(Happy ~belated~ Fiction Friday loves! Hope y'all have been enjoying this short story series so far! Feel free to give any critiques or questions in the comments below or by messaging me!)
Bennet slowly walked around the wall surrounding Sommerville. Every now and then he would have to put down one of the shadowy shapes that lurched forward, but for the most part his day was shaping up to be as uneventful as always. Thunder rumbled in the distance as the approaching storm slowly crept towards them, still too far away to be a real concern yet.
"Haynes," Willen's voice in Bennet's earpiece broke the monotonous screaming of the wind. "I think-" *crackle* "-want you to come look-" *crackle* "-urgent-"
Bennet bit back a sigh as he said, "The comms are going out again, Willen." He winced at the eruption of loud static before he could make out his comrade's voice again.
"-uck it just get to the East Gate. Now!"
Willen's frantic tone filled Bennet with dread as he carefully made his way to the opposite side of the wall. He pressed as close against the dust covered dome as he could, taking slow, deliberate steps to avoid the more delicate pieces of the wall. They had tried to replace or mark the most hazardous areas as well as they could, but years against the harsh elements had taken a toll on the thick, metal structure.
Once Bennet had watched a piece of the wall crumble right under a Wall Watcher. He and the two others who witnessed it could only stand there in horror as the man was there one moment, and gone the next.
When Bennet broke the news to Tye, the leader of Sommerville hadn't even flinched. Just calmly instructed the other Watchers to replace as much of the damaged wall with stone and spare metal that they could, and section off the rest. Then Bennet and Tye had gone to "speak" with the family.
It had been years since that happened, and Bennet couldn't remember the man's name now. He hadn't known him well, and none of the other Watchers nor Tye ever spoke of him. But Bennet still made a point to check in on the man's family, every morning, as they took their younger children to the park. As far as he could tell, they were still blissfully living in their bubble of delusion.
He couldn't decide which would be worse: living daily with the knowledge that your oldest son was dead or not remembering he existed at all?
Bennet didn't have to ponder that question too long as he soon came upon a suited, gas-masked figure that was crouched along the wall. He sped up as much as he dared before joining Willen in a kneel before the dome.
"What's wrong?" He asked.
He was met with the cold, reflective stare of his own masked face as Willen turned his head to look at him. Despite how many years they've donned this uniform, Bennet didn't think he would ever get used to the eerie, eyeless gaze of the gas mask.
Willen's sigh was loud enough for Bennet to hear without the comms. "Look."
He followed where Willen's finger was pointing and felt his stomach drop. There, just barely visible through the grime and smog and soot caking the glass dome but still entirely too real, was a long, thin crack.
Bennet blinked and rubbed the goggles of his mask, knowing it was a foolish attempt to erase what was there. But the longer he stared at it, the more the sinking knowledge of what that one measly crack meant weighed on him.
"If there's a crack here," Willen started, reading his mind.
"Then there could be one everywhere," Bennet finished quietly.
The wind howled around them as they both stared at the crack in silence before Willen rose to his feet.
"Right, then. Guess I should go ahead and alert the others."
"Yeah," Bennet said absently before processing what Willen had said. "Wait, what? No, no, no, don't do that!"
Willen cocked his head in confusion as Bennet scrambled to his feet. "What are you on about? I have to tell them."
"No I know, I know, I know, it's-it's just..." He forced himself to breathe before continuing in a much more calm voice. "Let's not tell them just this second. We can keep it to ourselves and then mention it at the meeting with Tye tonight. But at the current moment, there's nothing we can do, so let's pretend we didn't see it, and don't cause unnecessary panic for the others. Alright?"
He wished he could see Willen's face as his friend quietly stared at him for a long, tense moment. Just when he was about to ask Willen if he had heard him, the gas mask moved in a very small, brief nod.
"Great, perfect." Bennet felt his stomach sink lower as the guilt at having manipulated his friend joined his general unease about his daily life. "It's for the best, trust me."
"I do trust you, or I wouldn't have agreed," Willen stated flatly.
"Ha! Yeah," Bennet forced a laugh that probably did nothing but add to Willen's suspicion. "That's... that's such a good point, Willen. Now, if you're good, I'm just going to take my break really quick. Be right back."
He could feel Willen's eyes burning in his back as he struggled to keep a neutral, steady pace for as long as he was in sight. The moment he knew he was too far away for Willen to spot him, Bennet broke into a sprint and ran as fast as he could to the elevator, a string of swears pouring from his mouth in an angry whisper.
Just when he thought it would be a normal day, now he had to tell Tye that another crack had been found.