The Black Star

March 22, 2009
By Desiree Nichols BRONZE, Puntey, Vermont
Desiree Nichols BRONZE, Puntey, Vermont
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

No one saw it coming. It just appeared. It was just there. But it killed so many people, including my mother and my sister. I am one of the few hundred left. There are maybe 200 or so of us left, as far as I know. It really wiped out the majority of the human race. There are many names for it, let alone words to describe it. I guess the most common name for it is the “Black star”, though I don’t know what it has to do with a star. It’s more like a vortex, or a kind of miniature black hole that resides on Earth. I was only 6 when it first came. And here I am, at age 17, and it is still here. Those of us left though live underground. Most of us haven’t seen daylight in months, even years. I myself haven’t seen the light of day in over 10 years. But I guess I shouldn’t start off on how it is. I guess I should explain how it was, what happened, and most importantly, who I am and what happened to my family. So let me take you back. Let me take you back to 2008. Let me take you back to when I was 6, when all of this first started, eleven years ago…

My mother was taking my sister and me on a vacation. My mother, Julia, was called “Jewels”, for she was quite the treasure. She was nice, gentle, pure, beautiful as ever, and the kindest person you’d ever meet. My sister, Chassidy, was 3 years older than me, and the silent type. She only talked to people she was comfortable with. She never back talked, sass-mouthed, or was never rude, just like my mom. Both of them kept a strong eye on me because, well, that was how they were, and I wasn’t exactly the most innocent person in the world. I never got into serious trouble or anything; I was just extremely mischievous and curious. My father, well, I haven’t seen him since I was two because he died of some kind of heart failure. As for me, my name is Sierra, and was the adventurous and troublesome child. But my mom and my sister loved me just the same. Anyway, as I was saying, we were headed to Florida, for Disney World. We were on the interstate, with all the windows down, and the radio just about on full blast, all three of us just singing at the top of our lungs to our favorite song, of which I don’t remember the name because I haven’t heard music let alone that song for 10 years or more. Anyway, we were singing along, when the song changed to an international radio announcement coming directly from the White House stating that there was an intruding threat of some sort coming toward Earth and declared an international emergency. My sister and I stopped singing and my mom turned up the volume. The announcement also stated that there should be nationwide evacuations to safe houses, basements, dugouts, and other underground or safe-built places. My mom looked at us in the rear-view mirror, saw the panic in our eyes, and put the car into 4th gear and drove a good 90 miles an hour to the nearest safe house she could find, while the announcement continued on about how the experts didn’t know where or how this threat was going to encounter the Earth’s atmosphere, and that they didn’t know what this thing was, but all the following actions should be performed in an orderly manner to prevent pandemonium. My mom turned the radio off, rolled the windows up, and sped up even more. She had that look in her eyes, you know, the look every parent gets when they feel that they have lost control and don’t know what else to do, and I’ve never seen her lose her cool so much. You could see the worry in the way her eyebrows were scrunched together. She was in such a panic, my sister and I didn’t dare speak, for fear of scaring her more or pissing her off. We drove in silence, for not one of us knew what to say to each other with everything that was going on. We didn’t know if we’d live to see tomorrow. But we kept driving, and kept up any hope we had left.

The nearest safe house as it turned out was over fifteen hundred miles away, so we were only driving for a little more than 15 minutes, but even that was too long. Mom turned the radio back on to listen for updates on the threat. According to the experts who were reporting, the threat had broken up into multiple parts and already breached our atmosphere and would crash into the Earth, but it was still unclear as to where the crashes would be. An update stated that each time the threat broke; the main part got bigger created more and more pieces. That meant that it would land in more than one place, but there was still no exact reading on where, and that was even scarier because the chances of it hitting anywhere near us were greatly increased as it came closer to Earth.

