The Way the World Changed: Volume Two
How the World Changed
The world had finally been at peace, but apparently Switzerland had finally had enough with being neutral and at peace, or grew tired of making cheese and tiny knives. Anyway, for reasons unknown Switzerland set off atomic bombs all over the planet. Animals and a few, rare amount of humans survived the bombing above ground, and were changed. Jennabelle and Caleb met and after a betrayal by her scientist father Gregory, who had helped the Swiss they continued on their trip to Caleb’s house where changed survivors were staying. They were raiding some houses in a deserted town, when some highly aggressive wolves broke down the doors and burst through the windows.
Jennabelle wasn’t completely sure how she and Caleb were still alive. Yes the wolves had been modified and hers and Caleb’s modifications had helped them far out power any animals they came across, making all other attacks not a big deal. These wolves were immense; they were almost as tall as the doorway, which was over six feet high. They attacked and Jennabelle with Caleb swung their knives, fighting super hard. A wolf dodged Jennabelle’s knife, smacked her face with a massive paw with claws the size of small Swiss knives, making her see dots, and then lunged at her. She went with it, they rolled and the wolf landed on top of Jennabelle, and she had been lucky enough to raise her knife slightly, so when the wolf landed on her it got stabbed in the heart, killing it unintentionally. The attack lasted for quite some time until the duo had succeeded in killing all sixteen wolves. They collapsed on the ground in exhaustion and eventually they dragged themselves to their feet to assess if the other had been injured. Jennabelle’s face was almost completely bruised, her nose was bleeding, and she had a few cracked ribs. Caleb had some tooth marks on his right leg and he flinched when Jennabelle touched his side. When she pulled up his shirt, she saw four deep nail marks reaching from just below his left pec to his right side, over his ribs. Jennabelle sucked her breath in as a startled hiss; Caleb looked down, saw the scratches, and swore. Jennabelle was pale, but she kept her composure and ordered Caleb to sit on the kitchen table. She found some rubbing alcohol, bandages, thread and a needle. She pulled up his pant leg to clean out the tooth marks, bandaged it, and then she pulled off his shirt to take care of the scratches. She scrubbed the scratches with alcohol, apologizing, and after reassurances from Caleb, continued. Jennabelle heated up the needle to sterilize it, started sewing his wounds, and started rambling apologies again as Caleb winced. After Jennabelle was done sewing up Caleb she rubbed alcohol over the sewed scratch marks, and bandaged his chest and torso.
Caleb could tell Jennabelle was in a little bit of shock, her eyes were sort of blank and glazed, she was no longer being quiet and moody, and when she was done attending to his wounds, she left her hands resting on his chest, and was staring at him. Caleb reached out and pulled Jennabelle to his chest, she tried to push away from him without hurting his chest, but just gave up and held on to him like her life depended on it and he held on too as if his depended on them holding on to each other as well. Jennabelle had started shaking; it slowed, and eventually came to a stop. She took a deep, shuddering breath, and pulled away, gently, but Caleb would only allow her to back away far enough to see his face, while at the same time still in his arms. Jennabelle tried to find the words to suggest they get going again, but couldn’t while looking into those intense, deep, dark brown eyes. She looked away, cleared her throat to talk, but Caleb interrupted saying “Jen, I’m not letting you make the rest of the trip to my place in the state you’re in.” Jennabelle felt her stomach drop and get filled up with panic, she started to argue, but he gently turned her head towards him, so she could see his face saying “Jennabelle, I have no intention of leaving you here alone and continuing on. I should probably rest up too. I think we should change houses since this one smells of blood and dead wolves.” Jennabelle was drowning in his gaze and could only nod in agreement. They silently gathered their belongings and the remaining non-perishable foods. They walked to an entirely different neighborhood to ensure that they wouldn’t be bothered by scavengers going after the wolves’ bodies. They found a big, fancy mansion and decided to crash/scavenge there; to their amazement the mansion had remained untouched by dying humans and animals. The furniture was lavish and expensive, the kitchen and pantry were stocked, the bedroom’s closets were filled with clothes, sturdy and otherwise, and to their shock the power was still on. They deposited their belongings in the huge master bedroom, one because of its size and the bathroom and two because they thought it best to be in the same room in case of attack or in need of escape. They cooked some soup and scarfed it down, neither one needing to speak, the silence companionable. After they had eaten their fill they decided to take advantage of such an amazing oasis by taking showers, getting new and spare clothes. Jennabelle showered first and changed into an oversized shirt and black shorts underneath for bed. Caleb went after, changed into some sweatpants and preferring not to put on a shirt. When he came out, he saw Jennabelle curled up into a ball, sitting up under the huge comforter crying, quite obviously upset, scared, and a bit lonely, her tough exterior gone and her true age showing. Caleb walked over to her side of the bed and sat down on the bed next to her. He started to talk, but Jennabelle leaned on him and wrapped her arms around his waist. He was surprised, but didn’t hesitate to hold her, stroke her hair, and murmuring to her reassurances. They sat up like that for a while and Jennabelle calmed down, but neither one let go. Caleb eventually pulled them down so they were lying down and they both fell asleep, arms wrapped around each other. Caleb and Jennabelle woke up at almost the same exact time the next morning, stayed lying there, staring at each other, just thinking. Caleb rested a hand on Jennabelle’s cheek, rubbing it with his thumb, and she laid her hand on top of his, leaned forward and kissed him. Caleb kissed her forehead; they both nodded, and rolled out of bed to get ready to leave. They ate a quick breakfast and started their journey again, arms wrapped around each other’s