She'd crawled into an abandoned warehouse she'd spotted with the corner of her eyes, while she was trekking through the high underbrush. Her hands gripping her swollen belly, her feet sore and weak, she'd barely managed to stumble through the hole in the door and to the nearest corner. She'd needed to sit, rest and somehow get her baby into this broken world.
Her name wasn't Jamie anymore, peeps down at the sewers called her Jelly, but she didn't know why. It was okay, though, because why not? Real names didn't matter no more, when the Earth was out to kill ya and the Ice People were everywhere. They were always goddamn everywhere, always recognizable now, now that they didn't need to hide themselves anymore. They still looked like people, ordinary human beings, but their eyes, their eyes were sharp, hues of blue-green-orange-yellow-violet-red-
It was all in their eyes. Once the humans started to realize that they could spot an Icy just by looking into their eyes, it was like a eureka moment for the human race, because now they knew how to spot the enemy. Didn't yet know how to kill it, but at least they knew how to spot it, turn around and run like hell. Most of the time, running didn't help, because the Icies were cunning hunters and could bring a person down in seconds.
Beside their eyes, their next 'tell' was the air of grace that always seemed to hover around them that made them so, so hated. No one who ruined life, ruined the fucking damn planet should be so graceful, so beautiful, so calm.
But they were. They were elegant in how they walked, eloquent in how they spoke, the whole air around them was always filled with serenity and calmness, the like of which no 'normal' human being had ever seen or felt.
Which was why they were dangerous as hell. Hell, probably not even Hell was as dangerous as them.
They were also sneaky, devious. They played dirty.
And they were hated, loathed for what they had done and all the hate directed to them, brought out their true nature.
Deceitful little creatures, they were.
The corner she'd crawled to, was dirty and littered with papers, but she didn't care. For all she cared, it could have hundreds and hundreds of moldy paper and dead rats lying on the ground and she'd still sit down and rest. The cold concrete wall she'd leaned on felt so good on her aching back, soothing down the tension and hours of walking. Her arms were supporting her big belly, palms rubbing circles on the hot skin, but none of that stopped the spasms and contractions. She flinched and cried out every and each time that happened; she couldn't stop it, no matter how much she bit her lip, bit her tongue, bit her whole hand. She was sixteen going on sixty and so alone, so utterly alone. There was no one she could call family, no one to really call a friend either, the guy who did this to her died five weeks ago and the people down at the sewers hadn't wanted her screams to attract the Icies, so they kicked her out. Gave her a blanket though. So ... that was okay.
Stretching her heavy legs in front of her, bending her knees just a little to dig in her heels whenever pain shot through her whole body, she stroked her taut belly, singing a song with no lyrics to her baby. It was just a melody she could hum, relaxing herself and the restless body inside of her. Didn't really know where she learned it, but it reminded her of days long gone, music long forgotten.
She wanted the child, wanted him or her - she had no way of knowing what it was, because there were no hospitals no more, there were no ultrasounds or anything like that anymore. She did visit a doctor, an elderly woman with a missing right eye, who told her it was probably a boy she was with, but whatever. The woman was a one eye quack, not really someone to be believed.
She would just see when the kid would arrive. She had a name picked out, though, something for the kid to have and own, because there was nothing to own anymore. No money, no gold, no cars, no houses. All that didn't mean anything anymore. You couldn't buy water with money, but you could buy money with water. Or food. You could buy water with a piece of bread. Or bread with a bottle of water. But money? It had no meaning, no use other than starting a fire with it, in the dead of cold nights, when fire was the only company one had. Could have. But even fire was dangerous, because if they saw it, they'd come rushing and take you.
She didn't need no fire now. What she did need, was something against the fucking pain. Something to make this hurt stop. But there was nothing. No pills, no syrups, no medicine, other than straight up alcohol and she didn't want that. She wanted her baby healthy, even if she didn't know what for. Why did she want the baby to survive? To be healthy? Why? She'd asked herself that a lot of times while she was lying on a crappy, thin, dirty mattress in one of the many nooks of the sewer system, Looky - or Lemmy as his real name had been - rubbing her stomach, kissing it and telling her how beautiful she was. How beautiful them both were, how happy he was to have her, to have what she was growing inside of her.
