"You know what, I'm going on without you," Adam dejected.
Adam dismissively waved his hand, as he walked onward; pushing me away.
"You can't just walk away… where are you going to go," I shouted after him.
I watched on as the only boy I've known all my life faded into the high shrubbery of Times Square. The straw-colored marram grass stood just as high as us fifteen-year-olds. Reckless and fearless typically, I am scared at the prospect of being left alone.
Starting on, I picked up my rucksack and bindle and traced after the only other human I know exists. The gorging skyscrapers coated in a layer of dust, I peered up. That building is missing a lot of windows I noted. Looking at my footing, I observe the ground. I don't want wet shoes. Puddles can be a lot deeper now since the streets have begun to sink. I once heard New York used to have an entire underground beneath the city. I have seen the so-called metro stations and what they were supposed to do. I wonder what they looked like when they worked… trains I mean.
Resting my bindle on my shoulder, I quicken my pace after Adam. I don't want to get separated… risk of losing him.
Threading on a section of moss, I bridge the gap with a hole in the exposed tarmac. Discharged crumbs of black asphalt display aged breaks and cracks with the crumbling road.
In the small puddle an entire ecosystem lives; impressive I must say.
Reaching a downed traffic light, I dip underneath the pole and carry on. Finally, I let loose a sigh of relief. Adam trails ahead, climbing over the hood of an abandoned police cruiser. Grim and filth latched to it saturated paint body, I quicken my step, using the wheel arch, I climb up onto the hood and walk across the dinted circumference.
"Adam wait…" I call out. My friend kept hiking.
Each step feels like the hood is going to crumble from under me. The metallic clump when I leaped from the car, frightened me a little. The screeching sound from the metal echoed through the narrow empty streets.
"I'm sorry for what I said. Please, can you stop running away from me, " I begged?
Breaking into a run, my rucksack, swayed with my jog. Adam had stopped walking. He unhitched his bag and dropped it on steps which are at the base of a large building. An odd-looking statue with the engraving of Father Duffy inscribed to the lower base stood erect among the high grass. On each side, a clear trampled path had been made from the constant weathering of foot traffic. Animals are my first thought… humans… not so much.
Behind the statue, lay a series of red toned stairs; either side of the levels, a glass railing. Scorched by fire, smashed by looters and hammered by decay. Unloaded on the surface; twigs children's forgotten toys, leaves, and clothes sat waiting to be collected. They looked lonely, I wonder how many people rested where Adam is seated. Upon approaching, as I began to ascend the steps to the very top where Adam sat. It reminded me of a bleacher. The closer I reached the summit, I realize the stairs are not connected to the building behind.
Glumly, standing over Adam, I undid my rucksack and flopped it on top of Adams belongings.
I sat down on the moss and dirt littered steps. I looked out over the square and sighed. The rustling of the grass complimented the silence.
Sighing, I said, "I'm sorry for what I said…"
Silence. I let my eyes roam on the Father Duffy statue.
Sighing, I say, "I don't know what happened to them… they were there one moment and then gone the next. I never got to say goodbye either. I would have liked to, but I know it's no use begging for it because look where we are."
Silence. Sighing, I squinted my eyes to make out the giant television screens hanging from a building on the far end of the square. I remember passing it; it was an old Walgreens. Dad said people typically came to buy stuff on display and take it home. Funny' I never considered our ancestors were so sophisticated. Hunting for wild game is the common use today.
However, I hate when deer or elk stray off into the lower blocks of Manhattan. The place is a swamp and who said it is fun walking knee deep streets in certain areas. Lower Manhattan can be a dangerous place, especially with submerged sections. Mom once got snagged in the leg by a large chunk of metal that protruded from a car. With the vehicle underwater, we could not see the danger. That would be the reason as to our meeting. Moms leg got infected. Dad and I began to do scavenger runs so that she didn't have to walk and as roughly as we met; Dad and I ducked into cover when we saw Adam and his father scouring the local area. Adam had strayed slightly off the path and from where I hid, he ended up coming to close to me for comfort. Therefore, I jumped out aiming my handgun at him and told him to back away.
"So why did you say you wish you were dead like them," Adam asked.