waists. There were a few more attacks for the rest of the journey, but nothing they couldn’t handle. The trip lasted three more days and the two got even closer, especially when at night they would lay together by a fire talking. On the last day of the journey, the duo decided to rest before going the rest of the way to Caleb’s, just in case everyone had left and they would need to keep travelling. Jennabelle sat on a log and started sharpening her knives; Caleb decided to look around to see if any of his family members were out and about in the area. Jennabelle was listening really hard so she could hear if Caleb ran into any problems, and thanks to that she heard something trying to sneak up on her. She tried to keep her back and shoulders relaxed so that whatever it was wouldn’t know that she had heard it, so she could surprise it. She heard it come to a halt and crouch; she took action; spun around, flicked her knife, and leaped forward to tackle what had been trying to attack her. It was a man of twenty, twenty-one, he had on face paint, camouflage clothes, and black combat boots. The knife had sunk into his right arm and he cursed looking at Jennabelle in surprise. He caught her as she jumped and threw her into a nearby tree with enough force to knock the air out of her. Jennabelle jumped up and when the man lunged for her she dove between his legs, kicked his knees out from the back, and climbed up into a tree, too high for him to reach and onto branches that wouldn’t support the man’s weight. She knew she couldn’t take the man, he was too big and seemed to be changed, so she whistled shrilly, signaling to Caleb that she was in trouble. The man smirked at knowing he had scared Jennabelle, and he assumed she was just trying to trick him into thinking someone was with her and would help her. Caleb came running so fast that the man didn’t even see him coming. He punched the man, kicked his legs out, punched him in the stomach, and pulled out of his knife, holding it to the man’s throat. Caleb’s face was one of pure anger as he started questioning the man, then his face turned to surprise and confusion. Caleb’s fury melted away and he said “Michael?” The man’s face went shocked then flashed with a look of recognition, and whispered “Caleb?” Caleb put his knife away, stood up, and pulled Michael up with him. Michael hugged Caleb and said “When you didn’t come back we figured you did something stupid and got like killed or something.” Caleb laughed and said “No, I’m fine. I didn’t do anything stupid; I’ve just been a little tied up. Oh, speaking of which…” He turned to the tree and said “Jen, you can come down now.” Jennabelle flipped down, landed right in front of Caleb, and tilted her head, implying her confusion. Caleb smiled, pulled her around to face Michael, his arm still around her saying “Jen, this is my older brother Michael. Sorry he attacked you..” Michael made a face while arguing saying “I didn’t attack her. She didn’t give me the chance to, she attacked me. Look she threw a knife into my arm.” Caleb laughed and pulled Jennabelle closer, congratulating her, and she wrapped her arms around his waist, rolling her eyes. Michael finally noticed his brother’s arm, what Jennabelle actually looked like, and he started roaring with laughter. Caleb looked at his brother coolly and said “Michael, what the heck is your problem? Why are you laughing so hard?” Michael took a while to recover, stopped laughing, and said “Bro, you go out on a survival training trip, are missing for over a week, and when you come back, you bring a tougher than nails, extremely hot chick. Come on dude, you have to admit it’s kinda ironic considering you were the most military cold of all of us.” Jennabelle suddenly tilted her head back and smelled the wind, stiffening. Caleb picked up on her tension and went into fighting mode asking what she had smelled. She tilted her head the other way, her eyes went wide, and she said “Holy crap! Oh my gosh! Caleb we gotta get the heck out of here right now!” she and Caleb gathered up their belongings in seconds, were getting their weapons ready, and were planning on the best route to take to Caleb’s house without coming across what she had smelled. Michael just stood there and when Jennabelle stopped to glare at him while demanding to know why he wasn’t getting ready, he glared back saying “I am trained to handle anything! I’m not running away from this fight with my tail between my legs like a scared dog.” Jennabelle looked at him with a look utterly devoid of any emotion, and said “Then you are an idiot Michael and you will die. Not an honorable death either. You will be ripped to shreds very slowly and it will hurt and burn like you are already in Hell. I assure you, this isn’t something you can just fight and kill.” Jennabelle turned, looked at Caleb and said “Are you going to stay and try to help your brother, and ultimately die too, or will you convince him to come with us, because we needed to go ten minutes ago.” Caleb studied her serious face and said without looking away “Michael. You can’t fight whatever it is. If Jen thinks it’ll be bad, then she’s right. I don’t want to lose my brother, but if I have to, I will leave you behind.” “She means that much to you Bro?” Caleb finally looked away from Jennabelle’s face and said without any hesitation “yes”. Michael looked stunned, but finally agreed to leave. The trio continued on carefully with Jennabelle in the lead, and at last, well into the night, she paused, sniffed the air, and told Caleb that it would be safe enough to rest there for a couple of hours. Michael rolled his eyes and snorted in derision as he dropped his pack on the ground, and Jennabelle ignored him. She built a fire and put the food over it to cook; she started pacing restlessly, until Caleb stopped her. He grabbed her wrist to stop her and pulled her down, asking what was wrong, tone full of concern. Jennabelle fidgeted in silence for a couple of minutes, until Caleb poked her side, and she shook her head, as if clearing cobwebs, saying “Nothing Caleb, it’s fine. Oh, we should probably check on your scratches.” Caleb just stared at her for a moment, trying to figure out what she was worrying about, but just agreed to what she suggested. She started to pull his shirt off and Michael laughed nervously in surprise, holding up both hands, saying “Whoa guys, remember I’m with you now, please don’t rip each other’s clothes off.” Caleb blushed in horror and went even redder when Jennabelle started laughing. She pulled his shirt the rest of the way off, took off the bandages, and