Chapter 2 Angela- I’m Dead
My mother once told me that destiny is shaped by the decisions we make and that we are to accept the outcome. Today, for the first time, I decided I would take the first step into my own destiny, that I would decide not to be a prisoner in this household but to do what would finally bring me peace. I grabbed at the bedsheets and covers that lay on the floor under me, looking around at the barren room and the cracked pink walls as darkness fell outside my window. It represented how I felt: empty, lifeless, and forgotten. Seven years after moving here, I still hated where I was and I knew nothing was going to change. I was done pursuing this image of a happy me trying to be content with this life. After years of trying to find something to fill my broken heart, only sleep helped. Sleep was my escape to complete darkness.
Today I decided I was going to go to sleep for good.
Today would be the day I’d take my own life.
The small masculine voice came back—the same voice that had been urging me for years to keep living and surviving, but clearly failed to see my misery. I lived only to train, fight, and kill for someone who hated me. How could this voice see what I did every day and still want me to try to keep on living?
“No …” I mumbled.
Ignoring the voice, I slipped my hands beneath the sheets I was sitting on and pulled out a hand-sized photo of my mother. I flipped to the back to see her words that always pushed me to keep living:
I’LL SEE YOU SOON.
Turning the picture back over, I locked my sight on my mom and gazed into her icy blue eyes. Seeing how happy she looked brought tears to my eyes. I covered my mouth and cried in silence. I envied her and her happiness.
Today is the day I take my own life.
I reminded myself of this again and again. Then I began shaking my head. “Sorry, Mommy, I tried,” I whispered.
The more I kept saying sorry, the more tears drew down my face. I squeezed my eyes shut, and memories of me covered in my own blood, fighting strangers for Lisa’s entertainment, came to mind. Not wanting to give any attention or time to those memories, I opened my eyes. I looked back down and reached under my folded jacket, which I used as a pillow. From beneath it, I took out a black knife made of steel.
As I lifted the blade, the doorknob jiggled and then two loud knocks made me jump. “Angela!” came the voice of my adoptive mom, Lisa. “Open this door now!” she shouted, the panic obvious in her voice.
I focused my eyes on my arms, both covered in scars—except for the wrists. Each cut had its own story. This time, though, this would be the last cut—the last scar to tell the story of my life. I fixed my gaze onto my left wrist and touched the knife point to my skin.
Lisa’s knocks became continuous slaps against the door. “Open this door now, Angela!”
Everything became silent, and nothing in this world mattered anymore.
“Come on, Angie,” I whispered as I looked down at my pale wrist and the black blade touching it. “Just do it!”
“Angela, put it down,” came the familiar masculine voice again.
I dropped the knife and squeezed the thin strands of hair on my head as I began to cry harder. “You don’t know what I’m going through,” I whispered as the tears flowed. “I’m trying.”
“Stay strong. You have to keep moving forward.”
“No!” I snatched the knife and again aimed its tip at my wrist.
Two more loud knocks brought me back to reality. My eyes darted to the door.
“Angela! Please!” Lisa yelled, her voice now pleading. “We don’t have much time. Open this door now! Your life is in danger. We have to leave.”
What? My life is in danger? I thought. Does she know what I’m going to do?
I got up, backing to the wall, still keeping the knife against my wrist. The bangs on the door got even louder, as it sounded like Lisa was now trying to break it down with her shoulder.
“Angela!” she cried out.
I started to breathe heavily as I clenched the handle of the knife even tighter. “I don’t care!” I shouted. “My life doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m … I’m going away now—for good. Just let me be please!”
Lisa stopped hitting the door and lowered her voice. “Angela, no … please. As much as I don’t show you love, I can’t let you take your own life.”
I shook my head. This is what it comes down to? I looked at the door and began blinking hard, trying to clear my vision from the tears. What was living when every day was hell? Staring at the door and picturing Lisa on the other side, I saw what life had to offer, and I knew I had been promised only misery and enslavement. But, looking down at my wrist again, I could see what death offered: the promise of peace and freedom and joy, of being with my mom again.
