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Nothing Much Happens in Sommerville (Part Two)

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

(Happy Fiction Friday! Appropriately, this story is about to get a little more ~spooky~ on Friday the 13th. Hope y'all enjoy! Love y'all!)

Bennet Haynes purposefully made his way through the bustling town of Sommerville. The cheery summer sky above cast everything below it in a warm light that seemed to reassure anything it touched that everything would be alright. But a closer look at Bennet seemed to indicate that he was immune to the same happiness as the rest of Sommerville's inhabitants. Even as pleasant waves and bright 'good mornings' greeted him, his own returning smile felt far more forced than usual.

Thoughts of yesterday's "incident" at the Wall made Bennet's bullet-proofed vest weight heavy on his shoulders. He was glad Mallory's sensitive stomach made her less inclined to ask about his day.

Otherwise he'd have to start lying more than he already did.

Almost like clockwork, a middle-aged couple and their three children walked directly in front of him at exactly the same time as the day before. And the day before that. And the one before that...


Bennet lifted his hand in the same usual greeting and said, "Morning." A pause, before continuing with the question he already knew the answer to, "Where are you off to today?"

The married couple exchanged a loving glance as the three children raced ahead. "Just to the park," The husband said, like always.

"It's a lovely day to be outside," The wife said, like always.

"It is indeed," Bennet said (like always), cheeks almost hurting as he forced his smile to remain in place.

"Almost makes me envious of you Wall Watchers when the weather's so nice," The husband said with a laugh.

Today Bennet's answering laugh sounded so fake he almost winced. "We're always looking for new recruits." I'd sooner jump off the Wall than entrust it to you people.

The married couple laughed, like he knew they would, before they said goodbye and continued on their way. Their children--already out of sight-- would just be arriving at the park's edge, most likely eager to greet their friends. Maybe in the Before times, it would have been concerning to let such young children wander out of view but not now.

Not in Sommerville.

As he watched them leave, Bennet's smile finally faded into a contemplative frown. Nearly four years of this same song and dance and Bennet had never learned any of the family members' names. He was sure they had told him once, long, long ago, but he had forgotten since. No chance in asking now; that would be varying too far from the script.

Although changing things up for once might not be the worst thing in the world.

Sometimes he felt like he was walking through life on autopilot.

As Bennet walked through Sommerville, his mind wandered and mentally categorized all the things he needed to get done after his shift. He should probably go see his parents, it wasn't fair to let Mallory bear the brunt of their intrusive questions about the coming baby. And speaking of the baby, he should add stopping by the Health Station to his list.

Everyone in Sommerville, including Mallory, was as healthy as could be expected. His sister-in-law, Eleanor, was one of Sommerville's top medics which meant Mallory and their unborn child were getting top-rate care. It was statistically impossible for anything bad to happen to his family.

But it never hurt to be prepared.

Looking up, Bennet just nearly stopped himself from running into hard, grey stone. He was surprised at how quickly he had reached the entrance to the Wall. Although after years and years of the same routine, he supposed it made sense that the short walk from his house to his station flew by.

With a sharp inhale, Bennet walked inside.

He tuned out the automated voices that were unnecessarily repeating his name, rank, and where he would be stationed. As far as he was concerned, there wasn't a set station for him to go to anymore. The amount of Wall Watchers had dwindled to the point where Bennet and his few other coworkers were covering the entire Wall on their own.

He ducked into one of the changing rooms and prepared to get ready for the long shift ahead of him. The lights in the dank, dreary room flickered as he opened a locker that creaked loudly in the silent space. After pulling out his real uniform, he methodically stripped out of his vest and regular clothes before pulling on a hooded, long-sleeved, black suit that was reminiscent of a wetsuit from the Before times.

Over the suit went a grey, wool shirt and thick, water-resistant pants that were padded to provide extra protection and heat. Then Bennet had to once again strap on his bullet-proof vest before pulling on a thick, padded jacket. By the time he had secured his guns, he was sweating under all the clothing.

"Has to be done," He grumbled to himself as he left the changing room.

A brief stop in another room, and Bennet had grabbed a large, long-range gun and a gas mask before slipping inside an elevator and hitting the button to the top floor. He was bouncing on the balls of his feet as he rode the long way up in silence. The dim lighting of the elevator abruptly turned blood-red as a voice announced he was nearing the top floor.

Bennet closed his eyes and breathed in the clean, oxygenated air one last time before pulling the tight suit's hood over his head, followed by the tightly secured gas-mask. He slipped the gloves out of his coat pocket and shoved them on, before facing the elevator door's as they slowly opened.

Completely covered head-to-toe, not a single inch of skin was exposed as Bennet stepped onto the top of the Wall.

A sharp blast of frigid wind slammed into him and nearly took him off his feet. Bennet forced himself to take strong, deliberate steps until he reached the edge of the Wall. He breathed deeply, always relieved to find filtered air instead of the putrid, toxic gas surrounding him.

The distant rumble of thunder alerted him to an approaching storm, that would most likely hit at nightfall; thankfully long after the Wall Watcher's shifts. After the first and only time Wall Watchers were stationed outside during a storm, the new rule was to abandon your post and get to safety immediately.

Bennet scanned the dark, gloomy world around him, finding even this to be as predictable as always. Grey, thick clouds obscured what little remained of the sun; suffocating fumes visibly wafted through the air from the numerous, bright green toxic puddles dotting the earth. Shadowy, decrepit shapes lurched through the remains of what was once a massive city.

As one of the shapes began to slowly inch closer to the Wall, Bennet cocked his gun. He had plenty of time before he actually needed to put it down, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Glancing behind him, he could see the thick, dust-covered outline of the dome surrounding Sommerville. The residents below had no idea how lucky they were, with their artificial sunshine and summer and those stupid, misleading messages of how safe they all were.

No one was safe, not really.

The meeting yesterday had been the opposite of reassuring in regard to safety concerns. But that was Tye's burden to bear, not his. So as long as their 'leader' continued to lie to the people of Sommerville about how perfect life was, then Bennet would continue pretending until ordered otherwise.

"Got one on your right," A crisply accented voice calmly said in his left earpiece.

Bennet looked down to see the shadowy shape had gotten closer to the Wall. "I see it, Willen."

A loud, echoing bang reverberated around them as a bullet left Bennet's gun and fatally struck the creature. It fell to the ground without a sound and didn't move again. He sighed and lowered his gun as the same, familiar hollow ache rose inside him.

Inside Sommerville, he could just manage to bear it. Sometimes his acting was so good that he even convinced himself that nothing was wrong. But out here-- out on the Wall and right in the thick of it-- Bennet couldn't lie to himself any longer.

There was nothing out there to hope for.

Nothing out there that was coming to save them.

Sommerville was the 'safest place on Earth' because it was the only place left.

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