Fiction On Odyssey: The OutBound

Fiction On Odyssey: The OutBound

“I don’t sleep. My mind has the scary capability of being dark and demented.” “You’re afraid of your dreams?” “Yes.”
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"I don't sleep. My mind has the scary capability of being dark and demented."

If we were anywhere else, my instant response would be, "Same!" followed by some sort of half-joke about the severity of my workload. As it is, I just do the curious-head-cock thing and say,

"You're afraid of your dreams?"

"Yes."

Her quiet, haunted voice fills the cozy library nook that I've claimed for my sessions. She sounds so… tired. Her tone is a careful deadpan, but she still manages to exude a world-weary fatigue.

Not to mention her appearance; the gaunt face caked in grime and smudges, the scabbed over cut streaking across her cheekbone, the faded and stained hoodie that she's shoved her hands into, and the alarmingly thin frame all make it obvious that she's not in desirable circumstances. She's probably an OutBound, which means I could get arrested just for talking to her. I don't care.

Despite her rank odor, I've never wanted to hug anyone more than I have Ally Orwell.

Yet, after doing these little peer counseling sessions for so long, I'm at least halfway decent at reading people. Ally seems like the last thing she wants is pity.

"You know something, Ally?" I say. I relax in my chair and opt to go the laid-back route. It feels kinda weird, to be saying my name and not be referring to myself, but Ally is a pretty common nickname.

(Though, I'm sorely tempted to ask her if she's related to my favorite author. If I could have any last name, it'd definitely be Orwell.)

"Hmm?"

I paraphrase a WebMD fact. "The thing about scary dreams is that they're just that: dreams. You know?"

"Right," she says. "Because no matter how scary a nightmare is, it's not real and most likely won't happen to you in real life."

Woah. That's kinda weird. It's almost like she took the words right out of my head, verbatim. Coincidence, I guess. Even though WebMD is borderline outdated, it's still a reliable source of information, especially for those like me who can't afford those fancy MediKnow things. Ally probably uses it just like I do. Though, her voice is... odd, when she says it. Almost cynical-sounding.

She tucks her hair behind clunky black glasses reminiscent of the pair I keep as backup if I lose my contacts. I do the same thing whenever I feel nervous, which probably means I just made her uncomfortable by taking too long to answer. Great job, Ally. Some psychologist-in-training you're turning put to be.

I open my mouth to respond, but—

"What's your happiest memory?"

I blink, surprised. Her eyes expression is really intense. It's kind of creepy, to be honest.

"Who's counseling who here?" I try to joke.

She doesn't bite, instead staring at me expectantly through the familiar-looking glasses. I sigh. I guess some of the students I talk to are bound to be a bit on the weirder side.

Then again, I guess "weird" is just another way of coping in this messed up world. It's not like anyone can put trust in the government anymore, not after the whole "sacrifice for the greater good" stunt they tried to pull on the OutBound. Just because you've been marked as a potential carrier of a population-destroying disease doesn't mean you're any less of a person.

Ally's totally living proof of that! She's probably marked, but I don't see a deadly killer. I see a scared girl, just a couple years older than me, who wants nothing more than —

"You gonna say anything?"

Oh. Right. The conversation I was in the middle of before spacing out. Whoops. I tend to do that a lot.

"Sorry. If I had to pick, I guess I'd say my fourteenth birthday party."

Just the thought of it made me smile. As far as birthday parties go, it wasn't "perfect" in any sense of the word. Regardless, it was my favorite. I guess because it was the last major event where my family was all together and happy. My dad died in a hovercycle crash a week later.

"Mom accidentally ordered the wrong cake. I guess that didn't really matter because Dad ended up setting it on fire while he was trying to light the candles. My best friend Roland got me a copy of 1984, which has been my favorite book ever since, and my older brother gave me his lucky jacket. It… kinda looked just like the one you're wearing, actually."

I stare. The faded and dirty blue hoodie she's wearing looks really similar to the old hoodie Davie gave me before he went back to college. Davie's, though, had a little white patch on the right sleeve from the one time that Mom spilled bleach on it...

Something draws my eyes to the right sleeve of Ally's hoodie. There's the familiar, lopsided spatter.

I feel Ally's gaze on me. I look up into watery green eyes identical to mine.

"I'm sorry," she whispers, jaw clenched and hands fisted. The tears making tracks in the grime on her face and revealing freckles that I've had since childhood.

But that's impossible. Right? This is too weird.

Ally's crying, though, and my stomach sinks.

"Ally?"

"None of us should have had to deal with this," she says with a strange, resigned anger. She stands up and starts to leave.

"Ally? Wait, wait, you can't just leave-"

The intercom crackles to life. I recognize Principal Fields's breathless voice calling some sort of code, one that I'd never heard or read about before. What's going on?!

"Do me a favor?" Her voice is raised over the intercom. She continues before I can muster a response. "Try not to wait so long before telling Roland you like him."