His tone suggested an apologetic urgency to it. It makes me feel guilty. It's almost as if he is saying to me that he is sorry for what I said.
"Because…" I trailed off.
"Because?" Adam urged.
"I just… there is nobody left. Is it selfish to want to end it all? Nothing will ever be normal again. I miss the simple days when I could just come home from school and watch tv or talk about girls or anything. I just… everyone is dead; everyone but you and me."
Adam remained quiet for a moment and then looked to me.
"The other day…" Adam began.
I tore my attention away from the landscape and to Adam momentarily and then down to my feet.
"The day we were in the university; where did you go. I called you for so long, and you never answered. Did you think about it?"
A tear pushed its way from my tear duct and traced down my cheek. Absently I wiped with the cuff of my jacket.
"I'm… I didn't mean to take so long… I…" I Sighed.
"Yes… it crossed my mind."
Swallowing my freshly accumulated salvia, I did not dare to look up from my shoes.
Adam shrugged, "you don't just get to leave me… I'm alone too. If you do that, then I'd want to go too."
There it is again, the calm. Natures utensil to drive one crazy if they are prolonged to it for indefinite. Pondering on Adams words I looked back down to the statue. Somehow there is some sense in what he mentions. If anything were to happen to Adam, then I guess I would not want to go on living alone either. If I left him, I'd be leaving behind a lot of unanswered questions and grief. In the days before the collapse, one could reach out and ask for help when they needed it. Enquiring help today is a commodity neither of us possesses.
"I'm hungry," Adam injected.
Following, Adam stood up and picked up his bag and began a skip down the levels. Sighing, I shook my head and plucked up my belongings and sprang down each step after him. Given most places in the city were picked clean when the raiding transpired. The flooding happened so fast after chaos hit if people did try and loot, they had to tread in hip-height water in some places to reach a reward. Higher in others.
South, we walked. Block after block, 7th Avenue stretched onward. Roughly around three and a half miles of what once was, passed; until the boundary line of land and liquid eased in. From continuous visitation, Adam and I built a path of planks between buildings on the scaffolding, fires escapes, and sunken emergency vehicles. Heading off the beaten track, Adam began to climb a fire escape. Not a word had been mentioned since our incident, and although it was not my intention to hurt Adam, I wanted just to be honest. How life honestly feels with all the sadness. That's what it's like. Everything that is left behind: the smell of what once was rotten flesh now long gone makes me sad. The bones of fellow New Yorkers, hidden out of sight when the army tried to clean up.
Securing my rucksack, I grabbed each rung and clambered up. The clanking of Roth iron vibrated with the two of us. I put my bindle down, leaning against the brick. Adam slipped through a broken window on the first floor, and I followed suit. Inside the damp musky, apartment held a somber sadness. We've come through and from this home many times, and it never ceases to leave me. How that fridge in the corner was someone else's; what did they have in it when they were alive. Did they enjoy cooking or did they order out all the time? Little things like the coats hanging from the hook on the back of the apartment door; the forgotten people of yesterday made me sad.
The dusty carpet was trekked many times by myself and Adam. I stopped at a picture and looked at it. The family in the photograph was happy. I miss smiling. I can still feel it, I know I can still make myself laugh or crack up, but there is always a hurdle to jump. An invisible wall to break down. Laugher no longer feels real, it seems forced.
A clangor reverberates from further up the hallways where Adam disappeared. In the days past, Adam typically stopped and waited for me, but he didn't even wait for me. Breaking away from the picture, I march forward into a kid's room. A boy's bedroom to be exact. Posters of Terraria displayed proudly on the wall. Figurines of Disney Infinity 3.0 and before lined a shelve neatly covered in dust. The bed the child slept, left unmade, his wardrobe tore open and clothes taken, dropped on the floor and elsewhere in haste. I would have been around the age of this boy when it all began. Quite young, and utterly clueless. I wonder if he made it, I reflected. Of course, the real solution is he's dead.
