Chapter Two

It was all a dream, I kept telling myself. It was the only plausible explanation I could think of as I slowly woke up. It seemed way too far out of the realm of possibility that everything I'd just experienced could have been real. I wasn't sure whether I could call it a nightmare, exactly. I had gotten to make out with Paige Hennessy before I woke up, and if that didn't constitute for a good dream, I didn't know what would have. It was everything else that ruined it.

I felt a strong breeze waft past me, and I shuddered, reaching to pull up my comforter—I hadn't remembered leaving the window open—only to find that my hand met thin air. My comforter was gone. Why was my window open? And why couldn't I find my comforter?

My eyes opened involuntarily, but I saw nothing at first. Slowly, I comprehended that there was something lying on top of my head, obstructing the view of anything in my immediate surroundings. I reached up to move the object from my face and found it heavier than I wanted it to be, and I became aware of the sudden pressure on my head.

I mumbled a few colorful words, still trying to come up with a reason how I had gotten trapped under something while I was sleeping. I certainly was not at home in my bed. I moved the obstruction from my face, seeing that it was a piece of wood and immediately wished I hadn't. I would have given anything to have been asleep under an entire pile of wood than actually comprehend where I was.

Light flooded into my eyes, causing me to clench them tight while a pulsing in my head took over a majority of my thoughts. I waited for the throbbing to somewhat subside before attempting to sit up, which seemed like a helpless cause. After a few painful moments, I looked at my surroundings.

I had to be dreaming. There was no other explanation for what I saw before me.

Where I used to sit and eat now consisted of rubble up to me knees. The entire Upper Michigan Avenue now sank into the lower, completely flattening anything that had been on the street there. The wall of the tavern that faced the outside was blown down and from where I was, I could see all the way up into the cloudless gray sky.

I fumbled to my feet, my legs shaking as I stood on the unsteady surface.

"I wouldn't try that just this minute if I were you," I heard a voice say behind me in what I registered as a British accent. Both a bit shocked and confused, I tried to turn around to see the person it came from and unceremoniously I fell back down into the debris. "Can't say I didn't warn you." I moved my hand to try to help myself get up again and it slid against broken glass. I fought the urge to swear, now with my head throbbing and my hand bleeding. "You don't like to listen, do you?"

I turned my head to look as the voice came closer. It was the waiter, the one I had been almost certain wasn't from Chicago. Obviously, I had been right, as he now ditched any kind of a cover up for his thick accent. "That has to hurt," he said, motioning towards my hand, and holding his own out to help me up. He seemed to have found good enough footing and he pulled me to my feet. "I recommend sitting down first."

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn't dreaming, was I? As I sat down I realized the seat beneath me was actually made of matter, and the person I was talking to wasn't a hallucination. That meant that my city was gone, and so was Paige. The latter sent me into a head spin. "I…I have to find her." I went back to where I had been laying and began throwing debris every which way.

"Your girl is gone, mate," the waiter said.

"Excuse me?" I inquired, still digging.

"She's not here."

"How would you know?" I asked him. She had to be there, buried like I was. I had to help her. "Did you look for her?" I stopped tossing aside pieces of trash to see his reaction. He nodded and then took a swig of clear liquid from a bottle that had no label. "You're kidding me." I resumed my digging, only to hit the floor. She really wasn't there.

"Why would I be doing that?" He had a smug look on his face as I pushed more debris aside. He knew I was going to have to admit he was right.

"Because what you're saying is that you looked for my friend yet I still woke up with wood on my face."

"I didn't say I cared about looking for you," he said nonchalantly, like this was a normal conversation to him. Not like I was offended or anything. "Well, you were right on top, and you weren't moving so I figured you'd kicked the bucket. Plus, I'm crap at CPR so I wouldn't have been able to help you anyways." I wasn't sure how to take the last comment. He chugged the rest of whatever was in the bottle and reached for another one. I wandered back to the stool slowly. Had Paige really disappeared? Maybe she had woken up before me. Maybe she was out trying to find help.

Reality is a bitch. Worse than karma, I think. Reality can trick you. As I sat there on the barstool with a drunken foreigner across from me in a wrecked restaurant, my mind began reeling. Everything in my reasoning said that this wasn't possible. And whatever Paige had said during those earthquakes, about the world ending, what had that been about? If she was right, shouldn't I have been dead? And so should my new alcoholic friend sitting across from me. Plus, I had meant what I had said about not being one to believe in Armageddon and the apocalypse. I wasn't going to succumb to being like the characters in those cheesy Left Behind books, running around after the world ends trying to renounce their sins.

