Chapter 3

Permanent Change

 

I was out at free time, doing my normal thing. Finn, Mary, Ava, and I were playing soccer. Ernest and Wyatt were playing Dungeons and Dragons. We were talking and having fun, when all of a sudden a loud noise echoed across the schoolyard. The apartments down the street were on fire! Suddenly, a ding played on my phone. I had gotten a text. It read, “Files: Code Leben Sent from Friedrich Hermann”. It seemed weird. I didn’t know who Friedrich Hermann was nor what Code Leben was.

“What’s Code Leben?” I asked Wyatt. He shrugged. I looked at everyone else. They looked at me in confusion.

All the teachers yelled for us to get inside. As we got in, I looked out from a window. I saw the smoke and ruin of the apartments. Then, inhuman-like figures strode from within the street. Then, I realized that they were just wearing gas masks with glowing red eyes, and the filters were strangely shaped, almost like a bird’s beak. Their dark black vests had an emblem among the shoulder that I recognized, but couldn’t remember where from.

People screamed. They had noticed the figures, too. The teachers ordered us to come with them. I followed them with a jumble of other kids into the school. However, when I looked back, I didn’t see my friends.

The school went on lockdown. Sirens sounded through the halls. I hoped that my friends were ok.

The teachers led us to the gym. I wanted to leave, though. I didn’t feel safe in the school. So, I slipped out of the group of kids and ran across the parking lot to the street. Finn, Mary, and Ava saw me run, so they ran after me. Soldiers were everywhere. I couldn’t tell which soldiers were American! They all looked the same. I turned to look back. I saw Wyatt and Ernest running after us. Finn, Mary, Ava, Wyatt, Ernest, and I hid behind a large tree. We were about five-hundred feet away from the school.

Then, I saw them. The creepy men in gas masks. I could see them through a window in the school, the bright red lights on the suits marking them easy to spot. They were searching for everyone. Except, I had a tingling feeling they were searching for me. 

And then I saw them enter the gym. Now tears were welling up in Mary and Ernest’s eyes. All of our friends were most probably dead!

“We need to leave before they find us,” Finn said.

“But what if there are more?” Ava asked.

“Well we’ll keep an eye out for more like them,” I answered.

“And others that can help us,” Finn added.

We continued down the streets about twenty minutes later. We thought the men were gone.

“Who were they?” Ernest asked.

I shrugged, “I saw something on their chest, a symbol. Maybe that can help us figure it out.”

As we continued, we didn’t see any other people. Not even the people in black suits. The streets were barren.

Eventually, we found an old house and hid there for the night. It was hard to sleep that night, and I thought everyone stayed awake that night. We were all scared.

The next day, we ran from house to house looking for other survivors. There were none. Then, as we were leaving a forgotten apartment building, we heard people talking. I looked down the street, squinting in the bright sunlight. The dark dressed men were looking the other way.

“Quick,” I whispered loud enough so that my friends could hear. 

“Hide!”

We headed down the nearest alley and hid behind a disposal chute. We were all quiet, but we pretty much in plain sight, so we were sure if the soldier-like men would find us.

Then, Ava burst into tears from fright. She was trying to be quiet and end the sobs. I used my hands to cover her mouth, but a soldier heard Ava crying and ran into the alley, his thick boots clunking on the hard pavement. Was he was going to kill us? He pulled down his gun that was pointed at us, turned to see if anyone was nearby, and put up a finger to the filter of the gas mask to shush us. He took off his mask and we saw a kind face. He didn’t look like what I expected.

The man had a scruffy beard and a mop of unkept brown hair. The man pulled us into a doorway in the alley, and quickly shut the door. He turned and smiled at us.

“Don’t worry, I am with the Canadians. I am not your enemy. Just follow me and I can get you to safety,” he said. 

He led us to the small forest at the edge of town and opened the sack on his back.

“What’s your name?” Wyatt asked.

“Rob,” the man said without looking up from a sack he was holding. He gave us food and water.

“Stay here and if you see someone coming, hide behind those rocks,” said Rob pointing to some big rocks. After he left, we stayed there and ate some of the food.

We tried to entertain ourselves but it was hard when you know that the gas mask men could find you at any second. A few hours passed and not much happened. Then we heard people yelling. They weren't speaking English. We ran toward the rocks just like Rob told us. We made it to the rocks and hid right as some of the black dressed men passed by us. We were all silent. We were silent for a long time.

After we were sure the soldiers had left, we started talking. 

“I wonder if our parents are still alive,” said Ernest. 

“I wonder if there are other spies,” replied Finn. All of us were really upset about what was happening. Just then, we heard more footsteps coming, but we heard English. We sat there instead of hiding because we knew that it was Rob, but it wasn’t just Rob. He had more people with him. In fact, a whole group of men had makeshift armor and old sniper rifles.

Rob told us that there was an airport in Colorado, so we had to hurry. We were in North Carolina. We were pretty far from Colorado. After about an hour of walking, we ran into a unit of the black suited men. 

“Quick!” yelled Rob gesturing for the makeshift soldiers to hop into random vehicles parked on the curb. Everyone squeezed into two cars. The gas masked men had noticed us and they were now running to us. There wasn’t much room in the Jeep, but we squeezed in. Rob stepped on the gas pedal and we shot down the street. Along the way, we saw several destroyed buildings but Rob drove around them. It was obvious that he was a very good driver. It took a few hours, but we finally arrived in West Virginia.