Before I reveal the first chapter, I want to thank all of you who created characters for us to use. They are not in this first chapter, but they will all be coming soon and I promise everyone who made a character will be in this story. Again, thank you to all of those who helped with this story. We couldn't have done this without you. Without further ado, the first chapter (of many!) of The Lost Ones! Enjoy!
“The Epidemic has spread. It has been estimated that it will be the worst disaster humanity will ever face…and it will likely exterminate an entire quarter of the human population in this year of 4205…”
Remembering those words, once broadcast to the entire world just six months ago, Rowan Vierra understood just how grossly humanity had underestimated the Epidemic. Now, only 0.01% of Earth’s population remained, the last hope of the human race. And that precise last hope just so happened to be…
Rowan couldn’t stop worrying, even though she herself was part of that group. She looked up, though the sudden change in light made her blink, somewhat disoriented. The room finally came into focus, and her gaze swept over the infirmary, as if she was expecting any change, but there was none. The walls were still as blank as ever, just as the curtains, originally intended to let in just the right amount of light for patients, were tattered, so the ragged sunlight pierced all the areas where it wasn’t supposed to.
Across the room laid someone whom she had spent much of her childhood with, whether it was weaving together tales in front of a friendly fireplace, or racing in the field. Rowan remembered, with a pang of sadness, that she never could beat her grandmother, as close as she was to the old woman’s footsteps.
Yet, here she was, now, across the room from someone she loved the most in the world, and practically one of the only people she had left to love.
Somehow, she felt like she was supposed to feel comfortable here, but she also wasn’t sure how anyone could not feel useless and helpless, being so close to someone who was as sick as her grandmother was. Deciding not to subject herself to that kind of guilt, Rowan stood up, looking towards the bed. She would be back as soon as possible--once she could discover a solution to something. Anything.
She opened the creaking door, then shut it behind her, heading down the stairs. The floors were scuffed with footprints belonging to those long gone, the planks underneath groaning with every step she took.
When she opened the laboratory door, she almost expected something to be different, but it wasn’t. The faces of the scientists were still haggard and worn, their hands going about the task they had gone about for what probably seemed like eternity. It seemed like eternity to her, anyways. The hours and hours of mixing concoctions to no avail, combined with the stress of trying to be strong, trying to seem perfect, trying to be the one, had made it feel as if she was running in place, working hard but getting nowhere. Only a few of the people in the room looked up when she entered, so used to her presence were they. Though she had no talent as a healer, she had always loved science, although much of the attraction had worn off after working in a real crisis.
She remembered the first time she had ever seen a laboratory--which had been when she was...five? Sure, she had seen science experiments in classrooms at her school, but never a real one in work by real scientists before.
“What’s this?” had been her question all day long. She even pointed at a cabinet, thinking it had a special name. She gestured wildly at glass vials, unscrewed corks, frothing liquid--everything imaginable to be asked about and in existence. That was the most excited she had been about anything in particular for a long time. Time really did fly by.
She had not been in to work with the scientists and healers for a while, though, and she had little idea of the current cure they were working on. She could see vials and beakers being heated over the small stoves of the makeshift lab that had, once upon a time, in a happier day, been used as a large storage room for the hospital’s medicines. Now, the large counters, cabinets, and refrigerators were full of test cures, ingredients, and haphazard stacks of messy notes. Practically no one had bothered to keep the counters clean and organized; all the papers were scattered in apparently random order, the experimental containers pushed hurriedly all the way to the edge of the workspace.
“Anything new?” she asked a scientist, who shook his head tiredly before resuming his work, his hands going about as if he wasn’t really thinking about what he was doing, and just doing it mechanically. Rowan expected as much, quite frankly. She tossed the laboratory clothes over herself before going to work.
However, she had scarcely picked up one vial before the doors flew open, the shock of the sound and the force of the doors trembling through the wall startling her so much she nearly lost her grip. Thankfully, she managed to snatch it out of the air. She was prepared for giving a sharp retort--until she saw whom it was. Lukas stood in the doorway, hair wildly disarranged, even more so than usual.
“What is it?” she asked curiously. Lukas didn’t normally burst in through doorways unless something important was happening. He was panting, out of breath, evidently having run quite fast to get to her.