I reached up to run my hand through my hair and then recoiled in pain. I had reached up with my bleeding right hand. Blood was coming out even faster now. I knew I had to get it cleaned out and wrapped up.

"That's got to hurt," my new acquaintance pointed out and I bit my tongue trying not to snap back at him. He reached out and, before I could ask him what he was doing, started pouring what I could only assume was Vodka all over the cut. I snatched my hand back and swore. "By the way, that might bite a bit."

"No fuck, Sherlock!" I spat at him as the pain slowly fizzled away.

"You'll thank me when it doesn't get infected." I had no idea whether that was a legitimate reason to pour alcohol on an open wound or not, but I figured it wasn't worth arguing with someone who was over the legal limit. "If you want a swig, it'll probably take away the headache you most likely have."

I shook my head, trying to block out the headache he had ever so sweetly reminded me of. "I'll deal. Thank you, though."

"So, I'm figuring," he slurred, "that with all the water bottles in the back and all the food that doesn't go bad and all of this lovely liquor, we'll have enough to live on for a couple days until the search parties come."

"You're just going to stay here?" I asked. "What if no search parties come?"

"Then this lovely place called America is a little too praised, don't you think? Besides, where else would I go?" he responded. I paused a moment to look at him and then spun around in my seat. I looked out into the empty space where, however many hours ago, snow had fallen. I had no idea how long it had been or how long it would take for people to come find us. I didn't even know if there were more people out there to come find us. Maybe the help was waiting for us.

Either way, I couldn't just stay here, getting drunk with a guy whose name I still didn't even know. The only thing we had in common so far was that we had both survived. Something about him just struck me as odd. For one, I had at least woken up with battle scars to prove what I'd gone through. My arms were scratched up and I was sure there was going to be a knob on my head from where the wood had whacked me. This guy looked like he had just strolled in. Sure, his hair was a little messed up but he only had one scratch on his cheek to show for the whole thing.

"Well, I'll tell you what," I said, getting to my feet again and walking around to try to find one of those water bottles he had spoken of earlier. "I'm going to try to find somebody. If I do, I'll bring them down here, okay?" I found an overturned case of generic water and took two battered bottles.

"You're not even going to stay and have a drink?" he asked me.

"How many drinks have you had?" I asked, going closer to him.

He shrugged. "Maybe two…maybe seven."

"Yeah," I said. "I'll find you some help."

"You say that," he said, sounding drowsier and drowsier by the minute. If he kept that up, he'd be passed out in no time. "But, you see, then you'll find your family and forget all about poor Avery."



Why had I not thought of him before?

"Avery, I promise, I'll come back for you if I find someone," I said, as I hopped over stacks of wood, brick, and glass. Avery was mumbling something after me, but I was no longer listening. I looked around for a safe way to get to the upper avenue. The stairs were caved in and blocked by what looked suspiciously like a car door. I darted up the wedge that had been made when the two levels had come together and felt the cold air hitting my lungs as I tried to make it to safety. Surely, I had lost my mind.

Even with all the buildings that had fallen down and cars that lay wrecked, I knew the way back to my house. I probably could have gotten there with my eyes closed. I had, somewhere along the line, dropped those two waters and started sprinting towards home.

I desperately needed to wake up. If this was some sick dream, it needed to end. I certainly was not seeing what was in front of me. My legs buckled with exhaustion and shock in front of what used to be my apartment building. My jaw had dropped, but I didn't even have the muscle to snap it shut again. I was too stunned.

It was an empty lot. Not even a trace that my apartment building had existed. The rest of the block had been wiped clean, too. There was absolutely nothing to show that I had ever lived anywhere. There was moisture brimming in my eyes and I was going to make no effort to stop it from flowing down my cheeks. Where was everything? Matter just doesn't disappear. It defied the laws of science.

I sat for an indefinite amount of time and stared at the concrete slab of foundation, which was never there in the first place. My apartment building had a basement. This slab showed no proof of a basement ever existing.

This wasn't right. I had a life here. There were books and clothes and CD's and little knick-knacks that were irreplaceable. There were pictures. I couldn't just be left with what I had on me. That… that simply wasn't possible. All I had on me besides clothes was my iPod and my wallet. I didn't even have pictures in my wallet, just a ten dollar bill and an old movie ticket stub. That was all I had to stand for seventeen years of life. And then I was left with the most sickening thought of it all.

