~)((N))(~ight had finally fallen and I was beginning to feel the effects of my rigorous labor. The whole day had been non-stop work. Finding a new “home” meant I had to move all my stuff to the safer location. It wasn’t easy. I got hurt a few times, being the klutz that I am. Getting stuck and losing a shoe in the mud just added insult to injury. Heck! Even my hand-made, piece-of-crap wagon had broken, not once, but twice. It had taken an hour and a half of my work time –and my life- to fix it, meaning more left over labor for the next day.
It was by chance that I found this cinderblock cellar with heavy doors. The only thing left of what probably was a very nice home. It would provide me a more secure place to sleep. The reason I left my last home. There is nothing like waking to a bear rummaging for food next to you to get you going.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I lay back on my bed and covered my face with my arm, my mind drifting off to some past memory. I clenched my fist and wondered why I was hurting myself by thinking about it once again.
It had been a few years since the incident, but the wound was still fresh. There was an unyielding ache, like someone was steadily driving a knife deeper into my heart. It really was unfair. Out of all those people, I was one of the few, if not the only one, left alive. It made me think about what would’ve happened if I had died and someone else was left in the world of the living. Would they be suffering the way I was? Tears leaked from the corners of my eyes and slide slowly down my pale cheeks. I lowered my arm and sat up, placing my hands on my face. Why was I crying? I shook my head angrily and rolled off the bed. Grabbing my lantern, I stumbled my way to the cellar doors. My fingers slid blindly across the wall until they reached the cold metal latch. Grasping it with both hands, I yanked it with all my might and nearly toppled backwards from the force. It was strong. At least I knew that no ordinary animal could get in. Unless that bear decided to morph into the King-Fu Panda and drop kick it, I was sure that I would be safer here than in my earlier residence. I grinned at my intended pun, but within seconds, the smile faded from my face and I froze, my hand still on the door handle to keep me steady as another wave of realization hit me. How long would it be before chance brought me together with an animal that thought “I” might be something good to eat?
Even though I felt like I was forgetting something, I stormed out the door, slamming it closed behind me. Like the shadows cast from the beam of my lantern, the melancholy thoughts started to swirl around in my mind once more. The guilt for living . . . The pain of losing everyone . . . The sorrow of being alone . . . Would it not cease? The will to live was slowly slipping through my fingers, and I was sure that if I did not find a reason to carry out what life I had left soon, I was just going to give up. It wasn’t fair to have to stay alive in a world that clearly didn’t want you in it.
Dead leaves crunched loudly under my feet as I walked down the abandoned street. The dead atmosphere and sickening silence made me want to scream at the top of my lungs that I was alive. I was here. I was alone . . .
If I did, would someone miraculously appear from the shadows and come to my rescue?
Doubt it. But I wanted to try anyway. I stopped walking and looked up at the night sky, as if to pray for an answer, before screaming, “I’m here!” over and over again, non-stop for a good ten minutes. It wasn’t the first time I had pulled this stunt. I had done it just the other day. So, call me crazy for trying the same thing multiple times and expecting a different result, but I still continued to endeavor.
I repeated the phrase one last time, and then silenced my cries for help, letting my shoulders slump in defeat. I would just have to give up. I couldn’t think of anything else to do.
My legs began to move on their own and I started towards the ruins of a grocery store I had discovered a few weeks ago. It wasn’t good for shelter or anything, but there was, however, a lot of dented cans lying around there. Ah, years ago I never would have thought as Chef Boyardee or chicken noodle soup as a delicacy, but now I got this overwhelming rush of giddiness when I picked up one that looked like it was safe to eat. It was like Christmas. And just the other day I found a can of soda. Flat as it was, it still had that distinct ‘Pepsi-Cola’ taste.
I grinned when I saw the store –or what was left of it- come into view. The walls lay in ruin, the roof partially gone, burnt merchandise scattered all over the place. It wasn’t in the greatest shape ever, but it provided.
My feet hit the edge of the cement and I came to a stop. Since my discovery, I have been coming here; scrounging for food and scurrying back to my hide-away. Routine is what I called it. A chore, more or less was what it was. Although, tonight something was different, I felt anxious, like, I wasn’t alone. Had someone heard me yell? Or was it just nerves? Unsure of what to do, I stood there like an idiot, staring at the darkness. Seconds seemed like hours while I was frozen in place, just waiting for something -not sure what- to happen.