showed Michael the scratches on his brother’s chest. Jennabelle laughed again at Michael’s face, this one of relief, and said “Wow Michael, could you look any more relieved? We were attacked by weirdly strong wolves and Caleb got scratched pretty good by one of them.” Michael blushed saying “Well, I dunno how Caleb acts with you, I mean he must have done some pretty intense stuff to land a chick like you.” Jennabelle arched an eyebrow and said what kind of ‘chick’ do you think I am, and what kinds of moves have you been using? He’s cuter than a button, maybe I’m just after him for his looks and when the opportunity arises, I’ll steal him blind, leaving him tied up on the side of the road, only wearing his boxers.” Caleb laughed, pulled Jennabelle to himself again, effectively stopping her from fussing over his scratches, saying “Jen, have you been plotting how to screw me over? Well, even if you were, I don’t think I would really mind too much.” Michael rolled his eyes, while fake gagging at his brother and his brother’s girl’s attitudes towards each other, their affection for each other evident. Jennabelle wrapped her arms around Caleb’s neck, leaning away to address Michael with a smile, and saying “Don’t worry, we’ll continue on with the journey soon. Hopefully someone will be home, and your family members won’t come after me like you did.” Michael started to argue, but Jennabelle said “Relax Michael, there’s no hard feelings. Come on guys, let’s go.” That having been said, she gracefully leaped off Caleb’s lap, grabbed her bag, and started off, regardless of if the boys were coming with her or not. The brothers just stood there for a moment, watching Jennabelle walking away, and Michael said “Wow presumptuous little bit-chick isn’t she Caleb? Good job on finding someone as or more head-strong and stubborn as you. You’re finally getting a taste of your own medicine. Seriously, how does she even know if we’re going to follow her?” Caleb shook his head and with an amused smile, picked up his bag saying “She just knows dude, she just knows.” Michael stood there for a second longer and with a sigh, caught up to his brother and Jennabelle in time to see them holding hands, and feel something he couldn’t quite identify, but shook off for the time being..An hour had passed and all of them were wiping blood off of their weapons, after being attacked by some very aggressive groundhogs and rabid squirrels. No one had gotten hurt, so they continued walking. Caleb decided to scout ahead, leaving Michael and Jennabelle behind and alone with each other, the first time since their violent meeting. Jennabelle was polishing her favorite knife, and started sharpening it, her thoughts far away. She was so oblivious that she was shocked by a touch on her left elbow, reacted without thinking, and ended up forcing Michael against a tree, with her knife to his throat before recognition set in. she cleared her throat and apologized, while pulling her knife away, and released her hold on him. Michael’s face softened, making him look younger and more handsome, which made Jennabelle a bit nervous, and in a slightly vulnerable tone asked “How did you and Caleb met and was he still cold and detached when you first met?” Jennabelle tilted her head, considering what Michael was asking and how to answer them. She finally said slowly “Iwas stupid enough to get myself trapped in a poisonous canyon with, basically a dragon blocking the exit. I thought for sure that I was a goner. The reptile was about to breathe out fire and I couldn’t block out all of the poisonous fungus spores. I had come to accept that I was going to die and he swooped down on a vine. I know, weird huh? Anyway, he swung down and got me out of there. I don’t know how he knew I was down there or why he saved me. He has always been warm with me, he’s never been ‘military cold’. I don’t know how he got thawed out, sorry.” Michael opened his mouth to reply and ask some more questions, when Caleb suddenly swung down from trees, startling both Michael and Jennabelle. Caleb laughed at the surprised looks on his companions’ faces and then stepped towards Jennabelle, putting his arm around her waist, smiling at her, face full of joy and hope. He told his brother and girl that it appeared that no one was home, but they could have been hiding or out scouting, so they should all still head towards the house. Once they all started walking again, Caleb looked at his brother, saying “Mic, if you wanted to figure out what ‘thawed me out’ and how I knew where Jen was, you could have just asked me.” “Oh. Well, Cale I wasn’t sure if, well you’d be willing to tell me. You used to be really secretive and get mad if I asked you anything like that, and tell me to ‘get my big fat nose out of your business.’” “Well, I don’t mind anymore. So last time you had seen me, I was going on a training exercise. I was doing pretty well, you would not believe some of the stuff I came across and killed. Anyway, one day I was doing some tracking and my trail had taken me really, really far. It was probably seven or eight in the morning, and I found the animal I had been tracking for over a week, and imagine my surprise when I saw it about to attack this nerdy, gangly man. I got my crossbow ready to shoot and this tiny teenage girl appeared out of nowhere. She had this huge knife and jumped as high as she could to shove the knife in my prey’s throat. It jerks and she lost her grip, flew off its back, she managed a somersault in midair to avoid getting hurt. Anyway, it comes running towards her, she does a dive-roll from her position to avoid it hitting her, manages to cut its Achilles tendon, and quickly slices its throat all the way across. I was in complete and utter awe of this girl, she appeared to be completely unchanged and yet she was able to take down a creature I wasn’t sure I’d be able to kill. So, in the beginning, for me it was curiosity. Well, the man that I had seen earlier, walked tentatively over to the dead ‘raptor’, knelt down, as if he were examining it. He was mumbling what seemed to be nonsense; to me anyway, he gestured to the girl, as if he knew her, and asked her to cut the body straight down the middle for him. The girl sighed and cut it, almost end to end. The man knelt down close to it again and continued to mumble. He looked up at the girl, who had resumed her bored posture, snapped his fingers to get her attention, and demanded she take notes of what he finds and observes. I can see that although the girl has a measure of interest in examining the animal, she doesn’t have a