Endless amounts of smoke that pricked at my lungs with every quick, shallow breath…
A small flicker of a blaze that was hot enough to irritate the skin but soft enough to not leave any prominent burns...
A ringing in my ears that seemed loud enough to drown out my own thoughts…
Blood all around but instead of disgust, I felt strangely calm in a world of red…
Fingers numb but also burning, stinging, adding to a strange mix of sensation-loss and intense pain simultaneously…
The entire disorientation reminded me of that moment during childhood when a firecracker would explode in your hands…
The numbness of your fingers, the terror at the thought of losing your hand…
"Hey, wake up you piece of shit!"
"Why are you pretending to still be asleep?"
"Don't you hear me talking to you?"
An unfamiliar voice bombarded my ruptured eardrum along with a few painful stings against my face that could only be identified as brutal slaps.
The slaps were… oddly, enough for my pain sensors to distinguish the aching parts of my body from the areas that were uncompromised.
Though, a slap to the face felt like a jab to the legs so I wasn't sure what was damaged and what was intact.
I woke up groggily, still feeling the equivalent of a hundred silver balls pressing against my chest from Ida's head untimely departing from the rest of her body.
Rest in peace little head…
I had little doubt that Ida had died but I wasn't so sure about the rest of her family, not that I cared very much.
Yes… I didn't care… and that was very odd because I had a natural inclination to care for others.
At the moment of the explosion, I wasn't sure what exactly happened since everything was a blur but at the very least I was certain of minimal damage to my body.
I examined my body and noticed splattered blood and pieces of flesh scattered all over, but the most painful sensation came from the sharpened, splintered bones that acted like shrapnel at the moment of the explosion.
Ever had a tooth embedded in your forehead?
Yeah… me either… the tooth was embedded in my leg. That didn't make it hurt any less though.
The bone splinters didn't penetrate too deeply but there was a certain painful disgust that came along with the notion of having a part of someone else inside your body.
(I am not sure how the females do it)
I felt a sudden ache to my stomach as my body was kicked across the room, into the back wall.
Floating through the air weightlessly, I felt like I could see everything, feel everything, hear everything – strange, given my ruptured eardrums, but everything just seemed eerily familiar to the point of tediousness.
It was like something in my subconscious mind was whispering 'You have been here a thousand times before… it never ends… the pain, the torture, the loss…'
'How sad must it be to know the sensation of freedom lost.' I thought indifferently as if my current situation was someone else's problem.
I wasn't sure how, but my body relaxed enough for the subsequent collision with the wall to feel like the embrace of a cloud of softness… or maybe that was just my mind retreating into a familiar, delusional, state of hopelessness.
"Tie him up… his brain probably blew a few switches during the explosion…"
With practiced ease, I felt my body hoisted up onto a chair and a few quick ropes restrained me.
Admittedly, I was tied fairly well: hands tied, head tied, legs tied, and thighs tied.
The rope used to restrain me smelled of piss, vaginal secretions, and a host of STDs that I had no idea how I was familiar with such specific knowledge.
I was not sure what scared me more – the overly familiar smell of STDs or being tied to a chair like some BDSM participant.
My thoughts were conflicted between two states like Schrödinger's ever-elusive cat. I read the story in a book somewhere and even now, I can't tell if the cat was dead or alive.
… Am I alive? Or am I dead?... Maybe, I am in between?... Has that box been opened?... Is it still closed?... Was it close from the start?...
[You're making a mistake...]
"You're making a mistake…" I whispered vaguely as my mind was trapped in an endless loop of questions that distracted me just enough for the unconscious words to leave my mouth.
Feeling around a bit, I realized that I was restrained by the most basic knots known to man so whoever did it, was not someone truly determined to keep me restrained…
Rather, I should say that the person who tied me up did just enough to keep (me) restrained… but I don't think I was me right now… Was I?
"You're awake?" A shadowy figure asked as he walked into the light "That was pretty fast… usually, that type of minor explosion would leave anyone knocked out for a couple of hours at least."
I didn't reply… rather, I couldn't reply because my throat stiffened and I was sure that if anything were to come out of my mouth, it would have been an animalistic growl that would intimidate me as much as my captors.
