**** be warned there are some gory bits (they are very short). If you do not like gore, then do not read the this.****
Part 1 - The Crater
I rise up. Shaking the rubble from my shirt and the cracks in my fractured skin. I wipe the blood and sweat off of my forehead, breathing hard, trying to remember exactly what happened. Next to me, a disembodied hand lies, though the fingers have been crushed by something that is no longer there. As the clouds of fog, ash and smoke thin, I realize... the arm was not a one-off. Strewn all around me are limbs torsos, chunks of burning flesh that no longer bear any resemblance to the part of the body they were ripped from. 'What the hell happened here?'
My jelly legs suddenly give out as a wave of nausea overwhelms me. I collapse as a mouthful of bile spews from my mouth. The bitterness wakes me up faintly, though it isn't enough for me to attempt to stand again. I crawl, noting that my jeans are torn and my right leg is a blacked with bright crimson emerging from the cracks, looking like the magma flowing from an active volcano. I don't even have the energy to scream. Instead, I close my eyes and lower my head, knowing that in a moment my arms will lose their strength. I am not wrong.
When I awaken I know he'll be there. Eamon, oh how I miss him. Though I shouldn't miss him should I? I mean he was there before I started to have this terrible nightmare... wasn't he? Why is it so hard to remember? Why am I so uncertain about everything? Maybe I'm hung over... that's it, that would explain this headache... Ugh... this headache.
I take a deep breath in, feeling my groggy mind booting up under the darkness of this empty dream space. I can smell the bitter smell of... 'is that puke? I must have drank a tonne and thrown up last night... yeah, that's it!' I can also smell the metallic smell of... blood. My eyes fly open as I register this scent. My head is flat against a rock, around me smoke still rises off the ground. 'I musn't have woken up yet'; but even as I think these words I know that I am not asleep... not anymore.
I try to stand up but this time I seem to be overly aware of the pain. I used to have a trick for counteracting pain, something Eamon taught me back when we were doing our tour. I first need to pin-point the pain. Exactly where it is stemming from. I close my eyes, searching my body, finding the source. I bite my lip as my headache suddenly becomes amplified. My eyes shoot open when I realize... the pain is coming from everywhere.
I test the theory. Moving my pinkie fraction of a millimetre. The pain is nearly unbearable. I grit my teeth, and try to fight through it. I rise up doing so quickly before I could change my mind. I scream a long blood curdling scream that barely resembles my voice. Through the pain I can sense my hearing warble as if I am underwater, I can see the picture getting dimmer as dark spots cloud my view. I bite into my lip, breaking the skin with my front teeth. The sudden, though insignificant, pain forces me to wake up and not faint again as I knew I would have.
I force myself not to look down at my leg as I remember what it looks like. I take a small step. My feet seem fairly stable... my legs are another story. I remove a my already-torn sleeve from my shirt and, without looking down, tie off my right leg at the knee.
"Does anyone need help?" I call out, my voice sounding hoarse and desperate. There is no answer. I know that I am not in a position to really help anyone but the silence is unnerving. There must be someone else here… who is still alive.
"Is anyone here?" I call out, my voice becoming slightly stronger.
"Is anyone alive?" I scream frantically, my voice now nearly as loud as it can go.
"Hello... help... hello... please..." My left ear catches the faint sound, though it was difficult to decipher with the blood pooling in my left ear.
I begin to walk towards it. Every step comes at a price. I can feel the blood soak the makeshift tourniquet. The blood slowly drain out every other rip in my skin. As I move, my right ankle shifts in a way that I've never felt... that can't be good! So many times I think about stopping but I realize that with every second I waste lamenting my own pain, that voice that was already so light and desperate will weaken.
"I'm coming for you. I need you to keep talking though." I say as I step over a body that is bent in an unnatural and unhealthy way.
"Okay." It takes about a 20seconds for the person to form the word.
"What is your name?" There is a long pause before the wispy voice responds.
"Alright Darcie, I'm going to help you alright?"
"Yes” long pause “Ok" her voice is weakening fast but I'm still able to follow it.
“Darcie, what happened?” I ask. I know that you aren’t supposed to bring up something traumatic when you are trying t stop someone from going into shock but it is the only question I can think to ask.
“The sky, the sky…They never warned us… I didn’t know...” I am about to ask her what she means when she suddenly asks, "Wait, what is your name?"
"Halley" At last I reach her, after walking for about ten minutes. And then I see her...
Darcie is as good as dead. The remains of her broken teeth are gritted together in the pain. Her eyes are glazed as she stares blankly. I don’t even think she can see me. But I can see her… well… what’s left of her. She lies under a large chunk of rock. It is crushing her abdomen. Her hand has a large shard of metal protruding from it, skewering her to the ground. I cannot even think clearly enough to try to hide my horror. I can feel my face contort into a disgusted grimace, mirroring hers exactly.
She twists her body as she attempts to slither out from beneath the rock. Only when she tilts her head do I realize that her part of her skull crushed so badly that it isn’t even flat, it is actually dented inward. As if she needed more working against her.
“Halley?” she asks tentatively. I nod, still in shock. She gives a strained smile that I do not understand. “You look like I can trust you.” I’m thoroughly confused. “Can I trust you?” I nod and lean down closer to her so that she will not have to strain so hard to try to talk. “I’m not going to live.”
I am about to reassure her but I know that I will not be able to say it convincingly. I shake my head slowly, feeling all the muscles in the neck ache as they ripple with the movement.
“I knew I could trust you.” Her raspy voice is accented by the bloody smile. ‘Was that a test? Was she wanting to see how I would respond to the question? What if I had answered differently?’ “My children, you need to find them and get them out of here do you understand.” Her voice suddenly takes a sharper tone. This reminds me of my mother’s voice when she was lying in the hospital bed, telling me all life lessons that she would not be able to teach me like “do not bleach your hair or it will fall out by the time you are thirty” or “iron your shirts, do not put them into the dryer to iron them, iron them by hand”. Although I do not know Darcie, this sentiment makes a tear drip from my eye. As it slides down my cheek in mingles with the grime and sweat until it falls to the ground.
“I’m sorry…” I can feel the tears streaming now. “I’m sorry, I can’t…”
‘Please’ she mouths, her voice is too weak for my clotted ears to hear. She reaches her free hand towards me touching my cheek. “Kenda, Alanna and Coilin…” I cannot even respond as I watch this woman, who is barely older then myself, use her final breaths to beg a perfect stranger to take her children. “please, please, please” she says, fading out until all I can do is read her lips as they continue to form the words she can no longer breathe. Her arm slowly returns back down. I can see that she has almost given in to her pain.
“I’ll find them, don’t worry, I’ll find them.” With her final ounce of strength she smiles a broken smile. Her eyes, now full of relief, close as the final breath of life is exhaled. “Go Well” I murmur as I stroke her cheek.