Before mother and I found salvation on Soma, we were both isolated and alone. The dark and eerie world we both lived in was filled with melancholy and sadness. Buildings crumbled from erosion, cars were abandoned in the street, newspapers littered the roads, and not another human besides us were in sight. We lived in a small house not far from the abandoned mall off of the main way. I was five years old back then, and I didn't know of a life with other people besides my mother.
I would sometimes ask her, "What happened to the other people mommy?" but not even she had a definite answer for it, not an answer I would understand anyway. She found an old radio one day and its batteries still worked, it was amazing to me. The radio played beautiful music, and mom explained that you could contact people with it. This was something I didn't believe at first, I was skeptical to believe other humans actually existed besides my mother and I. This radio was the only thing that gave us hope, it was the thing that lead us to Soma; the only island that was left that could preserve human life. Soma had everything we could possibly need, fertile land to grow food, fresh springs for water, and many other human survivors. This was something that we did not have, the town stores food and water was slowly depleting, and we were the only ones here in the empty shell of a town.
We were both excited to go, but it was going to be a long trip. Mother packed as many supplies as she could before we left through an old abandoned subway, which would lead us to the main docks to leave for the island. I was eight at the time we left, I remember the nights we spent together clearly though; the bonfires we had to keep warm at night, the loud echo of dripping water from the molding walls, and the hard cold ground we slept on, next to the warm fire that made everything around us seem even darker. Mother would play with my hair sometimes before bed, she would whisper about Soma and how wonderful it was going to be, a new life for the both of us. "When we get there, we won't be alone anymore. There will be a ton of people willing to help us, they will become a part of our family."
I truly believed this, in tough times everyone would band together and look after each other. We would rebuild and repair the world, our society would prosper once again, and our world wouldn't be so lonely. The one question my mother could never answer was still ringing in my mind, and that was why everyone died out, what exactly happened to cause everyone to disappear?
We passed by a broken down amusement park once, I never been to a real one before. The machinery was rusty and music that came from a few were off key and ominous sounding. We slept in the midst of it, the bonfire illuminating horses from the merry-go-round; their faces were scary to me, the metal rusted and gave off an orange brownish color and it looked like blood was splattered on the horse's twisted faces. I could almost imagine the scent of old salty metallic liquid that came from them, and the recorded voices of horses that played with the music were now off key and sounded like screams of horror. There was also Ferris wheel beside us that was discolored and made soft creaking noises every time the wind blew. I almost wanted to set up the fire near the roller coaster, and away from these scary machines, but mother assured me that it was safer here and the coaster had a chance of falling apart above us. She was right too, because during the night small bits and pieces of metal fell off the corroded steel and fell to the ground.
Mom was also really into horror stories, sometimes she would tell ghost stories around our small campfire we made each night. She told me tales of eyes of the unrested souls around us following our every move, their eyes only visible and floating in midair. She also said that one night there was a giggling ghost. It was a child's voice, and it laughed and ran around our fire in the darkness, its lower half of its body was the only thing you could see as it disappeared. I didn't believe mom, I never once thought ghosts were real. Yet it didn't stop me from having nightmares of them, one night I dreamt of an old lady with no legs and a butcher's knife, and she chased me across town screaming incoherently through a mouth that wasn't fully there. I woke up in tears, her empty and blank face with no eyes, nose, or even mouth plaguing me as my mother tried to calm me down.
On our way to Soma, mother taught me how to read. Newspapers that scattered the subway tunnels were full of information and criminal investigations mom loved to read about. The most frequent articles I read were about a deadly disease that killed thousands of people, it was called the Loanda virus. The top story was made about a young twenty year old girl named Lore, and how she became violent and abusive towards her family and friends. The girl was locked up in jail for being abusive and severely hurting others frequently, but the next day she was found dead in a massive puddle of her own blood. Forensic doctors were baffled at the advanced and severe condition Lore was in, a recording from a security camera showed her writhing on the floor in pain and screaming before vomiting blood. She could have died from the blood loss but I believed a part of it was passing out and literally drowning in her own vomit. I told Mom about the virus, and she told me that the Loanda virus was long gone and I shouldn't worry about it anymore, but I was still skeptical, perhaps that was the reason everyone on the planet seemed gone?
Our travels lead us to a small resort just a little ways off of the docks, it was beautiful and we decided to search the hotel for water and to restock our supplies. The subway station couldn't lead us directly to the docks, but we didn't mind walking.
The hotel itself was beautiful, even if some walls were caved in. There was a gigantic indoor swimming pool that would have been the highlight of our day, if it weren't for the dead body floating in it. Mother had to hide my eyes and calm herself down before taking us to the main kitchens, where they probably stored bottles of water. I asked her if that body became dead recently, but she didn't respond. Deep down though, we both knew that body was fresh, if it wasn't it would have been a skeleton right?
We passed by abandoned cars that crashed into each other, I almost tripped on human bones that were cracked from falling off of buildings. The people seemed to want to escape the large skyscrapers and buildings as if they were on fire, and jumped to their deaths, if you looked for them, you could see a few skeletons in cars. "What happened here mommy?" I asked her, but she just shook her head at me, her eyes were welled up in tears and her hand covered her mouth as we continued our journey. I didn't want her to feel sad, I hugged her and smiled and soothed her like she once did to me. "It is okay, we are almost at Soma." I reminded her, hoping she would forget about the cruel world around her.
They reached the beach at sunset, the reddish twinge of the setting sun reflected on the calm glassy surface of the water. It was quiet, calming, and above all everything was as red as blood.
"We should rest here and get going tomorrow." Mom suggested as she set a fire. We ran out of food last night so we were both very hungry, but we were lucky enough to catch a few minnows to eat. We didn't want to burn our fingers and they were too small to put on roasting sticks so we ate them raw, it was not the best food experience I've had, but it was better than eating nothing again.
