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The Age of Destruction This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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She twisted the scrappy piece of cloth around and around her grimy fingers agitatedly. The rag was a testament to her old life, the last link to the days of instant coffee and proper beds. Kate had almost forgotten the significance of the material; only the recollection that the scrap of blanket once brought feelings of comfort and security remained. She was only nine years old the day her father stormed into her bedroom in the middle of the night, his eyes panicked and a camping rucksack strapped too tightly to his slightly hunched back. She never could remember what it was that caused one shoulder to rise slightly higher then the other, something beginning with s.

Not that it mattered now. Kate watched carefully from the small, grimy window at the back of the caravan for Damien’s return. He’d been gone too long. Her heart thumped too loudly as she remembered the hug he’d given her before he left, as though this would be the last time they’d see each other. She’d shrugged him off and then didn’t even say goodbye before he disappeared, running deeper into the derelict remains of Boston city. That was yesterday.

Their van was tucked into a remote side street in what used to be a beautiful suburban town. ‘A suburban war,’ Damien had snorted half-heartedly when they found the place, surrounded by the holes where houses used to be and the decapitated toys strewn across the street. He’d made the trip into the city for food so many times before; she didn’t think much of it when he left. She should have realized - the look on his face should’ve been enough. Her second night alone was closing in and as much as she denied it, she hated being left alone in the van by herself. The caravan was no longer the clean, cosy mobile home it used to be when her father bought it. For all of our adventures, he’d said when Kate asked why he would spontaneously buy a caravan. Little did she know that the real reason was much more sinister.

A torch beam broke her thoughts and her heart soared. Damien! Without thinking she stumbled out of the caravan, her only weapon a kitchen knife tucked into her belt and ran towards the light. She stopped when she realized there was more than one light beam, but it was too late. They had already seen her. She edged her way backwards, shakily pulling out her kitchen knife and although she remembers clearly picking out the largest one when her dad told her to grab something sharp, her knife somehow seemed tiny. She counted three men. And from their eyes she could tell they were hungry. But for what, she wasn’t certain.

“Pretty girl like you shouldn’t be out at night.” One of them said and he took a step towards her. A scar ran from the corner of his eye right down to his chin and it shone livid in the light of his torch. Instinctively, Kate shrunk backwards.

“Don’t look thin like them other girls, does she?” another spat and then laughed harshly. Beads of sweat dribbled down his meaty forehead, in the heat of the night. All she could focus on was the mosquito buzzing by her ear. She was too afraid to swat it away.

“How d’you earn your money, girl?”

“I’ll bet I know!” More laughing from all of them. Keeping her knife clenched behind her back she took another step backwards.

“Where ya going? We just want to have some fun. No one’s going to hurt you.” This remark was accompanied by a devilish grin from the scarred face man.

“Do you – have you…have you seen my brother?” Kate managed to get out, hoping and praying that he would come to her rescue. Somewhere deep down though she knew it was futile.

“Oh, boys we have a posh one here. Very English. Maybe we have. Information costs money though, sweetheart. Or something else.” The scarred faced man, seemingly their leader of sorts, jeered, his eyes taking her in greedily. She could swear he was at least twenty years her senior. A shudder rippled through her.

“I have money. Just please, if you’ve seen him tell me,” her voice sounded slightly more confidant now,

“He’s tall with sort of longish brown hair and – and – and an ace of spades tattooed on his left arm. He had a gun and a leather bag strapped to his back.”

“I think we might’ve seen him, right boys?”

“Oh sure we did.”

“Yeah, think so”

“Going to have to refresh my memory as to where though.” Kate realized in that moment that whether or not the men knew where her brother was, she would not get anything out of them without a sacrifice she was unwilling to make.

She breathed heavily and doing her best to sound unafraid she smiled, “Let me just lock up the van and I’m all yours.” The men snickered in reply as she turned and did her best to walk slowly to the van, but when the van was only a few metres away she couldn’t take it anymore. Kate sprinted to the door and barged her way in. Damien always drove the van, but she knew how it worked. Sort of. With fumbling hands she slipped the keys into the keyhole and slammed her foot down on the accelerator. The men were left behind coughing in the dust.