Nothing . . .
I looked up at the sky once more and sighed. “Not fair.” I mumbled. This time I got a reply. Not the one I was hoping for, but a reply none-the-less. A flash of light lit the night sky followed by a loud, crashing boom that resounded throughout the heavens, marking the arrival of a storm. “Nice . . . “
Aggravated, I went up to the rubble and began throwing dirty cans with faded labels into a pile. I would sort them out neatly later. Time was of the essence. I would have to shorten my raid and only get the essentials.
Minutes had passed. The number of cans increased dramatically, and soon I was shivering from the cold rain that had begun to pour from the dark clouds. My teeth chattered and the loud rumbling and bright flashes of light made me want to run back to my cellar and cower.
Another violent shudder shook my body as I bent to gather up my findings. There were so many that I had to use the front of my shirt as a carrier, which was fine because it was soaked and wasn’t doing me any good as clothes anymore.
The rain picked up. It fell in heavy sheets, drenching me to the core. I had to hurry. Turning my back to the ruins, I began walking away when a weird humming noise reached my ears. Startled, I spun back around. Rocks and debris began to part and give way to what looked like a metal box. It screeched across the concrete until it was too close for comfort and then came to a halt. The irritating humming noise increased and the odd box began to morph. The top opened and an antenna like thing appeared from the top. I continued to stare, dumbstruck. I wasn’t sure whether to be scared or intrigued.
“Um . . . Hi?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
The pitter patter of someone running down the road reached my ears. A man in his early twenties came running out of the shadows and knocked me out of the way, yelling, “GET DOWN!”
I hit the ground face first, my abundance of cans flying in all directions. Deafening gun shots sounded and my hands flew up to protect my head. There was a ridiculously loud explosion and pieces of what I thought to be the metal box thingy showered down around me before everything stilled. The only thing I could hear was the rain and the ringing in my ears from the several boisterous noises.
“Are you alright?” A husky voice made me raise my face and look around slowly.
“Y-You . . .” I desperately groped around in my mind for the right words, but I came up empty. I was speechless.
“Um, can you speak?” He looked at me with an odd expression. His words were laced with a mixture of amusement and concern. For some unknown reason, that ticked me off. A spike of anger flared and I narrowed my eyes at him.
“Y-You throw me face first onto the ground, a-and ask if I’m okay?! Seriously?!” My outburst was clearly unanticipated. His face faltered before the expression changed into an apologetic one.
“I’m sorry. If you wanted to get captured, then be my guest . . . One of their slave camps is located two towns away . . . “
I was in the process of standing up, when his words hit me. ‘Slave camp?’ I looked at him again. “Wait . . . What did you say?”
He looked me over before answering. “Slave camp, two towns away.” He repeated sarcastically, enunciating every syllable like I was stupid. I gritted my teeth, and glared daggers at him. But, as his gaze met mine I averted my eyes and stared down at my feet while his words played repeatedly in my mind; they made absolutely no sense. “Slave camp . . . “ I mumbled, hoping that hearing them out loud would shed some light on the meaning, but I honestly couldn’t establish what this man was babbling about. Was he insane? The gears in my mind began to turn and a light bulb finally flickered on. My head snapped back up and I squinted at him.
“Are you real? Like, alive?” I asked dumbly. Oh, boy. I was such a nerd. What kind of lame question was that? The instant the words left my mouth, I wanted to pull them back. Leave it me to sound like an idiot when talking to someone for the first time in three years.
He tried to keep a serious expression, but the corners of his mouth twitched. “I think I am among the living, yes.”
My actions were rash, but I couldn’t control myself. I ran up to him and threw my arms around his waist for he was much taller than I. He staggered back and looked down at me, unsure of what to do.
“I’m not alone!” I cried; my voice breaking. “I’m not the only survivor!”
He placed a hand on top of my head as a comforting gesture, but moved back slightly. “What do you mean only survivor?”
“I-I mean I have been alone for just about three years . . . “ I stated shakily, pulling away as well. I didn’t want to look at him. I probably looked horrid. My short, dark brown hair was plastered to my face, blue eyes wide and disbelieving, and to top it off I was soaked. Yuck. I wrinkled my nose and took another step back, not even daring to look up at the stranger.