Continuing to squeeze the knife handle, I pushed the tip of the knife down onto my vein and applied pressure. The more I dug the tip into my skin, the louder fear and death called my name. I closed my eyes and breathed even harder as flashes of my mother’s face appeared to me.
I recalled a moment when I was little and had cut my finger by accident, my mother, Marie, rushed to my side and grabbed a nearby cloth from the kitchen counter. She got onto one knee and wrapped my finger with the cloth.
“Angie, stop being reckless. When you bleed, you have to quickly cover the wound.”
I looked into her eyes. “Okay mommy.”
Now I opened my eyes, stopping the memory, and then I dropped the knife. I let out a loud cry, falling to the floor.
Lisa finally broke through the door with her shoulder. “Oh my God!” she cried out.
She sprinted to me and kicked the knife away just as I reached out to grab it. I yelled, and before I could do anything, she grabbed a hold of my wrist. She climbed on top of me, holding me down with one hand and using the other to cover my mouth.
“They’re here for you!” Lisa said.
I stopped moving. Lisa turned her eyes to the floor beside my head. She let go of my mouth and grabbed the picture of my mother, staring at it and seeming to be lost for a moment in the image of Mom.
Then Lisa turned her eyes back to me. “The ones who killed your mother are here.”
“What?” I gasped.
Lisa got up and extended her hand to me. I knew if I reached for her hand, my destiny would take a new turn. If I went with her, I might be able to avenge my mother’s death … but still have to go on facing this cruel world. Or I could stay put, failing to live up to my mother’s word … but be happy after death.
I closed my eyes and this time saw a memory of myself seven years ago, holding onto my mother, who was covered in her own blood for three days before help arrived.
I opened my eyes to even more tears and reached up to grab hold of Lisa’s hand.
She pulled me in close. “I need you to move—now.”
I just stood there as Lisa strode over to the window and scanned outside. “Still clear back here, so you have to move!”
I had no idea what to do, no idea what she was talking about.
“Listen to me,” she said. She turned back around and whipped out a pistol from her waist, switching the safety switch off in one smooth motion. “There’s sixty rounds in here. Kill anyone near you or anyone who approaches you. Women, children, old, young, animals—it doesn’t matter. Don’t trust anyone. Kill them.”
I looked at the pistol and shook my head. “What? No … I can’t do that! Why would I—”
“Listen! No one is innocent. You hear me? No one!” She shoved the pistol inside my backpack, which was lying on the floor.
“I … I …”
Before I could say anything else or process what was going on, I felt Lisa’s hand slap my face, leaving a sharp pain in my mouth.
“I don’t have time for you to act lost!” she said. “Just start by going to the abandoned house on the island in the swamp—you’ve seen it when you were out with Billy, remember? It’s a hideout for the GCP. It’ll be your salvation. Now put your shoes on and go!”
As I pulled on one shoe and then the other, I said, “GCP? … The old swamp house? … What are you talking about? Why do I need—”
“Quiet! They’re coming. Survive out there … and find George Proctor. Tell him that Lisa-Anne is at Everglades City, Florida—not too far from the hideout … just head south and tell him to get here quick, that the gods are trying to kill me.” Lisa glanced down, then looked up, catching my eyes. She seemed relaxed. “I won’t survive here long, so I need you to find that house. You do that, and if I make it, I’ll find you and explain everything.”
I opened my mouth but didn’t know what to say.
Lisa stuck my flashlight and a half-empty water bottle into the side pockets of my backpack, then threw it to me. “Too late to pack anything else. Just leave and don’t come back,” she said. “Go out the window and onto the porch roof, then crawl down the latticework like I’ve seen you done before.”
I barely registered that she’d apparently been keeping her eye on me for a long time. “No—wait,” I said. “Where am I supposed to go again?”
“The house on the island in the swamp. I know you know which one it is. Take one of Billy’s boats down at the river. Use the key he hid. You’ll survive. Now get goin’.”
I stood there, staring at her as she rushed to open the window. “Wait wait wait!” I said. I tried to hold on to Lisa’s hands as she jerked me around and then put my backpack on my shoulders. “Lisa, stop it! You’re scaring me!” I could feel the tears begin to fall again from the rim of my eyes.
