Author's note: I was in World Studies and we were discussing Hitler and World War 2 and I was like... "What... Show full author's note »
Chapter OneRain downpours and smacks the pavement harshly. Hundreds of destroyed buildings loom overhead, dark and damp; broken and scattered across the now soaked ground. The streets fill with water, overflowing; drowning; the moon shines dully above, no stars in the black cloudy sky, crying for its loss; the loss of humanity, of the life that was taken.
She lifts the hood higher up on her head trying to keep her hair dry, although her hood is already soaked from the sky crying for its loss. She walks blindly, unable to see well into the night. No light is there to lead her. She hugs herself, trying to recover the warmth that long ago left her. She needs to find somewhere to stay. She needs to find food and some other humanity. She needs to know she isn’t the only one left alive.
The world was at war. Women and men alike fought to be free, but it was deadly. Millions of people were killed instantaneously. Everyone thought the war would end at that point, but the death rate continued to go up. They realized too late that it was a massacre. Many went into hiding or ran away from the danger. Where they went though, she doesn’t know.
She was once a part of an abusive family. When the war started, it only got worse, but once her father and mother realized that they could die, they started to go into hiding. They began to pack everything and find an underground tunnel to stow away in. She took the chance to run from them. She ran from everyone.
The war is over as far as she knows. There haven’t been any bombs or gun sounds around; no screaming or dying people calling for help. It’s deathly silent. She sighs to herself as she moves towards the right, a large building ahead. It’s broken down. It’s not somewhere she would ever call home, but it’ll be enough to get her through the rain. If she’s lucky, she’ll find clothes and leftover food.
She ducks her head as she enters, then stands tall as her eyes gaze over the house. Her hand reaches down to gently touch the butt of the cool metal in her pocket, easy enough to pull out and use if someone is here. She wants someone to be here, but she can’t help but know that it’s empty, cold, and dead silent. Of course it would be.
She shakes her hood off her head, long light brown hair spilling out over her shoulders and down to her hips. She moves slowly towards the first room, her hand clenching the gun. The first room is a kitchen. It looks as if it hasn’t been touched for months. A thin layer of dust and grime cover the surface, but she pushes past that disgust. She shoves aside a painful memory coming to the surface, but it bypasses her shield.
His eyes red and puffy from a whole pack of beer as his face came close to hers. His breath was musky, ranking of alcohol. Behind him was her mother, popping pills while he beat down on her. She didn’t cry out, instead tried to stand as tall as she could while he hit her; in the stomach, across the face, grabbing her roughly and having his way with her. The kitchen sink behind her was her only way of knowing what was real and what was a dream, because when her father came around, she couldn’t help but sink into a fuzzy haze.
She whips the memory from her mind, taking her eyes off the sink, which seemed a lot like the one she had. Only now, it was filled with disgusting dishes that were left behind in a hurry. She let’s go of the gun and pulls her hand out of her pocket to reach out and open the door to the refrigerator, which to her surprise was still working. How could it possibly be working?
She shrugs and rummages through the fridge, smiling in satisfaction when she comes across some water bottles and some cheese sticks. She pulls off her small backpack and starts shoving the water and cheese into it. She then goes to the cupboards next to the fridge and finds cans of spaghetti, boxes of chocolate goodies, and crackers. She shoves those into her backpack as well.
She closes the bag and lifts it onto her shoulders. Outside the rain pours harder. Wind rushes past, howling in pain as it tries to find its friends. The world is alone now. Everyone is gone.
She exits the kitchen and finds herself in a living room. Across the room is a fireplace, logs already in them; seems like the people who left were just about to start a fire, but found out the news of the massacre and hurried away. She doesn’t mind though, because then that means warmth and protection for herself. She sees a pack of matches on top of the fireplace and grabs them in a hurry, sparking one on the top and throwing it onto the log. The log sparks and slowly comes to life as the orange flame licks up its meal.
She nods to herself as she slowly pulls her hoodie over her head, hating the way it peels from her undershirt and her bare arms. She sets it down next to the fire in hopes that it will dry. Now, she just needs some clothes. She slips off her worn out converse and then her socks. She also pulls off her black jeans, laying them all next to the hoodie. She takes out the gun from her jeans and holds it tightly in her hand. She stands in a grey tank top with light blue panties. She slips her hair into a bun, then swiftly heads towards the staircase on the right side of the room. With the gun in hand, she climbs the stairs, keeping her eyes and ears open. Upstairs is much like downstairs; a large room to the left and a bathroom to the right. Obviously the couple that lived here had no children. She heads into the bathroom first, wiping off the mirror and stares at her reflection. It’s been a good few months since she’s looked at herself in the mirror.