Why? Because there was nothing on the planet worth it. It was all ruined and they were ruling over it all. So why?
When another contraction hit her, she gasped: "Uhhhh, God, baby please stop," and shuddered when pain travelled all over her body, her skin feeling tight and hot even though it was chilly in the vast space of the warehouse.
She knew the kid wouldn't listen to her, wouldn't hear her and magically just stop. Although in this new day and age, stranger things had happened.
Like the Ice People. Like them getting power over the entire planet and over the entire human race. How that had happened, she still had no idea. Television didn't exactly broadcast the 6 o'clock news anymore and everything that she did hear came to her from rumors that had changed a hundred of ears and mouths before they arrived to her.
Some said that the Icies charmed their way to ruling. Some said that they killed whoever was against them. Some said that the Icies wanted to help and thus they needed total control over everything. Some said that the Ice People were the devil himself split into many, many creatures who wanted to dominate and destroy. Kill, kill, kill ... and then leave the planet in ruins and move on.
But the Ice People didn't come from space. They weren't aliens, so ... why would they want to destroy the planet, and where would they go then?
She screamed loud and long when another contraction hit her. They were coming closer together and she couldn't do this. She couldn't ... it was too much.
She knew pain, had broken her arm, leg, fingers ... had dislocated her shoulder once, but all that was before all medicine ran out.
That was before people started to pray for death, worship death, call it to take them away from this horrible, abandoned place.
She never called for death. She feared it. Even if living like this, in hiding all the time, down in the stinking, cold, moist sewers wasn't a life at all, but it was her life. Her choice. She wanted to survive and maybe, maybe one day ... maybe the Icies would put Earth back on its axis. Put the beauty back as it was before ... before they ruined everything.
She screamed again and threw her head back, hitting it on the moldy wall. She wanted to knock herself out, but she knew that the pain would just bring her back to consciousness.
She screamed again and clawed at the wall with her fingers, chipping away the once white paint. There was dust flying in the sun beams that were coming into the vast space through huge windows.
It was sunny outside. Warm. Too warm for March, but that was how it was now. Warm springs, summers cold as winters in the old days, fall hot and winters humid and rainy.
She groaned and screamed a second later, raising herself up a bit and hitting her head back against the wall again.
She was gonna die. She was gonna die with her baby still inside of her, alone and abandoned in a sun filled warehouse. She didn't wanna die. She didn't wanna die alone. Not alone somewhere where no one would ever find her and her baby would be dead too and fuck this world, fuck it!
"Fuuuuck it! Oh God baby!"
The contractions were coming closer and closer together, everything feeling as if she was being ripped apart and she had never been so helpless in her entire life. There was absolutely nothing for her to do but to do this. She couldn't make her body stop doing this to her. She couldn't ask anyone for help, she couldn't go outside and scream for help, because there would be no one to help her.
She was alone. So alone, here in a no name building in a no name town in a no name country, because names weren't important anymore. Real names lived only in the memories of some people, but she wasn't one of them. Maybe she should be, because then at least, she would be able to tell her baby that it was born here and here.
"Fuuuucking hell, oh damn it, oh God baby, stop hurtin'!"
She breathed in and out, fast, probably too fast to be doing her any good, but there had never been anyone who would teach her how to do this properly. Who would've told her what she'd need to do when the time would come, how to deliver a kid in a no name place. Alone.
She had no one but her baby and herself to rely on. And a huge room with barred windows up high on the opposite wall. The sun was being covered by years and years of grime on the window's glass and clouds. So many beautiful white clouds, but the warmth of the sun was still something she could feel on her face.
It was warm and it was cold, she felt warm and cold, hot and cool, sweat dripping down her face onto her dirty T-shirt. The shirt … it had belonged to the baby's dad and when he'd died, she'd kept it. Found it lying abandoned in the corner between their bed and a small closet and she … she had to have it. Wanted her baby to have something of its father too. Wanted herself to have something of her sweet, sweet love too.
When she thought about it now, it was stupid and she felt dumb. The kid would never know its dad, never and all she would ever be able to offer it, would be its dad's shirt?
