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Broken Dawn (Aisling and Other Stories)


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As she peered out into the desert, she thought she could make out something moving in the far distance. Curiosity piqued her, but she did not reach for the binoculars just yet. She was, at this moment, busy enjoying a carefree afternoon.

She had always liked the heat, unlike her mother. Her mother, when she was alive, had often complained of it. "We're Irish, damnit!" she would exclaim, time and time again, "We're a cold-weather people. I'm not built for this heat." Aisling, even as a child, would just smile in response and nod agreement. "Its your Sicilian blood, Ash, that's why you like the heat. And why you don't burn easy. I envy your brown skin."

Ash. Most people called her Ash, when she was around them, except the Crews. The Crews all called her "Red." She preferred her full name: Aisling, pronounced "Ash-leen' (which was why most shortened it to 'Ash').

Her skin was indeed browned with the sun, yet her face and the tops of her shoulders bore the freckles that came from her mother's genetics. But unlike her mother, she'd always felt at home in the heat, enjoying the way the slight sheen of perspiration made her skin glisten. Even her enjoyment of the heat, however, didn't make her so stupid as to sit in the mid-afternoon sun unprotected.

She reclined on a wooden poolside lounger with worn cushions, her bright orange-red hair pulled off the back of her neck and draping over the top of the lounger. A small white shawl of light material hung just off her shoulders, knotted between her breasts, under which was a white strapless sports bra. An equally white, ankle-length cabana skirt hung from her narrow hips. Her midriff and feet were bare, and she reclined with her ankles crossed. At the foot of her lounger, a pair of leather thong sandals lay where she had kicked them off. She was tall, lean and fit, and at age 19, still young enough to not be too careworn. But if one looked close enough, they could see the lines of experience and a hard life around her eyes, as though she had lived much much longer.

She was a vision of an old-world lazy summer afternoon; if one ignored the .45 caliber pistol next to her right hand, the desert-blending mesh hunter's blind overhead, the collapsed-stock AK-47 attached to the underside of the wooden lounger, and the bulge on the inside of her left thigh which was where her sheathed knife was secured.

The blind was a mesh-type material, and small strips of fabric of varying desert hues attached to the outside concealed its profile. If one saw it from a distance, their eyes would pass right by, never noticing the girl in white inside. The mesh was light enough to see through, and served to filter the harsh rays of the mid-afternoon sun, making them nearly only as deadly as an old-world midsummer's day. Were it not for the blind, Aisling would burn in less than two hours.

The knife, which lay sheathed under her skirt, was secured by two straps to the inside of her thigh, the blade pointed up, the handle resting by her knee. It was a 5 inch blade which she kept razor-sharp, and on its back edge was a gutting hook.

Her mother, were she alive, would never approve of the outfit she wore. "A lady does not dress in such a manner, showing so much skin!", she would say. Her mother would also be horrified at Aisling's unpainted finger- and toenails.

As a child, her mother had insisted she dress like a little lady and act like a normal old-world child. "You only get one childhood, Ash, don't waste it." And yet this new age had been wasting childhoods since it began. But her mother had insisted on dresses, for Aisling. And once she got older, reaching her early teens, insisted she keep her finger and toenails painted, as a girl of her age would have in the old world. It did not matter to her mother that they lived alone in a cave, and only ever saw people when they'd make the two-day trek to Trade Town.

After her mother died, taken by a cancer that had infested her lungs (cancer took everyone that lived long enough in this new world), when Aisling was fifteen, she'd continued to act in a manner her mother would approve of, out of respect. But as the years passed, her pragmatism took over and the dresses were cast aside, the nails of her fingers and toes were kept cut short and functional, and the nailpolish only came out if she felt looking her 'prettiest' would aid in a trade when she made the trek to Trade Town. Her hands became calloused with the labor of living, and the bottoms of her feet grew tough; a fact of which her mother would never approve.

A low noise entered her awareness. From the sounds, it was a vehicle in the distance. She stood, grabbing up the binoculars, leaving the pistol where it lay on the cushion, and moved to the edge of the blind, dropping to one knee and unfastening a flap of mesh that opened a foot by foot square hole that would normally be used to stick the barrel of a rifle through. She put the binocs through and peered out.

In the distance to her right appeared a jeep. It was far enough off that she couldn't tell who was in it, but could make out a man in the open back, manning some type of mounted machine gun. Briefly she wondered which Crew it was from, but couldn't make out enough to determine. The jeep sped in a northeasterly direction, kicking up a plume of dust and sand in its wake. She moved the binoculars ahead of it, along its assumed path of travel, and in the far-off distance, so far that they looked like small insects, was a group of people.

This was the movement she had thought she'd seen.

"Stupid people," she mumbled under her breath. They were of the roaming type; Strays, as they were called by the local 'populace'. People who had been unhomed by some means or another. Some of these types had been on the move for generations (Stray life-expectancy was usually low); like the Jews, led by Moses, seeking the promised land in the Bible her mother used to put so much stock in. They made easy prey for the local Crews, whenever they chanced near.

As the jeep drew near, the man in the back began to fire the mounted machine gun, and the driver fired shots into the air. Obviously not the brightest bunch, which meant they were from one of the weaker Crews--perhaps The Mole's Crew, or Iron Man's. Someone in the group of people fired back, and scored a hit. The jeep overturned, and then the cloud of dust that was kicked up as a result occluded everything and she couldn't see anymore.

Finally the sounds reached her, and she heard the varied gunfire, the crash, and a final, delayed gunshot.

The sounds almost concealed another, closer noise: the scrape of a boot on rock, close by. As she turned to look, a voice froze her.

"Well well!" a man's voice piped up, mirth in its undertones, "Damned if it ain't Red!"

Without looking to see who the voice belonged to, she turned to spring for the pistol, but as she moved the blind crashed in around her, and the weight of a body slammed into her, tackling her to the ground.


The story of Aisling is a linear tale of which this is the first installment. As this is a blog, they will post in reverse order.

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Life , Virtual Life