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The car jostled as we drove down the dismantled highway, avoiding trash and abandoned cars. A giant cracked billboard, half tipping, declared: SAVE THE PLANET. Yeah right. Earth. Our "beloved" green planet. If anyone had truly cared in the first place they wouldn't have destroyed it to the point human extinction. The skies wouldn't be warped into a fog of eternal dusk. Well, they always believed Earth started with a crash; now there's the chance it will end with one too. I turned away from the idiotic billboard to turn on the radio.
Static sounded before a beep announced we would be hearing any changes in the current situation. There was a group of people who liked to call themselves LATE, meaning "Life after the end". The first time I heard it was the day they found a working radio station. It began as a rant session about how if people hadn't been late to starting to try and save humanity we wouldn't be in the current predicament. Their goal ended up being to provide the much needed hope for any remaining survivors.
"LATE coming to you live from the end of the Earth. The current time is 5:02 and we don't have much time, another earthquake is expected in the next five minutes. This is your warning; watch out. Get to shelter as quickly as you can or somewhere safe. Here's wishing you another day of life as we count down. Hey, on the bright side, maybe soon enough we'll find Narnia, WOOO. LATE--logging off"
"Why do you still listen to that? It's not like they've had any new info in forever anyway" came the voice of my irritating older sister Jane. She didn't understand the importance of the last means of communication quite obviously.
"Shush girls, at least try to get along. For your father's and my sake please" my mom, always the negotiator, was about to break.
"Fine" chimed our voices in unison.
These so called natural disasters aren't making it any better. Shelter becomes harder to find as the scattered mix of earthquakes and hurricanes overtake towns at scales of 7-9 each time, almost every hour. Literally tearing towns apart down to the very ground on which we must walk. A passing woman we found mumbling in a crazed tone of the ground splitting in two and enveloping her home. They couldn't possibly be natural, nothing so called would continue to happen continuously every day, coming closer to an end. What will happen when there comes a time when there's nothing in between? Well, that's the question silently on everyone's mind left unanswered.
Yet here we all are, caught here; our lives depending on our actions taken. Every step another risk. Every second the smog taking over every breath of clean air, polluting the food, making life a struggle.
Caught in the middle of all this there's just me me. Elana. A fair skinned and light haired Greek girl. Always ridiculed for such traits. Always teased I was "adopted", even though I was not. Most would be bitter, disliking of the thing that caused them pain. Not me. With each scream of "Find your real home!" I always replied calmly "Sorry to break it to you, but this is it".
Even my name is Greek, meaning "Hope". Something I take pride in. I was always told as a child I brought hope, always optimistic. Sometimes people have sworn they have even seen me glowing, probably not far off with all my light features. I look like neither of my dark haired parents, but they are very deep into their ancestry. They take pride in such matters.
"Girls, grab your bags, we gotta move into the forest it turns out. Break now and be ready to go in five minutes" my father's voice broke me out of my reverie.
I have to say, the fear instilled in me from such a young age by my parents to always be prepared for the worst really did come in handy. I've always had a Bug Out Bag as long as I can remember. It has all the supplies for almost any climate or place I could end up for three days. Everything you could possibly need in one bag.
It sure made the getaway simple. As riots broke out over supplies and the cars not working, I was already out. While the frenzy of packing began and the tears started to spread all I had to do was grab my bag and be on my way. Very useful.
Sighing I got out of the car. Blacks spots clouded by view as I was taken over by a blanket of tiredness all at once. My only wish to get back in the car and sleep. Figuring pretty soon I would be off hiking into the night, I decided to take a little walk around the beginning of the trail set next to the parking lot.
Leaves crackled on the abandoned centuries-old trail behind me as chilled wind blew through the dark nights sky. Fear struck me like a knife even though there were no footprints in the mud besides my own. Something just felt off about this forest, like I was being watched. Like I wasn't alone.
I pressed forward, trying to shake the images from my head before my fear could make them worse. My pace picked up as shadows seemed to dart through the air, weaving through the trees in the dust of midnight. The "Witching Hour" as my sister had once called it. I finally could tell why.
The trees grew scarcer as I moved on. I found myself emerging in a round clearing, about the size of a football field. Completely surrounded by trees but none in the middle, an odd sight to discover. It appeared quickly, almost forming around me.
In the middle of it all, a staircase, the shade of sea foam, seemed to emerge from the sky, first just a ball of light illuminating the sky in it's glow. Time wasn't measurable. I don't know how long I must have stood there in awe. I was in a dazed sense; on the brink of sleep.
Voices called. Whispering. "Come with us, we won't hurt you. promise. Follow us beyond"
The otherworldly stairs lay in front of my path. I climbed past the low breezes ruffling on the ground, through the warped trees, what seemed far into the clouds. My head grew tired first, my physical capabilities following soon thereafter. Blinking to stay awake, my eyes protested, gradually shutting into the oblivion I longed to fall into. There was no stop, only the ongoing stairs that cruelly taunted me mercilessly.
