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The Fallout of Aria Jones
Hello, I’m sure you’re looking at this image of a serene sunlit landscape and thinking this must be the beginning of a beautiful story filled with gumballs, and peace, and all the things in this world that fills humanity with hope. Well, you’re wrong. This image marks the end of a terrible story, a story of loss, and events that tear you down from the pedestal of safety we all believe we live on. If you were hoping for a gumball story look at the shelf below you. No? Well then hold on tight and try not to cry on the pages please.
So let me begin by introducing myself, my name is Aria Jones, I used to live on a chicken farm in Ohio with my parents and two older brothers. I was pretty sure I lived a life so boring that even the slugs in my mother’s garden were laughing at me. Every morning I woke up at the crack of dawn to feed those stupid clucks and collect eggs, I didn’t even like eggs. After that I showered and drove my shitty 1987 chevy pickup 25 miles into school, the local community college. At the college I as busy pursuing an applied science degree so I could just get out and go and run a little roller skating rink up state.
While in school I attempted to focus the best I could but o matter how hard I struggled my notes always ended up being endless drawings of zombies, scenes that resembled that of Chernobyl, faces of forlorn and broken people only running on their will to survive. I was always very proud of my handy work, however come test time I found myself sweating and wishing fervently that I could rewind time and actually take notes!
School was never really my thing anyway I just railroad all the hard work and just get to the fun part. My parents had to nag and fight with me all the way through my childhood to get me to even clean my room, before I got to play. I found a way out of this by simply climbing out my bedroom window when they were looking and doing whatever pleased me, hours later I would quietly climb back in my window and pick up my room. This infuriated my parents and they attempted, with no avail, to explain that you can’t have the reward without the work. Obviously that never got through to me.
When the incident happened I was in the barn with my pistol shooting burlap sack full of rotting potatoes. I spent a lot of time shooting things ever since my father ad spent a weekend teaching me to shoot. But every time I went to shoot I terrified the animals, and my mother hated it. So my father and I tried to soundproof the barn as much as possible by putting sheet metal across the ceiling and stacking concrete bricks up the walls. This worked well enough for my mother. Let me tell you if it hadn’t been for my mother I would have died the day of the incident. The ground shook under my feet and I fell to my keens and then something fell on top of me, something heavy and hot, slamming me against the dirt floor. Every muscle in my body involuntary flexed to push the object off my body. The heat seared through my shirt then through layers of skin. Suddenly I had the strangest feeling that my head was the only part of my body remaining, my surroundings went blurry then turned into black shapes then it was gone.
I came to again because of the pain in my back. I could tell now what had fallen on me was a large piece of metal from the ceiling of the barn. I knew I had to get in of me, I analyzed the situation. I was laying on my stomach, and everything around me was either burnt to a crisp or too far away to reach. I pushed up with my back to get the metal off of me but the pain was excruciating. I dug my nails into the ground and was able to pull myself up about 2 inches before I realized my feet were stuck. I couldn’t drag myself. I laid my face in the dirt and thought.
I wiggled my feet and my arms and my belly and came to the terrifying realization that the only way I would be strong enough to get out from under the metal would be to use my legs as leverage, which would mean rolling over on my back. I began trying to talk myself into.
You are not getting out of this unless you do it… then you can get to a hospital.
I began to roll over, after what seemed like hours rolling over inch by inch I laid my back in the dirt. I wish I could explain that pain. Imagine being drug across a field of sand paper then being told you have to bathe in boiling hot water. I screamed as I arranged my feet under me and pushed. After several minutes I dragged myself out from under the sheet metal. I didn’t lollygag in that dirt I stood up and began searching for a way out. The entire roof of the barn and either collapsed or been blown off, likewise the door was nowhere to be found only the hinges that it once partnered with. I stumbled out into what seemed like winter in the middle of the night. There was about 3 inches of what seemed like snow but when I knelt down to touch it I discovered it was ash.
I began limping past the bodies of animals and pieces of debris from chicken houses and fences. Soon I began recognizing pieces of my house, there was a bed, there was our sink. Finally I was standing in the middle of my house searching desperately for the cellar door. When my fingers wrapped around the handle I recited a quick prayer and yanked it open.
Where were they! I began desperately kicking debris and scanning everything for my parents.
¶“Mom! Dad!” the words stung as they came out.
In the distance I saw a mound. I walked over and shuffled around wood and other shrapnel until I uncovered the blackened charred bodies of two people clinging to one another. My soul was too shocked to even cry, but I knew that something inside of me had just shattered and would never be repaired. I fell to my knees and just stared at the bodies for a long time, I don’t know how long it was. But for some reason I finally stood up. I looked around for my truck, and noticed that in the distance I could see a clear sky and the sun.
