The Center of Gravity

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Episode 1: Survivor

» Day 54 «

I was living the last day of my life for the past fifty-four days.

That’s the first thing I realized when I woke up that morning. Not that I suspected it to be any different from the other mornings-- I thought about that everyday.

Still alive on day fifty-two.

Breathing on day fifty-three.

I’ve made it to day fifty-four.

As I rolled over in bed, shivering under the covers, I blinked open my eyes to the sunlight filtering through my window. Voices were coming from downstairs -- Mom, Dad, and my brother’s -- all of them echoing off the walls due to the hectic mornings I was used to. My older sister, Adria, was slamming the door of the bathroom, complaining because she woke up late.

“I can’t believe teacher’s expect us to do homework on the weekends! Ridiculous, right?!” my older brother, Jonathan, exclaimed from the floor below.

I yawned and sat up in bed, the same thought running through my head over and over.

“I’ve been living the last day of my life for fifty-four days. Alone for fifty-four days. Only me.”

It was true. The past I longed for was hard to shake from my mind. The best solution that I could come up with was to ignore it. No matter how many times I confronted the memories, they hit me hard in the mornings.

It was always something I was forced to face.

I reluctantly ripped off the many blankets over me and grabbed a pile of clothes at the end of my bed. Quickly, I walked to the bathroom, stepped in, and slammed the door shut. Adria wasn’t in there, she never was. Not anymore.

Even if it was easily below thirty degrees outside, I turned the water to the coldest setting for my shower, hoping it would clear my head.

“Rowin!” Mom’s voice called joyously. “I made your favorite pancakes!”

I swallowed hard, scrubbing my scalp with shampoo I got from the neighbor’s house last week.

“Rowin, help me pick out something to wear!” Adria sang sweetly.

“Fifty-four days, I’m alone,” I reminded myself.

I rinsed off, dried myself, got dressed like usual. I didn’t even bother to mess with my wet brown hair. Nobody was around to care anyway.

“Hey little sis! Can’t you hear me?” Adria called from our bedroom we shared.

I ignored her request and went down the steps, heart beating with hope they were all home.

“I hear Rowin rowing down!” Jonathan laughed.

“My girl, waking up late as usual,” Dad joked.

“One of my beautifuls is awake!” Mom exclaimed.

I turned the corner of the stairwell and all the voices disappeared abruptly. The kitchen was empty, just like the rest of the house. The clock ticked on the wall while the ice machine made noise from the fridge. I walked to the window, pulled the curtains back, and gazed at the clear, cold sky.

It was just me.

“Welcome to day fifty-four,” I muttered.

» « » «

Everyday I spent alone felt less significant than the one before. Honestly, I don’t understand why I was even counting the days. I didn’t have anything to live for.

I sighed as I listened to the television. There wasn’t really a purpose for why it was on other than it made me feel like I had company. The cabinets before me sat nearly bare. I had made the food in the house last this long, but soon I would have to go find more.

Even though it was pointless, I walked back to check my makeshift pantry.

“We’ll be back in a few hours honey! Love you!” my parents were calling as they walked out the door. I poked my head out of the room to stare at the door they had exited fifty-four days ago. It was as if I was stuck in this memory of mine, literally watching the door close.

When I turned back to the office, I saw myself just sitting there, reading my book.

Of course, me being seventeen and eager to get some time alone, I didn’t pay that much attention to them leaving. I didn’t know it was the last time I would see them, much less how hard the next fifty-four days would be.

“Okay, see ya!” I called from the office, which was now the pantry.

The book I was reading that night was still in the same spot. I didn’t even bother to finish it. I stared at it for a long moment. I could practically see myself sitting there without a care in the world.

A numb feeling I was used to fell over me. I pushed it aside and opened the closet to my emergency stash of food. Only five cans of beans, two of corn, and a box of crackers sat before me. I grabbed the crackers, ignoring the panic in my chest.

I turned and walked out.

“I’m going out with Kasey tonight, alright Rowin? And I think Jonathan is at one of his game clubs or something, but he should be home soon,” Adria shouted as she rushed out the door to meet her darling boyfriend.

“Okay!” I yelled back, only to hear the door slam again as I turned the page.

With the word still lodged in my throat from all those weeks ago, I picked up my cell phone, reached for a notebook, and flipped to the page of names that were in my contacts. I circled the one’s I regularly called in red. My fingers shook as I dialed, the slightest hope that someone might pick up consuming me for a moment.

“This is Weston Highschool. We are not available at the moment, but please leave a message after the tone. Sorry for the inconvenience,” the automatic voice said.

I sighed as the tone sounded. Not that I expected it to do any different.

“Rowin Lifile. Day fifty-four. I’ve been alone, and I don’t know where my family is. Please call me back if there’s someone still alive on the other line.”

I hung up and slammed my hand on the counter. There was probably just a string of messages with my voice on it, records of all the days I called.

The same happened with the police, the hospital, my sister’s work, my parent’s work, the neighbors, and my friends. No one picked up; no one ever heard my messages. Some might call it creepy. By now, it was past creepy-- it was irritating.

But they could still be alive, I thought to myself. My family wouldn’t just leave me.

That’s all my life was. Memories, and staying alive. Rationing food and old episodes. Wondering if everyone was dead or if they all decided to leave at once. Convincing myself that I still mattered.

I was just about to have my one meal of the day when something caught my eye out the window. Someone was stumbling down the driveway of the house across the street, slipping on the wet grass, arms wrapped around them in the cold. My heart thumped in my chest I peered outside.

“Jonathan?” I whispered, longing for my older brother. I went to the window and saw that it wasn’t Jonathan though. Far from him, actually.

The guy was tall for one thing. He was wearing a t-shirt, and it was the beginning of January. His blond hair was tossed around by the wind. Jonathan wasn’t stupid enough to wear a coat in weather that could change in an instant.

I felt my breathing hitch for a moment. I rubbed my eyes, hoping I was hallucinating. I had no idea who this was or how they found me. I lived in the middle of nowhere, in a small pocket of a neighborhood. When I blinked, the guy was still there, falling, running, crawling toward my house.

As surprised as I was to see another human -- who was a stranger -- I didn’t dare move from my spot. I was so shocked to actually see a physical person instead of my imagination that I couldn’t move. That is, until he looked up toward my house from the bottom of the driveway, directly at me.

I gulped, locking stares with him. A deep, foreign terror caused the air to feel thick, my hands to shake, my mind to race. I had grown used to feeling afraid, but seeing someone else I didn’t know was horrifying.

“I’m dreaming,” I said to myself. “I have to be.”

I could hear him shout, but couldn’t make out what he was saying.

Then, he started running.

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