I bound after her, but she slips out of the library. I try to follow her, but the hallway outside is complete chaos. People are panicked, running around, and I can hear screaming and crying and... growling? As I lose sight of my brother's hoodie, I realize that my last patient wasn't coming to me for help.

She was coming to me to say goodbye, to get one last look at the girl she was before everything went horribly, irrevocably wrong.


Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Cover Image Credit: ClaudiaRae

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To the guy that shot my brother...

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To the guy that shot my brother,

On January 9, 2019 my families entire life changed with one phone call. The phone call that my little brother had been shot in the face, no other details. We didn't need any other details. The woman on the phone who called us in full panic told us where he was so we went, as soon as possible. I don't think it helped that not even 10 min prior I talked to Zach on the phone.. kind of irritated with him, and the ONE TIME I didn't say 'I love you' as we hung up. Could've been the last time we ever spoke.. I remember pulling up to the hospital thinking 'this can't be real' 'it's not our Zach' 'this is just a dream Sarah, WAKE UP' I'd close my eyes really tight just to open them, I was still in the hospital emergency parking lot. I could still hear the ambulance sirens coming. It was all real.

The day our life's changed was definitely a test of faith. A test of how strong we were, as a family. I sat in that waiting room ready to see the damage that has been done to my sweet baby brother. Because at that point we had no idea how lucky he got. That glimpse of seeing Zach will haunt me forever. How helpless I felt in that exact moment frequently wakes me up from these horrific dreams I've been having ever since that day. That is a moment burned into my me and families brain forever.

You always hear about these things in the movies or on the news, a house being shot up, someone shooting another innocent person, not to care if they died on your watch. But we found ourselves on the news.. We have been confined to the hospital since that day. Running on barely any sleep, taking shifts of sleep so we don't make ourselves sick taking care of Zach. Watching him suffer. Undergoing surgeries, to repair the damage you did.

Before I proceed let me tell you a little something about the man you shot.

Zachary Keith Wright. A blonde hair blue eyed boy. Who could potentially be the most annoying human on the planet (possibly coming from his sister). A man who loves his God first, loves his family second. Perfect by no means, but almost perfect to me. A 19 year old who was to graduate high school this month. After graduation he was prepping to leave for Marine boot camp in the summer.. being in the military has been Zach's dream since he could talk. Literally. Running around, playing war with underwear on our heads, and finger guns. Some would say we looked like natural born assassins.. growing up he has been a country boy. Let me tell ya country to the core. He loves this country like he loves his family. He believes in helping people, taking charge in what's right, and never leaving a brother behind. He's lived by that his whole life. Until now....

The day you shot him. The day not only did you change my brothers life, you changed his families life too. The day you almost ripped my brother out of this world... for what? A misunderstanding? Because you've let something take ahold of your life that you can't let go you're willing to kill someone innocent over? Luckily for him, his guardian angels were protecting him in your time of cowardice. There were 3 times that day he should've died, the time you shot him, the time you tried to shoot him again as he stared you directly in the face, (even tho he couldn't talk I know you could read his eyes, and he still intimidated you. That's why you tried to pull the trigger again) and the time he was running out of the house. But he lived. A man who was shot in the face, didn't lay there helpless, didn't scream in agony. That MAN walked to the neighbors to get help. Why? Because he's a MAN, and because he's on this earth for a reason.

It's gonna sound a little strange not only to you, but the audience who is reading this. I must say thank you. Even in this situation, this was the best outcome we could get. He gets to live. He will make a full recovery. He will graduate. And he will go off into the Marines. You united my family together. Closer than ever. Thank you. You tested our faith and brought us closer to our God. Thank you. Because of your moment of weakness, you showed us what prayer could do. Heal anything. Thank you. This was a bump in the road, and a helluva way to kick off our year of 2019. But here we are.. all laying in the hospital. I'm looking around as mom is sleeping in her recliner chair exhasted but still here, Zach his awake playing his xbox all hooked up to machines, fighting to heal and get better. And of course I'm writing this letter to you.

See you in trial,

From the girl whose brother you shot.

'Fight the good fight' - 1 Tim 6:12 🤟🏼💙

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5 Ways You Can Stop Producing so Much Trash

We produce a lot more trash than you think, until you start paying attention to your actions.

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One of my major goals this year is to do more to save the planet as well as animals. I have already been vegetarian for three years. and I'm plan to stay vegetarian, but I want to have a more plant based diet. As well, I want to start reducing the amount of trash I produce. Not only because I realize just how drastically our trash is affecting wildlife, but also because I think having to take out your trash twice a week is way too much trash!

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This would actually fix my water bottle problem. I need to invest in a nice, reuseable water bottle that I can refill, rather than throwing away 3-4 water bottles a day. Amazon has a lot of varieties of these bottles ranging from inexpensive to expensive, cool designs, and even one that holds snacks.

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