Lights are flashing. Sirens are sounding. Screams echo in the distance. My dad is bent over the steering wheel. My mom is crying, holding Liz’s hand. I sit in shock, staring out the window. The clouds are red, debris falling from the sky. A huge tornado, the biggest ever recorded in human history, is destroying everything in its path, sucking up the town I used to call home. I see it destroying the highschool; I would be laughing in victory, but terror grips my heart. Lighting strikes all around us, leaving burn marks on the road. The wind makes the car swerve all over the road. Trees are falling in our path, creating tricky obstacles. My dad swerves, grunting with effort to avoid the blockage in the road. I look up through the sunroof; This huge tree is falling onto our car. My parents see it too, and my dad reaches for my mom. Liz yells for me, her little voice saying her nickname for me one last time-
My eyes pop open, and I sit up in shock. Sighing, I rub the space between my eyes with my thumb and forefinger. I have been having that nightmare for weeks now. It’s getting worse. I rolled over, grunting. I’m in the safe home, a house that miraculously was not destroyed during the tornado.
Laying in a stranger's bed, wearing a stranger's clothes. Actually, I think I knew the guy. He went to my school, but I never really talked to him. I think his name was Alex.
Alex is dead. Liz is dead. Everyone is dead. I sigh, shuddering. I can’t go to sleep now.
Grey light filters through the window as I go downstairs, my hand running along the railing.
I help myself to whatever is left in the pantry. A can of bean soup, and concentrated milk. I warm it up on the stove, stirring it around. Today is grocery day; I go once a week into the grocery store to help myself to the canned goods. I actually lost 10 pounds eating this way. My mom would be proud of me. I push her from my mind.
Slurping my breakfast down, I throw my jacket over my shoulders, and slip on my hiking boots. Grabbing my metal pole and my emergency backpack, I leave the house, and head to the store.
Walking down the deserted streets of the town is eerie, but I remind myself that I am all alone.
Some birds squawk on top of the buildings. I squawk back. It's not like anyone can hear me.
I am not a picky eater, but deciding between more bean soup and tomato soup is like deciding if I like Video Games or sleeping more. After a moment of consideration, I throw both in my bag.
I walk through the aisles, the lingering smell of rotting vegetables and fruits and expired milk pungent in my nostrils. I usually wear a face mask, but I forgot it.
I get out of the store, pitching my nose.
I don’t see her. In fact, I walked right past her. She clears her throat silently. I screamed, startled, jumping backwards. She just looks at me, leaning on a handicapped parking sign.
“Hey,” She says, watching me carefully. I stare at her, my mouth open. I’m dreaming. I must be dreaming. I AM dreaming. I want to hit myself to wake up.
She giggles, bending her head down a bit. Her dirty blond hair fell into her face, cupping the sharp curves of her cheekbones. “You're okay, right? Sorry I scared you, but you just walked past me, so I just…” she trailed off, studying my face.
I realized I had not brushed my hair for days, or showered for possibly over a week. I have been sleeping in my clothes for almost three days now, and I must have looked like a wreck. A wreck holding a metal pole. Who did I think I was?
“Um, you good?” She says, concerned.
I want to hit myself. I have just been staring at her! Dude, Say something!
“Yeah, I uh… I’m… Dylan.” I stammer, holding out my hand.
She shook mine, and studied me.
“Yeah, I look terrible.” I say, blushing and looking at my feet.
“No, it's okay. I was just, um, driving around when I saw a light coming from a house down the street, and I saw you in the window. I was not being creepy, I swear. It’s just,” she bit her lip and looked down. “I thought I was the last one. In the state, however.
“Yeah, me too. Wait, where did you come from?” I asked, puzzled.
“Oh, from up north.”
“Okay, well,” I pointed to the road. “Want to come with me?I have some soup and stuff.”
Jane stood up straight. “Actually, yeah. There is something I must tell you.” She turned around, and walked to this huge Green truck, antennas sticking out from the top. A Metal mesh protecting the wheels, and the backseat is stuffed with clothes, food, a first aid kit, a shotgun, and a box of wires and a radio. “Dude, you have a gun?” I say, pointing my finger at it.
She turned, a mischievous grin on her face. ‘Yeah, so don't make any funny moves, smart guy.”
I gasp, hand to my chest. ‘I would never!”
She rears her head back and laughs. “I’m just messing with you, Dylan.”
The way she says my name makes my heart beat a bit faster.
I jump into the shotgun seat. She turns the truck on, and a huge static noise comes from the backseat. Through the noise, I can hear someone talking. “What is that? A recording?” I ask, puzzled.
“No, actually that's Texas 2.”