“What’s your name?”
“Skye. Skye Vitchire.” I said softly, my eyes glued to a random can of Spaghetti O’s that had landed by my feet. “You?”
“No last name?”
“Corporal Mark Levins.”
Once again we were suspended in an awkward silence. His answer didn’t add much to the conversation.
“W-Where did you come from?” I asked, glancing up at him.
“A military base not too far away.” He stated. “I was manning a nuclear missile station down in a bunker when it happened . . . I was trapped for weeks.” Mark shifted his weight from one foot to the other and fixed the shoulder strap on his gun. He looked nervous, like he was talking with someone for the first time in a few years as well.
“Okay . . . “ I was unsure about how to phrase my next question. I didn’t want to sound even more ignorant than before.
“Okay . . . “ He repeated, the amusement from earlier returning.
“What’s going on?”
“Have you been in a hole this entire time?” He quipped.
”No, just a cellar . . . “ I shot back.
“Funny. Funny.” He rolled his eyes and shook his shaggy black hair out of his face. “Can we get out of the rain now? Or are you doing something important?”
“Not really. Where should we go?” I inquired, looking disdainfully at the bounty of cans that lay scattered around my feet. I would have to come and get them later. No sense in it now.
“Your place, I presume? You live nearby, right?”
“Yes . . . “ I didn’t really want to let this man into my quarters, but I had no choice. He did save me . . . I think. And, he also had a gun. That should’ve taught me to not go out unarmed.
I began walking back down the same isolated road I did before, Mark trailing not far behind me.
We reached the cellar doors, and I struggled to open them, all the while Mr. Soldier stood behind me, nearly dying in silent laughter. It wasn’t funny. Not at all . . .
I huffed and when I finally got it unbolted. The friggin' thing was definitely strong.
“You live here?”
“Yes, I live here.” I scowled. “I’m sorry it’s not a luxury suite.”
“Yeah, me too . . .” He walked in and looked around, like he was examining my work. The layout I had was nothing fancy. I had a bed, an old CD player with speakers on a broken table held up by a stack of old books, a rack where I hung my clothes, and just a lot of little things in general I found and put on my make-shift shelves. Not even close to decent. I slammed the door angrily and leaned back against it, watching him closely.
He glided around the room, stopping every now and then to scrutinize something that caught his eye. One thing in particular surprised him. “You have a gun?”
“Yes. Why wouldn’t I?”
“I don’t know . . . And, ya do know, it’s really no use if you don’t have it with you . . . “ He picked it up and examined it. “A Glock 9 won’t protect you from an ‘Unworlder’.”
I ignored his commentary and focused more on his last statement. “A what won’t what?” I moved from my place in the doorway and took the weapon out of his hands.
He sighed and looked at me like he was fighting some kind of inner battle. “You haven’t noticed anything odd in the past years? Like, supernatural?”
“Like tonight . . .”
“That metal box.”
He groaned. “Anything other than the box?”
“Aside from everyone I know disappearing, not really. What do you think?” I said smartly. “And what was that thing?”
“Oh, wow. I have so much to explain to you, it’s not even funny.” Mark pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut before lowering his hand. “Okay.” He said. “Come.”
I obediently followed him to the bed and sat down, him on one end, I on the other.
“Okay.” He repeated. “Three and a half years ago, there was an invasion. An alien invasion. We aren’t sure where they came from, but within a few hours, the world was in utter turmoil. They disabled our satellites and nukes. We fought a short war that lasted for nearly three days, but ended in their favor. They were too advanced. Our weapons were no use.”
“Wait . . . What day?”
“August 29th, 2012”
“I think I remember that day . . . You see, I used to have a nasty habit of playing in my parents’ old bomb shelter and falling asleep . . . But, that one time when I woke up and tried to leave, I couldn’t get out. I was trapped in the thing for a week!” I mumbled, mentally filing through my memories to make sure I got my story straight.
Mark nodded thoughtfully, and continued on. “I would assume that is the reason you are still here. They couldn’t find you; otherwise, you would have been abducted or killed.”
“Abducted? And, whatdya mean killed?”
“Apparently, the aliens wanted slaves.”
“So, the slave camps then . . . There’s others there! There are people! My parents! They could still be alive!” I jumped up and attempted to run over to the door, but he grabbed my arm and pulled me back onto the bed.