Saddened, I ducked out the window onto an ill-lit fire escape and paused. Skimming over the railing into the small alley below all I can see is the murky water. Giving the plank a tug to see if it was still fixed in place. I hop up onto the bridge and cross between the two buildings and onto the next fire escape. I hated this incredibly so. Pursing Adam, I got through another window. Chinking from inside the dwelling said Adam was here. There in the kitchen, Adam rummaged in the cupboards trying to find anything, if it was food then food it shall be.
"Anything," I asked.
It was more in purpose as to smooth over our recent discussion. I don't think I want to die solely. The thought was there, but when I take a step back and realize it. All I have in this world is Adam and him, me.
"No…" he trailed off.
"I wasn't thinking," I heard myself say.
I'd been in a dark place the last couple of weeks, and when I was at the university, I came across the laboratory storeroom. I figured taking some of the chemicals would kill me, and I wouldn't have to be here anymore.
"I don't want to leave you. I just… need time to fix myself."
Adam stopped rummaging, still with his back to me he just lowered his head to the countertop. He'd been searching the cupboards above him.
"Me too," Adam dejected.
Adam closed the cupboards and started for the front door of the apartment which has always been left open.
"I'm going across to the other side," Adam said.
Giving him a nod, I decided to give him a little space. Being in constant close proximity can drive people mad. I guess after a while we got quiet and only talked to each other when it is necessary. We've run out of things to say, and I think after a while we'll run out of food too.
Sauntering over to the kitchen area where Adam had been standing moments before. I subconsciously picked through the presses he'd look in and to all no avail. Disheartened about everything, in general, I kicked at the kickboard under the counter, and it collapsed inward hitting something; smashing something.
Glancing down I dropped down to my hands and peered under the counter. Reaching into my combats, I fingered out my torch and clicked it on. Food. My eyes widened. It looked like pickles and some dried preservatives like pasta. Reaching under, I swiped out as much as I could without getting cut by the broken glass. I couldn't believe it. What are the chances something like this would happen to us? Looking at the best by date, I noticed most of the foods didn't have them or if they did, they were well off into the future. The food seemed untouched.
Loading up my backpack as much as I could, I pulled back up the kickboard to hide it. It became a force of habit. In order to carry the rest, I need to get Adam.
Clicking off my flashlight, I pulled my rucksack back on and started out the apartment door. Down by several open entrances to a large terrace. A community garden of sorts for the people who used to live in the building. Pacing across the terrain, I came to a stop at the brick rail. Clambering up onto the board, I walked down the decline, holding onto a piece of rope we had stretched across the street as support. Below the plank, on the road, lay a river. All I can see is the tops of trees and trucks. Across the far side, a hole in the façade of the building is where Adam ought to be.
Calling out, "Adam I found some food…"
I carried onward with a joy in my heart that hadn't been there before I'd found the food. We were going to live after all. I can sense it already. The hunger in my stomach. The smile on Adams' face.
"Adam…" I called out again.
Reaching the center point in our contraption, I stepped onto the roof of an ambulance. Lifting each leg careful over the siren lights. I took hold of the rope for the last leg of the journey and knelt down. Starting out onto the slight incline, I look forward to telling Adam what I found.
The second part of crossing the flooded fissure is a ladder. Ideally not my first choice of crossing but it was all we could find. It's okay once you take it slow. Holding the rails of the ladder. I crawled across on my hands and knees. I'm getting a little wobbly I hear myself saying. Peering down between the rungs; water is all I can see. The water level is quite high I affirm. My knees hurt from each bar of the ladder. Trying to speed up, I felt myself sway ever so slightly, I reached up for the rope, and then I was gone. My heart sunk, and I knew I was going to get soaked. I straightened out my leg, and before I knew it something hurt all of a sudden. My leg strained, and I sensed a jolt. The whole ladder had flipped over on the ambulance and the landing opposite.
Swoosh, water plunged up around my head, and suddenly I was wet, cold and miserable. I instinctively closed my eyes as I hit the water, but the moment I realized I wasn't falling further, but in fact dangling they shot open. The water crackled in my ears, I was stuck. I tried jingling my leg lose, but it was too far wedged between the rungs.
