We lost the baby. With it, I feared we had also lost hope. But as long as we had each other—there would always be hope. We'd survive.
I stayed with Maizy at the camp for the next few days. While the others worked I maintained the camp. Maizy mostly slept, and sometimes cried softly. I didn't know what else to do.
I met Maizy before the Flash. We watched movies together and fell in love. She laughed at my jokes, and I held her when she talked about abuse she had endured. She was so young, so beautiful, and so fragile. We bonded, and I knew I would be there for her, to take care of her.
After the Flash, we fled together into the wilderness where it was still safe. She was afraid, but I comforted her—we had each other. We had taken what my parents had handed down to me, some brightly colored suburban camping gear, colorful red and green ski jackets, and some basic supplies and canned food. Nothing that prepared us, and we had nothing that would sustain us. We were novices in a savage world we knew nothing about.
Soon after, we met Dan and Sara. She was a nurse. He was an accountant. They were thin, bookish people we found living in a dilapidated cabin, the roof rotten and collapsing. They weren't familiar with the outdoors, but they were smart. We lent them our extra tent and spared our canned food, and with them, we moved further into the woods. Like us, they had fled the city. And like us, there were woefully unprepared for the challenges in the wilderness.
We agreed on where we would go. Over the mountains was an old fort beside a freshwater lake. But the mountains were big, and our energy was spent. I didn't know how long it might take us, but if we rationed our food, I felt we might have a chance.
Weeks later, following the smell of a campfire we encountered Kirk. He was hunting, armed with a rifle. Something we'd never done, with something none of us ever used. He had his hair cut short, and a thick, square jaw. He accepted us, and brought us to the camp where his wife Elisa was preparing a porcupine he had killed. She was half his size, but athletic, and seemed more at home in the woods than any of us. They were excellent hunters, and we were weak from weeks of canned vegetables—they became our saviors.
Sitting alongside Maizy, in our little yellow tent, I heard Dan and Sara arrive at the camp first. Looking out I noticed they didn't look pleased with themselves.
"No luck today," said Dan.
Sara plopped herself down, exhausted beside the fire, her mess of blonde hair evidence of how long we had been denied the privileges of civilization.
"We're too far from the roads. If we can't find a road we're not going to be able to scavenge anything worthwhile," said Sara, attempting to run her hand through her hair, her face twisting into frustration. "God, I'd kill for a bar of soap."
"You know the roads aren't safe," I said.
Dan rubbed his temple. "We have nothing," he said, frustrated. "We could have made it, but if we go another two days without food we won't have a choice. It's find something or starve. Kirk hasn't found anything to hunt, and it's going to be cold soon."
He was agitated. We all were. I think Dan was unhappy we joined Kirk and Elisa. With our limited food we were barely getting by, and without any successful hunts, there wasn't enough for the six of us. I knew he also blamed me. I had been staying in camp since Maizy's miscarriage, and refused to leave her. But I wouldn't let her give up, I needed her too much.
Even before the Flash I wasn't much of a meat eater. If it wasn't for the convenience of fast food, I wouldn't have eaten meat at all. But as we starved I began to eat rabbits, then squirrels, and now nothing. We were starving fast, and could feel the energy leaving us. After the Flash life was diminishing all around us. Even the trees were turning gray, and as they bent sorrowfully around us we were dying, and we were forced to watch the world die around us too.
"We still have the lake," I told Dan. It was all I had, a far-off hope that kept me optimistic that a way to survive existed beyond the mountains, near the Indian reservation.
"There's a stream, we can follow that," said Dan. "But we're going to have to risk the roads eventually to resupply. We can't go on like this indefinitely. We're nearly out of food."
I looked over to Maizy, still asleep in our tent. I wasn't ready to risk it, not yet. We'd be safe out here. She was balled up, covered in an open sleeping bag. The only part of her visible was her tangled red hair creeping out from beneath it.
Screams broke my focus, and I looked up from Maizy. Reaching for an old camp shovel I shot up to defend myself, and panned the treeline surrounding the camp.
