Post-Apocalyptic

The Bystander

By

This book will launch on Apr 14, 2020. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒
Synopsis

Time stops for the World and the people. Pride triumphs and humanity suffers through the War of the Beginning.

The environment left behind is apocalyptic, dangerous, otherworldly. Colonies are born from the ashes, and they are called "Villages." The religion of Time is created. Ideas unequal in the eyes of some and ideal for others. Racism dominates again. People who call for help end up being attacked.

Civil War lead humanity to near extinction.

In an unspecified continuum, a group of survivors are preparing to take a long journey to a place where they can live as they used to.

Unspecified continuum

Two green eyes encountered the environment once more. The landscape seemed dark, and the room's white ceiling was the first thing they saw in their new world. A half-broken window, one of the few the chamber had, let light through, while a prolonged sound was breaking the barrier of silence, and brought the sense of consciousness to the green eyes.

"Who am I? Where am I?" were among the first points of reference of his mind. The only certain thing was that he was laying on a bed and wearing a blue robe, like one of those given to hospital patients. His muscled arms bore puncture points, maybe due to the intravenous treatment he was given, with proof of this conclusion tossed on the floor.

On a first look, he realized that he was in a hospital or a clinic. The chamber in which he seemed to be hospitalized looked abandoned, with markings of that obvious to its whole length. The faded and scratched walls, dust floating like a tiny snowfall, spiderwebs filling the room like police tape, photocopies and folders thrown on the floor, were all signs that led him to believe that he was alone in the chamber. However, that was something contradicted by the presence of three other patients.

The sense of loneliness seemed to end, replaced by that of a search. "Who could he be? How did he come to be here?" he wondered, since he could remember nothing about himself; not his name, nor his job, nor whether he had a family.

He stood up from the bed, but for a moment he seemed to lose his balance. His immobility of uncertain duration showed its signs in each of his steps, but he soon found his footing, something that allowed him to reach the other patients.

The three men that he saw were intubated, in a condition strongly resembling a coma. The first thought through his mind contained negativism for the patients' present condition, since if they were indeed in a coma, then he should also be in one. "They're just unconscious," he thought, observing on the same time a sign that reinforced that opinion, the fact that the life support machines in the chamber were not receiving any power.

He decided to stop wondering and he "visited" the three men at their beds. His attempts to wake them were in vain, since no matter how hard he shook them, they remained serene. "They're dead," he shouted, sad, and loneliness filled him once more.

There were some clothes on a chair near the bed he woke up in. He didn't know if they were his own, but on a first look, they seemed to fit him. Without wasting any more time, he removed his robe and let the nakedness that he sometimes covered come out. After feeling a sense of freedom first, offered by the riddance of the robe, he wore the clothes he had found. A black pair of trousers, with a simple dark grey short-sleeved T-shirt, as well as a pair of brown boots.

Moments before leaving the chamber, a thought came to him, the solution to the question, "Who was he?" He thought that all the patients' beds had a folder hanging on their front. So, he went back to see his own, but to his great surprise, his folder seemed to be tossed on the floor along with those of the other patients.

Anxiety clear in his face, and unable to do anything else, he began looking through the folders one by one. The first he grabbed in his hands bore the name "Noah Harris," and elsewhere, with small letters, it read that he fell from a great height. He instantly checked his feet that were standing strong on the ground, "No way," he thought.

The second and third folder lied closer to his bed. One of them bore the name "Qiu Heng," something that surprised him for a moment and made him hurriedly seek out a mirror to see his own reflection. His thoughts were quickly unstuck and realized that he didn't need to go through all that process, so he raised his eyes and saw that one of the three patients was Asian.

 The next folder bore the name of "John McKinnon" and the reason for his hospitalization was some sort of explosion. "There's no way I'm this one," he exclaimed, "It looks too dangerous for me." But the truth was that he didn't know who he really was, he couldn't know if it was indeed dangerous for him or not. So, he raised his eyes again, and observed as well as he could the other two patients. They all looked intact, like himself. 

Without able to reach a conclusion, he decided to read the last folder as well, which was the one tossed the closest to his bed. "Name: Jaydon Wolden, Reason for hospitalization: Car crash." Having read everything, none of the names seemed to remind him of anything, even just to slightly feel like he has rediscovered his identity. His logic, though, seemed to point that the name he used to go by was the last one, which was also on the folder closet to his bed. "Jaydon Wolden. At least I have a name with which to introduce myself," he thought, and adopted that identity.

He walked through the hospital's hallways where everything seemed empty, with no signs of life.

"Is there someone here?" he shouted in a hopeless attempt to hear life's sounds, but the only sounds he heard were that of his own voice.

Jaydon knew nothing of his past, he walked only in the future, and the future he saw before him reminded him of an asylum of a bygone century, instead of a modern hospital. He had to leave that place, it made him sad and created many questions that seemed to have no answer. Loneliness was a sign of abandonment, and someone had abandoned him here.

