Era of collapse

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The cruelty of the world is nothing new. We were born prey, but we fought to become predators and survive. But then we got too close to the Sun and our wax wings melted - we started hunting ourselves. We kill each other, we hate each other, we fight against each other. As time goes on, shouldn't we become smarter and realize how petty our quarrels are? I wish. A few years into the future, the world was overthrown by another flood of anger and hatred. A new target has been chosen and the whole world has agreed that it is time to eradicate them all - including me. We fought back, but this time no one stood behind us. This time we were defenseless. I met a little boy - kind, innocent, scared. I wanted to help him, the way I wanted someone to help me. I tried. I truly tried. But even I couldn't beat the system. I am sorry.

Action / Scifi
Age Rating:

Era of collapse - 1/1

Just before my consciousness sinks into the ocean of dreams, I perceive the blackness that surrounds me. I imagine a river darker than night flow in a dark forest. I perceive nature around me, I perceive the lunar sky with grains of stars. If I'm lucky, I'll see you there. You're like a twinkle, you flicker around me like the wind, except for that I am able to see you.

I see your eyes, brighter than ever, the waves of your hair, the features of your face, and the paleness of your skin. I once saw a smile on your face that I remember from my memories. It warms my heart, gives me courage. Four years have passed since my last dream in which you appeared like a guardian angel. I don't know what that means, I don't know any answers and I haven't gotten help from anyone.

Can you see me? Are you looking at me from above, from below, from anywhere? Nova died yesterday. She didn't suffer, but it hit me hard. It was the only thing that I had left. She's buried in our garden, next to a lemon tree - the way you wanted it. I think she missed you. Many nights I listened to her painful howl to the dark sky, and it's not hard to guess what the reason behind this is. When you were still here, she didn't do anything like that.

My family no longer talks to me at all, but I don't miss them. I don't need them. I always had you, didn't I? You always stood by my side. You have always protected me, comforted me, loved me. What will I do without you? I need someone's advice, but from whom? I'm alone, alone without anyone.

I will try to leave, to disappear from this hell on Earth. I know it's dangerous for me to travel across borders, but I'll risk it anyway. I have nothing to lose. It hurts me to leave our house, I know how much it meant to you. I love it as much as you did. There are so many memories - good and bad. I hope nothing happens to it, but I also know that these are false hopes. All I have left is wishful thinking.

I hope to see you again soon. If fate doesn't help me, I'll do it myself. We'll be together again in a little while. Always and forever.

- - - - - - - - - -

I looked over my shoulder at the hundreds, thousands of angry and grieving protestors. Their screams, insults, and calls for justice were heard in wide areas all around New York. I knew, deep in my heart, that I should join them. I should be by their sides - even if it would make no change, each voice makes us stronger and louder. With me, the chance of victory would be an inch closer.

But I can’t, I can’t do it. It’s shameful, outrageous and if someone knew, I would deserve their rage. For now, I just need to leave, to move on and run away from the city. If I stayed here, I would hear her screams in my ears forever, I would see her everywhere I moved. I don’t know if going somewhere else will change that horrifying future but New York is simply done for me. The cursed city with millions of cursed people, that is all I see.

"Watch where you’re goin’," hissed a strange man after I accidentally bumped into him.

"Sorry," I mumbled under my breath and quickly walked away, not wanting any trouble. Thanks to the protests, every citizen is overly aggressive and seeking dispute.

I quickly disappeared in the background of clamor and chaos. Thanks to my short height and delicate figure people barely noticed me. I was about to grab an abandoned bike lying on the floor when something caught my attention.

A young boy standing in the middle of demonstrators, looking lost and scared as the police were quickly closing in and breaking up the crowds. I knew that he is not important, that I have my own objective, but watching him panicking awoke many dark memories, that until this moment stayed hidden deep in my mind.

"Screw this," I muttered and ran in the opposite direction of where I wanted to run. Pushing civilians wasn’t a hard task but getting through the circle of policemen was strenuous.

