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  Table of contents Issue Seventeen AREA 1

Conclusion of the Serial Novella




bbey’s worst fear had come true. She and Heston were face to face with the hooded Regulator, who was holding a gun pointed right at Heston. Abbey quickly glanced back, only to notice that both Zeke and Freddy were gone.

Heston opened his mouth to speak, but as he was about to form words, there was a great thud and the Regulator swayed and toppled in front of them. Zeke was behind him, holding a large stick.

“Sorry mate, but we couldn’t tell ye without causin’ a scene. Me ‘n Freddy noticed a few moments ago there was a Regulator at the front - we figured our chances would be a wee bit better if we snuck in behind ‘im.”

Heston, who was sweating profusely, allowed his body to relax.

“Thank you so much - I guess y’all be the new tracker now huh?”

“Ack - don’t feel bad, mate - they’re nearly impossible to notice with these bloody stupid hoods on.”

Zeke bent down and yanked the hood off of the unconscious man. His face was on the ground, but Abbey could see he was young. He had auburn hair, which was now caked in wet blood. She determined he was probably a year or two older than her. Zeke used his foot to roll him onto his back. He took the gun that fell out of his hands, pointed it at the Regulator’s head and fired. His skull exploded onto Heston, who grimaced at the carnage now on his torn robe.

Suddenly, Freddy’s head popped up from the roof above them.

“Oh thank God - is everyone okay?”

“We are now mate,” Zeke snarled, spitting on the Regulator’s corpse.

“Goddamit Zeke - why the hell did you shoot that off? There’s ten more that way." Freddy pointed north.

“How in the hell did you get up there?” Heston asked.

“Took Abbey’s advice - climbed that tree over there when we noticed the Regulators, and made a very ballsy jump onto the roof.” Freddy smiled down at Abbey. “I hope that gun has a lot of ammo in it - because we are going to have company in about thirty seconds.”

Like clockwork, an alarm started to sound.

“Aw shit," Heston said.

Abbey felt around in her pocket for her knife, and felt something else while she was in there, the quarter from so many years ago.

There was the sound of footsteps approaching, and another Regulator became visible, gun drawn. Freddy, a look of stone determination of his face, jumped off the roof, landing squarely on the Regulator. He took advantage of the Regulator’s confusion and yanked his gun from his hands, shooting him in the shoulder. It struck Abbey to hear cries of pain from this hooded monster, as he flailed around on the ground like a helpless child.

“Come on!!”

Freddy started to run towards the nearest house, and the other three followed. Abbey could hear more Regulators coming, and her panic was starting to make her chest hurt. Freddy flung open the door and hurried the others inside. He slammed it shut and wedged a chair under the knob.

“All right. There’s nine more out there. We’ve got two guns.”

“And a knife," Abbey said.

“Right - okay, anything in here we can use?”

As they searched the room, Abbey could hear the Regulators getting closer.

“SHIT!!” Heston pulled out a drawer and a fork dropped out.

“Well that ain’t gonna work.”

“TAKE IT!” Zeke screamed. “Ye’ll get a gun from the next dead bastard!”

Shots rang out, and bullets shattered the window right next to Heston. He reached over to Abbey and shoved her to the floor. Zeke crept next to the window and started firing.

Somebody was kicking the door, and it was about to give way. Abbey was crouched next to it with Heston’s hand still on her shoulder, keeping her out of the flying bullets’ path.

BANG BANG BANG The door came down.

Abbey was right next to the Regulator’s leg. He stood with his gun ready. As he was about to squeeze the trigger, she pulled out her knife and jammed it into his calf through his robe. He didn’t make a sound, and as though he didn’t even notice that he was stabbed, kicked Abbey in the face. Heston saw and used his momentary lapse in focus to punch the Regulator in the throat. This knocked the Regulator back, causing him to drop his gun. Abbey quickly picked it up and handed it to Heston. He shot him, and then bent down, tearing off his robe.

“They always keep more than one weapon on them. We gotta get you somethin’ more than a knife.”

