Tag Archives: short story

A Brief History of the Psittacines

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Mars

 

Once terraforming tech was developed and improved on, everyone assumed the entire surface of Mars would be re-scaped and colonized. In reality, the harsh Mars environment was too overwhelming for the best tech. In the end, only about 2% of Mars was terraformed. Of the people who helped terraform, many remained behind to join the first colony rather than return to Earth.

The original colony consisted of only 10 families from Earth and the handful of terraformers. Amongst the adults was an ornithologist, Dr. Eva Devens. She and her family were selected to be a part of the colony because she was going to observe birds and how they adapted to the Mars environment.

Even in the year 2150, how birds used Earth’s magnetic field to navigate was a bit of a mystery. Dr. Devens was tasked with finding out if the birds behaved similarly on a new planet. In truth, she didn’t expect most of the birds to live through their first year.

So, along with the first colonizers of Mars, traveled 100 eggs. All were carefully monitored and were being incubated to hatch shortly after the colonists settled. They were 50 species of birds that could fly, and a good portion of the eggs were Psittacines, or birds of the parrot family.

Dr. Devens had personally selected all of the eggs, and she was very fond of parrots. She admired their beauty and intelligence, plus she believed they had the right kind of plucky attitude that could help them survive on Mars.

The trip to Mars and initial settling was uneventful; everything had logistically fallen into place. About 2 months after the colonizers arrived, the eggs began to hatch. The birds were raised in an enclosed environment until they were ready to leave their nests. Then they were released into the large forested region of terraformed area. Dr. Devens continued to feed them to help supplement their diets and many of them thrived.

Of the original 100 eggs, only 82 hatched, and of those 82 birds, 77 were released into the forest. Dr. Devens had implanted every bird with a tracking device prior to release. She carefully monitored their behaviors and movements. When she was in the forest observing the birds, some of the parrots and macaws showed signs of intelligence that surprised Dr. Devens.

In particular, a pair of African Grey Parrots and a group of various colored Macaws would gather around her every time she came to see them. She assumed that this behavior was just a part of their curious nature. She talked to them and even sang sometimes. And she was not surprised when they learned to mimic her words.

The first year on Mars passed and in the spring, many of the birds in the forest laid eggs and the first generation of Martian birds were born. As Dr. Devens was collecting data in the forest, she noticed that the size of the parrot and macaw eggs were considerably larger than she expected.

When the babies hatched, they surpassed their parents’ size within a matter of months. By the time they were a year old, they were roughly the size of a beagle and each weighed about 30 pounds. The exponential change in size was unexpected and Dr. Devens could not find a logical explanation for it. None of the other birds who had survived showed any physiological changes. Not only that, but no other species of animal brought to Mars had changed in any noticeable way.

In addition to an overall change in size, they demonstrated remarkable dexterity with their wings. Dr. Devens often observed them picking things up and moving them about. The new generation definitely demonstrated amazing strides in intellectual development. Back on Earth, the average parrot was said to have the intelligence of a human toddler. This new generation was more equivalent to human teenagers.

Of course, these changes were recorded and the information was forwarded to scientists on Earth. The birds would even join Dr. Devens when she would have teleconference sessions with Earth. The interviews were recorded and aired globally. Somehow, a new race of intelligent beings was emerging on Mars, and everyone on Earth was captivated with them.

By the 10th year on Mars, the parrots outnumbered the humans in the colony. The most recent generation to hatch was closer to human size and very clever. Each generation inherited their instinctual behavior from their parents, but they also seemed to pass along knowledge. Dr. Devens noted that the younger generations learned speech easier and much quicker than previous generations. However, other than Dr. Devens, the settlers were not as fascinated with the changes in the birds.

A meeting was held to decide what to do with the growing population of anthropomorphic avian. As the colonists gathered, one of the young African Greys who called himself Dale joined the gathering.

He was just over 5 feet tall and had predominantly grey feathers all over his body and bright red tail feathers. On his face his coloring was lighter, highlighting the observant intelligence behind his eyes.

congo-african-grey

“This meeting is to establish a course of action,” said one of the colonizers.

“I don’t see that anything needs to be done,” said Dr. Devens.