It was Kirk, his bright orange jacket stuck out between the dull green of the trees, and he had his wife, Elisa, in his arms.
"Jesus, help us!' He screamed as he weaved through the branches towards camp.
I froze and watched as Dan retrieved a blanket from his tent for Elisa. Kirk dropped to his knees and softly laid her down on it. She was shaking, and slick with blood.
"It was an Ambush, man. A goddamn ambush! There's someone in the trees," cried Kirk, his face red and eyes swollen with tears.
I was nearly knocked down as Sara forced herself past me with the first aid kit, and dropping down she tossed the kit to Dan, and began inspecting Elisa.
Kirk, sitting over her bloody body, ran the back of his blood-stained hand across his nose, smearing it across his face, sniffling, and in a trembling voice said, "I didn't see. I couldn't see. Save her, man. Save her."
"You need to keep her calm," pleaded Sara. "There's an arrow. It's pierced her lung."
Kirk went quiet, and shut his eyes hard, forcing out tears, and he pulled back Elisa's bangs, leaving a swath of blood across her forehead, and kissed her gently. He whispered that she was going to be okay, that she was going to make it. I had never seen him lie to her before.
She convulsed, her breathing slow, the arrow still standing straight up from her chest.
She passed out not long after, and Dan kept a vigil with her the rest of the night as she slipped away.
I buried her while the others rested. They were exhausted, and I felt I had to. Her grave had to be shallow because the cold ground proved too hard after just a few feet. We began packing camp and then met at her grave and Sara said a pleasant eulogy. We took turns saying something nice about her. I said she was an excellent runner. I should have said something better.
Kirk didn't talk. And after the funeral, he silently gathered his rifle, his ammo, and their gear—his gear.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
Kirk looked around indignantly towards the treeline. "There's someone out there. We need to move camp."
I turned to face my little yellow tent—Maizy still within. "We can't move yet."
Kirk slung the rifle over his shoulder. "Then stay here. But I'm going to go find the person that killed Elisa. God help me when I do, but I'm going to find them."
Dan approached from behind me, his face somber. "It will be night soon, Kirk. Just wait."
"Wait for what? They're out there!" cried Kirk. "What if they come here, who will they kill next? Maybe all of us. We need to get them now, while they're still close."
"Dan," I said. "Will you and Sara watch Maizy for me?"
"Of course," said Dan.
I looked back to Kirk. "I'll come with you." I didn't want to leave Maizy, but this was my fault. If I had been out there with them, then maybe—maybe we could have saved her.
"Wait," said Sara, rushing over. In her hands was the arrow. "The tip is stone," she said. And she handed it to me.
It was wood, dried blood still soaked into the shaft. The end was made from bird feathers, and at the tip was a stone arrowhead, haphazardly carved into a jagged point.
"Whoever they are, whatever they are," began Sara, "They've been out here a long time."
"I don't care who they are," said Kirk, shooting his gaze to me, his eyes sunken and cold, deep pools drained of tears. "Are you ready?"
"Yeah," I said. "Dan, Sara, watch Maizy for me. Please… take care of her."
They both nodded.
"Don't worry about Maizy," said Sara. "I have something I can give her to help her sleep while you're gone. She'll be fine."
We head out with the sun behind us, and watch it slowly fade into the distance. The night sky didn't go dark anymore, and there were no stars. Instead, it lit up with a colorful dance of charged particles bombarding the atmosphere—a global Northern Lights caused by the Flash. Kirk had his rifle, and I carried his ammo and some supplies. The forest was wasting away, turning into a thick wrestle of branches that clawed at us as we moved through them.
Kirk would stop, lean down, sift through the fallen leaves, then rise up and keep going. He continued doing it for hours. I didn't speak, and allowed him to continue his chase unabated, he deserved to right to find closure with what happened to Elisa. I don't know who was out here, but I assumed they must be long gone by now.
