Everything eventually resets itself naturally. Whether it be the man who lost his daughter, beginning the gradual process of moving on, or nature itself, reclaiming an old building. Considering this, what happened was only natural.
December 23rd, 2015
“… and that’s it for the news, coming up, North Korea makes threat…”
“Honey!” My concentration on the news broke as my girlfriend, Taylor, called for me. I sighed and clicked off the TV.
“Yes?” I said, groggily. She quickly noticed that I was out of it, and put on her pouty face.
“John! You know we have to call all of our friends to invite them to the Christmas party today!” I was not in the mood for this at all, but looking down at her signature puppy-dog eyes made me give in.
After a long afternoon of phone calls, I plopped down on the couch and almost instantly fell asleep. When I woke up, I instinctively held my watch to my eyes. I choked back a gasp, realizing that I’d slept a good ten hours or so.
December 24th, 2015
“… residents are advised to pay attention to sirens…” Had I left the TV on all night? Grabbing the remote, I shut it off. I realized that I had a sticky note attached to my arm, and pulled it off.
I went to Amy’s place. Don’t forget to buy a tree for the party, I’m counting on you!
Being much too lazy to look for a tree farm, I headed for a department store. After some indecisiveness and some free cookies, I decided upon a mid-range artificial tree.
After bringing the tree to the counter and paying for it, I walked out of the store. My phone buzzed, and I whipped it out to check. It was a text from Taylor; she was walking to the store that I was at to buy some lights. Deciding that I might as well meet her halfway, I began walking down the road.
I’d walked about three blocks when suddenly my eardrums were pierced with an unrealistically loud and high-pitched buzzing sound. I dropped the tree and began to clutch my ears. Was this an air raid siren? Suddenly I remembered: the old bomb shelter a block or so down. This was obviously a test or malfunction, but better to be safe than sorry.
After reaching the shelter, I was astonished at how old and decrepit it looked. My ears had since adapted to the buzzing, so I released them. Pulling out my phone, I began texting Taylor, when I looked up and dropped my phone, seeing that she and many other people were running to my location. Taylor’s eyes met mine, a look of desperation on hers. She opened her mouth and tried to tell me something, but her words were drowned out by the yelling of the crowd and the siren.
She pointed to the shelter, to which I nodded my head and ran inside. I gazed out the door, motioning the crowd to hurry up and get inside. As the mob got about a block away from me, a sudden rumbling sound emerged, surpassing even that of the siren. Immediately, the ground gave a single, violent shake. Everyone in the crowd and I fell to the ground. The sirens stopped, and for a moment, there was silence.
This silence, however, was quickly broken by a cracking sound, followed by a piece of the ceiling falling and pressing against the open door, slamming it shut, and trapping me inside. The first sound after that was the scream of Taylor, followed by that of the crowd yelling and banging against the door. Desperate, I tried to open the door, but to no avail, the rubble wasn’t going to budge. Taylor’s screams intensified, filling me with adrenaline and rage. Losing control from those two elements filling my body, I grabbed the door and irrationally pulled past my normal limit.
Almost immediately, I heard a sick crack, realizing that it was my left arm. The pain almost nonexistent at this point, I strained until my vision started to swim. Suddenly, I heard a sound that was only comparable to that of a shotgun being fired nearby someone’s ear.
This sound continually grew in intensity, until it seemed that its source was right outside the door. After the sound became utterly unbearable, a sudden shockwave sent me flying backwards into the concrete wall, almost headfirst. The last sound I heard before passing out was silence, and then footsteps. I felt something trickling down my face, unaware if it was blood or tears, and then my vision faded to black.
Black turned to blurry vision, and then somewhat clear sight. My entire body was enveloped in a blanket of pain; so much that I couldn’t move anything but my eyes. Surveying the room, I spotted a large box with a cross on the top that had fallen from a nearby shelf, knocked over by my impact. Summoning all of my willpower, I crawled towards it, opening it to reveal braces, painkillers, and other various medical supplies. Without thinking, I started to fit the brace onto my broken arm, resulting in an involuntary scream from the pain. After securing the brace, I gripped the needle, suspiciously labeled only “painkiller”, and jammed it into my right arm, injecting the liquid inside.
