__________________________________________________

The self driving bus opened its door and I stepped out, along with two or three others that made this their destination. It was three in the afternoon and the weather couldn’t get colder. I pushed my gloved hands to my mouth and saw my breath in front of me. Then up to the sky that was becoming darker as they began forming together. It might snow or it might rain really cold showers. I then checked my pocket for the key I made sure not to forget, but checked again anyway.

Ring, ring, I heard my phone ringing and as it rung again I tapped over the bottom of my ear before it rung a fourth time.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hey, Lili,” said a voice

“Kylie,” I said, correcting the person who sounded like my adoptive mother.

“I like your nickname better,” she said and I sighed. “Don’t be like that. I was just wondering if you arrived there yet.”

I looked around me, a new store built on the corner street a few yards away that I hadn’t seen before and made my way to it.

“Yes,” I said, looking down on the ground and almost stepping on what looked to be a fresh spit out piece of gum. “I just arrived a moment ago.”

“Be careful,” she said, “okay? You know how weird that area has become in the last few years.”

“I know, I know,” I said, finally reaching the front entrance to the store. “I’ll be careful and call you if anything comes up.”

“Okay,” she said. “And try not to be late for your first day at the university, make sure you arrive there with Eva.. and don’t fight.”

“We won’t,” I said. She then hung up after saying her goodbyes.

I opened the door to the store and bells began ringing softly, announcing my entrance to the store clerks. The mood was quiet and neither of the two clerks said a thing. The only sound came from the television that was mounted high on the walls, and their eyes seemed glued to it.

“Excuse me,” I said, attempting to get their attention, and the one clerk behind the counter stopped to look at me for a second. “Do you have coffee?”

The clerk pointed their hand toward an object to their right. It was a coffee pot. I thanked the clerk and walked to it, pouring myself a cup and handing the clerk the payment. I stayed inside and took a bit of the hot coffee to my lips, making sure each sip doesn’t last anymore a second needed before I accidentally burn myself. I then looked at what the clerks were looking at it was the news.

“A mandatory move for all residents near the vicinity of the anomaly found in the area 2-A is effective immediately. If you live nearby, a move may be scheduled for your families in the upcoming months.” A woman reported just outside what looked like a fenced area. The area I was right now in is 2-B, an area close enough for the move in the coming months.

“Bullshit!” said one of the clerks, startling me in the process. I immediately walked out of the store and start walking away. I looked in both directions and began following a path to my right. Houses left and right were closed down with a few scarcely being lived in.

I continued walking block by block and passing houses, then an open area where children could play, though it was overrun by large grass and trash that was likely dumped there. I remember once playing here so I stopped to look. There was a small plastic animals for kids to ride on, it could spring back and forth with the same motion a small kid could force it to go–like riding a horse.

I walked away and continued following a route further passing a few more houses until I could finally see that one house in particular I had come all the way to this town for. My old house, where I used to live with my brother, and it had a view of the street that could see the corner store from a distance. As I grew closer, I could see the front door blocked off by nailed down pieces of wood. When I finally arrived, I tried forcing the wood off, but as expected, it was useless to begin with since it didn’t budge an inch.

Even the windows were blocked by large pieces of wood. I checked my pocket for that key I brought and was now useless. I stepped back and looked around, then started walking off to the side of the house, where the ground was made of concrete and grass couldn’t grow as wild, except for the few cracks in the ground here and there.

There was graffiti on the side of the wall, all of which were words that were sprayed in a strange manner, making it hard to read what is written. I walk past it and carefully moved through to the backyard, where I find the place filled with beer bottles, empty cigarette cases and  bags of chips, one of which seems to have a decomposing rat in it, and a smell to go along with it.

I quickly stepped away from it and reached for the backdoor that as I turn it, is also jammed in place. I then took out the key from my pocket.

“This better be the key to it,” I whispered, then inserted the key and turned it. It works! The knob turned and I went inside. The first thing that came into view was the kitchen, and it was dark with the only light coming in from the door I opened.  Everything, even the kitchen from what I saw was covered in dust and left untouched from the day I left.

I took out my phone and swiped up with my finger to browse through the settings to find the flashlight option. It turned on from the back of my phone and I directed the light in front of me. Then began to walk deeper inside.

