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The City on The Lake
When I was ten, I asked my mom why she and dad decided that I should be home schooled. “Mom, why did you and dad decide to home school me?”
“Because you’re smarter than the other kids your age, and if you were in normal school, it would hold you back.” She responded. “Now, what’s the square root of one hundred forty four?”
“Twelve.” I answered. “But mom, I have no friends. All the people on the TV have friends.”
“Well aren’t your father and I your friends?” She asked. “Do we mean nothing to you, after we raised you, took care of you, fed you, taught you to swim, taught you math-” This went on for a while, as she randomly listed things that she and dad had done for me. I only had the answer for a few.
“Mom, of course I love you and dad,” I answered, “But I want friends my own age, people who I can relate to. Also, we live on a houseboat, I would have figured out swimming eventually, I could fish for food, and use boiled lake water to clean my clothes and drink.”
“Yes, but you wouldn’t live on a houseboat, or even be alive if it wasn’t for your father and I, now go to bed.” She answered.
“But mom, it’s only seven!” I said.
“Well Felix, you’re only ten, and your mother has told you to, now go to bed.” I reluctantly agreed to go, even though I wasn’t tired.
That night, I stayed awake, looking out my window over the lake, seeing the lights on in the space needle, seeing the entire city alive. I never understood how we could use that much energy without something bad happening. I felt like we were offending the night, and we should let it light itself up, or at least use those solar panel things instead of dams that clog up everything to get the electricity. I had always loved the dark, and never understood why other people didn’t. I didn’t remember falling asleep, but I did, and i dreamt of a silent world, all the cars were gone, and all the lights were off, and there was no more smoke coming out of smokestacks. I loved it.
The next morning, I woke up, and my dream had come true. The cars were either crashed, or not moving anyways. I couldn’t see any lights on in the city, but that might just be because it was the morning. and from what I could see, there was no smoke or steam coming from the smokestacks.
“Mom!” I yelled. I was hoping that she would love the world too, and that when dad got home, he’d love it. If dad got home. Mom said that policemen always had a chance of not coming home, but I knew that my dad always would, even if he hadn’t come home last night. Or, I thought that I knew. “Mom!” I yelled again. We didn’t live on a big houseboat, so she should have heard me.
The first place I checked were mom and dads room, but she wasn’t in there. The TV was on, which it shouldn’t have been. Mom didn’t like wasting power, she said that the less we used, the more money we had, and the closer we were to getting solar panels, so that we wouldn’t have to use the electric company (It was a hassle to get electricity on a houseboat, but we managed, you just had to figure out how not to let the wires touch the water). I turned the TV off, and went to check the kitchen. She wasn’t in the kitchen, but stuff was weird there too, the refrigerator door was open, so It was cold, and the oven was on, and open, so it was warm on the other side. It was a weird feeling. After that, I hurried to the living room, but everything was normal there, the sofa was in front of the TV, and the table still had the chairs around it. that left only one place.
As I went out onto the deck to climb to the roof, my happiness was already leaving me, and I knew that it couldn’t be a good thing that all the cars were crashed, and the lights were off, and the smokestacks were gone. If all that had stopped, what were the people doing if not fixing them?
When I reached the roof, I found out what had happened and why nobody was fixing anything. My mom was just standing there, not doing anything, but I didn’t know why yet. I didn’t know what had happened.
“Mom!” I yelled. “Why are you up here? You were gonna teach me about the Aztecs today!”
I quickly realized that I shouldn’t have called out to her. when she turned to me, I saw her other side, and It was horrible. There was some strange kind of mold and mushrooms covering the right side of her face.It was so aggresive that I could actually see it growing over her. As it grew, it dug under the skin, and then popped out at random intervals, even as I watched, one grew out of her tear duct, the top of the mushroom expanding to cover her eye. ut she could still see me with her other eye, and she was not giving me a motherly look.