“One of the scouts just got in,” he said, leaning over, hands resting on his knees. “Lia. She said it’s important, vital for everyone to know,”
“She’s probably exaggerating,” Rowan said calmly, although she was already putting down the vial she had nearly just dropped and walking over to the door. She could tell Lukas didn’t think it was anything trivial, and she trusted his judgement in most situations, except those involving chickens, although that was mainly due to the time they had both ended up locked in a chicken coop as children after the execution of a terrible plan to see if chickens could fly.
Lukas stood up completely, having gotten his breath back for the most part and lead the way down the long hallway that spanned the entire length of the hospital. The lab was close to the main entrance to the hospital that led out onto the main courtyard that was the heart of the little community.
The courtyard was one of her favorite places. It was surrounded with the buildings she had grown up around, and it wasn’t far from the house she had used to live in--just a little way down one of the side streets. Really, it was more a place of memories than anything else, at least to her. Others, she knew, didn’t look on it as kindly, as it had been home to a bizarre number of disasters over the years. First a fire, then a flood, and just a year before, one of the stores had been robbed clean of everything in it. However, to her it would always be a place she remembered as the place she had spent all those summer hours with her grandmother and parents, playing and looking in the shop windows, pointing out toys she liked in hopes of getting them as gifts later on.
The courtyard was much changed from the way it had been, however. There were cracks in the sidewalk with weeds growing up through them and the stage in the center of it all was beginning to fall apart. The buildings surrounding it were no less dilapidated, with signs having fallen to the ground and cracks growing up their walls, intertwining with creeping vines and dark green vegetation. The skies above the courtyard were grey, and Rowan could smell a hint of rain hanging in the air. Gathered in the courtyard were about 30 or so people, all between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. It struck her once again that this wasn’t far from half of the people left on Earth. It was a horrifying thought that among these young people gathered before her, she was the oldest alongside Lukas at eighteen. They were truly the last hope of humanity. Well, that was morbid. She shook off the thought and moved through the crowd, approaching the stage, Lukas at her side.
A tall, dark-skinned girl with long, dark brown hair stood on the stage, somehow managing to look both uncomfortable with all the attention and arrogant and full of herself at the same time. That was Lia, or Lialynn, if you wanted to annoy her. She was the worst scout Rowan had ever met, and she would be amazed if the scout had anything of importance to report. In fact, Rowan wouldn't be surprised if she was only doing a public report for all the attention it would get her. However, with all her arrogance, Lia still didn’t dare to step out of line in front of Rowan, because she, like all the others, feared her. As the people around them noticed her, they unconsciously parted around them, giving Rowan and Lukas room to walk to the stage.
She reached the stage and climbed onto it, Lukas a comforting presence behind her. She used to love heights, but now...she always felt an impending sense of doom, of something about to go wrong any second. Even so, she turned to face the crowd and whistled sharply. The whispers that had permeated the crowd cut out abruptly.
"Lost Ones," Rowan started, her voice strong and confident. "One of our scouts has returned to us. I believe she has something to tell us?" She gestured to Lia, then stepped back, barely holding in a relieved sigh to be out of the spotlight. Just because she supposedly had a way of making people hang on to her every word, didn’t mean she necessarily liked public speaking. Now that she was somewhat out of the spotlight, that meant she could panic in private and not have to worry as much.
Lia took a deep breath and began to speak, though as soon as Rowan had stepped back, the crowd had begun to jeer a bit. They, too, knew Lia’s reputation as a speaker, which was somehow even worse than her profile as a scout.
“Lost Ones,” Lia began, in almost exactly the same tone as Rowan had. The crowd jeered louder, recognizing the mimicry. Rowan whistled loudly, and the crowd fell silent again.
“I have returned from a mission of great importance!” Lia declared proudly. “Whilst I was out scouting, I have discovered secrets, secrets of extraordinary value and importance.”
Here we go again, though Rowan. Lia always managed to turn things around to make it seem as if she was the most important person in the world, although Rowan knew for a fact that there had been at least four others in her scouting group. Lia just happened to be the one who had been chosen as leader, which made her the one who reported afterward. Now that Rowan thought of it, it was questionable in itself why Lia had been chosen as the leader. Either it was a mistake, or the rest of the group wasn’t much good either. In that case...well, the mission couldn’t be that crucial.
