When I woke up, the world was dark. So dark that I lifted a finger to my eyelashes to make sure that I had actually opened my eyes. There was an eeriness about it. No electronic buzzing, no air conditioning, just silence, and darkness. I stood up cautiously reaching my fingers out and letting them brush the walls. Walking slowly, I made my way to the door frame. In the darkness, I had no warning. Suddenly my feet were sprawling away from me and I hit the ground. My chin, which had decided to cushion my fall, was now bleeding profusely. “Okay Alia, figure out where you are. Think, what happened?” I pleaded with myself. Yet, the only thing I remembered was being in the library, and then the world fell to pieces. Shock waves hit the building and I fell, unconscious. Suddenly I came to the realization that what I tripped on, was not a fallen shelf, but rather something much more morbid. “Keep moving, find others,” I commanded, as I stood up and reached for a handhold within the wall. I developed a system of moving my hand about a foot ahead of me, then tapping the floor with my right foot until I deemed it to be clear. As I reached another turn in the hallway, I felt very accomplished. My eyes, which had adjusted to the darkness were finding it easier to focus. It must be night; there was no power. I managed to round another corner until I was on the floor yet again, but this time I found that there was something on top of me.
A chorus of umphs and ughs resonated throughout the otherwise silent hall, as I and my clumsy friend arose. Confused as we were, I decided that we must be civil.
“Hello, I am Alia,” I announced, as I thrust my hand outwards and attempted to grab his.
“I’m Nick, I didn’t mean to trip you. Sorry.” He said rather sheepishly.
“Trip me? More like full-on collapse atop me!” I said with a laugh, “Don’t worry about it though, it's really dark in here. In fact, I think I’m rather glad we crashed, other wise, I don’t think I would have heard you.”.
“Were you in the library when it happened?” he asked me cautiously.
“I think so, though I don’t remember much. I just remember the world-shaking, and everything going black. I think I passed out, to be honest.”
“I was awake the whole time. It was awful, nobody could breathe. People were falling left and right. Do you remember the viral bomb that was used to threaten the US a few years back? The one created by that crazy dude who preached that all of humanity had to disappear to save the planet?” Nick questioned.
“Yeah, I think so. He was arrested… It was a shocking. Wasn’t it supposed to reduce the population to about 500,000 people? Wait… is that what happened?”
“Yeah, I think it is. If so, we are like really lucky.”
“Lucky!”, I screamed, “We are not lucky. To be the few survivors of a horrible virus, that probably destroyed any chance we will ever have normal lives? Yah seems pretty lucky to me.” I rolled my eyes, not that he could see it.
“Alia! Listen, the survivors, which are us, they are meant to rebuild the world. To make it a better place. That is why it was to be implemented! So that the Earth can be saved!”
I didn’t want this responsibility. Though I knew I had to seize it. We had the chance to change the world, but that wouldn’t start with just two people.
“I disagree with you Nick, but I see your point. However, I highly doubt that we are going to be able to change the world, just the two of us, so I suggest we find our way out of here and attempt to find others.” I told him. So, we set off. I was not happy with our situation, but I appreciated the fact that I was no longer alone. Yet, however impossible it, might have seemed, we managed to make our way out of the building and were greeted with open air and a moonlit sky. With enough light to see his face, I came to the conclusion that he was rather alluring. He was wearing a white shirt and khakis that had a hole in the knee, probably from when he fell. With pale blond hair and bright green eyes, he stood out in the dim light. However, as we walked I found it harder and harder to focus on any of the beauty that was around me. The moon which I could normally stare at for hours lacked it’s mesmerizing qualities as I was instead distracted by the utter destruction I saw around me. Buildings collapsed, people, scattered… not a good sight. Cars were strewn about the road, the world in shambles. The fact that humanity had to be pushed this far for any real change to occur, that was what really got to me.
Our quest, though noble, was not amounting to much. I wanted to do something, right here, right now. The only thing I could think to do was to drag Nick to the closest hospital and attempt to provide aid to anyone I could. However, it was still dark, and my head was throbbing. So Nick, much to my displeasure, decided that we would wait until morning. We found a shed that looked to be untouched and slept, as much as we could, in there for the night. When dawn broke, pangs of hunger and the realization of the impossibility of our situation came with it. Determined to help, I along with a complaining Nick, began to hike over to the nearest hospital.
When we arrived, a horrible stench filled our noses. The stench of death. I wasn’t usually squeamish but this almost pushed me over the edge. We walked in and came to terms with the gruesome scene around us. The lights, still on courtesy of a backup generator, made me long for the dark. Pangs of hunger became pangs of the heart, and whatever desire for food we had was replaced with the urge to vomit. As we walked through the halls we called out, getting only our own echos in return. A form in the corner of entrance seemed to be quivering slightly. I approached her, with caution I might add, and reached out to touch her shoulder. Suddenly her eyes met mine and she whispered something to me.
“I couldn’t save them. I couldn’t save any of them.” Her words strewn together with despair.
“This is not your fault. Nobody could have saved them. They weren’t meant to survive.” I told her, surprised by my own truths.
“Do you know what happened?” I asked softly.
