I stood over the boy’s body, my knife, covered in his blood, glistening in the sun. I fell to my knees and sobbed. What had I done? What had I become?
You see, I was a normal girl. I went to school, I was an okay student, I had friends, I had crushes, I even played the piano and did small chores for an old lady down the street.
Everything was fine until 2449, when the economy collapsed. Food started running low. Our fridge usually only had something like a head of lettuce and some small fish. Slowly, people started getting desperate. First there were just a bunch of petty thefts happening. Now, a year later, the crime rate had skyrocketed. There were murders everywhere. People were killing each other over a chunk of meat. The police were no use. People put boards over the doors and windows, only coming out when it was completely necessary.
I thought that it couldn’t get any worse. Until the break in.
I was curled up in my bed, ready for another sleepless night when I heard a loud crack. I jumped up and ran to my parents room. They were already awake, wielding the knives that they kept by their bedside table. They exchanged a glance that showed pure hopelessness.
Someone who was cracking open boards and glass probably had a hatchet. Or something worse.
“Listen to me,” said my mother, placing her hands on my shoulders, “If I tell you to run, you need to get out of here as fast as you can.”
“But what about-” I started, but was cut off.
“Just do what I tell you!” she yelled. Before this, I would’ve assumed that since she was yelling like that, that she hated me, wanted me out of her sight. But I could hear the pleading tone underneath the yelling. Pleading with her only child to stay alive.
All of us went downstairs. I stood by the back door, while my parents went towards the noises coming from the kitchen.
I heard nothing for a few seconds, then shouts.
I would have liked to say that I ran valiantly to help my parents from whatever horror they faced, but I wasn’t stupid. I would have died if I tried that.
I threw open the door and ran like my mother told me to. I had to stop myself from crying. It would only inhibit my ability to run. My ability to survive.
I looked for places to hide in the pale moonlight as I pelted across the cracked road. I saw a dumpster, the only shelter I’d be able to get, and leapt into it. I covered myself in whatever was in it, curled into a little ball and let myself cry softly.
My parents were most likely dead and I was going to be, too, in a few days. A girl like me had a zero percent chance of survival. I’m sorry, mom. I thought.
I stayed awake, staring off into darkness after my tears had run out and a numbing, empty feeling had come over my body and mind.
Maybe minutes passed, maybe days. I could barely tell.
A rustling sounded above me. I shrunk back into the corner. Someone was was digging around through the dumpster.
Please don’t find me. Please don’t find me.
A hand touched my head and rested there for a second.
“Is someone in there?” asked a concerned voice. The voice sounded like it would belong a boy in his teens. He was probably looking for food.
I didn’t answer him.
I felt the trash above me move away. Light shone into my corner.
“Hey,” said the teen. “It’s okay, I won’t hurt you, I promise.”
I looked up. The boy looked around seventeen. His face was smeared with grime and his hair was long and unkempt. Chunks of it were missing. Something about him, though, told me that he was safe.
“Do you wanna come out?” he asked and held out his hand. I took it and slowly stood up and climbed out of the dumpster. It was daytime, the sun was already high in the sky.
“What’s your name?” asked the teen.
“Diana,” I whispered.
“How old are you?” he inquired, further.
“Twelve,” I replied, still in a whisper.
“My name’s Willie,” he said. “Are your parents around?”
Tears welled up in my eyes and streamed down my face as I remembered what the night had brought.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” he trailed off.
I continued crying, although I wanted desperately to stop.
Willie stood silent for a minute as I cried.
“We could stay together,” he said, finally. My tears subsided a little.
“Really?” I asked hopefully, rubbing away at the wetness on my cheeks.
“Really,” he said, with a pained smile on his face.
Life with Willie was scarier than anything I had ever experienced. I laughed at the thought of myself screaming while watching horror movies a million years ago. I saw rats gnawing rotting flesh off the bones of some poor, dead soul. I saw a lady walking around with an insane looking smile repeating over and over “Or the next day. Or the next day…”. I saw countless people killed, people dying on the street that we couldn’t afford to help.
Willie and I curled up together under a moth eaten blanket, usually in a hidden hole in a wall and ate food out of dumpsters. Sometimes, we caught rats and ate them raw.
Multiple times, people had attacked us, trying to take the little food that we had collected. Willie had defended us with a kitchen knife. He had given me a small knife that he had found while we were dumpster diving. Before that, I had carried a piece of broken glass.
One day, we had just found bread, some half-rotted fruit and a bit of peanut butter, which was considered a good find, especially after not eating for a few days. My body screamed for nourishment.
I heard some crunching noises behind me, but I didn’t pay much attention to them. All I could think about was eating.
Suddenly, someone flew out at us from behind some soggy cardboard boxes, slashing with a large knife, trying to steal the food.
Willie barely dodged the person and pulled out his knife. I did the same. Willie slashed out at the person, who was a teen that looked a few years older than Willie. He wasn’t going to spare us. He would injure us, take our food and leave us to die.
The boy dodged and jabbed at Willie. He was ignoring me, probably not seeing me as a threat. Willie dodged. This exchange went on for a while. I cowered behind Willie, silently cheering him on.
Then, the boy’s knife connected with the top of Willie’s forearm, causing him to drop his knife.
“RUN, DIANA!” yelled Willie, as he tried to dodge the older boy, his face contorted in pain.
My mother’s voice echoed in my head ‘’Run!” she had yelled to me.
In that split second, I lunged out at the boy who still wasn’t paying attention to me. My knife hit with something, embedding itself with a sickening thud.
I looked up to see the older boy with his mouth open, his eyes wide. He let out a little squeak. I looked where the knife had landed. It was straight in his chest.
“No! I didn’t mean to!” I cried out, to no one in particular. The boy was now collapsed on the ground with blood dribbling out of his mouth. “I’m sorry! Oh my goodness! What did I do?” The boy let out another squeak and he stopped breathing, as if to answer me. His eyes glossed over. I could still see the terror he had felt in them.
Willie stared at me.
“I didn’t mean to,” I whispered, again. Willie just pulled the knife out of the boy’s chest and handed it to me. I looked at the bloodstained blade, and dropped in. I curled up and sobbed like I never had sobbed before. What had I done? What had I become?
Willie spoke quietly, “You’ll get used to it.”