Author #1’s note: Hoi! Goog and I are taking a break from Fallen Angel to bring you this new story! Hope you guys like it!

Author #2’s Note: This is sad; don’t say I didn’t warn you. Don’t worry, it gets better. Mostly.

 

On the wall in the mess hall in the Parkshore Orphanage, there’s a picture of all the orphans and all the staff. In the midst of them all, four boys with hoodies are smiling. But when one looks closer, those smiles are forced. Each of those four boys had a special quirk. Jack was the boy with the red hoodie and light brown swooshy hair. He had a large knowledge of combat and war tactics, as his former father was a soldier in the army. The boy next to him, with spiky brown hair with his deep blue hoodie and pitch black eyes, was Max. Max was skilled with combat, mostly because he practiced on his own terms and was at odds with Jack, despite them being friends. He was born with a disease that made his eyes look pitch black, which often scared children that weren’t used to it. The ginger-haired boy with the purple hoodie and green overcoat was named Joel, and he was a bit cowardly, if not a bit goofy, and he was very skilled in etiquette. The last one, one with brown hair and a green hoodie, was named Lucas. He was completely average, nothing too interesting, except for the fact that he only had memories of the orphanage, and didn’t remember anything from outside. Joel and Lucas were 13, and Jack and Max were 14. They look quite happy. But those smiles aren’t genuine. They’re forced. Plastered on. Painted. Things were much different than a happy place with smiles everywhere. The orphanage was a cold building, with iron plates over any windows. The orphans were subjected to multiple chores while the faculty didn’t really do any work. These four boys lived in the same room, which was called a bunker, with one bunk bed and two mattresses and blankets. But one day, these kids would make their great escape.

 

Lucas was scrubbing the cold floors of the kitchen. The matron glared at them. “And when you’re done scrubbing those floors, you can help Ginger-head over here with the dishes.” she said, pointing to Joel, who was not pleased to be washing dishes and getting his hands dirty, not even being able to roll up his sleeves. The other three sighed. “Yes, ma’am.” they responded. The matron didn’t leave, however. She walked over to Lucas. “You. Yeah, you, greenie.” Lucas scrubbed the floor harder. “Y-yes, ma’am?” he said, trying not to sound afraid. She glared at him and straightened her glasses, which were on a chain around her neck. “You missed a spot.” she said, pressing her high-heels into the floor and causing footprints. Lucas tried scrubbing them off the floor. She glared at him. She then proceeded to step on his back with a bit of pressure, causing him to fall onto the floor. “Your back ain’t straight. Do I make myself clear?” Lucas tried to avoid crying, as well as coughing. “Y-yes, m-ma’am.” Max and Jack looked solemnly at Lucas.  She finally relented on him, and walked to the doorway. Lucas was still coughing, clutching his chest, his tears dropping onto the glistening floor. The matron still glared at the other two. “No eyes, army boy, don’t just stare at him, GET BACK TO WORK!” she yelled. Max and Jack exchanged sad glances. “Yes, ma’am.” they responded, and the matron left. Max dropped his scrubbing brush and went to comfort Lucas, who was still coughing and unable to sit up. “Lucas, you ok?” He then spotted the deep press in his back. “Oh jeez… good thing she didn’t press hard enough to break your spine. Though that looks pretty painful.” Lucas was still crying, unable to even turn his head. He merely collapsed on the floor and convulsed in deep pain. Joel was trying not to cry, and Jack merely looked at the floor and kept scrubbing. Then, a woman with tall red high heels, a pale brown suit jacket and skirt, black blouse, red cat’s-eye glasses, and a thin, cold, chilling expressionless face, with long brown hair in a bun appeared. It was the orphanage director, Ms. Plaine. Max looked up. “Oh, hello ma’am. Look, Lucas really got hurt. Can we get him back to the bunker?” he asked. She glared at Lucas and walked over to him. She didn’t so much as smile, and pressed her high-heel into his forehead. “No orphan of mine is just going to lie on the floor when he should be working. Man up, child.” she said coldly. She drove her long red-painted nails into his chin and lifted his head to her eye level, and she could clearly see him crying, with the red shoe mark in his head. “Little boys like you need to work so that you don’t just collapse like a brick wall with no cement. Now work harder and just pretend that you don’t feel pain.” She dropped his head back on the floor, bruising his forehead. “The rest of you should continue working. I can’t just send you little boys and girls just go to your bunkers because of one little injury. I have a job to do.” she said coldly, then left. Lucas looked like he was in even more pain. He was still coughing, and now had a small bruise on his head, as well as a tweaked back. Lucas staggered to his knees and tried to ignore his pure pain, and kept scrubbing, and used the scrub to wipe away the small tears he constantly cried onto the floor.

