Only the Cruel Ones Survive
Monday, 17th of July, 2045
Today I have black in my heart. I’m tired of black; it’s everywhere these days, spreading like a disease. It kind of reminds me of the pandemic we had years ago, but I think this is worse. Now, instead of people’s bodies getting infected, it’s their minds. Everyone hates everyone else, it sickens me. War has torn apart almost every country in the world, ripping them into pieces. I have nightmares about it; sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, wondering why they don’t just lay down their guns and plead for unity. You’d think there’d be more peace protests, but the last one ever seen was seven months ago. Everything is broken.
I’m sitting on an old park bench, writing this. Mama would scold me dreadfully if she found this book. Paper is rare these days, so rare that the people who do have it demand at least 400 USD for fifty sheets. I don’t have that kind of money, so I stole a whole notebook. Crazy, I know, but the shopkeeper and one other guy were fighting so I took my chance. It’s a good thing they haven’t installed a paper sensor yet.
The only city that is completely protected from the battling armies is Dandalava City, which was created when Georgetown and Campbell combined into one. The mayors got married or something, I don’t know. The rest of America wanted them to join in the war, but they refused and offered to make and give supplies to the army instead. That’s why everything is so grey here and why everyone hates each other. This city is like a war in itself. The army keeps asking for stuff, we keep making them (sometimes using our own household things as materials are running short) and our land turns into waste. It turns black.
Tuesday, 25th of July, 2045
I’m so scared, my heart is still pounding. Mama almost found my notebook. She was cleaning out my bedroom, pulling thread from my dresses to make army clothes and her hand bumped the box where I’ve hidden my journal. Lucky, Trina came into the room with a few dresses of her own and distracted Mama long enough for me to push the box under my bed. I thank the Lords above for my sister and her dresses.
Mama thought I looked pale (of course I did, who wouldn’t?) and so allowed me to go on a walk. I rarely go out anymore these days, the air is so unclean. It always smells like gunfire and smoke, both from the war nearby and the burning forests. Sometimes I just stand still; then I close my eyes and open my ears. I don’t see anything except for black, which is what my heart is filled with. Then I hear the sounds; the engines of passing cars, the chattering of random people walking past me. I breath it all in, savoring the moment. One in a while I try to imagine what a perfect world would be like. Green grass instead of cement? Blue skies instead of murky grey and brown? Maybe there would be laughter instead of filthy swearing on the streets.
The Dandalava I want is always clean and friendly. There would be trees lining the roads, birds nesting in birches. I can’t remember the last time I saw a tree, most likely it was several years ago. They’ve all been cut down, people saying they want to stop using so many fossil fuels. All they did was destroy the forests. Now most cities have plastic trees, as if that makes up for the real thing.
Let me tell you a secret: I have an apple seed. I always carry it in my jacket, inside a secret pocket I’ve sewed inside. Only I know it’s there; nobody else would be able to find it, unless they cut up the fabric and it fell out. I saved it from the last time I ate an apple, at my Granny’s house. She had a beautiful apple tree, but it withered and died after being exposed to the sick air for so long. Granny withered away, too. I miss her.
One day, when the world is better, I’ll plant the seed. I’ll have the first apple tree that Dandalava has ever seen for a long time.
Thursday, 24th of August, 2045
I’m sorry I haven’t written for so long, things are very busy. Dandalava is no longer safe. The army doesn’t need supplies from us anymore, they’ve turned to Wisconsin instead. The cheese country! The army must like their dairy--not that there are enough cows left. Lots of people have been forced to become vegan, nearly all our animals have died out.
Speaking of animals.
There’s a good side to Dandalava, one that I love. It’s the cats. While polar bears and lions and pigs and chickens have all reduced in population, cats and dogs just keep on coming. I suppose it’s because there were so many stray ones to start with, they just kept on having more and more babies. Somehow, they’ve been able to survive the air, which is strange. Most of us have to go out wearing a special sort of mask to make sure that the pollution doesn’t enter our lungs.
There are dogs here, of course, but more cats than anything. They roam the streets day and night, meowing and purring and yowling at people. Most of the Dandalavians call them vermin and kick at them. Once, Mama took Trina and me to a neighbor’s house. He served us “kitty stew.” We never went back there.
But I’m always nice to them. The cats come to me whenever I’m near, hoping I have food in my pockets. I’ve named them all, too, which Mama says is ridiculous. “Can’t tell one pussy from another,” she’d said when I told her. But it’s easy. Some cats have shorter tails than others, or pointier ears. And not one cat’s coat pattern is completely unique. If you look closely enough, you can spot the small differences. Just like with people.
Mama’s coming! I have to go.
Friday, 28th of August, 2045
Don’t worry, Mama didn’t find my notebook. I stuffed it into my pants when she came. Good thing I like baggy clothes.
Wednesday, 26th September, 2045
Our house is on fire. I just managed to rescue this. Mama and Trina are in the police station, and I’m sitting outside on a really old bench that might break if I lean too much on it. They’ll come out soon, so I’ll quickly tell you what happened.
We were having a pretty normal day. Only around noon did we smell the smoke. Then Trina spotted fire in the kitchen. I swear, my heart beat so loud I thought it might pop out of my chest. Mama yelled at us to run outside, but I went upstairs first, ignoring her shouts. Then I grabbed this notebook and stuffed into the front of my dress, crossing my arms over it and rushing outside. I nearly fainted, the smoke was so strong. When I finally got out, the whole house was in flames and our things were burned. But that wasn’t all, I tell you. The whole neighborhood was on fire.
It was an army that set us on fire, and more neighborhoods are being lit as we speak. Nobody knows who it is, but I’m exhausted and devastated. My little apple seed was burned, as well as the rest of my belongings, and half of our neighbors perished. I wish the man who fed us kitty stew died, but he’s in the station now with Mama and Trina. It’s true that only the cruel people survive. I’m living proof: I was never a good person, nor will I ever be. Sure, I’m kind to cats and I don’t hurt people on purpose. But there is a hatred, a blackness in my heart, something that has been eating away at me for a long time. Sometimes it’s so strong I want to kill, to strangle someone.
I wish Papa was still here. It hurts so bad.
I’m going to bury this now. I don’t want anyone else to find it, and if they do, I will be long gone. Dead or somewhere else, I don’t know. But I’ll be gone.
-Sincerely, Fionelle Dend, age 15.