She tried to scream as she stumbled toward me, but it seemed like the mushrooms had started in her stomach, and had already replaced her internal organs, considering that I could see them forced out of her stomach, hanging off of the three biggest mushrooms. I recognized them all from when she had taught me anatomy. Her voice-box was among them.
She tried to grab me, but I sidestepped, and she fell into the lake. “Mom, what happened?” I yelled, but once I saw her surface, I knew that it was too late to ever ask her a question again. The mushrooms were falling off and dissolving in the lake, not even into spores. You could see them shrivel up and die, and I knew that they would never be a threat to anyone ever again. I don’t even want to tell you what the human parts were doing, but I will say that it wasn’t pretty.
When I looked at all of the other houseboats, I realized how bad it really was. There were people like my mom was on top of most of them, just standing there. One of them was holding a little kid who I had seen swimming during the summer occasionally. The kid was screaming, and I was about to run over to try and help when I saw why she was screaming.
Whatever the person holding her had become was barfing up the strange yellow-green film that had been covering my mom onto the girl, and it was growing. All over her, mushrooms were sprouting, and tearing her apart.
Most people i know now wouldn’t be afraid of this or scream at this, but this was the first day that anyone had seen them, and I screamed loud enough to attract some of their attention. “Oh my God!” As soon as I screamed, those closest to me came stumbling over. I ran back down to my deck in time to see them stumbling over the dock toward me, some of them just stopped on the dock, and started secreting that gunk that I talked about earlier, but most of them kept coming. I untied the houseboat, and pushed off.
As a ten year old, this was really hard, and I barely made it in time. The first mushroom covered person had a foot on my home before it slipped in and dissolved. about a dozen slipped in after him, some of them had been from houseboats, some of them had been from boats, and some had just been on the dock for some reason, but once they walked into the water, they were dead.
I realize that as I tell this, I sound calm, but I really wasn’t. I was freaking out the entire time that this was happening, my parents and neighbors, not that I ever saw them, were turning into what I would call zombies. I barely managed to get the houseboat far enough away that I survived, but I did.
After I had gotten out to the middle of the lake, I stopped liking the dark. I stayed there for a week, doing nothing, barely eating or drinking. I think that I heard screams at some points, and a few gunshots, but I can’t really remember. When I look back on that time, its all a blur. When I finally stepped outside the houseboat, and I was aware, I realized that I had no way to get back to shore, the houseboat had no fuel left. So, I swam.
After I reached the shore, I looked around for the zombie mushroom things, but I didn’t see any. I started raiding the houses near the shore the next day, using a little electric motor-boat I found, it ran on some solar panels, which was nice. The next few weeks were also pretty monotonous, I went and gathered food, occasionally a weapon or two, and when I ran into the mushroom people, I just ran to the lake. I don’t know if they communicated, but after a while, they stopped following me in.
Then the fourth week came, and by then I was a bit lonely. “Hello!” I yelled as I walked further inland. “Can anyone hear me?” After about an hour of this, I stopped. It wasn’t doing anything. As i walked back toward the lake, where I left my boat, I realized that my birthday had passed. I was eleven now. Then I walked past an alley, and they saw me.
There had to be around seven or eight of them, and they were just standing there when I saw them. I tried to run away, but then they turned, and I saw what they were. I guess it must have been like a virus, where the first stage was growing mushrooms everywhere, making you slow and ungainly. I had seen the second stage, the strange yellowy film covering the body, and I was thinking, or hoping, that this was the last stage.
It looked like an unholy mix between human and mushroom, maybe a fungus that had eaten away all of the flesh, and was now just using the bones as loose guidelines for how it should look. I stress the loose part. Some of them had arms coming out of their legs, and some out of the side of their head, but they all looked similar enough, and they were fast. I found out that when they all rushed at me at once.
As I ran, I continued yelling. “Help! Please! I’ll find a way to help you if you help me!” I yelled this same thing at least fifteen times, before I realized that I was running the wrong way. I had reached the freeway by then. As I flew around the corner, about two minutes ahead of the mushroom men, Something grabbed me from the top of an upturned bus, and pulled me up and over, into a little tunnel of freeway, with two exits, each half blocked by a bus.