A few minutes later, my mind was cloudy and I felt numb, but the pain was truly gone. Getting up, I forced myself to stumble towards the door. Knowing full well that it would be in vain, I attempted to open the door again. I nearly fell flat on my face when the door actually opened, however.
Staggering outside, the light instantly stung my eyes. After my pupils adjusted to the harsh light, I gasped. Every building in the area… looked almost untouched. The worst damage visible was a broken window or two. Looking for any signs of life, I spotted a stout man with a large backpack and long hair. Overcome with relief, I shouted, “Willie!”
Upon hearing my call, the man froze, and spun around in a flash. I fell against the wall, upon recognition of what was in his hands and pointed at me: a rifle, a fairly powerful looking one at that. Running towards me at a speed much faster than his looks would have led me to believe, he jammed the butt of the gun into my gut.
“What the hell, man?” I choked out, holding back vomit.
Will’s eyes widened upon hearing me talk, and he grasped my hand tightly, pulling me upright. “John, how the hell are you still normal?” Willie was the neighborhood crazy, the local conspiracy theorist with a bunker under the shed. Most things he said were typical ramblings of a lunatic, but at this point those were welcomed.
“I don’t know what the hell you mean, but I was trapped in a bomb shelter for God knows how long.” Willie began laughing, making him seem like Santa in his red jacket. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I told you that my backyard bunker was gonna come in handy one day!” To me, Willie was that odd acquaintance that one would generally try to avoid, but any familiar face was relieving at this point. Understanding that I should probably stay on the good side of the guy with a rifle across his back, I decided to go with it.
Putting my hand to my head, I shrugged. “Yeah, I guess you were right. But, I need to know, how long was I out?”
He laughed again, this time making me irritated. “John, it’s only been a day.” I sighed, my fears of having been in a coma or something for years were gone.
Willie’s jolly smile changed into a grim look, one I didn’t remember ever seeing him have prior. “Yep, it’s the 25th. Merry fucking Christmas.”
December 25th, 2015
“Come on, John. Let’s head to my place. I’m sure that Sam will be overjoyed to see your face. Hell, I’m sure that I can convince her to whip something up for us!” As weird and antisocial as Willie was, his wife Sam was the polar opposite to this. My stomach remembered the fact that I hadn’t eaten for more than a day faster than my mind could, emitting a loud growl. Willie’s face became jolly again. “Well, I guess that settles it!”
After a long and uneventful walk, we arrived at Willie’s house. Eventually, it occurred to me that we hadn’t seen any people on the way here. “Where is everyone, by the way?” I asked Willie.
“Probably evacuated,” he said quickly. “Sam offered to go to the public bomb shelter because ours is only big enough for one person, so she can probably tell you more about everyone’s whereabouts.” This was weird, it seemed like he was trying to dodge the question. Adding to that the fact that I remembered no one other than myself in the shelter. Then again, I only remembered running inside and being knocked out by something.
When we made it to Willie’s front door, I stopped. What did he mean by, “How the hell are you still normal?” Now that I thought about it, he never told me what even happened. I ran in front of him, blocking the door. “Willie, what did you mean earlier when you asked how I was still normal?”
Willie’s eyes widened upon the realization that I remembered. He started trying to reach around me for the door handle, saying, “It was nothing, John, just get out of the way!” I pushed him off of the concrete walkway and into the lawn, where I swept his legs, making him fall hard onto the grass. I put my foot onto his chest, and looked him in the eye.
“What did you mean, Willie?” He struggled to move, but realized that it was no use. Even in my drugged state, I was stronger than him. Willie sighed and quit squirming.
