Adolescense

Perhaps if we hold an upstairs room and keep the lights off. Then well be able to last a lot longer and be less noticeable I thought to myself, yes! That could work, we find a large skyscraper, go to the top level, lock it down and stay silen-.

“Mr. Erastus!”

I jolted forward from my daydream to the sound of my World History teacher yelling my name, I knew he knew I was daydreaming, and he certainly wouldn’t let me get away with that. That wouldn’t be Mr. Finch’s way.

“Could you do your classmates a favor and answer my question?” He asked, with an evil smirk across his wrinkly pale face.

“Yes sir, could you repeat the question?”

“What year was the World Alliance signed?”

Crap. I had no idea in the slightest what year it was signed, I thought extremely hard, I dug deep into my memory, but found no promising answer.

“2A 243, sir” I finally answered with a sense of defeat in my voice.

Mr. finch then started laughing and sarcastically exclaimed, “The great World Alliance was created in the same decade as when Alakite colonists first discovered the Kathara Isles!” He immediately stopped laughing and said with a serious tone,” Mr. Erastus, I didn’t appreciate my student not taking my class seriously, now either pay attention or get out!”

“Yes sir, I’m sorry sir.” I said quietly.

What a jerk, I thought. Mr. finch was a bitter old man, and everyone in class thought the same. He was a hard and strict teacher, nobody uttered a word, a whisper, or a simple noise during his lectures out of fear of his harsh correction. As far as I knew he was in his sixty’s, and had no wife or kids. Perhaps he was lonely, and he vented his frustration of life through his teaching. Though if that were the case, loneliness in my opinion is no excuse for being a complete jerk.

I tried to pay attention to the best of my ability, I mostly ignored what he said and just copied what he wrote down on the board for notes. I’ll just study it later. I always did that with my classes, I didn’t really listen to what the teacher said, I just copied what they would write on the board so that I would have the basic concept of what to do when the test came around. Because of this lack of true academic initiative you can imagine that I don’t do very well in school. I’m a C student, I’m not successful but I’m also not a failure. I’m okay with that because if we’re honest the only people in my life who truly care about my grades are my parents. In my eyes so long as I graduate I’ll be fine. I’m comfortable being a C student.

After what felt like thirty years in limbo, the bell finally rang. It was finally time to go home. I rose from my seat and collected my books from under my chair. Just then Mr. Finch approached me and said with a confidently evil voice, “I expect I will no longer have any reason to call you out in the middle of class again, Mr. Erastus?”.

Happy that it was a Friday, I was no longer angry for being embarrassed in front of the whole class by him, so I joyfully replied, “I certainly hope not, have a good weekend Mr. Finch.”

He nodded back as if to say, ‘You too’.

I then left the classroom to go to my locker where my friends commonly met after school. You see, me and my best friends Mark and Stephen (who were twin brothers) got really lucky this year and got all our lockers really close to each other. Mine and Stephen’s lockers were adjacent to each other, Marks locker was to my right with one other locker between us. That locker belonged to some guy named Finn. Oddly enough, Finn never actually went to his locker, in fact I don’t even know what he looks like, but Marks insists he knows him. I insist that Finn doesn’t exist.

I approached my locker, Mark and Stephen were standing there talking about their day. They turned when they saw me coming their way.

Being twin brothers, both Mark and Stephen have similar appearances, they both had brown curly hair and had oval faces. The biggest thing that separated their appearances were their faces and their body sizes. Mark was tall, stocky, and wore glasses. Stephen on the other hand was quite the opposite, he was skinny, short, and didn’t have a single muscle on his body except for his legs. That guy could outrun a horse, and because of that he was the prize of our school’s track team.

“Mr. Caleb Erastus! Have you been daydreaming again?” Mark teased, mimicking Mr. Finch’s voice with scary accuracy.

“Shut up!” I replied jokingly, “So do you guys want to come to my house Saturday night so we can play some Apocalypse City?”