When I looked up at the kid who had pulled me up, I realized that he had to be at least seventeen, and he looked mean. I nearly screamed, but My mouth was covered. Using the hand not clamped around my head, the giant put one finger to his lips, and pointed at the mushroom men, who hadn’t noticed us yet. He took his hand away, and I didn’t scream. We waited there for twenty minutes before they walked away.
“Whew, that was close. nice to meet you little man, you have stumbled across Samson, and his little band of survivors!” As I looked over the interior of the tunnel, I realized that there were tents everywhere. Probably all filled to the brim with people.
“Thankyou so much,” I started saying, “if you hadn’t have saved me, I don’t know what-” He cut me off there.
“Whoa, little man, I didn’t save you,” he said, “you said that if someone helped you, you’d find a way to help them. now, how can you help me?”
I was stunned by this turn of events, my wonderful Savior turning into a captor, but I knew what I had to do. I had to give him information. “Water kills them.” I blurted out.
“Water. It makes the mushrooms dissolve, and the human farts fall away.” I said.
“Listen, little man-” He said before I interrupted him.
“My name is Felix.” I said.
“Okay, Felix, that would be helpful, but we need water to survive, if we don’t have water, we don’t have anything to drink, see?” He said.
“Then come to the lake.” I answered.
“What are we gonna do at the lake Felix?” He asked in a very condescending tone. “Live on boats?”
“No,” I said, “house boats. There are tons of them, scattered around everywhere, and we could take some solar panels, and wind machines, and hook them up, and make a little moving island of boats to live on.”
“Kid, how am I supposed to get all these people to the lake, and to houseboats, and get them out to the middle of the lake, carrying solar panels and wind things?” He asked.
“Well, they’re plants. Plant’s need the sun to love, without it they would be dead, same as us, but what I’ve noticed with the mushroom men is that they actually don’t move at night. Thats why I try to go when it’s dark out. I went when it was cloudy today, but then the clouds moved, and I had to run.” I admitted. “And thats how I ended up here.”
“You know what, I won’t send all my people at once, but if you can get twelve of my people on to two or three of your little house boats safely, and out to the middle of the lake, I’ll consider taking the rest of us.” He responded.
“Okay, who?” I asked.
“I already have them in my head little man.” He said. I was annoyed that he didn’t call me Felix, but what was I gonna do?
That night, we left. The people that he had chosen were two five year olds, but they were obedient five year olds. I think that they probably saw their parents go mushroom, and that was why they were so quiet. There was another eleven year old, and her thirteen year old brother. She was pretty and nice, and her brother was nice too. Then there were twins, they looked really Irish, and I wasn’t sure how old they were. There were three girls, they were in some high school cheer squad uniform, and they looked a bit traumatized, but who wouldn’t be in this new world. Then there were Samson, and two big guys. They seemed nice, but they were still intimidating. “Okay kid, lets get going.” Said Samson.
“Okay, just remember to be quiet.” I said.
We made a surprisingly quiet trip, all the way back to where my house used to be on the docks, and we chose two houseboats to set out with, both of them already had solar panels. “This is going pretty well kid.” Said Samson. “If water really does kill them, I may have to take you up on your offer.”
We reached my houseboat without any horrible events, but the other houseboat had to be towed. We Tied ourselves off, and slept. Turns out that the other houseboats were pretty well stocked too, so we slept well. The next night, we went back for the rest of Samsons people, and got them all on their own houseboats, and made a little community in the middle of lake union. We even went back to get a few to turn into green houses, that way we could have fruit and vegetables year round. The Mushroom people are still out there, in the ruins of Seattle, even seven years after this began. We recently made contact with a group holed up in the Space needle, they might even be coming to join us soon. We live a peaceful life, we have fish, and fruit, and during the summer we can all swim. So what if we can’t go back to the way things were. At least now there’ll be no more global warming.