After the bombings I thought I was the only person left in the states. I;m only seventeen, I’m not supposed to be surviving on my own but, I mean I guess there could be others out there but the chances of anyone surviving the attack would be a miracle. But hey, I did right? If there are others out there they’re not anywhere near our campsite in Arizona. I’ve been walking for almost three weeks with little water and as much food as I could carry in my backpack. I don’t really know where I’m headed but I hope to find more people.
I walk through hot sand, the sun beating down on me; sweat plasters my dirty blond hair to the back of my neck. My mouth is dry and my head is pounding from dehydration. I know I can’t go on like this forever and right now I’m starting to wonder if I should try. I don’t see the point in continuing in agony when there doesn’t seem to be anything to live for anymore.
I sit down on the dusty ground and unscrew my water bottle. While gulping down almost half of the last water bottle I have, I look up at a large yellow sign with the words ‘Welcome to New Mexico’ written out in skinny black letters. I look at the water bottle. Should I look for more? Should I exhaust myself trying to find more water? The loneliness and sadness overcomes me as I sink deep into thought.
I remember that day. I dream about it when I am actually able to get any sleep. It was the fourth of July; the fireworks were coloring the sky which is why nobody paid any attention when the sound of detonating bombs filled the air. Soon a news report was texted to our phones saying that California, New Mexico, and Nevada had all been bombed. Few, if any people survived the attacks. Every day after that there were reports of other states being bombed but nobody had an explanation as to who was responsible for the destruction. Some people fled, hoping to find a safe place to hide, but my family and I, we stayed, thinking that they wouldn’t be thorough enough to bomb a campsite in the middle of nowhere. We were wrong. It was three days after the first bombs went off that Arizona was targeted. Bombs descended upon our campsite. I hid behind my father as he searched for a safe place to hide until it passed. There was screaming and wailing from the others around us. One fell on our camper, it bursted into flames. I was paralyzed and my brain was blank. I don’t know how I survived. All I can remember was standing in the middle of the chaos in complete shock, watching everything burn, I almost wish I had of burned with it.
A couple miles into New Mexico I find a small town, many of the houses have been blown to bits but I search what’s left of the stores for supplies, I find a building to stay in for the night. It looks like the charred walls might be blown over by a gentle breeze, but shelter is shelter.
I can’t sleep, cold air blows through the cracked windows. I shiver and tuck myself into a ball to keep myself as warm as I can. I wonder if there’s anyone else out there. These thoughts keep me from sleeping. I lay half awake for many hours until the sun comes up. As night turns to day, I force myself to get up, feeling more tired than before, weak, I know I need more food and water. However, starvation still seems very tempting, as morbid as it sounds.
I stumble; my legs weak from exhaustion but I continue on. I find a half empty bag of water bottles and stuff my backpack full of them. I search through the nearby houses for resources. Of course, when I began my hopeless journey, I would go into these houses and be afraid of finding charred corpses. Now I’m unfazed. They’re everywhere, still, lifeless, human bodies. True, it shouldn’t seem this casual of a thing, but it’s unavoidable. Whoever did all this must be sick, to bomb an entire country, leaving thousands of bodies to rot. Leaving me to see them all.
A sharp pain in my stomach has been making itself more and more known until it becomes unbearable; I stop walking and try to catch my breath. My head spins. I know is a mix of the hunger, exhaustion and dehydration. I haven’t been meeting my bodies basic needs and it’s starting to take its toll. I sit down on the hard, rocky ground. I hear faint footsteps coming close but I assume it is all in my head, a hallucination. I begin to panic, I freeze, afraid to move. I feel the pain again. My vision fades in and out as a figure approaches. With every blink it draws closer, until eventually I stop fighting it, I relax, allowing my body to go limp, I welcome the darkness that follows.
Slowly I open my eyes, only slightly disappointed that I’m alive, my head’s still pounding. I’m lying on an old couch staring at a large pine tree through a hole in the wall.
