It's been six months since world war III. The world has been damaged and scarred by nuclear bombs. The ground outside smolders. Water boils with poison. Fresh water is hard to come by and, when found, is very expensive for those who survived the war.
I am Jenniqua Mallair. I am a survivor.
I lie on the ground of the abandoned house I found the night before. No noise comes from outside. Which makes sense. I rarely ever find any noise sounding outside since the war. The human race has practically blown itself clean off of the face of the earth. Practically blew the face of the earth off the earth itself. My long black hair spills around me, green eyes searching the dirt smeared ceiling. I'm stretched out, arms at my side. I should move soon. I need to find food and fresh water. I sit up and look around. It's dark and hot. Dirt and grime cover every wall and corner. Spider webs wave loosely in the corners. Except for my bag full of what little supplies I have for survival, the room is empty. Nothing. As always. It's a miracle I haven't gone mad from loneliness or the emptiness of the world. Will it ever heal?
I push myself slowly to my feet. I walk over to my bag and open it examining the contents again. For a girl in a time like this it is quite dangerous. Most of the population of the planet was destroyed. That includes most of the women. Any women that did survive were either taken and forced into slavery, murdered for supplies or the occasional freak who ate people to stay alive, or died from poisoning. Drinking the water on the ground? Dangerous. Breathing the air in certain areas? Dangerous. The choice is to either avoid those areas, or wear a gas mask. Luckily for me I have one. Found it on a dead guy a few weeks ago. Anyway, I was lucky. I'm a fairly good fighter, have weapons to protects myself, and, since the war ended, I've dressed like a boy.
I take a dirty, black wig out if my bag, stuff my hair in it and put it firmly on my head. I stand and look down at myself. Baggy, dirty blue jeans. Loose, torn, dirt smeared, black shirt. I need to get some new clothes. I stick a hand through a particularly large hole just above my bellybutton. At least a new shirt. I look around the room. There's a door, maybe a closet, to my left. I walk over and open it. Sure enough it's a closet. Clothes fill the hangers and lie dusty. Untouched for months. I breathe in deeply and that's when I catch it. A deep, sickening smell. Like death. I know I shouldn't, but I push the clothes aside and let out a yelp. I trip and fall backwards on my butt. A man hung my his throat swings from the ceiling of the closet. His flesh has already begun to rot off. Blisters and dirt dot his arms and face. I roll onto my side and vomit. I stand and close the door. I'll find clothes somewhere else. But I better do it soon. It could be bad if someone sees me. It's starting to show a little to much cleavage.
I shoulder my bag and walk towards the front door. I can understand why the man did it. Killed himself. I thought about it to. It's agonizing being alone, but when you are threatened every day by the toxic air that tries to kill you. A hanging is faster than a poisoning. Plus, I'm only seventeen. I hadn't even moved out yet when this happened. I sat in horror and had to watch as my family slowly died. Little sister, baby brother, mother, father. Everyone I loved and cared about. I'm the last one left. I would have killed myself if I hadn't known that, that isn't what they would want. So, I survive. For them. I'll fight till the end. I won't give up.
I swing open the front door. It's dark outside. Not completely dark. The sun is up. It would probably have been a nice day had the earth not been dead. Noxious fumes float high in the air with the unseen clouds blocking most of the suns light to come down. The air is hot and dry. The heat casts watery mirages on the ground in front of me. I walk towards them and they move as well. Always locked in the endless race for water.
I sigh and continue to walk forward ignoring my deep want for water. Dead trees surround me. I think this area used to be a forest. So full of life, reduced to nothing because of the foolishness of humans who couldn't put their differences aside and get along. Or at least deal with each other.
There's a loud cawing sound to my right. There on a dead tree branch sits a large, fat crow. My stomach growls and mouth waters as I look up at the bird. I quietly drop my bag and quickly dig through it. I pull out a small hand gun, which I also found on a dead guy, and aim for the bird. It's been at least two days since my last meal. A bird that big could at least last two. Which, considering how most people in these times are eating now, is a feast. I shoot and get it in the neck. It falls to the ground by the tree with a loud thump. I go to it and pull small sticks off of the tree and toss them in a pile by the bird. I reach in my bag again and put the gun away and pull out the matches I have left. Two. I pull one out, pull up some dry grass and set it underneath the twigs. I strike the match and light the grass on fire then move on to taking the birds feathers out. I pull a piece of thick plastic from my bag and set it on the ground. I place the bird on it when I'm done plucking it then take out my pocket knife, given to me on my fifteenth birthday by my father, and make a long thin cut to gut it. I toss the guts aside. Maybe, if I stay long enough there will be more fat birds that come along. I doubt my luck is that good, though.
