Singing the song of their football team, the five friends drove their car back home. It had not only been an amazing game, it had been a game they had won. Stephen, John, Terrence, Joey and Ethan had yelled, screamed and cheered like their lives had depended on it, and the ride home felt like they were Caesars making a victory ride. They had celebrated their victory at the stadium and were still celebrating in the car. Singing, laughing and shouting as if they themselves had run over the field.
“…, it was the frog!” Terrence laughed the loudest about the joke. John’s high, unmanly laugh from behind the wheel made the rest of the guys laugh even louder.
“Hey John, ”Stephen began his teasing comment, but before he could finish bright lights flashed towards them, accompanied by the loud honks of a deep horn.?
Stephen, John, Terrence, Joey and Ethan yelled. John tried to brake, but the lights came at them too fast. For a moment all Ethan heard was the loud horn, then
Ethan opened his eyes and found himself in bed. His window was open and soft light and the song of a bird entered his room. He took a deep breath and slowly sat up straight. His head was pounding and his body ached. The silence around him was unnatural and strange, and most certainly nothing for a house that has inhabited by seven people in a busy neighborhood. A high pinched ring filled his head as he stood up and every part of his body cracked in protest. He looked around and even though he knew this was his room, there seemed something odd about it.
“Mom?” his voice sounded raspy and his throat was dry when he called out. As Ethan walked down the stairs, he noticed his body felt heavy as if he waded through water. He was sure this was not normal, but for some reason he did now know what was ‘normal’.
The house was empty and looked like no one had lived in it for years, yet it was perfectly tidy and clean. The photos on the wall showed the family the house had belonged to, but no matter how much Ethan squinted or widened his eyes– he could not get a clear look of the faces. Eventually he just gave up and walked outside.
“Hello?” even as he said the words, he wondered why he said them. There was clearly no one around. The sun was shining, but he could not see it up in the sky. Birds were singing, but he saw none flying by. And even though he stood in a neighborhood, there was no sign of any people around.
“Hello!” Ethan shouted and started to run around. There had to be some sign of life. Some sort of evidence where everyone had gone. Right?
“HELLO!” he shouted, praying someone – anyone – would hear him, but it all seemed hopeless. There was no one, not one living soul, not even an animal. The streets looked alike and the questions were driving him insane. Ethan breathed fast and shallow as he looked around and around into the streets, as he stood on the crossroad. What was happening? The trees looked green, but brighter than normal and moved without wind. The sky was blue and did not have a single cloud on them.
“HELLO!” Ethan ran his hands through his hair and waved them as he yelled, but for some reason he failed to see them clearly. His breathing became faster, his head started to spin and Ethan was sure he was either dead or losing his mind.
“Hello Ethan,” all of the sudden he saw her. Standing in the middle of the road in her blue dress. Her golden retriever beside her. The dog wiggled its tail and seemed happy to see Ethan.
“Katie,” he said with a sigh and immediately knew everything was fine. Instantly he remembered what had happened; the sickness, the emptying of cities, the few who had stayed like him, their deaths and the adventures he and Katie had had for the past month. All of the sudden Ethan remembered it all, as if she was his summary.
“Did you miss me?” she smiled and gently touched his shoulder, even though it felt to Ethan as if he was struck by lightning itself.
“Of course,” he laughed and wanted to take her hand, but his hand did not listen to him and he failed to touch her. Katie did not seem to mind and took his hand instead.
“Let’s go,” she said, her eyes bright like ice rocks.
“To our next adventure, of course!” Katie said with a big smile and began to run.
The rest of the day was filled with finding their way through a thick forest and climbing up a huge mountain, as they tried to escape a pack of wolves. Ultimately they found the red house, but it had been horribly tricky to enter it, let alone slay the witch who lived in it.
At the end of the day, Ethan and Katie sat on the mountain and watched the sun set. Bright colors filled the sky and painted it like a dream.
“I have to go,” Katie said.
“Why?” he wanted her to stay.
“You know I can’t stay,” she smiled, “Though, I wish I could.”
“Why not?” he frowned, realizing she had never explained why she had to go or where she went every night.
“Don’t, Ethan, please,” Katie said, “If I could stay, I would.”
“Fine,” Ethan sniffed and looked at the sky.
“I will be back tomorrow,” her voice sounded solemn as if she made a vow.
“Fine,” he said and refused to look at her.
“Tomorrow it is,” Katie stood up, straightened her dress and kissed his forehead. For a moment she laid her hand on his shoulder and pinched it. A faint sigh escaped her mouth, it was filled with sorrow and despair. Ethan wanted to comfort her, but when he looked up she was already gone.
Silence wrapped around him again and he wondered what they would do tomorrow.
Genlty she closed the door and turned down the hallway, holding her notebook close to her heart as if she kept his life in it.
“Forgive my curiosity, but what are you doing in there every day?” a nurse asked.
“He told me to keep on writing, and to use the things in my life that are close to my heart,” for a moment she looked back to his door, “And right now, there’s nothing more important for him to survive.”
“You read that to him?”
“What’s it about?”
“It’s about him,” she said and smiled shyly, “how he survived.”
“That’s nice,” the nurse smiled, “He doesn’t get more company anymore.”
“Will he wake up?”
“At this point, I don't know.”
“I hope he does. And else, he will always live on in my story.”
“Who are you?”
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