“John, we got nuked. The whole town, or maybe even more, got fuckin nuked. But it wasn’t a normal nuke, no actual damage to the town. It sent out a wave of radiation equal to that of an actual nuclear explosion, but only for a second. After that, it seemed to disappear. That’s why we can still talk, and you can still have your foot on my damn chest.” I sighed and moved my foot, grabbing his hand and heaving him up onto his feet. He wiped the grass off of his jacket as I stared at him in shock.
“So… everyone’s dead?” I asked, gravely. The look of desperation that previously covered Willie’s face was now replaced with one of solemn dread.
“No, they aren’t, John. They are all disfigured, almost beyond recognition, But the thing is, they are just going about their day. No matter what shape they are in, they are just doing what they would normally do. I saw a woman missing the bottom portion of her body crawling down the street holding a purse.”
“That’s definitely messed up, but why the hell are you toting a rifle around town?!” I asked. “They seem benign, but I can’t be too sure.” He put on a forced smile and walked closer to me.
“Now, let’s get you some food.” He slapped his hand onto my left shoulder, sending a sharp wave of pain through my body. Realizing that the painkiller was starting to wear off, I agreed to go inside.
Willie unlocked the door, opening it and stepping inside. “Sam! I’m home!” he boomed. Silence. He proceeded further into the house, and I followed suit. “Sam?” he called again. Suddenly, my entire body seemed to drive the last of the painkiller out, and I fell against the wall in a torrent of pain. Willie looked at me, surprised. “Don’t worry, buddy, Sam has a medkit somewhere.” I was relieved, Sam worked as a doctor for a local clinic.
“Sam! Get the medkit!” Willie yelled. Suddenly, the final influences of the drugs left my mind, and my memories of the previous day returned. Now that I could think clearly, Willie had said that Sam went to the public shelter, but…
Knowing fully well what was inside the house, I yelled, “Willie!” but it was no use. Willie ignored me and called another time. Because of my position, I could see what was around the corner before Willie. When I saw what was coming however, I vomited uncontrollably. A figure with long hair and long, slender arms was coming into the kitchen. Or rather… a long and slender arm. The other one was dangling from a shoulder, connected by a few strands of sinew. Her visible body covered with lumps and cysts. Trying to prevent Willie from seeing, I called him again, but it was in vain. Before he could turn around, “Sam” came into his line of vision.
Willie froze and fell to the ground, in a shocked stupor. I closed my eyes, and clenched my fists in anger, when my heart skipped a beat. “Will, did you call to RSVP for John and Taylor’s party?” My eyes snapped open and I looked at the thing before me. Because of the way I was situated, I couldn’t see higher than her neck, so I had no idea what kind of state her face was in.
“Sam?” The word barely came out of Willie’s lips. “Sam” paused, as if waiting for a reply for what she had said, and continued.
“Please, don’t forget. We haven’t seen them in a while, and I don’t want for us to seem rude.”
Willie slowly looked in my direction and whispered, “That’s… that’s exactly what she said yesterday…”
A smile suddenly crept across Willie’s face, disturbing me and making me cringe. He got up, and kept his eyes to the floor. “Yeah, honey, I’ll get right on that,” he said, shakily.
After another pause from Sam, she began talking. "Thanks Wil-" As she was talking, Willie’s eyes had met hers. She froze and immediately became quiet. Will looked concerned.
"Sam-" Immediately, Sam pounced on Willie, knocking him to the floor. Her face was visible now, and it looked exactly the same as it had before. I weakly called for Willie, trying desperately to help.
“Why?” was all that Willie managed to say before Sam tore out his throat with her own teeth and silenced his pleas. I could only stare in horror as the last of Willie’s life drained from his body. And then, Sam got up.
Immediately after doing so, she fell against the wall, moaning in pain. Her eyes drifted to me. “John? Is that you?” I gasped audibly, was this really Sam? Her eyes went to the mangled corpse at her feet and she started to sob.