We were about five or six minutes away from the safe house, when it hit. It was like a meteor, and landed about ten or twelve feet away from us, but then it turned to this gas-like, water-like, play-dough type thing that was a metallic black color. I can’t really describe it. It was like a gas and a liquid and a solid, all in one. And then when it moved, it became this putty-type thing. It was extremely strange. And it was my mom’s honest mistake for stopping. When the thing hit, it sort of caused a kind of earthquake effect, which automatically made everyone on the road in both directions stop, and as soon as they stopped, they couldn’t move again because the thing spread over the tires and made it so no one could move. It was also kind of like an acid deal because it was dissolving everything it touched. Funny thing was, it only got stuck to things that weren’t moving, so when my sister and I broke through the window out of pure desperation and fear, we were surprised that we didn’t get dissolved with the car. My mom wasn’t so lucky though. She didn’t move fast enough, and the thing broke through the passenger side window and killed her. I don’t know how, but it did. I guess it did the same to her as it was doing to the cars. Anyway, my sister and I, once out of the car, we ran as fast as humanly possible, with her holding my hand, practically dragging me behind her because I couldn’t keep up with her long legs. But she never let go of my hand, and as long as we were moving, the thing sort of moved away from us as if it was afraid of us. So we kept going. We must have ran for at least an hour, and when we did stop, it was because we were so out of breath, thirsty and sore. When we stopped though, there was another thing coming from the clouds, breaking as it came down, Chassidy saw it come down, she grabbed my hand tighter and started to run. I told her that I couldn’t run anymore. She got this scared look on her face, looked around quickly, looked for an escape route. She apparently found what she was looking for because she tried dragging me, and when I wouldn’t move, she bent down, picked me up onto her shoulder, and ran as fast as she could to this tunnel not that far away. As soon as the darkness off the tunnel consumed us, the things hit, and everything started shaking. She kept running though. When she couldn’t run anymore, she put me down, looked around again, and then picked me back up. I don’t know how she could see in the dark, but she could. She ran a little further, put me down, and got on her knees and started feeling for some kind of hatch or handle or something. I didn’t know what she was looking for or even why she stopped, until I heard her mutter something about a sewage drain or something. Then she stopped moving, and sighed. She had something in her hands, she pulled down and we heard a bunch of metal clanking, like the door of an old wood stove. Rusted hinges. Then she pulled up and light flooded over us. She opened the latch all the way and led me down the ladder. We were in the underground tunnel for the subway. And for once within those last 2 hours, we felt safe.

Once we were off the ladder and on solid ground, she took my hand again, and we started walking down the tunnel. It didn’t look like the above ground quakes affected anything in the tunnel, or at least nothing in the tunnel we were currently in anyway. But we kept walking and were happy and ecstatic when we found other people in the tunnel. There were at least fifty other people. Chassidy was so happy, that she started to cry. This was good, because since we started to run, we hadn’t had time to mourn for everything we lost, including our mother. Once we got settled in, we started to cry silently together. We huddled together, and cried, both for being safe, and for our mother, God Rest Her Soul.

When we were done crying, we started to talk to some of the people in the tunnel with us. As it turned out, some of the people had been there since the beginning of the first announcement. They had asked us questions like “what was up there, what was happening, and if we’d seen certain people” and stuff like that. Chassidy did most of the talking, which was an extreme surprise, especially after everything that has happened. I guess the realization of losing our mother and our home in one felt swoop, made her stronger and even more take-charge than she really needed to be. But I wasn’t complaining because I was still scared, and I needed the support. Most everyone was either scared of what they heard from my sister or was shocked and worried about family. So we situated ourselves within this group of people, not knowing how long this would last or even if we’d be able to wake up in the morning.

The next day, we were awoken to a scream. My sister didn’t or couldn’t sleep that night, so when she heard the scream, she jolted up, and grabbed my hand and pulled me up. We went walking to where we heard the scream. It turned out it was one of the people we met when we first came into the tunnel. Apparently, she woke up, and her 3 year old daughter was consumed by the thing. She was hysterical. Apparently, as the lady told it, her daughter must have grabbed a little glob of it and stuck it in her pocket, and because she was moving so much with her mom, the thing didn’t do anything, just sat in her pocket. Then when they went to bed and her daughter fell asleep, it came out and consumed her. It was such a disturbing sight that I started to cry and couldn’t look at the lady. My sister took charge though and said that the thing would grow and that we as a group should keep moving. She took the lady’s hand in her other hand, and lead the whole pack. If you didn’t know my sister before all of this, you’d think she was a lot older than 9. You would have thought that she was a pre-mature adult. She was very take charge, very demanding, and helped everyone she came into contact with. No one challenged her because she was very set on everything she said, and no one else knew or at least had some idea of what to do. So the three of us, my sister, the hysterical lady, and I led the rest of the group down the tunnel. She was the strongest of all of us. Whenever someone was crying, or if someone were lost, she helped them, took them in with us. The fifty or so of us left in that tunnel became an extended family, all thanks to my sister. So we all traveled together.