She rubs her forehead with a sigh. Her once shining green eyes are now dull and sad. Her face is thin and sick looking, probably from her lack of eating. She turns slightly and smiles just a little. Her hair is shiny and wavy, cascading down her shoulders and swaying at her hips. Her hair is the one part of her that she hasn’t neglected to care for, simply because if her hair gets ruined, she’ll feel as if there is no point in continuing. It’s a silly thing, but it works for her. So long as her hair stays healthy and clean, she can find hope in any situation.
She tests the toilet and finds it working. She nods happily to herself before leaving the bathroom and heading towards the bedroom across the hall. The door is wide open, revealing a soft looking bed covered in a dark blue quilt and light blue pillows. Across the floor is clothing of what looks to be a woman, quite close to her size. She moves slowly across the room, eyes darting around until she reaches the dresser next to the bed. She opens the drawer and smiles again as she finds, to her satisfaction, that not only is there lots of dry clothes, but also that they are indeed in her size. She grabs armfuls of clothes and staggers back down to the fireplace room.
The fire is now bright and warm, leaping up from the logs hungrily. The room has reached a comfortable temperature. She shuffles through the clothes and finds a thin pair of sweatpants and a thin long sleeved shirt. She yanks the tank top over her head and pulls the sweatshirt over her head, pulling her hair out of the shirt. She then leans back against the wall, her legs spread out in front of her as she pulls out the crackers and cheese. The gun sits still next to her right leg.
“Stop” she cried in shock as the gun was raised to be in sync with her forehead.
He grunted, eyes red as blood and the scar above his left eye brighter than ever. She squeezed her eyes shut, accepting death. It would be a million times easier than waiting for someone to come painfully kill her. At least she would die at the hands of someone she unfortunately had to call family.
“Stop, Richie, the sirens are going again” her mother shouted out in terror, gripping her only bag in her hands, eyes wide and for once, not glazed over from all the drugs she takes.
Richie lowered the gun and turned away. “Go pack a bag. You’re coming with us, b****.”
She nodded without saying a word, then rushed past him towards her room, never to come down again.
She shakes her head from the memory. The day she ran away. The day she made her own choice, not caring if her parents would die. She often wonders if they are alive somewhere though. She can’t help but wonder, only because it seems as if she’s the only one alive these days.
She places the leftover crackers and cheese back into her bag and then grabs the blanket and pillow she found behind the old chair next to the fireplace on the ground. She curls up on the floor and lets her eyes slowly close, until she’s drifting into a world far better than the one she’s in now.
The smoke caught his eye. It wasn’t unusual to see smoke, mostly because smoke seems to be everywhere here, but when it’s coming from a building, he couldn’t help but be curious. Part of him hoped that it would be another person, and the other half was scared of talking to someone again for the first time in months. He holds the gun in both his hands as he shuffles towards the building to his right. It’s been a few days since he’s had a decent meal, and a nice shower. Perhaps this building is just empty and he’ll finally have a place to stay for the night.
The rain is pelting down harder now, and since he’s already soaked, he just walks. Staying out in the rain a little longer isn’t going to be any more dangerous than anything else he’s gone through. And besides, it seems like human civilization has come to an end anyway. At least he doesn’t have to worry about parents anymore.
He once had an incredible life. His parents were rich, and he had all the money he wanted. All the clothes and things he wanted. When the war started, they paid money to be left alone. So, the government took the money with the promise that they would be safe, except no one really knew that it would just become a massacre. His parents weren’t snobs. They donated money to charities and did kind things. He was the same, always helping those in need. He just had a lot for a kid his age. He was smart, well dressed with large dreams he had hoped to go to college for. Only now, that probably wouldn’t matter much.
He steps into the building, eyes gazing over everything as he pushes his way into the first room, the kitchen. He’ll come back in here later if the building is as safe as it looks. His mouth waters just at the thought of eating any food. He shoves the feelings away. A dim glow comes in from the next room, so he starts moving towards it. As he enters, he hears a c*** of a gun and turns in surprise to see a girl, her gun raised and pointing directly at his chest. He brings his up too, and now they both just stare at each other, guns pointing at one another.
“Who are you?” she asks, a hint of worry in her voice.
She’s gorgeous, despite being all gross looking. It’s obvious she hasn’t showered for a week. Her hair though is long and neatly combed back, as if she’s only spent the time to wash her hair. He lowers his gun and gives her a small polite smile.