The fridge was the next thing that came to view, followed along with the kitchen table not too far off. I walked to the fridge and opened it. It was empty all for except a badly wrapped sandwich, though in reality it looks like black sludge of death from the years it was left in. Thump! I closed the fridge immediately after feeling the smell tickle my nose.

I walked to my room first and shined my phones light on my bed. Then to the nightstand and headed toward it. I pulled the handle and found my diary inside Aside from that, there were colored pencils and erasers kept inside. I looked around my room and saw that there was nothing else of importance. We didn’t have much money to begin with.

Crackle. I heard something breaking, like wood attempting to be forcibly removed. I stepped out of my room and looked to the front door. Small flickers of light were seeing moving from the very edges at the bottom of the door and the noise continued. This was followed by another crackle and a loud thump of something heavy falling. I turned the light off from my phone and stood there looking at the door. Then the doorknob moved left and right but with it being locked, entry would be difficult. A second later, and the knob stopped moving. Light from underneath hinted a shadow of a person. Two lines of shadows for two legs. Then one quickly vanished. Bash! And the door was forced opened.

“Ahh!” the person yelled, then she took a closer look at me. “Holy shit, Kylie. You scared the crap out of me.”

“…”

“You looked like a fucking ghost just standing there.”

“There was a back door,” I said to my sister. “What are you even doing here?”

“Mom was worried about you coming here alone,” said Eva, she wore her usual white buttoned up shirt and black formal pants. This went well with her black hair and light brown eyes.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” I said.

From behind Eva, there was a light changing from red and  blue, followed with the sound of air being quickly cut by small blades. Then a drone appeared behind Eva, to which she turns to look to it. It was painted in black and white and was with no doubt a police drone.

“Crap..” said Eva. The drone then began to shine a red light on her with low beeps every second.

“Eva Lowtski,” said the drone in a robotic voice. “You are trespassing on private property.”

“The owner let me in,” said Eva. Then the drone looked around and noticed me. It repeated the procedure of scanning me with a red light.

“Kylie Lowtski,” said the drone, then beeped three times. “Kylie J. Nols.” The drone then beeped two times. “Confirmed relative of owner Aoi K. Nols.”

“…” I then looked to the broken door, cause by Eva. The drone, too, looked to it.

“Would you like to press charges on destruction of property?” asked the drone.

“What?!” yelled Eva. “The house is being demolished in a few days. It won’t matter soon!”

“It’s fine,” I said to the drone. Then it beeped two times.

“No charges will be pressed against Eva Lowtski,” it said.

“Mind lighting up the room?” I asked.

The drone the moved to the middle of the room and shined its light to brighten up the place. I thanked it. Now I could see how untouched the living room really was.

“It’s really empty here,” said Eva.

“Yeah..” I said. We then walked to my brother’s room but before entering, the drone flicked its light off and on. We turned to it, and it had successfully gotten our attention.

“Would you like for me to give light to that room, as well?” it asked. I nod in agreement, and it then opens some compartment on itself, revealing one much smaller drone, almost the size of a humming bird. The little drone then followed us and went inside Aoi’s room, then stuck itself on the ceiling and began beeping twice. A small light started lighting up the room, and the small drone beeped a few more times. Finally, it’s light became as bright and no different from the light given off from a light-bulb.

“Thanks,” I said. The little drone then beeped twice and Eva walked to my brother’s bed and turned the sheets upside down.

“This way we won’t have to sit and get dirty,” said Eva.

I looked around and saw what remained. A closet, a nightstand by his bed and a desk covered with books and papers from his old university. I checked the closet first, and saw that it had some of his clothes and two pairs of shoes.

“You guys really were poor, huh,” said Eva. I glanced over to her for a moment and back at the closet. I closed it. Then moved to the desk with all his books.

“I didn’t know your brother was into science,” said Eva, staring into books on physics and the atomic structure.

“He wasn’t,” I said. “I once overheard him speaking to a friend that he want to change to a major that could prove economical in the future.”

“So he had money in mind,” said Eva. “But wasn’t he forced out for not having the funds to pay for university?”

“Yes,” I said, moving some of his books and looking over his papers. Some of them were copies of completed assignments. Others were notes he had taken of his classes, all of which were typed up. Then Eva walked over to me looked around. She pulled out one of the notes.

