I only buy bras at Victoria’s Secret if I have a coupon. That’s the stipulation, otherwise it’s just too extravagant for my income level. Luckily, VS sends me coupons…entirely too often.
Last night upon a shopping excursion, I was disappointed to find that not only did Victoria’s Secret stop selling my favorite bra, but that they were reverting all bras back to the styles of the 1940’s. “You don’t understand,” I began to explain to the sales girl. “I wear a lot of v-necks – 80% of my wardrobe is black, low cut tops!” She smiled understandingly and then directed me to a medieval boulder holder that lacked even the slightest padding. Jazz videos played on TV’s hanging from the ceiling and intended, I suppose, to enthuse us toward the styles of the past. I was less than thrilled.
I found Chip, and steered him from the store. The waves were restless, crashing hungrily on the dark rocky outcroppings along the coast that evening. As we walked I lamented to him about my experience in the shop. He listened, nodding, keeping any opinions he may have had inside; much more likely they simply weren’t there at all. I trailed off in my Bra Tale of Woe, noticing a man in long dark robes – a wizard, actually – teetering perilously on the black rocks.
“There’s something out there, something coming! Get some lights on the water!” he shouted, right before falling in. Chip rushed to take off his coat and dive in after the poor man. As I climbed down the rocks to pull them both onto land, my attention was caught by the ominous black shapes moving toward the shore.
There could be no doubt: ORCS!
I dragged my wizard-tugging friend out of the water, scrambling over rocks and lurching toward home. “We must get off the road, out of the town!” I gasped, and off we ran. What happened to the water logged man, I’m not sure.
Photo Credit Blogspot
Once settled into the living room of my Aunt’s house, where we were staying, I nervously watched our cats play on the carpet. Too shaken due to the approach of Orcs to watch television, I told Chip we should turn off all the lights, not draw attention to the house on the edge of the sea, and let the Orcs pass along with their thirst for blood. The living room was cozy, but featured a large wall of windows without dressings. It was quiet, warm, and horrifying, sitting there in the dark and feeling so exposed. I don’t know how many hours we sat waiting, fearing. I heard a thud, and suddenly the worst smell filled the room. We attempted to turn on the lights, but the electricity was faltering and the lamps could only muster the dimmest of glow. Against my better judgement, I chose to activate the flashlight app on my phone, just for a moment to check the cats. As I did so, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and dove to the floor, hiding the light beneath me. While the cats were alright, we were not. Just outside the window was a gang of orcs – and on the floor in front of me the dead body of a neighbor.
“RUN!” I whispered to Chip, and sprinted toward the kitchen. “To the stairs, we’ll head up!”
My aunt’s house was built into a hill, so while the front door was on the main floor and exited out, if we could exit out back on the attic level, four stories up, we could reach the back field and escape. I grabbed the banister and wheeled around it, hurling myself up the stairs, my left hand searching behind me to keep a feel for Chip’s presence. I slowed as I reached the top realizing that other neighbors had sought refuge in the same place…and had booby trapped the second floor hall. There wasn’t time to stand in the open. Without giving our position away, I delicately made my way down the corridor, attempting to not make any Orc sounds while not making any sound at all. I reached the back bedroom and immediately looked around for a human leader of some sort, combing the room for the man courageous enough to protect his family and remain rather than fleeing, as I was attempting to do. There were children clinging to their crying mother. She must have been imploring her husband to leave with them.
Photo credit Blogspot
I turned to Chip, “Take the children through the hidden door. I will be there in a minute to direct you out.” I wanted to know what was going on outside. As Chip got the others out, I approached the man who had constructed the traps, I noticed he was shaking. He was a little shorter than I was, or was slightly cowering, in his late 40’s, fair-haired. He seemed the man who had always worked the vague office position, settling in his cubicle nicely, but not decorating it either, like a piece of furniture that could use a computer. Even still, he was the man who stayed, the one who tried.
“What’s happened?” I asked calmly, quietly, attempting not to spook him.
“Th-they came in the night. I took my family and the neighbors who answered and got them in here – they’re in the attic – WE’VE GOT TO GET THEM TO THE FIELD!” The words tumbled from his mouth like each was trying to escape before the other. His voice also got louder, something we couldn’t afford. I could hear the Orcs now in the house on the main floor. I looked past the man’s shoulder and saw who I assumed to be his son, maybe fifteen years old, slowly, nervously, rise from the back corner. I placed my hand on the man’s arm.
“You’ve set up some nice traps out there. I don’t know if it would do for you to stay-“
“I can slow them down!” he charged loudly, cutting me off.
“Okay,” I pressed softly. “Do what you feel is best. I’m going to gather the people in the attic-“
“YES! Please get them out -“
“Yes, I’m going to get the women and children out.” I said calmly, forcefully, as though trying to move my levelness to him. “Do you want me to take your son?”
