World of Radiation

My Only Hope

Continued from: ‘Still Human

I gulp down as much water as I can from the river. The cool liquid calms me, but it does nothing to ease my hunger. My stomach grumbles and clenches. I haven’t eaten all day. Not being mauled, or worse, by an attacker kind of took priority, but I’m no longer in danger, and now the hunger’s crippling.

My head spins as I climb to my feet. My hand presses to my temple, trying to stabilize the world and bring it back into focus. I stumble sideways. My foot catches me as I tip my head forward to stare at the ground. Slowly, the world halts.

As it does, I glance across the river. The theater sits on the south side of the river. Derek told me to go to the theater. Why? Why should I go there? Why should I trust him? He saved my life. But he could be dead right now for all I know. What good would it do me to go to the theater if he’s dead? No one will come at nightfall. I’ll be completely alone and I don’t know what horrors have bloomed on the south side.

My attention shifts behind me, to campus. The few places that had food on campus are probably picked over. If not, who knows how many people like earlier will be waiting in the shadows, waiting for stupid people like me.

I shudder.

If I remember correctly, my attacker was an upperclassman. I’d seen him around campus a few times, not that I knew him. He was an idiot, majoring in something like Spanish. Though, what good will my major in English do me now? What good will that do me if he’s awake?

My heart lurches. What if he’s hunting for me right now?

Once more, I look across the river. The land south of the river is unknown to me. It could be a haven or it could hold worse horrors than I’ve already witnessed on campus. Better to stick to the evil you know, than the evil you don’t.

But what good does it do me knowing the evils of campus? It sure won’t help me if someone bigger than me comes at me. I don’t have a lead pipe. I have no idea how to throw a punch. I’d be a plucked chicken walking into an oven: ready to bake.

 I won’t survive if I stay on campus. I won’t survive if I return to my dorm. My only option’s to trust Derek. He saved me twice. I can only hope he’ll save me again.

I chuckle to myself, weak and pathetic. “God, that’s cheesy.” My hand runs through my hair as I tip my head forward. The strands plaster to my scalp, thick with sweat… and fear.

Once more I look across the river. I never thought I’d wait for a man. I never thought I’d need to be saved, but… then again… I never thought I’d find myself in the middle of an apocalypse either.

“I guess Derek’s my only hope.” The thought sinks in heavily. It weighs on my arms and my legs, willing me to sit down by the river. Exhaustion leadens my feet. My head tips forward to stare at the ground, wanting nothing more than to lie down and sleep.

But I can’t. I have to go to the theater. Derek said to go to the theater.

With another glance at the south shore, I harden my resolve. “Help me Obi-wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” I’m so tired, I can’t even chuckle at my own joke. I can only manage to put one foot in front of the other and drag myself across the bridge.

A bridge is normally packed with cars. Yet, the only cars on it, are immobile. No engines rev. No smoke exudes. It’s quiet… eerily quiet. I wrap my arms across myself as I trudge along.

My stomach growls. It twists and turns, squeezing tightly to signal my hunger. “I can’t feed you,” I grumble back at it. “I don’t have any food.”

But the responding noise isn’t from my stomach. It’s a car. Hope surges through me, lifting my head. I glance left and right. I try to pinpoint the sound. I step into the middle of the road searching for the car when reality crashes into me.

Who’s driving the car? What are they going to want for a toll?

Panic sparks adrenaline. It floods my veins. While I couldn’t take another step a moment ago, my legs race me across the length of the bridge, praying for the end. The rumbling grows. It echoes off the vacant cars, making it sound like it’s coming from every direction at once. Or maybe there’s more than one car.

My heart pounds in my chest, but the adrenaline’s not enough. My legs weigh a ton. My arms swing limply at my sides. My lungs refuse to take in more oxygen. I can’t run anymore. My only option is to hide. Because that worked so well for me last time. Still, I don’t have another option.

Racing to the nearest car, I yank on the handle. The door’s locked. Who locks a door in the apocalypse?

My forehead clunks against the glass window. I locked a door. I even barred my door.

Metal crunches on metal not too far from me.

I jump at the noise. My heart beats painfully. I clutch my chest as I slide down against the side of the car, willing my heart to silence, willing the car to just drive by. Maybe they didn’t see me.

Next Installment: Frightened Animal

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