My father had been in the apartment when everything came crashing down.

My father was gone and there was nothing I could do.

There was nothing I could do. No matter how hard I prayed, pleaded, tried to wake up, my home and my dad were not coming back. My legs had gone numb from kneeling awkwardly on the pavement.

I had no choice but to turn my back on the only place I'd ever considered safe, with the complete intent on never going back. It was time to see what other personal monuments had vanished.

The Hancock Center was one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city. With one hundred stories, numerous restaurants, a swimming pool, and even a gift shop downstairs complete with the "I heart Chicago" t-shirts, the Hancock Center was a popular place. The good news was it had not disappeared. The bad news was that from the third floor up, the entire building had crumbled to dust. The Sears Tower had held up no better.

Navy Pier was like a ghost town. Most of it was still covered in water; puddles on the boardwalk. The Ferris wheel lay tilted to one side like it was going to fall over any moment. The stained glass museum had bits and pieces of colorful chips on the ground. So much hard work had gone into that artwork and now it lay in scattered shards across the floor. I could hear the echoes of what I normally heard; the families running around and the music. The general well being, with the excursion ships coming and going. Now, it was like I had suddenly gone deaf. Even the water was smooth, softly lapping up against the docks almost inaudibly. It was more astonishing seeing this than when I had gone by the Sears Tower or the Hancock Center, but I had to admit, I had been prepared for worse.

My school was a wreck. I couldn't even get close to where the sidewalk leading up to the entrance used to be. So much for a college prep school, that place was good for nothing now. There were scraps of textbooks and folders, research papers and projector screens up to a block away from the actual building, or rather, where the actual building used to stand.

There was one place I didn't even want to go near and that was the Shedd Aquarium. I was afraid of what I would find because there was little chance that the tanks had held up to the earthquake.

It took so much time, but my muscles were numb from the start. I walked around downtown, surveying the damage and looking for help. It was unrecognizable, and the dust was beginning to rise and cloud in the sky. I had no idea what time it was seeing as the sky was dark anyways. Buildings were turned to ashes, massive cracks appeared in sidewalks. I knew there had been an earthquake but earthquakes don't necessarily turn buildings into dust. Sure, it could crumble, but to turn brick into powder… that was something I hadn't seen before. So far, the only place to actually physically evaporate from the earth had been my house. Everywhere else had some kind of evidence to prove it once existed, even if it was just soot.

Something else was wrong, too. As much damage as I had seen, I had yet to come across a dead body. It was like there were no casualties to be accounted for, like everyone just got up and left. It wasn't that I wanted to come across a corpse, but I needed some proof that there weren't just two people in the entire city. Just like Paige, every one else had disappeared. I couldn't help wondering if they were in safety, or if they had run into the exact opposite.

I finally decided if I couldn't find anyone I would just go back to Billy Goat's. The only problem was that since walking all day, or all night, whichever one it was, I was exhausted and extremely thirsty. I was past feeling like I was going to pass out, it felt now like I was walking on clouds. My feet were completely numb and their functions were completely separated from my brain at that moment.

There was a store I had never been to, it's sign hanging off of one hinge and completely illegible that was still somehow standing. I suspected it was because it had been squished between two much taller buildings. The door handle had come off and it swung open easily for me. It was a little mom and pop restaurant, in what was clearly a house. I wouldn't have been surprised if the owners had used to live upstairs.

A window in the back had been knocked out so the tables inside had been all sent flying to one wall. The refrigerator, luck would have it, was on the wall that all of the tables had been sent to. This, of course, meant I had to sort through all of the tables and chairs and tablecloths to get to the fridge. On the other hand, the fridge hadn't been overturned or messed with, but rather forced up against the wall almost protectively.

Stomping through silverware and leaves, I began pushing things away to get to the silver Frigidaire. It was a daunting task but I was determined, my only hope was that there was something inside the refrigerator that was still okay for me to eat and drink without actually having to cook it. I pulled the door open when I finally cleared up enough space and nearly died from happiness. Three full shelves of waters and sodas sat, in what was still a relatively cold space. The shelf below it had desserts. I took a water and chugged it down all at once. I was probably going to regret doing that later, but at the moment, I could have cared less.