The man turned slowly, his breaking heart evident on his face as he did so.
“Y-yes,” he choked.
“Okay.” I motioned for the boy to follow me, pausing at the hidden attic door to allow emotions to be conveyed between the two. After a moment’s wait I stepped through the entry stating “Come” over my shoulder. I moved into the area, searching for faces as I did so. Numerous children, all younger than the man’s son. Five or Six women. Chip, darkness. Quiet sobbing. I heard the door slide shut and knew the boy had left his father. Noises began from outside. The panic that spread on the faces of the hidden was immediate.
“We are not at the top floor yet,” I stated firmly, controlled. “We have to go up two flights. It is after dawn, and they are coming.” Attempting to move everyone out to the hidden stair before the children had time to whimper their fear, I directed everyone toward the stairs in the corner of the room. Daylight was beginning to creep through cracks in the wood. In the odd design of the home there was no third floor from this tiny area, merely two flights to a forth floor attic. Built as if aware of the impending Orc threat, the third floor was what appeared to be the only attic, and only accessible from the obvious attic entry from a drop down ladder in the ceiling of the second floor hall. I assumed the orcs would search there and, while I also assumed they would eventually find the hidden door, I hoped their shear stupidity combined with the unnamed man’s heroism would buy us sometime.
Photo credit Tumblr
Once we scaled the steps to the small fourth floor attic room, I moved the children away from the door, huddling with the women toward the back to help keep them quiet. The teenaged son stayed defiantly at the door, as if ready to pounce on whatever came through. I allowed him his courage, knowing it would be both pointless and hurtful to him to attempt otherwise. Chip stood against the eave. And I watched.
There we stayed for who knows how long. I did my best to convey calm while I listened closely to the sounds of the house, attempting to decipher anything close, measuring the distance of each noise. The sun was up by the time the sounds shrank enough that I dared move. Much to the dismay of Chip, I wouldn’t allow an exit onto the field until I knew we either had to escape or that the orcs were truly on the losing side within the house; I didn’t know what awaited us on the exterior of the house and I wasn’t willing to take any chances until I was sure. I sat there, arms crossed, slightly leaned toward the door, silent, intent.
Eventually, the shouts and bangs quieted down. I turned hearing a train in the distance. Now. Now was the time to move. We needed to get as many people as possible away from the area and that train was our chance. I moved toward the pitched roof interior and slid my hand over the wood, looking for the break I knew was there. Finding the hidden handle, I tugged, popping out a three foot by two foot piece of what would other wise look like attic roof. I stuck my head out the opening and could see a few other humans gathered on the field, anxious, but waiting. Without hesitation I motioned everyone out of the attic. I remained there alone for a moment, listening to the lessened, but still aggressive clamor coming from the other parts of the house.
I wish I could say that I found my courage. That I went back through the door leading to the stairs, charging down the hidden flights, to find the man who remained and hauled him to safety.
I didn’t. I stared at the door, swallowed, and left.
Photo credit Mind Touch
There were no screams outside. My eyes, wincing in the sun, found the women gathering the children, comforting them, while searching for their other relations. Dozens of people were beginning to converge on the field from all directions, but slowly, as if exhausted, not scared. My eyes scanned and finally rested on Chip. He was observing a group of musicians who had not only escaped, but had done so with their instruments. They were setting up to play, as if desperate for normalcy after the horrors of the previous night. Chip’s face was blank.
I took out my phone and looked up a train schedule for the area. It was all well and good that we seemed relatively okay for the moment. Reinforcements for the Orcs would be coming, however, and if a military force didn’t show up soon any safety we felt now would be shattered.
8pm. I sighed, knowing that train would be too late, though I hadn’t stopped to check the current time in my haste. 11:34am. Definitely too late. It seemed impossible that the morning was almost over, that the sun was not only out, but high in the sky.
I turned to the right to see my friends Nell and Fiona jogging toward me. “Thank God!” We embraced. They began to recant to me their own tale of surviving the night, my look expressionless as I tried to take everything in. They were so animated in comparison to my own fatigued, stoney face.
“What’s next?” I murmured staring down the outlying road.
“That’s what we were going to ask YOU!” stated Nell. “Have you heard anything?”
“No….but last I checked the Orcs didn’t drive a caravan of white shuttle buses.”
The girls turned to follow my line of site. Coming down the road and circling the field was a dozen or so small white shuttle buses.
Photo credit Bus Sales
“LET’S GO!” the girls screamed and ran toward the closest one. I didn’t budge, instead taking a moment to watch the scattering people that had grown to a crowd in the hundreds, searching for Chip, rather than dissolving into the mayhem. I was positive I would see him boarding a shuttle on the opposite side of the field near the musicians. Only I didn’t.