His lips were dehydrated, dry, only water could satisfy the thirst of his draught-stricken throat. He started searching through the floor for any forgotten water bottles, but he was out of luck, "There must be something, somewhere," he thought. He saw on a diagram on the wall that he was in the second floor, while an icon on the ground floor's diagram showed that there was a shop available.

A door to his left had the exit indicator light, and it led to the staircase. He quickly descended and entered the area of the ground floor.

"Is there someone here?" he shouted again.

The deafening silence destroyed his emotional state once more.

Unable to do anything else, he focused on searching for the shop, and as he advanced, a half-fallen sign held by a wire showed that it would be further along the hallway. He followed it and found a large room.

The shop, as the sign had correctly showed, still existed, but the landscape he had been seeing had not changed at all, it was still an eerie place, far from any type of human care.

He approached it and saw that many edible items (potato chips, croissants, and other chocolate products) were scattered on the floor. Jaydon's stomach shook, emitting a long, high-pitched sound, "Hunger can't be hidden," he thought, and wondered how long ago he last ate.

One croissant of the many that were on the floor came to be in his hands, and after opening the packaging, he ate it in four bites. The sense of hunger was not sated yet, it demanded more food from him. So, another came to be in his hands, and then one more.

He didn't throw the last croissant's packaging away like the others, he kept it and looked for the expiration date. "Best before: 12/2018". "Maybe it's expired?" he wondered, but then thought that he couldn't know that, since today's exact date was completely unknown to him.

He tried to locate a source of water through the shop's front opening, where a customer would buy something. A fridge filled with soft drinks and water bottles seemed heaven-sent, bathed in golden light, and in Jaydon's eyes it felt like divine intervention. 

He tried to climb the little base on the shop's window, placing his arms on it and pushing, to give the rest of his body the required impetus. After he managed to place his left foot on the counter, he moved back and forth, and then passed through the opening with a tumble.

The fridge stood tall before him. His dried lips, in the very idea of water's texture, pushed Jaydon to forcefully open the fridge and grab a bottle. He opened it quickly and gulped its contents down in huge mouthfuls. In his yearning to down the water as fast as possible, it overflowed from his mouth, and everything that spilt over, run down his chin and landed in a small waterfall on his shirt.

When he finished, he let out a satisfied exclamation, and wiped his mouth with the back of his palm. He took another bottle in his hands in case he was thirsty again, and the moment he was preparing to leave the shop the same way he invaded it, he saw that there was a door in the corner, behind him. He pulled the handle downwards and the door opened. It was the entrance. He felt stupid, his own mind having betrayed him, but he smiled awkwardly letting the unfortunate event pass him by.

The exit door was on the ground floor, so it didn't take him long to find it. When he opened it, a blinding light covered his eyes, making it hard to see. He placed his hand over his eyes, shading them, and tried to see around him. Everything was so bright that the only thing he could see was the outline of everything around him.

Under his hand's shade, he walked along an imagined road made by dirt on grass. A few moments later, his eyes got accustomed, and then he saw what he feared. An endless loneliness pouring over the landscape and a cloud of silence covering it.

The image of the hospital seemed transported on the outer World as well. The roads were empty and surrounded by abandoned cars—some crashed against each other—and various types of motorcycles lying on the road, or even on the edge of the sidewalks.

The human sign was missing, only humanity's scattered works lied about, like a painter's signature showing in the artist's creations.

The road was wide, he seemed to be in an avenue or a very central road. He could still see the hospital, he hadn't gone too far yet. Left and right stood some big buildings. "Logically," he thought, "they must belong to local businesses," He followed the road's course and as he went further on, the landscape remained the same, and his bewilderment and sense of loneliness kept growing. He passed a car and hesitated; the windshield outlined a figure, his own. He observed his youthful face, which seemed weathered. He had a rugged handsomeness to him, and his thick but short hair went well with that image. He seemed to be over thirty, and he calculated that he had to be in the early years of that decade.

The reflection he faced relieved him, but a bit later he realized that vanity had invaded his life uninvited. He was facing a contradictory situation, where while he was relieved by what he saw, after thinking about it, it made him want more for himself, not simply being a pretty reflection. He knew that you reached your destination quickly when you had already made a step without needing to move your feet, the hard part was reaching it without additional assistance. Anyway, the result didn't change, since for him, the important thing was how you advanced, not with what.

Before him there was a huge board that bore the incredibly well-known sign of the MacDonald's restaurants. Seeing that, the programmed alarm of his hunger sounded and reminded him of that sensation. This time, he knew that in the shops interior he'd find real food, even if its taste reminded him of a mass of plastic foam. The shutters were closed, "I wish the door is not," he thought and approached it. He observed that someone had broken the glass panel. The door read "Pull", and after he did so, he saw that it was open. Someone had previously opened it, instead of him.

