The Plague of Fear
I looked over the hill I had just climbed; in the distance I could see the remains of what had once been a great city. I didn't know which city it was, only that it had towering buildings that were now covered by vegetation.
The people who had once lived in the ruins were long dead. The elders say that the human populations had once exceeded the carrying capacity of the world. In other words there was not enough food, water and other resources to sustain its population anymore. Hunger had once been the cause of many deaths, but nothing was worse than the plague.
My grandfather had once told me the story of the plague. He said "people became crazy, consumed by their own fears. Their mind would torture them until they opted for the easy way out. Death." I could never understand how people could just give up back then.
I use to dream of the stories my grandfather told me. Stories of buildings in pristine conditions, shinning with lights like a jar of fireflies. Of metal boxes called TV showing moving pictures of people and places that were now gone. People could even walk into a large building and give someone a piece of paper in exchange for food.
"And here I had to hunt and dry my food to actually last a week." I chuckled shifting my backpack.
"But you’re not going to survive a week, honey," said a voice behind me.
I rolled my eyes at the voice. The familiar voice of my father. I ignored it like I always did. He has been following me from the moment I left my home two months ago. He never thought I could make it on my own out here. He said that the world was too dangerous for me, that a life alone, walking without a goal was for the strong and brave. And he was convinced I was neither. What he didn’t know was that all I wanted was to find my place in this city, to find my place in the world.
I was now at the edge of the towering city looking down a wide street. Grass had covered the ground and metal cocoons covered with moss and bushes randomly littered the long path. I stood there for a minute and listened to the wind, I heard nothing, I felt nothing, not even that bone chilling sensation of being watched.
“Perfect,” I said to myself and began walking down the grassy road.
“Perfect for a long and painful death, I bet you will die the moment you set foot in one of those buildings. They look like one touch could bring them down. Imagine being trapped under a ton of debris with a pole stuck through you. Not a pretty sight,” he said but I shook my head at him and walked a bit faster hoping he would get the memo and leave me alone.
The sun was going to set soon so I began to look for a safe place to camp. I preferred to camp in high places, so that is why I now found myself climbing to the seventh floor of a moss covered building. It was a sturdy looking building, and ugly enough that it wouldn’t attract anyone’s attention. The building was not meant to be for housing; the floor had an open concept and what must have been a wall of glass windows facing the street. Paper littered the floor everywhere like an old battered carpet that crunched with every step.
I sat by the wall of broken windows to watch the sunset and eat some dried meat.
“Your grandfather used to work in a place like this before the plague, an office he called it,” my father said coming to sit beside me. It was impressive how silently he could move. I looked at him for a moment, taking in his rugged face. It was incredible how after all these years he still looked so young, years would pass and he still looked the same. “You should have stayed with him.”
“He was the one who sent me off, the village thought it was for the best,” I told him taking a bit off my jerky. “This is going to be my home now.”
“What the open road, these ruins? You will die out here. You should just go back to the village. You are not strong enough for this type of life.”
“Like you,” I said looking back at the sunset. “I don’t even know why you are here; to torment me with the endless possibilities of what could happen to me? To make me fear the unknown? I will not end up like you.”
“I am fine,” he spat.
“You are dead,” I said looking back at him with tears in my eyes. “You left one day and never came back the same. You left to see the world, told me to stay with grandpapa and never to leave. Well I left, I wanted to see what interested you so much about the world, what made you leave me, what killed you. Now I know, now I see; now it’s my turn to live in it, to belong in this reborn world.”
My father laughed at me. “Don’t you see, we are not meant to live here. You will end up washed up in a riverbank somewhere just like me.”
I stood up and gathered my things. I looked out the window to see the moonlit scenery before me. I leaned out and looked down at the street.
“That’s a long fall, a sure and painless death,” he said looking down at the street beside me.
I smiled, straightened myself and looked at him. “That’s the difference between you and me. You think of everything that could go wrong, of everything that could kill you. But I don’t, I was only looking down to see if anyone was coming. I will live without fear, I will live without you.”
He smiled back at me and jumped off the window. I watched as he fell and dissipated into nothingness.