Shots were still ringing out, and another Regulator was already standing in the place of the one that Heston just killed. This one was bigger, and didn’t look like he would go down so easily. Abbey watched in horror as he fired his gun at Freddy. The bullet hit his shoulder, which made him drop his gun.

“Arrrghh.” Freddy dropped to the floor. Zeke saw and shot the Regulator dead.

Heston finally found another gun on the Regulator and threw it to Abbey. “I’ll show you how to use it later," he said, looking at Freddy writhing in pain on the floor.

Heston joined Zeke at the window.

“Bout four more I see out there mate - comin’ fast…get ready.”

Zeke fired four quick shots and Abbey heard three quick thuds. She crawled over to Freddy, who was sitting himself up.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Yeah, it’s not a big deal - he grazed me. Just a bit shocking is all.”

He stood up, gun ready, but it was totally quiet.

“Is it over?”

Zeke peeked around outside.

“Reckon that’s the lot of them mate.”

Abbey noticed the alarm was no longer sounding. She looked around the room, and at the two dead bodies lying in the entrance way. She looked down at the gun Heston handed her and wondered if she would ever be able to shoot a man the way her companions had. She hoped that she wouldn’t have to.

The three men were now standing at the window, looking out. After a few minutes, the men all started to laugh.

“Haven’t shot that way since we were training with them bloody lunatics," Zeke said.

“How’s your shoulder?” Heston asked Freddy.

“It’s nothing, please - the torture we went through training with them? This is cake.”

“I can’t believe the three of us could take down the eleven of them so easily. They ain’t training them like they used to.”

“Right - but remember, this is just the training ground. These were kids, they probably haven’t been here long.” Heston looked down, obviously remorseful.

“Aw mate - don’t feel that way - they were set to kill us as soon as look at us.” Zeke looked over at the bodies, “Me uncle was a priest, ya know.” He walked over and knelt down beside the two men. He made the sign of the Cross and started to speak very quickly and softly.

“What’s going on?” Abbey whispered to Heston.

“I think he’s giving them their last rights. Huh - I guess there is a heart of gold in there - or a pot of gold.” Heston laughed.

Zeke got up from beside the two men, standing in front of the window.

“I’m not a bleedin’ leprechaun you twit - and that’s Ireland, not Scotland you - ”


Outside the window stood the eleventh Regulator, gun drawn. Heston quickly grabbed his gun and shot the assailant in the neck; he crumbled to the ground outside the house wordlessly.

Zeke, mouth open, looked down at his chest. Abbey saw the blood pouring out of the bullet wound and started to cry. Tears fell silently onto the ground as Zeke’s mouth started to fill with blood. He coughed and sputtered, and dropped to his knees. Freddy quickly dropped to his knees as well, catching Zeke’s head before it hit the floor. He laid his friend’s head on his lap, Heston dropping to the other side.

“It - it’s white," Zeke sputtered. He was convulsing now, but his hand was in the air.

“Shh - shh buddy it’s okay.”

Abbey got up and sat next to Freddy. Without thinking, she took Zeke’s other hand in hers. He squeezed it.

Zeke was shaking, but his eyes never looked more alert.

“I can see it - it’s beau - beautiful. It’s my Annabelle. I’m comin’ my darlin’ Annabelle.”

Abbey looked over at Freddy, whose tears were falling onto Zeke.

“Goodbye me brothers - ‘twas a p - pleasure servin’ with ye. Take care of this one - or other way round.” He squeezed Abbey’s hand. “If ye’ll be excusin’ me, I’ve got to get to me wife.”

He shook one more time, and was gone; reunited with his Annabelle.


The remaining three sat in silence for what seemed like hours. Abbey’s tears fell onto Zeke’s hand, which she was still holding.

“We need to do something," Abbey said.

“Like what?” Heston asked dully.

“We need to give him a proper burial. He deserves that.”

Freddy looked up at Abbey. “I like that idea. Let’s go to where the hill meets the forest.”

Heston nodded, and put his head in his hands. “I can’t believe he’s gone.”


Abbey stood with Heston and Freddy over the hole they’d dug with their own hands. Inside was their fallen friend, wrapped in sheets they’d found on beds in the house. Their heads were all down, and their hands crossed.