Chassidy made all of us keep walking until we were beneath another latch. She climbed up the ladder and opened the door. She poked her head into the daylight, and then closed the door. She came back down the ladder and stood in front of all of us. She had a serious look on her face. She spoke loudly and clearly and asked how many of us were hungry or thirsty. Just about everyone raised their hands. So Chassidy spoke up some more and gave us all clear instructions on finding a group of three people, sticking in that group, and keep moving because we were going to go above ground and search and salvage for food. The she asked who knew what town we were under, and who knew the town best. At least twenty or so people raised their hands. So Chassidy gave them specific instructions of getting into the groups with others who weren’t familiar with the town. Chassidy spoke a couple last words about not stopping moving at all costs, and be back in the tunnel in fifteen minutes with all the food we can carry. So up the ladder we all headed.

I was in a group with Chassidy, a 16-year old girl named Eliza, and a twenty-something year old man named Leo. Once out of the tunnel, Chassidy took attendance quickly and then we ran to the nearest stores and restaurants we could find, as did everyone else. It was like a ghost town. Some of the stores were boarded up, and some of them were completely abandoned with windows and doors wide opened. It was the same for the restaurants. We avoided those that were boarded up, for fear of some harsh soul living there ready to kill to protect whatever they have left. Chassidy thought it better not to disturb the buildings that were boarded up. So after we came out of the last store, she took attendance, and then we headed back to the tunnel. All four of us had our arms and pockets full of everything we could carry. We didn’t take any refrigerated stuff because in the mid-summer heat, none of it would keep, so it would be a waste of energy and time and space, seeing as how we could only carry so much. Leo seemed to fancy alcohol more than food, so when we went to the stores, he seemed to hang around the alcohol section, and then in the restaurants, he searched every square inch of the bars for more alcohol. Chassidy had a firm eye on him the whole time and every time he tried to sneak some out of the stores, she told him “food or a buzz, a buzz or survival” he put the alcohol down, and grabbed more food. Anyway, we were the first back to the tunnel. Chassidy made sure that all four of us were accounted for, then she told us to pile everything up. No sooner than we did that, the others made their way down the tunnel. Chassidy asked for all the food they gathered. She took a tally, and then did a head count. Once she got an accurate number she started to split up all the food evenly. She then gave specific instructions for all of us to get in a line, and grab one pile of food. We did so. She handed out the piles. When we all had our piles, she told us to guard them with our lives because there are probably people out there willing to kill for what little bit of food we each had.

Once we had our food for the day, Chassidy led us down the tunnel. She said to keep moving. She also said to keep an eye on the younger kids, making sure they didn’t pick up any black, putty-looking objects from anywhere. However, I think I was the youngest there. Though these people didn’t care anything about age, they just cared about staying alive, and I didn’t blame them then, just as I don’t now.

When we finally stopped, it was because there was a train wreck blocking the tunnel. We were walking for a good hour and a half, two hours before we came to this wreck. Some of the people in the group suggested scavenging and digging through the mess for more survivors. Others suggested digging for more food, and then climbing over and through the mess to get to the other side of the tunnel. My sister considered all of these options, but thought it best that we just stay where we were, because we didn’t know what caused the wreck, if there were any survivors and what they were like, not to mention that we didn’t know what was on the other side. Everything was going smoothly until she discussed her thoughts. Everyone had been following her orders nicely; everyone never challenged her, until that point. Someone spoke up and asked why they should all put their lives in a child’s hands. Chassidy frowned, and simply said that she didn’t know any of them, but she knew what it was like to be lost, to lose everyone you cared about, and that she wanted to save everyone from feeling like that for the rest of their lives. That’s when the uprising started. It was absolutely horrible. People started feeling angry, started screaming. I heard many things that were misinterpretations of what she said, like how she supposedly thought that she, a nine year old, could handle emotional pain and distress better than the adults. Chassidy spoke quietly, but clearly, trying to calm people down and correct their assumptions. But the more she tried the more rowdy the group got. People started throwing stuff at her, and she just stood there, quietly taking the hits, with not a tear on her face. Then someone picked up a rock and threw it at her. It her in the shoulder, made her bleed, but she still didn’t cry, or say anything. Instead she pushed me out of the way so as I didn’t get hit. More and more people picked up more and more rocks. I sat there crying as I watched my sister get stoned almost to death. When they finally stopped stoning her, she was half buried and all bloody. I quickly ran up to her, tried to move and shift some of the rocks off her, then I just sat there with her head in my lap, holding her hand as she slipped away in my arms. I wasn’t paying attention to any of my surroundings, or the people climbing over me to start digging up the train wreck. I just sat there, crying as I looked at my sister, saw her close her eyes, and feel her hand go limp, without even a tear on her face. My sister died in my hands because she tried to help people.

