Fireballs rain around me. Every inhalation sends smoke and poisonous gas traveling down my trachea. The tarmac below me is cracked and uneven, making it harder for me to maneuver away from my pursuers. An entourage of armored vehicles works its way ever closer. The tank-resembling machines take down buildings like children's blocks, clearing paths of pedestrians and objects to advance. The ones that eluded gunfire eventually succumbed to the deadly fumes circling the air, dropping like flies. I averted my eyes as they were gruesomely steamrolled by the invaders.
I, myself, struggle with the putrid air. It burns my throat horridly, but I meddle through it, it being the only effect so far. Maybe the fumes aren't so direct where I am. I don't toy with the concept any further. It really doesn't matter why I'm still alive.
Alongside me is my best friend, Geniene. She's a dainty thing, somehow keeping up with me. For hours, it's been almost nothing but running. Almost every moment, I'm glancing back at her skinny frame to make sure she's alright. She coughs. Spits something out. We won't even stop to puke.
I don't know what's happened to the world I knew yesterday. I don't care. All I know is that our lives are in danger, and I have to keep Geniene safe. It seemed so long ago life possessed normality, even though it all started this afternoon. I assumed most people had already died, including our families. Somehow we knew there was no point in trying to find them.
With no particular strategy other than mindless sprinting, I focus, adamant, on the road ahead and hardly anything else.
As we begin to run out of steam, I thoroughly scan for a suitable area to catch our breath. Most of everything is in heaps of ash, so pinpointing a quick retreat does not prove difficult. A small dumpster, discarded among other remnants of a once peaceful past, seems to suffice. I help her inside before letting myself in, closing the top over ourselves as if closing a portal to the madness outside. We huddle together, our heartbeats erratic, listening silently to all the sounds of destruction.
"What did you manage to get, Kurt?" She whispers to me.
I yank the bag I had grabbed in a haste, feeling the shape of all its articles to identify them in the dark.
"Some aspirin... a few cans of food, bottles of water, pack of smokes, and a .22."
Geniene sighs exasperatedly, whether relieved or upset by the contents I wasn't sure.
Tension is strong; we remain silent.
The brief rest does wonders, but just as I feared, it doesn't last. In a matter of minutes, we hear a machine approaching. Unlike the others, it seems to have no tires for treading, but rather mechanical legs. I analyze the sound of its movement, discovering its height slightly taller than the dumpster, probably piloted by a single user. Tuning in to the other commotions surrounding the dump, we find that more of these machines are stalking the landscape. Geniene and I freeze in our fear.
Now right in front of us, the strange technological noises confirm that the machine is inspecting the dumpster.
The dread is unbearable.
The dumpster is knocked with great force onto its side, a series of loud ringing noises screaming at our eardrums. A stream of bullets, I realize. We fall in dependence of the gravity, and by some miracle, the bullets miss us entirely. I kick open the cover, shoving Geniene out before scurrying out myself.
"Go!" I command, slinging the rucksack over my shoulder.
Near inches of me, a red laser craters the ground. I turn expectantly, the metal beast's anatomy now clear. In its center, a bean shaped cockpit seats a pilot, hoisted by four elongated legs, spider-like in their motions. Assault weapons accessorize this monstrous creation, all aimed at me.
"Kurt!" Geniene picks up the nearest possible weapon, a metallic pipe, and tosses it to me. I brace myself, though feeling ridiculous going against something so large. I shout at Geniene to take cover. It's really extraordinary, really, how the instinct to survive can change you, because at that instant, I decided I was going to fight this weird robot and win.
The spider walker fires at me. My first thought is finding safety underneath the machine. Unceremoniously, I dash towards it, amateurishly twirling the pipe in hopes of deflecting its attacks. I yelp as one laser catches my hand, another my side, another hitting the pipe and liquefying the area of contact. Though my windbreaker is styled with a few choice holes and my wounds welt painfully, I manage to slide out of the weapons' angle of fire.
I latch myself onto one of its legs, holding on with a deathly grip as it vigorously shakes. Like a playground toy, I begin to climb, with steady aggravation from the pilot. I can hear his muffled screams and cursing through the green tinted glass. Using the pipe, I impale the closest laser guns, electrical sparks flying into my face. Unfortunately, my weapon becomes too impaled in the metal exoskeleton, and for the moment I am defenseless. I'm taken by surprise when the walker tilts dramatically.
He's trying to buck me off.
The concrete waits for me below, it's jagged uprooted chunks like predatory teeth. I'm going to die. I'm going to slip and fall to my death.
Maybe I want it to happen. The side of my shirt is warm with blood. My hand is no longer pale white, but crimson. It's sticky and wet and makes it difficult to hang on for my life. My body rhythmically thuds with pain. My head feels as if it's going to implode.
I feel my body forcibly loosening my grip. The pain in my hand is overwhelming.
It's going to be over. I guess I'm OK with that, too.
And then I imagine the park.