“I’m sorry, were you sleeping?” he avoids her question.
He can’t tell her his name. What if she can’t be trusted?
She ignores his question. “Who are you?” She presses.
He sighs, his arms falling slack at his sides. “I’m hungry and tired and not in the mood to play the ‘who are you and what are you doing here’ game.” he grunts back.
She lowers her gun as well and nods. “I have some crackers and cheese if you’d like some.”
His mouth waters again, but he refrains from jumping at her offer. “Did you check the rest of the house?”
She nods, looking a tad bit annoyed.
“And you didn’t find anyone?”
She shakes her head. “I was kind of hoping I would.”
He knows what that feels like. Everywhere he has gone, he’s looked for someone else.
“You are real, right?” he asks, not believing that this is really happening.
And the strangest part is that he’s being so calm about it, when seconds before he was scared to talk to someone.
She laughs softly. “Of course I am. And wow, that was the first time I’ve laughed in months.”
“How long do you think you’ll last here?” he says.
He might as well make conversation. Who knows when he’ll talk to someone again?
“A day or two at the most, I’ll have to start moving again soon.”
He rolls his shoulders. “Same here. Where are you heading?”
Her eyes glaze over for a few seconds. She shakes her head to clear her thoughts. “I’m not sure. Wherever there is civilization I guess. I’m just walking aimlessly.”
He can understand that. “I’m heading towards my hometown.”
“A long ways from here, but it’s in New York.”
She smiles softly. “I’ve always wanted to go to New York.”
“Who’s stopping you?” She looks at him in thought, not having realized that she’s not tied down until that moment.
He shakes his head roughly to rid his hair of the rain, then pulls his shirt over his head. She blushes at him, but he doesn’t notice. He slips off his pants too, then sets them by the fire.
“Are there men’s clothes up there?”
She nods, turning away from him. He hurries up the stairs, the cold biting his bare skin. He ruffles through the clothes, tossing on a white shirt and grey sweatpants. He comes back down stairs to see her pulling out cheese and crackers. She had also pulled out another blanket and pillow.
“Thanks” he says softly as he sits next to her on the ground.
She doesn’t respond. She hands him the crackers and cheese and pulls the blanket up around him. She leans against the wall and closes her eyes. A small smile covers her lips.
“You know, I never imagined I would find someone. I was convinced I was the only one still alive.”
He looks at her, taking in the thin shape and tiredness underneath her eyes.
“How about you get some sleep and I’ll keep a lookout. We can take turns. That way we know we’re safe. You do know how to use that gun, right?”
She responds, “Of course I know how to use it. And alright, that sounds nice. Thanks.”
She shifts her weight and lies on the ground, her feet brushing against his right thigh and her hands curled to her chest, her breathing slow and relaxed. He can only imagine the crap she’s been through. He’s not saying she’s not strong, but to be alone for months, it could drive a person insane. He had a friend with him for a while, but they got caught and his friend told him to go while he stayed behind to be a distraction. He never saw him again.
That’s when he knew that he couldn’t rely on anyone else. He knew that after tonight, the girl and he would part ways, despite him not wanting to. It’s been much too long since he’s had company. He doesn’t even know her name.
He looks down at her again to see her sleeping peacefully. It’s probably the first time she’s really slept in months. He pops a cracker in his mouth and brings his gun up to study it. He doubts that anyone will find them. The world is empty. Everyone he’s ever known and loved and helped is probably dead. He can’t imagine that anyone else is really alive.
He sighs, his head lying against the wall. The rain outside lets up, now a gentle tapping on the windows and the wind doesn’t howl anymore. If they get lucky, they’ll be able to leave with sunshine. He knows they both need that sunshine.
He stands up, careful not to move her and wake her. He heads into the kitchen, hoping to find some food to take with him. He wouldn’t dare take the food the girl offered. She found it first. She deserves it. He opens the cupboards and starts to pull things out. He finds a lot of out of date food, which wouldn’t help him any. Just as he’s about to give up on his search for food, his hand closes over a key. Why would someone hide a key behind a lot of disgusting food? He brings the key close to his face, looking over it in curiosity. He wonders where it goes to. Perhaps the girl found a box or locked chest?
He won’t bother her with it now. He tucks the key into his pocket. He’ll bring it up later when she’s awake. Maybe they left food and emergency plans, or something of the sort.
“Run, son! Run and don’t come back” his father shouted as he began to grab his shotguns off the wall.
“I love you, darling” his mother called as he turned and started to run, just as they told him.
