.”Noooo!” I screamed as the dragged Katie away and threw her into the back of a white van. There were four Protectors holding me down as I continued to struggle. I had to get to Katie. I had to make sure she didn’t get hurt, or worse. I managed to pull a hand loose and I slammed it into one of the Protector’s face. He reeled back clutching his nose as blood oozed between his fingers. I slammed my elbow into another Protector’s stomach and wrenched away from him as he doubled over. I slammed my head back, wincing as it connected with the face of the man behind me. I wrenched myself away from the last man. As I turned to face him he turned and ran off. I let him go, I moved to each of the Protectors and knocked them out.
With my captors taken care of, I ran to the white van they had put Katie in. It was just pulling away as I got there so I lunged for it, catching onto the back fender. I pulled myself up and tried to open the back door where they had put Katie; locked. I couldn’t just assault the driver or we might crash, likely killing everyone in the vehicle, including Katie. If I stayed on the back of the vehicle I would definitely be noticed…I had to think of a way to get Katie.
Suddenly I had an idea, I lowered myself down and moved under the vehicle and clung to the pipes there. They were hot! I took off my shirt and put it between my hands and the pipes. It worked for a little while, but then the heat made it’s way through the shirt and continued to burn my hands. I gritted my teeth and held on anyways…this was the only way that I could think of to save Katie so my pain meant little to me at the moment.
About twenty minutes later my hands felt like I had stuck them into a bonfire and left them there. I could feel the blisters forming and popping as I kept my grip on the pipes under the van. I just couldn’t take it anymore, “I’m so sorry Katie, I will find a way to get to you…” I thought. Then, just as I was about to let go, the van took a turn into a gas station and parked there. I let go of the pipes and pressed my hands gratefully against the cool pavement.
No time for relieving my pain…there was no telling how long they would stay here. I looked around, but there was no one around. I carefully pulled myself out on the drivers’ side. No driver, no one in the passengers’ seat either, I looked into the back and saw Katie curled up in the back. I quickly opened the drivers’ door and called to her, “Katie, get up and come on, quick before they get back.”
Her head jerked up, when she saw me, she scrambled up and came over to me. I climbed into the back and put a sheet they had back there over a car-jack, hoping that would fool them until they got to wherever they were going. Then I leapt out of the van and took Katie’s hand. I winced in pain and released it, leaving a bloody hand-print on Katie’s hand.
“Come on, we have to get out of here quick!” I whispered and then led the way out.
We ran behind a building just as the van driver came back from paying and filled the van’s gas tank. Then we watched as he got in and drove off.
“Are you hurt?” I asked Katie.
She shook her head, “No, but you are! You need to get to a hospital! You look like you just got back from fighting in the Great War!” Katie exclaimed.
The pain that I had shoved to one side while I rescued Katie came flooding back and I winced, “I’m fine,” I lied, “we need to get somewhere safe.”
“Not until you get some medical attention!” Katie said stubbornly.
:I sighed, “Alight, I know a doctor who won’t ask to many questions…and he lives in this area…let’s go.”
Katie followed as I led the way to the nearby hospital. When we got there we were lucky, the doctor I needed was at the reception desk, “Whoa! What happened to you?” He asked when I rushed up to him.
“Got in a fight protecting Katie,” I said hurriedly, “Can you fix me up? I can pay.”
“Alright follow me,” the doc replied sensing my urgency he moved quickly to another room with one of those hospital bed/chairs in the middle and desks with medical equipment around the walls.
I sat on the bed and the doctor looked me over. When he saw my blackened hands he looked up at me with raised eyebrows, but didn’t ask how I had gotten them. He moved briskly over to one of the desks and took out a cream. He spread it over my hands, “That’s a second degree burn…it’ll take about ten minutes to finish healing,” he informed me, “In some spots there is even third degree burns…I have no idea how you managed it…it looks like you grabbed a pan that was on the stove to long and then held it for a long time.”
When I didn’t respond he went and got out a needle and medical thread, “Do you want some local anesthetics before I stitch you up?” he asked.
“No, just do it quickly please,” I responded without hesitation…I needed to be done as quick as possible..
Katie whimpered and looked away, I wished I could reassure her, but I wasn’t feeling so great myself. Pain still ran through just about every part of my body. It was just about all I could do to sit up straight and act like I didn’t feel anything.