I was reaching for a piece of chocolate cake, finally acknowledging how hungry I was when I heard glass shatter directly behind me. I spun around to see the shadow of a person ducking behind the bar counter on the wall to the right. "Hello?" I said with a shaky voice. The person had been small, short. It was most likely a kid. I didn't see enough to tell if it was a guy or a girl. "Hello?" I repeated, moving closer to the bar. "I'm not going to hurt you. There's cake here if you want some." This person was not Avery, meaning there was another person in the city. Maybe that person knew where to find more people. I was feeling better by the minute, if only the person would come out.

"Alright, alright, back away," a soft voice muttered, obviously female. I took a few steps back. She stood up and I could see her outline from the small amount of light coming in the room. She was short, a little taller than five feet but not by much. She stepped out from behind the counter. "I have no money on me," she snapped. "If that's what you're looking for, you wont find it here."

"No, I'm not looking for money. I'm just eating," I replied.

"Oh," she said. "Sorry if I scared you." She kicked the broken glass aside underneath the bar and reached for a wine glass. I suspected that was what she dropped in the first place. "I didn't really expect anyone to be here."

For being short, she was definitely not a child. She was probably as old as I was. "Do you know anyone else who is alive?" I asked, crossing my fingers that she did.

"No, I've been hiding out here for the past few hours. I was looking for a phone, but the one here isn't connected." She was pouring some kind of wine or champagne into the fluke. Was it destined that every person I met from here on out was an alcoholic? "Champagne?" she offered, "It's cheap, but it's something."

"I think I'll stick with water," I declined. I did, however, go back and get that piece of cake. "Where were you when the earthquake hit?" I asked.

"In a cab," she said, now rummaging through drawers for something. She pulled out a fork and practically threw it at me before she kept on going with her search. "When the first wave hit, my cabbie braked and ran. My friends and I were pissed. We were not going to walk back to our hotel."

"You're here on vacation?" I asked.

"Some hell of a vacation it's been," she complained. She started emptying the contents of a drawer onto the counter. I could rarely make out what it was until she struck a match she found. She started lighting candles, and I could start to make out her face. She slid a blue candle over to me. "If you wanted to shed some light on the subject."

I dug into the chocolate cake, watching as she lit the other candles she found. Her small frame was extremely skinny, and she was dressed like she'd gone clubbing the night before. She had on a loose black tank top and extremely short white shorts. The way she was walking around made it sound like her shoes had some decent size heels on them. Her hair was either black or a really dark brown but it had streaks of a radically different color throughout it. I couldn't tell in the faint light whether it was pink or red. Her eyes were almond shaped and I suspected she was at least half-Asian.

"What are you looking at?" she snapped without looking up from the candle. I dropped my eyes to my cake. I felt kind of bad because I had been staring. At the same time, I didn't really appreciate her tone of voice. I finished my piece of cake as she set down the box of matches. The room was sparsely lit now, but it was better than nothing.

"You know there's no one here," she said solemnly walking into the middle of the open room. "I looked."

"It's like everyone evacuated, I know."

"It's really freaking me out." She held her arms around herself in a protective way. "I mean, it's the middle of winter and it's not cold enough to snow. The city is deserted. No one is here to help us." I wasn't sure what I could tell her to comfort her because I didn't have any more answers than she did. Everything she was saying was scary, but true. She heaved a heavy sigh. "God, I hate Chicago." She plopped down in the middle of the room on the floor, setting the candle she had brought down next to her. "Why did we have to come here?"

I was confused. It was like she was throwing a temper tantrum down there on the ground. It's not like I liked the situation any better but I wasn't going to resort to throwing a fit. I wondered if she thought I could change anything.

"It's just so stupid, you know. I told him I didn't want to go. I told him I'd rather stay in New York than go here. He only sent me here because he feels guilty." She was beginning to sound like a three year old being told he wasn't allowed to get something at a toy store.

"I'm… sorry?" I wasn't going to jump the gun. I had freaked out too. In fact, I had run across the city, but that was just how I dealt with things when a piece of paper wasn't around for me to doodle on. Maybe she whined when she needed to get over things.

"He'd better be looking for me. He can't just let his oldest daughter rot away in this godforsaken city." Now I was starting to get a little annoyed. You couldn't blame it on a city. It was not Chicago's fault that an earthquake had occurred. It was not Chicago's fault that her vacation had been messed up. True, I didn't know who was to blame, but it certainly was not a city, it was a person. She looked up at me.

"Bring me my champagne?" she requested and I looked to where the flute was sitting, a few feet away from me on the bar. I brought it to her like she had asked and then sat down on the floor across from her. She tried not to let me see, but I could tell that she was crying.