Lisa grabbed me by the arm and pushed me toward the window. “I said, get—”
But my adopted father, Billy, burst into the room, covered in blood and holding his precious shotgun. “They’re here!” he shouted. “They’re controlling the locals to attack us.”
Lisa nodded. “I know. But how many of them are here?”
Billy wiped the blood covering his face, and it clearly wasn’t his own blood. “A whole damn army of them. This whole state is probably under attack. They started coming out of the sky like flies. I’m telling you, it’s the end of the world out there.” He checked his shotgun. “I’ll hold them off while you and Angela head to the hideout.”
“No!” Lisa said. “She has a better chance going with you since you know the swamp so well. I’ll stay here and meet up with you later.”
“Fine.” Billy gave Lisa his handgun. “Take them out—permanently. Don’t stop when they’re stone.” He stepped out of the room and began shooting. “Lisa, they’re inside! Take her and get out!”
Lisa grabbed me by the arm and pushed me toward the window. “Go! Get—”
She cut her words short when Billy stopped shooting and then stepped back into the room, looking directly at me. His pupils were enlarged, and the intensity he had was completely gone. Almost like a switch had been flipped, he seemed … dead.
“Who’s your mother?” Billy asked, still staring at me.
“What?” I said
Lisa glanced back at me. “Shut up, Angela! What was the rule?”
I knew all too well about the rule of this house, and that was to never mention my mother’s name: Marie.
“Who’s your mother?” Billy said again, louder this time.
Lisa clenched her fists. “Go, Angela! Get out of here!”
I tightened the backpack straps on my shoulders and began to crawl over the windowsill. Halfway through the window I looked back and saw Lisa wrestling with Billy. He backhanded her and she fell to the floor. Then Billy raised and aimed his shotgun at me. My breath caught, but then Lisa rose up from the floor and swatted at the shotgun just as Billy pulled the trigger. A spray of buckshot hit the window and the wall around it—and then I felt a pellet tear through the skin of my upper right arm. Crying out, I fell through the open window, landing on my chest on the porch roof.
I got up, hurried down the latticework, and then sprinted into the darkness, knowing that if Billy got past Lisa, he wouldn’t be far behind. As I ran from the house, I could hear fighting and shouting, and not just Billy and Lisa. What the hell is going on? I wondered even as I could feel more tears in my eyes.
I finally reached the river, which was really just another part of the Everglades’ endless waterways. I walked the short distance down the open-air dock until I reached the locked door that led inside of what was basically a floating storage shed where Billy kept his airboats and equipment. As I began lifting a hand upward, I heard Billy’s voice in the distance, yelling my name. Ignoring him, I reached up over the doorway and stuck my fingers into what looked like an innocent crack in the wood, then slid out the key Billy had hidden there in case of an emergency. I opened the door and ran inside, flipping the lights on. I jumped into the closest airboat and climbed up into the driver’s seat, then fumbled around to find the key under the seat. Billy had a set of keys on his keychain but he also had spares hidden on each boat. I found the key and started the engine. I heard more shouting outside from Billy, much closer, so he had to know where I was. Seeing the remote to the garage doors on the floor of the airboat I aimed it at the doors and clicked the button watching it open. I pulled out of the shed, flipping on the airboat’s headlights as I got going.
Even though my right arm throbbed with pain, I drove and drove, focusing on the water and not thinking back on all the bad memories I had from living in that house for the past seven years. I just wanted to keep driving to get as far away as possible from Billy and whatever had happened to him—and to eventually make it to the island Lisa had told me about, but the thought of what could possibly be going on right now had my legs weak. I stopped the engine when I thought it was safe. I shut off the headlights, then fell to the floor of the boat and held on to the side as I began to cry out loud. I hated feeling this way. It made me feel vulnerable and weak. Thinking about what had just happened back at the house, I slammed my fist against the side of the airboat and accepted the situation I was now in—which meant I switched over to survival mode.
I wiped the last of my tears away, then took off my backpack and grabbed the flashlight and water bottle. Next I took out the pistol Lisa had given me and slipped it into the back waistband of my pants.
