I can’t find my son. Anxiety overwhelms me. My heart pounds as I rush through the compound, in my panic it seems more like a maze than the place I’d called home the past eight years. Where is my son? The night comes alive as search lights expose the darkness between buildings, igniting the tight spaces a boy of eight might find himself. A sinister thought enters my head: My mortal enemy currently shares this space with us. A renewed sense of urgency overcomes me, my pace quickens.
Your Father would have so loved you. You were a blessing when you were born; you were a mystery when you were conceived and a terrible struggle while I carried you seven months in my belly.
Seven months: it's not really long enough, but you seemed to time your arrival eerily close to the date of another’s departure.
This place is like a concentration camp you'd see on TV, when there was TV. Something from a Second World War movie. Did we live through the Third World War? Hard to say. Color is absent here: the walls are a battleship grey,
the floors a polished concrete. Not ideal surroundings for a baby to grow up in, but at least you grew up.
When we arrived you were very small and still at my breast.
Somehow we had escaped a plague that ravaged much of the surviving world.
Children are very important; so many died from this plague that took the very young and very old. Most adults over sixty years old and those under the age of twelve died soon after the Apocalypse, choked to death by fall-out, while those
who survived were left to suffer this final indignity some months later. A plague, a flu of some design. I have worked closely with the doctors here, and they have not been able to succinctly label the disease that had methodically killed
off so many.
The base was designed to train special ops and special forces in the war against terror. It has only a skeleton crew assigned to it, though it was expecting an influx of 1000 soldiers and their families the month following the end of life
as we knew it. The base is well protected, with steel walls reaching heights of 20 feet in places, outfitted with watch towers, a stockade, family housing, a mess hall, hospital and the central training and parade grounds. It even has a greenhouse.
The parade grounds are framed with civilian vehicles, RV’s, camper vans, cars and trucks of all shapes and sizes.
They belong to those who fled the devastation to the south and came north. I recall the many motorcades we
witnessed traveling north, right past Joel’s house, where we had hidden out. We were fourteen friends, caught in something as unfathomable as the end of the world. Teenagers, whose families had all been wiped out by one
violent act against humanity. I remember talking to people as they stopped at the house. They said they were going
on a feeling, going north.
The Sergeant told me that barely a year after the majority of civilians had arrived, the plague had hit the base, and hundreds were quarantined. Almost all of them died, eventually. The base lost many of their own to the mysterious plague as well. The army doctors worked day and night to suppress the disease, to stop it in its tracks. In doing so,
the hospital lost over 75% of its staff.
Finally the plague had run its course. No more were dying, no more were feeling feverish or showing red spots on
their necks and torsos. Those who had survived, roughly half including both the base personnel and civilians, would carry on, burn their dead and start again.
I remember asking about the water planes my friends and I had seen putting out forest fires as we drove back to
town, returning from our camping trip the day after the Reaper had followed through on his promise.
“They flew out of Kingston Air force base,” explained the captain. She removed her hat as she spoke. Her short
blonde hair fell around her high cheek bones. She was an attractive woman, but she’d suffered an unimaginable
loss, and the lines in her face mapped that story. “It’s two days’ drive west of us. They were retrofitted to do that job, those planes. They would load up on water at Elle Lake, and run water dumps all over the area. Now, you said you
were a good two hour drive south of here, Sara?”
“Yes, about that.” I replied.
“I’d say the planes would have penetrated just south of that, and then west.” She confirmed.
“We saw three or four at a time.”
“Yes, you would have. They employed thirty odd. They ran day and night for about 48 hours following the attack, and
“Nothing?” My voice cracked.
“We lost contact with them.” The captain’s tone was thoughtful.
“What happened to them?” I asked.
“Fatigue. The pilots wanted to keep flying. Keep up the momentum. Best we could tell, two of the bigger planes slammed into each other and then into the control tower while attempting to land and fuel up. They wiped out
everyone, and with them any chance for the other pilots to continue their work.”
“That’s so awful.”
“We sent a patrol to investigate, and this was their conclusion.” Her eyes met mine.
“No wonder you never came for us.” My friends and I had held onto hope of a rescue for weeks after the sighting, believing that they had seen us, and that they would come for us. But they never did.
“Even if we were made aware of your existence, it’s unlikely we would have come for you. We were undermanned ourselves and had been ordered to stay put.”
“Makes sense I guess.” But I wondered what my life would have been like had they come for us. Would Joel still be
with me? Perhaps we would have succumbed like the others to the plague, like the captain’s husband and daughters had.
The world wasn't always like this, and perhaps one day it will be better. The military houses us now. They have graciously put us up here in the hope that you will survive, have children of your own and rebuild. That may sound like
a lot to put on a child not yet eight years old, but know that you are very special, and not just in the way only a mother
You would have had it so good in life. That’s what we called it before the Reaper dropped the bombs: life. We were
all someone else, kids barely out of high school. The Grimm Reaper as the media had coined him, was a mad man.
A man, an organization, a country, no one really knew. The threat seemed almost laughable. But he wasn’t laughing.
He had demands that were never met, he had crazy ideals that required religions and governments to disappear. The things he asked were impossibilities. So he showed us just how serious he was. The initial blasts killed our families. We had been spared, having taken a camping trip that weekend, the weekend. And when we returned, our worlds
were changed forever. We, fourteen of us at first and within seven months only eight, managed to stay alive, at my boyfriend’s house in the country. We felt privileged, chosen to survive, to rebuild.
More than nine years ago my life was very different. Was I lucky to have experienced life in all its normalcy, in all its abundance? I think so, I still have my memories. Though sometimes my memories seem like little more than movies, something from someone’s imagination.
The people here, the soldiers, they believe that much of the planet has fared better than our little corner. To believe is
a powerful thing. It can keep you from despair, it can offer you salvation. Belief is sometimes all you have, your faith. I lost it once…
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