“Hey there,” a boy says; his voice is high pitched, almost childlike. I sit up and look in the direction of the voice “You didn’t look too good when I found you out there,” he says handing me a cup of water. I sniff it to make sure it’s safe. “Don’t be so paranoid, I’m not lookin’ to kill ya,” he smirks. I take a small sip. “What’s your name?” he asks. “You first,” I squeak. It’s weird hearing my own voice after almost a month of not talking.
“I’m Kevin,” I stare at him for a moment, studying him. His long brown hair is messy and dusty, he has a small scar, running from the outer corner of his eye and down his cheek. Kevin raises an eyebrow waiting for me to introduce myself. “Okay I just saved your life so are you gonna give me a name or do I have to make somethin’ up?”
“Scarlet,” I mumble preoccupied by studying my surroundings. “What?” “My name is Scarlet,” I say louder. “Good to meet you Scarlet, why don’t you come join me in the dining room and meet the rest when you’re feeling a little better,” he smiles, leaving through the open door.
The rest? I think. There are others? Curiosity overwhelms me and I follow Kevin out of the room. I begin to climb down the rotted stairs, afraid that they’ll fall out from under me. I find my way to the tiny dining room.
Kevin notices me come in shortly after him and the room of five other people grows silent. “Everyone this is Scarlet,” he nods in my direction “Scarlet this is Kat, Ally, Evan, Shark, and Alec,” he says their names so fast I doubt I’ll remember them all but, my attention shifts to the boy Kevin called Shark, his dark hair is messy like everyone else’s but it’s a little shorter than Kevin’s, his eyes are almost black, I stare for another moment and then look away. I won’t pretend that I don’t find him attractive, more than that I find his mysterious vibe intriguing. I walk further into the room and sit uncomfortably at the table. The two girls Kat and Ally sit down one on either side of me.
“So Scarlet, where are you from?” Kat asks, she talks fast, I can tell that she is a very energetic young girl. She looks like she’s probably fourteen or fifteen years old and she wears her light blond hair in a French braid that shifts just to the right of her head.
“I’m from D.C.” I tell them. “Oh I’ve been there! The White House was pretty fancy.” She replies eagerly. I just nod and smile. “Okay…well I’m from California, but I was in New Mexico visiting family. Ally here is from Utah,” Kat says “Alec over there is my uncle.” Ally tells me. Both girls talk really fast, it’s like they’re stuck on fast forward at all times “What about him?” I ask nodding to Shark who’s sitting at the end of the table crossing his arms. “Oh him, no one knows anything about him. He just showed up a couple of days ago,” Kat says. “Oh,” I mumble looking down. “He doesn’t talk much; we don’t even know what his real name is,” Kat says. I find myself staring at him again. “So, you all survived the bombings?” I ask shaking the thought out of my head. Ally nods.
“Yup, a little bruised up but we made it.” Kat says. “I think all of us have a little hearing loss though,” she giggles lightly. I find the remark funnier than I should have, I don’t mind having something to laugh about.
We all sit in awkward silence around the table eating a small dinner, it’s the most food I’ve had in a long time so I don’t complain. I find Shark staring at me before Ally taps me on the shoulder. “Yeah?” I whisper. She smirks and leans over to whisper in my ear
“I think he likes you,” she teases. It’s weird how comfortable I am with Kat and Ally, it feels like we grew up together
“No, shut up,” I whisper back but I giggle too. Ally raises her eyebrows, Kat looks over and Ally whispers in her ear. Kat covers her mouth and giggles. Alec gives the girls a weird look and they stop giggling. I frown at Alec, complaining in my head about how uptight he seems to be. We eat in peace the rest of the meal.
After the meal I subtly make my way to where Shark is sitting. I sit down next to him and stare at the floor. When I look up I notice him staring at me again.
“Is your name really Shark?” I ask trying to break the ice. He looks away. “Um…Okay, not a talker then,” I mumble awkwardly folding my hands and resting them in my lap. I look up and attempt to talk to him again
“So where are you from? I’m from D.C.,” I say trying my best to sound friendly. “I know,” is Shark’s only reply. His voice is deeper than I expected it to be.
“Not into talking?” I laugh awkwardly. He just glares at me. “Alright…” I say, swallowing hard, I stand up and walk away, feeling extremely weird about my failed attempt to talk to him.