She screamed again and clutched at the shirt, using it as leverage when the pain made her bend forward. There were probably small rips in the shirt's fabric by now, but she didn't care.
Babbling between breaths and moans: "Baby, please, please, please, oh God, oh God…" and pain shooting up her back and belly, her screams echoing through the vast empty space, she knew, she damn well knew that she should be quiet, swallow down the sounds that came out of her even without her knowing, but she couldn't. One couldn't stop a sound if it caught one by surprise. And pain was always filled with sounds, they came hand in hand like lovers.
Pain and sound. Romeo and Juliet. She read that book, didn't like it, but maybe now ... she understood.
She was making too much noise, but she couldn't stop. She'd walked as far away from the city as she could, and found this old plant or a warehouse or whatever and crawled inside ... but ... but one never knew where the Icies would be. Where they would be walking or patrolling or seeking out humans to do ... whatever they did with them. It was all rumors again, hand me downs from hundreds of people, about the Ice People taking humans who were never seen after that and doing experiments on them, killing them, sending them to Antarctica or the Arctic, depending on their mood.
Because that was their home. That was where they came from. They came from underneath the ice. Ice that had been on the poles for millions of years, keeping them hidden from humans, keeping them locked under all that unimaginable mass of white, cold ice. But they broke through it, somehow - she always thought global warming had a hand with it, but again, all theories, no facts - and ripping the world to shreds in the process.
No one thought that evil was lurking so close to them, right under everyone's noses. Right there on the poles. In the days before them, grownups would tell their kids that Santa lived there, with the elves with pointy ears making toys and Mrs. Santa cooking cocoa for everyone.
Evil lived there, under the ice, under the water. Hidden for so long, probably from the very second Earth was formed.
No one knew exactly and no one really dared to ask one of the Ice People about their ... about how they came to be. No one cared really, because when something like that happened and tilted everyone's world upside down, no one had time for those questions. There was only time for survival.
She hated them. She did. They took her life away. Took her parents away from her. Made her have a baby all alone in the middle of thick dust and smell of iron.
Screaming and crying she realized that she was going to die. She was going to die. She didn't want to die. She didn't want her baby to die. She didn't want them to live either. Not in a world like this. She was only sixteen, this was not what was supposed to happen to girls at sixteen.
She sobbed into her dirty, wet hands, sobbed so hard she couldn't catch enough air and her lungs started to burn. It wasn't fair, it wasn't … she started gasping for air, grabbing at her throat when a hand stroked her leg - knee to her swollen ankle and she froze.
"You need to breathe, sweetheart."
Brown eyes that shifted into specks of blue and orange and yellow and bright green. Then orange and blue and green and then brown again. She was getting dizzy, the sun beams making the man's eyes a kaleidoscope of colors; some she had never even seen before. Brownbluegreenorangeyellow, blueorangebrown ... one blue, one brown, then green and bright blue...
The calm that pierced her like a lightning bolt made her take a deep, steady breath but the pain was still there, relentless, unforgiving, ripping her apart.
Closing her eyes, she screamed again. It didn't matter now how much or how loud she screamed. They had found her.
She snapped her eyes open, flinching at the hot tears that spilled down her cheeks … they were a sign of weakness and she shouldn't be showing weakness in front of one of them. One shouldn't be weak in front of the Ice People, because that caused them to laugh and kill slower – or so the rumors went.
"You're one," she swallowed and rubbed her belly, "... one of 'em."
She grunted. The baby was ... coming. Close. So close. She had been at this for a while now, almost an entire day and a few hours of last night and she was so tired. Tired down to her bones, all of her muscles aching, stretching, burning ...
"Yeah I am, but it's okay. 'm not gonna hurt you."
"I don't ..." she gasped and gritted her teeth through another scream that wanted to erupt from her, "please don't kill me, pleeeeease, aaaaagh, oh God!"
"I won't, shh, shh, 'm not gonna hurt you."
His hand was still rubbing her calf, making her press into the touch.
"Please, don't … don't hurt my baby."
She didn't want the man to kill her. Didn't want the man to kill her baby. She didn't worship death like some of the other humans did.