Apocalypse City was our favorite video game. It was pretty straightforward, you start in a huge city where you can interact with everything, the NPCs (non-playable character, or extras), the vehicles, the buildings, everything. The goal is to survive and save as many survivors as possible. There are three modes: Zombie, Nuclear War, and Asteroid (nobody has ever survived asteroid). Our favorite mode was Zombie, where you randomly appear somewhere in the city, and a random NPC would become a zombie and they attack other nearby NPCs and the plague spreads. It has become routine for us three to play Apocalypse City when we all hang out.

“I’m down.” Said Stephen with his brother nodding in agreement, “We have to beat Asteroid mode before graduation!”.

“Three weeks to beat a nearly impossible game? Challenge accepted my dear friend!” I remarked with confidence. “hey, I have to get going. I’ll see you guys Saturday night. Later”.

I grabbed my backpack from my locker and walked through the zoo that was my school. I said hi to the people I knew as I walked through the crowds, but I made a point to make short conversation with each person that tried to talk to me so I could make it out of the building as soon as possible. When school was over, my only concern was going home, but it seemed like everyone wanted to prevent that. I talked with at least twelve people about meaningless things until I was finally able to make through the glass doors to the outside of my school. It was a sunny day, the sun shined down glowing everything around me, it was warm but a small wind cooled the day, it was truly a beautiful day.

I got into my paper-white, fourteen-year-old Sedan with a dent in the door, and drove off. My house was only a few blocks away from my house, I drove to it and pulled into the driveway. The house was a red ranch house in the middle of a small middle class neighborhood.  We had lived in this house ever since I was little, my parents couldn’t afford anything bigger. My father owns a small hardware store and my mom is a receptionist at a local law firm so were not poor but we certainly aren’t rich.

I unlocked the door with my key, nobody was home yet so I had the house to myself. I walked through the long hallway going into my living room. The hallway was filled with family photos and had two doors. One door led to the kitchen and the other door went into another hallway that was home to even more family photos and my sister’s and parent’s room. My mother was obsessed with taking photos when my sister and I were kids. She took pictures of anything and everything that was remotely related to our childhood, I would always complain when she pulled out her camera, and she would always say the same, “You’ll thank me when you’re older”. It’s funny, 12 years later and I still haven’t thanked her for it.

I walked into our living room. Our living and dining room were in one big room, with the living room on the left and the dining room on the right from the perspective of the hallway. The living room had a large leather couch facing the wall. From the view of the couch you had a large chair in which we usually read from, on the right side was an uncomfortable loveseat that nobody sat on unless they absolutely had to. The dining room was a dark wood table with four wooden chairs for each of my family members.

I laid down on the leather sofa. It was soft and comfortable, years of use had rendered it plushy and covered in scratches. When I laid down I sunk into it, I was always tired after school so I would always take a nap directly afterward.

I awoke to the sound of my mother walking through the front door. She walked into the kitchen and put what sounded like groceries on the kitchen counter. She walked into the living room and told me to get up and join the living. I reluctantly got up and went into our kitchen, I grabbed a soda and I drank it while leaning against the kitchen counter.

My mother walked into the kitchen and said, “hey Cal, how was school?” with sincerity.

“It was good, I made Mr. Finch angry again.”

She frowned, and then joked “With you, that shouldn’t be hard to manage!”.

I laughed. My mother was a small slender woman with long straight brown hair, she never disregarded how she looked, so there was not a single moment my sister and I saw her without her makeup or had not done her hair. She cared deeply for her children and was a great mother to us.

Eventually my father came home from work followed by my sister. We all gathered at the dinner table, my father had picked up a Ready-to-eat chicken and we all began to partake and reminisce about the day.

“Any news?” my father asked while making his plate.

“I got a call from my father today, he’s coming up next weekend”. My mother replied looking down in almost shame.

My father rolled his eyes and sighed, “I just bought two expensive bottles of wine, what am I supposed to do? Dump them?

“We can drink the one bottle over the course of the week and you can dump the second before he comes”.

My grandfather was a senator who traveled due to his occupation and often visited his only daughter when his was in the region. This was a dreaded occasion for my parents because my grandfather was an alcoholic so whenever he would come over my parents would drain everything in the liquor cabinet so he wouldn’t get into it. My mother had dealt with his alcoholism most of her life so she tried her best to keep it from me and my sister.