“I… I did this… I killed Willie…”
Her eyes went to the rifle at Willie’s side. Knowing her intentions, I mustered up all of the remaining strength in my body to shout, “Don’t do it!” as the barrel went to her mouth. I stretched my arm to try and at least get her attention as she balanced the gun between the floor and her chin, her working arm reaching for the trigger. My energy gone, I slumped down and my vision began to blur and darken. “Sam…” I muttered, as I saw a flash of light and heard a shot before my vision faded to black.
I opened my eyes. Looking around, I located my knife. Grabbing it, I etched a mark into the wall beside my makeshift bed. It’s been a while since I actually counted them, I thought to myself, beginning to do just that. Huh, so it’s really been that long?
Pocketing an old revolver with “W + S Forever” branded onto the wooden handle, I forced open the bunker door. Climbing out, I ignored the glare of the sun, and walked forward regardless of the near-blinding light. My eyes drifted to a man dragging himself down the road with a hole on the side of his body, entrails leaving a bloody trail behind him. I kept walking.
I reached a vending machine and started to inspect it. A couple of chip bags and some chocolate. I took a deep breath, and kicked the glass with my steel-toe shoe, shattering the cover immediately. I reached in to get the chips, not noticing or caring about the jagged glass edges. My left arm came out of the vending machine with two bags of chips, and a deep gash. I simply took off my shirt and wrapped it around the cut, not putting much effort into actually dressing the wound.
The walk back seemed like a flash. I closed and locked the shelter door and looked at my watch. Five minutes. I pulled out my chair and a bottle of whiskey. After waiting in silence for four minutes, I took a large gulp from the bottle and slumped back in the hard, wooden chair.
I reached for the radio and checked my watch again. Thirty seconds left. I started playing a song I’ve heard many times, as the time hit zero. The song was almost drowned out by the yelling and banging on the door, eclipsed by Taylor’s screams. Upon hearing those screams, I took another large swig, and passed out shortly after.
Taylor’s screams echoed in my dreams. That night, I dreamed of nothing but Taylor being evaporated in the wind and pointing at me as it happened. Nothing but that reoccurring dream.
I snapped awake, covered in sweat and tears drying on my face. Realizing too late where I was situated on the bed, I fell over onto my side. As I started to get up, I see something metallic under the bed, and grabbed it. It was a tinfoil hat that Willie had given me as a joke on my birthday, knowing full-well that I got annoyed by his conspiracy theories. Bloody memories resurfaced, and I threw the hat back underneath the bed.
Grabbing the knife, I put it to the cement wall by the other marks, and stopped. My vision was blurry from tears, and my hand was shaking. I threw the knife across the room and started to sob quietly, covering my face with my arms. After calming myself, I realized that it was finally time to face the elephant in the middle of the room. Grabbing my revolver and loading it with my last two bullets that I’d been saving, I opened the door. I walked outside, stopping when I realized that I’d left it open. I kept walking.
I put my hand on the doorknob that I’d turned so many times in the past, and twisted it open. I heard footsteps from inside the house. Pulling out the pistol, I pulled back the hammer and held it at my side.
I could faintly hear the sound of pen on paper, and I glanced around the corner to see a bloody hand writing on a sticky note that was almost completely black with pen ink. The body attached to the hand was covered in lacerations and lumps.
I walked into the living room. “Hey, honey!” I said weakly. No response, she just continued writing. Tears now streaming from my face, I struggled to keep my voice stable. “I-I’m so sorry that I couldn’t save you. I just wasn’t strong enough to open the door…” I wiped the tears from my eyes, as Taylor put the sticky note onto someone who wasn’t there, and it fell onto the couch.
She sat down across from the sticky note, and for a split second, seemed to show a glimpse of sadness. I walked in front of her, and gripped my revolver tightly. “I’m sorry… this is all I can do for you…”
As I aimed the gun, it felt like lead in my hands. Every inch the gun moved closer to its target, another memory of happy times flashed before my eyes. When the gun was finally pointed at Taylor’s head, I wiped my eyes one more time, and steadied my hands. Taylor started getting up, and froze as I looked at her eyes.
Written by DarkerThoughts