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Thread: SSC1: The End of Childhood

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    SSC1: The End of Childhood

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    Everett slipped out of the tree he had been sleeping in, the faintest glimmers of the sun slanting sharply through the trees. He was likely too big to be in the tree, standing at 5’11”, but it was a habit now, and he slept in them any time he could. He only made the slightest of sounds as his right knee touched the ground, his legs absorbing all the impact from the short fall. A grin slipped across his face as he saw his parents still sleeping on the ground, nestled together in some worn blankets. With any luck he would have fish for them when they woke up. No one was awake in the camp, as he did a quick check around. He moved to his fishing equipment as quietly as he could, not seeing anyone move.

    He checked the line from the pole, and traced it back to his father’s blanket. Everett smiled, pulling his boot knife and carefully slicing the hook off his line. His father had caught his sneaking out like that once before, and now Everett was always careful of the booby trap. With fishing pole, tackle, and bait in hand, he started towards the river with all the stealth he could muster. He was quite proud of himself, and would be even more so if he came back with a heap of fish.

    “Why didn’t you stop him,” Annie asked, waiting until the boy had obviously made it out of earshot.

    “He’s almost ready,” Justin said with a smile, sitting up and putting on his t-shirt he always kept close by. “The knife scrapped in the sheath, but otherwise I would still be sleeping. Besides, I’ll cut his off at the pass and bring us home some fish.”

  2. #2
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    Everett was shocked when Justin was sitting at the fishing hole with a line in the water. He hadn’t done anything to wake them and yet, here his father was, already hauling in the first fish. Everett’s shoulders slumped a little as he gave up pretenses and plopped down next to his father.

    “You should still be asleep,” Everett finally managed, picking up the lure that he had cut off earlier. His father must have brought it with, leaving it there to let the boy know that he knew.

    “Your knife woke me up,” Justin said with a smile, lazily retrieving his lure across the water. “You’re lucky I was planning for you.”

    “My knife didn’t make a sound,” Everett said, tying on the lure with a frown.

    “It scraped a little when you put it back,” Justin said, sending out another cast. “But other then that, you were perfect.”

    “I think you were just trying to set me up,” Everett final said glumly, flopping down on the bank. “Showing that you’re still the best one here.”

    “I think you’re being disrespectful,” Justin said with a warning tone. “I could have put your own knife to your throat and instead we’re out here fishing. Definitely the work of a set up. You got your way and time together. I’m certainly a bastard.”

    “That’s not what I said,” Everett shot back with a defensive tone, his cast plopping the lure down under an overhanging tree limb. “And thanks for coming out here.”

    “Don’t thank me yet,” Justin said with a laugh, slowly reeling his lure back across the surface of the water. “If we come back empty handed, we’ll be in a world of trouble with your mother.”

    Everett felt something big hit his line and set the hook. “I think we’ll be ok,” he said, beaming as he started to wrestle the fish to the shore. Justin watched him with a faint smile, turning back to attend his own line as they worked on earning their breakfast for the day while enjoying some leisure as well.

    Camp was up and bustling by the time they got back from the morning’s “work.” The fire was roaring under the giant cauldron they had acquired years ago. Everett couldn’t even remember not having it, and the steam rolling off of it carried a comforting smell of home to him over the camp. The three dozen fish they had managed to catch were starting to weigh heavily on his shoulder, and he was glad when they finally got close to camp.

    “Breakfast is on,” Justin bellowed, bringing the camp scrambling at different speeds. Everett did his best to look serious, but it was all he could do to keep from laughing. Life was good today, and he knew he would be the hero for getting them fish for breakfast. “Who’s cleaning them up? You guys know the rule.”

    “We’ll take care of them,” Jarrett called out, his fillet knife hanging readily on his belt. Everett grinned at his uncle, knowing there would be no waste. Jarrett loved fishing as much as Everett and long ago had perfected cleaning fish. “Come on Jeremiah, we’ve got work to do before we eat.”

    Justin and Everett handed over the string of fish, and the other part of the family took over. Everett hurried over to clean up, scrubbing fish slime and scales from his hands and finding a clean set of clothes to put on. He didn’t want to smell like fish for the rest of the day. He could almost taste the fish, and hoped there would be more to go with it. He turned to see his sister face to face.

    “You got lucky,” she said, carrying her almost haughty tone. She was only a year and a half older, and yet it always seemed she was talking down to him. Especially lately.

    “I snuck out clean, and I caught plenty of fish,” Everett said, pulling on a t-shirt. He realised it was one of his father’s, but oddly, it was only a size too big now. It was a comforting thought somehow. “A simple thank you would do.”

    She rolled her eyes, moving away to go help with some other breakfast prep. He grinned moving away to check on the younger children. They all should have their bedrolls and sleeping bags picked up, but he didn’t want to just assume. He was the oldest boy of the children and he was responsible to help keep them in line while the adults kept them all alive.

    “Did you really sneak out,” his cousin Peter asked, wide eyed, with dirt streaking his face already. “I didn’t know anyone could do that.”