I sat down on one of the bench seats for tourists, thinking through my situation. I knew that once the sun hit the next morning, my main concern would be dehydration, so I took a sip of the water. Then I shone the flashlight onto my right arm. I kept myself from crying at seeing how bloody the wound looked and instead grabbed the first-aid kit from under the driver’s seat. I then bandaged and wrapped the wound as tight as I could. Finally, being out in the middle of the Everglades, I took a bottle of mosquito repellent from a small storage locker beneath the pilot’s seat. I sprayed and rubbed repellent over all of my exposed skin, then put on a long-sleeve shirt to help further protect myself from the mosquitoes that preyed on flesh in this warm environment.
I knelt and tightened my shoelaces since I hadn’t done much with them in my hurry to get out of the house, and then I noticed the sound of an airboat coming my way. Soon it came around a corner and its flashing red and blue lights lit up the area all around me.
“Yes!” I whispered to myself, thankful for my good luck as I finished tying my shoes.
The police officer’s masculine voice came through a loudspeaker: “This is a Florida state trooper. Is anyone in the airboat?” A spotlight followed his voice, bathing my airboat in its brightness.
Shielding my eyes, I stood up and yelled, “Yes! Here! I’m over here.” I waved my arms.
“Hold your position!” he said. “I’m coming over.”
I kept a hand over my eyes and saw him pull up next to my airboat, shutting off the big spotlight and turning on a smaller light attached to the side of his vessel.
“We heard gunshots,” he said. “Are you hurt? Are you by yourself?”
I held my hands up as he aimed the light directly at my eyes. “Yeah, I’m alone and I got sh—”
Despite the bright light I managed to catch a glimpse of the trooper lifting and aiming a shotgun—right at my chest.
Without thinking I turned and jumped into the water on the other side of my boat, which was stupid, since I was in alligator territory. Just before I hit the water, I heard his shotgun go off but thankfully I didn’t get hit this time around. He yelled something, but I just swam forward, directly away from my boat and him. I heard his motor rev and knew he would be coming for me. In the glow of his flashing lights, I saw some land just ahead. I swam harder and scrambled up onto the shore, feeling that the ground was wet and muddy, confirming the kind of marshy territory I was in. As I stepped up onto firmer ground, the big spotlight shone near me and another shotgun blast sounded, again missing me. I sprinted ahead in zigzags, hoping I didn’t catch any pellets in my back. I made it past a few trees and realized I didn’t have my backpack … or flashlight. Damn!
Thankfully the half-moon overhead gave me some light and so did the trooper’s spotlight and flashers. And then I remembered I had my pistol. I grabbed it from my waistband and kept my eyes looking all around while running, searching for any signs of snakes and alligators, but I saw something that scared me more: my eyes caught sight of silhouetted people running toward me. It hit me what Lisa had said about not trusting anyone, so I cut to my left and ran on, ignoring anything behind me.
While sprinting through a marshy field, I looked to my left and saw a narrow riverway leading to more land. I scanned the water for movement and saw none and it didn’t look like the trooper—or whatever he was—had come this direction. Hearing the people behind me in the field, I made a sharp left and leaped into the river. I swam the few seconds it took to get to land and charged ahead to where I saw multiple trees.
Running onward, I could hear multiple splashes in the river. I found refuge behind a large tree and stopped. I peered out, thinking of what to do next. I knew my surroundings decently well, having lived in the area for a while now and exploring the swamps with Billy on his airboats. Plus, I’d spent seven years plotting my escape, and so I’d mentally explored all kinds of possible ways to leave without being detected by the police—or running into animals who don’t mind eating you … if bothered.
I saw movement and looked at the people lurking in the night, hunting for me. Something told me that whatever had killed my mother was here to kill me. The longer I waited, the higher probability they were going to find me. Not giving much thought to my next move, I dashed off to the next tree. I exhaled as I nervously tried focusing on the tree, but from my peripheral I could see the figures now running after me as if their life depended on it.