“Of course you don’t, but let’s face it. We are currently outnumbered by these birds and…”

The colonizer was cut off by Dale, “Excuse me, but we don’t like to be called birds.”

The collected humans looked baffled, except Dr. Devens. “What would you prefer to be called then?” one asked with sarcastic undertones.

Dale answered, “We call ourselves Psittacines. We are not like the other birds who live on Mars or on Earth. You do not call yourselves monkeys or apes just because you have a common ancestor. We would ask that you show us the same consideration.”

Not one of the humans had a response to that, but Dr. Devens sat there smirking.

Finally after an awkward pause, one the colonists continued, “Let’s get right to the point. Many of us want to return to Earth.”

Dr. Devens said, “You can’t be serious. This is our task. We can’t just leave. Do you realize how much investors spent to establish this colony?”

“As a matter of fact, we do. However, many of those same investors are already in the process of deciding on another place to colonize.”

Dr. Devens was shocked. Clearly talks had been going on behind her back, and decisions were being made without her input.

“If I can add something,” said Dale. “We would also like for the humans to leave.”

Dr. Devens was taken aback by this. “You want me to leave?”

“No. Not you. If you wish to stay Eva, we would allow it.”

Dr. Devens honestly didn’t know what to say. They would allow it? What was happening?

The decision was made and within a few months, the first colonizers minus Dr. Devens and the eggs returned to Earth. The Psittacines and Dr. Devens kept in touch and continued their reports to Earth.

Dr. Devens lived with the Psittacines for the remainder of her life. When she passed away, Dale oversaw her funeral. She was the only human to be buried on Mars.

With her passing, some of the Psittacines felt that perhaps it was time to have less contact with Earth, but Dale felt that Dr. Devens had worked hard to maintain contact and he respected her plans.

The truth was that people were no longer fascinated with the Martian birds like they were in the beginning. Another colony was established on Venus, and there was a thriving colony on Earth’s moon. People were looking to the future and making plans to spread to other planets.anthro macaw

When Dale was nearing his 60th year, the Psittacines were basically at max capacity for the terraformed portion of Mars. Something would have to be done. Dale understood that either they would need to have population controls to prevent overcrowding or some of them would need to move elsewhere.

During a teleconference with Earth, Dale told the scientists his concerns. The scientists sprung into immediate action and began to discuss the possibility of establishing a Psittacines colony on Earth.

Dale was overwhelmed by the support that was shown. He thought they would be quick to reject a new species living amongst them. He even joined the first group of Psittacines to relocate to Earth.

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June’s Prompt

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Let’s start by addressing what should have been posted in May, but didn’t get finished till yesterday.

Read my May story if you get the chance: “Return to the Island.”

Also, my friend Jennifer Clark has been writing with the prompts each month. Read her May story too! “What She Doesn’t Say.”

The May Prompt used the story cubes. See below to see what I rolled. And then see if you can find all the elements in both Jennifer’s and my story.

IMG_2072For June, I am going to use the theme for a writing contest that I am entering. I am actually working on two stories. I am submitting one to the contest and the other is going to be my June story. And since the contest has a deadline, there is a good chance my story will actually be posted on June 30 like it should be.

I am hoping to enter the Gernsback Writing contest being done by Amazing Stories. If you are interested, see the rules.

Even if you don’t want to enter, but want to join me in writing a story this month, the theme for the contest and for June is:

spac explore

What will our solar system look like 250 years from now –

a positive take on the exploration, colonization and exploitation of Sol system.

I am very excited about this prompt and can’t wait to share what I’ve written. Working on the contest is part of what delayed my May story (only partly though).

Happy reading and writing this month. Story to be posted: June 30!!!

Return to the Island (My May Story — Very Late)

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sheep

Seamus left the island the minute he turned 18. He took the first ferry he could get and left for the mainland. When his mother called to see how his life was going, she always mentioned how things were changing.

When he’d lived there, the island had a population of around 440. Forty people and about 400 sheep. He couldn’t imagine that any of that had really changed, but 20 years later, he was finally going back.

