A building topples over. Explosions sound off in the distance, killing thousands. Dust fills the air around me and the screams of those around me drown out most other sound. I'm amongst a crowd of people who are stuck on an island landmass. Fissures separate us from the rest of the world. I cannot keep on my feet, the earth is shaking too much for me to even stand up. The cataclysms don't seem to end.
I need to find some cover so my thoughts can catch up with me. It’s hard to breathe as dust fills the air. I hear a sort of cracking sound, I turn around to see a building beginning to fall on its foundation. I start running, time seems to slow down exponentially. I see the building falling behind me and it feels like I'm never going to escape it.
The shadow of the falling building grows larger and I feel the other bodies around me pushing and shoving me out of the way. We move as a single organism towards the edge, some of the others jump off, they would rather die by jumping than by being crushed. I hear a loud crack as the building explodes from the inside out, the shockwaves of the blast knock me off of my feet, sending me over the void.
The whole world spins around me as I come to a hard rolling stop on the other side of the chasm. I think my arm is broken and I know several of my ribs aren't where they're supposed to be. I pick my head up, in front of me stands another building, on it read the words “One Bush Plaza.” Dust enters my lungs and I feel a hoarse tingling in my chest. I double over immediately and cough up blood.
Behind me I see that the small island had completely sunken into the earth from the force of the fallen building. All of the people on it dead. To my right I see a small circle of land that looks totally vibrant and lush. Everything around it is debris and rubble, yet inside that perfect circle lies full life.
Then I see a new fissure opening up behind me. It fragments the ground. In a matter of seconds I’m up on my feet and running towards the circle, forgoing any pain I'm in. There's a bloodcurdling scream behind me.
I see two people on the ground, a young man with dirty blonde hair on the ground with a finely dressed teenage girl curling over him, holding him in her arms. She has dark red hair, but I cannot see her face. I can hear her crying and then I see that the guy is bleeding from a wound in his abdomen, his eyes have glossed over.
“What are you doing just standing there?! Go get help!” The girl screams, not even moving to face me. I turn back and run to them.
“Okay,” I say, running towards the circle.
I can feel the ground beneath me shifting once more and hesitantly I turn back around and continue running. I’m about ten feet from the exterior of the circle, the ground is perfectly cemented on the other side, nothing that happens here seems to carry over there.
The earthquakes and tremors are non-existent past the circle’s reach. I swallow hard and look back to the girl and the guy back a ways away.
I can’t just leave them to die.
I run back through the carnage and the chaos. They haven’t moved from the spot that they were and the girl is crying even harder, audibly groaning and hanging over the guy. I kneel down beside her and put a hand on her shoulder, “Come on! We can’t stand here for much longer, we have to move!”
She shakes her head. Her hair shields her face from my view, but I don’t have to see it to know it’s stained with tears, “No! It’s not fair! He…he can’t…he wasn’t supposed to…” She says.
“There isn’t anything more we can do for him,” I say. “He’d want you to continue on.”
She lets out a small silent cry and she cradles his head in her hands, stroking his cheeks. He has a very slender face and a very well defined jaw line. His eyes are still open and I see that his left eye is a light blue and his right is hazel.
“Okay, I think…I think I’m ready,” she says.
I nod and we both stand up. She turns her head towards me and gives off a nervous sort of smile. I recognize her immediately, she goes to my school, her name is Iris. I hadn’t really spoken to her much, if at all. When in Rome I guess.
She has these really docile brown eyes, but I’ve never seen them really this sad before, more angry than anything. One thing that catches my notice is that I see something in her eyes, something behind them as if her eyes were windows to an outside world. It looks like some bright light, almost like an explosion.
“Hey, come on! Are you coming or what?” She asks me, standing up.
“Yeah, I'm coming,” I say, coming out of my thoughts. “There’s a large gap we’ll have to jump, but I think we can make it!” I start running in the direction of the fissure.
She nods, following my lead. The earth begins shaking again and I cough with all of the excess dust in the air. I can feel my legs start to buckle, but there is no stopping now. We’re on a one track destination, a one way road to hell from hell. I catch a hint of blood as we pass by an overturned car in the street. The air tastes like sulfur.
Don’t look inside. Don’t look inside.
I stand, short of breath outside of the car, the earth is shaking and the world is ending and here I am stuck, unable to move on from a single car.