I continued to run, past all the trees and back into the open—until someone grabbed my shirt and yanked me down, causing me to tumble forward and land face-first on the ground. I looked up and in the moonlight could see that this figure looked like a man—a very dead man. He lunged towards me. I rolled forward, throwing all my force into elbowing the side of his face, knocking him to the ground beside me.
Not wasting time to fight—or shoot, since I didn’t want to draw more attention to myself—I jumped up and ran, tasting a mixture of dirt and the metallic tang of blood. But after running for only a few seconds, something tackled me to the ground and I felt sharp pain in my back. Losing my pistol as I hit the ground, I landed on my stomach, then screamed and rolled over to see that this time it was a lady who looked almost elderly—and also very dead. The lady shrieked like a feral animal and lifted her arm. I saw the glint of a knife in the moonlight. Before she brought it downward at my chest, a gunshot went off from behind her. I felt her blood splatter onto my face, and then she fell to the side. Two more gunshots sounded from somewhere close by, thudding into the woman lying next to me, but I felt only the stabbing pain in my back and my heart beating against my chest. I didn’t want to risk the chance of getting shot, so I stayed on the ground, rolling onto my side to reach toward my back. I felt two small daggers stuck there. I decided to leave them where they were for now, then I reached out slowly to pick up my pistol, which lay on the ground near the lady’s head. I coughed and felt more blood in my mouth. I rolled onto my stomach and lay still to assess the situation as another three shots rang out in succession, but they didn’t hit the lady next to me this time—or me, thankfully.
Damn, this is not good. I was in an open area of the Everglades, so running wasn’t a wise idea—or maybe even possible given my current condition. My only option was to play possum. I slowed my breathing, inhaling and exhaling through my nose. I closed my eyes, putting all my focus into my hearing.
After another two shots the gunfire stopped and then I heard footsteps—coming my way. I held tight to my handgun as the footsteps continued to get closer and closer.
They stopped and I felt a hand cover my mouth. Then came a quiet voice: “Shhh.”
I rolled quickly and raised the pistol, ready to shoot whatever was standing over me—until I could see Lisa’s face right in front of my eyes.
“Let’s go!” Lisa hissed.
I sat up and whispered, “Daggers in my back—two of ’em.”
She nodded, then I felt her yank the pair of blades from my back. I grunted at the new sensation of pain, but Lisa just grabbed my hand to help me up, and then she started jogging back toward the main riverway.
After sucking in a deep breath to fight the pain in my back, I followed her as she ran on. Coming to the shore, I saw three airboats: the one the trooper had been in but was now empty, mine, and a third that had to be Lisa’s. She jumped into that airboat and sat in the pilot’s seat. After I got in and sat on one of the bench seats, she drove off, heading north to follow the river’s path that would lead us to the abandoned house.
With the airboat propeller so noisy, I stood up and held onto the bench seat, then turned toward Lisa and said in a loud voice, “You have to tell me what’s going on!”
She shook her head. “I’ll tell you later. Sit back down!”
“No, I need to know now!”
Lisa shot a glare. “For now, I just need you to listen when I speak and do the things I tell you to do!”
I frowned and sat back down. We drove on in silence until we made it to the island Lisa had told me about. A few times I had looked behind us, but no one was in sight.
Lisa stopped the boat and turned off the engine. “We need to get to the safe house just up that rise.” She pointed that way.
I glanced up at the old house, but then stared at Lisa as she jumped from the airboat onto shore. “Why do you treat me like this?” I asked.
“Angela, we have to move! I don’t have time for this.”
I stood up and stepped onto dry ground. “No! You treat me as if I’ve done something bad to you. Everything you ever told me to do, I did. I never argued with you. Why did you take me in if you never wanted me? Why punish me?”
“I treat you how your m—”
My eyes popped wide open as I interrupted, “How my mother would’ve wanted? You never knew my mother.”
Lisa just shook her head and looked at me like I had no idea what I was talking about. “Marie … as in, Marie Proctor?” she said.
When I started shaking my head because that wasn’t my mother’s last name, Lisa raised a hand and went on, “The one who had you at seventeen? Yeah, she lived in Closias, New York. You knew her as Marie Lopez, the caring mother who moved here for work. Yeah, I knew her, but I also knew the real her—Marie Proctor, the merciless killer who did everything in her power to protect you. I’ve known you both very well. You’re perceiving me all wrong. … I do care for you.”