“No, I was doing my rounds, I’m an intern here, and then suddenly the world stopped turning, and everyone but me stopped breathing. I tried so hard to save them but I couldn’t.” She repeated, her voice quivering.
“There’s this virus,” piped up Nick, “it killed all but 500,000 people in the world. We survived because we have a genetic mutation I think. Survival of the fittest, I guess was the idea.”
“There really was nothing you could do, but if you want to come with us, you could help save humanity. I’m Alia, that’s Nick.” I said gently.
“I’m Kayla.” She responded.
“So where do we start,” Kayla asked as she had now begun to understand that it wasn’t all her fault, she seemed to be less broken.
“We start with finding us some food. We won’t survive, genetic mutation or not, without sustenance.” I responded hastily. We would face issues through our journey. Food, shelter, water, and transportation, these would all be things that could cause us suffering. We were only sixteen. The literal weight of the world should not be on our shoulders, I thought in spite of myself. A car, we needed a car.
“Kayla, Nick, this is getting us nowhere. It will take forever to get anywhere. We need a car. Something efficient, like a Prius, but it will need to use gas that we can siphon from other abandoned vehicles.” I announced. It didn’t take much searching, for soon we found a car that suited our needs and was eco-friendly. We were on a mission to save the world after all. We drove to a grocery store, and after fiddling with the lock, and then hitting it with a rock when we decided it couldn’t be picked, we raided the shelves of dry food that would keep. We grabbed all the water the store had and packed the car.
“So, where shall we go now?” I asked
“I think we should try and find others, there have got to be more of us.” Kayla pipped up for the first time all day. I think she was a genuinely shy person who had been shaken severely but hadn’t we all. She was still in scrubs, her freckles standing out on her pale skin. Long brown hair that was incredibly straight was wound nervously around her index finger. I made eye contact with her, she seemed assured of her plan, so I took action.
“I think that's a great idea,” she relaxed her grip on her hair a bit, “let’s start with the houses on this strip, for people tend not to want to stray from the norm in times of crisis,” I stated. For the first time, I was thinking about how I just left, without going home or anything. I vowed to myself to one day go back. For just one moment, I felt so very young. I wondered if Nick and Kayla would want to go home too. Too late to turn back now though.
We drove up and down streets. Scanning houses for any sign of life. I decided that we all probably need to find clothes at one of these houses, for my flimsy, open back pink dress, though my favorite was not very practical under these conditions. Distracted by my own thoughts, I almost missed it. A light in a window, small and flickering.
“There!” I exclaimed as they both looked out their windows. I slammed on the brakes and put the car into reverse. Nick shot me a look.
“Next time, I’m driving,” he said while rubbing his neck.
“Don’t be a baby.” Kayla joked, and we laughed. For the first time since it all happened, we really laughed. Kayla’s, breathy and high, Nick’s deep and consistent. It was like we all breathed for the first time.
“Should we, like, knock?” Nick questioned.
“Probably not… better to have the element of surprise I think.” So much for being civil. We turned the knob, and the door creaked open. I lead the way with Nick close behind and Kayla following at his heel. We walked up the staircase to what I assumed was a bedroom. In we went, and a very shocked looking boy let out a shriek. He looked to be about our age with glasses and messy hair. He was really clean, and in that moment I remember how disheveled we all must look, my cut chin and hair in long braids that were more like rats nests at this point, Nick’s ripped pants and dirty face, and Kayla’s blood covered scrubs. Yeah, I would have screamed if I had seen us too.
“Hey, Hey! Don’t be afraid, we aren’t gonna hurt you.” I announced.
“Why would we hurt him? He’s like one of the very few people left.” Nick looked confused.
“Yeah, but we look like murderers…” Kayla said, looking down at her bloody clothes and grimacing.
“ Wait, wait go back. One of the very few left? What the hell are you talking about!?” The boy demanded.
“Slow down. What’s your name?” I soothed.
“It’s Colby, yours?”
“I’m Alia, that’s Kayla, and he’s Nick,” I told him
“Okay, great introductions. Goody! Can we move on now? What’s this whole only one’s left thigh?” He pushed.
“You really don’t know?” I asked
“HOLD UP. How stupid do you think I am?” Colby said to me, “There is NO WAY I wouldn’t realize if the entire world had gone to crap.”
“Yah don’t you think this whole thing is a little unrealistic? Like it’s a good idea and stuff, but we want a good grade on the project.” Nick said in agreeance with Colby. He spoke about the story that I had just portrayed for them as though it was the craziest thing that he had ever heard. As we sat in the classroom, I had to admit that the whole thing did sound a bit far-fetched. A weaponized virus meant to save the world from the beings destroying it. Human beings, destroyers of the world and of themselves.
“I just don’t think people would ever really let the world get to that point. Where violence and mass destruction is so prevalent. Where humans themselves might have to disappear in order to save the planet, where the population would really have to be lowered to that extreme level. It just wouldn’t happen, right? We would never reach that point.” Kayla looked at me with fear in her eyes.
“Don’t you see, we already have. The world is falling apart. We have to change now, or we shall lose the chance.” As I uttered those words, I looked down at my pink dress and came to terms with the possibilities that could be foreseen. A world of darkness.