His sister was getting married. In fact, she was marrying a guy his age that he’d graduated high school with – Finn. Seamus didn’t have many memories of Finn. He vaguely recalled him as someone who was always scheming and trying to make a quick buck. Hopefully that had changed. Seamus wanted someone more grounded and financially stable for his sister.

Seamus didn’t plan to stay long. His mother wanted him there a day early for the rehearsal dinner. He agreed to be there for the dinner and to stay long enough the next day for the wedding, but he was taking the ferry home that night after the ceremony. He also made his mother promise not to make a big deal about his homecoming.

When Seamus stepped off the ferry, his mother was waiting. Alone. She must have changed in the two decades since his leaving because she didn’t even attempt to hug him. She opened her mouth to say something and changed her mind.

Apparently the island was changing too because on the way to the family home, they passed a department store and even a few chain restaurants. When he’d been here, everything was a small local establishment usually named after a family member who had started the business. A couple of new stores though were not enough to change Seamus’s mind about leaving as soon as he could. In addition to the island’s makeover, Seamus was equally surprised at his mother’s self-control – they drove all the way home in silence.

As they pulled into the drive, Seamus saw his sister, Gwen, taking laundry off the line. She turned in his direction and nodded then continued her task.

Even from the drive he could smell bread baking in the house. A man stepped out onto the porch. Seamus didn’t recognize him but the man waved at him. This must be Finn.

Finn came toward them and said, “Hey stranger. Glad to have you home.” And then without stopping to catch his breath, he continued, “Darla, the morning ferry brought the octopus and it’s not breaded.”

Seamus’s mother nodded. “Not to worry. I think I know a thing or two about frying food. Why don’t you two get reacquainted, I will go look and see what needs doing.” Darla left Seamus and Finn on the porch.

Seamus didn’t say anything. He couldn’t think of a single thing to say to someone he hadn’t seen in over 20 years, especially because he hadn’t known him well to begin with.

Finn, though, wasn’t shy and filled the awkward silence by striking up a conversation. “Can you believe your sister wants calamari at the wedding?” He raised his eyebrows but Seamus wasn’t sure what the gesture was supposed to mean. “Octopus. She’s a strange one – your sister. But that’s what I love about her.”

Seamus just nodded. He was wondering how long he could actually go on this trip without saying a single word.

That’s when Finn smacked him on the back. Finn said, “Look at you. You look different. You must work out. I remember you being a skinny, quiet guy.”

Seamus didn’t respond again. Truth be told, he did go running on a regular basis but he didn’t think he was that different looking than when he was a teenager.

Finn didn’t let the lack of response keep him from talking, “Still quiet though.” He laughed at what he thought was his own cleverness and then smacked Seamus on the back again. Finn continued, “Guess that is a good thing to be. Your mom says you sit around all day reading. I could never go for a job like that. Too much time at a desk.”

Seamus felt the need to defend his job. It was his life’s work after all. “I work for a test company. I edit questions before they are used on standardized tests throughout the whole country. I am also responsible for fact checking the questions.” He felt himself puff up a little and a hint of pride slipped into his tone. “In a way I help shape the future of high school students all across the nation. An accurate and well written test is the key to a good future.”

Finn was nodding along but Seamus could tell that he wasn’t really interested in what was being said. “I get that,” Finn said. “I too am worried about the future. But in this case, I am thinking of my future.” And after a couple of seconds, he added, “And your sister’s too of course.”

“Of course,” Seamus said.

“Hey, why don’t you go put your stuff in the house and I’ll take you to the site.” Finn looked really pleased when he said ‘the site.’ He added, “We will have plenty of time to get ready for the rehearsal dinner after.”

Seamus entered his family’s home for the first time in 20 years. He thought he should have felt something more but he didn’t. In fact, he felt like he was entering the house of strangers. He heard his mother in the kitchen working on something. He went in the living room and set his backpack on the couch. Then he walked to the kitchen and told his mother where he and Finn were going. Darla just nodded.

Seamus and Finn rode through town out towards what used to be the Benbro Inn, established and ran by the Benbro family. It had been replaced with not one, but two hotels – a Best Western and a Motel 6. Nearby the two garish hotels that didn’t quite fit into the idyllic scenery of the island was a construction site surrounded by a privacy fence.

