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We're sleeping in an abandoned warehouse tonight. Barely escaped last time. Damn Drudges. I've got first watch so I'm writing what will probably be the only record of whats going on now. Its 2013 or so, and and we're somewhere near L.A. I think. Wander around enough and all the cities look the same. Grey, desolate, and dangerous. Danger is something we're all familiar with now though. We've all seen at least one by now. They're literally everywhere. Of course they won't come out if your quiet. If its too bright. But drop something, or linger to long after the sun has gone, and your done for. Disgusting creature. I'm just hoping this place is safe. At least for tonight. I cant go through another loss. It's just me and two others left. Daria, me and Luke. Before this happened we would have been considered kids, just children. But this war has taken that away from us. It's stripped us of any innocence we still clung to. I don't call myself a teenager anymore. I call myself a survivor.
I wake to the sound of flapping wings. Birds. The sun light trickling down through the broken roof blinds me as I open my eyes. Luke is already up. Packing. He catches my movement and gestures toward something. I follow his hand and see Daria asleep on the ground beside me. I look back to him with his figure pressed to his pale lips. One curt nod and I'm up. I stretch my hands to the ceiling. The ware house we're in is big. Boxes and Boxes of God-knows-what lines the walls and blocks the small windows and corners. I slip my shoes on silently and start rolling up my sleeping bag. My thoughts race as I try to remember the pass to the city closest to this one. It's long. Long and cold. But its worth it. Worth it if we find what we're traveling for. Luke's hands slide past mine to close the gap in the tight zipper I'm struggling with ,interrupting my thoughts.
"You better wake up Daria." He whispers, "We need to get going soon or well get caught outside when it gets dark tonight." The thought of Daria outside at night jolts me to action. Pushing myself up from the concrete I walk over to Daria.
"Daria" I say shaking her,"Daria come on you gotta get up." She starts to come to. Turning over and mumbling she lifts her head to look at me with groggy eyes.
"Come on," I say louder as I rise, "We gotta get goin’." She’s on her feet in a few minutes and all our supplies are packed in a few more. I sling my army green pack over my shoulder and give Luke a glance. He returns it and all three of us step out from the warehouse. The sun shines bright on the blacktop, but the air seems to contradict sight. Billows of steam pour out of our mouths with each exhale. The water within glistens like daylight stars in the sun. Beautiful I think. Then back to reality. We walk in the middle of a large street. All around is stone rubble, splintered wood and charred bodies. Loose electric cables criss-cross over the yellow line that once divided these streets. I don't look at the faces anymore. I use to hope to see loved ones, friends, neighbors, any familiarity at all. But I know now that will only cause me and Daria, and even Luke more pain, so I step over their lifeless body without a glance down. Even if I was to look, the faces are to rotted away, or burned too make out features, let alone friends. Friends. That is what we are looking for in these destroyed cities. Fellow humans. Not those flesh eating creatures. Not the Drudges. Anything but the drudges.
"Luke" I shiver as I speak, "Luke where are we going?" I've been waiting to ask that hollow question for about an hour now. The road we're on has gone from a massive concrete-covered river to barely a dirt road. I think we took a wrong turn. He drops the hand that held the map in front of his face to his side and turns his head up to the grey sky.
"We were supposed to be somewhere near Huntington Beach, or Long Beach or something, but it's too cold to assume we're anywhere near those." He rubs the nape of his neck with his other hand and drops his gaze to his feet. His brow is in a tight scowl and his dirty blond hair doesn't make him seem friendly anymore. I sigh and look away. The road cuts into such a strange place. Nothing but tall grass. Everywhere. I look back down our dirt path and see the faint outline of the city we left behind.
"We should go back" I whisper. "It's almost sunset." I look down at Daria who's playing with her shoe-lace, sitting cross legged in the gravelly sand. It's gonna take hours for us to make it back to that city. Even as I think the, sun sinks lower and lower. Sealing all of our fates.
"We have to run" I whip my head toward Luke who's still despairing at his shoes.
"What?" He gives me an almost confused look, "Run? But that will still take at least two hours, and I don't think any of us can run that long Clair."
"I don't care. We have to at least try." My brow is furrowed and my eyes are set on the city skyline, "I'm not going to just give up. I'm not going to die here!" My hands are fists and my legs are ridged. He won't stop me. No one can now. I take off my pack and give Daria and Luke what I hope won't be a last glance, then I'm off. Sprinting. Running, literally, for my life. The brown grass smears all around me as I leave this barren field. Grey clouds turn to yellow. The yellow turns to orange. Red. Burgundy…
I hear crunching behind me through the gasps of air. In, out. In, out. Only hours seemed to have passed, yet I am changed. My breaths had long since been ragged. Fire is the only thing I sense in my lungs. Crunch Crunch Crunch. The road chases me. Pushing me forward, screaming at my tired legs. My body is just one small flame, burning me from the inside, killing me before the night can. Before the Drudges can.
"Clair!" My mind yells, "Clair stop!" No I can't stop. I cant stop now, ever. "Clair for Gods' sake STOP!" This isn't my mind. I'm not insane. I'd know his voice even if I were deaf. Luke. He came.
Before I realized what I had done my body is still. Not running, not breathing. Just standing still. then My knees buckle. I fall into the sand. Lying flat, gasping. Searching for air. Exhaustion doesn't compare.
"Clair!" His voice wraps around me filling my ears. Warm hands lift me and I close my eyes. Death. Death is what I'm waiting for, but it doesn't come. Instead, I feel myself being carried away. I feel small. Insignificant. Fragile. My chest still rises and lowers much to quickly, but so does his. Our lungs find air at the same time. Rising and falling. My cheeks burn from the brisk air, and my legs throb, but his warmth dampens those feelings. My ears ring and my thoughts race, but I can do nothing but be cradled by him.
"Daria." I manage to choke out as I try to open my eyes.
"She's right here. She's fine" His speech is low. Quite.
"We're almost there." He whispers. I can't manage my conciseness any longer. I feel my body growing silent, my breaths getting slower, shallower. I fall asleep in his arms.