"You live in New York?" I asked, trying to get to know a little more about her. Maybe if I calmed her down, she would stop crying. Or even better, she would stop whining. I guess I was being a hypocrite because I was a world-class whiner when I wanted to be but I didn't want to hear it. Not then.

She nodded and sniffled. "Yeah, I live in Greenwich."

"Any brothers or sisters?" I asked.

"Three sisters," she said, "All younger than me." She took a swig of champagne, nearly emptying the glass. "Half sisters actually," she admitted. "My dad hops around a lot when it comes to women."

"So you're not close to your dad?"

"No, it's not that!" she said defensively, sitting up straight. "Well, not really. I mean, we try but he's busy." She drank the rest of the champagne and slammed the flute on the ground. I was surprised it didn't break. "Why do you care anyway?"

The question caught me off guard. I wasn't sure how to answer her, but she didn't seem like she actually needed an answer. She had already gotten up an started walking to the opened bottle of champagne. She emptied the rest of the bottle into the glass, filling it up to the very top. She took the champagne bottle and walked it over to the trash can by the wall and threw it out. "Are you sure you don't want some?" she offered again. Once more, I shook my head no.

Neither one of us wanted to sleep. Actually, neither of us thought we could actually fall asleep with the events of the day still very much so burdening our thoughts. "I wont fall asleep just to have a nightmare and wake up," she had put it.

Her name was Skyler Brinn and her father had made a fortune in the stock market. He owned a company now, not that Skye knew which company or what the company did. All she knew about it was that it demanded him to be away from home almost constantly. Her father had just married his sixth wife a month before and had tied his latest honeymoon into his business trip in Paris. He had decided to surprise Skye with a trip for her and some friends to Chicago, but as she had already expressed, it was not her top choice of a city to vacation in.

She was turning eighteen in January, and she was spoiled rotten. Not that she told me that out loud, but it was pretty easy to tell from the way she regarded money as being endless. From the way she downed the champagne to the confession that, yes, she had been out clubbing the night before with friends.

After the cabbie had run out on her, she had gone into the lobby of a nearby hotel to see if they could hail her and her friends a cab. It was in that lobby that she had passed out. She had woken up to an empty, trashed lobby. She wasn't too sure how she was still breathing, seeing as the hotel had partly collapsed, but the front part of the frame had stood up pretty well. Her friends were gone and her cell phone wasn't working. So naturally she had come over to the restaurant next door to see if anyone was there. After thoroughly inspecting the place, and deciding that there was no one else, she made herself at home.

When I had come in, she had just gone into the back to grab the bottle of champagne. She had grabbed her glass and turned around to find me bent into the fridge when and she dropped the flute out of surprise. That's where we had clashed and slowly began telling each other our history. Or rather, where she had started spilling her guts out to me.

I couldn't tell if she actually enjoyed my company. She was a unique character, to say the least. She would compliment something and then seconds later completely insult it. She didn't take her insults or her snappy comments back, either. When she figured out she had affronted something, she moved on to the next subject instead of waiting for an answer or allowing you to retaliate. Part of me thought she was telling me all of these things because I was the only one left for her to talk to. It was like she might as well, in a way, not like she really wanted to talk to me but simply because I was there. I wondered if this was how she was around all of her other friends. And she had many of them.

She was actually quite the open book if you could look past a few bitchy remarks. I guess I was too tired to tell her to shut up, or maybe I really just needed to hear someone else talk, instead of my own thoughts blaring in my head. Either way, I learned more about this girl in a span of a few hours than I normally would over the course of a few weeks.

I don't know exactly how long it had been since we both had taken a seat on the ground to the point where we passed out from exhaustion. That floor was the most comfortable place to my aching joints and my arm was suddenly the best pillow I could have asked for. I don't know who fell asleep first. All I knew was that sleep was the best relief I could have asked for. Unconsciousness was the best gift ever.

Hey everyone. Chapter 2

Well, I'm pretty interested in hearing what you thought about it!! Any comment will be taken! If you find a mistake, and error of any kind, please please please review with the problem. That's the fastest way I'll be able to fix it. And if you love this story, hate it, wanna read more, I'm interested in knowing. Just lemme know that when I post, it actually gets read. lol. (Always a good thing to know!)

And thanks again for reading. From the bottom of my heart!

Chapter Three's a comin! MDC