A branch snapped in the distance and Kirk dropped to the forest floor. He shot a look back to me and quietly shushed me, signaling for me to get down with a raised hand.
Slinging his rifle down from over his shoulder he readied it in front of him, and began to look around.
There was nothing.
We continued on, and stayed up high, keeping a ravine to our side so nothing could sneak up on us. The lights illuminated the way, and I watched the greenish hues billow and wave across the sky. Kirk didn't. He was focused on the trail ahead, searching for his wife's killer.
"Kirk," I said.
He didn't respond and continued his high-stepping march over the brush.
"Kirk, we need to go back."
He finally turned around. We hadn't spoken since we began. "I'm not going back," he said, and turned, continuing on. "The camp is compromised. You can go back if you want, but I'm not."
"Kirk, you have the only gun, we need you at camp. We have to go back."
Kirk stopped. He straightened and spun to face me. "Go, go ahead! I'm not going back."
"There are people who need you there. We can't survive without you, and you can't survive without us."
"Oh?" Kirk snapped, "I need you to survive? Did Elisa need you to survive? Ever since we met you, you've been a drain on everyone else. You and your girlfriend, sitting at camp, contributing nothing. I got the food, I've got the gun." He lifted up his rifle, and waved it in my face.
I grabbed at the gun, holding it firmly and lowering it from my face. "We have to go back."
"I can't go back there," he screamed. "Elisa's there…"
Kirk turned, but I wouldn't release my grip on his gun. "Please, we need you at camp. Maizy will be ready to head out soon."
"Your girlfriend is as good as dead. What has she done? She's finished, and does nothing but mope around. It's better that you just drop that dead weight while you still can."
"She's fine, she's getting better. We can move as soon as she's ready."
"You don't get it! She's done. Dan and Sara don't know how to survive, and you're too afraid of being alone to make the hard decisions. You're selfish. I'm done with them, and I'm done with you. Go back to camp if you want. I'm going to find who killed Elisa."
I tightened my grip on the gun. "I can't let you leave us without the gun. We need it."
"Get your own damn gun."
"Kirk, I can't let you take it with you."
"Let go of it. I'm warning you."
Kirk sent a knee into my gut, and I doubled over. I grabbed the stock with my other hand, and Kirk tried to wrench it from me, sending a shot into the distance, echoing through the silent wood.
Rising up I kicked off with my feet, putting all of my strength into my shoulder, trying to force him to the ground. He stepped back, and struggled against me. Every time I pushed, he would take another step back, bracing himself.
After another step back he finally fell. And he kept falling.
Losing my grip on the rifle I watched him tumble down the ravine. The sickly green glow of the light illuminated his face, his hands both holding tightly to the gun, refusing to reach out for something to stop his descent. And with no words, he hit the sharp edge of the ravine, and he was gone. His pack, his rifle, and him.
I walked back to camp alone that night and spent the time thinking about Maizy. And the Flash.
It was a solar flare. Maizy and I had been together for almost three months at the time. I was at her place, and we were getting ready for work when the news broadcasts said we had seven hours before the world would be set on fire. The Flash had a sound, like churning gears grinding loose bolts, and it had a smell like burnt metal. It had burned away any matter it came in contact with, and before it hit us, we could smell it coming.
Many thought it was a message from god—that the rapture had come. They stood out in the streets, with their eyes wide open, waiting to be lifted into the sky. They stood out and danced, and stared up shouting, "God, take us. God, come take us!"
It knocked out satellites first, then a mass electromagnetic pulse that shut down anything electronic. There was no radio, no television, no phone calls, and the world went silent, and in that time every person prepared for the end. It struck Asia, sparing the rest of the Earth for a slow, painful death.
I hid with Maizy at the restaurant where she was waitressing. He had locked ourselves in the basement freezer, where there was enough room for us. Generators kept the freezer working, and its thick walls protected us from the initial rush of heat and radiation.