Without much thought I started walking toward the sky, I never even looked back. I know you’re thinking that I’m cruel for not saying goodbye to them. Now let me tell you, sometimes things happen and you just know that if you take another look that it will kill you. So I just walked.
I walked and watched the clear sky grown dark but I could still see the stars, and I watched the stars disappear and become light clue again. That happened twice. Finally I could where the sunlight was hitting the ash and began to run. I have never run like that before. I burst into the sunlight, onto a paved highway. I collapsed.
I must have slept for several hours, but I was jostled awake by the most annoying clunking movement. I was acutely aware that I was moving, I opened my eyes just a slit so that my captors would not know that I was awake. Through the slip I could tell there were three other people in the vehicle. I grisly man with dark skin and a salt and pepper beard was drivng. Next to him sat a younger woman a little older than myself, her dark skin matched that of the driver and her hair was curled in ringlets. Next to me was a boy about the same age as me his head was shaved, his dark features were more pronounced than that of the others but not alarmingly so.
I could see there was a shotgun in his lap and a rifle in the girl’s lap.
“Hey, I think she’s waking up!” the boy turned to me
I tried to act like I was still sleeping, but now they were aware that I was faking, desperately I pleaded, “Please, don’t kill me, I wont hurt you just let me go,”
“Whoa, little lady! Just slow down we’re not going hurt you. In fact you should be thanking us for savin’ your life.” The man’s voice was muffled slightly by his beard.
I reassessed the situation, there was still a chance that they were kidnapping me. I tried a different approach.
“If you’re looking for reward money for “rescuing” me, you won’t get any. My parents are dead. So I don’t have any money,”
The boy next to me finally spoke, “ Sorry to hear about your folks,”
“Huh, that’s funny I didn’t know kidnappers apologized,”
“We’re not kidnapping you! We’re trying to help you,” His eyes were hard.
I was still wary, but judging by his eyes I knew better than continue to fight back. I looked out the windows and watched the corn fields go by fro awhile until I couldn’t hold my questions back any longer.
“What happened to my farm, to my family?” my voice shook more than it did in my head.
For the first time the young woman spoke her voice was stern, “ The North Koreans,”
“They nuked us, Cleavland, Phildelphia, New York, and D.C. A quarter of the country is a wasteland now. The CDC is going crazy trying to protect everyone else from the fallout.”
I was dumbfounded. There was no way, I mean I knew that relations with the North Koreans had not been the best as of late, but would they really be forward and nuke us? And why Cleveland? Or Philadelphia?
“ The Government is scrambling to keep things under control but everything is chaos. In fact we were headed south when we came across you here on the highway and decided to take you along.”
“Why south?” My mind was still trying to rationalize what had happened.
“That’s the furthest we can get from all the nuclear fallout, not that it will do all that much unless we get all the way down to Argentina,” The young woman never just looked straight ahead when she spoke. She sat straight up in her seat and her hand help her rifle.
“How many are dead?”
“We don’t know there’s too much radiation to even go in there,” her voice was stone.
For the first time since waking up I gazed out the window opposite me and could see the aftermath. They sky was an ominous charcoal like that piece of land was locked forever in the darkest hours of the night except without all the stars. What once was covered in honey hued wheat fields and emerald alfalfa was scorched to the same shade as the sky. The air reeked of ash and death, the air was hot and dusty. My eyes watered.
I laid my head back on the seat and tried to think it away. But the rattling muffler of the truck made such attempts impossible. So I figured my only hope was to make conversation with my new companions.
“What are your names? Where are you guys from?”
The driver spoke first, “ I’m David, and these are my two kids Mellissa and Nathaniel.”
“We’re twins,” Nathaniel seemed overly proud of that fact.
“We owned a vegetable farm just outside Toledo, with my mom, but she died of cancer two years ago. “
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I couldn’t think of anything else to say
“She went out fighting,” David was solemn, “Where did you come from little lady?”
“My name’s Aria. My parents owned a chicken farm just outside Elyria. I’m the youngest of three. My brothers Jack and Cory are going to school in Oregon. My parents died the blast,”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Aria. How did you get lucky?” Nathaniel’s constant gaze made me uncomfortable.
“You mean survive? I don’t know if you call it lucky. I was out shooting in the barn when the blast hit. I imagine the concrete walls and reinforced ceilings is what saved me. The ceiling collapsed and pinned me, my whole back’s burnt up. I had to wiggle my way out of it. After I found my parents’ bodies I saw the blue sky and stared towards it. After that you guys found me.”
“How long did you walk?” David sounded incredulous.
“I think two days I watched the clear sky go dark and light twice anyway,”
All three of them turned and looked at me, eyes wide.
