It was gone.
Dust drifted across the desolate landscape, and the once bloodred sky turned a neutral gray in the fading twilight. Eliza’s shaking form stumbled across the crumbling rocks, fruitlessly searching for any signs of life. The few people that had accompanied her had given up any hope of finding anything, but Eliza, wouldn’t, she couldn’t give up. Unwelcome images of the day before rolled like an old film inside her head. She remembered the joyous laughter filling the air while children ran in a vigorous game of tag. As the benches had started to shake, the nearby building collapsed and the ground opened beneath the kids, swallowing them. Eliza had watched, helpless, as the last child sunk into the dirt.
“I’m going to die.”
There were no more tears left for Jenna to cry. The words she muttered had long since lost their meaning, becoming nothing but syllables escaping the cracked lips of a girl fated for death. Day turned to night and her voice left her, until the only words of comfort turned into small breaths of wind leaving her body. The pain in her arms had seemed to become a part of her, and her legs had mercifully stopped feeling at all. Rocks buried Jenna’s legs and arm like a blanket. But the rest of her small body shook with an internal cold. Attacking everywhere it could reach. The only warmth offered came from the blackened blood the seeped from her back. Jenna closed her star-blue eyes, the will to live had run away with her voice, and at some point during the night, “I’m going to die” turned into “I want to”. Jenna wanted the pain to end, she wasn’t afraid anymore, she wanted to die.
It was cold.
The temperature had dropped fast, and the warmth of spring had turned to a frosty winter's chill. Goosebumps erupted across her bare forearms and traveled to her neck. “Eliza!” she turned, startled by the call. Jake ran across the rocks with quick agility, she smiled when she saw him, hope entering her saddened eyes. “Jake” she welcomed him with a relieved hug, “You came!” He ignored her, and pulled a heavy blanket from his bags. “I didn’t have a choice.” He muttered, draping the blanket across her frail shoulders. “Mom was convinced you were gonna die of hypothermia if we let you stay out here all night.” Eliza drew away, suddenly cautious. “I’m not going back.” Jake closed his eyes, annoyed. “Eliza” he sighed “You’re lips are blue.”
Resentment rose inside her like a viper, sudden and unexpected. “My lips are blue? My lips are blue!? Jake, I wouldn’t care if my lips were freakin purple. People are dying in this rubble. Dying! Who gives a crap about how blue my lips get. There are kids in there Jake! And I don’t care if my fingers turn black and fall off from frostbite. I am going to find them!” She ripped the blanket from her shoulders, and threw it at Jake’s feet, disgusted by his selfishness. He called her name, but she didn’t hear. Anger fueled her weakened limbs and she resumed her search. Eliza’s anguished cries filled the empty space until she collapsed from exhaustion. Sweat glistened on her forehead despite the cold. Pictures of the girls vanishing as the earth opened beneath them haunted Eliza. Tears poured from her eyes as hopelessness crashed down upon her like a wave. She cried until there were no more tears left to be shed, until she sat with helplessness weighing down upon her, preventing her from the simple act of standing. And in the silence of the rubble, a wisp of a voice called up to Eliza, repeating one word, many times. Help.
Jenna would not die
The desire to stop living filled every inch of her mind, but her mangled body would not give up. She hated herself for staying alive, she hated her body for holding on, she hated every breath that she breathed. She hated every heartbeat in her chest. But still she lived, she still breathed, and her heart still pumped. Why? She didn’t know. She had lost her ability to care. The hatred ebbed away until there was no more feeling left in her broken body. Far away she heard voices shouting, angry voices, she didn’t care. The voices faded to one anguished cry. Jenna wanted it to go away, to let her die. But when it finally faded, fear, sharp and persistent stabbed at her. Jenna’s fogged mind cleared, just enough to hear soft sobs echoing from a building.
No, she thought. I will not die. I do not want to die. Her voice was hoarse and it breathed fire whenever she tried to talk, but fear bit at her, until tears were rushed from her eyes, and she called one word over and over.
It was gone.