“Kate! KAAAATE! COME ON!” shouted Nell through the shuttle window.
Military men were now walking the grass, barking at people to get on the shuttles and move out “ASAP”. Where was Chip? Hesitating I began to move toward the bus, still ever hunting for some sign of Chip, listening for a shout, anything. But there was nothing.
Fiona half pulled half dragged me onto the bus, my face never leaving the field. I was fumbling with my phone waiting for his call to say he was fine. I could hear Fiona and Nell assuring me that they were certain he was alright, but it was kindness and not assurance that made them say such things, as if they were trying to smother the doubt in their throat. I stared out the window as the bus began to move. Mostly everyone was on a vehicle at that point and field was almost deserted save for the remaining military personal. I began to text Chip, glancing incessantly out the window. Where was he? Why wasn’t he contacting me?
Chip. Shuttle bus. Chip. Chip. Please. Shuttle bus. Chip. My texts repeating, begging more than asking.
We circled the field on the exit. As we did so I noticed a young orc, maybe a teen at most, who was obviously suffering from hypertrichosis. The hair on his face had been dyed neon green, I assumed as fear tactic imposed by the other orcs. He looked right back at me, both sad and humiliated, as military scientists descended on him for study. I had enough strength within to allow my heart to ache for the orc boy, even in the attack of the night before, even with my missing friend, because that’s what makes us human. Empathy.
I looked at the phone in my hands. Silent. Still no message from him. I looked up as the buses began to cross a bridge to the mainland – and noticed they were separated into two lines, each going in opposite directions.
“Wait!” I shouted. “WAIT! Where are the buses going? Will we meet at night?!” I was blindly trying to dial Chip while searching anyone for answers on the bus.
“Ma’am, please calm down. We need to get everyone as far away as possible. All will be revealed at a later time.”
The phone was ringing. Ringing. Ringing…Voicemail.
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That’s when I woke up. I saw the outline of Chip, his back toward me asleep. It was all I could do to keep from hitting him awake and berating him for ignoring my calls. You can bet he got an earful when he woke up.
Also, I’ve been texting him all morning: “Chip! Cell phone! SHUTTLE BUS!”
And each time he’s sent me a reply. Thank goodness.
She clambered up the boulder in Groom Creek, berating herself for being out of breath. Maybe at the top she’d find clarity. She reached the apex, feeling the porous rock under her hands and appreciating it’s sharpened, pockmarked texture from thousands of years of elements and having once been under water. That she could respect; it some how soothed her. There was a time when she lived there, and though she hated the company she had kept, she could always be calmed by her surroundings.
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Deep sigh. Just another view. She’d seen beauty, landscapes, created dreams in her head that she lived in life, and each one lacked. She knew that it was due to her own failings in looks. Every dream had to begin with envisioning herself as attractive first, an extra step that stung each time. Everyone who lived the life she envied was pretty, plain and simple. Strength and confidence seems to attract the same. Those that she attracted were the weak and inherently flawed. She wanted maturity, initiative and certainty, something she hoped to have in herself, but wavered all too often. She became ambitious out of need, and resented it.
Through years of hardships, “Be my pillar,” he had said. “Look how I fall, look how I’m so damaged by others that I must be cruel to you, only to forget when it suits me. Be my pillar because I need.” And as she stood like scaffolding for him, arms raised, stiff, floating away from herself and her dreams, motivated by necessity rather than desire, he turned. “Oh, look, I didn’t need you after all. Didn’t need any of it. I guess I was kidding.” And faded away.
She couldn’t remember when she stopped loving him, but she knew it was before he’d come to this conclusion. Whether or not he loved her, it was not the passionate love of a spouse, but that of a child. And that, at 30 years old, was not something she could handle. But was it better to be alone, unloved in her shameful and permanent ugliness, than to be with someone who at least needed her in some sense? Where was that decision? Had she reached a point where she only wanted disposable companionship, having been used and tried to exhaustion? She was thankful there were no children to consider. Now there were sure to be none.
So, another view. Another line of sight that went on forever. It was beauty, made her ache for things that were unreal. The rocks, the stillness, the trees that harbored streams and javelina, deer and sweet smelling earth. And the gentle pine needle covered ground that soften footfalls and emotions. And she’d seen it all before and had some how hoped this time it would be different.
“I used to live here, you know. This one time I accidentally hit a javelina that ran out of the brush into the front of my truck. I stopped short; it shook its head, stood, and rammed the front of the Toyota, annoyed at my intrusion. It couldn’t have been more than 40 pounds, but it was tougher than me.” She said it softly and to no one, just sharing something that made her smile with the wind.
She loved being alone and was never lonely. Her chest and throat hurt in the sunset as she turned, knowing that she’d continue looking for something she could not identify. It was the way she’d always been. And she had accepted it.