I felt so confused, but my anger cut through it all and erupted. I stepped up in her face and almost shouted, “You care for me? Then tell me, when’s my birthday? When’s the last time I had a real meal? The last time I slept on a bed? The last time I laughed? … Hmph. Don’t say you care for me!”
“I gave you everything I had.” Lisa offered a tight smile. “I gave up my life and hid from the world to protect you. How many seventeen-year-olds do you know who could’ve done what you did today? To defend yourself, to attack without hesitation—and judging from your wet clothes, you swam with a wounded arm and went into hiding. You know how to cook, clean, hunt, and survive on your own. You should be thanking me.”
My mouth fell open. “You turned me into a killer!”
“I turned you into a woman—an independent one.”
I removed the long-sleeve shirt I was wearing and showed her one of my arms. “Not all these scars are from self-inflicted wounds. When you were unconscious from the drugs you took, I had to defend myself from Billy.” My stomach churned just thinking of the past and my experiences with Billy—and Lisa too. “Yeah, I know how to defend myself from the outside world because I’ve dealt with it inside of that house.”
Lisa took a deep breath. “You are the last generation of the Proctor family. I need you to know that it’s genetics that makes you special. Although you’re the last, your blood reaches other planets, and that gives you an advantage to make a difference.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I said, feeling my anger rising again.
She shook her head. “You’ll find out soon enough. But never feel like you’re alone. You have a bigger family than you think. You have to find an outlet for your anger. Don’t let it get the best of you, and most importantly don’t hurt yourself. Channel the hurt, the hate, and the anger toward your enemies and don’t hold back when you do. I’ve never babied you because I know you can handle any challenges that life throws at you. And … I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you from Billy, but right now we’re almost to your mother’s safe house. The ones after you are gods, and I’ll tell you more about that, but right now you’ll be—”
“Dead,” came a female voice.
Lisa and I both turned to see a lady walking toward us. Her dark-green eyes glowed in the night as she came from the direction of the house. The breeze caught her long, wavy black hair.
Lisa started to say something, but the woman went on, “I dreamed of this moment,” she said, looking right at Lisa. “To watch you die in front of my eyes.”
I saw Lisa’s eyes dart around nervously, and then she quickly pulled me behind her as a horde of others came from amongst the trees around the house.
Soon we found ourselves surrounded, with guns pointed at us from every direction. These were people who lived in this city. They all looked out of it like Billy had … and the guy and woman who attacked me—dead. I figured they had to be controlled by this woman.
“Where’s the Golden Water?” asked the woman with the green eyes.
“I’ll tell you,” Lisa said. She grabbed my arm and walked to the airboat, pulling me behind. “I’ll even show you, but it’ll only be me. The girl stays out of this.”
The lady eyed me. “Who is she?”
Lisa shrugged. “No one important.”
And just like that the woman appeared right in front of Lisa, standing on the front bench seat of the airboat. My breath caught, and I backed away.
“Then you don’t mind me killing her?” the woman said, stepping down off the bench seat toward us.
Lisa pulled out her handgun and aimed it at the woman. “Aerozayle,” she said, “I don’t fear you.”
The woman—Aerozayle—kept her eyes on me as she reached out to grab hold of Lisa before Lisa could make a move. A moment later Lisa was hurled into the sky out over the water.
“Lisa!” I yelled.
Aerozayle looked at me. “Where is the Golden Water?”
I backed away slowly, knowing I had nowhere to go. “I-I don’t know. I don’t even know what it is.”
Aerozayle smirked. “Wrong answer.”
Her hand came up from her side so fast that I barely saw the motion. But I did see the blade as her hand returned to her side—and then I felt a hot, piercing pain in my throat. She reached out and took the pistol I’d jammed into the front waistband of my pants.
I staggered back, holding my throat as blood began pouring through my fingers.
Next I heard the sound of a click as my eyes went downward, my hands still trying to contain the blood from flowing out of my neck.
The loud sound of a gun followed and everything went black.