drive like the man apparently does. The girl, something about her just makes me so curious and wonder about her and who she is. I find that I stay hidden for quite some time, just watching her, trying to understand. I learn that the man has the girl, who I’ve discovered is named Jennabelle do quite a bit for him, and takes her for granted. I also learned that the man is named Gregory and is apparently Jennabelle’s father. Whenever they travel, I follow silently behind, never coming out of hiding or into the open, like they do. I find that as time goes by, that I sympathize with Jennabelle and wish that there was some way I could help or encourage her, but I don’t know how to without revealing myself. At one point I dozed off in a tree and when I awoke, Jennabelle was gone, for a moment I was worried that she and her father and continued on in their journey while I was asleep, but relaxed momentarily when I saw their camp was still set up, and Gregory was there. My relief was short-lived; I quickly discovered that Jennabelle was not with her father. I slid down the tree, breaking branches, all of my caution and stealth training, gone to the wind. I wandered and tried to track where Jennabelle had gone, it was pretty difficult, eventually I did find her. To my utter horror, I saw that she was being blocked into a ravine, by a dragon? I assessed how to get her out, before that creature blew fire on her and then noticed that there appeared to be a deadly species of fungi lining almost the whole ravine. At that point, logic, any remnant of coldness, and strategy, fled my mind, and all that I could really think was that I needed to and would be willing to do anything to protect that petite little firecracker that was Jennabelle. I found a good, sturdy vine that was still attached to a tree, swung into the ravine, grabbed Jennabelle by her waist, and swung back out. My little rescue mission had only taken a mere few seconds, now she knew of my existence. I finally got to be near Jennabelle, hold her, and now she could reject me, I was terrified. She wasn’t running in terror, she was just standing there, studying me, so I took that as a chance to get an even better look at her. To my surprise, when she turned to go back to camp, she gestured for me to go back with her.
We have had a lot of stuff happen with us since that has brought us even closer.” Michael looked at Jennabelle and asked with an almost hard look in his eyes “You didn’t think it was kinda weird that he just appeared out of nowhere at the perfect moment? Also, you invited him to your camp, I mean really, what was your reasoning?” Jennabelle smiled and laughed lightly “I did think it a little strange that he came at the exact moment I needed him, but shrugged it off as luck. I looked him over before I let him come back with me to the camp, to make sure he wouldn’t slow us down even more than Gregory was. I, to be honest thought that maybe he was a bandit or something and at some point would try to rob us. I figured he probably wasn’t changed, quite wrong in that aspect, and that I would without a doubt be able to take him down if the need arose.” She shot Caleb an apologetic smile and the two brothers were laughing together, when suddenly they were under attack. The trio quickly switched to fighting mode, they were fighting back as hard as they could because those who were attacking them weren’t changed animals, and they were changed humans, very well trained humans at that. After realizing that their attackers were humans, they decided to only defend themselves and if possible incapacitate, not kill. The trio fought very well together, all of them in sync with each other. It took a while, but eventually they got all six opponents on the ground, weaponless and defenseless. It was only when all of the action was over that the boys and Jennabelle got a good look at those they had been fighting. Jennabelle didn’t recognize any of the people, but Michael and Caleb looked at the people on the ground, at each other, and started laughing, the people studied the trio and started to laugh as well. Jennabelle just stood there confused, weapons still trained on the people on the ground, when Caleb finally calmed down and turned to her saying “Sorry Jen, these are my cousins Geoffrey, George, Gohn, Geff, Greg, and Grommit.” Caleb and Michael put away their weapons and pulled their cousins off the ground, who were all dusting themselves off, and discussing how well the boys and Jennabelle had fought. Jennabelle reluctantly put away her weapons and eyed the new six boys warily. They aged from around fifteen to twenty-five, and all looked alike, with their wiry, black hair, dark skin, dark brown, almost black eyes, toned bodies, and a multitude of weapons they appeared to know how to be familiar with and be able to fight with. The cousins and brothers were exchanging stories and catching up, so it was almost twenty minutes before anyone remembered and acknowledged Jennabelle, who was eyeing their surroundings with caution. Finally Greg, the second oldest cousin noticed her and checked her out in a way that made her blush, and then she returned to scanning the forest surrounding them. Greg grunted to get his brothers’ attention; all of them stopped mid-conversation, and joined their brother in circling Jennabelle, examining her. She forced her head up, straightened her back, and regarded all of Caleb’s cousins coolly. Geoffrey, the youngest, went closer to Jennabelle, to get a better look, grabbed a curl, twirled it, and then released it with a smirk, and when he reached out a hand to her face, she said in a detached, bored tone “If you want to keep that hand, I highly recommend that you don’t touch me.” Geoffrey froze in shock and then stepped back to where his brothers were, who were now laughing at how this petite girl managed to scare their littlest brother. Caleb walked past his cousins to Jennabelle; put his arm around her waist possessively, much to his cousins’ surprise. Caleb regarded his cousins, somewhat icily, saying “This is Jennabelle. Don’t mess with her, don’t check her out, and don’t any of you even think about her.” The cousins just stood there, confused and speechless, and Michael broke the silence and the tension in the air when he laughed and said “Wow Cale, overprotective and possessive of your girl aren’t you? Lil bro, don’t be too possessive, wouldn’t want to scare off the only person who was able to thaw you out.” Michael’s easy-goingness encouraged the cousins, and Grommit introduced himself and his five brothers to Jennabelle, if somewhat