

“Pshh, we? You’re only here for twelve hours a day.”

“You know what I meant.”

“So how’s life out there?”

I shrug, following him deeper through the maze of intersecting tunnels. “The same. It’s more fun here than there.”

“Hey, you’re lucky to be a kid. What I wouldn’t give to be a kid.” D made a dreamy face, but I didn’t agree with him.

“You already are a kid. A big, bulky, stinky kid!”

“Hey!” He shouted in defense, chasing me when I took off running the rest of the way to the library.
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It's been a long time. :P