People had said that the Icies killed and tortured and did things to humans, but then there were also the more obscure rumors that told how the Ice People were kind and tried to help too … she was so confused. So confused, but she didn't want to find out what the truth was. This wasn't the time for the truth.
"Please don't hurt me. Stay away, please, please stay away…" she tried to scramble away from him, but there was nowhere for her to go, unless she'd go into the wall itself … she was trapped. Like a bleeding, wounded animal for the monster to tear apart and swallow down.
"I won't, sweetie, I really won't. I'm not … 'm not … I'm not one of them."
She flinched at how he spat out the word them; as if he wasn't one of them, as if he didn't belong to them, as if she was blind and stupid. He was one of them, he was one of the Ice People, he couldn't fool her. Now that she knew what signs to look for; the eyes, the voice, the graceful manner with which the Ice People carried themselves, the smell of calm surrounding them like perfume … this man had all of that and more, because his face was the kindest she had ever seen. Human and Icies.
"Don't … lie… fuuuuuuck!" this contraction was sharper, longer than all the others and when she'd managed to catch her breath, she heard the man sigh and shake his head, making his long brown hair fall into his eyes.
"I'm not lying, sweetheart. I know… listen, I know you have no reason to trust me, I know that, but 'm here to help, okay? 'm here to help and I promise you, I won't hurt you. Or your baby. And I won't let anyone else hurt you both either."
The sob that came out of her mouth instead of a scream surprised her. So weak. She was so weak … and in front of this man. In front of one of them. But he was so … smooth in his words and in his actions and before she knew it, his palm was on her tight belly, rubbing it with a steady pressure that didn't hurt. Didn't hurt like everything else did.
It felt as if someone shot her up with a tranquilizer; just like that one time when Odie said that when one of them touched him, he felt as if he was floating. But Odie was a bit disturbed in the head, so no one believed him, but right now … right now, she believed him.
It didn't feel as if she was floating, but it did feel nice. Really nice.
"It's a boy, huh?"
"It's a boy, didn't you know that?"
She stuttered through a groan and a half sob. She didn't know. Not for sure, the old woman just said maybe, perhaps, thirty percent chance of it being a boy. The woman had been a quack.
"Well," he smiled and tapped her huge belly right below her belly button with a gentle finger, "it is a boy."
He sounded so sure. He sounded so collected, his voice smooth as glass … his face open and showing no malice at all.
But … but that's how the Icies operated. They were smooth talkers and charmers until they stabbed you in the gut.
She pushed his hand away from her belly, skin touching skin and she shouted – the mixed feeling of sharp pain and sharp calmness too much for her nerves to handle. It hurt but it felt amazing but it was confusing as hell and it made her slam her aching back on the moldy, cold concrete wall. She closed her eyes, imagining all the gruesome ways the man could kill her. Cut out her baby and leave her open and bleeding in this abandoned nowhere place, where she'd rot until she'd turn into bones to be added to the already existing dust in this place.
"What's your name?"
"Why do you care?" she grunted.
Looking at him, she felt as if she could not tell a lie. Fucking weird.
"Jelly." She whispered and swallowed down what little spit she had.
"Your real name?"
Through tear filled eyes she saw the man shift even closer to her, kneeling between her spread legs now and even though she tried to close them, she couldn't. Her body was demanding this position and she knew that she shouldn't deny what her body was telling her. That old woman had told her that, when she gave her some advice about when the time would come but looking back on that short conversation, the woman really was a quack with her only advice being 'do as your body tells you to do'.
What a quack.
"Don't close your legs, Jelly."
It was a softly voiced order, and even though she had spat in the face of orders and demands her entire life, this one she had to obey. There was no other choice, because the man was right and she knew that she could damage her baby doing otherwise. And that was the last thing she wanted to do. A damaged child was as good as dead in this world. Who would keep it safe? Who would raise it?
"What's your real name, Jelly?"
She flinched when she felt the man place his hands on her knees and push them further apart. She looked there; her knees were so small compared to the man's big palms, it made her realize even more that the man really could snap her neck like a twig.
