The Aftermath Academy - CH25 (Pyrrha)

The memory is overwhelming, rushing into me as it breaks the dam that Mary had in place to protect herself from it. I see things as if I’m her. But the chronology keeps shifting back and forth. Blood on my hands. Then I’m sitting in the stands of a sporting event from the times before people realized still having major sporting event audiences live when outside Hope’s Bastion is a really stupid idea.

Blood on her hands again. My hands here. Then back in the stands again. Everyone’s cheering. They’re shouting. I’m trying to read, to puzzle through some of my first words. I don’t like the noise. Mommy is holding my baby brother. He’s crying, but she looks so happy. Our team is winning I think.

A shift in time again, blood on my hands, bodies in the stands. Then I’m back to the crowd roaring. It’s a terrible shout. The one I’m used to, the real me, not Mary, is used to from my time in the youth leagues in Hope’s Bastion. It’s one I’ve heard I’ve heard on television screens when championships win in other sports. I always enjoyed it, but Mary finds it disturbing. It’s loud and it hurts her ears and she just wants to practice reading even though the adults say we’re too young to get it.

And James is crying. Don’t mommy and daddy see James doesn’t like this? They should take him home at least. But they like watching some ball be thrown around and the roar of the crowd washes over us again. I try to immerse myself in my book.

Then a flash of blood again before returning to reading the book. It takes me a minute to realize that the screams have changed. They’re different. They’re not happy anymore, and further away. I look up, and see everyone around me laying still. I don’t understand what’s happening. There are people ten meters away screaming, running away, then dropping silently.

Mommy and Daddy aren’t moving. The only one in my section still making noise is James. He’s screaming in terror. I try to shout out, to shake my parents awake, but my voice restricts. I’m too scared to make a sound.

And then green scribbles run across my glasses. It’s not Imperial, or the characters from Daddy’s homeland. But I understand them better than the book I was trying so hard to read. Stay silent.

People are dropping, faster and faster. The ones outside the circle of death are trampling each other in their attempts to escape. Names flash across my glasses. Times of death. Ages of men, women, and children. Relationships, lives, scroll across my glasses, somehow readable at a pace I couldn’t imagine minutes ago as the lives they’re attached to are snuffed out.

I look at where James is still crying, unaffected by the death while cradled in my mother’s still arms, and my glasses tell me why. James Lou – Silence Bringer. Kill.

It was a command. And I don’t understand it. Even now I can’t process it. My power is giving me a command. I shake my head, refusing. You must kill the Silence Bringer. My hands are shaking. I’m crying silently. You will die. Your neighborhood will die in an hour. Your country will die in a day. Your world will die in less than a week. Unless he dies first, starving slowly to death while crying all alone.

Have mercy on your brother.

But I can’t. Even as I watch the last people in the stadium dropping still. I don’t know how.

Until green lines flash against my lenses showing me what to do. I pick up my brother and cradle him close, and kiss him on the forehead and I –
And I –

There is blood on my hands, blood in my mind as I break free of the memory. I grab Mary by her small waist and rush by Genevieve, who shouts out a question I don’t hear, and I rush off onto the nearest water slide. We hurl downwards around the crater at break neck speeds and I can feel Mary breaking out of her memory as a more present panic takes her and she tries to reorient herself to her surroundings.

The water is fresh and cold and there is a sense of exhilaration as air rushes through our hair. “It’s going to be okay,” I whisper to her. “But hold your breath.” We gulp in air just as we shoot out over the lake’s surface, skidding some ways before plunging through the water. It’s not so deep and I gain my footing quickly, making sure to get Mary upright. I hold her tight as she shudders.

“It wasn’t your fault,” I say. “And it’s going to be okay.” Mary sobs silently into my chest, but my gambit worked and she isn’t completely stuck in the memory anymore. She’s coming back to herself.

“Thank you,” she says finally. “I’m sorry about that. I couldn’t remember. I didn’t want to remember. What I did and, and that all those people died. Because I took too long to do it.”

“You were three,” I say fiercely. “If you could have done that without hesitating you’d be a monster.”

“Aren’t I anyways?” she asks.

“I have part of the spirit of a homicidal maniac as an irremovable fashion accessory,” I say smiling at her. “I’m not sure I’m qualified to judge. But you’re not to me. You won’t be to the others either, I’m sure of it. Now would you like to go see Professor Grimes, or can I convince you to ride the water slide again?” I hand over her lenses, which I’d snatched on the way down to keep from going flying off.

She looks up to where our teammates are staring down at us, putting on her lenses. She gives a little wave and they all wave back. “Maybe one more time,” she says. “I definitely need to push Blue down one of these for surprising me like that.”