Intelligent Design by Almondie Shampine
book 3 in The Modules Series
The baby was screaming bloody murder. Mrs. Lawson was laying by the bank of the Fountain, coughing and wheezing. I’d felt my own lungs were going to explode. It had taken much longer than expected, once the water began coming in, to dig an area large enough to fit our bodies through. More, the tunnel had collapsed behind us, burying all the rest of the area the water could have gone, resulting in our own entrapped aquarium.
We’d both wound up with severe rope burn on our waists, and Mrs. Lawson’s hand was raw from yanking the rope to try to get me out and pull me to surface. We’d left too much slack in the rope. Lesson learned. Time to split.
“You either need to put a muzzle on him or get out of here fast, before someone finds out there were survivors.”
“Go Catina, we’ll be all right.”
“Bye Baby Ray,” and I kissed him on the back of his head where he was bald. He stopped crying, just like that, and it lit up my face, lit up my life. Mom had always kissed the pain away, like magic. It must have rubbed off on me a little.
I hadn’t an idea of where I’d be going next until after I’d finished hacking the gallon of water out of my lungs. Then it had come to me, clear as day. Well, not this day. The place looked like a huge black cloud had descended on Marathon. The next-to-nothing breeze had probably helped keep the fire from spreading too quickly, but now all the smoke was stagnant and dormant, waiting to ride on a breeze, pollute a cloud, and create rain.
A big part of me wanted to walk through our little town and check out the total devastation. I’d only seen one of those things, but there had been six different impacts, so I’m sure there were more, spread out through the area. I wanted to check the houses to see if there were any survivors, and stop at the Stop and Shop with hope that I wouldn’t see my yellow vehicle I’d let Mr. Hanson borrow. I couldn’t, though. Maybe it was me just being overly-paranoid, a type of paranoia the Junior school had gone through much difficulty to try to get rid of, but I couldn’t take any chances of being found.
It was six years ago, last I’d seen her, when I was ten years old. Dad had driven down a bunch of back roads, and down a long dirt road, to drop me off in the middle of nowhere and leave me there to learn how to survive on my own. I’d gone searching for new parents, believing mine didn’t want me anymore, and that is where I’d met Nana, and survived in luxury for three wonderful days, while my Dad went out of his mind trying to find me. That was nothing compared to Mom’s reaction when I told on him. She’d calmly told Kay and I to go to our rooms, then all chaos broke out, as she screamed and yelled, and things got broken all over the place.
That was the first time she had threatened to divorce him, and didn’t speak with him again for another month. Have you ever seen how a dog acts when it gets in trouble? Head down, ears flattened, tail between the legs? Yeah, that was Dad for a month.
Then again, as I’d been doing a lot the past 24 hours, I was thanking him, just like he always said, “You’ll thank me later.”
I travelled the back roads, walked for hours, wishing for my I-pod to at least entertain me, and keep my mind off things.
Alone, with a world full of silence, and nothing to be distracted by, thoughts could be as loud as someone yelling in your ear, and you couldn’t just swat them away.
I had so many thoughts, so many feelings, so many memories. I’d lived a long, long life in just 16 years.
Finally, I stood before the neglected white-shingled double-wide. At ten years old, it had seemed like a wonderful home. Seeing it now, looking so abandoned and in so much need of repair, I wondered if Nana had left this life too. And that thought was unbearable at the moment. The tears came like the rain. Dragging my left leg, I slowly stumbled toward the door, hanging unsightly off its hinges. I dragged myself up the broken steps. Then tripped and slammed my head into the door.
I laid there on my back, allowing the tears to wash all the grime off my face, looking at the night sky through blurred eyes, wondering why I was trying so hard to stay alive. I felt like a little girl. I felt like a child. I wanted to be seen as the child that I was, and not the non-child they’d tried to make me. I was too young to have the weight of the world on my shoulders. Too young, too weak, and I’d lost too much.
Then a face blocked my blurred view of the sky, a face that came closer and closer to my own.
“Miraculous, is that you, chile’?”
“Nana, Nana, you’re alive!” I cried.
“Oh girly, you look like you been to the hell and back. I never thought I’d see your face again. Now if I recall correct, Miraculous ain’t really your name.”
“To you, Nana, my name will always and ever be Miraculous. And I need a miracle, Nana. I need a miracle bad.”