After a while I have the bird thoroughly cook. I eat a few bites and then wrap it in another sheet of plastic and stuff it in my bag. No other birds showed up for the guts, just flies, so I move on.
I stand and continue walking. Finally I make my way out of the dead forest and into the open. A city stands before me. Or what used to be a city anyway. Many of the buildings lie in crumbled heaps. Some of the tall skyscrapers have smoke rising from them. A fire probably started because of the heat and how dry the buildings are are. I walk quietly forward looking around cautiously.
There's a bridge only a few feet in front of me. I can take cover there for a moment and then decide what I'm going to do. Usually, when you make it to cities they are still occupied. People claim the territory as their own and if you enter it and are caught they'll kill you and no one can do anything about it. No one wants to. Everyone is concerned about there own survival.
I make it to the bridge and peek under it. There used to be a river that ran under it, but it dried up long ago. I don't see anyone so I step under the bridge. There's garbage littering the place. There's a thin path that you can walk through between the garbage, but it really is like the dump under here. I look around. No food. Of course. What idiot would waste food at a time like this? Even if it was out of date. But I do find another black shirt lying on the top of a trash pile. I climb it and grab the shirt. Surprisingly, it has no holes. I climb back down and go off the path behind a pile of trash to change in case anyone else comes walking through on the path. Itake off my torn, dirty shirt and put on the not torn, dirty one. I sigh.
There's a rustling noise behind me and I turn around. Suddenly there's someone standing in front of me, his face just inches from mine. "Hi there." He smirks and looks me up and down.
I stand my ground. I've learned that if you cower or back off it gives them a reason to think you're weak so they attack you. "Hi." I say, my voice steady. If I weren't terrified of him right now, you know, if I was in a normal world again, I probably would have thought he was pretty cute. Maybe even hot. He has coal black hair, piercing green eyes like mine, and is at least six or seven inches taller than me. Pretty well built. Looks well fed, which bothers me, because I haven't eaten a proper meal in six months and am pretty thin right now. Not so thin my ribs show, but still...I'm hungry.
He laughs and backs away from me a little, "Thanks for the show, babe. If I were you, though, I'd be more careful. There are some pretty bad guys out there that would take advantage of a moment like that."
I just stare at him. Is he going to let me go? Just like that? Then he turns his back on me and walks out of sight. I may be relieved that he's gone, but I can't get my heart to stop beating so fast. I bow my head, my cheeks red. He saw me take my shirt off...Great. That's fantastic.
I pick up my bag again and swing it over my shoulder. I peak out from under the bridge and look around at the city. It's not too far, maybe ten seconds out in the open if I run. I position my feet and get ready to bolt. It's nice being thin sometimes, especially since I have strong legs. I can get myself farther, faster. It's because I'm so light weight.
I push off and run as fast as I can toward the city counting the seconds. Hopefully I'm not being seen. 1...2...3...4...Almost there. I hear a gunshot just as I make cover behind a tall building. I can feel my wig slipping so I position it on my head better. Did they shoot at me? Did they see me? Another gunshot and another. No. It must be something else. All I need to do is get through the city and I'll be on my way. I peak around the building. Long dark shadows are being cast upon the ground. I try to stick to the shadows as best I can.
I can feel the air getting a little cooler around me. The sky getting even darker. Soon it will be so dark I won't be able to see where I'm going. I look around me. Already it's getting hard to tell doors from walls. I walk up to a small shape that looks like a house and open the door. There's still enough light to see that no one is in here. I step inside and quietly close the door. I take off my wig and shove it in my bag letting my hair flow freely down my back. Not having all my thick hair and a wig crammed on top of my head makes it so much cooler and I let out a sigh of relief. I don't want to eat too much of my crow so that I can eat it for strength tomorrow, so I only take one bite then put it away. I lie my head down on my bag and close my eyes listening. Listening for anything. Everything. And for once, hoping for nothing.