“I met a group of wandering Lost Ones, just like us. It was a typical group, around ten or twelve of them. But,” she said, leaning in, evidently with intent to intrigue her audience, although most of them just looked bored or like they were trying not to laugh--and failing, “they had a tale to tell, a tale of great importance. They spoke of…” she paused, as if waiting for the crowd to start begging her to tell them what they had spoken of. When everyone just stared back at her, she continued.
“They spoke of a cure.” There was silence once she had finished. Then, a girl towards the front of the crowd burst out laughing.
“What nonsense are you spouting now, Lia?” she said. “A cure? A cure for what? The inability to speak in front of a crowd like a sane person? You could use that cure!” The rest of the crowd dissolved into laughter and noisy chatter, some already starting to leave.
“Wait, don’t! I wasn’t done!” Lia protested. She turned to Rowan. “Help me, will you?” she said. Rowan rolled her eyes, but stepped forward to the front of the stage.
“Hey!” she yelled. “Lialynn isn’t done!” She whistled sharply for good measure and the crowd quieted and turned back to the stage.
“You will wait until Lialynn is done speaking to leave,” she said and stepped back. Lia gave her an annoyed look, probably caused by the repeated use of her full name, but took center stage again.
“Now,” Lia said. “I am being perfectly serious when I say this.” She was no longer being theatrical and her face was deadly serious, though it wasn’t often she was like this. She had evidently realized dramatics would not serve her today. “The group I spoke to told me that they had heard that in New York City that there is a research facility in which there were scientists who have found a cure to the Epidemic.” There was absolute silence. A leaf could have fallen from a tree and everyone would have been able to hear the impact. Then, slowly, like water spreading across concrete, whispers began to circulate. From up on the stage, Rowan, Lia, and Lukas couldn’t hear the actual words at first, but as the voices grew louder they could pick out one word being repeated over and over again.
“A cure, a cure, a cure.” To them, a cure was hope, a cure was safety, a cure was not having to be adults all the time, a cure was talking to their dying relatives and friends again. A cure was a future where humankind didn’t die out completely. Even Rowan was shocked into silence. It took her a moment to find her voice and when she did, she stepped forward to where Lia was still standing.
“What do you mean, a cure? Who were these people?” she asked, inches from grabbing Lia by the collar and shaking her until she gave the answers Rowan wanted, the answers she needed.
“You can ask them yourself,” Lia said, looking slightly nervous and very intimidated. “They are coming in about a quarter of an hour. They wanted to talk to you as our leader.” Leader. Right then, Rowan hated the word. She wasn’t truly a leader but she was whom the Lost Ones had chosen. And now, she was slipping fully into her “leader mode”, preparing to take charge of the situation and get everything back on track.
“Everyone!” Rowan shouted, but it did no good. The crowd was out of control. A few people were yelling and screaming, everyone was simply in chaos, half in excitement at this possibility and half in fear that it would turn out to be untrue. Rowan took a deep breath and pulled an old-fashioned silver whistle with the letters J.F.V engraved on it out of her pocket and blew on it as hard as she could. The shrill, loud noise pierced the air, rising over the din, causing everyone to freeze.
“Lost Ones,” Rowan said, her voice seeming oddly quiet after the noise, mostly due to the fact she had used most of the breath in her lungs just to blow that whistle. “This is not how we behave. Lia has informed me that this group will be arriving in just shy of a quarter of an hour. We must not show these guests that we are disorderly and untidy. So, you all remember your assigned jobs, do you not?” There was a general murmur of assent from the crowd.
“Now,” Rowan said, her tone going from soft and calm to quick and business-like. “I need Housing to set up beds for around twelve more people! Make it nice. Laundry, make sure they have enough sheets. I need the Kitchen people on dinner, make sure to accommodate more people! Maintenance, get this courtyard and surrounding center streets cleaned up as best as you can! Let’s have some of you who don’t have anything to do yet getting bigger tables and chairs out and setting them up in the park! Remember, most of that stuff is in the back of the Ikea! Account for more people! The rest of you, clean up and help with whatever you can! What are you waiting for? Go, go, go!”
The courtyard burst into motion, chatter and shouts filling the air as everyone set to work. It was much like the times her mother had important guests over. They had been bustling around, tidying things and plumping cushions up, except that this was on a far larger scale. There was also the fact that these weren’t normal teenagers.
