By Jennifer Velasquez
The walls are painted in various shades of red. Some stains are more vibrant than others, but that just means that the blood is fresher.
The ground is littered with piles of garbage and other remains of the living. I scan my surroundings. Nothing looks out of place; I see a filthy sock here, a missing finger over there, and probably the most shocking of all is an untouched candy bar I spot on my far right. Other than that nothing seems off… so far.
The air stinks pretty badly, but that isn’t anything unusual, especially for a place like this. An abandoned apartment building is probably the last place I should be in right now, but that doesn’t matter. Nothing really matters. The only thing that is important is surviving, and that’s hard enough to do as it is. I mean, if you asked me one year ago what I would be doing with my life right now, I might have said I'd be going to college or working at a stable job. Now it’s more or less: taking a shower about once a month, finding something that’s decent to eat, and avoiding being eaten alive. So far I’ve managed to do one of those things, and I am currently hunting for my next meal. Everything is still awful though.
It’s the truth; everything sucks. I don’t want you thinking that I’m unfazed and all right with any part of this ordeal. Boy, would you be wrong if you thought that I somehow managed to keep my sanity after everything I’ve been through. Sometimes I think that I’m stuck in some sick, twisted nightmare, and maybe I’ll wake up someday. Other days I just hide and cry. The worst part is I have no one; they’re all gone: my friends, my schoolmates, my neighbors, and my family.
They didn’t just vanish overnight. No, our town might have been small, but we still heard what happened. It hit us like a hurricane when the news broke out that we were under attack by man-eating monsters. Nearly everything went on lockdown. Forget about storms, wars, and money. The news covered a series of stories for days on the mass sightings. Showing short, choppy clips of our government’s military defending against the monsters. They tried to tame everyone’s worries, and it worked for a while; but behind our tight-lipped smiles and false reassurances to one and other, the fear still lingered.
Suddenly one day we lost really badly and the deaths kept increasing. Soon the TV coverage was shut down, and everyone was told to evacuate as soon as possible. Some scoffed, others tried very hard not to panic, but everyone went crazy. We all tried to escape, but there was nowhere to run. The population decreased overnight to the hands of the enemy, and there was no cure or solution. My family decided to flee, like all the other families, to anywhere that offered sanctuary.
We were on the road one night. I remember how the traffic stretched for miles and miles. Everyone was told to keep their doors locked and to keep their weapons stashed away. It was in the darkness that we heard loud screams and sounds of glass breaking. I just assumed someone’s car was getting hijacked or worse. It was very common to break the law, as there was no one to enforce it anymore, so theft and murder rates tripled. Although it terrified me and pained my heart with guilt, we had to stay inside. When the yelling started, however, I knew it was much worse. I saw my dad quickly grab the gun he had stashed away in his glove compartment.
“We have to get out now. Ethan hold onto your sister!” My dad shouted over all the chaos happening outside.
We hurried to unbuckle our seatbelts as we jumped out of the car. He rushed to our side, gun poised and ready to fire. We heard more people screaming, hundreds of gunshots being fired, and dozens of helicopters flying by overhead. It sounded like a scene from an action movie. We stayed still for a moment, frozen in fear and panic as we saw people running away from their cars a few feet ahead of us.
“No matter what happens, don’t let go, okay?” My dad yelled, snapping back to his senses first. His words jostled me out of my trance as I watched him scoop Lily up into his arms. He then turned and grabbed onto my jacket. I scrambled to hold on tightly.
We started to run in the direction the others were going. We pushed and clawed our way through the crowds, relying solely on our human instincts, but everything was madness. I found myself lost in the sea of panic, no longer holding onto my dad.
“Dad! Lily!” I yelled.
It was amidst my struggle to find my way back to my family that I was abruptly shoved backwards. Two sets of hands grabbed me from behind. “Dad! Dad! Help me!” I screamed. I kicked and thrashed, fighting back with everything I had. The hands gripping me were too strong. I twisted my head to catch a glimpse of the monsters, but what I found instead surprised me.
Looking back at me were two human faces. Two boys, who looked like they were my age, wearing military uniforms. I was too shocked to react when they dragged me farther back. The next thing I knew, I was being piled into the back of a big old pickup truck.
“Dad!” I screamed. I kicked and thrashed, but it was too late. I looked back one last time, before they hastily covered my eyes with a blindfold. After that everything went black. I never saw them again. Every day I relive that same moment.
Every passing day I carry the weight of my regret. I think over all the stupid mistakes I made, and I think about what I could’ve done better. You’re probably wondering what happened after I lost sight of them, what happened when I was whisked away by those two soldiers? Well, that’s a long story for another day. Now I’m here, chasing after stray ghosts and reminiscing the good times with no one but myself. Sometimes I think about how I was still a kid, how we were all still kids before our lives fell apart and crumbled. It wasn’t fair, what happened to them. It wasn’t justified at all, but we had to endure it anyway. Maybe fate favored some over others, so why did it choose me? I wasn’t the smart one. I wasn’t selfless or caring. I wasn’t talented, or interesting. I wasn’t important. My future wasn’t promising at all. So why me? Why did I have to be the only one to survive? Sometimes I just don’t want to wake up. I don’t feel like battling the inner and outer demons around me anymore. I see no point, no reason for fighting any longer. Even if I can’t feel the urge to survive anymore, I still get up because I’ll never give up. Not even for a single day.