I crawled between the legs of a muscular man as big as a mountain. Thankfully he didn’t notice me - if he did, I probably wouldn’t still be alive.

I ran as fast as my weak legs let me until I fell on my knees beside the standing boy.

"Hey, are you okay?" I asked him, out of breath.

"I can’t find my parents," he cried, streams of tears flowing down his cheeks.

"All right, I’ll help you find them. Stay with me," I promised and stood up.

Instead of an answer, he grabbed my hand and looked up into my eyes. "Thank you," his words were barely louder than a whisper, but I heard them anyway.

"You’re welcome," together we started stumbling in the enormous crowd while trying not to lose each other.

"Where did you see them before you got lost?" I yelled so that he could hear me even with the yells of protestors.

"I don’t know!" he yelled back, fearful.

"This is going to be hard then. Do you at least remember when was the last time you saw them?" I tried to get at least some answers out of him.

"I don’t know hours yet," he responded in a small embarrassed voice. "But it wasn’t a long time ago."

That wasn’t as elaborated an answer as I hoped it would be, but still better than nothing. His parents couldn't be very far away then.

"Are they going to be okay?" I heard his answer but couldn’t force myself to lie to him The reality was cruel and even at this young age, he needed to understand that this is the world we are living in and the change is almost impracticable. That is why I chose to remain silent instead.

"What do they look like?" I asked him, realizing that without some description it would be very hard to look for two people in thousands of others.

"My dad is short, thin, and has brown hair. My other dad is tall, strong, and has dark brown hair," he said.

Even this wasn’t as detailed as I needed, but I could work with it.

"Are they one of the protestors?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied with a lisp. "They are angry that the big people fired them from their jobs for loving each other."

"Oh," was the only thing I could reply with. I understand now, recognize their rage, but they still shouldn’t have brought their young child with them.

"It’s fucking 2087, wake the fuck up, people!" a man beside me roared at the top of his lungs.

"Let us be happy!" screamed a young woman, barely an adult.

"Love is love!"

"Why should you care about whom I love?!"

"I am black and gay, should I just cease from existence?!"

I should yell something as well - I belong here with these people after all. But something stops me every time, it snaps my mouth shut, closes up my throat, doesn’t allow me to speak up.

"Miss, what is going on?" he tugged on my shirt.

"Something that could make our world a better place," I replied, not looking at him. "Or destroy it like an asteroid."

He doesn't answer for a little while. I told myself that he was probably just worried about his parents and he didn't have much to talk about anyway, but soon after that, I realized my crushing, devastating mistake.

"I feel weird," a mutter, barely a whisper. I look down and see him quiver and sway from side to side.

In less than a second, I find myself kneeling by his side. "Hey, hey, look at me," a stern, direct order. He needs to know that I am being serious, not joking around.

"Everything ‘round me ’s dancing," that’s the last thing he says before his legs give out. I catch him, of course, but the panic seeping into my mind doesn’t leave that easily. Unlike me, it wants to fight.

I wonder, what is happening? Other people start wobbling and falling to the ground as well. But no poison, no bombs, no grenades are seen or heard. The moment of my dizziness kicking in is when I realize what is happening. The invisible gas is being let out and we are its victims.

I instantly stood up with the child in my arms and started running as fast as I could. I ran past people who evidently needed my help, but at that moment I could not force myself to stop.

Screams begin to resound in the crowded square. I stumble, but find my balance again and don't stop. Bullets, silent killers, penetrate the hearts and skulls of the people next to me, but I don't stop. I could help them, I have a doctorate, but I cannot risk my chance to escape. I have a little boy with me who needs to find his parents, although if they are members of these protests, they do not have a high chance of survival.

My heart aches at the thought of holding a probable orphan in my arms right now, but I don't know how else to help him but run forward. I hear cries, sobs, and the stench of death as shadows approach and snatch souls from those whose only desire is equality. I run, crouched, hoping no bullets will hit me. I can hear the pounding of my heart in my ears, which would normally be scary, but nothing beats the horror you experience when you run with an innocent child in your arms as murderous bullets fly through the air behind and beside you.