When the disease had wiped out most of humankind, those who had not been killed had been gifted strange and wonderful powers, like Rowan’s power to shoot fire out of her hands and Lukas’s ability to do the same with ice. There were some that could talk to animals, some that had strange ways with plants. That wasn’t all, though. Those were just the obvious ones. Each person, as far as could be told, also had some mental power, such as telekinesis or Rowan’s seemingly unique ability to see clearly into the future.
However, none of these abilities came without a cost. Rowan’s visions happened randomly and to onlookers, it appeared as if she was having a seizure. It wasn’t just her, though. Everyone who had powers had a bit of what they called Madness, temporary moments where they felt strange and would have animalistic feelings. These were temporary, though, and it wasn’t a problem. At least, not yet.
Rowan felt a jolt of déjà vu as she watched the scene unfold. She recognized it as the vision that had prompted her to form the groups that she had just used so easily. And if this was that vision… she scanned the crowd. There! Two boys, only fourteen or so, twins with flaming red hair, fire powers, and a destructive tendency were crouched around a small pile of debris that had been set there by a telekinetic. She hurried forward--ignoring Lia, who was still standing on the stage, looking slightly dazed, probably from being right next to Rowan when she had blown the whistle--and jumped off the stage. As she hit the ground, her left leg buckled underneath her and she swore, just avoiding collapsing on the ground. Lukas came hurrying up behind her, leaping lightly to the ground.
“Careful doing that!” he scolded. “You aren’t supposed to jump or you’ll hurt yourself again.”
“I know,” Rowan said. “But the twins are about to set something on fire again. I saw this in a vision a while back, you know, the one that made me make the work groups.” She strode off through the crowd, her leather boots kicking up dust as she wove through the crowd, Lukas trailing behind her. She spotted the twins and hurried over in their direction. There was a ball of fire clutched in one’s fist, and she swept down, closing her hand over the boy’s and putting out the fire. Either Jake or Jack (she could never tell them apart), squeaked and immediately started stammering out apologies, but the other one, the one who had the fire in his hand, stared back at her defiantly.
“What have I told you about playing with fire?” she barked. “It’s not safe! Go help clean up or so help me, I’ll have you washing dishes by yourselves for a month!” Both blanched at that and scurried off. Rowan waved a hand and instantly incinerated the pile of rubbish with a controlled blast of fire. She liked the twins, but they were a little too reckless and didn’t even try to learn how to properly control their powers.
“Testing to see if you could change what you saw again?” Lukas said, catching up. For the last while, after having a vision she refused to tell anyone about, including Lukas, Rowan had been trying to change something she had seen in a vision. So far, it worked sometimes. She had seen that a girl named Janice would break her wrist and stopped her from trying to do a cartwheel on a bench, but the poor girl had tripped later that day and broken her wrist trying to catch herself. Then, there were things like this, where she had been able to keep the twins from setting that pile of debris on fire. It worried her, though. Just then, a small, mousy-haired girl walked up to Rowan, looking slightly panicked.
“Housing can’t find enough bedding,” she said. Rowan frowned.
“Didn’t I say to have Laundry help with that?” she said.
“Yes, but Laundry is out too.”
“How is that even possible?” Rowan cried in frustration. “Fine, check the hospital and if that doesn’t work, steal something from someone else.” The girl nodded and walked quickly away, still looking worried. Then, a boy with alarmingly spiky blue hair ran over.
“Someone blew a transformer in the kitchen. Power is out to the lights and the stoves,” he said urgently.
“Oh for goodness sakes!” Rowan exclaimed. “I’m not even going to ask how that happened. Grab a handful of the electricity people and have them get stuff going. Joanna’s good at that stuff, she’ll help you.”
As the boy ran off, Rowan turned to Lukas and said, “Everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong today! What’s next, a water leak?”
Just then, someone yelled, “I need someone with water powers! I just broke a hydrant!”
“I need to learn not to jinx myself,” Rowan grumbled. She then turned and hurried off to deal with that problem as well, praying that there wouldn’t be any more problems today.
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Call me Dawn!
~Queen of Books~
"Be a voice, not an echo." - Unknown