A futuristic Novel set in a decaying New York City about war, love, death, loss, friendship and betrayal written entirely in free verse(ish) poetry.
Background Illustrations provided by: http://edison.rutgers.edu/

25. The Right Thing to Do

Noise, out of the
Blue
Pierces my ears. Someone is talking
Distant. Hazy. Blood loss felt.
"Are you okay?" I laugh at that.
"No. I can’t recall a time when I was."

It’s the truth, the
Honest
To god truth. And I can’t even
Believe that. But it’s true.
"Do you need help?"
"Please just let me bleed out."

"It sounds like you do
Need
A lot of help.” He unlocks the
Cell door and shuts it behind him.
I press myself into the corner.
"Get away from me."

"I’m not like them. I won’t
Hurt
You. It’s okay.” He sits a foot
Away from me. I feel his eyes on my
Face. Despite my instincts,
Pink creeps on my face. Blushing.

"I need to pull these
Out. “
He gestures to the metal fragments
Left by the bullets. And the pain
That emanates from them,
Through my blood, into my fingertips

And the pain
Blinds
Me again, when his knife digs in
But only for a few moments
Then it’s just a dull throb and
Fresh blood. A slick red bullet.

He lets it fall to the floor and I
Shift
So he can see my shoulder better
He stitches my calf wound.
I get a decent look at him.
I find another blush in my cheeks.

He’s only inches away when he
Examines
My shoulder. Fingertips to my
Collarbone. Shivers roll through
My spine. I shouldn’t find him
Attractive. But no one could deny it.

His blue black hair is a little too
Long
In a charming, nonchalant way.
Warm jade-green eyes are
Friendly. Welcoming.
Hands, fine tuned. Strong. Gentle.

Hands that could
Break
Things but prefer to fix them instead.
That push the hair out of your face
And hold up your chin
For a deep kiss, soft. Warm.

A sweet kiss from pinkish
Lips.
Vibrant with life and hope and love.
I close my eyes shut hard.
He is from Below. He is the enemy.
Then why is he saving me?

"Open your
Eyes.”
He orders. “I need to know
You’re still with me, okay?”
I rub my temple with my good hand.
"Why are you doing this?"

He shrugs, blasé. “It’s the
Right
Thing to do.”
I almost burst out laughing.
What an abstract concept. The
Right thing to do.

"I’m from
Above.”
I sputter, see if he changes
His mind. “I know that. Why else
Would you be locked in the
War prison?”

Good question. I can’t
Answer.
He looks at me. “What’s
Your name?” He raises an
Eyebrow and smiles. “I’m
Strata. And you?”

"Not that important, but I’m
Jace.
Or you can call me whatever.
I don’t really like my name.
It’s too… Weighty, y’know?
It’s been in my family for decades.”

"I like it. It’s good to keep
Traditions.”
He shakes his head. “Except
I don’t want to be like the rest of
Them.  All they did was kill. To get
Fame, glory. I’m not really about that.”

"Well, maybe you could give it a new
Meaning.
Something better.” I wish I could
Assure him with a touch, kiss.
But what the hell am I thinking?
He is the enemy. A Below. I can’t.

Even more, I
Shouldn’t.
"Please just leave me alone."
I let my face fall away from him.
His eyes widen. “What’s wrong?
What did I do?”

"Nothing,"  I fight tears "It’s what
I
Did.  You don’t understand. I can’t.
You can’t help me. Please.”
He is silent but doesn’t move.
"I’ll fix your shoulder and then

You will
Never
Have to see me again. Okay?”
I nod. He rips out the second
Fragment and stitches slowly.
Not wanting to have to leave, yet.

He reluctantly stands to
Leave.
He pauses as if to say something
When he reaches for his keys
I talk first, on some bizarre impulse.
"You can come back whenever."

"Are you
Sure?”
He turns as to face me.
"Yeah, I’m really sure. I’m sorry
About flipping out on you there.”
"It’s fine. Not a problem, honestly."

And then he goes. Some
Secret
Place inside of me prays that
He will come back. Jace. A name
Stained with blood he tries to
Scrub away. Strata. I soil mine.

24. Mercy

No such
Mercy
Is given to me. After a few
Harsher minutes of questions
I am pulled into a musky jail cell
I am alone. Good. Maybe I’ll bleed out.

All is completely
Silent
For a few minutes with the exception
Of my heart beating
And slow shallow breaths
With the occasional “drip” of blood

23. Why Not

The closest to
Medical
Attention I get is someone
Handing me a wad of gauze
To press into my wounds as
I am dragged deeper into Below.

The effects of blood
Loss
Haven’t set in quite yet.
The soldiers throw me at a chair
I climb into it. The room is simple
Just a white desk and two chairs

The man with “plans” enters and the
Soldiers
Leave us alone. My stomach drops.
He’s not young, but not yet old
Mid to late forties I’d say. In a
classic white shirt and dark slacks

He is about to talk. I
Interrupt
Him. “You should know that
You can’t break someone whose
Already broken.” He just smiles again.
"Sweetheart, I can break anyone."

