I groaned inwardly. I had 30 more minutes. 30 more torturous minutes. I picked up my paint brush and started filling the canvas with shapes. They didn't make sense. Everything was scattered and strewn across the pearl white paper. What will I make of this? I continued, the colours starting to blend in a tranquil manner. Then I quickened my pace and found myself leaning on the darker shades. The image was now distorted, chaotic, and disturbing... Oh, screw this.
I dropped the paint brush, letting it fall onto the cold white-tiled floor. A lime green splat tainted the ground before it shrank by itself, dissolving into nothing literally 5 seconds after it made contact with the floor. I swear I could spill a gallon of coffee but these specialized tiles would only welcome its presence for a good few seconds before making them disintegrate. The room would always be stark white and blank. There would be nothing on the walls. The floor would remain clean, like a starting canvas.
I glanced up at the clock. 16:50. Well how should I kill the last ten minutes then? The silence was eerie and deafening. I couldn't hear anything save for my own breathing. Growing tired of the lifeless atmosphere I dwelled in, I finally gave into temptation. I punched a few buttons and ordered for coffee. Within 15 seconds, a coffee-filled cup appeared on the tray. I took the cup and poured the hot, brown liquid onto the floor. It pooled before I heard a sizzling sound. It crackled a little as it shrank, like a living creature cowering, retreating, backing away from a losing battle. Until it was gone. Vanished. I kneeled down and felt the floor. It was still cold. There was no evidence of the coffee being spilled. I stood up and placed the cup back on the tray. The tray was fed into the wall as another empty tray took its place.
My ears perked up as I heard the familiar click on the door followed by a bell - signalling 17:00. We were free to go outside, into the open field, not constricted by suffocating plain white walls that made us feel mentally unstable. It felt like we were cursed. Or maybe we were indeed cursed. Our families were long gone. Our world, as we knew it, had turned into a giant ball of ruins. We were the only ones lucky enough to survive. Most of the time, though, we felt otherwise. Who wanted to live in a post-apocalyptic world? I kept my hand down on that one. However, as luck would have it, I was picked... to live in a dead world.
The door bursted open and in came Xander.
"Hey, babe," he leaned on the door frame, posing seductively. His marble blue eyes twinkled as he danced his way towards me like he had just drunk a strange concoction. I laughed, watching him strut like a lunatic. He stopped and straightened his back. His eyes lost their sparkle and a dark cloud washed over his face. I trailed off as my jaw went slack. Did I offend him? All too suddenly, he broke into a mischievous grin and swept me off my feet. I was slung in his shoulder in a heartbeat. Oh wow.
"Xander, let me down!" I ordered, pounding his back with my fists playfully.
"No. You were too slow," he faked a yawn and I rolled my eyes. He carried me into the hallway and I blushed a deep red. Damn it. It was embarrassing - although the scene at the hallway was the usual. Most people have officially turned life's offer down. They trudged lifelessly - ghosts lost in transition - and looked past us, past everyone, their eyes unseeing. The little acquaintances we had made were enough to go by. They had accepted what had happened. They lived normal lives, as if there was never an apocalypse.
Xander set me down once we reached the outdoors. The moon was high up in the sky and there were barely any clouds. Stars glittered the vast dark blue night. It was breathtaking. I looked beside me and saw Xander marvelling at the wondrous sight. He glanced at me, a hint of a smile playing on his lips.
"Our last night here," he mused as he took my right hand and touched his lips to it. His eyes burned into mine and I melted.
"Yes," I murmured, caught in his spell. We had been waiting for this night - the night when we broke free from everything.
I nodded, the plan shining crystal clear in my head. I already had my luggage packed. The only thing I had to worry about was the timing.
"See you at the lake," he gave me a quick peck on my cheek before sauntering to his friends.
The skies were turning a bright shade of blue. Guards clad in neon orange suits marched out of the bunker and ushered everyone in. It was the start of a new day but the end of our "day."
I blended into the crowd and went back to my room.