“Say a few words?” Freddy asked nobody in particular.

“It’s my fault," Heston said. “If I’d have noticed there were Regulators in there, we wouldn’t have gone in…”

“Shut up - it’s no one’s fault but theirs. You didn’t kill him, they did. Don’t worry buddy,” Freddy spoke into the grave. “We’ll get them for you.”

Abbey looked into the grave, she had been silently praying the whole time. She dug into her pocket and fished out the quarter. Bending down, she gently placed it on top of Zeke.


After the burial, the three walked back through the training Field. They walked in silence, everybody drowning in their own thoughts. Heston was carrying two guns, slung over each of his shoulders, Freddy was holding his ready by his side, and Abbey was still trying to figure hers out.

Heston perked up for a moment when they reached the end of the Field.

“Oh darlin’ I gotta teach you how to shoot that thing.”

He strode over to her and put his arms around hers, with the gun in both their hands.

“All right - now you see that tree over there?”


“Okay, so you take your thumb like this…” he put his thumb over hers and drew back the tiny lever on the top of the gun. “And you put your finger like this…” He placed her finger on the trigger. “And squeeze!”

She did, and a shot rang out as the bullet fired into the tree. Abbey was blown back a little from the force, but she felt exhilarated. Her arms were shaking.

“There ya go darlin’, easy as pie.”

He held her in his arms a bit to steady her from the shot, and then let her go.

“So now we’re all killing machines. Good," Freddy said.

“Ha - nothin’ compared to what we gonna be up against. Area 1 is gonna be crawlin’ with Regulators.”

“Yeah I know - so these will come in handy.”

Freddy pulled four packages from the back of his robe and tossed them on the ground.

“Oh - I guess we only need three.”

“What the hell?” Heston bent down and picked up one of the packages.

“Yeah - I swiped them from the house before we left. There was a whole closet full of them.”

Heston ripped open one of the packages, and unfolded a long black robe. A Regulator’s robe.

“Didn’t think I’d ever wear one of these again.”

“Yeah, well…me neither.” Freddy looked disgusted at the prospect.

“I know we ain’t far from Area 1…when you reckon we gotta put these on?”

“Sooner the better. Abbey - these are kinda big, but I bet we can do something to make yours a better fit - you have your knife?”

Abbey was staring at the robe in Heston’s hand. Her stomach was twisted in knots and she felt a hot rage. There was no way she was going to wear a garment worn by the monsters who took the lives of two people she cared about.

“I’m not wearing that.”

“Oh honey, I know - they look better on dead Regulators - but we got to - they’ll buy us the time we need, and may even help us get into Area 1.”

Abbey stayed resolute. She crossed her arms and slowly shook her head.

“Abbey, please be reasonable. We need to gain access in order to do what needs to be done," Freddy pleaded.

“And what exactly needs to be done?” Abbey spun around in her spot. “I want to know, once and for all - what are we going to do when we get there?”

She was staring at Freddy, her brows furrowed and a determined expression on her face.

The two men looked at her, mouths open. Heston spoke first.

“Truthfully darlin’, we have no idea. We know that we want to get to the machine - DD - 126, we want to destroy it. That’s the thing that gives the orders, and we know if we get rid of that, then there may be hope for what’s left of this place. Then, well, I don’t know - I guess burn the place to the ground.”

Heston looked down sheepishly.

“I really have no idea what we’re up against, darlin’.”

Heston met Abbey’s eyes. “Please put on the robe - it’s the only way I’ll feel safe. I’m not gonna let anyone else get killed.”

Abbey looked at the package on the ground.


Freddy took up his package and opened it. “We can probably travel a little further before we have to put these on. How far do you think?”

Heston shielded his eyes and looked to the east.

“Two more miles tops.”


“More squirrel m’lady?”

Heston offered up more meat to Abbey, who held up her hand in refusal. The three had stopped a mile away from their destination to eat.

“I can’t believe we are eating this.” Freddy put down his share of their lunch.

“We ate nothin’ but government issued brain rotting slop for years - this bothers you?”