When they got to the gate, Finn hopped out and opened the lock. This action surprised Seamus, when he’d been a boy on the island, people didn’t lock up anything. Finn returned to the truck and they drove onto the site.

Finn and Seamus hopped out.

Finn said, “Isn’t it amazing?”

Seamus wasn’t really sure what to think. If the two franchised hotels looked out of place here, what Seamus was looking at actually seemed otherworldly in this setting.

Before him was a miniature golf course. It was called “Adventure Park.”

Finn said as he gestured to the various parts of the set-up, “We were going for an Indiana Jones slash World Traveler theme. So, what do you think?” Finn didn’t wait for an answer. He continued, “It’s going to be a hit. It is going to draw tourists here. Who knows? Maybe someday we could be famous for it.”

Seamus couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Seamus took a step towards the course to take it all in a bit more. One hole had a tomb theme and at the end, the player’s ball had to be hit into a key hole. Another hole had the player shoot around arrows, which were supposed to be like the tomb being booby trapped.

Finn was talking again, “My personal favorite is the last hole. The player aims for the dark stairs. But they’re not really stairs; it’s a collection system to reclaim the golf balls.”

Seamus sat down right there in front of the ugliest thing he’d ever seen. He wasn’t sure what was happening, but he knew he didn’t want this monstrosity on his island. It didn’t belong.

golf

February’s Prompt

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My January story is posted. You might be wondering what prompted the story that emerged. I honestly don’t know. I didn’t write from an outline like I have in the past. Instead, what I did is every time I sat down to work on it, I just wrote what came to mind.

The process ended up being fairly painless. In the past I have sat down and written out a rough map of where I want my story to head and any key events I want included. I didn’t do that this time. I just wrote.

I have mixed feelings about the experience, but I think I’m going to try it again.

Anyway, if you get a chance, read The Photo in the Hall. It was based on the following prompt:

“While dog-sitting, a mustachioed private detective uncovers a hidden family secret.”

For February, I am using a different method of topic generation. Last month, I used The Amazing Story Generator. It is a little book with pages that you can mix and match to create story ideas. I let my husband pick last month.brainstormer

For February I decided to use an app. The app is called The Brainstormer.

Essentially, the Brainstormer lets you hit a dice and it randomly selects 3 words for you.

So, February’s prompt is….

“Invention.” “Arthurian.” And “priest.” arthurian book

Happy writing everyone!

Next story to be posted… February 28, 2015.

Photo in the Hall

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Photo in the Hall

“Please tell me that is a disguise,” I said to my twin, Everett, as he walked into our office. He had the most ridiculous mustache I’ve ever seen. Which answered my question about what he did while I was on a three-month tour of South America. After our last case, I took a vacation. It only seemed like a good idea after I was shot in the arm. I sat on many beaches, drank a lot of tequila, and tried to forget that I let a handsome man fool me for many months.

At some point, I realized I needed to return to the real world, to my world. A world that I shared all too often with my twin brother, who looked nothing like me right now due to the scraggly facial hair he was trying to pull off.

“Nope,” he said with a grin. “This is all me.” He stroked the ends of the mustache and smiled like a mad man.

I probably didn’t want to know the answer, but I asked anyway, “What made you want to grow a mustache?” Before I finished the question, I knew the answer.

“There’s this new lady cop…” He stopped midsentence when he saw the look on my face.

We might be twins, but I didn’t want to hear him carry on about some blonde (which was always his type). A long time ago, we’d made an agreement. He wouldn’t tell me about women he liked, and I wouldn’t tell him about men I liked. And considering the catastrophic end to our last case, our mutual agreement was even firmer now.

“Sorry there Jo. You know how I get carried away,” he apologized as he looked quickly through his missed calls. Without looking up, he said, “Sometimes I forget you’re not one of the guys.” He sat down across from me, and despite the ‘I will kill you if you don’t shut up’ look I was trying to project, he started up again, “Tanya is blonde, and…”

He stopped when I threw a stapler at him. Wise decision on his part. He had just enough time to duck.