And that was the last day I saw daylight. For the rest of that day, I avoided all those who killed my sister. I ended up going out on my own, acting on what I learned from my sister. The main things were to keep moving, and don’t let the thing follow you or be anywhere near you. I ended going in the opposite direction the rest of the group, going in the direction we came, instead following them. I was scared, and I was almost hysterical when I saw anything looking even remotely like the thing. I ran for an hour, walked for two, and then I sprinted as fast as I could for at least 3 hours. By the time I was tired enough to stop, I must have ran for miles. And I didn’t see anyone else since I left the group. I was completely alone in that tunnel, completely alone for miles.

I didn’t sleep that night either. I couldn’t. I was too afraid. Afraid I’d end up like that lady’s little girl did. It’s kind of amazing to think that all of this happened within 72 hours. Retelling the story, I even shock myself sometimes, but that was how it was. Truth be told, I didn’t see anyone, not a single soul until two weeks later. You’re probably wondering how I survived without food or water. Well, I still had the little bundle of food that we scavenged for above ground. And then when my sister died, I took her pile, so as she wouldn’t be feeding anyone else’s mouth except someone of her own blood and relation. I couldn’t stand the idea of something she worked so hard for, and practically died for going to someone else that lives off other people’s work. So I took her pile, and added it to my own. I had enough food and drink to last at least another week. And aside from that, being only six, I didn’t eat much to begin with, so it probably would have lasted longer. Anyway, as I was saying, I didn’t see anyone else for two weeks. And the person I met was a homeless woman; she said she lived in the tunnel. I asked her how long she had been living there and she said that she lived there so long, she couldn’t even remember how old she was, what her surname was, or even how long she’d been poor. But she did say to call her “Batty”, because everyone she saw called her that. Then she asked me what I was running from because a pretty little girl like me shouldn’t have been in the tunnels without a good reason. Then it occurred to me that she had no idea what was going on above ground. So I filled her in with what I knew, the best I could. I guess I didn’t do a good job because she was asking questions I couldn’t answer. But Batty wasn’t all that concerned either. She acted as though she’d been predicting this for years. I guess the only emotion I actually saw was sadness. Anyway, after I told her what was going on, she said that it would be best for me and her that we stick together. So I did.

We kept together for mile. When it came time to sleep, we took turns, or shifts. She stayed up first and kept moving so as to keep the Black Star away. The next night I took the shift. This kept up for about a year. When we weren’t sleeping, we were traveling up and down the tunnel, going above ground every week or so when we ran out of food, and meeting people every other day or so, but we never stuck around them for very long. After I told her what happened to my sister, she decided it was best that I stay away from people, especially if I happen to run into someone who stoned my sister. So every day we walked to a different place in that tunnel. It was the same thing everyday. The tunnel went on for miles through different cities and towns in different states. It’s strange for me to be telling you this story because just a year ago, I lost everything I ever had. I lost my mom, my sister, my home and everything I ever got for Christmas or my birthday, my place in humanity, everything, and I never had a chance to mourn. Not one. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t, and still barely can talk to anyone but Batty. And I figured out why she was called Batty. At first I thought it was because she wore extremely batty and old clothes and hats and shoes, which made her look older than she really was, which by the way, she was only 43 when all this was going on, but those old clothes made her look 90. Anyway, the reason she was called Batty is because her name was Betty “Bat” Hilda (“Hilda” being her middle name) because apparently, when she was my age, she had the batting range on the baseball field of a minor league all-star. This, being the only thing she could remember from her past, must have been as true as well, maybe more so. So it was good that she trusted me enough to tell me that.

You have to understand that since the Black Star came, there haven’t been holidays like Christmas or Halloween or Thanksgiving or birthdays or Easter or anything. And those who did celebrate the old holidays, which let me make clear that there were very few who did, celebrated in silence, with only members of close relation like brothers and sisters, mothers and kids, and others like that. The fact that Christmas was celebrated in groups, the idea alone was practically extinct. No one trusted anyone. Married couples hid their stashes of food from each other. Brothers and sisters got into fights to the death over a broken piece of hard candy or chewed gum they found on the ground. Sons and daughters were betraying their mother and or father. It was rare that you saw a family of two still be equal partners, still be considered a family because they stuck together when most others fell apart, and it the idea of more than two people in a family was also pretty much extinct. People were and still are hysterical, especially to each other. They’re almost aggressive to the point of murder and cannibalism to survive. But Batty and I kept together. She was my family. I had no one else.