“Who is Sarah?” she asked, and pointed to a name on one of the notes.

“Don’t know,” I said.

“Think it was his girlfriend?”

“If he did,” I said, “he never mentioned one. Besides, they might have just been sharing notes.”

“That’s true,” responded Eva. Then I saw the bottom of her ear glowing faintly white. She must have her phone on silent, so I motioned with my hand to my ear and she took notice. She then tapped her ear twice. “Hello?”

“…”

“Yes,” said Eva, “we’re at the house looking through some stuff…” She then paused to listen. “We have a police drone looking after us, so it’s fine….. Okay.”

“Who was it?” I asked.

“My brother said he would come pick us up,” she said.

“It’s a three hour drive though..”

“Longer on bus,” said Eva. “we have classes starting tomorrow, so let’s finish here quickly.” Eva paused and glanced at me. “Or.. or you could take your time.”

I moved past Eva and toward the nightstand. I pulled the handle and saw the contents inside. Some more books and papers. Then I felt Eva’s presence join me nearby.

“You’d think he would at least buy an E-book,” said Eva. “I’d hate to think that he carried these books to class every time.” She then moved a few books aside and found her answer to her previous statement. “Ah-ha!” Eva then tried turning the device she found on, and a small image of a battery blinking popped up and then turned off a second later. “It’s dead.”

She then handed me the E-reader. I use the cloth of my shirt to wipe the dust off. Then looked for the charger but was nowhere to be found in the room. It’s not here.

“We should have a charger for that old thing,” said Eva. “Charge it at home.”

I continued looking through the nightstand but found nothing else of interest. I then sat on the bed and looked at the E-reader that belonged to Aoi, and Eva joined me a moment later.

“Oh wow,” she said, “it’s a very old model. ” Then I turned the device and looked at its back.

“Model 2S,” I said, reading the engraving on the back. “K.A.S.”

“Year 2039,” said Eva, pointing below the model number. “He bought an old model… it’s 2051 now but I can say this one is vintage. I remember the commercials, ‘a new way to read!'” I smiled.

“Yeah, I remember,” I said. “It made a lot of the school texts much cheaper afterwards because of what the Kas reader could do.”

I kept looking at the K.A.S. e-reader. The screen had seen a few minor scratches during its use. Not long after, and we went home with Eva’s brother.

* * *

I woke up the next morning with someone knocking on my bedroom door. Knock, knock, knock, it continued.

“Kylie,” said Eva. “Hurry up, we’ll be leaving in half an hour.”

I quickly got out of bed and after realising her words and walked past Eva on my way to the bathroom. Then turned the shower and undressed in the mean time.

“Time and weather?” I asked.

“Miss Kylie,” said a voice from my ear. A small device implanted right behind the ear for the newest model phones. “It is currently 08:32 A.M. We will see some light rain beginning in the after-noon all throughout the area. Temperatures you can expect will be in the low fifty degrees Fahrenheit, ten degree Celsius.”

“Only give me the temperature in Fahrenheit from now on,” I said, and placing foot inside the  shower, then the rest of my body.

“Setting has been saved,” it said, followed by small chime. “A message from Eva.”

“Put me through,” I said. My eyes began warming up a little. I could now see a live stream video of what Eva was looking at through her vision.

“We’re having pancakes,” she said, and I could see she was staring down at pancakes as she was slowly pouring syrup over them. “Better hurry up before they are all gone.”

“Don’t worry,” said our mother. Eva looked up and the video showed our mother walking to the table with more pancakes, “I made more.”

I finished my shower ten minutes later and got dressed. Then took out my brother’s device from the connector as I had left it charging over-night, though in reality, the charge finished in less than a minute, but I’ve been hesitant to turn it on since then. I walked to the dinning room and joined Eva and her mom.

“We’ll be leaving in about fifteen minutes,” said Eva. I placed the e-reader device on the table. I ate my share of pancakes and milk to drink.

“Did you find anything?” asked our mother.

“It’s was practically vacant,” said Eva.

“I remember him coming to drop you off at school,” said our mother. “Hard to believe I’d adopt one of my own students, but you were already friends with Eva, so I didn’t see why not.”