I cannot look, I cannot see, I cannot feel. My mind tells me to run into the back alley of a pawn shop, so that’s what I do I cannot think.

The moment I escape the mass of protestors I fall to the ground. Gently, I lay the boy to the ground while trying to catch my breath. Lungs and legs on fire, throbbing head and stabbing white pain in my stomach, but I couldn’t make myself feel it at all. The numbness that I loved in my childhood has become a monster lurking in the shadows, waiting for the perfect time to catch me in its claws.

„Can you…“ wheeze and rasp „Can you hear me?“

The silence that continuous is worse than a giant’s foot, stomping on me, crushing me under its immense weight.

„We need to go,“ I whisper to myself, trying to gather my spirit and find lost energy to get up. The first try - unsuccess. Second try, unsuccess. Third try, unsuccess.

On the fourth try, once I started spacing out, some of my strength came back. While leaning on the cool wall, I pick up the boy in bridal style. He does not move, he does not stir. I should worry, but that won’t help either of us. The only thing I can do is find a vehicle that isn’t suspicious-looking enough to get me stopped while crossing the borders.

It could have been minutes, hours, or days. Alley is far behind us, same as the square of death but I can’t stop seeing the faces of desperate people every time I blink. There must be more crowds of protestors, all spread around the city and I wonder, did all of them meet this gruesome end? Is this how people treat people? One bullet and life ceases, but what about everybody that the particular person met? Their loved ones, friends, family, pets, colleagues, superiors, neighbors?

I heard a soft moan that didn't come from the boy in my arms. I looked down, where an older man sat with a bottle of clear liquid and slightly clouded eyes while leaning against the wall. He looked at me, but did he see me? I paused in my footsteps and returned his gaze until I could not endure the long silence anymore.

"Hello," I greeted him politely, not knowing what else there is to say.

"Hello, Jell-O," he replied. "What is a young lady like you looking for here?"

He probably hadn't noticed my soiled clothes, the unconscious child in my arms, the minor scars on my face and hands, along with the dangerous paleness of my and the boy's skin.

"Escape," was my only answer.

He nodded and smiled weakly. "I used to look for that too,"

"And did you find it?" I asked.

"No," a short brief reply. However, he did not look sad, the past did not cause him as much pain as it did to me.

"But you're not sad," I stated quietly.

"No," he repeated. "Because I've had that episode a long time ago. I only have a few years left, which I’ll spend just sitting here by the wall and drinking one bottle of vodka after another. You should do the same."

"That’s not for me," I respond. "I still have a large part of my life ahead of me,"

"And do you think the future will be nice on you?" He asked a simple question, which I had been trying to avoid all those long years of solitude. I shake my head, trying to drive the dark thoughts out of my mind.

"I don't know," I said through my gritted teeth. "But what do I have left but to keep trying?"

"Give up," he chuckled. "Like me a long time ago,"

"But I'm not like you," I say, slightly angry. Yet I don't know who I'm mad at - myself or him?

"You will soon," he retorted.

"I guess I'll have to take care of the boy, I can't allow myself to become you,"

As if he could see the young child now, his pupils widened in surprise.

"Is he yours?" He asked in an inquisitive voice.

"He is not my son, his parents lost him during the protest," I replied unhappily.

"That was where the screams came from?"

"Yes, they started firing at them."

"They should have expected something like this to happen," he told me gruffly.

"They have their goal and they want to achieve it, even if they have to sacrifice their own lives for it," despite my dizziness, fatigue, and pain, I managed to put on an angry, dangerous face.

"That’s what you’d think, but damn it," here came a dry laugh. "You had to learn about all those failed attempts at change in history lessons. They were all similar to the ones going on right now."

"People will not give up and the fighting will not stop until the last of the protesters dies," promise - empty or fulfillable? Or is it a threat? Who am I threatening, an old homeless man?