    “Not cleanly,” Everett said with a smile, tousling his cousins blonde hair. “Are the sleeping bags up?”

    “Not yet. We got busy catching worms with the robins.”

    “Go get the other kids and we’ll get them packed up.”

    Peter nodded, running and yelling to catch his siblings and cousins. This would be tough with him being the youngest of them, but it kept them busy and from interrupting the breakfast preparations. His yelling and chasing was interrupted by Jeremiah’s shouts, as he ran hard and fast back into the camp, his voice overpowering the childish calls of his younger brother.

    “RAIDERS! EVERYONE IN! RAIDERS!” Jeremiah screamed, his voice high with fear and his face looking extremely pale. Everett immediately started counting children, getting them into the RV. His aunts and mother arrived, all armed, acting as the final line of defence for themselves and the children. Everett quickly gave a report to them, letting them know that all the children were accounted for and in the RV. Cushions and blankets were pulled down on top of them, keeping the children as safe as they could be while the sounds of gunfire and fighting got closer to them

    Everett shouldered back out the door, catching a view of his uncles fighting a wave of men clad in worn leathers. Jarrett had a knife sticking out of his shoulder, but his powerful fists collided with another head, resounding a sickening crunch through the grove. Martin had a chain that lashed out, removing a man’s few yellowed teeth and part of his jaw. A gun was fired as another band of four men burst out of another tree line. Everett turned and grabbed a pistol from his mother’s belt, joining the line of defence. His father burst out of the treeline behind the men, the hatchet he normally carried on his belt was in his hand, and blood covered him. But Everett was sure it would not be enough.

    He ran toward the men, a scream of fear, rage, and courage tore from his throat. His father’s lessons from the last years began to tumble in his brain, reminding him of what to do.

    ‘Don’t shoot towards your own if it can be helped. Pick your targets wisely.”

    Everett leveled the pistol and pulled the trigger, the bullet colliding with one of the men. The others flinched, slowing some, unsure of what to do. Another jerked to a stop, trying instinctively to clutch at the hatchet the stuck out of the back of his head. He leveled the pistol again, this time putting two rounds into another man. Who jerked to a fall, his momentum carrying him forward.

    And then, he was out of time, the final raider smashed into him. Everett managed to hold on to the gun, but his arm was pinned away from him. Spit and sour breath washed over Everett in a wave as he struggled with the man who weighed at least fifty pounds more than he did. They struggled for what seemed like hours, though in reality no one reached them in time. The man’s fist broke through clean, breaking Everett’s nose and making the world go fuzzy.

    Everett heard the pistol go off and blood splattered across his face. The raider didn’t move, but his eyes were open wide from shock, and blood started to well up across his tongue and teeth. Everett pulled the trigger again, the bullet driving home into the raider again, and the man slumped down onto him, blood spilling across the boy who laid there in shock, staring at death that he had caused.

    The body was lifted off of him by his father, who immediately stood up and looked down at Everett. Tears threatened to run out of Everett’s eyes as he continued to stare at the dead man. He was terrified and exhilarated, not knowing how to react as his heart pounded away in his ears. Jarrett and Martin both made it back over, looking down at him as his father did, with a mixture of pride and concern.

    “I did that,” Everett finally got out, snapping himself out of the shock, breaking his stare at the glassy, lifeless eyes of the dead raider. “I killed him.”

    His voice had faded to a whisper, as the tempest of feelings washed over him. He was still scared, but he also felt proud. He had protected everyone, saving the women from the fighting, helping his father protect the family. And yet, there was a seed of disgust and self hatred. He had killed another human, and it was a bitter taste that he found in his mouth.

    “You did,” Justin answered, offering his hand. Everett took it, allowing himself to be hoisted to his feet. The blood on their hands was sticky, as it started to dry, both of them covered in other men’s life. Everett glanced at Jarrett, who was nodding at him with a grim, knowing look. “You are ready. Welcome to the start of adult life.”

    Sadly, to Everett, it felt more like an end than a start. It took years before he could pin it down, but he finally figured out why. Innocence had ended. It was a day that had changed his life. He had not only killed his enemy, he also killed his childhood.

  3. #3
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    Good short rodg', enjoyed it. I am assuming a post apocalyptic society of some kind. Good build up of the main character being close to adulthood, finalized by defending his family. The only line I really didn't like much was "Welcome to the start of adult life". For me it was a bit to direct and blah after an exciting battle to defend the clan of people. Over all enjoyed it immensely

  4. #4
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    I'll give you that one. Not sure what would work better though. I've read this thing like eight times in the last few days trying to work the kinks out and that line never did sit right. I just didn't have something better.

  5. #5
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    "Welcome to the start of adult life". The line is trite. Sorry. However, this is my favorite story. Perhaps, "Son, I'm sorry to see you taste the end of your childhood. But, so proud of the man you'll become." IDK, just seemed like you could echo the title to do a wrap..

  6. #6
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    Yeah. Definitely a weak end. Guess I'll have to shore that up next time.

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