“Lean forward let me look at your back,” Nathaniel laid his hand on my shoulder.
I leaned forward which I found difficult, I could feel me skin opening. I grunted in discomfort. Nathaniel took a good look and peeled up my shirt which caused me to scream.
“Amazingly it’s not as bad as it should be, but you still need a hospital. And make sure you keep your shirt off your back your skin will grow over the shirt of you’re not careful. Dad how long until the next hospital?”
“Not until we hit Richmond which won’t be for several more hours, Aria you’ll just have to hang in there.” His voice sounded sympathetic, “ And I bet you anything those hospitals will be packed,”
“ I thought there weren’t many survivors,” I spat through gritted teeth
“We don’t know how many there were but if there were any Richmond will be the first Hospital over state lines to fill up,” Mellissa’s voice was cold.
“Damn,” I tried to lay back.
“You best sit up you don’t want that getting stuck to the seat,” Nathaniel voice was gentle but stern a combination I didn’t think possible.
I leaned forward and laid my face in my hands. “We’re screwed aren’t we?”
“Not yet if there’s one thing Americans know how to do it fight, and I know that’s exactly what we’ll do. But for right now our goal is a hospital and then Arizona until we can cross the border,” David sounded hopeful.
After that things went silent and I tried to sleep. Which must have been what happened because the next things I knew Nathaniel was shaking me awake.
“Aria we’re at the hospital, come on,”
I tried to sit up and with that a tearing sound went down my back along with the worst burning sensation known to man. All I could do was gasp as I moved form the truck to the gliding doors of the Emergency Room. By the time we reached the admissions desk my vision was blurry. I was rushed back where I saw a doctor immidiatly. They asked if I was allergic to any medications I shook my head no. Everyone left. The doctor came back and laid some cool aloe cloths on my back. Five minutes later I was wheeled to the shower room where I was hosed down with cool water. I screamed the whole time. I barely had time to catch my breath before the punctured my arm with an IV.
“These are some pain meds and a sedative, so you won’t feel much while we wrap you up,” A kindly male nurse explained
That was the last thing I remember before I woke up. Around me where David, Nathaniel, and my doctor. I attempted to say something but words were too garbled to for them to understand.
“You’re coming off the med so you’ll be groggy for a few hours. I wanted to keep you overnight for observation but they’re shutting the hospital down because of the radiation. I have given your friends enough materials to keep you taken care of for a least a month. And pain meds. You’re a lucky woman Aria. I don’t know how you survived but you did. Unfortunately, you’ll have to continue to fight for life in the next several weeks. We all will. The evacuation begins in one hour.” The doctor spoke quickly and when he was finished he dashed out.
“We’ll let’s get you in the truck,” Nathaniel leaned over and picked up out of the bed as if I weighed nothing. I just leaned into him and was asleep again before we got to the truck.
The next time I woke up I was in a bed. Nathaniel sat at the foot watching me., “ Well, well, good morning sunshine!” his smile was warm like hot coco in wintertime.
“Where are we? How long have I been asleep?”
“Well we are at a hotel right outside St. Louis, we left the hospital yesterday afternoon, it’s about 2 p.m.”
“Holy s***!” My vision was still a little blurry and my words felt awkward coming out. But my mind was sharp and alert.
“Yeah I was scared you may not wake up ever again. Anyway now that you’re awake I got you some food. I hope you like cheeseburgers,”
“Yeah, thanks,” I reached for the plate of food.
Five minutes later I had eaten everything and practically licked the plate clean. I had also drank four bottles of water. Nathaniel looked at me like I was some wild animal. “ So what’s next?”
“Well, we’re leaving in about thirty minutes. Do you need a shower?”
The idea of showering with my burn made me want to cry.”No I’ll just wash my hair and face in the sink,”
Twenty minutes after that we were all loaded back in the truck and on our way.
That was two days ago. Since then we have stopped thee times. The news tells us that the president died in the bombing as well the majority or the cabinet. Our secretary of defense has taken over. There are no relief efforts in effect for the area, and the CDC estimates that that part of the country will not be inhabitable again for over a million years. Only five survivors have been reported me being one of them. I wrote a letter to my brothers and explained that mom and dad are dead and that I’m heading to Arizona. In the last town I bought a journal to keep track of what’s going on.
Three hours ago we hiked to the top of a canyon, the sun was rising. It was one of the most beautiful scenes I had ever seen. Unfortunately, this is where we plan on living for the next few weeks. So there you go my story, it choppy and unfinished. But it’s also the truth no mater how difficult it is to swallow. And this is my life with three people I hardly know, that are quickly becoming my family. We need each other to survive and I am absolutely positive that we will survive.