A few days after what I thought was my 7th birthday, Batty and I were walking down the tunnel, and then she just stopped. I looked up at her, and she just stood there. She looked like she’d seen ghost, white as paper. Then I looked in the general direction of where she was staring and what I saw horrified me. A girl, no older than myself, on her hunches, in a ragged, ripped shirt that was dirty and stained and way too big and ruined for anyone to wear, her hair all matted and nasty, and dirt every where on her, and she was eating a rat and had blood all of her and the floor of the tunnel. She looked severely emaciated and hadn’t been washed in years, let alone properly clothed. Even though this shirt she was wearing was huge, it was ripped everywhere and it barely covered an inch of her anywhere. Batty just stood there, watching, her jaw nearly touching the ground and her eyes wide. The girl, realizing she was being watched, turned on her hunches to look at us. She looked at us, then at her “food”, then back at us. The look on her face was like she was in the middle of a war that was taking place in her stomach. Then she did something I never would have expected. She leant out her hand with the rat in it as if to offer some to Batty and I. After a moment, she kind of hopped over closer to us; hand still outstretched, and nodded her head, as if she couldn’t speak. I looked up at Batty, pulled her by the hand down to my level so as I could whisper to her. I asked her “What’s wrong? Shouldn’t we try to help this girl?” and she just looked at me. After a moment or so she looked back at the girl and just stared. Then she said without even another glance at me, “I think that is my grand-daughter.”

That was the biggest surprise of my life. I had no idea. The news hit me right in the face and left a mark that would have scarred for ages. While I stood there wide-eyed and in shock, Batty walked over to the girl slowly with an offering of her own in her hands. She had a package of crackers in one hand, and a sweater she gave me the other night because I was cold in the other. It was strange because the girl was keen on giving us something and getting close to us but when Batty got close to her, she started freaking out, like she’d been abused and messed with her whole life and was afraid of human contact. But Batty got close and put the sweater on her. Once Batty had the sweater snug on her, and made sure she was warm, she gave the girl her crackers. The girl ate those crackers in less than a minute. Batty backed up and came to stand next to me and watch. She was as wide-eyed as I was. We just watched in awe. Then the girl looked at us, swallowed the last bite that was in her mouth, stared for a moment, then she started bolting away down the tunnel. Batty jumped up and started screaming, “Damn! Come on, we got to go get her. Run!” So I did. I ran with Batty and we ran full speed to catch the girl, but Batty couldn’t exactly keep up, and I was barely on the girl’s tail, but we kept running. Then the girl turned sharp left and ran even faster. She was going so fast that I barely saw her feet hit the ground. The she turned right, ran for a little bit, but found herself at a dead end. The tunnel was caved in and packed down, so there was no where else to go except back. I rounded the corner with Batty on my tail, then stopped and just stood there, in front of he girl. Batty came around breathing heavily, hung on to my shoulder, and just looked at the girl while she caught her breath. Then she whispered “good job” to me. Meanwhile, the girl, she was scattering everywhere. She would stand in front of us for a second, just looking at us, then she would run up the mountain of rubble, then back in front of us again. She was trying to find a way out and away from us. I felt bad because I didn’t mean to make her feel bad, make her feel scared, make her feel trapped. I felt so bad that I couldn’t look at her. Then the girl finally calmed down, and fell to her knees, crying. Batty walked slowly over to her, got down on her knees, and hugged the girl. They just sat there for what felt like decades, and I felt like I was intruding on something I shouldn’t have been intruding on. I felt like I didn’t belong. So I started to walk away, pretending like I had something better to do when Batty looked at me, and the girl spoke up and said, “Come back. Don’t go.” I turned around and looked at the girl in awe. Batty did the same. We looked at the girl for what felt like ages, and she was blushing, then she just put her head down like nothing ever happened. Batty looked at me, and it seemed that we were thinking the same thing because then she nodded, then looked back at the girl. I spoke up and asked her, “You can talk?” The girl looked up, smiled, and nodded, but gently and subtly. I asked her why she ran, and she just sat there. Batty asked her, and the girl mumbled something that I couldn’t hear, and Batty just said, “Oh.” I asked Batty what she said, and she just shook me off………..

To Be Continued

The author's comments:
My first piece of fantasy writing

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