 

Soon came dinner. The matron passed by and gave the children each one small scrap of food to eat. It was so little, one could eat it in one bite then leave. But the orphans tried to make their meals last. Not Lucas though. After today, he didn’t even touch his dinner. He never did, anyway. He only ever ate when the matron forced him to. He merely poked at the small food scrap. Joel looked at Lucas. “Dude, just eat for once. You don’t want the matron to force you to eat again, do you? Last time that happened, you were choking for a full minute. Maybe two.” Jack was more focused on making his meal last. Max put his hand on Lucas’ shoulder. “C’mon, Lucas, just eat once. It’ll make you feel better.” But Lucas seemed to be spaced out, not even responding to them. Joel leaned forward to look at Lucas’ face, which was pale and frozen in a neutral state. “Uh… Lucas?” He nudged his friend, careful not to touch his back for fear of hurting him, and he met Max’s eyes; neither of them knew what to do to bring Lucas out of this emotional hole. It had never gone this far before… What was there to do but wait it out? Lucas blinked slowly as one of the staff members passed by on the other side of the table, giving him a sharp glare. He didn’t respond, and they narrowed their eyes, whispering something to another staff member as they brushed by them. The second person glanced Lucas’ way, their face a bit softer than the others, but in the end, they payed him no heed. Dinner passed by, and noone had gotten Lucas to talk yet. But something eventful happened that got the whole room’s attention before dinner had passed. Lucas’ whole body gave in, and he fell back, off the chair and onto the floor. He passed out there, all the other orphans gasped, while his three friends were scared for his life. A few of the staff were forced to lift him up and carry him to his bunker. A few other orphans screamed. Ms. Plaine ran into the room, and saw what happened. As the staff carried Lucas to his room, his friends ran to Ms. Plaine. Joel was freaking out. “Ms. Plaine, ma’am! Is Lucas gonna be alright? He just passed out onto the floor!” Ms. Plaine, however, didn’t even show one slight of remorse or empathy. “He has paid for not even touching a scrap of his food. All little boys need to eat to be strong and work hard in here. He will pay for his insolence and negligence. I doubt he’ll be refusing dinner after this.”

 

Max was sitting with Lucas, now that the four were in their bunkers. The matron passed by. “Good night, children. Now go to bed!” she said, and put the metal screen over the barred doors. Max could see Lucas was looking much more pale than normal. “Dude, c’mon, just talk to me.” Lucas merely laid on his back and tilted his head to the side. “Lucas, you really aren’t looking good right now. Just let me see what’s wrong.” Lucas looked at him. “O-Ok.” he said softly. Lucas had taken off his hoodie now, since it was pretty warm in the bunker, and Max inspected Lucas. This was normal, as Max would check up on Lucas as often as possible. But this time, he was more than shocked. “No…this can’t be…” He attempted to inspect further, and realized that Lucas was lightweight and was looked sick. He walked over to Joel and Jack. “So, how’s Lucas doin’? He ok?” Jack asked. Max merely looked down. “He’s thinner than the pipes they make the bunk bed ladder out of. Any more of this and he could probably barely stand.” They went over and looked at him. Max wasn’t kidding. His skin was pale and the bones on his arms could be seen clear as day. Joel looked like he was going to cry. “Poor Lucas. We told him to at least eat SOMETHING.” Jack held his arm and inspected. “Yep, full bone. Poor kid might be so weak he’ll pass out midday.” Lucas got to his feet and walked over to the bunk bed, then slowing down, then fell onto the floor. “Lucas!!” Joel shouted, running to his friend. Lucas looked up at him. “Heh… I’m fine, j-just lost my b-balance is all…” Jack walked over and picked up Lucas. “Dude, I’ve GOT to stop carrying you up the ladder.” he said as he climbed the ladder with only one hand and laid him down onto the top bunk. Jack climbed down. “It’s true. He’s lighter than a feather. Any more of this and he could get seriously sick.” Max sighed. “Not only is this another night where his health is getting worse, I’ll have to listen to him moaning in his sleep. Guess that’s what happens when I get the bottom bunk.” “We can hear him too, it’s not just you, Max.” Joel said. And Max was more than right. But they were fearing for his life, and not for their lack of sleep.