“Actually yes. I don’t like my food looking at me when I’m eating it.”

“I killed it, I carved it - you said you didn’t care what part you got," Heston said, wiping blood off the corner of his mouth.

“Sorry - the fact that it’s raw is what bothers me.” Freddy looked at his meal in disgust.

“Well, sorry doc - but we had to eat somethin’.”

Abbey could only stomach about half of her portion. Her nerves were getting in the way of any hunger she might have felt.

Heston finished up his portion and let out a loud belch.

“Okay y’all, feast is over - robes on. We’re so close I can smell those goddam monsters.”


The next mile walk was torture for Abbey. Her head hurt and her stomach was upset from the unfamiliar meat. Her robe was much too big, and despite cutting the bottom part off, it was still dragging behind her and weighing her down.

Heston was a foot in front of Abbey and Freddy, and nobody spoke. Truthfully, they were all terrified, Abbey could feel it. Heston was breathing loudly through his hood, and Freddy was hanging his head as though in silent prayer.

Finally, Heston stopped walking. He held up his hand to stop the others in their tracks.

“We’re here," he whispered.

They had stopped on a road that looked completely abandoned. There were no footprints or signs of life anywhere. Ahead of them stood a great white building, it was large and majestic with huge pillars in front. Abbey marveled through her hood at the size of this place, it was like nothing she had ever seen before. It was at least twenty times the size of the houses in Field G.

“How do we get in?” she asked.

Heston took his hood down and looked at Abbey with worried eyes. He sucked his breath in and looked from her to the building and back again.

“Abbey, uhm - I think only Freddy and I should go.”

Abbey yanked down her own hood in anger. “Are you serious? You can’t leave me out here!”

Heston put his hands on her shoulders. “Darlin’ - it’s for your own safety. If you stay here - there’s…there’s a better chance you’ll survive.”

Abbey crossed her arms and fixed Heston with a cold, determined glare. “No.”

“Abbey! This is no time to be actin’ like a child. If the three of us go in there - someone’s gonna notice that one of us looks different - you’d be the shortest Regulator ever and they - ”

Heston’s words caught in his throat but he continued.

“They would kill you in a second. I’m sorry darlin’ - I don’t think I could handle seein’ that. I just know that you’ll be safer out here. There ain’t nobody patrolling this far away from Area 1. It’s dark and you can hide, at least until dawn.”

Freddy, who had been silent the whole time looked up.

“Both of you should stay.”

Heston and Abbey both looked at Freddy. “What the hell are you talkin’ about Fred?” Heston asked.

“You both should stay. Listen - we don’t know what’s in there. For all we know, as soon as we get within a foot of the place, we could all be shot. I might as well go on ahead - at least just see if I can get in. Let’s be honest, Heston - of the two of us, I think I have the least reason to stay.”

At this, Freddy nodded his head toward Abbey.

Heston opened his mouth the respond but Freddy held up his hand.

“Don’t argue with me, brother. I’m going in, and you and Abbey are going to stay out here. Just promise me you’ll stay - at least for a little while. Just - just let me see if it’s safe.”

Freddy waited patiently for their answer.

“Okay,” Heston said. “Okay we’ll stay. But if we hear anything that sounds like you’re in trouble…”

Freddy held up his hand again. “Stop - uh, listen…if this - if this is the last time we all see each other, well - I’ve gotta say, it’s been an honor to serve with both of you.”

With that, Freddy straightened his back, and slung his gun around to his front, holding it the way a Regulator would. Without looking back, he strode toward the lawn of the white house. If he was nervous, he didn’t look it. It frightened Abbey how much her friend looked like the Regulators that she had seen in the past.

Abbey nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw the door to the huge building open and two Regulators marching out. She watched as they passed by Freddy with absolutely no incident. She and Heston both breathed audible sighs of relief as they watched Freddy open the door and walk in.


“He’s crazy," Heston said after a few minutes.

Abbey couldn’t respond. She was preoccupied, listening for gunshots. Heston knelt down and tugged on Abbey’s sleeve for her to follow. “I think we should sit back to back,” he said. “That way we have eyes everywhere.”