Flaying my arms, I clapped at the dirty water. My head dipped beneath the surface. I heard the clopping. In a panic I gasped for air; I fought hard against the water, trying to pull myself up. No matter how hard I drove upward, I reached a second or two before my head fell back into the water. I screamed out: crying.
Coughing erratically from the water going down my throat, I felt like I was burping when you have something fizzy to drink. Only the sensation was continuous, and as I wriggled and tried to unlogged my foot, I started to tire. I can't see anymore, all I can see is white, my hair slopped over my eyes. I hauled my body up out of the water, reached up for the ladder, but the backpack and gravity did the rest, and I clasped back below the waterline. My abs hurt, a million thoughts ran through my mind. 'I'm going to die, I'm going to die, I'm going to die. Stop fucking up, stop fucking up…' I retorted. Out of breath my terror had been reduced to gasps for air and panting.
Reaching for my shoulder, I tried to ditch the bag. Everything hurt. I didn't have the energy to continue. I tried to lift my arms higher and higher. The little voice in my head told to do it, or else I'll die. Yet I couldn't reach up. My abs were too sore to hoist myself up out of the water, and I let myself give up.
Water flooded into my mouth and I heard a gurgling sound. The water rushed into my mouth and down my throat. I tried not breathing, but I seemed to have forgotten what to do. Then a scraping sound came, and something hit me from above. I no longer had a problem staying above water. I completely felt immerged. The fight I felt was gone. Is this what heaven feels like, I found myself thinking. Then another clop hit the water.
Bubbles so many bubbles I reckoned. Dark so very dark.
Then an all too familiar feeling embraced me. Drudged upward, I breached the surface, slime dribbled down my face in large transparent veins. Something held onto me. It splashed and sobbed; groaned even. A coolness hit my face, I somehow knew I was above water, then I came to, I started coughing, wheezing. Like sick, water gushed into my mouth, and I threw up the water. The back of my throat hurt; my tonsils felt raw from all the distress I took out on them.
I came too, I saw that I was in the water. I didn't panic. Instead, I seemed confused. Where was I; how did I get here I found myself wondering. Then it clicked. I tried gaining control of my breathing. I tried swimming.
Looking at what was attached to me, I saw Adam and started sobbing. He had jumped in to save. Adam dragged me to the edge of the ambulance and used the hood of the vehicle to push me up onto the roof of the car. A moment later he pulled himself up on the clearing. I sat up and took off my rucksack and tossed it aside. Flopping down on the far side of the siren, Adam did the same on the other.
Silence, that was all that could be heard. I almost died I contemplated. I closed my eyes for a moment; trying to relax. I'd stopped coughing. It had been reduced to panting as I tried to get some oxygen into my lungs. Adam could be heard erratically breathing on the far side. Opening my eyes, I glanced up at the cloudy sky. The cold soaking through my wet clothes, I swallowed. Followed by a shiver. My throat a little dry, and my eyes heavy in my head.
"I don't want to die anymore," I said quietly.
Adam began to chuckle.
"I didn't know I needed to go the bathroom," Adam chided.
I chuckled. I panted, looking up at the sky. Figuring the spot on which I lay was a nice place to rest.
"Guess what…?" I murmured.
"What?" Adam asked as he shivered.
Turning my head to him; the siren was obstructing my view. However, I could make out the top of his head. His damp clumped hair sat unevenly on the crown of his head. He shifted his head; one of his eyes squinted from the bright sky. Adam opened his two lively brown eyes and peered at me.
"Pasta is for dinner tonight," I said with a rattle from the cold.
"What… Where did you get it?" Adam asked; moving his hands to cover his torso.
"Under the kitchen in the last place," I teased.
Adam cracked up, turned his head to the sky and started coughing and laughing.
"Not without the lighter we ain't," Adam said with a rattle to his voice.
Leaning up on an elbow he peered across over to me. I sat up and looked to him, then looked across at the hole in the building. Laying in the center of the breach, Adam put his rucksack. In that rucksack, the lighter. I dropped my head back to the roof of the ambulance and began to chuckle. Adam followed suit, he chuckled too.
We rested for a couple of minutes and figured how to get back over to his belongings.
Dredging the riverbed for a ladder was on priority. Although dinner that night was fabulous.
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