The doctor sewed me up then cleaned the worst of the blood off of my face and chest. He gave me some pills for the bruises, “Alright, you’re done,” he told me.
I got up and almost fell over as a new wave of pain hit me, “Can I have an aspirin or something Doc?” I asked.
The doctor went over to one of the desks and took one of those plastic slats filled with pills and handed it to me, “This is stronger and faster acting than aspirin…it’ll be an extra ten bucks though,” he said.
“Do they have any after effects? Drowsiness for example?” I asked.
“Alright, I’ll take them…how much do I owe you?” I asked.
He did some quick mental math, “Fifty dollars.”
I didn’t like it…but I didn’t have the time to argue so I took out my wallet and paid him. Then I swallowed one of the pills and turned to Katie, “Let’s go.”
As we left the hospital I could already feel the pain receding. By the time we were halfway to my house it had gone completely. I looked at my hands to see if the cream had taken effect yet…it had, there was only a little bit of scarring left to show where my hands had been scorched by the van’s underbelly. When I looked at Katie she looked away and turned pink, I started to wonder why, then realized that I had left what was left of my shirt back at the gas station. I would have to fix that when I got home.
Katie’s phone rang and she answered it. “I, love you too…I’m going to miss you guys a lot,” she said in a shaky voice after listening for a while; then she hung up.
“Who was it?” I asked.
“My parents,” she said, a tear beginning to roll down her cheek, “they called to tell me that it had become to dangerous for me to live with them and so they have moved away. They won’t tell me where…and they are even now disposing of their cell-phone,” Katie drew in a shuddering breath then continued, “…so I can’t even contact them.”
“Oh, Katie…I’m so sorry!” I exclaimed as I moved closer to her and carefully put my arms around her.
She leaned into me, “They said they called your mom and I’ll be staying with you guys for the foreseeable future,” she said before burying her head in my shoulder.
I began to alternately stroke her hair and rub her back; but I didn’t say anything…sometimes it is better just to be there for the one you care about. Her slim frame shuddered as she cried quietly and I held her tighter against me as if somehow I could protect her from all the sad things in the world.
Eventually her shuddering quieted down and and her crying stopped, “Ok,” she whispered, “I think we can move on now.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
She nodded, “Just stay close.”
“Alright then let’s go,” I said, keeping an arm around her as we resumed walking.
When we got to my house I saw a notice on the door. “The woman that lived here refused an order of one of the upper classmen.”
I pushed open the door, “MOM!” I yelled. Where was she? What had she done? “MOM” I yelled again as I moved at an almost-run into the house. I went to the kitchen, she wasn’t there. I looked in the bathroom, she wasn’t there either. I moved into the living room. She was there; laying on the carpet in a pool of blood, with a bullet hole through her head.
“NOOO!” I wailed and ran to her dead body.
I clutched her cold, dead body close to me, burying my head in her shoulder. Her blood matted my hair, and ran down my chest but I didn’t care. Mom was dead. Nothing mattered anymore. I felt Katie’s hand on my shoulder, but I shrugged it off. She didn’t try again.
Then a phrase from a song popped into my head, “Now you think of saying there’s no use in praying but still, he bowed his head so he could say, ‘Thank You for ending her pain.’”
I carefully laid Mom’s head back down and bowed my head, “Thank You Lord, that mom died quickly and painlessly. Thank You Lord, for the time that you gave me with her. And thank You for being here to help me through this.”
Then I got up and went into the basement to get a shovel. When I found the shovel I went out to the back yard and started to dig. I concentrated on digging, the simple rhythm of the shovel moving into the dirt, ripping it up, and moving it to the side. When I was done, I felt all the pain of loss flood back and I fell to my knees.
“God!” I cried, “please! Help me, I can’t go through this without Your help.” Tears were flooding my vision and pouring down my face. But then I felt a sudden, strange peace. Mom is now in heaven; a much better place, and away from danger too. She was with God now, He would protect her much better than I or anyone else could.
I got up and went upstairs to take a shower and put on fresh clothes. When I came back down I noticed Katie waiting until I was ready to be comforted. Tears streaked her face as well. But when she saw that I was looking at her she moved over to me. I swept her up in a bear hug and buried my face in her hair.