I pulled a block of wood from the tower I built out of boredom and placed it on the doorway. At 5:00, the bell rang and the heavy white doors closed. I heard a collective sound of locks clicking into place. Lockdown. My door was unlocked, the bulky metal inches from its frame, held back only by a miniature piece of wood. My heart lurched to my throat. This is it. A second bell rang and I heard steel clash against steel. They were closing the main doors - but there was a back exit that was never locked in case of other emergencies. It was heavily guarded by soldiers and lined with various forms of defence - artillery, laser towers, and a newly upgraded Tesla tower that was capable of firing 500 mA of electrical current in one full streak. 200 mA alone was deadly. I wondered idly what the incredibly high-current tower was for.
Our plan was to breach through a third door. It was locked manually and was not guarded. The weight of the door itself was the challenge. It weighed heavier than the main doors that were 4 times bigger than its size. I personally thought that everything about this bunker was excessive. What were they so afraid about? Another apocalypse? I doubted that a nuclear missile would even dent this massive, impenetrable structure. I grabbed my pocket knife and peeked out the door, grateful that the hallway was blank. I opened the door carefully and slid through. Afterwards, I kicked the wooden block into the room, letting the door meet its frame. There was a faint sound of the lock and I hurriedly moved into section C. I was located at section D of the bunker. At the end of section C was the third door. As I made my way towards it, I saw an orange figure move. Crap. A guard. I pressed myself against a door and counted 10 seconds before moving again. They were only doing a quick check, walking along section H that connected - and gave them a clear view - of all 15 halls. The third door was shut tight and I had to push at the lowest part in order to move it. It was the secret to this door. The lower part controlled the entire weight of the door, allowing easy access for those who can crouch down and push it. Which was once again strange. I did not see any significant use for it. Light poured into the hallway and I had to exit quickly in order to avoid attracting any attention. The door closed as soon as I was out. Warm air greeted me and the sun - the sun I haven't seen in 5 years - burned brightly in the sky. My eyes took a while to adjust. The silver garment I wore felt too warm for comfort. It was still adjusting to the sudden change in temperature. I shrugged then ran towards the fence, not thinking twice, not looking back. I did as Xander instructed me to. "Don't take too long or you'll miss the opportunity," his voice echoed softly in my mind. And before I knew it, I was out of the fence. Yet I did not stop running. My feet carried me forward, on and on until I caught sight of the shimmering blue waters - on and on until familiar blue eyes met my brown ones. Xander caught me as I launched myself into his arms. He spun me around in a tight embrace as tears unknowingly glided down my cheeks.
"Ivy, it's no longer a dream," his awe-struck expression mirrored mine as he set me down. "Oh babe, don't cry," he held my face in his hands and gazed down at me. His lips found mine as I closed my eyes. It was gentle at first but as adrenaline coursed through my veins, it set me alight. And I guessed he felt the same, too. My fingers tangled in his hair as I pulled him to me and his hands travelled to my waist, holding me close. His lips molded against mine perfectly. I felt his erratic heartbeat, my chest crushed against his. The kiss seared with a burning passion and I was momentarily lost until I had to break free, struggling to catch my breath. I looked up at him and saw his eyes blazing. I felt my cheeks grow hot and a shy smile formed across his lips. This newfound freedom clearly excited us both. He released me from his hold and took my hand. "We better get going then," he said rather unsteadily and walked towards the city that was left in ruins. I glanced at the lake, grinning wickedly. We were finally free from it all.
We ventured out into the woods, walking side by side. He was humming along to a familiar tune.
"Twisted Ground by Dexi?" I asked.
"Mhmm," he nodded, smiling at me. "Remember?"
"Of course," I beamed at him.
"I was locked up in a cage, thought I couldn't escape, but baby, you showed up with the key. I was dying but you were the cure. You're the sweetest drug that I've ever known," he belted out, grinning like a fool. I laughed. How could I forget? We were both 12 when we were rushed mindlessly by the military into some place that I could hardly remember. Everything happened so fast. All I could recall were a bunch of screams, numerous shouts of commands, and words I could barely comprehend. I remember feeling blank amidst the terror, the confusion, the frustration hanging in the air. I simply did not know what emotion weighed out all the rest. That was when I met him. He looked frightened, angered even. He yelled at a soldier to let him go. He mentioned his mother. They would not let him go. They stopped him at the door. He was frenzied as he tackled one of the soldiers. They pulled him off the soldier and threw him back on the floor, telling him to shut up. He stood up and went to the back of the room. That was where I was seated quietly. He glared at me and asked me what my problem was and I realized that I was absentmindedly staring at him. I just shrugged and looked away. And then he asked my name. And we talked. And that was how it all started...
