Forced Out

The horizon had been swallowed up by the thickly encroaching treeline, and the sun had begun to follow close behind. Vines weaved through each other like tapestry, draping themselves through the canopies and hanging down over the trail like thick, lazy snakes. Taylor stepped cautiously, pausing at every echo of gunfire exploding out of the city behind her. She was safe in here, she would tell herself, ‘the vigilantes will crush whatever this is and everything will be back to normal’.

She had known the Overgrowth was deep, thick, but never r
ealized the extent of it. She limped along the remains of the paved street, crawling over fallen trees and tripping over tightly wound vines. The gun she took from a fallen rioter sat lazily in her pocket. With every heavy step, every misplaced footing, she would wince at the thought of the piece firing off into her leg. It was loaded, the safety was off, she had no idea how to check either of these for sure. She resolved to keep moving forward, and try as she might, her mind lapsed to what happened at Savers, mulling over it with equal measures of disbelief and abject sadness.

It’s the smell, a sickening, caustic aroma of hot metal and gunpowder, grease and smoke. Makes everything so much more visceral. When guns are sounding off around you, and your ears are ringing, your eyes are blinded from the flash, your mind is reeling with fear, it’s the smell that stands out. And the taste, a grotesque cocktail of dust and sweat and iron. Bottle it. Bottle that scent into an atomizer and pack that taste into a liquor. It’s all a special kind of evocative. It reminds you how fragile you really are, how quickly you can be cut down.

Taylor’s foot caught on a particularly well hidden root. She fell forward onto the cracked asphalt, tearing through the soft skin on her hands. She turned herself over to sit at the base of a fallen tree, biting her lip and holding her stinging hand.

Your beauty, your youth, your perfection. All the good you’ve done and all the good you’re planning to do matter very little when facing down the barrel of a shotgun. But it’s all so unreal when the mundanity of life is uprooted in such a spectacular way. Like a fever dream, spiraling in and out of a semblance of reality. No. No no no. This isn’t happening.

It was just a trip to Savers. She was to donate some food and her time during their mid-day rush. She would greet the counter with a smile and she would ask to help and they would let her in exchange for food and medicine and she would greet everyone with a smile and she would see a few friends and have fun and make jokes and everyone would like her and—‘. Her mind spiraled out. The door was kicked in soon after she arrived. A tall, boiled over gentleman in rags, bearded with a voided stare oozing from his eyes stepped in, cautiously.

Nobody ran. A crazed man with a heavy shotgun breaks down the door, and nobody runs. They just stared. His eyes darted around the room, and without any more warning, he opened fire. A line of people staggered and fell with inhuman thuds, like the culmination of their being was the sound of bloody meat hitting granite floor. He trained his gun on Taylor, who backed herself into a wall. A pause. Slow. His eyes met hers, tired and lost, his beard caked in grime and sticky with sweat. But that face, she knew that face. Isaac. He lowered his gun. Taylor ran. Outside, more gunshots.

A pellet had grazed her shoulder, though she only realized after the ache refused to subside. It left a bruise, nothing terrible though. The bleeding had since stopped. She relaxed her body against the tree, her feet aching from the trek, her heart beating out of her chest. She took a deep breath and held it, letting it out slowly. Yes, she was safe. This place was safe. All the stories and the warnings, and yet right now, the Overgrowth succeeds in being the safest place Taylor could be.

A haunting wind made the trees around her shutter, dance, letting go of loose leaves that fell onto the path before being whipped up by another gust. The quiet punctuated by the occasional round of echoing gunfire from the rioting city.

She couldn’t have known what happened, but she hazard to guess that the slums spilled over into the rest of the city. All that unrest, it reached its boiling point. Somehow someone got a gun, and all went out of control from there.
Taylor got back to her feet, hobbling on a twisted ankle. She inspected her wound, drew her gun from pocket and pored over its detail in what little light was available. ‘This will all blow over’. She dragged herself off the path, she would bunker down in the thick until all the gunfire stopped. Every step sent sharp, electric pain up her leg and into the rest of her body. God it hurt. But god did feel good to be alive.