My captor was a group of useless Slum-Dwellers with the obvious leader being Trion's Number One Lackey – Sally.
I restrained the urge to rampage… restrained the urge to fight… restrained the urge to do anything that wasn't being quiet.
Sally(male) looked surprised that there was recognition in my eyes "I didn't expect you to recognize me… all the reports say that you're a little bitch… well, Rocky's little bitch anyway…"
I lowered my head, trying desperately not to look Sally in his eyes but I could only restrain myself so much.
There were two versions of myself overlapping – one staring at Sally in the eyes fearlessly and another version on his knees, begging for forgiveness just hoping to live another day.
As the person in between those two extremes, I simply tilted my head just enough that my peripheral vision could see Sally while not looking directly at him.
I felt like I was compromising with my girlfriend, only it was me, myself, and I.
"It's okay… you can look at me," Sally whispered into my ear.
A tongue slithered across my ear so quickly that I almost mistook the feeling for an illusion but I knew it was anything but…
I strained my eyes to recognize, not just Sally, but a whole bunch of Trion's lackeys scattered around what was once Ida's living room.
The living room chairs were broken and there was a large area of scorched wood complemented by the occasional blood and gore that added a unique livelihood to the room.
Some of Trion's lackeys stood near the windows, some were up the stairs, some were wandering around looting whatever valuables they saw sparkle.
After all, as far as Slum-Dwellers were concerned, anything that glittered was either gold or infinitely close to gold.
Even toilets would not be spared as long as they sparkled with enough 'pizazz'.
The lackeys were positioned all over the house in locations that vaguely resembled strategic patterns but sometimes it was better not to do something at all than to do it incorrectly.
Their strategic formations looked like that one girl in the group of girls that had a purse labeled 'Poochi' instead of 'Gucci'.
You could spot her fake ass from a mile away just like how you could spot Trion's lackeys trying to be anything other than the idiots they were raised to be.
I remained quiet as my indifferent eyes moved on instinct…
Judging each person, determining their height, weight, respective combat abilities, taking note of all the exits, formulating plans, and searching for possible weapons.
My mind drifted so far that I felt myself being lost in the storm of possibilities that ranged from using a chair in the fight to breaking someone's arm and extracting the bone to kill the others.
[Let me out!]
[Kill them all…]
'Survival is all that matters…'
[Aurora is at home waiting!]
I snapped my head to the right to see Rena, battered and bruised but still a long way from death (unfortunately).
I could tell she hadn't been violated as yet but rape was preferred to the usual cannibalism in the slums.
Next to Rena was Agne who seemed physically fine but her dead eyes denoted her traumatized status.
I guess losing the will to live was not uncommon given she literally watched her mother's head explode immediately after learning her mother was a stripper called 'Bootilicious'.
Finally, next to Agne was Rocky who, judging from the evenly-timed rising and falling of his chest, was wide awake and pretending to be asleep.
"Yes… Hello?" Sally answered the small communicator on his shoulder "Yes. I have him here contained… you guys just need to find the location of his bunker…"
The moment the word bunker was said, my eyes widened and I could also see Rocky's eyes snap open from his pretend-sleep.
A dreadful silence enveloped the living room but Sally continued to speak unaware of the subtle changes in the atmosphere.
"Calm down…" Rocky shouted, scooting his chair further away, prompting Agne and Rena to do the same instinctively.
[Just let go…]
A voice urged from deep inside me and I was flooded with gruesome sights of wars, death, loss, pain, hatred, anger… torture, reluctance, hopelessness…
It was like a virus that contained all the worse aspects of humanity was attempting to upload itself into my mind and for some reason, I knew I needed to see as much of the ugly as possible…
Because with all the ugliness came an underlying beauty of a planet filled with enormous trees and luminous plants that glowed like rainbows without end…
I saw bridges between floating fortresses and a host of people who grew to represent the best of humanity… I saw lovers who had fallen, vaguely aware that I had a chance to see them once more.
And all that was required of me to have everything I ever wanted was to … SURVIVE!
"I'll take the kid to ge-"
In an instant, I found my body free from all restraints as my free hand penetrated through Sally's chest.
Everyone in the living room stared wide-eyed, but I only had one thought on my mind… or on his mind… maybe on both our minds.