Last week, I published part 1 of “Those Left Behind.” This week is part 2. I had hoped to get it up sooner, but I took on another short term project as a research assistant. So much for downtime! But getting paid to do what you love is an amazing thing.
Anyways, last week we were introduced to Jimmy and Lindsey. They live in a harsh world, a world where medical and technological advances created a socio-political division between Animans and Enchanceds. In part 2, as Jimmy heads out into the world, we learn more about that division and what it means for those struggling to survive.
Jimmy tried to shift his numb body. He rocked carefully side to side. The cold dirt under his bottom sent more shivers up his spine. He separated his hair from his stubble, shoving the long red hair down his back between his hoodie and shirt. He pulled up the hood and reached into the darkness until he found his boots. He slid them on carefully, trying not to puncture more holes into the worn and weak leather with his toes. As he dressed, he could hear Lindsey cursing and mumbling in the darkness.
“You better not leave that coat of yours lying around or let anyone see you with it. Someone will try to steal it,” Jimmy said as he slid out of the narrow entrance. He just barely made out Lindsey’s venomous curses as he slid onto the cold asphalt outside.
The early morning light was blinding. A cruel wind whipped down the alleyway. The buildings on either side acted as a funnel, drawing the wind from the city streets and propelling it down the side alleys.
Thankful for some stretching room, Jimmy stood on his toes and reached his arms up over his head lengthening his thin adolescent frame. The smell of exhaust and fumes penetrated his nose, making the inside of his nostrils tickle. Still, he breathed in deeply. The air stung his lungs and he coughed uncontrollably for a few seconds. When he was finally able to stop coughing, he could still hear Lindsey talking to herself and cursing the world. He knelt down to the basement window that he had just crawled out of.
“Fancy anything in particular?” Jimmy asked. Lindsey swore and threw a rock out of the broken window. Jimmy laughed. The rock bounce noisily across the pavement and banged against the dumpster.
Jimmy strode across the narrow laneway. Deciding that the dumpster would be the best place to start, he carefully opened the heavy lid. Inside the rusted green metal container was completely empty. A faint odour of rot hung in the dank darkness, but it was void of even a wet rotten wrapper clingy to its side.
“Found it in the dumpster, eh?” Jimmy said to himself. He let go of the lid. The smash of the heavy plastic on steel echoed loudly between the grey buildings. Jimmy looked up at the sky. The sunlight was just starting to stretch down the building he lived under.
“I better hurry.” Jimmy sighed and flexed his body. “This is gonna suck.”
Jimmy pulled his hood tight around his face. He stuffed his hands into his hoodie pouch and strode down the lane towards the open street. Just as he was about to walk out onto the street, he noticed a pair of dirty canvas shoes sticking out from under an opened old newspaper on the ground. He knelt down and removed the paper. Concealed underneath was a woman, naked except for a couple of scraps of fabric tied around her torso. Her freckled face was contorted in fear, her green eyes wide open, staring emptily at the sky above her. Inky sanguine blood still flowed from a wound in her head. The offending rock rested innocently next to her bashed skull. A pile of black ooze splashed along the pavement next to the rock.
Jimmy cringed with realization. Lindsey was known for her temper, and her desire to do whatever to survive, but he never thought she’d go this far. He gently placed the newspaper back over the body, said a few words, and resumed his quest.
The city street was already bustling with activity. Jimmy tried to slide into the pedestrian traffic, but he was roughly pushed and shoved by the hustling crowd.
“Get out of the way!” One large man in a bright blue suit pushed Jimmy so hard he felt like he was going to break. Jimmy tripped forward. In an effort to stop himself from falling to the ground, he let go of his hood and grabbed the ledge of a window. Jimmy locked eyes with the man who had shoved him. The man was looking at him with a mix of disgust and anger in his crinkled blue eyes and full-lipped sneer. His sneer shifted into a cruel smile.
“Police! Police!” The man shouted.
The heads of two uniformed police officers appeared over the crowd. Swivelling their heads like radars, they scanned the mass of people for the disturbance. They quickly spotted Jimmy. After all, he was the only one in the crowd bundled up to protect himself from the cold.
Jimmy turned and ran down the street as fast his feet could carry him. He dodged between well-dressed commuters with their perfectly coiffed hair and tailored clothes. People in the crowd screamed and jumped out of the way as he pushed against them. Jimmy could hear the heavy-booted feet of the policemen slamming on the pavement not far behind him. His leg muscles screamed. His lungs burned. He knew that he had to find an escape before his body gave out.
Spotting a light-rail track less than a block away, Jimmy mustered more of his waning strength and desperately sprinted. Jimmy dared to look back quickly, just to make sure that the space between himself and the two police officers grew with every step.
The muscular police officers were sweating, but Jimmy knew that their bodies would never give out. The air didn’t hurt their altered lungs. Their bodies were designed to not feel the cold. They weren’t weak with hunger since they didn’t have to metabolize organic substances to survive. It wasn’t fair.