I was caught, I had gone too far. The sea foam stairs faded into a golden mist as they disappeared from sight. No way down, and the way up could last forever. Panic overtook my reflexes.
"HELP!!!!Please--is anyone out there? Any one at all!"
No response came; I knew none would. The desperation overtook. There was nothing I could do. This was completely out of my control now. I gave up.
Everything faded. The ebony shadows fell, blending with a golden light revealing itself. I was standing in a spring meadow, among these swirls of light atop what appeared to be the edge of a cliff. Upon closer look it's colors seemed to mesh. In a circle surrounding we eleven stone figures propped on the spongy green grass. Only a lone man of flesh and blood stood among them. He stood facing me in an unusual turquoise robe that billowed behind him into the mist and wind forming into clouds, his blond curls spilling to his shoulders.
"Welcome Daughter, I've been waiting for you" His intelligent eyes glazed with a look of knowing.
I'm sure my confusion was evident on my face. He was most definitely not my Dad. I mean really, he looked to be around my age.
"You're not my Dad" fear seeped into my voice as I cautiously backed away "There's no way. Who are you? Where am I?"
His only response was to chuckle, not much help to gain my trust for certain.
"It may be of some shock to you, but yes, I am in fact your father, though not biologically in this life. The blood of the Olympians runs through your veins. I am your father"
"Am I asleep? This has to be a dream. All of it, it has to. There is no possible way this is really happening. Pretty soon I'm just going to wake up and be disappointed as usual that my dream wasn't real. So you know what, I'm not going to get my hopes up. This will all end soon enough"
Once again, he just smiled patiently as I waited. First for a minute, then two....I wasn't going to give in. It was far out of anything I could ever imagined happening in my life. Books, of course; but not my real life. Then again, no one ever expected the world to be coming to a fast approaching close either.
This world was just full of endless possibilities. Everything thought to be just fiction was real. Nothing left to the imagination. Was anything in this world at all normal?
"Okay, I may believe you. It sure would make the staircase make more sense. But why am I here?"
"I'm sorry I cannot say. It is a lesson you must learn for yourself and teach young one. Remember your naming. Remember your naming Elpis" His urgent voice came in and out like a broken radio. "Traveling soul, follow your gift of immortality, what is it you wish? Time has come again for your judgment to be the best course of action"
My mind spun, vision clouding over into darkness. I sat down own the ledge of a short brick fence surrounding the edge of the statues. I steadied my breath, my head in my hands for some time before I spoke.
"I want this all over. This everlasting storm on the Earth must end. But what does that mean I have to decide?" I asked the words slowly, carefully. His expression blurred into regret. I could already feel the weight descending onto my shoulders. What ever decision had to be made, it obviously couldn't be taken lightly.
"You have to make the choice of which you already know daughter, Guardian of Earth. Whether they have become a lost cause. You have the choice, give up on them to make room for a new civilization , or, if you truly believe in them, go back. We will erase all man made objects, you could lead the way in starting anew. Do not choose lightly. You may stay with us if that is what you so choose, everyone will understand. Just understand the effect it will have on you. Earth is a part of you. Take a moment to decide".
The two choices were clear. On one hand I could give up, take the easy route out. On the other I could work with them. They deserved a chance. There has been good on that world. I'd seen it. My own family was reason enough. It may have been selfish, but it wasn't like I could leave the people I had loved all my life to die. They had raised me into the person I am; this decision was a part of them too. if I could let such a thing happen to them, give them that fate, well, then I didn't deserve them what so ever and they without a doubt deserved a better daughter.
"I have to go back, don't I?. I have to. There's really no choice in this at all. Everyone deserves a second chance at life. I'll work with them, I'll lead them just like you asked. The mistakes they have made don't reflect that of them all. They shouldn't be punished for another's mistakes. There is good in them, I have seen it with my own eyes."
"Wise choice daughter. Your kindness remains true, be sure it stays so. Be patient, the world this way will be new to you also. This knowledge to you may be fresh again, but remember the blood of the Olympians remains with you always. You will always be a part of us. Stay true, last of Pandora's box. I bid you well" With a nod and what seemed to be a trademark smile, he faded into a mist blowing from view.
"Wait! Where are you going? How do I get out of here?"
Once again the gold illuminated this world. Shimmering to a close as the fresh green grass, and blue sky faded from view. The world closed around me.
My vision faded, head clouding over. The last thing I felt was falling as I fell out of conscious mind.
"Elana, Elana, wake up. We found a hotel still standing for the night and I refuse to carry you in" called out Jane.
"Wait, what's going on? Where are we?" I asked skeptically.
"Um the hotel. I just told you that, now come on, get out of the car and lets go already" she turned sharply and stalked out of view. Shaking my head I followed in her lead. Could it have possibly been a dream?
A dream I knew it could be not. On my right wrist tattooed was the Greek word "Elpis", meaning hope in a sea foam green ink.