5 years later, we have escaped. Together. I looked at our intertwined hands and felt relief wash over me. We were both alive. That was all that mattered now. As we reached the city, I felt my heart sink. The buildings were torn apart, windows broken, cars smashed, everything neglected for 5 years. The tallest tower in the city, Minoris Delta, had half of its body crumbled down and a huge hole gaping in one of its sides. The cement had worn down and was cracked, sharp pieces jutting out. Dust swirled in the air. It looked so different...
Beside me, Xander was wearing a glassy expression. We both did not anticipate this. We knew that the city was left in ruins but we did not expect the damage to be repairable. It was not that bad. It was not as bad as we had imagined - the city literally in ashes. No, some buildings were still habitable save for a few minor scratches down its side. This did not look like some radioactive bomb exploded. It looked more like military activity... So how did that cause an apocalypse? Were some people actually alive and living in those buildings? My mind was flooded with a hundred possibilities.
"Wait here," Xander muttered as he quickly let go of my hand. "I'll go search around that building. It looks safe," he pointed to a small shop to our right. "If I don't return after half an hour, go back to the bunker. Okay?"
"Can't I come with you?" I asked.
"No. Stay here. Half an hour. You got me?"
I nodded reluctantly. "Good," he said, giving me a quick kiss before running off into the building. I checked my watch. 7:45. I sat on the hood of a wrecked car, scanning the area. A swift motion caught my attention. I blinked twice, trying to absorb what just happened. No. Nothing just fell out of the hole of Minoris Delta. That's impossible. My stomach growled at me and I realized that I was starving. I was starting to hallucinate...
Sweat was trickling down my forehead despite my suit having adjusted to the temperature.
Where are you, Xander?
I jumped off the hood and paced around, feeling uneasy. I heard a feral snarl and my head whipped to the direction of the shop he went off to. I darted into the building, deciding in less than a second.
"Xander?!" I called out. Silence came the reply. "Xander, now's not the time for hide and seek!" I laughed nervously.
"Go back to the bunker. Go..." I heard Xander whisper from the direction of the counter.
"Oh, c'mon. Trying to scare me now?" I smirked and went behind the counter. He looked up at me, his arm bathed in blood. He was sprawled on the floor, one knee popped off its socket.
I inhaled sharply as I choked on the lump on my throat. Heat seeped into my eyes and made them sting as tears threatened to spill. I blinked once, suppressing the gut-wrenching feeling that echoed through my being. My breathing had gone shallow and I could no longer ignore the pain in my chest. I felt like my heart was being squeezed into a pulp. My knees gave out on me and I crouched down beside him. "What happened?" I choked out.
"Go away. Run." He yelled hoarsely, trying to sound strong and commanding.
"Not without you. Xander, I -"
I heard the sickening crunch of bone being crushed. I stilled, my eyes unblinking, my mouth refusing to close. My left arm fell limply to my side. What the- A sharp pang of pain errupted on my left shoulder. I gasped for air, unbelieving. I stumbled my way up and ran, my arm swinging freely. It was a nauseating feeling. I got out of the shop and tripped, falling face down into the cracked asphalt.
"Aaaah!" I screamed as shards pierced into my skin, the pain unbearable. The silver garment was now soaked deep red, blood oozing out of my shoulder. I wailed in pain as I flipped myself over. Wrong move. It came barreling out of the shop, glass flying everywhere as it smashed its way out of the window. Its claws were gnarly, teeth were yellow and stained, and eyeballs seemingly about to burst off their sockets. It looked almost human, except its skin was bursting with purplish mumps which in turn were overflowing with puss. I nearly convulsed with hysteria but I didn't have a chance. Almost immediately, creatures that looked similar to it jumped off windows, leapt from car to car, and awkwardly ran towards me. I was dumbfounded. They locked us up for a reason. I laid on the ground, helpless, my throat running dry from all the hopeless, useless screams. They closed in on me, blood stained hands clawing at me, teeth showing as they grinned wickedly, and...