The day has finally come.
The day when I get back to my family.
The day when I find sanctuary.
My leg is feeling tremendously better, and I slept more than I have in months. It felt great, and I feel even more energized and awake than I felt yesterday. It is darker outside, easily late at night, and I pack up, walking around on my bad leg. When I first stand, a small jolt of pain shoots up my leg, but it wears off as I strut around and I quickly pack my things.
I don’t know if it was for sentimental reasons, or I honestly cared about clearing it out, or maybe I just wanted to say goodbye, but I head up the stairs of the school and empty the hallways, rooms, everywhere of Infecteds. There aren’t many at all, which relaxes me, and I recognized my freshman English teacher and my sophomore science teacher. Putting them down brought back loads of memories, some good and some bad, but I missed all of them, the simpler times.
It is eventually cleared out and completely safe. Maybe I was clearing it for other passing survivors, if they ever come by and need a place to stay for a while. Something compelled me to make it another safe place for anybody who needs it.
Heading out the doors for one final time sends a wave of almost panic over me. I am afraid of what is going to happen to me in the future, and what will happen to my family and all of the people I meet along the way. Much like the school, everything modern will eventually end. Whether or not there is another civilization that is born is the fact that scares me - after I’m gone, there might not be anyone left to continue on for humans.
This epidemic might be the event that wipes us out.
I muster up the courage to walk away from the school that holds my memories, but I do it, listening to my footsteps pounding on the concrete.
There is still a stream of smoke above the line of trees, and I follow it, knowing in my heart that that is where the camp is located. That is where I must go.
It isn’t a very far walk and I reach the large building in an hour or so. It is quite dark outside, and I take a while trying to keep surveillance on all of my surroundings, being as careful as I can. Before I left, I made sure to cover up all of my exposed skin and I put on my leather gloves, but in this day and age you can never be too careful.
When I get to the building, I immediately am bombarded with so many different smells and sights. There are signs hanging on the building that are very colorful and advertise a safe haven. It smells like a fire, and a barbecue, and disinfectant, and a dozen other different smells.
Someone walks out of the front door and I step back, startled. Their gaze falls on my outfit, my hair, my eyes, and they stare at me, all the while smiling. I’m staring at their feet, but I look up at their face after a little while. Now it’s my turn to examine them.
It’s a woman, middle-aged, and her tassled, mousy brown hair is in a tight low braid. She is wearing a few layers - a pink, short-sleeved t-shirt and a knit brown cardigan. She has a black skirt on and some black tights, with running sneakers on. I don’t know what to think of her, but I am grateful that she is here and able to welcome me.
“What’s your name, love?” she asks. Her voice is high pitched, but also a bit gravelly.
“Leah,” I answer immediately. Any hesitation could imply a disease, and I don’t want that. “Leah Callahan.”
I also don’t want to give them my true name. Sure, I’d be able to find my dad and brother, but I don’t want to make a huge mark. I don’t want to be on any records, for fear of a civilization blooming and my record being very negative. This plague has changed everybody, revealed a part of their true inner self. I happen to be very solitary, but I still don’t fancy being lonely. Before the plague, I never would have even touched a gun, and now I am so comfortable with it. It scares me a bit.
“Leah, come on in. I’m Emily. Do you have any family here that you know of? Friends?” she inquires, and I try to perk up a bit.
I’m known for looking younger than my age. Instead of 16, people often think I’m 14 or 15. Maybe I can pass as a younger person and get some privileges if I need to.
“I might have some friends here. A family that I know, they used to live near here.” I explain.
“How old are you?” she asks, and I have to think, but I try to respond without a pause.
“I’m 14,” I decide, and she starts to walk towards the door. I turn to walk next to her.
“Alright, Leah. Welcome to our sanctuary. We have a few rules, but they’re simple and if you follow them, you stay. Simple. Try not to hurt anybody, don’t head outside without our consent, and no using the computers around. We just don’t want you to waste any energy or anything like that. Okay?” she explains. While talking to me, she uses a lighter voice that almost sounds condescending. She seems to feel like she has power over me, and I don’t like it. Usually that indicates that they’re scared, and something here seems suspicious.
“I’m going to leave you with one of our guides. They’re just going to show you around and check you out, make sure you aren’t sick, okay? Don’t be scared.”
At this, I grimace but try not to show it, covering it with a smile and nod. Might as well just smile and nod - I’ll be out of here in no time.
I see a young man walk to the door. He’s holding a clipboard and has on a blue t-shirt, a black and white flannel, jeans, and small glasses on the bridge of his nose. He’s smiling, a small smile that doesn’t mean much. To me, it means an incredible amount because of its little meaning.
“This is Jake, he’ll show you around.” Emily tells me in her condescending voice, and I continue to smile and nod.
I follow Jake, giving Emily a small wave to sell the act. Jake raises his eyebrows a bit and he takes me downstairs.
There are people strutting about, some in robes, of various ages. There are a few older people, some adults, but most of the people around are children, younger than I am. None of them are Teddy and Dad.
Jake is talking, but I wasn’t listening at first, too concentrated on finding my family. I tune in to his voice, which is soft and warming, wrapping you like a blanket.
“...and down here’s just some storage. I can show you the dining halls, they’re pretty important. And then there are some bedrooms down here, but you’ll probably be upstairs with the other kids.”
Again, I smile and nod.
“So, I’ll show you up to your room. I have to log your data, though, so I just have to take your height and weight, then a blood sample. How old are you, Ebony?”
“I’m 14,” I tell him confidently. Jake smiles his tiny smile again. “How old are you?”
“19,” he says, and I’m a little surprised. He looked at least 22, very mature for his age. I guess the apocalypse does that to people.
Jake is actually a really nice, awesome person. He’s gentle and has a soft, caring, calming voice. It’s a shame, really.
A shame that I’ll have to kill him.
I remember the day that my dad had first tried to teach me to play baseball.
I had never understood it, and Teddy was just a baby, but he got me to try it out in our backyard. He even had a tee ready, just in case.
My dad had always been a huge baseball fan. He followed all of his favorite teams, wore jerseys all year round, and played on a league of men who were just as passionate as he was. They all followed the same teams together and had a blast.
Him teaching me didn’t go very well at first. I missed the ball quite a lot, and my dad got a bit frustrated until I finally hit it and it went flying. My dad was very proud, but I felt almost guilty, because I knew that it was just a lucky hit.
He started throwing me the ball underhand and I missed completely every time. Dad tried everything - moving closer, further, having me change my stance, having him change his stance - but to no avail. He was a bit heartbroken that his little girl couldn’t play baseball as well as he thought.
After a couple days of practice, I finally hit one of the balls he threw me. It was the perfect hit, a satisfying crack accompanying it, until another crack resounded through the yard. The ball had flown through the window.
I was terrified, because I knew my mom would be appalled and furious. She was, but she wasn’t as angry as I expected her to be.
Walking outside, her head was hung low, and she was shaking her head back and forth. I couldn’t see her face, and I hid behind Dad’s legs.
She finally lifted her head and I could see a small smile plastered on her face. She was chuckling to herself, which scared me a bit more.
“Mommy, are you mad?” I remember asking her in my tiny toddler voice.
“Yes, sweetie. Mommy’s mad. But she’s glad that you’re learning baseball, okay? I know you didn’t mean it.”
I helped mom clean up the glass - wearing gloves and shoes, of course - and I wanted to pay for the window, but she wouldn’t let me.
I thought that moment was the most terrifying thing I had ever experienced. I would take that day over anything, especially if it meant I could have my entire family back together as one.