Abbey silently obeyed. She was actually surprised that there weren’t more Regulators patrolling the grounds. She reasoned that there must not be too many break-ins. She heard Heston position his gun outward and she did the same.

“Is the machine really in there?” she asked Heston.

Abbey felt Heston’s head nod behind hers. “It is, Darlin’. It is, and it’s protected at all times. That was one of the first things they had you do in training. Ten hours at a time, and in shifts, we had to protect the machine or be killed.”

Abbey thought for a moment. “But I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t everyone just turn on it? I mean, just destroy it? Then, we could all live like my grandma did - be happy.”

Abbey felt Heston cock his head to the side in thought.

“Well darlin’ - it’s a funny thing. You see, there ain’t no damn way any of the Regulators would let that machine be destroyed. Serving it is the only reality they know - it was and still is their life’s work. Oh sure - you get some folks who are still a little bit human. Those are few and far between, trust me. But the Regulators, well, they know that the stupid machine is their protector. It keeps them in power…really, they’re just machines themselves. They operate like computers, most of ‘em ain’t got no feeling or human reason. DD - 126 is just there to tell ‘em what to do next.”

“And what would destroying the computer do?” Abbey asked.

“Well - me and the boys, we always thought that if the computer wasn’t there anymore to dish out new orders and laws, them Regulators would just go insane. They wouldn’t have the power anymore to tell anyone anything. The power would be cut off - no information, no alerts, and no lists of new recruits for Regulators would be generated. I guess we just thought that if we could get rid of that machine, the Regulators would follow. They depend on DD - 126 to tell ‘em when to take a sh - …uh - when to go to the bathroom, if you know what I mean.”

Abbey mulled over what Heston said. She couldn’t help but think back to the dead Regulator during their fight who was just a young man.

“So they just follow orders…that’s their whole life?” she asked.

“Yeah - well that, and being power - drunk lunatics," Heston responded. “They ain’t human, I’m telling you…Dammit I wish Freddy didn’t go in there by himself.”

As soon as Heston said that there was a rustling about three feet away. Abbey could hear twigs snapping and knew there was a person walking. Her heart felt like a hot fireball beating against her chest. She didn’t think - she just fired her gun in the direction of the noise.

BANG! The force of her weapon threw her back and she tumbled over Heston, who jumped up and grabbed Abbey, placing her behind him.

The walking had ceased, and Abbey heard a body drop on the grass.

Heston walked slowly over to where Abbey had just shot. He stopped in front of a body - a Regulator’s body. Heston kicked the Regulator over and pulled off its hood. Abbey’s shot had taken off half of the man’s head, and when Heston pulled off the hood, bits of scalp and brain came with it.

Heston studied the man’s face for a moment and breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s not Freddy - whew darlin’ what a shot.” Heston looked around and cocked his head, listening. “This one was traveling solo - we better get a move on though. Who knows when another one’ll come along.”

Abbey looked at the dead man in front of her. His eyes were opened in permanent shock, and she noticed that they were very familiar. They were steel - grey and terrifying. She knew that this was the Regulator who came to her house only days ago to test her nutrition level.

“That Regulator is from Field G," she said, surveying the body.

Heston looked at her, confused. “How do you know?” He asked.

“I recognize him - I recognize his eyes.” Abbey stopped when she noticed something else. “What’s that in his hand?”

She pointed to the Regulator’s left fist, which was clenched around a piece of paper. Heston bent down and worked on unclenching the paper from the Regulator’s grasp.

“Damn it,” he muttered. “Let it go, man - you’re not goin’ to need it anymore.”

He finally freed the paper and unrolled it. “It’s too dark to read," he said. He looked up at the night sky. The moon was beginning to peek out from behind a cloud. Heston moved to where the night’s light was beginning to shine.

Abbey stood next to Heston as the words on the paper became clearer:





Heston and Abbey read the paper together at least six times. Abbey’s eyes kept going over the line “do not terminate.” She had never felt less like a human.

