Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Campus Lights

The Path

By Alix Dupont

Monday, June 14, 2021

I’ve been walking for miles. Don’t know where I’m going, don’t know where I came from. Sometimes, I hear the faint whisper of a voice before the prosperous wind washes it away stingily. I’ve had some time to think, too much time even. I may be the last person to walk the earth. But how does one know this? I guess they just have to deal with it. When it all started most families decided to give up before it got too bad. But with Mason well underway, I just couldn’t lose hope. “For him”, I told myself with every passing minute. But my malnutrition killed him before he could take his first breath. After that, misery and numbness overcame me and surviving has since been my only purpose in life. Sometimes I wonder, how old am I? It’s been too much time to keep count. The dryness in the air hardens my fingertips and every other inch of my body with every frail step I take. When will this be over? I just can’t bear it. The constant silence is deafening: the only thing I hear is the sweat running down my face; that is the closest thing to a shower I have had in a while. My old sandals, a backpack, and a shredded heart are all I have left. 

The ongoing path is never forgiving, as the horizon seems to be getting further away every time I look at it. Surrounding me are ashes, overlapping what is left of obliterated homes and buildings. I wonder what I look like right now; all hunched forward looking down at the uncountable ripped blisters on my feet with a sourly aching back. Once a week, with luck, I pass by a non-looted house and gather as many items as I can carry to keep me alive. I’ve gone a month without this before and I can promise you I wasn’t pretty by the end of it. The one thing I struggle with the most in this crackled dry world is water. I keep my backpack filled with it, but I am constantly dehydrated as I am afraid to waste a single drop. Food is second on my list. The problem is, sometimes people see the same houses as I do and many are ready to kill to get what is left. I’ve had a few close encounters in which I was lucky enough to get out alive. If I had stood my ground they would have shot me and then eaten every piece of me. People are so desperate they have turned into cannibals. I could never.

It’s been two weeks since my last loot and I haven’t eaten in what seems like forever. I have to constantly force my lousy eyes to stay open, baring the lack of sleep hunger has offered me. Using all the energy left in my body to straighten my back and look up and “Oh! Yes, yes, yes! This is the moment I have desperately been waiting for! A shop! Unlooted!”, Sarah whispered thrilledly. I quickly ran and laid behind a dead bush parallel to the shop. No one around? Not a movement in sight! I scrutinized the area nervously, desperately knowing that I had to wait to keep out of trouble. Once the moon showed its face, I got on my feet and quickly slipped closer to the shop. My hand shakily reached for the door handle as I struggled to swallow and felt my hairs stand on end simultaneously as my heart beat faster and faster.

*Click*, the door squeaked open as I glared inside at the stagnant items motionlessly positioned in their shelves. I peaked my head through the door opening. Clear, no one in sight. Adrenaline ran through my veins. The floorboards screeched as my filthy sandals serpented through the aisles with my hands savagely grabbing everything at a range of touch and the saliva accumulating in my mouth. I then desperately laid everything out on the floor and ripped the packages apart, shoving the unknown, still half wrapped substances into my mouth as a hyena would do. In pitch black, I sat carelessly devouring my meal.

Clang, clang. My heart stopped. My chewing stopped; everything went silent. What could that have been? It is probably just an item that fell off the shelves, no big deal. I was not convinced and now desperately needed the bathroom. My breath trembling, I placed the food back down and carefully turned around to look into the other aisles. Nothing. I caught my breath again. Now creeping through the store, my bulging eyes searched for any movement. 

Gasp!  A tall shadow stood overlooking the counter. How did I not see it before? The moonlight rays pierced through the window refracting in all directions and hitting the figure right in the back of the head. It was a man! Tall, wide shoulders, very strong looking but skinny at the same time due to the lack of food I am guessing. Suddenly, I realised I was standing smack right in the centre of the room, entirely visible and only a few steps away from him. I nervously tiptoed backwards before… 

CLANG! The tuna can I had been eating earlier sawed through my sandal and foot which was now spitting out blood. I screamed on the inside hoping the man had not heard. My vision became foggy with the tears now rippling down my cheeks and onto the floor where I laid curled up. Whipping my eyes, it became clear that the man had heard. The terror was even more intense than the pain I was in. I realised I had not been breathing. As he turned to face me, his face began to appear in the light. I had not had this close of contact with another human being in what seemed like centuries. 

Dirty white skin, messy hair, long beard, but beautiful ocean eyes. “Oh god,” I was thinking as he looked straight into my eyes. However, I felt that he was different; his stare was of pity not hate and hunger. My heart started beating again as I realised this man was not going to harm me. “Are you okay?”, he hesitantly asked. “Oh thank god, I thought you were going to harm me… you aren’t going to right?”, I anxiously questioned. “Of course not! Here, I think there is a first aid kit in aisle 4”, he assuringly replied. I suddenly sensed a weight lift off my shoulders, a sparkle appeared inside me, and electricity ran through my bloodstream. Even though I was bleeding out, I still felt more alive than ever. I was not alone after all, for I could tell through his wrinkles that he and I had faced the same struggles and suffering. I chuckled as he offered to help me up. Although his chapped lips looked painful, his smile was charming. I felt as though a bubble had come around us, protecting us from the rest of the world and all possible dangers as Mason must have felt with me. All those miles weren’t for nothing after all! 

Instantly, I found myself again although lost in his eyes.