The government was coming. They didn’t stay true to their word, and his father and mother knew that they would die. They only hoped that maybe their only son would live. That way he could continue down the line, and maybe start a whole new life after the war. They could only hope though, as he sped out of sight.
She jerks awake to find the boy sitting up, his head against the wall and his eyes closed. He must have fallen asleep at some point. She doesn’t blame him. She looks at him clearly, able to function better now that she’s had some sleep. His hair is short, spiked up in the front naturally and a beautiful chestnut brown color. He’s tall and tan, with rough looking hands and a nice toned body. She saw it earlier. There is no mistaking those muscular arms.
She blushes at her thoughts and gets up. She stretches her arms above her, the shirt she’s wearing riding up a bit to reveal her stomach and used to be belly button ring. It’s gone now. It ripped out when she was running a while back. The scar doesn’t look too good now, but she didn’t have medicine to heal it with at the time.
She heads over to the fire and places a few more logs in it to keep the fire going. It’s lighter outside and the rain has stopped, leaving a dim ray of sunshine in its place. That’s a good sign. That means she’ll be able to go farther without being held back. Her eyes wander back to the boys figure. He’s sound asleep, but she wonders what he’s going to do when he wakes up. Will he leave instantly, thanking her for the food and protection? She kind of hopes he won’t leave. It’s been much too long since she’s really had anyone around her. She kind of likes having him around, even if it’s been less than a day since he found her.
Was it fate that he found her? What are the odds that he would have come around just in time to find her? She sighs softly, then heads into the kitchen, tugging her shirt closer around her. She avoids looking at the sink, instead opening the freezer to see if there are any fresh foods up there. If the toilet and fridge still work, then she can only assume the stove and oven would too.
She doesn’t find much and lets out a frustrated soft shout. She whips around to see the boy standing in the doorway. She lets out a strangled cry of surprise, but then catches herself and takes a deep breath.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” he says with an amused smile.
She rolls her eyes at him. “There isn’t any food to eat.”
“We’ll have to keep moving.”
“We?” she asks.
“Well, I meant separate, unless…”
She finishes his thought. “You mean unless we stick together.”
“Yeah, I was only thinking. If you don’t like the idea, yah know, we could…”
She cuts him off. “I would love to stick together. I was actually afraid that we would have to separate. It’s been too long since I’ve enjoyed someone’s company.”
He nods in agreement.
She moves past him and heads to the living room. She turns back to look at him. “Should we find another bag and put the blankets in there?”
“Actually,” he starts. “I found this key and I was wondering if you saw anything that it could possibly belong to.” he pulls the silver key from his pocket to show to her.
She reaches forward and grasps it. “You know, now that I think about it, I think I saw another door upstairs. I just didn’t think to check it out because it was closed.”
She leans down to grab her backpack, then with the key in hand; she leads him up the stairs. They both turn to glance at the closed door, almost invisible next to the bedroom. The boy reaches over and takes the key.
“I’ll do it. Stand back, just in case it’s dangerous.”
She almost makes a witty response, but decides better. “Hey, so what’s your name?”
He chuckles, looking over his shoulder. “Noah.”
“Chrissie.” She responds, as he looks back at the door.
He places the key inside the hole and turns slowly, his gun in his left hand, raised to shoot if needed. The door opens and a thin light leads down into it, stairs obvious to see.
“It’s a tunnel” Chrissie whispers from behind him.
Noah jumps a bit, forgetting she had been behind him. He looks down into the tunnel worriedly. “We don’t even know what’s down there.”
“That’s why we go down and explore.”
“What if it’s dangerous?”
She nudges Noah’s shoulder. “Are you a wimp? We both have guns, and I’m sure there’s a flashlight somewhere. If not, then we can make our own torch.”
He sighs but nods. “Alright, I trust you with this.”
She rolls her eyes and moves away from him, scurrying down stairs. “As you should” Chrissie calls back.
Noah rolls his eyes as he looks down into the tunnel again. It’s dark and damp, he can smell the mustiness. He’s kind of worried. What if it’s a trap? But if it was, would they really have hidden the key? He ponders the different scenarios that come to mind as he waits for Chrissie to come back. The warmth from the fire drains from his body and he’s left cold.
He turns to see Chrissie walking towards him, a bright torch in her hand and two backpacks in the other. Upon his confused glance she says, “I stuffed the blankets into a bag so we have them just in case. And this bag holds my food and… stuff from home.”
Noah doesn’t question her about the other various things her bag holds, instead takes the bag of blankets and the torch from her. The bag is thrown onto his shoulder and he looks at her for a second.