 

The next night at dinner, the matron grabbed Lucas by the arm and pulled him to the bunker. Joel, Max, and Jack followed. She sat him down on the floor, and she pulled out a can and a spoon. “C’mon, greenie, you know what I have to do right now. Either you follow my instructions and eat, or starve here.” Lucas tried to avoid the spoon of hot soup broth. “Do you want me to do this the hard way?” Lucas was crying. She didn’t hesitate, and she grabbed him by the chin and forced the warm broth down his throat. She kept doing a few spoonfuls the same way until his complexion returned, despite that he was still as thin as a pipe. Once she was done, she left the half-full can and spoon inside the bunker and left, dragging the other three inside and making them go to bed early, closing the metal screen, keeping them from getting out in any way. Max grabbed the soup broth can and spoon and walked over to Lucas, who was still not looking quite pleased from being forced to eat. “C’mon, man, don’t make me do this. I don’t wanna seem like the matron.” Lucas smiled. “I guess it’s a little more ok when it’s not the matron doin’ it.” he said weakly. Max forced him to sip more of the broth until the can was almost fully empty. Lucas had luckily stopped wheezing when he breathed, but he still looked unhappy. Jack, however, didn’t help him up this time. “What’s goin’ on? Why aren’t we going to bed?” Lucas said, with a bit more normality in his voice. Joel tried to speak quietly. “We aren’t gonna stay here and suffer. We’re getting out of here, right here, right now!” Lucas staggered to his feet, his legs shaking. “Heh, I’m in… though I’ll try to keep my head up.” Joel helped his friend by keeping him up properly. The lights in the bunker went pitch black. “Lights are out.” Max whispered. Jack was using the spoon to pry off the the screws on the vent, and popped the vent lid off. It was big enough for them to crawl through. “Take anything in here that you’ll want, since we aren’t comin’ back, and put ‘em in your backpacks. We’ll need ‘em.” he said. Max grabbed the almost-emptied can of soup broth, as well as his backpack, Jack got his bag, and Joel grabbed his bag and laid Lucas’ arm over his shoulders, propping him up. They crawled through the vent as silently as possible. They were getting through for quite a bit, until they heard a soft crash. Jack and Max looked behind themselves to see Lucas passed out, propped up by Joel. “It wasn’t my fault! He’s still too weak to move!” Jack brushed Lucas’ hair out of his face. “Keep carrying him, Joel. I bet he’ll regain consciousness once we get outta the vents.” They kept pulling him through until the reached the end of the main vent. It seemed to lead to the main entrance. But they saw the guards. Jack went to the front, and quietly pried the vent lid off. “There’s a guard right underneath us,” Jack whispered. “We can use what’s left of that broth to blind him, once the others get outta the way, and since the doors a creak open, we have one shot to get through without getting caught. Joel, make sure that you’ve got Lucas with you. Max, you got the can, now use it.” Jack grabbed the lid of the vent, ready to pull it off. Once the other guards’ backs were turned, Jack pulled off the vent cover and max poured the hot soup broth on the guard’s eyes, as he screamed. They dashed out of the doors as fast as possible. They kept running, however, the night was hardly a beautiful sight. Fresh air felt much less heavy and humid, but the rain fell from the darkened skies. The raindrops startled Lucas awake. He didn’t pull his hood over his head, however, and his chocolate brown hair got soaked by the rain. Max’s spiky tall hair flopped behind his head in this heavy rain, while Joel and Jack were the only ones who had their hoods on. Luckily, he had enough strength to run. But he started to breathe fresh air. It was better than he imagined. He didn’t care how pouring the weather was. They were free. Free at last.

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