I’m shaken awake, out of my trance-like state, Iris stands at my side, “If we’re going…we’re going to have to go now,” She asks, looking back to the car as she says it.
I walk over and peek inside, letting the intuition and better judgment be damned. Inside I see the splattered remains of a young woman in the passenger seat. Her head lolls back on her neck as her torso is impaled by various shards of glass, from the broken windshield and windows, no doubt. In the backseat I see a small hand out from underneath the compiled metal of the car and I can feel the bile rising from my stomach.
“Something bad?” Iris asks.
I shake my head and continue walking. I see the small area of safety just beyond the next set of cars, but the fissures have since grown. With this new distance we’d be lucky to make it across with a running start. I look back to Iris and then back forward. I take a deep breath and back up a few steps.
“You aren’t seriously suggesting that we jump that? I didn’t know it was this large.”
I keep walking, not answering her. I turn around and look towards the other side. Every second I wait is another second I could have used to get there sooner. I close my eyes and begin running.
I can feel the wind pick up on the sides of my face and I open my eyes right before the crevice and take off. Time seems to slow down as my feet leave the earth.
I take another deep breath and I close my eyes again.
I feel myself begin to fall, but then I feel a grip on my arm, the one not broken, thankfully, and I stop. I look up to see a beautiful blonde girl bending over the side of her edge, holding me up. Her eyes are strikingly blue. I also notice that the sections of her that had left the safety of the circle are messy and scuffed up, there are some cuts and blood sprayed alongside it. She looks like she’s been through hell, to say the least.
I can see her face as she tries to pull me up, she’s struggling. I hear a grunt and I see that Iris had jumped across the ledge. I see her slam her gut against the side of the jutted out land, but she gets a grip on it and pulls herself up. I can feel the blonde girl’s grip on me beginning to loosen and I look up back at her. I can see her face is full of fear and then she pulls hard one last time. I try to reach my right hand up, it refuses to move even a little. I can't speak, all of the pain from before rushes into my body like a terrible curse.
I can feel an extra pair of arms on mine, Iris had come over to help. I rise up until I'm all the way to my hips and then am dragged over the top. I sit there for a second. I'm actually feeling a lot better once I'm inside. I feel my arm once again and can move it around freely.
“You're safe inside here,” the blonde haired girl says.
The noise and panicked sounds from outside have stopped completely. The screaming has all stopped. The earth no longer shakes and above this little circle of land the sky is a bright blue, in contrast to the bleak orange-y reds on the outside. It feels like I’m in a new safe haven.
I take a moment to catch my breath. The worst seems to be over. The blonde girl sits down and looks towards me. She's shorter than I am, and I'm about five foot six. She also seems to be around my age, I'm sixteen.
“Huh, that was close, right John?” Her voice is tender and sweet.
“You can say that again. That damn fissure almost swallowed us both up,” Iris says, brushing herself off and standing back up.
Do these two know each other? And for the matter…how does the blonde know me?
I look at her and I see that same light as I saw in Iris' eyes. A bright light shining out and devouring everything inside of it. I hear a harsh voice inside my head, penetrating my thoughts, stabbing my mind.
“Down shall fall the cursed arch,
three days past the ides of march.
Once, the world was born of fire,
shall it perish, a doom's desire. ”
I'm not sure I'm the only one that heard it, because I see the blonde girl and Iris looking around as well. I’m broken out of my reverie by a gasp. I look up to both the blonde girl and Iris looking at me with what looks like horror. They’re backing away and reaching for something behind their backs.
“W-What’s going on?” I ask, standing up.
“Sarah, you know you can’t let your feelings stop you from what you need to do,” Iris says, her voice is strained.
“What? What’s going on?” I ask, taking a step forward.
“Stop! Stop right there!” Sarah screams out.
She's crying and in her hands I see a small pistol in her hands and she’s pointed it right at me.
“W-Wait! What are you doing?” I ask, instinctively putting my hands up in defense. The reaction sends a force out, a force I cannot describe. It looks like tiny shockwaves in the air, they force her back, tumbling towards the edge of the circle. Outside I can see that all of the earth has rotted away except for the circle we inhabit.
“Sarah!” Iris calls out, and then looks back to me.
"I'm sorry, but you cannot be allowed to live," is all she says.
She pulls the trigger and a loud bang resounds. My vision goes dark and all sound drowns out. I see one word over and over, repeating across my vision.