Before he could slip wistfully into daydreaming about Tanya, I asked, “Any new cases while I was away?” Everett and I own and operate a private detective agency after being kicked off the police force at the exact same time on opposite ends of the city, but that’s another story.

piOur cases are usually small and involve tailing cheating significant others of various types. Nothing to even get armed for. My brother seemed to take to the insignificant private sector of detective work like a duck to water, but me, I longed for the days where I needed at least two weapons and a bullet proof vest to get through the day. Getting shot hadn’t changed that for me.

After our last case and before I took my vacation, my brother said I’d let myself be fooled by a criminal because I was addicted to danger. He was probably right about that, but I couldn’t tell him that.

I was lost in my own thoughts so I didn’t notice my brother actually answering my question until he stopped talking and was sitting across from me waving three messages idly back and forth.

I blinked and then asked, “What? I didn’t hear you.”

He put the messages down and stared at me with concern. “Are you sure you’re ready for a case Jo? After the last one…” He didn’t finish his thought.

“Just tell me about the cases.” I didn’t want to be treated like a delicate creature. I would be fine.

“Okay,” he said. “We have three possibilities. Two of them are affairs. So, tail a cheating spouse, take some pictures, present them to the client.”

I tried not to roll my eyes but couldn’t hold back.

Everett pointed at me to emphasize his next point, “Hey. They pay the bills. If spouses didn’t cheat, we’d be homeless.”

“What’s the 3rd one?” I was trying to change the subject.

“The third one is a routine background check for the mayor’s personal assistant.”

“Jeff? Why would he ask us?”

Jeff was a friend of my brother’s, but even so, our business hadn’t taken off that much and I was surprised the mayor’s office would hire us.

“He didn’t ask us sis. He asked me. I’ll take that one.”

spy

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Two weeks later, both of the affair cases were closed one way or another. Life was becoming routine again. We didn’t have any new cases but for some reason my brother had barely been into the office at all. Surely a routine background case could not be taking up that much of his time.

I sat quietly for a minute and tried to focus my feelings on Everett. I didn’t feel any alarm bells go off. Sometimes our freaky twin connection made me feel like I had zero privacy, but today I was hoping it would clue me in. Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way. I decided to resort to more direct tactics and sort through the papers on his desk for clues.

My desk was clutter free and had nothing on it but a phone, a rolodex, and the stapler that I frequently threw at Everett. His desk was nothing but chaos. There were wrappers from partially eaten food, notes from old cases that he hadn’t filed away yet, newspapers with cup rings on them, stacks of messages that had already been answered but he didn’t apparently have the heart to throw them away, and his phone, which I didn’t understand how he managed to find so readily when clients called.

I figured any recent paperwork would be near the top of the pile, but after looking over the top layer of debris, I didn’t see anything even dated within the last month. He must have his current case notes on his person, which given the state of his desk made sense. If he placed current case work on this desk, it would never be seen again.

I let out an exasperated sigh and decided to just call him and see if there was anything I should be doing.

His cell went straight to voicemail. Great. I was bored out of my mind and I didn’t want to just sit around in an empty office staring at Everett’s messy desk. My ADD and OCD couldn’t handle that.

As I was heading out to my car, I saw Everett standing next to his car talking on his cell phone. As I approached, he quickly told the person on the other end, “I gotta go.”

He looked up at me. He looked deeply concerned. The only time he looked that way was when he couldn’t put two and two together. Something was bothering him, that much was obvoius.

“How’s it going Everett? Still working on that background check?”

“Nope.” His answer was clipped and his brow was furrowed.

“So… new case then?” I was hoping he would just tell me, but evidently he was going to be difficult today.

“Nope.”

“What have you been doing then? You’ve been busy lately.” I don’t think I could have been more clear that I wanted to know what was going on.

“I’ve been dog-sitting,” he said.

“Dog-sitting?”

“Yep,” he answered.

I couldn’t believe the conversation I was having with my brother, or more acurately, the lack of conversation. I just stood there at this point and let him work through whatever it was that was troubling him.

It took a couple of minutes of just standing there, but finally he opened up.

“I’ve been dog-sitting for Tanya.”

That didn’t surprise me. He hasn’t met a blond yet that he didn’t like. I still didn’t say anything yet because I assumed there had to be more to the story than what he’d said so far.

