The end of the world. The apocalypse. Doomsday. It all didn't really matter, it was all the same. People starved, people died, the earth reclaimed what humanity had taken. Swallowing civilization whole, wiping the slate clean with disease and starvation. Humanity even started taking care of itself when conflicts arose between what was left of different nations. Canada? Gone. Mexico? Gone. America still stood, but is now being called Refuge. Nations worldwide could be running smooth or up in flames as far as we knew. I'm Joyce Fleck. And I live now, with my pack, in this wretched world.


1. Going Insane

America, the home of the brave. At least that's what my grandfather spoke of. I knew only stories of the American dream, and what hope and freedom used to mean back then. My grandfather, Scott Fleck, was only a little boy when the downfall began.

It started with one drop of a deadly pathogen in each glass at a global powers meeting. Slowly but surely, the leaders of the world fell sick. Anyone who came into contact with them contracted the deadly virus. It was hysteria. Anyone with any power was dying. Doctors and scientists working on a cure became ill as well, and all hope was lost. The governments of the world faded, and there was chaos.

Anarchy was the first wave. Rowdy rebellious groups taking and doing whatever they wanted. Then, the shortages started. First, it was food. Second, water. Lastly, electricity. Millions of people died in a matter of months in America alone. The rest of the world (at least before the electricity went off, after that there was no way of communication) was in an even worse state. The rebellion was crushed, and the first wave of mass chaos faded.

Realization was the second wave, even more deadly than the first. The country was dying. Neighbors were killing neighbors over food and water. Children were slowly dying in the streets. Police had no control, they could only do what everyone else was doing and fight for survival.

Over the years, humanity and compassion was only found between loved ones. Close bonds were formed over shared blood. Land was claimed, and people protected what was theirs with their life.

Humans lived like beasts. Fighting to the death, hunting, breeding without regulation.

And now here I am. 

Joyce Mary Fleck, daughter of Martin Scott Fleck and granddaughter of Scott Brandon Fleck.

Today I am alone. In the middle of nowhere.

Refuge, the new name for old America, where the free once lived, is now where the lost wander and die.

I am lost, delirious. Going slightly insane from the heat and hearing my mother's screams ringing in my ears. But I need to keep walking. My mother. I can't fail her.

I promised I'd find my father, and bring him home to her. She was sick, and dying.

Cancer. In her blood. There was no way to save her, not without proper medicine or surgery. The best we could do back in our camp was give her some old sedative to calm her down.

When we had run out of the sedative, the screams started. Begging to die. Begging to kill herself. Screaming about fire, how her body was on fire.

Begging for Martin. Begging for him, my father, who had left two months ago to search for a better place to live and never returned.

This wretched world had swallowed him whole. Like my mother will be swallowed. And one day myself.

But I knew he wasn't gone- he couldn't be. He had packed extra supplies that day. I knew he left us to die.

But he didn't, he loved us, right?

Water. I'm thirsty.

Shade. That's a nice tree.

The grass felt soft beneath me, as though the long tendrils of green were wrapping themselves around me and hugging me like a mother to a small child. I was tired, so tired.

Just a moment, to rest my eyes.

Just a moment...

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