She started to shiver - not because it was cold outside, but because she was genuinely frightened. She wondered if the Regulator had been standing near them the whole time - if he heard them talking. She felt hopeless now. A thousand angry thoughts poured into her mind - why did her grandmother make her promise to escape? Why did she send her into certain death? Abbey had never felt anger towards her grandmother before, or anyone but she couldn’t help the feelings she had. Why was she even bothering fighting a battle she knew she would lose? Why not just give up now…before the Regulators got the chance to torture her? Hot, desperate tears began to make their way down Abbey’s face. She felt so tired.

Heston put his arm around Abbey and held her close. He kissed the top of her head and leaned her into his shoulder. Another feeling was creeping into Abbey’s head. As she cried silently onto Heston’s shoulder, and felt his hand stroking her back, she felt love. This was different from the love she felt for her grandmother - this was the kind of love she had only heard about from the way her grandmother would talk about her husband. This feeling was unlike anything she had ever experienced. It pushed her angry thoughts of giving up from her mind and replaced them with a plan.

She looked up from Heston’s shoulder and noticed that tears were forming in his eyes as well. “I know what we can do to get inside without being noticed,” she said.

Heston closed his eyes. “All right.” He looked as though he had given up hope as well.

“Bring me inside with this paper. They will just think you captured me - they don’t want to kill me, just question me. So we can at least get inside, and maybe near the computer enough to do something before we’re figured out. Plus - Freddy won’t be by himself.”

Heston shook his head. “I can’t bring you in there, Abbey…”

Abbey broke away from him angrily. “Then what do you want to do, Heston? Stay out here and wait to be killed? We need to get in there now. Do you have any other ideas of how to survive? Because the truth is, we’re probably going to die tonight anyway so we might as well die fighting instead of getting killed out here doing nothing!”

Heston looked shocked, and to Abbey’s annoyance, a little amused. “All right darlin’, all right. We’ll do it. I’m sorry…my first instinct is to protect you, and it breaks my heart that I’m basically gonna be turnin’ you in okay?”

Abbey nodded. “I know, but this is the only way.”


Heston walked Abbey as a captor would walk a prisoner to be hanged. He had one hand wrapped around her arm and his hood was on, making him look no different than any other Regulator. In his other hand, he held the slip of paper that would be their ticket into the building.

Abbey felt remarkably calm now. For some reason, saying that she knew they were probably going to die made her feel lighter, as though all pressure had been removed. As they got closer to the great doors she bowed her head, praying for strength. Heston remained silent, but his grip on her arm tightened as they finally stood in front of the doors.

Without a word, he swung open the doors and led Abbey inside. Abbey immediately noticed the darkness of the hallway in front of them. There were lights, but they had been dimmed to almost nothing but a faint glow. She was also surprised to see that no Regulators occupied the front hall. She could tell Heston was confused as well, as he clumsily turned her down a connecting hallway that was just as dark. This hallway, however had voices coming from it.

Heston sucked in his breath sharply as two Regulators appeared at the end of the hall with their guns drawn.

“Is this the girl?” one of the Regulators asked, pointing his gun at Abbey.

Heston nodded. “Y - yes,” he said weakly.

“Follow us.” The Regulator who had spoken turned on his heel and led Heston and Abbey toward a room with large double doors. The Regulator opened the doors and Heston led Abbey inside.

The room was dark, just like the rest of the building, but there was a desk with a lamp on it towards the back, in front of large windows that were covered up with tattered pieces of cloth.

“Ah, good of you to join us, #333479,” came a voice from the desk. Abbey and Heston both jumped. The owner of the voice leaned forward and with the light, Abbey could see it was a Regulator. His eyes weren’t covered, only his nose and mouth. He stared at Abbey and Heston for a moment before waving to two seats in front of him.

“Sit down, you two must be tired.”

Abbey and Heston followed the Regulators instructions, and sat down in front of the desk.

“I believe you know your partner.” The Regulator motioned to the other side of the desk, where Freddy was seated. Once again Abbey jumped. She hadn’t even noticed him sitting right beside her. She was too busy trying to figure out why the Regulator was talking to her in this strange, familiar way - an almost pleasant way, as if he were inviting them all over for tea.