The man's smile … he had dimples. It was such a human thing to have, dimples and wrinkles and a smile that was genuine and gentle and not directed at her but to her … it made something in her heart pinch.
"Sam. Name's Sam."
It wasn't. It was Jared, but she didn't need to know that. No one needed to know that, because his name was a beacon and a salvation and he didn't need either of them to find him right then.
Especially not then.
"Jamie's a beautiful name. Why hide it?"
She tried to scoff - because why? Why? Because names had no meaning anymore. Because a real name was a relic of old times. Because a real name could even get someone killed - but her scoff came out as a grunt and a scream and she bend forward grabbing the man's – Sam's – forearms with her hands, digging her nails into his skin.
This was getting to be too much; she was weak, she felt herself be so, so weak and tired, so tired that she didn't even notice anymore the serenity that was flowing from his arm to her palm.
"You're okay, sweetie, you're okay Jamie. Just breathe, just breathe. Just breathe, just calm down, come on sweetie. That's it, that's it…"
She fell back to the wall, hitting it with her aching back, not even feeling the hard surface anymore. Everything felt fuzzy and looked fuzzy and sounded fuzzy.
"Jamie, how long've you been at it?"
The huge, empty space was spinning, the windows coming closer and getting further away and coming closer again and the sun was fading into orange light and her baby was … she was having a baby.
Raising her head – when had it fallen down to her chest? – she looked at Sam.
"Jamie, how long have you been at this?"
It felt like a day to her, maybe longer? Days? Maybe less? But hours for sure.
"Jamie, I know you're tired, but I think your baby is coming."
She nodded, because yeah, she … she could feel it … there was something …
She needed to push.
"I have … I have to…" she started to claw at the wall behind her, raising her hips up and down, desperate to do something. To push, to go where her body wanted her to go.
"I know, come on, let's take off your pants. Its okay, 's okay."
Blinking her eyes, she tried to look at the man through the tears that were clinging to her eyelashes but all she could see was a blurry glob crouching between her spread legs. A blurry glob that was one of them, one of them and he was going to kill her.
Couldn't breathe. Needed to breathe to chase away the black spots that were starting to appear before her eyes.
Then there were hands on her cheeks; big palms feeling cool on her hot and wet cheeks.
Cooling her down, chasing away the black spots so that she was once again able to see the setting sun. Able to breathe in and out without feeling like her lungs had packed up their bags and moved away. Able to see Sam leaning forward, his face inches from hers and his lips moving, forming words.
And there was that tranquilizer again. She could drown in it; it was like the coolest, calmest water running down her hurting muscles.
"Jamie, you need to calm down and breathe."
She nodded, because yes, she needed to do that. And she was doing that.
"Good. Now we're gonna pull your pants down and then you'll get your boy into this world and I promise you, Jamie, I promise you he's gonna be just fine."
She nodded again and allowed for her head to sag into Sam's hands. They were cooling down her skin, getting her to be more alert, calmer, better. Stronger.
"Okay…" she whispered and chased after the retreating palms, smiling a little in embarrassment when Sam smiled knowingly.
"We … we're cold only if we want to be."
It made sense. They'd been passing of as humans for a long time, and if they'd be cool all the time, people might've started noticing sooner. She bit her lip and nodded, leaning back to the wall and raising her aching hips to allow Sam to pull down her jeans.
They were stolen. The jeans. She'd seen them hanging off a clothesline and she'd had to have them. Her old clothes had been starting to get too small and she'd needed something bigger, something that didn't feel so tight across her belly. Stealing wasn't a crime anymore. Stealing was a way of survival. No regrets, no apologies.
She looked at Sam, blushing so hard, she could feel her cheeks heat up even more – no other man had ever seen her like this, naked, exposed and vulnerable, except Looky. She had loved him and he had loved her, it wasn't just … a fuck and bye bye, girl kinda thing … it was love. And she missed him, every goddamn day, she missed him and she wanted him here beside her. He should've been here beside her, but this fucked up world took him away. Humans took him away from her, killing him, because he'd had three bottles of water in his hands. Because she had been thirsty. And they'd killed him for them.
She wanted to blame the Ice People for his death, but couldn't. Because it wasn't them who had killed her love. It was humans. Ordinary humans. Ordinary monsters.