“I got grilled chicken, green beans fresh from the garden, and real mashed potatoes. And my famous Apple Pie. The good Lord must’ve whispered in my ear I’d be havin’ company tonight, cause I just felt like cookin’, and I cooked for an army. Well, come on then, pick yourself up off the ground. I can’t be carryin’ you, now.”
I did as she said, and walked-dragged-stumbled into the kitchen where I plopped down in a chair.
“Mercy Miraculous, I love you to death, knock on wood, but you are not sittin’ at my dinner table lookin’ like a rabbit spent too much time diggin’ in the dirt.”
If only she knew how very true that was.
“I’m hurt, Nana. I just need to rest.”
“You’ll have all the time to rest after we get you cleaned up and fed. Where you hurt?”
I pointed at my leg.
She put her apron on, then knelt down, and removed my shoes. “My, my girl, look at those feet. Look like you been walkin’ for miles.”
“I have,” I said grimacing as she peeled my wet socks off raw blisters.
“Why your pants lookin’ like they’re soaked in blood?” she questioned needlessly, as she lifted up my pant leg, and inhaled sharply.
“I got shot,” I said.
“Shot? With a gun? Who would shoot a child, Miraculous? What kinda trouble you been causin’ to go and get yourself shot?”
I grinned mischievously. When I came upon her vehicle when I was ten, or rather she’d come upon me, I’d told her my Dad had died and I’d never had a mother, because I’d been a test tube baby.
She had elaborated her own story from there, believing I’d been raised in a lab, and she’d nearly pulled my Dad’s ears right off his head making him swear up and down that he wouldn’t bring me back to the lab, once he’d found me.
“No trouble, Nana.” And this time I wasn’t lying. “They had me locked up in a lab in Denver, and I escaped. I have supplies in my pack, bandages and stuff.”
I nearly passed out when she slowly removed the bandages that tore the skin off the wound that was trying to heal on its own.
“Bandages ain’t gonna do nothin’. You need stitches, Miraculous.” I felt the old familiar panic of a nine-year-old girl screaming and yelling because she didn’t want a needle in her head, after Charlie had hit me with a rock, and the wound had required stitches. I had a C-shaped scar, just under my hairline, from that experience. I mean, duh, I was kind of sort of a Doctor, and I’d known that even a bullet graze half an inch into my skin would need stitches, but it was an unrealistic phobia of mine. Like people who will handle snakes and other bugs, but have a ridiculous fear for spiders. I had a ridiculous fear of needles, no matter how large or small.
“You got some hard liquor or something, Nana?”
“I got some Old Grand-Dad my late husband always liked, but you a chile’ and I won’t have a chile’ drinkin’ in my house. I don’t care what you been through.’
“It’s not for me. It’s for the wound.”
While she retrieved the liquor, I washed the blood away, but everything I’d put it through, it was determined to keep bleeding out its pain. I applied as much pressure as my limp arm muscles would allow. She returned with a measuring cup filled with Old Grand-Dad.
“I’ll do it,” I said. I poured an ounce of the Bourbon on the four-inch long wound, and oh boy, did it sizzle and burn and STIIIIIING!
So when she had her head down, threading thread into the needle, I swallowed down the remaining four ounces. The severe burning in my throat and stomach provided relief for the sting in my leg. I kept my head up and eyes closed while she did her work with the needle.
“You’re still not eatin’ at my dinner table dirty as you are. I’ll run you a bath,” she said after she finished her stinging ministrations of my wound.
I fell asleep in the warmth of the cleansing water with the smell of lavender swarming around me.
“Mercy, me, chile’, you tryin’ to get yourself drowned? Now everyone knows you don’t fall asleep in a bathtub.”
I had to smile. Nana hadn’t changed one single bit.
She lent me a granny pajama gown and a robe. Then she did the sweetest thing and brushed my strawberry blonde hair that probably needed a good cut, as it was down to my low-back, while I filled myself up on grilled chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes with homemade gravy. I felt dazed and giddy and happily sleepy, except for the raw burn in my stomach from the drink. Then while I ate warm Apple Pie with French vanilla icecream, she braided my hair.
“Now I know you’re probably tired, so I’ll let you sleep for the night, but tomorrow morning, I expect you to tell me why you show up at my house in the middle of the night, shot, and lookin’ the way you do.”
“I’ll tell you as much as I can, Nana,” I said drowsily, trying to pry my eyes open long enough to get me to a bed.
Finally, after the longest day of my life, I was snuggled into the softest, best-smelling, smoothest sheets and blankets and pillows there ever were, that only grandmothers could pull off.
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