“No.” He stated firmly. Mark’s expression was no longer one of annoyance, it was sorrowful. He, too, was thinking the same thing I was.
Infiltrate and save.
I sighed and started to think logically, using my common sense. The thought of running in there gung-ho wasn’t the brightest thing I had ever come up with. If the invaders were as powerful as he said, we would be dead before we even got into the camp.
The quiet settled in between us before Mark spoke up once again. “Yes. There is that possibility; nevertheless, there are no guarantees. However!” I opened my mouth to protest, but he held up one finger to keep me from interrupting. “Last time someone attempted it, they were killed.”
“How do you know that?”
“He was a comrade of mine.”
“Oh. I’m sorry . . . “ I said, looking at the ground.
“Not your fault. I understand . . . “ He picked his gun up off his lap and examined it thoroughly. “I can’t believe a girl as small as you survived for this long.” He finally said.
“S-Small!? I’m seventeen! I’m not small!”
“Oh, wow. You look really young.” He laughed and I glowered at him.
“Okay, Mr. Know-It-All, how old are you?”
“Jeez!” I threw my hands up in the air and sighed in exasperation.
“You’re pretty interesting, Skye.” Mark said, he grinned and I blushed.
“Yeah, whatev- Wait. What’s that noise?” There was a humming coming through the walls, steadily getting louder. The same sound the box had made earlier only increased in volume.
“I’m not sure… “, He stood up and cocked his gun. “Be quiet and put out that light!” He commanded.
I nodded and picked up my gun making sure it was loaded. It was. Full round.
The noise amplified, and the whole room began to shake. Things began falling off the shelf and I could feel the vibrations through my chest. It was odd. I had never experienced anything like it. Was it the storm?
“Mark?” I whispered. He was standing, battle-ready, with an unreadable expression on his face. “Ma-“
I couldn’t get his name out of my mouth. An eerie silence made me stop. The riotous noise had vanished. A wave of relief washed over me and I sighed. “It’s gone.”
“No.” He hadn’t moved from his stance, he was still glaring at the door. “Skye, hide. Now.”
“But why-“ I was about to reach out to him, when a loud explosion blew the door in.
“GET DOWN!” Mark threw himself over me and we landed in the corner of the room.
“Mark? Are you alright?”
“Peachy?” He growled, his jaw was locked and he was grounding his teeth viciously against one another. He was hurt.
“Mark . . . “ I whispered, scared that the only person I have known for years wasn’t going to be okay. But, He ignored me. Instead, he stood up and aimed his gun at the door.
“Incoming . . . “ He muttered. For the first time, I believed Mark was in the military. He looked too young before, but now he actually looked like a soldier. A serious expression was stamped on his features, lips pursed into a thin line, and his eyes held no emotion, like he was concentrating extremely hard on something. It reminded me of the war movies I had seen on TV as a child.
I shook my head, trying to snap myself out of my daze. We were in trouble. I stood up and went over to Mark’s side, aiming my gun, which paled in comparison to his, up at the door as well.
The dust swirled around us in thick clouds, obstructing our vision. We barely saw the shadows that were making their way slowly through the hatch. They were large. Twice as big as us. In number and size.
I heard Mark curse under his breath before pulling the trigger. The shot rang out, like the bullet hit metal, but the creature he was aiming at didn’t fall. It, and the others, continued coming towards us.
“Skye, get back . . . “ He whispered. I wanted to protest, but the look on his face told me to do otherwise.
So, obediently, I took a step back, keeping my gun pointed directly at one of the monsters. They were closing in. I looked around, terrified. What was going to happen to us? My eyes darted over to Mark. He had lowered his gun and his arms held out in surrender. I gasped. I couldn’t believe it.
“Skye . . .” He said, stepping back slowly until we were side by side. “This is where we say good bye.”
The last thing I remember was a blinding flash of light and Mark’s apologetic smile.
I am not sure how long it’s been since that day, or even what the date of that day was, but what I do know, is that I am not alone anymore.
I am with people again. My friends. My family. I am with them everyday, working to build over the rubble and destroyed buildings that used to belong to us.
Earth, the place we used to call home, was slowly disappearing. And we got to watch it happen.
)((* ~xZx~ *))(
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