“…” I stopped mid-bite.

“If Eva hadn’t mentioned anything,” she said, “It might have taken longer for someone to notice you were living by yourself. To think your no good brother just up and left..”

“Mom!” yelled Eva.

“What?”

“We don’t know that for sure,” said Eva. I looked on in silence. “There were growing reports of missing persons at the time.”

“Sure,” said our mother, “That’s what they say, but who is to say some didn’t just leave without notice? The town there is getting worse by the day. That’s why we left while we still could.”

“We heard over the news that a whole building had vanished into thin air,” said Eva. “It was replaced by plants and trees, one plant in particular that we thought went extinct hundreds of years ago. Don’t you find that strange, Kylie?”

“…”

“Kylie?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah,” I said. “It is strange.”

“It’s a bunch of hoaxes going around,” said our mother. “Anything to give attention to that old town. It’s not like you saw with your own eyes.”

“Well,” I said, remembering the spot recorded by the news looked like a normal empty lot. “I guess so.”

“Then what do you make of the ‘anomalies,’ that the scientist are so concerned about,” said Eva.

Our mother got up from her seat and went to bring over a pint of orange juice to us. Then, while trying to place the juice on the table, she accidentally knocks it down, and it spread all over the table. I quickly backed away before it got on my clothes.

“Kylie!” screamed Eva. “Your brothers Kas-reader!’

I looked to the device and quickly picked it up. It was sticky from the orange juice, then Bzzzt! It sent a short electric current to my hands, zapping me, and I instinctively let go and dropped it. Crack, it hit the floor.

“…”

“I am so sorry,” said our mother, hands to her mouth and eyes full of regret. My eyes in return felt like they were swelling up inside. Then I saw Eva as she picked up the device and turned it on its side, opened a small compartment and took the memory stick out.

“It should still be fine,” said Eva. “Memory cards of this type can handle short circuits, though…” she tried turning on the device but it didn’t respond. “It might have short circuited.” Eva then looked to the small memory stick. “Just one problem, only a Kas device of the same model can read this memory.”

“…Then I’ll just buy another one,” I said.

* * *

The situation at home was a bit uncomfortable, so Eva and I left to university. We took the bus and sat next to each other. I myself was looking to the memory stick.

“How many gigs does it have?” she asked. I looked closely and saw the numbers.

“One terabyte,” I said. The memory stick wasn’t bigger than a dime.

“Makes you wonder how much of it was used up,” said Eva. And hour later and we arrived at our destination.  We got out of the bus and saw the university waiting right in front of us. “Come on, I know where our classroom as at.”

I followed Eva and we moved through the campus, passing by other students and buildings, some of which were called the Fine Arts Building, the campus center, Business and Science Building, or just BSB and then campus library. We continued walking until we reached the Science and technology building. Eva opened the door for me and we walked in. Then our classroom was three floors up and three rooms to the right. Room 343. It was spacious and had many students already taking their seats. I followed Eva and found a two spots by the end of one row. We sat down.

“Who is the professor?” asked a student behind us. She was talking to a friend beside her.

“Dr. Fae,” said her friend. “I hear he’s a tranny and has wild orgies.” The two then began laughing.

“There’s a girl here,” said another, “heard her brother went missing. What bullshit. He probably left her!”

“How sad that people are using that as an excuse to leave,” said her friend.

I tried looking back at their little group but felt Eva grab and hold my sleeve. I then saw my fist tightening, wanting to punch and beat the crap out of them.  Eva then pointed to her ear and I got the hint. I touched the bottom my ear and whispered.

“Ignore their voices,” I said.

“Putting their voices on silent,” said my ear phone device. “Shall I save this preferences in the future, Ms. Kylie?”

“Yes,” I said, and sighed. I thanked Eva.

Classes ended in the afternoon and nothing happened besides the professor introducing himself and speaking about what students should expect in the course.

“Good thing we took morning classes,” said Eva. “I will hate to see the day I take night classes.”

“Eva,” I called to her, she was walking in front of me and then looked back. “I want to visit the house today.”

“Aww,” shes aid, then intentionally dragging her feet. “Come on, I just want to go home.”

“Then go home,” I said, we both stopped. “I’ll come by when I’m done.”