“Don’t take it personally, he doesn’t talk to anyone,” someone says behind me, I turn around to see Evan. “Yeah I got that,” I sigh.
“I’m Evan, I’m from Nevada, and you’re from D.C. right?” I nod. I look at Evan to study him as I’ve studied everyone else. He looks older than me, like eighteen or nineteen, his hair is brown and cut short, I make note of his height –probably about six feet tall, I look at his light brown eyes. Something about him makes me uncomfortable
“So Evan, where were you when it happened? How did you survive?” I ask, trying not to think of what could be running through the boy’s mind.
“I don’t know, but sometimes I wish I hadn’t of been one of the survivors,” he replies, his voice emotionless. If I didn’t know any better I would think I was talking to some sort of robot.
“Yeah I know the feeling,” I frown. “I just wish I could get my hands on the person that caused all of this.” He growls. I Instantly grow even more uncomfortable, realizing I mistook pure hatred for emotionlessness. Anger pollutes the air around his last statement. I consider responding but I don’t even know how. I freeze, considering my next move. My next words roll right off my tongue, almost as if somebody else spoke using my mouth, without my consent.
“So do I.” I say “If I could, I would kill every person responsible with no hesitation.” A smirk forms on the boys face after hearing my response. I’m startled by it, by the anger behind my voice. “The others don’t understand Scarlet.” he says, taking a step towards me and placing his hands on my shoulders. He leans in. I hold my breath. “You and I are going to get along extremely well. You seem like somebody who understands what needs to be done.” I can feel his warm breath on my face as he stares into my eyes. Finally, after another moment Evan steps back and walks slowly away, ending the uncomfortable encounter. I dig my fingernails into my palms, instantly regretting my response to his statement. Of course I don’t want to kill anyone, it’s not in my nature to kill…but I suppose if anything were to change my nature, it would be the events of the last month.
I look over my shoulder to see Shark staring at my again. I shrug and shake my head.
I walk through the back door onto the patio outside of the garden where everyone is, even Evan somehow managed to get deep into the garden before I followed them outside. I drop the door by accident, making a loud noise that makes everyone turn their attention to me. I walk into the garden to join them “Did you really have to slam the only door that’s still intact?” Kevin jokes. I roll my eyes at him. “Okay, then,” he frowns taking a step back. He motions for Kat and Ally to come closer.
“Scarlet are you okay?” Ally asks. I feel anger rise in my gut. “I don’t trust you guys.” I say bluntly. “Well, I did save you from dying of hunger, sleep deprivation and dehydration.” Kevin points out.
“Fair,” I nod “So you saved my life, but why?” “Because normal people don’t let other people die,” Kat answers somewhat sarcastically. “What do we look like? Axe murderers?”
Alec stares at me in complete silence. I turn my attention to him. “Are you incharge?” I ask, sounding like one of those picky ladies in a restaurant asking for a manager. He shrugs “It’s my house but survival is more of a team effort.” he replies . “Nobody’s “incharge” we all just help to keep eachother alive.”
“So, we’re just gonna stay here and…survive?” I ask, raising my voice slightly. “What do you suggest we do?” Alec replies sarcastically. I look at Evan “You’re angry right?” he slightly nods his head “Let’s do something about it. Let’s…I don’t know, figure out who’s responsible for this and blow them up.” My eyes meet with Alec’s
“That’s ridiculous.” he chuckles “we don’t know who’s responsible and even if we did, we aren’t all psychotic.” He gestures to the others who are scattered around the garden. I pause, staring at the group of people before me.
“I’m not crazy! I just don’t like the idea of sitting around and doing nothing.” “Okay, why don’t you just calm down.” Shark says from behind me. “We can talk about coming up with a project or somethin if that’s what you need. But you have to calm down first.” I don’t even turn to look at him but I begin to feel myself calm down. “Alright,” Alec nods “We’ll meet you in the living room once we finish up out here.” he says. I agree, turning to Shark. I look him up and down. Studying his muscular figure, his dark hair, his deep eyes. I take a deep breath and smile at him. He scowls in return but I don’t mind. He backs away from the door to let me in and then goes back out it to join the others.