The strength of its effects were global, and when we emerged onto the city streets the sky was still lit up in a wash of light. The skyscrapers above us had their windows blown out, and six feet of glass littered the streets. The people who had witnessed it were incinerated, and those that survived were burned and blinded. They crawled on their hands and knees through six feet of glass. They were blind, bloody, and screaming—still crying out for god. Fires raged, and the people who were looting continued, killing anyone in their way.
We took what we could and escaped. The city wasn't safe, and the world around us was dying. The only way to survive was to stay together.
When I returned to camp day had broken. I was out of water, and weighed down by ammunition for a gun we no longer had.
Tired, my legs aching, I was ready to lay down beside Maizy. I didn't see Peter or Sara. There was blood in the camp, splattered across the ground in dried brown stains. But I was too tired, too focused on Maizy. I crawled into our tiny yellow tent, and laid my head down beside her, and fell asleep.
When I awoke I leaned over Maizy, but she was still. I leaned her over and her head dropped to the side, her jaw agape. Beside her was the bottle of Sara's sleeping pills. The bottle was empty.
I could have cried, or screamed, or something. But instead, I sat up and stared at her. I must have done that for an hour. Then I began lifting up the blankets. Then tearing at them. Then shoving her lifeless body, lifting it up and looking beneath it. There must be more pills, I thought. My teeth clenched, and my brow sweaty I began to destroy what had been our home. Please, please, let there be enough for me.
Rising up from the tent I walked through the camp. It felt like a dream. Following the dried blood stains, I found Peter. He had two arrows in him, and had fallen over one of our camp chairs, his feet still in the air.
I removed my shirt and jacket, ridding myself of its bright neon colors, and retrieved the camp shovel. Following the blood trail, I discovered Sara's clothes and her intestines. She had been disemboweled here and dragged off.
Tightening my grip on the shovel I continued on. Following the blood trail that slowly dried up, it was replaced with footprints I could see in the still, grey ground.
The smell of cooking started to permeate the air. The same smell I had grown used to as Kirk prepared fresh kills he had collected. And I followed it up to a small bare hill, smoke rising from a fire near the center.
As I approached, my shirtless skin exposed to the cold air, I could see an old woman behind the smoke, preparing raw, bloody meat.
I stalked up to her, and raised my shovel. She was old, her skin cracked, and wore a blanket draped over her shoulders. She looked up from beneath a heavy brow, her lips thin, and unwavering. She didn't look surprised I had found them, or concerned over what I was about to do.
Out from behind her came a man with a hand axe. He was my size, with bronze skin and long, black hair pulled back in a ponytail. He stood for a moment and stared at me. He looked to the woman, then body she was preparing, and then back to me.
He lunged, swinging at me, and I caught his axe with the camp shovel, twisting my wrist and bringing the axe beside me, grazing my side. As his momentum forced him to descended forward I fell upon him. Locking my legs around his ribs I began swinging the shovel down on his head as hard as I could. I continued until I heard a crunch, and didn't stop until it caved in and its contents poured out onto the dirt.
I stood up, the blood—not all mine—dripping from my bare skin. Lifting the shovel with my free arm I struck the old woman. She didn't move, and didn't cry out. And I didn't stop until I knew she was dead.
I stood motionless, my head sunk down and my chest rising and falling as the adrenaline left me. I was alone again. I wish they had killed me like they had killed the others. I wish they had taken me first. The hope was gone.
Through the brush near their tents came a woman. In her arm was a small child, pressed close to her chest. In her other was a knife pointed at me in her trembling hand.
She was Maizy's age. Dark skinned, and her black hair hung free down her shoulders. She, like us, had been surviving out in the wilderness, doing whatever she could to survive.
I looked back at the body of the young man. His head a wash of blood with white specks of skull flowing out into a pool growing beneath him.
I looked back to the woman. "There's a lake," I said.
She continued shaking, the knife still pointed at me.
"There's a fort there."
She dropped the knife and began weeping. Holding her baby with both arms she dropped to her knees.
"Come with me."
She didn't look up, but I could see her slowly nodding her head. And I realized that as long as we had each other—there would be hope. We'd survive.