Then Eva’s light brown eyes began scanning me from top to bottom.

“It’s cold,” she said. “…I’ll go with you and keep you warm!” She then smiled.

“Thanks,” I said, remembering that my brother’s house should be demolished tomorrow. We only have today to visit one last time.

We took the bus there, for what felt like a three hour ride, and it was six o’clock by the time we got there. Eva was sleeping on my shoulder and I woke her up inside the bus.

“We’re here,” I said. Shaking her a bit left and right. She yawned .

We got up and exited the bus. We saw a people walking off in one direction. An unusual sight to see, since just yesterday, the whole area felt like a ghost town with no one in sight unless we intentionally looked for them.

“Where are they going?” asked Eva

“Don’t know,” I said.

“Let’s see what they’re up to,” she said, pulling my arm with her in the direction everyone else was walking to. On closer inspection, I saw that some people here and there were holding signs. The read, “stop relocation,” or “give us an explanation.”

We then heard a familiar sound, blades turning and cutting air. Multiple police drones flew off in the same direction. We continued walking for about five more minutes and saw a gathering of people, about two hundred of them in total and more in coming just standing there with their signs and many yelling for an explanation of the force moved that will be happening. We stood beside a building and watched on at what was happening in front of us.

Police drones were lining up in rows and all began shining their red and blue lights.

“Attention all citizens,” said one of the police drones. “Please go back to your homes and stop this protest.”

“Not until someone tells us why we have to move again!” I heard someone yell.

“Area 2-A is a danger to your safety,” replied the drone. “The anomalies are spreading from area to area.”

“What a load of crap!” yelled one of the protesters.

And suddenly, the place burned bright. Eva and I ducked for cover and the light kept intensifying.

“Ahh!” we heard someone screaming. Then metal parts of something falling on the ground.

“Help!” someone yelled. I opened my eyes, the light stopped shining brightly and went away a second later.

“What’s going on?” Eva asked.

A person’s leg was cut off, along with other people’s body parts, people who were once standing on one side of the protest had now vanished, along with a good portion of the police drones. Pieces of two or three drones were on the ground. Grassland and trees had now replaced the concrete on the street and partial parts of the houses to the right. What seemed like a giant wasp the size of a person then flew off from within the trees and aimed its needle at one of the drones, then destroying it.

“Watch out!” someone yelled.

The drone was struck and the other police drones answered by scanning the giant wasp, then followed by four quick beeps.

“Threat detected,” said the drones, repeating the phrase. “Threat detected, threat detected.”

Small tubes were coming out of the drones and they shot bullets at the giant wasp. The wasp then fell to the ground. Then we heard something more come from the trees that appeared. More giant wasps and they began swarming out.

“Run!” I yelled to Eva and grabbed her by her arm. We ran inside the nearest building , some others joined us and we closed the door tightly. I felt my breathing become heavier and we walked to the window. Multiple police drones were arrive at the scene and were now combating the giant wasps. All dodge the wasps stings with calculating movements, then firing off bullets at them and killing them all in minutes. It’s over.

Some of the drones then began inspecting the new trees and grass that appeared. Plants, too and rocks. We walked out of the building. I noticed a fresh breeze of air coming from the trees that appeared, a great differences to the thick urban areas around the smelled of real civilization. One drone in particular flew toward us, then made a quick scan.

“Human,” it said. “Confirmed.” It beeped two times. “Please leave the area immediately. It is not safe here.”

One of the persons in our group then tried walking to the bodies on the ground. The drone quickly flew in front of the person.

“Please leave the area immediately,” it repeated. “It is not safe here.”

The person tried passing through again, but this time the drone took out a smaller tube, a current of electricity became visible on the tube and the drone pointed itself to the person

“Force will be used,” it said.

We left.

 

 

End.

<< Previous Chapter  I  END of Vol. 1

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… I will end with saying that this was my first novel.  Whatever you see wrong with it, I know it’s because of my inexperience but I’ll say that the completion of the first volume has been a huge milestone that I have now just overcome. That’s hundreds of pages of failed drafts and only 190 of them making the cut.

 

That’s really all I have to say and I hope everyone enjoyed reading the epilogue.

 

Thanks for reading.

James L. S.