I stare at her. “Texas 2?”
“Wait, who's Texas 2?”
Jane chuckles, her laugh echoing in the cabin of the car. “You’ll find out.”
I stare at her in shock. “You saying that-”
“And that we all need to-”
“Well, crap.” I lean back in my chair, my mind reeling. Jane leans forward, her hands cupping her soup mug. “Dylan, I know it's scary, but if we actually want to live, we need to do this.”
“I can’t believe this. I mean, “ I lower my voice. “Are you sure?”
“Of course I am sure! I have been communicating with 99 other people, all teenagers, for the past 2 years, and we are all in agreement. You were the only one missing, so I have been searching for signs of life everywhere! It’s a miracle I found you when I did.”
I study the table.
“Do you want some time to think about it?”
“No, thanks.” And I would rather not be alone right now, or ever again.
“Okay. And hey,” she reaches across the table, and clutches my hand in hers. “It will be okay.”
“Right.” I say, focused on our hands.
She sighs, and stands up. “We must leave tomorrow if we are going to make it.”
“What should I bring?” I ask, looking up at her.
She bits her lip, looking up at the ceiling. “Weapon’s, for sure. We don’t know how this is going to go down, so we need to be prepared. Warm clothes, shoes, and your jacket. That should be it.”
She walks up the stairs, and goes into my room, shutting the door behind her.
I sit at the table, staring at my hands, for an hour before I go upstairs. I silently open the door, and close it gently behind me. Careful to not wake Jane up- who is tucked into a ball, snoring softly on the other side of the bed- I slide on top of the covers, on the far edge of the bed. I feel like that would be crossing boundaries if I got too close to her. In fact, I’m considering sleeping on the floor.
I am about to nod off when she flips over, and hugs me from behind. I am about to gently shake her off when I hear her sniffing.
I flip over, and she is quietly trembling, tears silently dripping down her cheeks. Her hair is mussed, and hangs over her shoulders like a cape.
She is having a nightmare, her hands twitching. I gently take her hands, and slowly dab the tears of the bride of her nose. I fall asleep, holding her hand, our foreheads touching.
I didn’t have nightmares that night.
She shoves her stuff over to make room in the backseat for my few belongings. I slide into the passenger seat, and buckle myself in. Jane is hooking the radio up to the speakers into the car, wires and little tools everywhere. “When we get there, we need to pull off to the side of the road, and keep an eye out for the others.”
“So everyone is coming.” I ask, trying to fully get my head around it.
“How the heck did Hawaii get to the mainland?”
“They said that they built boats, and traveled here by water.”
“So, it is one girl and one boy.”
“And we will refer to them as…” I trail off.
She looked up at me. “As their state name, and the boys are one, and the girls are two.”
I point to my chest. “So I am Vermont one?”
“And I am Vermont two, yeah.” She twists the keys in the ignition, and pulls out the crumbling driveway way of my home for the past two years. I glance at it in the rearview mirror, watching it as it fades into the landscape behind us.
I realized I have never left the town before; and I never thought I would leave with a stranger, traveling to meet and possibly restart humanity with 98 other strangers from all over the country.
The radio shudders to life every few minutes, staticy voices in accents and drawls updating everyone else that they are picking up their partners, or are close to New York City, where everyone is meeting. At the boathouse docks, which used to ferry people on tours of the Statue of Liberty.
Jane does not talk to me very much during our 5 hour drive, radio static filling the silence between us.
We begin to drive through small communities, slowly beginning to drive through larger neighborhoods, and finally, we reach the city. We slowly drive past the abandoned cars, huge collapsed buildings, deserted restaurants and shopping malls. Stray dogs and cats wander the streets, hissing and barking at our car.
We pull up on the sidewalk, and we turn off the car. It is late in the afternoon, and in the distance, next to these huge docks and boats that are half sunken, we see a crowd of people.
“This is it.” Jane said, getting out of the car.
I grab my jacket and my pole, and she grabs her gun, and we walk to the crowd.
“HEY!” This huge guy breaks away from the crowd, waving his arms. Everyone turns, and looks at us.
“Yo! Vermont!” This girl with long dreadlocks, with a thick southern accent calls out, holding up her hand in a wave.
]Jane lowers her gun, and they approach us, yelling out greetings and soon, we are embraced.
What is left of humanity, regardless of skin color or backgrounds or gender identy or sexualilty, is all gathered here. I see people crying, all hugging each other. Jane hugs me, and we both cry. For what we lost and what we found. Soon, we all locate a standing and stable building, and we are hustling inside to share our stories and to plan for the future. To rebuild and to regrow life as we know it.