tentatively. After everyone was introduced, Grommit started laughing and when Caleb questioned him, he roared with laughter, saying “Oh Caleb, your mother is so going to kill you for being gone so long, and bringing some girl you found!” the rest of Grommit’s brothers laughed, as well as Michael, but Caleb just shrugged, pulling Jennabelle to him, and she leaned against him smiling. After eating some lunch, everyone packed up their supplies and weapons, and started to walk again. Caleb, who had been secretly missing home, started walking faster, all of his caution gone. He was snapped back by a small hand grabbing his wrist, to slow him down. He came almost to a stop and looked down at Jennabelle, who was studying him, her brow creased and head tilted questioningly. He asked her what was up and she said “Caleb, you might want to use a bit more stealth and look around you. From what you told me, your family is very military crazy, so it stands to reason that they have booby traps, possibly even more since you’ve been gone, correct?” Caleb’s eyes widened and a sheepish look came across his face and he said “Yeah, they probably have a lot of traps set, thanks Jen, for you know, reminding me to think.” “Sure, no problem Caleb. Oh and I’ve been wondering...Will your mother attack me? I mean, everyone else from your family has.” Caleb blushed and managed to say “I won’t let my mother attack you. I’m sorry my brother and cousins went after you, I bet you probably wonder if I’m even worth the trouble, huh?” Jennabelle laughed and smiled brilliantly, saying “Oh Caleb, don’t worry, I’ll stick with you. I mean, I’d be a goner if I went off on my own, and...Uh, of course I’d miss you too much.” Caleb looked at his girl’s stricken and embarrassed face and laughed, rolling his eyes. She still looked a tad humiliated, so he nudged her with his elbow; she looked up, saw him wink at her, smiled, and nudged him back. They both just smiled at each other and held hands, Michael and the cousins were immaturely making vomiting noises behind them. The group continued on their trip to “Headquarters” through the woods and remained vigilante to avoid all of the booby traps, such as the 5x5 section of woods that was filled with steel jaw bear traps, the hidden ropes that yank you up by one of your ankles, the deep pits with the sharpened spikes in the bottom, etc. Eventually, they reached where they lived and Jennabelle’s jaw dropped. From the outside, you would never be able to tell that army nuts had made it into a weapon-teemed post-apocalyptic base/bunker. The house looked like a large cottage and extremely cute and cozy-looking, it was like a cottage you imagine in fairytales. The cottage even had some ivy crawling up one section of the front of it, and there was a group of surprisingly normal deer, looking quite peaceful, and there was a baby deer nuzzling its mom. The perfect, picturesque scene was shattered when there was a sound of a silenced rifle firing and the deer fell to the ground with bullet holes in their heads. Jennabelle looked around in horror, with wide eyes, and her hands covering her mouth to hold back a shriek. The boys got into defensive positions around Jennabelle with their weapons out. A woman of about forty-five stepped out of some bushes, she lowered her rifle at the sight of all the boys, and her cold exterior cracked, her dark brown eyes softening and expression warmed up. She smiled and said “Boys, would you really attack me? I’m some of you boys’ mom and the rests aunt.” The boys smiled, put their weapons away, and swarmed the woman with hugs and were talking over each other. Jennabelle used the woman’s distraction to examine the woman, she was around 5”6’, long, black hair in a severe bun, she also had deep, dark brown eyes, the same as Caleb, and she had a very in shape body. The big group hug of sorts dispersed and Caleb’s mom was smiling warmly and was chatting with the boys in Turkish perhaps, and insisted on all of them coming inside the cottage with her. The cousins and Michael went through the front door in a swarm, but Caleb lingered, looking at Jennabelle, hand extended towards her. Caleb’s mom looked from her son to Jennabelle, and her eyes narrowed and her expression grew cold. She stepped inside the doorway to prevent the couple from going inside and when Caleb looked at his mother in confusion, she hissed “I want both of you to help me skin and gut those deer I shot, and there are some things I must say.” Jennabelle shot Caleb a nervous, almost panicked look, he squeezed her hand reassuringly, and they followed Caleb’s mother over to the sad carcasses. By the time the young couple reached the bodies, Caleb’s mother had already pulled out a huge knife, and was stabbing the buck’s body, never taking her eyes off of Jennabelle. The couple knelt down and pulled out their knives, but Caleb’s mother snapped at them that she could do it all herself. They started to stand up, but she glared, so they remained kneeling, she regarded them coldly, and spoke to Caleb saying “Caleb, what gave you the idea that it would be okay to bring a whore home?” Caleb sat there in shock, mouth agape, but Jennabelle asked “Why did you call me a whore?” “Because a pathetic little girl like you could only have survived this long in this changed world by whoring around. Also because only a whore could confuse both of my sons and my six nephews into risking our headquarters security by bringing some random girl they only just met, who could be a spy and threat to us into one of our few safe houses left.” By this time Caleb had regained his composure and stood up, looming over his mother, and said without any hesitation “Mother, I care deeply about Jennabelle and I know without a doubt that she is not a spy, and won’t do anything to threaten our safety, she doesn’t have anywhere else to go.” Caleb’s mother stood up as well, which was moot since she barely came to his chin, held his face in her hands, and with a sad look said “The fact that she was able to make you believe that speaks volumes about her ability to seduce and trick, especially you it appears.” With that Caleb’s mother went inside. Caleb and Jennabelle just stood together in the yard, at some point Caleb said “we’d better head inside, the boys are probably wondering where we are.” He tried guiding Jennabelle towards his house, but she gently tugged her hand out of his. He stopped and looked at his girl with an almost nervous, questioning look, and she started fidgeting, refusing to look at Caleb. He took a step forward, put one hand on Jennabelle’s waist, and