Chapter Thirty-Four

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The day had passed back into night time as we continued our journey. Thankfully, Mace, January, and Kyan had brought more food with them than what we had already packed, and we all were able to eat. The food wasn't delicious, but it was food.

The stars were back in the sky, watching over us. I'd stopped keeping track of how many days it'd been. I had no idea exactly how long it would take, and now sixteen days would be shortened with the truck.

"So...how did you find us?" I asked Mace, who was still across from me. He was chewing on a granola bar.

"It wasn't too hard. We left half a day after you. January spilled your plan. We just tracked your footsteps until we reached the house. We knew something was wrong when we got there, and heard voices from downstairs," he explained, between bites of oats.

"You're timing was very convenient," I commented. We passed over a large bump in the ground, and I flew off the bouncy truck bed before coming back down.

"What happened anyway?" Mace asked. He had stopped eating his granola bar to wait for my answer.

"Claudia and John offered us a home and food and we decided to take them up on that offer. Then Callie got sick."

"So...some strangers offer you food and shelter and you all just went with it? Weren't you at all suspicious?" Mace argued in befuddlement.

I just raised my eyebrows at him. I didn't even need words.

He understood. "Good point. Continue."

"So, anyway, then I was in their basement-"

"You were in the basement?" He looked amused by this.

"I was curious...," I replied in defense. "Anyway, they found me and locked me up. I escaped to warn the others only to find Claudia and John ready to lock us all up - cue you."

He nodded. "At least we got there in time..."

"Mostly." I felt a heavy weight of guilt fall on my chest as I thought about Callie. There was nothing we could do about it now.

Both of us got quiet for a while after that, as people began falling asleep. I tried to allow myself to relax, but it was difficult. It made the journey feel unbearably long. But finally, after driving through the night and the next day, the truck slowed down. The sun was almost completely set as I sat up in the truck bed and looked around.

My eyes immediately settled on the large green sign with "Welcome to New York state" written on it.

I moved past a couple of people to reach the back window of main car where Axel and Asten sat. I was ecstatic. We were so close to our goal. I opened the window and ducked my head inside. "We made it," I whispered.

Mace was next to me, pulling out a piece of paper. There were directions scribbled on it. He leaned forward and passed the paper full of information to Asten in the front seat.

The truck swerved in the direction to take a right as I moved back to my seat. I kept my eyes staring out at the landscape. The only tiny fear I still held was that I'd come across a sign for my town. It was unlikely – the New York border was long.

As we kept driving, we passed suburban areas with houses engulfed in enormous amounts of snow. It was hard to see them without thinking of what inevitably must lie beneath the cold. Sometimes, I wondered how I'd even made it out.

And then, just as we were exiting the town, I saw something that made my heart stop. And it wasn't just my heart. The entire truck came to a screeching halt in the middle of the street.

"What the-?" Mace said as he stared at the same thing everyone else in our truck was now looking at.

Where the road should have continued, there was an endless field of devastation. Rather than houses and streets, snow covered incinerated chunks of wood. Far in the distance, beyond this first level of destruction, was absolutely nothing. Everything that had once existed here for thousands of miles was destroyed, gone in an instant.

I stepped out of the back of the truck and onto the snow. As I walked closer to the start of the ravaged area, I felt a cold breeze come across my body, like the last echoing cries of the people who had been killed in the horrors unleashed upon this place.

Maybe it was a last-minute act of war by another country. Or maybe, I shuddered at the idea, it was meant as an act of mercy. Everyone had been told to stay in their homes because the government thought it would end. And slowly the snow ate up every house, making it impossible to exit; I'd been one of the lucky ones to find my way out. In a sense, I understood the idea. Killing everyone in one quick blast would be so much nicer than forcing everyone to suffer through starvation for months on end.

But either way, it didn't matter why it happened, because it still had.

The place I had called home for so many years was gone.

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