"We used to think that, too," he laughed again, but this time I saw the gleam of his eyes. Tears, trying not to run down his cheeks. "They will break them, just like everyone else. Just like us, just like me."

Perhaps for the first time in my life, I had no answer. I looked down and then back at the drunk man. He understood, understood my silence, and nodded. He took another sip from his bottle and twisted his face in disgust.

"Do you want some?" He asked, lifting his beloved vodka in my direction.

I shook my head. If I still manage to stick to the plan, I'll be driving soon... I can’t get drunk and increase the chances of my and the boy’s capture.

"Your loss," he muttered, drinking again instead of me.

"I'll have to go," I managed to find my voice.

He nodded but didn't look at me, rather staring in front of him at the opposite wall.

I took it as a goodbye and started to move forward. I walked past him, but didn't stop and continued on my way. It wasn't until I almost left the alley that I heard his hoarse voice again.

"Turn left and then keep going straight," he said. I turned and looked at him questioningly. "You'll find a junkyard where half those cars still work," he briefly explained his instructions.

A soft smile appeared on my face. "Thank you."

He nodded, and though he didn't return my smile, I saw a faint twinkle in his tired eyes.

- - - - - - - - - -

I listened to the old man’s directions, which turned up to be genuine. As I walked down the dusty street, even from this distance I saw relatively tall piles of rusted, stinking, and poorly-looking vehicles and their parts. At that moment, I felt a slight movement of the boy's right leg. With hope in my eyes, I watched as he frowned before narrowing his eyes. He looked wretched, but I also knew that the invisible gas should have no long-term effects on him.

"Good morning," I stammered, not knowing what else to say.

Instead of answering, he just grunted and looked around, though all he could see was my head, the sky, and some of the taller buildings.

"How are you feeling?" I asked him worriedly, even though I knew the answer would be 'miserably' or worse.

"Not well," he replied, as I was expecting.

"I'm afraid the hardest part is still ahead of us," I told him, though I shouldn't bother him with more worries.

"Why is that?" He asked, confused.

"It's not safe for us here," I tried to explain our situation. "The police will try to catch all the protesters, and the two of us definitely look suspicious."

"We can try to lie to them," he suggested.

"I'm afraid they wouldn't even give us a chance. It’s not possible to debate with the police or guards. "

"My parents were where they attacked us," he recalled. His large, innocent eyes immediately filled with fear, apprehension, and panic. "What if they hurt them?"

His heart rate and breathing quickened, he had to calm down immediately. He's not in good enough shape to afford to have a panic attack.

"Calm down, boy. There's a chance they managed to escape just like us, right? Neither of us is very strong and we still got out of the square. Your dads are smart and tough, they must have come up with something” I spoke to him in my most reassuring voice, which I managed to conjure up from nowhere.

"Are you sure?" He tilted his head

I smiled at him. "I hope so."

We both went silent for the rest of the way to the junkyard. I saw a little color return to the boy's face, which was good news. It meant that he was beginning to regain his strength, and soon he might be able to get on his feet. But I, of course, was growing weaker and with each passing minute, the world grew more chaotic through my eyes, objects poured into each other, and terrifying blackness began to creep around the corners.

Once we got among the endless heaps of rusty metal, another task began - to find a vehicle that would not look suspicious and that would be able to carry me and the young boy.

"If you see anything that might be useful to us, let me know," I said into the uncomfortable silence that ruled this hostile environment.

"Okay," he whispered in return, fear clearly lining every letter of the word.

We continued on our way, although focusing on the objects around me was becoming a more difficult task than the search itself. My head was spinning so much that I was afraid I would drop the injured child.

"Over there!" I heard his excited shout over the whistling in my ears.

"Where?" My answer was quiet, hoarse, crumpled like a brown leaf from a tree during cold autumn.

I could barely feel the boy jumping out of my arms and grabbing my hand. I just let him lead me to his catch. With a heavy exhale, I leaned against the door of the car. I only remember that I managed to register the color ... mint, but a few shades darker. It was the color that could evoke memories in me. Memories that had remained locked in a dusty chest until this very moment.

