A Reason to Survive
In the slums of a rough neighborhood, a young man ran for all he was worth.
After years of being cheated and abused by his father, Levi Ackerman had been carted from foster home to foster home. When he turned sixteen, he had taken tests by social services to determine what he already knew: that he was competent enough and perfectly capable of living on his own.
He managed to graduate from high school, not that he was not smart, but because he wanted to show himself that he could. To hold the weight of his diploma, a flimsy piece of paper, in his hands.
But with neither the drive nor the money necessary to attend college, high school was where his education ended.
He knew that no one person could hope to survive on the streets by sheer will alone, no matter how strong they were, or how good a fighter.
In his search for somewhere to belong, Levi had become involved with some dangerous gangs, and knew that he could only go it solo for so long.
Levi had been in knife fights, where the opposition had promised nothing but bare fists, man to man, only to reveal that not only was his opposition armed, but not alone.
Levi had been stabbed with knives and make shift shanks, kicked beyond recognition, and left for dead in the streets in the cruel chaos of night.
But he had always come back, stronger, and faster.
Eventually, he gained enough followers to run a crew of his own. If he was too soft, members who were less loyal would walk all over him, threatening to rise up, and take over the gang, unless he put them in their place.
As the years went by, his gang was dubbed the Corps, short for corpse, due to all of the death that seemed to follow them, wherever they went.
Levi had been in shoot outs, as rival gangs fought for territory. Levi had been shot on numerous occasions, wounded within an inch of his life, but he had always come out swinging, until the bitter end.
He had to. Not only for himself, but for those close to him.
Having never known what a real family was like, Levi was especially protective of his friends. No one who double-crossed them, be them man or woman, ever got away unscathed.
Most of those in the Corps gang had been young adults in their early twenties, or teenagers.
Some had been chased out of their homes by their parents, for any of a dozen reasons. Money, drugs, sexual, physical, or mental abuse. These were the kids society had given up on, convinced that they were "thugs" and "hoodlums" far beyond help, condemning them to ghettos, with no hopes of escape.
Some had dropped out of school, either to support their families in poverty, or because their grades nothing to brag about, or simply because they had lost the motivation in the living hell that was their home lives to deal with the daily grind of being hassled by the teachers that couldn't care less about them.
Now in his early twenties, Levi did odd jobs here and there to make ends meet.
Being the sole leader of a gang of outsiders and rejects, which was practically the entirety of the population in the streets of his city, Levi did not have to worry about a place to crash, as there was always a friend who would welcome him.
However, despite this, he always made sure to hold down a fort. For those in his crew that had nowhere else to go. For those who did not have a place to escape the cold chill of winter, or the thunder and pouring rain during a humid summer night.
Once you earned his trust, you would always have it, so long as you never gave him any reason to distrust you. He welcomed any and all members of his crew into his small two bedroom apartment, on the sole condition that they keep the place spotless during their stay.
He would steal, smuggle drugs and weapons, even kill if the price was high enough, so that none of the kids in his gang would have to do it themselves.
Tonight, had been one of those nights.
Even after kill after kill, the grief never got any easier to bear. He carried it with him wherever he went, hanging over his shoulder like a looming, dark cloud.
He remembered each of their faces, as they had trembled in fear before him, their heads against his gun, or their throats pressed under his knife.
Some had cried for their mothers, pissed themselves, cursing him in their final words, or tried futilely to fight back.
A few had even asked for him to pass on a message to their loved ones before he pulled the trigger, knowing their place in the world as lowly drug and weapons dealers had finally come to an end and welcomed death, if only to be set free from the seemingly endless cycle of deceit and betrayal.
In every such case, Levi always relayed such messages to the loved ones of his victims, indirectly as well as personally, because they had paid the ultimate price, and he felt it was the least he could do to atone for his sins.
Pulling the trigger became easier as the years went by, but the ghosts of his past would forever haunt him.
On nights like this, where his breath was visible in the cool night air, and the light from the moon peeked through the clouds, Levi could almost feel the lingering traces of blood, both new and old, on his hands, tainting them.
The faint twinkling of the stars was dimmed by the harsh lights of the city, and the thick sea of smog that drowned the town, suffocating him as he looked longingly up at the midnight sky.
A few miles away, in the pricier neighborhood of Karense, a place many in poverty could only dream of inhabiting, a girl with hazel eyes and cascading orange hair was writing aimlessly in her new diary.
Petra Ral wrote about her day at school, her latest crush, and a petty argument with her best friend, one that she hoped to mend the next day.
Dotting the walls of her room were paintings and charcoal drawings of things that interested her.
A delicate looking flower in watery shades of pink, yellow and green. A charcoal sketch of a young couple holding hands, though their heads could not be seen, so that the focus would be on the scenery around them, as well as their body language. Some funny doodles she had made with her friends during class, while the teacher was not paying attention, containing notes regarding inside jokes only those in her inner circle could understand.
Finishing her diary entry, Petra stretched from where she sat at her desk, peering outside, as gentle rays of sunlight streamed in through her window. The weather was finally starting to warm up, and she looked forward to the pool parties and summer night sleepovers with friends.
Grabbing her phone, Petra checked her various social media pages. Not so much to catch up on gossip or to see posts and statuses who was sleeping with who, but in hopes of a little entertainment.
She laughed as an overweight cat fell off of a kitchen counter on Vine, and winced as she watched a skate boarder wipe out on a large stair set, praying that he was alright.
But after only a few more clips, Petra looked at the time.
She sighed, annoyed to see that only half an hour had gone by since she last looked at the clock.