The Regulator sighed, and removed the fabric from his face. In the weak light, Abbey could see that he was an older man, with lines under his eyes, and a sagging neck. He looked tired, and a little desperate.

Abbey sat stiffly and realized she hadn’t exhaled in what felt like years. She noticed Heston wasn’t making a sound either, and Freddy looked like all the color had drained from his face, contrasting sharply with his black robe.

“You may take your hood off, #3 - I know it can’t be comfortable.” the Regulator said to Heston. Heston obliged, pulling his hood off and tossing it on the desk in front of him. He was flushed and sweating, and Abbey noticed his left boot tapping nervously next to her.

The Regulator ran his hand over his thinning white hair and leaned back in his chair.

“So, according to our reports, you three have done quite a lot these past few days. You’ve managed to escape the inescapable, avoid capture, and even picked off a few Regulators. The only expense being, of course - the death of one of your party.”

The Regulator paused, looking at each of the three faces sitting in front of him.

“Now you,” he said, pointing at Abbey, “I find quite fascinating. Your grandmother was executed for educating you without a permit, to which you responded with escape. Quite interesting…I assume she was telling you all about the past, before the birth of DD - 126, and how free everybody was. Am I correct?”

Abbey nodded slowly.

“Yes - I am also going to assume that she left out a crucial detail of her history lesson. I am guessing she didn’t tell you who the young scientist was that invented and perfected DD - 126?”

Abbey narrowed her eyes at the old man in front of her. She shook her head.

“Well, #333479, the inventor of the machine was none other than your grandfather. You see, before he became a minister, well - he was quite a technological prodigy. He is known as the father of DD - 126.”

Abbey shot up in her seat. “NO! You’re lying!” she screamed at the old man.

Heston grabbed Abbey and pulled her back down into her seat. Her outburst didn’t seem to faze the old man, who just continued with his story.

“So after your grandmother told you there was a path that could lead to freedom, you broke out of your sector - well done, by the way - and freed these gentlemen,” he motioned to Heston and Freddy, “and one more, who was killed in a mock training field.” He paused. “My condolences.”

Once more he looked at his audience, as though expecting to hear questions.

“And the three of you made your journey here, to Area 1. Do I have it all correct?”

Heston was getting visibly irritated, “Look, if you’re gonna kill us - just get on with it,” he spat out at the old Regulator.

The Regulator tilted his head back and chuckled softly. “No, no - nobody is going to kill you. You can relax, #3. You see, the true irony - or perhaps tragedy - of the whole thing is that you are probably safest right here in Area 1. Nobody is out to execute you here.” The old Regulator got up with some effort from his chair and stood at the window. He pulled down the cloth that was obscuring it and Abbey noticed it was a very faded rectangle with stripes on it, and a blue square with stars - the American flag.

“What is going on? Where is the computer?” Freddy asked. It had been so long since he spoke that his words cracked in his throat.

The old Regulator looked at Freddy from the window and chuckled again. “The computer, DD - 126, is over there.” The Regulator pointed to an old, dusty screen sitting atop a large silver box on the small table next to the desk. Abbey turned to look at it, and noticed there was a huge crack in the body of the machine.

“Your grandfather’s masterpiece, my dear.” The Regulator said to Abbey. “And it hasn’t worked in years.”


“What the hell are you talking about?!” Heston jumped up, pounding on the desk. “What in the hell do you mean this machine doesn’t work? How has life been this way for so long if the damn reason it was this way in the first place is fucking broken?”

Heston pointed his gun at the old Regulator, “Tell us the goddamn truth! NOW!”

The Regulator looked at the gun pointed at him. Abbey was surprised to see that his eyes didn’t flinch at all but in fact looked almost longingly at the weapon positioned an inch from his forehead.

“I wish you would shoot, son I really do. I’ve always been too much of a coward to do it myself,” the Regulator said, sinking back into his chair and sighing. He had completely abandoned the sense of authority he’d had before, looking pleadingly at Heston as he lowered the gun to his side.

