"Just Run..."

January 8, 2008
By George Ananchev, Mequon, WI

"Just run, flee, get on your little bike and get out of here. What is there here anyway? There is nothing here, man. Nothing for you, nothing for me, nothing for no one. It won't get better," Jack took the last puff of his cigarette and threw it into the water. Henry watched him, wide-eyed. The fire from across the river reflected in his eyes. As the two vagabonds sat on a crumbling ledge, a dystopian Manhattan surrounded them. Sections of buildings laid scattered in the alleys. Walls fell in on each other. Pieces of torn, wet plastic bags floated among the streets. Times Square was now a dim and gloomy canyon of broken concrete. In between the buildings, homeless kids peered out. All of the burglars had run out of things to steal. They had moved to the other cities, where the same scenarios took place.

"You know, it was only ten years ago you could see the torch the Statue of Liberty was holding. You probably don't even remember that. Ten years ago your mother and father would be here with us, watching the boats pass by. Ten years. It's amazing how, in ten years, everything changes and nothing stays," Jack couldn't help but reminisce. Henry nodded, biting his lip. The two brothers watched the sun go down behind New Jersey, and then found a shelter in an alley to sleep in.

The next morning Jack and Henry awoke to the sound of a gunfight five blocks away. They calmly got up and rode away on their rusting bikes. They knew where they had to go.

"I don't know why we stayed here as long as we did, Henry," Jack uttered, as the two rode west across the cracked and chipped Verrazano Bridge. Henry stared with wide eyes at Manhattan on his right side, and the plains of water, the Atlantic, on his left. Somewhere in that water below the bridge laid his mother and father, and the mothers and fathers of a million other people. He stayed calm and collected. They rode on.

By the end of the next day, they had gotten across New Jersey. They could see the Appalachians pushing through the evening fog. They were near. Chaos and destruction was behind them for now. Ahead was the tranquility of the wilderness, the only place to hide from the world's mistakes. Jack and Henry rode their bikes on the interstate highways through the Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. They could already see people settling on the hills, like leeches, setting up camp. To be a leech was to survive. Jack and Henry left New York to survive.

"We've got nothing else, Henry. This will have to be it," Jack set down his bike on the ground as he started climbing the steep hill. Henry didn't know what to do. Confused, he looked around, waiting for advice, assistance, or encouragement. "Henry! Come on, we have to set up camp up here. What are you waiting for?" Henry's face was transfixed in a neutral daze. He knew what he had to do. He got off his bike, adjusted his backpack, and followed Jack. They reached the top of the tallest peak in Pennsylvania in about a day's work. Looking around the vast reaches of the horizon, they hoped for the best. They set up camp and went to sleep.

The next morning, the earth shook. In the east, the sun lit up the mushroom cloud that was now New York City. Jack and Henry swallowed their sorrow and moved on.

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