the other cupping her face. She sighed closing her eyes, leaned her face against his hand, and said “Caleb, I shouldn’t stay here...” Caleb started to interrupt her, but she stopped him saying “No Caleb, I need to say this. I make your mother uncomfortable, she thinks I’m a risk, and really I am. My father was one of the head scientists to bomb the entire earth. I deserve people’s mistrust and fear. You should stay here with your family, but I should leave.” Jennabelle turned her head to kiss Caleb’s palm and then tried to walk away, but he reached, and grabbed her waist to try to stop her. Her eyes got watery as she whispered “Caleb, please don’t make me do this,” Caleb’s face hardened fractionally and he shook his head. Jennabelle grabbed his wrist holding hers and twisted it, he released her wrist and tore her hand off his wrist, and they were fighting each other for a while, until Caleb eventually lost his patience, and kicked out Jennabelle’s leg, making her land on her back. So she wouldn’t be able to keep fighting him, he sat on her hips, and held her wrists down with his hands, their faces inches apart. Their closeness seemed to have distracted Jennabelle of her logic that it would be best for everyone if she left. Caleb watched her face get emotions again and whispered “Jen, things wouldn’t be better if you left. I would be so lonely, extremely upset, and I need you. It doesn’t matter what my mother thinks, if she doesn’t like you being here or with me, well tough.” “But Caleb...” “No Jen, I need you and I want you here with me. Well if you really don’t want to be with me and are not happy with me, I would let you go. Jen, what do you want?” Jennabelle stared into Caleb’s eyes and said “you”, Caleb studied her and asked her “Is this what you really want?” She nodded and he asked again “Are you sure this is what you want?” “Oh, for God’s sake Caleb, yes this is what I want! I want you!” Caleb’s expression softened and his eyes were glowing, “Really Jen, you love me?” Jennabelle finally lost it and shouted “Yes!”, then arched up to kiss Caleb. He released her wrists, wrapped his arms around her waist, and rolled over so she was on top of him now. It wasn’t long until they were interrupted by an uncomfortable cough, they came apart, looked where the cough had come from, and saw Michael blushing and looking away. They stood up, dusted themselves off, and tried to apologize to Michael, but he held up his hands, insisting they just pretend it hadn’t happened. He cleared his throat and said “Come on both of you, food is ready, and getting cold. Also the rest of the family wants to meet Jennabelle, if I was you two, I would keep the public displays of affection to a minimum, if at all, and maybe the private displays of affection as well.” “Bro, I was trying to convince Jen to stay after mom...” “Hey Cale, you don’t need to make up excuses for me. I understand the world is pretty empty of humans, she’s the only girl you’ve seen in a while who isn’t a cousin, and you’re both hormonal teenagers. I get it, I was there.” “No, I don’t just like her because...” “There’s no need to lie to me Caleb. It’s not fair to you or Jennabelle.” “I’m not...” Michael started patting Caleb on the shoulder and saying “Right Bro, of course. Not in front of your plaything.” Caleb angrily brushed Michael’s hand off and snapped “She’s not my plaything, I actually do have some strong feelings for her, love her even, and I’m not lying.” Michael put his hand back on Caleb anyway, even though he fought it and said “Whatever you need to tell yourself, so you won’t feel guilty for corrupting her innocence.” Caleb sighed in exasperation and threw up his arms, Jennabelle rubbed his back, letting him know he didn’t need to keep arguing, she knew the truth. Caleb took a deep breath and tried to appear calm as he walked into his house with his girl to be judged by his family. The dinner was very awkward since Caleb’s family members would try to engage Jennabelle in conversation, but would get a cold, disapproving look from Caleb’s mom, and an uncomfortable silence would be made. Jennabelle was miserable, just sitting there, not eating because she could feel the hatred pouring off of Caleb’s mom, and he tried to comfort her by rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb. Suddenly Jennabelle sensed something, she stiffened and grabbed Caleb’s wrist, hissing his name. He just took her hand in his and continued listening to his family members talking. She growled her frustration, ripped her hand out of his, and pushed her chair back with a loud scraping noise and addressed Caleb’s mom, saying “Some really bad things are coming. They are near impossible to kill. Do you have another ‘safe haven’ nearby we can run to, like now?” Caleb’s mom rose from her chair more dignified, and pride straightened her back and made her say “Of course we have another place nearby, but we are not leaving this place.” Jennabelle almost screamed in irritation and said “What is with your family, you can’t fight everything that you come across, especially in this new changed world! Fine, do you have some hardcore weapons? I mean like elephant guns, automatic guns with huge clips, maybe some tank guns (on tanks preferred), and grenades, just anything really accurate and powerful.” Caleb’s mother’s cool, calculated mask cracked the smallest bit, showing her concern and worry for her family’s safety, but she nodded saying in an arrogant tone, “Of course we have those kinds of weapons, why do we need them though? What are we fighting?” “There’s no time right now! We need to lock the doors, get those who can’t use the big guns in the bunker, in the basement, and have people ready at all the windows.” Caleb’s mother nodded and started giving orders to the younger children to go in the bunker, told the older cousins they’d take the tanks, told which people she wanted to throw the grenades and what windows they were assigned to. Eventually she turned her attention back to Caleb and Jennabelle, ordered her to go to the weapons room to get both of them long range rifles, and to have them fire from the roof. Everyone got into position, weapons ready, and except for Jennabelle, not knowing what to expect. Five tension-filled minutes went by and Caleb scooted over to his girl, and started whispering “Jen, you sure about this? I mean...” She held up her hand to silence him, and pointed to something staggering on the edge of the forest and the clearing. She pulled out a pair of tiny binoculars, Caleb looked, and saw the creature, and it resembled something that used to be