“I discovered something at her house, and I’m not sure what to do about it. Will you come take a look at it with me and see what you think?”

“Of course,” I said. I was intrigued. What could he possibly have found that troubled him so? Was she selling drugs? Did he find evidence of a murder? Honestly, nothing short of  a serious crime could possibly bother my brother this much. We’d been cops; we’d seen some awful stuff. And even though we no longer worked for the so-called good guys, we clearly had lines of right and wrong. If Everett had stumbled onto something serious, he would report it. Wouldn’t he?

As we drove to Tanya’s house, my mind was frantically over working. I asked him at some point, “What did you find?”

Apparently, I had to see it to believe it, because he answered, “You’ll see.”

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shabby chic

We entered Tanya’s house. It wasn’t large, but it was nicely decorated. Evidently Tanya liked shabby chic everything. Every peice of furniture looked new but was painted and then distressed to look older.

The next thing I noticed was what appeared to be her dog.

Everett said, “Say hi to Fluffy.” He was pointing at a Chinese Crested.

Personally, I thought Fluffy looked like the evil spawn of a gremlin and a hairless cat. I will never understand why some people have those dogs as pets. Who wants to live with something that ugly that can creep into your room at night?

“Hey there Fluffy,” I said. “Please tell me the disturbing secret is this ugly dog and you are wondering if you should call animal control.”

Everett just rolled his eyes at me. “No. And Fluffy isn’t ugly. Just because you don’t like him, doesn’t mean Tanya doesn’t love him.” He walked into the hallway and said, “Follow me.” fluffy

Honestly, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable walking through her house while she wasn’t home, but my brother was worried so I let my own feelings go for now.

As I went into the hallway, I saw Everett standing near the end looking at a framed photo on the wall. When I was standing next to him, he pointed at a photo of two men standing on the deck of a ship holding rifles.

At first I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I instantly recognized the two men. So many questions were going through my mind. The first one to actually make it’s way to my mouth was, “Does Tanya know she has a picture of our dad in her hallway?” What I didn’t say was that it was our dad and his best friend slash co-conspirator. Our dad was known for exactly one thing – human trafficking. His current wearabouts were unknown. He was also the reason we’d been kicked off the force. Apparently local officials thought the children of a known internationally wanted criminal shouldn’t be on the police force.

Everett answered my question, “I didn’t tell her that it was our dad. She thinks its a picture of her dad and his best friend.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “What? How can that be? Does she know who her dad is? And what he does? How is she on the police force but we are stuck being lame p.i.s?”

“Slow down Jo. I asked her about it. She doesn’t know anything. What she told me is she’s never even met her dad, and this was the only picture she’s ever had of him. Her mother gave it to her.”

I didn’t have words for the weirdness of the situation. “You have to tell her. If you plan on having a relationship with her, you have to. What if she finds out later that you knew about this and didn’t say anything?”

“Believe it or not, that’s not what is bothering me about this situation.”

“Okay. What then?” I couldn’t imagine what else was bothering my brother.

“She told me she was contacted by her father recently and they are going to meet and have dinner soon.”

Whoa. Tanya didn’t know it, but she was sitting on information that everyone from the mayor’s office and every cop from the police comissioner down wanted to know.

All I could think was how this couldn’t be happening again. The last time information about our father had come to light, we’d lost our jobs, and I personally hadn’t been the same since.

Before I could really process what all of this might mean, Everett said, “We have to tell someone. Tanya will be gone for two more weeks. If we tell someone in the mayor’s office or one of our old departments, they could get on this right away.”

“You’re right,” I said. “You do know that the second Tanya returns to town, she is going to hate you.”

“She might,” he agreed. “But if we don’t try to find these two, we will live in their shadows forever. Personally, I am tired of people assuming we know anything about what those two are up to.”

He had a point. We left the hallway and made our way back to his car. We never made it to the car. Two shots were fired before we knew anyone was even near us. Both hit Everett. I threw myself against the car and got low. I pulled out my cell and dialed 911.

He came around the car and shot me point blank in the chest.

“You should mind your own business,” he said as he left Everett and I there to die.

The pain overwhelmed my senses before I could even focus on who was speaking. The last thing I thought was how Everett and I would die at the same time.