Smoke? I smell smoke. I open my eyes, but think it's just in my head so I close them again. Chicken? Yeah, it's definitely in my head. My stomach grumbles. A laugh. My eyes shoot open. Who laughed. I don't move. My heart beats faster. Who else is here? Then I feel a finger prodding at my back. Instinctively I turn over, push whoever is poking me away and pull out my pocket knife. Sadly I lose my balance and fall on my butt again my hair hanging loosely in my face, knife still pointed in the direction of the mysterious person. I raise my hand that doesn't have the knife and push my hair out of my face. Sitting on his knees in front of me is the guy I met earlier. The one who saw me undress. I think humiliated. There's a small fire crackling next to him.
I don't put the knife down. Showing one act of kindness isn't going to keep me from slitting his throat now. "What do you want?" Then I realize he's been laughing at me. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing." He stops laughing, "I only wanted to wake you up, because I heard your stomach growl. I was going to offer you some chicken." He waves a chicken leg in front of my face and I almost melt when it's sent reaches my nose. I almost put down the knife and drop my guard completely. I shake my head roughly and glare at him, "I am not some kind of dog. I can not be bribed with food." Sadly my statement wasn't very believing because I was still watching the chicken leg swing back and forth.
"I'm not trying to bribe you. I'm trying to feed you." He scoots closer to me and I raise my knife more. "Oh, honestly, if I wanted to hurt you don't you think I would have done that already? You were asleep on the floor and I made a chicken." He waves the leg again. I lower the knife a little and reach out my other hand and take the chicken. He nods and goes back to his chicken. It's a nice sized bird and I can't help but ask, "Where did you get that from?"
He smirks, "They have a big pin full of them just a few blocks over. I stole one. One of the guys saw me and started shooting, but I got away."
"They have these?" I wave the chicken leg, which has now been reduced to just bone.
He laughs again, "Yeah. Lots of them."
My mouth waters just thinking about all the chicken. Then I see that he has a big dark spot on his shirt. I can't help but think it looks like blood. I point to it, "What's that?"
He looks down, "Oh, um, it's nothing." He pauses as I raise my eyebrow, "Alright, one of the guys guarding the chickens shot me."
I nodded, "I thought so." Then I turn and dig through my bag.
"What are you doing?" I hear at my ear and jump.
"Don't do that!" I push him away as he begins to laugh again.
"You're so jumpy."
I pull bandages out of my bag and wave them. "Come here, I'll fix that." He sits next to me and I say awkwardly, "Um, I hate to ask this, but," I sigh, "could you please take your shirt off so I can see the wound?"
He does and I have to try my hardest not to stare at his chest, "So, where did you get all that stuff in your pack?"
I use the bottom of my shirt to wipe some of the blood and dirt from around the wound. He winces. At least he was smart enough to stop the bleeding. And the bullet missed any major arteries. Plus, he got the bullet out. "Some of it I've had since before the war, others I found on dead bodies or in homes like this." I answer
We don't talk anymore until I'm done fixing up his cut, "Thanks." He rolls his shoulders.
"No problem," I say, "you fed me. The least I can do is take care of that."
"So, where are you headed?"
I don't look at him. I hug my knees and stare at the fire, "I don't know. There's really nowhere to go. I'm just...searching."
He leans forward, "Searching for what?"
I laugh, "Everything, I guess. Someplace safe. A home. Survivors. I'm tired of being alone. It's been so long since I've actually talked to someone."
He doesn't say anything for a moment, "Well, can I come with you?"
I raise an eyebrow at him and smile, "Why?"
He shrugs, "I'm pretty much doing the same thing as you. Looking for somewhere to go. Looking for people."
"Some form of life somewhere." I whisper.
"Precisely!" He smiles at me and return it. "So?"
"Of course you can come with me. I don't have a course set though."
"Neither do I. We'll just go wherever our feet take us."
"First, we've got to get out of this city."
"By the way, I'm Vince."