human. It was the right shape and size to be human, but the eyes were only bloodshot, white orbs, the skin was a nasty, sickly gray color, it was cover in tattered clothes, stained with dried blood, and was shambling along in an animalistic way. Jennabelle stood up, aimed, and fired at the creature and signaling to the others that the action was starting. The creature’s head exploded, reddish liquid that probably used to be blood splattered, and the blood caused hundreds more of the creatures to appear from the woods, stirred into a bloodlust. Jennabelle heard more than one voice start cussing, Caleb included because they all thought that she had been making a big deal out of nothing. Everyone started shooting and realized that the creatures were actually difficult to kill, and the first creature that Jennabelle had killed had been a very precise and lucky shot. The creature’s arms, legs, etc. would get shot off, but they would keep coming, some without any limbs, just torsos, rolling towards the cottage. Just the sheer numbers of creatures would make it hard to kill all of them, add their near indestructibility, and you’d know they all had a very long job ahead of them. Killing the creatures was taking so long, people were being forced to take turns resting, eating, and cooking for the others. They were killing the creatures all through the night, through the day, and well into the next night. Eventually all of the creatures were dead and no more were coming. Those who had been allowed to fight went outside with weapons to make sure all of the creatures were really dead, and to stack them all up to set fire to. As the bodies burned, Caleb walked over to Jennabelle to apologize for brushing off her warning and doubting her that something bad was coming. She generously accepted his apology and they held hands staring at each other. Caleb’s mother cleared her throat and addressed Jennabelle coldly once again, “How could you tell they were coming, how did you know about them, and what the freck were they?” Jennabelle bit her bottom lip nervously, and then shook her head, she straightened up and said “I could tell they were coming because I was changed during the explosions, now I know all of you are changed as well, but I had some extra abilities added by scientists. My father was one of the top scientists for Switzerland’s bombs. After I snuck into the Swiss underground bunker and recovered from the radiation poisoning, I wandered around. Gregory decided to show me something he and his colleagues were working on in their lab. They got people from outside who didn’t have places to hide from the explosions and were going crazy, they decided to find a new way to cure the people, but something went wrong. Instead of returning the people to their original state they were being changed, but not like us, nothing like us. The best way I can think to call or describe those things that used to be humans is ‘zombies’, of sorts. Some of the creatures got out, so we locked down that section, eventually they clawed their way to outside. The scientists had wanted all of the humans in the bunkers to go back outside someday, but knew the ‘zombies’ would be a problem. So, when Gregory decided to go outside to explore the changes and drag me along, the other scientists decided we needed some sort of indicator of if the creatures were nearby, because Gregory was so important for them. They tried making devices, tracking, alarms, etc. Eventually they decided injecting a human with half a drop of the chemical that had made the creatures, would work like a natural ‘zombie’ detector. There was only going to be Gregory and I going for the time being, and they didn’t want to risk ruining ‘such an influential, important, and smart scientist like Gregory’. So that left me, I got sick for a couple days after the injection, it’s a miracle that I survived, and even more of a miracle that I didn’t become one of those things.” Caleb’s mother got more and more furious as Jennabelle answered her questions and by the end she was absolutely livid. Her nostrils were flared and she grabbed Jennabelle’s hair, yanking her head back, while pulling her against herself with a blade to Jennabelle’s throat. Caleb darted forward, but his mother snapped at him “Caleb! Remain where you are. I was suspicious of this girl and did not trust her, but you insisted I let her stay. Her father worked for the Swiss, father like daughter, she is probably a spy for them. She has most likely sent a message somehow, telling them where we are.” Caleb’s mother started shouting orders again, this time for everyone to pack up everything to move out, that they had a spy, and must change headquarters. Since there were so many people in Caleb’s family living together, it didn’t take long to get everything loaded up. Caleb’s mother regarded him with a cold detachment and said “When you chose her above the safety of our family, you were no longer my son. If we ever have the misfortune to meet again, I will kill you without any hesitation, I no longer claim you, and I will not allow anyone else from our family to either.” Caleb looked shattered and managed to ask “Mom, what happened to Dad, where is he?” it didn’t seem possible, but somehow Caleb’s mother became even colder as she said “I am not your mother; a real son of mine would not be drawn to a spy, and become a turncoat. I suppose it’s fitting that you are the way you are, just like your father, oversensitive. When you were missing longer than you were supposed to be, he started wringing his hands, and he left saying he would find you and if he couldn’t save you, he would kill himself, he’s probably dead.” After her speech, Caleb’s mom marched off, with the rest of the clan following. The six cousins and Michael lingered, gave Caleb a hug and a handshake, gave Jennabelle a hug and a kiss, whispered their encouragement and hope for them, and quickly marched away. The couple watched their only allies abandon them until they completely disappeared and they collapsed on the ground in despair and exhaustion, leaning on each other. Eventually they got up, went inside the house, ate some breakfast, and went to bed, together because they didn’t want to be alone. Staying in his house where his family had disowned him upset and frustrated Caleb, but Jennabelle insisted they stay and do some research about where all of the bombs had landed and affected things, while they had the resources to do so, instead of the just wandering around aimlessly, hoping to find something. One day, a couple of months after Caleb’s family had left, he