A short memory, almost like a spark. It reminded me of when as a child I watched the glitching of a flashlight just for fun.

"Why did you buy this particular color?" I laughed and looked at the can.

"I liked it," she smiled at me. "It seemed as unique as you."

Before I could stop her, she poked the tip of my nose.

"Our house will look ridiculous," I looked at her, trying to look upset, though the smile didn't fade from my face.

"You're cute when you try to look angry," she grabbed my hands and spun around with me. There was no reason why, just because she wanted to. She enjoyed life, she loved its colorfulness. That is, until ... until everything went downhill a few days later.

"Can you drive a car?" The boy asked me cautiously.

"Yes," I replied wearily. "Just help me sit down and I'll take care of it," I told him.

He didn't miss a second and had already opened the front door for me. Then he sat me as gently as possible on a hard seat that was as cold as a piece of ice.

"Are you all right?" He asked quietly.

"I will be," I replied indirectly, already looking at the blurred buttons in front of me.

Once upon a time, my older brother taught me how to start a car without keys, when he was trying to pull a prank on our dad. All I had to do is remember those few steps. It can’t be that difficult. I managed to do it even though I was only nine, I can handle it with a little dizziness.

Ten minutes passed, a small spring rumbled in my ears. Another twenty minutes passed, and the stream became wider. Over the next half hour, the water became a river, which a little later turned into a waterfall. It rumbled in my ears, resonated in my skull, and despite these disturbing elements, I managed to start this old, rattling vehicle.

"Okay, c'mere," I told the boy. Slurring - that was not a good sign.

He listened to me, and as soon as he was sitting in the seat next to me, I stepped on the old-style pedal and drove us away from the junkyard as carefully as possible. It was not difficult to drive around the gatekeeper, there was none. Cities are slowly deteriorating, even though no one realizes it.

"Where are we going now?" He asked in a small voice.

"Somewhere far away," I replied briefly, not knowing what else to say. The most important part of the plan was to get across the border, we can come up with the next steps of the plan along the way.

"Okay," he peeped, watching the streets and the people we passed.

I looked at him, and almost as if it had only occurred to me now, I realized we were in trouble. Neither of us looked okay, more like we were fugitive criminals. It's probably a good thing I have a small child with me because maybe we won't remind them of convicts so much. However, they will certainly think of the possibility that we are protesters, and in that case, it is over. I tried to sweep out such thoughts, but their echo never left. I don't know how this whole escapade will turn out, but I already feel that it will not be a good end.

Under the cover of darkness, we arrived at the front that led to the long-feared border guards. I tried to look calm, like a mere mother driving out of town with her son, but I knew it was just my pathetic attempts. They will catch us. However, no matter what happens, I will do my best to protect the young boy. I've known him for about a few hours, but I know I shouldn't have risked an innocent life. Why am I dragging him with me? He should stay in New York, wait for his parents, or go looking for them. I know about what they're doing to the protesters, how they treat them, I know how that they're trying to suppress us. And men such as border guards do not have enough room in their hearts for a pinch of mercy on a child. I saw their gruesome acts with my own eyes.

"I'm scared," I heard his quiet cry.

"I know," I replied, paling even more. "Me too."

When we found ourselves in front of the window, I managed to conjure a small smile.

"Hello," I said in an overly cheerful voice.

The men did not answer, only examined me and the boy carefully. There were seven of them and five booths along the road. I can't stand up to them, even if I wasn’t fighting with my own injuries.

"Ma'am, get out of the vehicle," one of the guards ordered, the tallest of all of them with a deep, frightening voice.

This was not a good sign - he usually orders people to exit the vehicle only after requesting identification documents.

"Is it really necessary?" I asked in a sweet voice.

"Yes, ma'am. Get out of the vehicle,” he repeated, his expression unchanged.

"My son is feeling sick, I'd like to get him to my mother as soon as possible. Is it possible to speed things up a little here?” I smiled a little wider.

"I'm afraid not. Get out of the vehicle."