The stream of tears that all of a sudden started to run down her cheeks surprised her. She hadn't cried for Looky when the news of his death had come to her – after a day of fuming over where the fuck he was – she'd just felt numb at the time. Completely numb, one hand rubbing her big belly, missing his hands and the other clutching his T-shirt.
She had cried later. A day later, when her heart caught up with her brain and she'd cried into mad man Odie's shirt, wailing for Looky.
Her baby was the only 'thing' she had of Looky. And the shirt. There were no pictures of him, no items she could carry around in memory, nothing. Just the feel of his touches and kisses and how he felt inside of her.
She … she would die for her baby. For her baby boy, if Sam was to be believed.
She gasped when cold air hit her bare skin and brought her back to the here and now. To the way her body felt stretched to its limits, to the way her baby felt inside of her, trying to get out into this godforsaken world.
"Do you wanna get up? On your hands and knees? Or stand up? Hmm, Jamie, come on, might be easier."
No, no she didn't want any of that. She could barely do this …
Whimpering: "No, p-p-please…" she leaned forward and gripped Sam's forearm again, stopping him. She couldn't do this. She couldn't allow this man to do this.
Fear the likes she had never, ever felt before in her life - not even when the Earth shook for three minutes straight and then went down the rabbit hole – started to flow through her veins. She couldn't do this.
She couldn't. Exhaustion, pain, fear, one of the Ice People being here with her, were all reasons she wanted to be far, far away from here.
"I know, Jamie. It's okay. It's all right to be scared."
The man slipped his arm from underneath her trembling fingers and gripped her hand, squeezing hard, but not too hard. He was being careful, for what she didn't know. Because the way she saw it, he could just have been buying time, getting under her skin, getting her to trust him and then she'd have her baby and the man would kill her and run away with her baby. Or worse; kill them both.
"It's all right."
But his eyes, his face … the softness, the concentration, the pure honesty there – no, no, no one could trust the Icies.
There was just no way.
Perhaps … perhaps not all of them were bad. She'd heard stories of Ice People – the stories were rare and very far between and told in hushed voices, as if they were secrets and fairytales – who helped people, who did good, who promised something and then delivered, who didn't kill or maim anyone, but helped them. Maybe Odie was right.
Oh dear God …
"S-s-sam, why … wh-why're you helpin' me?"
She needed to know, she needed to make some sense of this, she needed answers. Sam didn't act like the rest of the Ice People, he didn't try to hurt her – yet - he was helping her, he was nice and deep down, very deep down under layers of stories of how horrible Icies were … she could feel him be a good 'person'.
His eyes, when he looked at her were shining bright green and a little smile formed dimples on his cheeks as he shrugged: "We're not all bad. Some of us … we're still researchers, observers."
"I'm a … a scientist. I observe."
His smile this time was meant to hide things, but it wasn't evil. It was just a shrug and a smile.
"I think your baby wants to meet you."
Before she could question that, she could feel it.
She screamed and didn't even flinch this time when Sam's hands started to rub her shaking calves, placing her hands under her knees and telling her to hold on. There was nothing else on her mind then but her baby. Her baby boy that she'd meet soon.
Really, really soon.
"I need to puuuuuuuuuush!"
Her baby boy was coming. Her baby. Hers and Looky's. She was just sixteen in a fucked up world, with monsters ruling half the planet and humans that were slowly turning into monsters too and how … what … how would she take care of her baby? All alone?
"Stop pushing, stop, Jamie!"
She couldn't. She had to push, her body was screaming at her to push and there was no one gonna tell her – least of all one of them – that she shouldn't push.
She gritted her teeth and pushed and screamed when it burned, burned so badly and then something stung – a really quick, sharp sting – and then she could feel her baby's head.
"The head's out, come on now, Jamie. Come on, you're doing so good sweetheart."
The screams being ripped out of her mouth would haunt her until the end of her days.
"Breathe, breathe, come on, put your leg on my shoulder, brace yourself, 's okay. Push, come on, push Jamie!"
There was no way for her not to obey that, because her baby …
… was crying.
And she cried with it.