Nothing had been the same since the bombs fell.
From skeletal shells of once-laughing houses to shadows where trees had thrived, Finn’s view of the outside resembled a horror film. “Are you sure th’ equipment’s right?” Mary would ask. She’d asked every day, till Patrick snapped and told her to shut it.
Finn was more patient with his sister. Before Patrick stepped in, Finn had sighed and said, “Aye, Mary. They’re right.”
He thought about this exchange as he walked in stiff, clumsy cadence. He thought about Mary and what she might say if they allowed her on surface excursions as well. His breath echoed and amplified in his helmet. The radioactive puffs of dust and crumbling landscape around him struck him as surreal, no matter what he’d told Mary. His hands clenched and unclenched within their constricting gloves; itching to touch it all, to test if it were real.
He shifted his view to right and left, and felt at his back for reassurance. His Laserlock was still there. Of course it was. He’d checked for it only moments before, and moments before that. “You compulsive skinny,” Patrick would’ve told him. Fine enough for Patrick to tease; Finn knew his brother behaved the same when outside. Neither one of them wanted to be caught with his trousers down. It only took once. Just once.
Finn stopped and stood outside the hospital. Most of it was intact; Patrick had learned that on his last trip, right before sunset. Right before losing his leg. Finn flexed his own as if to ensure no one had taken it while he stood there. Irony certainly had a sense of humor. The place where his only brother had been attacked was where Finn needed to go in order to save Patrick’s life.
This time would be different, he told himself. This time it was full daylight. This time his weapon was fully charged. This time, he knew they were there.
©2019 Chelsea Owens