“Have your gun ready, but keep a hold on my shirt alright?”
She nods, grasping her small hand on the back of his shirt, reassuring Noah just a little bit. They start descending the stairs slowly, flinching at every creek that the wood makes underneath them, guns poised and ready to shoot. As they reach the bottom, they first realize that they are in a basement, probably well below the house at this point. Noah holds the torch out in front of him as they glance around. It’s empty besides for a small cot in the top left corner of the room. Farther past the cot is a small entryway, probably off to somewhere else.
Chrissie moves closer to Noah, shivering slightly under the cold temperature and simply because it’s strangely quiet down here. She can’t hear the wind or anything, just the quiet breathing of her and Noah. He seems to notice the tension and moves his hand to his back to grab hers. She lets out a shaky breath of relief.
“Do you want to follow it?” he asks softly.
She debates it. If they follow the tunnel, they could possibly find something important. That would explain why it was locked, almost hidden and the key was put somewhere not to be found, but if they follow it, there is also the possibility that something bad lurks beyond the tunnel and is actually a trap just waiting for them. Who knows which is actually right? Chrissie sure as hell doesn’t, but she isn’t sure just which one seems more likely.
“I guess we should follow the tunnel.” she finally answers, tightening her hand slightly on his.
He nods, hardly visible in the dim light, and starts forward, pulling her with him. They walk in complete silence, the torch light giving off a small glow so that they can see inches in front of them. Noah doesn’t take his hand from hers, giving her warmth and reassurance within his fingers entwined with hers. She doesn’t feel like those girls in the movies. None of this is romantic, and she most definitely does not know enough about this boy to even come close to falling for him, but there is something about his liquid blue eyes that seem to look into her green ones and see her soul. It’s as if he can see every mental scar of pain she endured with her dad, and the throbbing ache of what her dad did to her.
Briefly, she wonders about where he came from. She thinks of who his parents could have been, and then she also wonders how in the world he ended up here, in Ohio, when he’s originally from New York. But then, everything looks the same now. Perhaps when he was running, if that was indeed what he was doing, he was simply looking for an escape. He was looking for safety and weapons and food, just like her.
Noah stops, causing her to bump into his back and snap away from her ever wandering thoughts. He’s tense.
“What’s wrong?” Chrissie whispers softly, hoping not to make too much noise.
“Someone lived down here.” he responds, moving slightly so she can see the room.
The tunnel is far from the end, but the room that opened up in front of them had rows of made beds and clothes across the floor. A few lamps were on bedside tables and shoes lay scattered around. There is no sign of anybody, or that someone has been here recently, but once, someone had used this as their hideaway.
“Do you suppose since they found the people who were here before us, they could find us too?” Chrissie asks.
Noah moves forward, pulling her with him once again. He goes to the closest bed and gently lies a hand on it, testing the mattress. He then picks up the clothes and smells them.
“No, I don’t think they could. By the feel of the mattress and the smell lingering, it seems as if the attack here happened months ago. Let’s hope they forgot about this place.”
She lets go of his hand and heads across the room, flicking on the lamp switch. She cries in delight when the light glimmers on. He looks over at her and gives her a smile. With the light now on, Noah finds some old water and extinguishes it. She sees now that he wants to stay here for a while. She could see why. Although there is no food, there are beds and clothes that hopefully will fit them, and shoes. When was the last time she had a new pair of shoes? Okay, so maybe not new really, but new to her at least.
Noah lies on his back on the bed, wide awake. Across the room he hears the gentle breathing of Chrissie, who he assumes is sleeping. She deserves to sleep. He could tell by looking at her that she was frightened. He wanted to tell her that they were safe, but she would never believe him. Will they ever really be safe? Somewhere, out there, humanity must be rebuilding themselves. They must be looking for survivors. They really couldn’t be the last two on Earth, could they?
He sighs and turns on his side, looking over at Chrissie’s figure in the darkness. Just a day here, and then they should move on. If someone comes looking, they’ll know that someone was here and come looking. Noah knows they must move fast and not leave many tracks behind to be followed by.
He feels like he’s gone way too far in just one day. Sure, he’s been traveling for months, but now, he’s not alone. He doesn’t have to worry just about himself. Now he has to worry about someone else too. Just like when his friend was with him. Maybe he should leave now. Chrissie was doing fine by herself and he was too. Maybe they need to just separate again.
He closes his eyes and shakes the thoughts from his mind. What is the point of being so cruel to his self? He’s only making the situation worse by talking himself down from something good that came his way. Maybe for once, he needs to just allow what will happen to happen.