went into the study where Jennabelle had been spending much of her time, researching, wondering, and hoping. She was hard at work with her calculations, maps, statistics, etc., so she didn’t even hear Caleb come in. Caleb just stared at his girl in amusement for a while, noticing that she hadn’t changed out of a bathrobe she had found, and was trying to find a way to suggest to her to stop working for a couple of hours. She finally looked away from her work in frustration and blushed when she realized that Caleb had been standing there for a while, staring at her with that silly look on him face. Caleb held out a tray of toast, eggs, a banana, and oatmeal with apple juice, she looked at the tray longingly, but hesitated, looking back at her work. Caleb grinned at her split-mindedness, winked at her embarrassed face, and made her a deal “How about this Jen, you eat, and explain to me what exactly it is you’re doing so I can help out.” She nodded, started nibbling on a piece of toast, and decided how to best explain what she had been doing. After quite a bit of thought and some prodding from Caleb, she managed to explain, “Cale, we both know that Switzerland did a heck of a good job bombing Earth, but the question is, did they bomb all of their own country? I don’t think they would screw themselves that badly, nowhere near as bad as they did the rest of the planet. Yes, they probably did bomb parts, but not all. I am trying to find a place that wasn’t bombed, doesn’t have changed animals, and where no one would think of, not even the Swiss.” Caleb thought for a moment over what Jennabelle had just announced that she had been doing, and made a pained face, like he felt he had to say something, but at the risk of upsetting her. Jennabelle waved her hand to get Caleb to just tell her what he needed to say, he nodded slowly, and said “Jen, it’s just all of those things by themselves are tough to find, but all three together? That’s a tall order.” “I know Cale, I know that probably more than you do, but I want to find a place like that for our future kids. I don’t want them to be a part of this changed world.” Caleb’s face softened, he held Jennabelle’s face between his hands, and nodded saying “Alright Jen, alright sweetie, then let’s do it together.” his voice completely filled with love. The couple together searched and searched, and searched some more, sometimes Caleb had to search by himself when occasionally Jennabelle felt sick. It took over another month, but eventually they found a place that they felt would be peaceful and safe. They loaded up their few belongings from Caleb’s house and set out for a long walk. They had been walking for about a week when they got attacked by some grizzly bears. Grizzly bears are immense and extremely powerful naturally, but after the changes, even more so, luckily there were only two. It took a while and quite a bit of strategy, but eventually they took the bears out. Jennabelle would have a few bruises and a couple of cuts, but Caleb had three large scratches on his back. Jennabelle had to sew Caleb’s scratches and wrap them, almost making her catatonic with worry and throw up. Caleb held her for a while and once she calmed down, he let go of her and asked her to bring him his bag over for him. She was confused, but did as he asked; he pulled her back onto his lap with her back to his chest. He asked her to open it for him and to open a small cloth bag on top. She shot him a puzzled look, took out the bag, opened it, and shrieked, dropping the bag and what was inside it. Caleb smiled and laughed as he picked it back up, Jennabelle had covered her mouth, and he took the object out of the bag and held it up to her. She removed her hands and barely managed to whisper “Really Caleb? Do you really want me to?” Caleb brought her closer, put the object in her hand saying “Of course Jennabelle, I love you. This ring was my grandmother’s and I would be extremely honored and not to mention ecstatic if you would say yes, and at some point if we find someone who can make it official, would you marry me?” Jennabelle burst into tears and nodded her head vigorously, saying “yes”, Caleb smiled, his expression elated, took the ring out of her hand, and put it on her finger. She said “yes” again, kissed Caleb, and started crying again from happiness. The couple just kept travelling, looking for their little paradise, it was taking a while to reach the destination since no cars would work, and Jennabelle started being sick more often as time went on. Caleb was really starting to get worried about his fiancée and was wondering if they would ever make it to their destination. Two months after the couple left Caleb’s, they reached the place they had set out for. There was a huge, beautiful white lighthouse that was completely intact, and untouched. There was a huge field of soft green grass all around with beautiful flowers. Behind the lighthouse were some rocky cliffs; down below was a sandy beach. The ocean was more beautiful than either of them had ever seen before; it was a bright, crystal blue, gentle waves splashing against the rocks, making the most beautiful, calming sound. They had truly found paradise. They decided to go inside the lighthouse to explore, much of the furniture was made of old driftwood, and was very comfy and homey, and it was welcoming. Jennabelle sat in an over-sized armchair in the corner and started dozing off in moments. Caleb smiled at her peaceful, sleeping form, covered her with a quilt, and walked around some more. He found three more bedrooms, a tiny kitchen, a cozy little laundry room in the basement, and a beautifully decorated bathroom. He was walking back into the living room where Jennabelle was, when he felt someone grab him from behind, and hold a large knife to his throat. He froze, not wanting to make a commotion that would wake up Jennabelle, and alert his attacker to her presence. He quietly asked “Who are you? What are you doing here?” the arm restraining him tightened and the voice growled “I’m the one who’s going to be asking the questions here, not you. It’s none of your business who I am. This is my place now and you are invading it, so I ask you, what are you doing here?” Caleb swallowed and sighed saying “I was looking for a safe place for myself and my fiancée. Sir, please don’t hurt her, she’s sleeping in a chair in the living room...And she’s pregnant.” The person was a man and he swore, and then whispered “Caleb?” Caleb turned around slowly. Looked at the man; his eyes widened in shock at the familiar man before him, and whispered “Dad?”