My father was a hard man, he worked hard his entire life and all the stress and work had made his heart a little callous, he wasn’t a very sensitive man. He didn’t grow up rich like my grandfather, he had to fight and claw to get where he is at now, but despite all the stress, he always kept a strong sense of righteousness and thus he was brutally honest with people. So whenever my grandfather would come over and ask where the alcohol was, if there was alcohol, the only thing my father could do was be honest.

But the worst thing about my grandfather in my opinion was not his drinking problem but how he saw my dad. Being a senator, he was always surrounded by prestigious people so he never really approved of my mom marrying my dad.

“Are you sure he can’t stay somewhere else?” My father asked my mother hesitantly.

“No, he insisted on staying here” she replied, suggesting she had asked him personally if there was anywhere else he could stay.

My father sighed. “Any other news?”

“Yes” my sister said silently, then spoke up, “I was watching the news this morning and scientists say that a small group of asteroids are entering the solar system…”

 

To Be Continued.

Ash

It was four in the morning somewhere in a large burnt forest where he awoke in pain. His name was Marcus, but at this time he had no idea who he was because he was suffering from a concussion. The pain he was feeling seemed shattering, like every bone in his body had been broken and twisted, the pain was so intense that the only thing on his body he could move was his eyes.

He laid on the frozen ash covered ground for what seemed to him like days, but were really only several hours. He could do nothing but examine the dark smoky sky and recollect his memories. Quickly he remembered who he was, the people he knew, the old world, and the war that only happened a year and a half ago. He hated to think about the old world, this was because he didn’t like to remind himself that the world was once green, the sky once blue, and the water clear. But no, now it was all black. Marcus knew that if the world kept getting colder, there would be no hope for humanity. But there was still hope for the world, Marcus was starting to realize that in the past couple weeks the temperature had actually been rising, and the sky was getting brighter.

After several hours of laying on the ground in truly agonizing pain, he finally had enough strength to pull himself up out of the dusty snow on to his feet. He had a terrible limp in both his legs, so it took him several times to get up and not collapse under his own weight. Once he learned how to keep himself up without falling in pain, he started to analyze his surroundings. He noticed he was in a crater, not a large one, but one that may have been formed from some kind of explosion. The dead trees surrounding the crater had all fallen over, like a great wind had come out of the crater and knocked them down.

After he found his way out of the crater and out of clearing of fallen trees, he walked into the forest. The woods were black and he could hardly see anything. He was tired and still in pain, he knew he needed to find shelter, he noticed behind him past several trees was a narrow cliff that someone could easily climb up. As he was walking toward the cliff he tripped over something in the snow. Marcus knelt down and began to unearth the anomaly out of the snow, this wasn’t much of a challenge for him because the snow was very powdery and easy to move. When he was done, he was severely shocked at his discovery there laying in the black snow was the corpse of a man. Marcus had never seen a dead body before; he didn’t know how to react. Sure he felt great pity for the man, but didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t just leave him there, but he couldn’t give him a burial or a cremation; the ground was frozen and he didn’t have anything to start a fire, so he just did what they always did in the movies: he prayed for him, then closed the man’s eyes and put the man’s jacket over his face. Marcus noticed that the man had binoculars around his neck. He decided to take it so he could find a shelter once he reached the vantage point.

Climbing up the cliff wasn’t much of a challenge for him either. The cliff wasn’t that steep, and there were a lot of rocks so there was a lot of traction. To add onto that, the boots Marcus was wearing were leather mountain boots so climbing was very easy.

After several miles up the mountain side, he finally found a proper vantage point over the valley. He looked across the desolate land, desperately searching for any sign of human life (or at least anything green). The entire valley was burned and it seemed as though there was nothing left alive. He searched the valley from the edge, all the way to the horizon which was covered by mountains and dead trees that looked more like jagged and broken toothpicks. He started to fill his mind with depressing thoughts that he could be the last man standing, the sole survivor of Armageddon.

