Ophelia had spent a majority of her first nineteen years internalizing the world around her and doing her best to justify it all, the good and the bad. There was no justification for the night before, however. Ophelia had witnessed her mother and father both brutally tortured and murdered, and throughout the duration, there was nothing she could do to save them. Although she wouldn’t dare say it out loud, Ophelia was thankful that her younger brother and sister’s death had come much quicker than that of her parents. Her siblings tortured screams, however, refused to leave her mind, and the voices of the deranged brothers who killed the four people in the world who meant more to her then anything continued to torment her. The brothers were both dead now, and in a way, so was Ophelia.
Potters stared across the table at Ophelia, who stared off blankly. He acknowledged the immense pain she had to have been feeling, while trying to push back the throbbing, relentless pain in the bicep of his left arm.
“I’m sorry I didn’t make it here sooner,” said Potters. “I would have stopped them.”
Ophelia continued to stare off, daydreaming about a time with her family when they were all together and when everything was calm.
“Can I get you anything?” asked Potters.
Ophelia slowly turned toward Potters, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Can I see your gun?” asked Ophelia.
Potters quickly noticed the desperation in Ophelia’s eyes and knew her intention.
“What happened to your family was unthinkable,” said Potters. “But you have to keep pushing forward. It’s what they would have wanted.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” said Ophelia. “You didn’t have to watch your own family get butchered like I did.”
Potters hesitated as an image of his young son who had died years earlier flashed within his mind. He held back tears, realizing that the young woman who was seated before him needed his encouragement at this dire time more then he needed validation regarding his own feelings.
“You’re right, I didn’t,” said Potters. “But from my own experience with loss, I know the shallow, empty feeling that follows. And I can tell you that something which may feel as simple as ending it all may feel like a solution. But in the end, you’d just be cheating yourself out of any kind of resolution or future which your parents would have wanted for you.”
“Future?!” asked Ophelia, with a sarcastic tone, before her cheeks became flush in anger. “There is no fucking future! It’s complete fucking madness! And without them, I have nothing left in this fucked-up world!”
Potters glanced off to his side, spotting the motionless bodies of the brothers who were spread out beside the doorway with pools of blood beneath them. Potters knew they had to keep moving. The dread within the house was unbearable. He then turned his head slightly and glanced toward the padlocked door.
“Do you want to give your family a proper burial?” asked Potters.
Ophelia wiped tears out of her eyes as a few once again streamed down her cheeks.
“I can’t go down there,” said Ophelia. “I’m sorry. I wish I could...”
“You don’t need to explain,” said Potters. “There’s no getting used to the death. If it wasn’t for an overwhelming desire to see the world return to the way it was, I would have ended it all long ago myself. Where were you when the bombs dropped?”
“San Diego,” said Ophelia, softly. “My father operated a consulting firm with connections to Washington. I lost my grandparents and a few friends I made there in the explosion.”
“I lost some good friends there myself,” said Potters. “I was working as a part of a biochemical warfare defense unit for the U.S. military when it happened, in between my home in Nebraska and Washington... June seventeenth, twenty twenty-eight is one of the most destructive days in modern history. No different than nine eleven, or the JFK assassination, which might just be out of your realm of recollection. For those of us who were alive when the atomic bomb in Washington hit, we all know where we.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t seem to be the scientific type,” said Ophelia.
Potters let out a slightly embarrassed laugh.
“My studies took a more biological approach to chemical warfare, rather than a scientific,” said Potters. “I had been involved in ROTC when I was a teenager. In the off chance you have no idea what in God's name ROTC is, it was the Reserve Officer Training Corps. I say was since it sure as shit doesn’t exist today. After the Ukraine invasion in my early twenties, I decided to enlist in the army.”
“Did you fight in the war?” asked Ophelia.
“Luckily I didn’t,” said Potters, with a hint of regret in his voice. “The higher ups felt my talent was better suited in the lab. This along with North American leaders failing to see the ultimate threat Putin was to the western world which led to us putting our guard down long enough for over five hundred thousand Americans to evaporate to dust in the blink of an eye, along with the carnage that followed.”
Potters hesitated as a jolt from the bullet trapped within his arm caused him to grunt in pain. Ophelia, who was beginning to feel relaxed around Potters, reacted with an empathetic sense of understanding.
“Are you alright?” asked Ophelia.
Potters readjusted his posture.
“I need to get this bullet the fuck out of me,” said Potters.
“If you talk me through it, I can do my best to get it out,” said Ophelia.
“It’s been a long time since I have just been able to talk without having to worry – I mean, I always worry,” said Potters. “What I meant was, never feeling as though I can trust the situation at hand.”
“You did just kill two psychopaths less than an hour ago,” said Ophelia.
“Aside from that,” said Potters. “How long did it take for your parents to realize that the cities were no longer safe?”
“Roughly six weeks after the initial atomic bomb dropped on Washington,” said Ophelia. “What’s wrong with those people?”
Potters hesitated as the pain in his arm was now starting to become truly unbearable.
“I really have to get this bullet the fuck out of me,” said Potters. “Is there a pair of tweezers or plyers here that you know of?”
Ophelia gave the question some thought before remembering something she felt may be of significance.
“My father has a medic kit,” said Ophelia. “There should be a pair of tweezers and some gauze inside of it.”
“Great,” said Potters. “Where is it?”
Ophelia hesitated as she slowly turned toward the pad-locked door leading to the basement.
“Down there,” said Ophelia, choking on her words mid-sentence.
“You don’t have to come with me,” said Potters.
“I know,” said Ophelia, as she glanced around the dining room anxiously. “It's just... I don’t know where the key is for the lock.”
Potters glanced at Edgar, who rested on the ground beside his dead brother. Potters then stood and approached, digging his hand into one of the pockets of Edgar’s grubby, stained jeans until he came across the key. Potters then turned back to Ophelia, who was once again staring off with a blank, empty look in her eyes.
“He mentioned having the key on him before I killed the bastard,” said Potters, as he approached the door which led to the basement. Potters then turned back to Ophelia after unlocking the door, allowing the padlock to drop to the ground after doing so. “You’ll be alright up here alone?”
Ophelia hesitated, as a tear streamed down her cheek.
“I want to lay them to rest,” said Ophelia. “It’s not right leaving them down there like that.”
Potters gave Ophelia an empathetic nod.
“I completely understand,” said Potters. “Let me grab the medic kit and we’ll get this bullet the fuck out of me first, then we can ley them to rest. The only thing is, I’m gonna need your help bringing them outside. After the tussle with the brothers and the shot to my arm, I won’t be able to do it on my own. Will you be alright with this?”
Ophelia stared off blankly as memories of her family all came flooding in, causing her throat to swell up in emotion.
“It’s fine,” said Ophelia. “I’ll help...”
“I’m not forcing this upon you,” said Potters. “If I was in better shape, I wouldn’t be asking.”
“I know,” said Ophelia. “Like you said, there’s no getting used to death. I’ll push past the pain so my family can have the burial they deserve.”
Potters nodded once again. “I’ll be back in a minute,” said Potters, who then proceeded to open the door before disappearing down the dark, desolate stairway. Ophelia once again stared off, knowing that the easy part was now over.