As I step out from the depths of the storm cellar, I hesitate before taking a breath of the ashy, toxic air, hoping the sun will shine today. My hopes go down the drain when I snap back into reality and look around at the flat land of the dark, scattered ruins of my hometown. Vertana , Texas , the place I remember, was always a beautiful city.
The grass was always a lush green and the tall, thick blades shone with every drop of rain that held to the ridges. The tall, almost fluorescent trees lit up the busy highways and countryside with their rays of green light. The streets were always busy, cars making a chaotic rush to get to their destination. Being in a wreck was almost guaranteed as soon as you got in your car. There were many streets, restaurants, and many towering skyscrapers with windows as big as walls. The population in Vertana at that time was over 850,000. Everything was in motion. The economy was thriving, gas prices were a reasonable price, and jobs were offered all around the United States . Things were going gold for Vertana. Things were going even better for me. School, work, football and girls were my main worries. Then, in the midst of our prime, the day came that changed everything in a matter of minutes.
This day brought that lush green grass to ash, knocked down and thrashed those tall, almost fluorescent trees, caused all those busy streets and roads to cave into the earth, leaving many bottomless holes. The cars were piled and totaled on the remaining pieces of stable land, and those towering skyscrapers with windows like walls tumbled to the ground, causing the debris to soar through sky. The only thing I wish wouldn't have crumbled and fallen, however, is the sun. To make matters worse, the population of Vertana went from a whopping 850,000 to a mere two. Not counting His Army, the men with the mark of the beast on their forehead, who regulate the remains of Earth and seek to destroy any person not under His control. The date was December 21, 2012, The Apocalypse.
I shake my head to clear the images of that horrific day. That is the last thing I want to remember. I detach the water jug from the makeshift lasso belt tied around my waist and take a long swig, savoring every drop that moistens my dry throat. I close my jug tightly, fastening it on secure back to my belt. I then detach my dull pocket knife and tear a piece of beef jerky from the sad, thin slice I have left. I need all the energy I can before heading to meet John. He the other unlucky survivor of this hell we live in. He isn't really my friend, but the closest thing I have to someone left here. Plus, he's the only one with machetes and hatchets. This has to be my determination. New weapons mean more food. More food means more life. More life means a longer time to search. The smell of rotting wood, burning chemicals, corpses of decaying animals and smoke, burn my nose and linger in the air, suffocating me, as I trek into the rubble and heat of the new Texas back roads.
I jog at a fast pace, but smooth enough so my boots don't make a sound. I hold my belt so my supplies don't rattle. His Army is known to come out of nowhere and if you were caught, you were killed brutally. The dry wind hits my face and fills my mouth with dust and debris as I rush a little faster. I know I can't stay too long on the back roads. It's a risky place to travel through, but not as risky as the city where His Army stalks the streets, waiting for the slightest movement or sound so they can annihilate it. I know I'm getting closer to John's cellar.
The Quick Stop is exactly two miles from where he hides out. Just passing the Quick Stop makes my stomach turn. I can't look too long. I can't even bring myself to take a breath as I pass. The scent of fresh, warm bread would torture me, tempting me to go and steal a loaf from the window, which is exactly what they want you to do. They know the only ones allowed to buy and sell goods are those with the mark on their forehead. But they want you to get close enough to kill you. Though they had guns and scopes, if they saw you, they not only want you to die, but wish you had never been born. I push on, knowing John would have some jerky left from the last hunt. Besides, he was a Bosack. His family was known for their skills in hunting.
I turn my focus back on reaching John. I can see the cellar now. Walking steadily down the remaining cinder blocks of the Catholic Church I let down my paranoid guard, knowing the Army wouldn't set foot near this place. Not noticeable by the unknowing eye, but hidden under an old mausoleum cement step was the cellar door. I walk to the door, knock five times so he knows it's me, and I walk in. The dank, musky smell of water damage, butchered deer carcass and sweat hit me almost too hard as I walk down the staircase. The room is dim, but still has light. No one but the Army is allowed electricity so John made his own candles. My spirit lifts a bit with the sight of the glowing wick and melting wax running over the candleholder.