When it seemed as though there was no hope of finding any sign of human life in this valley, he saw it. Deep in the valley he saw a line of smoke coming out of the dusty valley. He instantly pulled out the binoculars, cleaned the dust of the lens, then followed the smoke to its source. There he saw a gas station with a parking lot that had several shanty shacks. The name of the gas station was unrecognizable due to the distance Marcus was at. After seeing the twisted dead landscape, he suddenly noticed how incredibly quiet the land was, there was nothing, no birds chirping, no sounds of animals wandering through the trees, absolutely no sounds of cars speeding through a nearby highway. Not even the earth dared to make even a whisper here. The wind didn’t blow, the trees didn’t drop, and it seemed as though all water stood still. It seemed like he was the only living thing left on the planet. All his life he had never felt as lonely as he felt then. After experiencing such a feeling of almost complete loneliness, the only words that could leave his mouth was, “I’m losing hope.”

Soon after, he lowered himself down from the bluff and headed straight for the gas station he spotted from the bluff. It was several miles from Marcus’s current location. Due to the unknown pain that was still running through his bones, he walked at a very slow pace. As he wandered through the forest he stumbled across many terrible things. During his walk he found many animal carcasses that lay frozen in the snow, he also stumbled across several burned corpses that the fires of the bombs had claimed.

Marcus began to weep, and asked himself “How did it come to this?”

“The war has taken everything from me. It has taken my family, my friends, my home…” He paused and realized that all his life, even before the war he’d never really had a place to call home. This was actually a good attribute for a new world like this. Those who were born travelers, could quickly adapt to the new lifestyle, the desolate land demanded refugees to cover the broken roads with the footprints of weary desperate travelers. This is what Marcus was, a refugee. Except he wasn’t like most drifters that covered the roads, most travelled in bands or in a tribe. Not Marcus, he would much rather travel alone than with others. There was something unique about him that neither he nor humanity could identify, but all his life he was wondering whether it was a positive or negative influence on his life.

He soon found a small stream in the forest after walking several miles. He fell to his knees and began to blindly drink the water with no regard of what toxins might be in the water. After his thirst was quenched, he found a calm section of the stream that he used as a mirror to see his reflection.

His reflection was somewhat deformed from the ripples in the water, but he could still see a good image of his face. He had brown frayed hair that was at a medium length and would sometimes cover his eyes and was somewhat wavy at the ends. He also had a thin trimmed beard which was pretty normal for men in the post Second Age because a razor wasn’t necessarily easy to get ahold of. Most men just trimmed their faces with scissors, but almost no man was clean-shaven. At first glance Marcus’s eyes appeared to be hazel but were really blue. He was wearing a black shirt with a grey neck, his pants were dark blue but were very dirty. His dark, leather boots came up to his shins. To cover himself and keep him warm he had a long, dark brown coat that went down to his calves. The only possessions he had on him was the clothes on his back. He had nothing else, no food, no water, no weapons.

Eventually, after several miles of walking he finally found a clearing. In the clearing there were vehicle tracks in snow that were filled with slush. The tracks went down a hill and attached to a highway. He followed down the tracks then slipped down the hill, all the way down to the paved road. Most of the road was covered by a layer of snow and ash but some of it was exposed. The main clue that it was a road was the railing, abandoned cars in the ditches, and old highway signs that still stood despite the war. He wandered down the highway then saw a sign sticking out of the ash, it said “Gas station, one mile.”

After the long mile to the station, he was finally there, the gas station stood right in front of him. The gas station was pretty intact, there were five shacks that were put together with what seemed to be car parts, next to the station was a small shop. On top of the gas station were broken neon lights that spelled out “baby dragon gas.” After reading the sign the only thing Marcus could say was, “What a terrible name.”

He walked straight away toward the shop. Inside the shop was a middle-aged man behind a snack bar. Before the man could say a word Marcus interrupted him saying, “Do you have anywhere I can lie down?”

“There’s a couch in the backroom that you can crash on, so long as you promise not to cause any trouble.” The man responded firmly.

“Thank you, and trust me I won’t try anything.” Marcus impatiently replied, then headed straight for the backroom.

The room was very messy, and the couch was uncomfortable; but Marcus didn’t care, he was tired. He collapsed on the stiff couch, used his jacket as a blanket then laid his head on the cushion, turned to his side then quickly fell into a deep sleep.

 

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Photo: https://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/traveler-magazine/photo-contest/2012/entries/130212/view/