It was a Saturday night, but all of her friends were either unable to meet up with her, having already made other plans, or had yet to respond to her texts.
Having given up on any hope of escaping her house for a few hours, Petra checked her messages, depressed to discover that neither of her parents had texted her back.
Petra's mother worked as a surgeon in the ER of a local hospital, which cursed the woman with long, unpredictable hours, despite the great pay.
Her father was a traveling business man, so he was home even less often than her mother.
In school, Petra was as diligent a student as any in her academics. But in truth, she had actually given some serious thought to becoming an artist, creating pictures to sell and writing books for a little added income, as her imagination was seemingly limitless, overflowing with ideas.
However, Petra had yet to tell her parents of any of this, knowing full well what they would tell her, saying things along the lines of 'you could do so much better' and that there would be 'no way she could ever make a decent living doing either.'
Petra opened the Notes app on her phone, ignoring that she should be studying for that big math test next week, and finding her birthday, which was only a few weeks away. She knew it was doubtful that either of her parents would be home to celebrate it with her.
Yet another year would be spent sitting alone in her kitchen, blowing out the numbered candles of a cupcake she had purchased at the supermarket for herself.
Sure, her friends had done things to try and cheer her up, like taking her out to see a funny movie or inviting themselves over for a sleep over the night of her big day, so that she would not be left home to cry by herself, but things can change over time.
Boyfriends cheated or broke up with her, only to move on to prettier, sluttier girls. Friends moved away, promising to stay in touch, but eventually didn't after only a few months, becoming too 'busy' with their new lives to remember their lonely best friend regions away.
Although it was hard at times, especially during the holidays, Petra did her best not to cling to what few friends remained in her circle, in fear that she would drive them away if ever she became 'too needy.'
Not wanting to go to bed so early on a Saturday night, and too annoyed to sit still any longer, Petra stood up, and made her way over to her dresser.
She threw on some sweats, pulled on some socks, and laced up her sneakers. She grabbed her phone and headed downstairs, seeking out her basement, which she had converted into a gym in her parents' absence, not that they would mind.
Without a car, she could not always get to the gym, unless she felt like taking several buses to get to the nearest one.
Besides, it was not as if Petra was in need of any money. The large allowance she received from both of her parents, plus the added income from her part time job, which she only really sought out to give her another reason to leave her house, granted her with more than enough funding to get the equipment she needed.
She had started out with simple things, like medicine balls and dumbbells, before purchasing a treadmill. But after finding that she preferred to run outside, Petra only used it on chilly, or rainy days, when she was not able to run outside, or if it was too dark to venture out.
Not that her neighborhood was all that dangerous, but being alone all the time took its toll on her, and made her paranoid of going out alone, unless said errands were done in the light of day.
Becoming fed up with being so scrawny and utterly helpless, as she was only a little over five feet tall, Petra signed herself up for a few self-defense classes after school, taking up kick boxing.
Once she got past the pain of bruised knuckles, which made it difficult to draw and paint for a period of time, Petra found that she often craved the feeling of taking out her frustrations on the thick, heavy leather bag that now dangled tauntingly in the far corner of her gym.
After taping up her knuckles and slipping on her padded gloves, Petra took in a deep, sharp breath, and rounded on the innocent bag. Her punches came quick, and she swung until her arms felt like lead, and a warm, sticky sensation could be felt around her fingers, emanating from the inside of her gloves.
Ignoring the pain for another hour or so, Petra finally collapsed onto the mats below her feet, her entire body covered in a sheen of sweat.
After catching her breath, she hit the treadmill, and jogged three miles to loosen up some, hating how east it was to get a steady, bouncing rhythm on the machine.
It had all started out as an ordinary day. The sun was shining, and it was hot as hell. People were either out an about, working or shopping, hanging out with friends, or desperately trying to beat the heat, throwing parties and diving into swimming pools.
So far, everything seemed peaceful.
Little did anyone know that this particular summer's day would go down in infamy.
The virus had started pot in the populated city of Shiganshina. A single person had stumbled into the ER of a local walk in clinic.
When their condition worsened, they were transferred to a hospital.
Nurses, doctors, and surgeons alike grew increasingly worried, as more and more patients followed the first, until the staff could no longer keep up with each patient, as the hospital had become filled to capacity.
Doctors arranged for some patients to be transferred to other hospitals in other cities.
But as the patients began to die off and stories reached local news anchors, the unthinkable happened.
The first patient had woken up, and the doctors sprang into action, believing his heart had only temporarily stopped, and that they had pronounced their patient deceased too soon.
Unfortunately for those unlucky enough to be on call in the medical establishments in the surrounding area, most of the staff did not make it out alive, as the dead began to feast upon the living. The numbers of the living decreased in said buildings, as the quantity of the undead grew exponentially. The number of infected spread from city to city, exploding in densely populated areas, and fanning out into the suburbs of every city on the continent.
Shiganshina especially, was dealt a hard blow, as the city in which the virus had originated, for reasons unknown.
At the edge of the city, a young boy watched I horror as his mother was devoured before his very eyes.
He and his sister, who had been adopted into the Yeager family, were rescued by their neighbor, Hannes, but the man had come too late to save their mother.
The boy, Eren once safe in the next town, vowed to one day extinguish the creatures, later dubbed Titans for their ridiculous strength despite their size. The girl, Mikasa, swore that she would protect her adoptive brother, no matter what, as he was her last remaining family.
Both children were separated from their father, and assumed him to be dead, unable to escape the horde of Titans laying waste to the country.
The pandemic had begun, and with no end in sight.