She had nowhere to go. It dawned on her that without Damien she was capable of very little. He always read the maps, he always drove the van, he always found food and he was always, always there. Until now. Silent tears flowed down her face as she wept for the loss of her brother because Kate knew that in this world it was near impossible to find someone once they are gone. Taped to the corner of the window was the picture of her, Damien and her dad that day they went fishing. Kate never really enjoyed fishing, but the stories her father told always made up for that. Sometimes he’d even talk about their mother, if they were patient enough.

Kate knew very little about her mother, only that she was Scottish and fell hopelessly in love with an American soldier. Her name was Kathryn and she died five days after Kate was born. Kathryn died before she could even name her baby so her father named her Kate after her mother. Kathryn had untameable locks of thick black hair just like Kate but her eyes were wide and green like Damien’s. Kate had inherited her father’s squinty dark brown eyes, pale skin and upturned nose. Damien on the other hand was sallow and handsome like their mother. Damien was five when their mother died so he remembered more about her and tells her little things he remembers, but no story can ever compare to the real thing. Kate always wondered if things would have been different if her mother had been around. If the depression hadn’t taken her away from them.

Kate could never understand why her father and brother didn’t blame her for her mother’s suicide. One day when she was much younger she asked her father, “Why do you love me, Daddy? Mummy died because of me. Damien said so.” Her father grabbed her skinny shoulders and crouched down to her height and he spoke firmly. “Don’t ever, ever think that this was in anyway your fault. Your mother was very sick, but she loved you. So much.” He had hugged her then and all was right in her little world, but the niggling feeling of being responsible for her mother’s death never really went away. She still felt it now.

The van came to a spluttering stop and Kate let out a moan, slamming her fists into the steering wheel in frustration. She opened the door, cautiously peering out the window first, and stepped down onto the remains of the motorway. She remembered a time vaguely when this route would have been choked up with traffic, but now there was nothing left except the abandoned cars and the sound of the wind whipping through the bleak landscape. She could just make out the barren fields on either side of her, empty aside from the occasional dilapidated looking barn. Behind her winking in the moonlight was the skyline of Boston city. Somewhere in the shadows of humanity’s largest creations, was her brother. But so were those men and resolutely Kate turned away, focusing on trying to get the van going again.

“Come on, Nancy,” Kate muttered as she fiddled around with the engine under the hood like she’d seen her father and then her brother do countless times before, “Don’t cut out on me now, girl. You haven’t survived 3400 miles across the Atlantic Ocean or Damien’s insane driving to break down on a measly motorway.” Her father used to talk to the caravan all the time, he used to say it’s best to treat your car as though it is a person because you never know, if robots take over the world you might want to have a few friends. Funnily, he was almost right. The engine purred to life and Kate closed the hood, patting Nancy triumphantly.

“You’ve got to remain indestructible,” Kate whispered as she climbed back into the van, “I need you now. You’re all I have left.” And with these words came a gnawing, palpable fear that no fourteen-year-old girl should ever have to experience. The sort of fear that swallows you whole, yet still manages to chew slowly. Kate was suddenly all alone in the world with the odds lined up against her. She knew very little, always protected by someone older, someone wiser and stronger. The very idea of this was hard for her to grasp as her innocence floated away like feathers off a bird. Soon her soul would become tough and cruel in the age of destruction.

Her heart raced as she drove slowly through the rubble remains of the motorway and she didn’t dare look back at the city where she lost her brother. That city was dead; that life she lead, which wasn’t half-bad considering, was also gone and buried away in the part of her mind that was safe and happy. She didn’t think she could ever feel safe ever again, let alone happy. The most important thing was survival and to do that she had to be smart like her brother. Like her father, before. Stop being such a wimp, she told herself sternly. She couldn’t afford to be scared.

She picked up the piece of cloth from where it had fallen down the side of the seat and then after a moment of hesitation threw it out the window. It was as though she knew that it could no longer protect her from the imaginary monsters under her bed because these monsters were everywhere and very, very real.

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Madie2k said...
Jun. 23, 2014 at 6:35 pm
Wow...this is brilliant! I love it! Please keep posting!
HeatherOlivia replied...
Jun. 24, 2014 at 10:15 am
Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
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