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Character Development Challenge

Wren Ridere, Age 12

Prompt: Is there one event or happening that your character would like to erase from their past? Why?

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Accidents were normal, expected in the duration of a person’s life. But Wren couldn’t claim that her life had ever been normal. Normal twelve year olds were worried about starting puberty and grades but she was worried about staying alive and completing her objectives. Accidents weren’t tolerated, ever.

But no one had ever told the universe that.

Wren’s hand shook as she pressed the cloth harder against Anna’s leg. They were taking turns practicing land navigation while Anna charted their course on her own map. She still had another girl to go before it was her turn to correct their course. One wrong turn had sent them much closer to weapons testing than they were supposed to be.

If only she had spoken up earlier instead of waiting her turn then they wouldn’t have gotten so far off course. Anna had realized where they were moments too late and was caught in the blast when their current navigator stepped on one of the leftover land mines.

That boy was dead, blown to literal bits, and the girl next to navigate was gone too. Her neck was twisted at angles that Wren didn’t believe a neck could twist. Everyone had minor injuries but there were a few more in critical condition. One of them being their supervisor for the excursion; Anna’s lower arm was completely gone but it was the fracture in her thigh that Wren was most worried about. Her own injuries were incredibly mild in comparison.

While their medic in training did what he could to stabilize all of those in critical while they waited for help, she was stuck trying to stop the bleeding. With an arm gone and a serious compound fracture, Anna was in danger of bleeding out long before their runner managed to get real medical help out.

“I can’t get it to stop,” she muttered in a panic as she tossed aside the dripping piece of cloth and desperately searched for something else to staunch the bleed. There wasn’t anything within reach and the medic was low on supplies so she ripped her t-shirt off without a second thought. Her fingers were slippery with all of the blood but kept pressing the shirt into the wound.

“I think the artery is severed.” Anna’s voice barely rose above a whisper but her chest heaved in a sort of half laugh. Her eyes watered as she realized that Anna was probably right. There was just too much blood and no amount of pressure was really going to help without proper medical tools.

“Don’t you dare cry Wren, not over this,” Despite the weakness, Anna still managed to sound commanding and Wren choked back the sobs that threatened to bubble to the surface. One tear did escape and she wiped it away with the back of her hand, ignoring the sticky feeling of the blood that was left behind. “Atta girl. I knew you were my favorite for a reason.”

“But I can’t stop it Anna. You’re…you’re going…” she couldn’t bear to finish the sentence. She’d made kills already but this was different. Watching one of the few friends she had in this hell hole die and being completely hopeless in helping her was harder.

“Shhh, it’s okay. It doesn’t hurt.” If anyone other than Anna had said that, Wren would have brushed it off. In the current situation, it only caused more alarm. There was nothing she could do though, no matter how hard she pressed on the wound to stop its bleeding.

“Anna?” She called, glancing up at the girl’s face. There was no response and her panic broke free of its confines. In calling for Anna over and over again, she brought the medic back over and he checked her over again.

“She’s gone. You can let up the pressure.”

Every bone in her body screamed that it couldn’t be true. That it was just another cruel joke that this training camp was pulling on her. Even though she couldn’t believe it, her body moved without her permission; her hands drawing her bloodied shirt away from the wound and into her lap. Her pants were soaked with blood as well but it wasn’t as chilling as looking down at her hands and seeing the fresh blood drying.

Even her tank top was splattered with dirt and blood. She’d been behind some of the other kids when the blast went off so she only suffered scrapes and a couple minor burns. None of the shrapnel even made it to her.

But none of her injuries even hurt. She felt numb to everything that went on around her and the only thing piercing the veil of disbelief was the agony of her grief. Anna had been one of very few that treated her well, like she was a human being. The older girl had helped her out with so much and one stupid accident took her away.

It wasn’t a pain she wanted to feel again. As she sat there in shock, going so far as to ignore the arrival of the help that came too late, Wren decided that she couldn’t feel that way again. It hurt too much to care. She couldn’t do it. Caring was too dangerous when any one of the people around her could die at any moment.

Someone, probably one of the medics, draped a blanket around her shoulders and wiped the blood from her cheek but she barely even registered it. She was focused inward, precariously locking away the parts of her that cared about other people.

Anna’s last order had been not to cry and so she wouldn’t.

She wouldn’t shed a tear over any of these people ever again.

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