I gulp
Hard.
No point in hiding how nervous
I am. This man is intimidating.
He sits down across from me.
"Let’s begin. What’s your name?"

"My name is
Strata “
"How old are you?"
"I turned sixteen today."
"Well then, happy birthday strata."
"Thank you, mister…?"

He simply
Laughs
I guess I knew he wouldn’t tell me
His own name.
"Strata, why did you come here today
To kill my boss, a friend, and his guard?”

"The guard I
Regret.
But your friend. He is the reason
He is dead.” I stare down this man.
He doesn’t flinch once. “Could you
Please be more specific?”

"What kind of monster orders a
Strike
On civilians? On families?
Little, six year old sisters?
He is the reason my family,
My innocent family is dead.

And an apartment building of
Others.
That man ordered a massacre.”
The interrogator shifts in his chair
"How do you know
He ordered the killings?”

"He is your military’s
Commander
Who else would have?”
He thinks a moment. “Perhaps
It wasn’t sanctioned. A rogue
Squad or soldier, like yourself.”

"How do a handful of
People
Murder over sixty in less than
An hour. It was
Planned. Don’t deny facts
I know to be true.”

He shakes his head and
Sighs.
"Well, strata. Would you like
To know the charges against you?”
"Do I have a choice?
Whatever. Yes, why not, let’s hear it.”

"You are charged with the
Entering
Below without stated permission.
Possessing an illegal firearm.
And murdering, in cold blood,
Two military servicemen.”

If they’re going to kill me
Anyways
Why not tell them the whole truth?
Stack up the charges for myself.
"Fifty seven. Not two."
"What?"

"Sniper, section
Nine.
Total assassinations: fifty seven.
You might as well know
What I’ve done. I sure well know
A little too much.”

Even the
Stony
Interrogator seems taken aback.
"Fifty seven Below murdered.
Must make you so popular
At home, doesn’t it?”

I put my head on the
Desk.
Everything screams pain inside me
"You’re going to do it eventually.
Please just kill me and let me
Be judged by some higher power.”

22. Violence Begets

I load the revolver with the
Bullet
In my back pocket
Before I end my heartbeat
I should leave a message
To the Below who are surely coming

I even take the time to
Deadbolt
The door into place and block
The knob with the old leader’s
Leather chair. I stare at the huge
Creamy white wall. My canvas.

A small ceremonial
Knife
Sits on the dead commander’s desk
There’s plenty of blood, but I will
Use my own shade of red
To communicate beyond death

The decorative dagger is
Dull
Making it hurt that much more
When the blade cuts deep enough
And racing hot crimson paint
Flows into my hands

I think to use an old
Adage
From long before Above or Below
When the place we occupy was a city
Not a never ending battle ground.
"Violence begets violence."

A messy splattering and
Spelling
Staining the once pure walls
I click the last bullet I’ll ever fire
Into the chamber and press it
Against my jugular

Pushing away the gun with every
Heartbeat
I try to strengthen my resolve again
I have avenged them, have vengeance
Isn’t it time to tie off the
Family tree, once and for all?

The heavy
Creaking
Of the door tells me it’s about to
Open, spilling inside, filling the room
With Below soldiers. I feel my heart.
Why can’t I just pull the trigger?

I pull my finger
Back
And nothing. The revolver is jammed
This is what I get for using a gun
That’s more the 50 years old.
While I’m fixing it, the door bursts

Almost a dozen
Soldiers
File in to the now cramped room
I guess it won’t be my bullet
But this way I won’t have to do it
Half of them go to check on
Their fallen commander

The other
Half?
Guns are trained on me
Eyes staring firmly down the scopes
One shot. I am not dead but
My shoulder is screaming

It isn’t even enough to
Knock
Me off my feet. I stumble but don’t
Collapse. The second shot does that.
In my calf. On the same side, left side
I fall to the ground. They advance.

I wait in eternity for the
Kill
Shot that never comes.
I am looking directly into them
Not one trigger finger flinches
I am pain. I am miserably alive.

"Just do
It.
Please, kill me.
Why are you doing this?
For gods sake, pull the trigger
Let me die, let me have rest.”

Whoever is in charge of the
Squad
Comes and squats next to me
He smiles as he sees my blood
"Oh no, little Above girl we have
Plans for you.” This can’t be good.

21. The Reason I Am

It’s so different to
Kill
When you can feel life leaving
It’s subtle, like a soft wind
Dying off into stillness.
A soul making quick escape

One is
Gone
Just to get in here
And one military leader
Who is about to be gone.
Just like me and my bloodline.

"You are the
Reason.”
My voice shakes and the gun wavers
"You are the reason I am an orphan.
The reason that I broke at age 11.
The reason I can’t love.

The reason I am a
Monster.
Why I kill. Why I’m here.
I may be the method it is done by
But you should know who created me
You are the reason for your murder.”

The leader stares at me. “Who are
You?”
I use two hands to steady the gun.
I click the safety back and catch
My reflection in the metal barrel.
"I am Death."