The next morning mom and I walked along the beach, we caught a few more fish to eat but it was nothing big. I noticed many sand castles, beach umbrellas, towels and toys scattered along the empty and barren resort. I wondered how long it had been since people were here; the sandcastles seemed to have been made only a few days ago. It gave me hope thinking I would soon have a few friends on Soma to play with, since I never had a friend before.
We made it to the docks, many old ships were there, tied up to wooden poles and planks sticking outward. Mother told me that these boats wouldn't work for us since we didn't have keys to start any of them. "How will we get to Soma then mommy?" I asked her, and she simply stated, 'lifeboats.'
We found one on the largest ship we could find, the boat it had two paddles, a whistle, and luckily a compass. Mom said that unless we brought a huge rock with us to use as an anchor, it would be too risky to sleep on our way to Soma. Since we didn't have a way to tie rope to our boat, and there weren't any rocks around us that could be used, we decided it would be best to try staying awake.
"How long will it take to get to Soma mommy?" I asked, gazing at the beach as it got smaller and smaller on the horizon.
"Possibly two days, maybe less if we are lucky. The island is north of here, as long as we keep going north, we are bound to find our salvation." She responded. I kept quiet, enjoying the soothing back and forth of the boat on the waves under us. It was a nice change of pace, and it felt great to rest for once. My feet were tired, and my legs were complaining throughout our journey, but I didn't complain once since mommy was with me too and didn't comment on how tired she was at all.
The boat ride to Soma was quiet, and mom looked exhausted and unwell after the first day. We were both irritable from our lack of food, but we did still have a few cups of water left from the hotel. I asked her once if we should rest but she only shook her head and smiled at me in reassurance. "No baby, I'll get you to Soma, and we will be safe there and with others like us. It will be happy and we will meet many new people. We are almost there."
She truly believed this, and we both shared the same dream back then. She only wanted what was best for me, and she would go to any extreme to get me to Soma. She even refused water and told me I could have it, since she wasn't thirsty, but I knew it was a lie.
The last night passed and the second day out in the vast sea was painfully long for the both of us, but when I saw Soma appearing over the horizon I excitedly shook my mother out of her paddling trance and pointed. "Look mommy, look! Soma is right there mommy!" Mom was just as excited as I was, I could see the sparkle of excitement through her tired eyes, she gave me a soft yet tired smile through her cracked and parched lips.
"I knew we would get there." Her voice was calming and slightly relieved as well. When we reached the shore, we dragged the boat right next to a lifeguard cabin that would normally be filled with surf boards and a first aid kit or two. When I peeked inside though, all I saw were weapons.
"Why are their weapons in that small little hut mommy?" I asked her. She curiously peered in through the window.
"I'm not sure sweetie, but it looks like it used to be a surf board rental of some sort." She said gazing curiously at me. "Well it's not important now, let's look for other people and get some help." She held out her hand warmly.
I smiled in excitement, gladly taking her hand. "Okay!" I was giddy, and very happy. Soma was our refuge, and for once in my life, I would finally meet other people. I was above and beyond happy at that moment. My mother and I were finally going to have a family.
"What are you doing outside!" It wasn't long until we met a young man, his voice wasn't very friendly, but I was fascinated and gave him a broad smile.
"We are survivors from the mainland," Mom explained. "We came to Soma for refuge, and human accompany." She seemed to be upbeat and excited as well, but something in my stomach turned when I got a good look at the man's face. Something about him just wasn't right.
"Survivors?" The man raised a questioning brow before swiftly grabbing my mother by the throat, a knife was held in his other hand. "No one survives here." He hissed, clenching harder on my mother's neck. I knew there was something wrong about him; he had a crazy look in his eye that scared even my own mother, and he was slightly drooling as if he had trouble keeping his saliva in his mouth.
My mother screamed, letting go of my hand and kicking the man in the chest. She grabbed his hands with hers and bit through his arm, causing him to let go of her. In desperation, she took hold of his arm that held his weapon and forced him to drop it. She kicked the sharp metal to the side and was about to run towards me to escape, but she didn't see the dagger he had hidden in his jacket.
"Mommy!" I screamed. I couldn't do anything, I was a useless child. When I saw the blade stab into her side, I didn't know what to do. I couldn't run and leave mom behind, but if I stayed the man would kill me as well. I noticed his knife he dropped was inches in front of me and I lunged for it, using all my strength I could possibly muster, I stabbed the man. This was the first kill, and the exact moment that changed my entire being, right down to the core. The warm blood that squirted up, the gasps and shudders from the man, and being frozen to the spot, covered in not only his blood, but my mother's as well.
I didn't feel anything at first, and I watched the blood on my fingers start to dry and cake over on my very finger tips. I turned to my mother, who was alive and breathing just a second ago. Her eyes were glassy and filled with an emptiness that terrified me. The sparkle of childish excitement and relief left her and she was silent and still. This very moment, brought me back to a sick reality that I wanted to hide and run away from.
My mother was dead.
I choked on my own breath as I felt the warm tears falling from my eyelashes; I had to close her eyes with my bloody hand because I was too scared to gaze into them anymore. This was all just a horrible dream, I thought to myself, but the warm hand that slowly became cold in mine only made me want to cry harder, but I couldn't. The only tears I had were silent, becoming cold and still on my face as I refused to wipe them away.
I had to leave before other people as crazy as that man showed up, but I wanted to stay with my mother, I didn't want to leave her here alone with them. I had no choice though, and I got up. I picked up the blade I had used to kill that one man with and silently walked farther into the island, there was no turning back now.
My name is Leah and that was the day, I truly became alone.