“So, you’re not going to do it? You want to hear the whole truth? Well, the truth is, I came here about twenty years ago the same way you all did. I escaped - I dug out my chip and came here with the intent of destroying DD - 126. I infiltrated the Regulators here - I learned all there was to know about the miserable existence and how it came to be. One day, when there was little security guarding the computer - I destroyed it. It hasn’t given an order in over twenty years, but did that change anything? Did I liberate anybody? No. It did nothing.”

The Regulator put his head in his hands and rubbed his eyes.

“Actually, it did do something. Destroying the computer made everything that much worse. When the other Regulators found the computer mangled and non - operational, they rejoiced…now they could make the laws. Our country in the hands of madmen - that is what I accomplished. There was no more order, but the Regulators knew that they could retain control if they kept up the illusion that there was a great force behind their actions; a rational machine making the decisions that were ‘best for humankind’. I unleashed that evil into an already drowning world. So I stayed here…there isn’t much activity here anymore, as you can tell. Sometimes Regulators roam around, but it’s not often, and not for long - like today. All the Regulators are out there making the world their own. I’ve been here so long, all the young ones think I have some sort of power, but I don’t. I’m a coward - I’m an old man and a coward.”

He looked at Abbey. “Your grandfather invented the computer with the intent of serving man, #333479. He knew that it had gotten out of hand when the Regulators were employed in the first place and he left the scientific world to preach. I destroyed the one thing he made that kept the Regulators somewhat in check, and they, in turn, murdered him. I am truly sorry for that.”

Abbey stared at her hands. The hopelessness she felt before paled in pathetic comparison to the hopelessness she felt now. She had set out to complete a fool’s errand.

“But,” Freddy interjected. “Don’t the Regulators know how much better off they would be if the world was like it was before? If they stopped?”

The old man looked up toward the ceiling before responding.

“Have you ever heard the phrase that it is better to be feared than loved?” he asked the heavens.

“Machiavelli," Freddy responded.

“Yes. Well - these Regulators know that if they put down their weapons, they would be the hunted. They train these young boys now to be murderers - young boys who don’t know any better and shouldn’t be doing such work. They have generations all planned to carry out their ways. It will never end - they are feared, and they themselves fear for their lives.”

Abbey glanced up from her hands to ask the question she had been trying to avoid.

“So it’s useless?” she whispered. “Everything - it’s just…useless?”

The old man looked sympathetically at Abbey. “Fear has taken over the world in human form, #333479. And it is strong and resistant. Perhaps one day there will be an uprising, but I wouldn’t count on seeing it in any of our lifetimes.”

The old man once more rose from his chair. “I just wonder where it all went wrong?” he asked no one.

With that, the man opened his desk drawer and withdrew a very old handgun. Heston immediately held his up, but found there was no need as the man put the gun to his own temple.

“I won’t be afraid anymore.” he said, pulling the trigger.

Heston tried to shield Abbey from seeing the man’s death, but it was too late. She watched as the side of his head exploded and he dropped to the ground.

Abbey, Heston, and Freddy sat in their chairs and watched as the puddle of dark blood became larger around the old man. Abbey listened to hear if any Regulators would come in to examine to noise, but the room and hall remained silent. Nobody spoke for what felt like hours, there was no reason.

Abbey lifted herself up from her chair when the blood started to creep towards her. She went to the window where the old man had removed the American flag and picked it up from the ground. Heston and Freddy watched as she draped the flag over the dead body.

She went over to the window to look out at the landscape of the tattered country. Heston and Freddy quietly joined her, and the three of them looked on at the nothingness before them.




Kathleen Wolak is a writer living in Hamden, CT. She is the author of The Tasteless, a young adult novel, and co-founder of the entertainment blog Tasteless Entertainment. When she isn't writing or blogging, she is hosting her weekly advice show on HerTube.TV, or marathoning The Simpsons on DVD. Part 1 of Kathleen's serialized novella Area 1 appears in the Winter 2015 issue of HelloHorror. Part 2 appears in the Spring 2015 issue. Part 3 appears in the Summer 2015 issue. And Part 4 appears in the Halloween 2015 issue.

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