I sighed, but opened the creaking car door and went outside. The lights coming from the booth were even more blinding as the silver moonlight shone on me instead of the sun. I raised my hands above my head and took one step forward.

"I'm unarmed," I notified them. However, they did not lower their weapons.

"Where is the last location you were seen at?" one of them asked.

"Probably somewhere in my neighborhood, why is it relevant?" I lied to them smoothly.

"The cameras have identified every protester that was seen on the square," he announced, looking at the hologram showing our faces and names.

"Both you and the boy were there," I'm sure my heart stopped for a second. The world stopped spinning, time stopped passing. Everything went wrong, my plan burned in flames, and all I had to do now was save the boy waiting in the car.

"I-" I stammered. Immediately afterward, however, I took a different approach. I turned swiftly and shouted at the top of my lungs. "Run!"

The other door of the car flew open. The boy began to run as fast as he could towards the end of the road, hoping that he would still be able to disappear from all the eyes watching him. Be that as it may, he only managed to get a few meters away before the sound of firing guns was heard. I watched in shock as he collapsed to the ground and laid there while his blood pooled under him.

"No!" Another scream, mine again. I ran to him, stopped feeling dizzy thanks to the adrenaline. But I didn't get far either. The bullet flew through my back, followed by another, another, and another.

I fell to the ground, already so soon I could feel the metallic taste of blood in my mouth. My own injuries didn't interest me in the slightest, I just looked in front of me and saw the innocent boy lying motionlessly.

I began to crawl up to him, exhausting my remaining strength. But once I was close enough, I could talk and be sure that he would hear me.

"Boy?" I asked in a weak voice. Tears began to flow down my dirty faces, but I paid no attention to them.

"Please, boy. Please answer,” I begged him.

I heard a cough quieter than my voice. Even so, I smiled with relief. "Can you hear me? Are you still here?”

"It hurts," I heard him mutter.

"I know," my voice broke, as did my heart. "I know. I am sorry. I'm so sorry. It shouldn't have ended like this, you didn't deserve anything like this."

He didn't answer, but deep in my soul, I knew he was listening to me.

"I never asked what’s your name," I chuckled silently.

"It's Adrian," I could barely hear him this time.

"I'm so sorry, Adrian," more tears are streaming down my face now.

"I never asked you for your name either," he whispered.

"I'm Julia," I said with a sob.

"I forgive you, Julia," a quiet murmur.

"You shouldn't, I don't deserve it."

I didn't get any answers this time. Desperate, I tried to get closer to him again, but my limbs didn't move.

"Adrian? Adrian, please. Please answer” My sobs grew louder again, but it no longer bothered me if the surrounding people would hear me, along with the border guards.

"Adrian..." This time it was my turn to whisper. My voice and energy faded in the wind the moment I realized that Adrian would no longer answer. His last words shouldn’t have been 'I forgive you, Julia.' It was supposed to be words of love that he would say to his loved ones when he died of old age. He shouldn't have bled out on this cold road, while dozens of onlookers didn't move a finger. He shouldn't have suffered, he shouldn't have gone through this.

My eyes rolled to the sky. Despite the tears in my eyes and the many broken hearts, my lips curled into a smile. Because even though I'm a monster that got a young child killed, at least he won't have to live in this world. At least I spared him so much emotional pain that he would have to grow up as the son of a same-sex couple.

It's not hard to imagine that you were my last thought, love. I look at your face, I see your smile, I see the stars in your eyes. The wind is tangling your hair, which means that I will have to comb it later. You are wearing your favorite dress, close-fitting but comfortable. Simple, but beautiful. You gently take my hand and don’t let go. You never let me go again. You take me further, beyond any mortal ever dreamt. We never stop again. That was our dream after all, wasn't it? I am looking at the silver necklace with an emerald pendant that I bought you for our anniversary. You look beautiful, as always. The way I still vividly remember you... And now I will never leave you. I will never let you go We will never stop, we will go on and on together until we find that one thing that’s the cause of why our paths had to split.


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