I feel hysterical
Laughter
Bubble up, mixed with fear and hate
I regain control over myself and
Make eye contact
When I pull the trigger

20. Waiting to Fire

The tunnel is long and
Winds
Downwards hundreds of feet
Artificial light guides me forward
Into the unknown. How did I plan
on finding those I want to kill.

My trigger finger
Itches,
Hovering, waiting for me to
Pull the barrel from its safe
Lodging in my waist belt.
Waiting to fire.

Extra bullets jingle
Softly
In my jacket pocket, except for
One, which feels heavy.
Silent in my pants’ back pocket
Ready when I am.

Am I ready? It isn’t too
Late
To turn back, completely unseen
But then I remember an aging
Family portrait in my apartment
And my resolve re-hardens.

I think I’m ready to
Die.
I know I’m ready to end
The military leader of
Below’s massive army
To kill my family’s killers.

19. Dear Nimbus

June 17, 2302
Dear
Nimbus. I want to start
By apologizing. To you and
To the families of those I killed
Even though they’ll never see this

I’m really sorry. It just had to
End.
The war. The Council.
And the Below who ordered
The death of civilians.
And, lastly, me.

I’ve made my
Decision
And right now, in my back pocket
Is a bullet for myself
For when I finish my spree
Don’t let there be a funeral, Nim.

Nim, I want you to
Have
My family’s apartment
We have no use for it now
Just remember them for me
Especially Azure

One day when you get
Married
To some other girl who
Is able to be in love
I want you two to make
A perfect little girl for her old room

 And right now you’re probably
Thinking
Something stupid, like how you
Won’t get over me. Not true.
Somewhere in Above, there’s
A girl who is better than I ever was

It’s strange, writing about myself in
Past
Tense. But that’s not the point here.
I love you Nim. But I don’t think
I can ever be in love. And you can,
More than any person I’ve ever met.

I think you can
Plead
Trauma from my death to
The Council so you don’t have
To work at cloud nine anymore.
You won’t have to kill, Nimbus.

If you believe the
Council,
I’ll be watching over you
And if I want to have fun,
I’ll haunt your mom! Just kidding.
I love you and Goodbye, Strata.

18. Into Below

I stare at the
Tunnel
The entrance to Above
That, for 48 hours a week
I protect with a rifle
And a shooting partner, Nim.

DiDi and Joe will
See
Me go into Below. They won’t try
To stop me, they’ll be happy
To have me dead
But what about Nim?

I think of the
Letter
Sitting on my dining table
Waiting for him to read
I don’t want to hurt him
But all of this has to end somehow

17. Unsanctioned

I climb past Above
Families,
Having normal days
Already forgetting what
Massacre happened
Only five years ago

Some of them have
Toddlers
Learning how to climb up
Above’s bare metal spires
How most people get around
Since the streets are dangerous

I’m not afraid of the
Below
But I do get strange looks
As I walk on the cracked pavement
Until most of the people
Are in my hindsight

And here I am,
Underneath
The tallest spire in Above
Where I work, kill
Snipers’ Station #9
But most call it Cloud Nine

Although its anything
But
Fun and relaxing.
I wave to DiDi and Joe
So they know its me
And not an enemy to shoot.

I am on a
Mission
An unsanctioned, self designed
Plan to avenge, and die
It is a suicide mission
Or, at least, I hope I don’t come back

16. Without Saying “Love You”

It was finally my
Eleventh
Birthday. Even though most families
In Above don’t celebrate them, we did
After simple presents and waffles
I was allowed to visit Nim’s house

He said he had gotten me
Something
But refused to tell me what.
My impatient preteen mind had
To know what it was. I left,
In a hurry, without saying,” love you.”

The present he got me wasn’t
Much.
It was a pair of new climbing gloves
His father had bought for me
But I loved them since he knew
My old ones had gotten too small

I probably loved
Him
Then. But that day,
My eleventh birthday,
Changed the course of
Both of our lives. Forever.

I returned back to my apartment
Complex
A little over an hour later.
Nim and I had been playing
Make believe, how only
Children can do

All the doors in the building were
Open.
You could tell, since they all led
Directly outside, to the one
Set of stairs. I guess
It was an easy target.

When I walked into our home, my
Shoes
Squeaked wetly on the floor.
But it was 90 degrees and dry
My shoes squeaked in their blood
Which now stained the living room.

Tiles and walls splattered
Red.
Warm, too warm, still warm
Red, tattooed inside my eyes
Oh, but how much worse
It gets from here.

Only one of the three I
Left
This morning was alive.
It was Azure, my baby sister.
Six years old, bleeding out
On the living room floor.

Even though I tried to
Staunch
The pulsing flow,
Somewhere inside both of us,
We could see it was the end
Too much blood already spilt

She even told me not to
Go
Get help, shout for it.
Because despite loss and shock
She wanted the last of
The family to see her through.

A few minutes later,
Medical
Officers spread through the building
With soldiers on their blind sides
I heard one of them say,

"Three bullets in a girl. Why would you…"

He couldn’t finish the
Sentence.
Neither could I. Only a
Monster could do such a thing
And the only way to take out
A monster, is to become one.