With careful steps, he entered the area. The only light that bathed the area was from a small ceiling window. He approached the counter area, and with each step came the sound of broken glasses. His mind was surprised, its curiosity activated, and the next moment it took autonomous function. His eyes turned to the floor, an action that he regretted a moment later, since the fright and disgust he felt were great. The whole place was swarmed by worms and other insects. One was already climbing his shirt, something that instantly tickled him. The moment he perceived the insect's presence on himself, he made an instant motion, throwing the stowaway away. Panicked, he tried to run to the exit, but the soles of his shoes were slipping on the pus left behind by the killed worms.

 The floor was like an ice-skating ring, and Jaydon was tasked with skating on it without the ice skates. He took two steps, but in trying for the third, he slipped and found himself on the floor, keeping company to the rest of the bugs. They didn't lose any time and started climbing on him. His survival instincts triggered by his fear forced him to stand up in a quick motion, his feet in turn working correctly, so he could reach the exit and pass through. From his own impetus, many insects fell off by themselves, but he swatted those that remained on him away with his hands, panicked, as if he had been set on fire. Those that fell off got to know his shoe sole. During those moments, his vocabulary contained only the most imaginative swear words.

He kept walking, returning to his imagined course. Loneliness spread through everywhere. He couldn't remember if he used to be the lonely type, like those who isolated themselves from the world, but at that moment he needed to hear someone's voice. He felt disoriented, like looking at an unmarked map, but he knew that only communication could guide him in that unmapped World, and that's why he kept looking for it.

A few moments later, while walking, he spotted houses on his right, and decided to turn towards them. The houses were halfway torn down, and judging by the various signs, abandoned for a long time. His disappointment was obvious, but he didn't give up.

He kept walking on the road normally, but this time he decided to shout with all of his strength, "Is there somebody here? Can anyone hear me? I come in peace. I don't want to cause any harm," He waited for a moment each time he shouted, but the reply he received was a loud silence.

Luck brought him to an open landscape with grass, framed by many trees, and a smaller area of simple dirt in exactly the middle, that used to be a Baseball field. The uncut grass made Jaydon's effort to cross the park harder, since it was almost two feet in height.

Halfway across, he could barely see two shadows under a big tree. Jaydon observed them, and with the hope that they could be living humans, he went a little out of the way he was following.

As he approached them, the shadows seemed to form into two human figures, enjoying the shade under the tree's canopy. "Finally, a sign of life," he thought, and shouted to them, waving his hand at the same time. His anticipation to hear a reply, or even just a shout, was great. As he approached the tree and left the tall grass, he came to be on a round flat surface that formed there. The human shadows faced him but weren't moving. Jaydon greeted them, but they remained silent. Dead silence followed, bringing him second thoughts, negative thoughts that he didn't want to believe at that moment. He leaned towards them and his eyes closed by the confirmation they received.

Death had acted, and on its way, the only thing left alive were the shadows of those people. Their torn clothes told of their gender, since their faces had been mutilated by a sharp object. The couple, as he assumed judging by the image he had before him, caused no negative feeling inside of him, instead he felt something familiar in their soulless state. But the bodies brought many questions, and one of them was, "Who could kill those people, and why would he do that?" while the open area he stood on filled his mind with even more questions.

As he was lost in his scattered, uneasy thoughts that tormented him, a strong roar brought him back to reality. A shiver ran down his body. He froze and was instantly afraid from the sound he just heard. Boldness requires first a deep breath, and after Jaydon took it, he decided to turn. First his head, and then the rest of his body.

"The King of the Jungle" was standing right before him. With his huge mane, he showed limitless pride, and with his roar, his dominance. Jaydon "prostrated" before him, lowering his eyes. The fear and awe he felt for the wild animal were as a recognition to his rank. Under safer circumstances, he'd be glad to have the honour to face such an imposing lion this close, but under the current circumstances, what he could do was run far away, like there's no tomorrow, only this moment's present.

His flight begun and what he begged inside his mind was for the lion to remain in his position and not follow him, to let him leave calmly, in peace, but the course his flight finally took reminded Jaydon that we don't always get what we want.

The lion ran behind him, but the only thing he could see for the next few moments was the front. The strength of will he invested in surviving made his heart "break," unable to withstand more running. His exhaustion made him stop and he accepted his fate. He stood, panting, waiting for the lion's sharp claws to bite in his back and give an end to his attempts at survival. "The strongest won," he thought, and closed his eyes, waiting for the unavoidable.

A few moments later, he felt nothing. The lion seemed to have stopped the attack he had unleashed. He had come out as the victor. It may not have been a true "race," but victory was in the air he was breathing. His smile was indescribable, as was his luck. He felt lucky; he realized he had been standing between the lion and his food, the couple he had "met" a few moments before, and he was sure that if those dead bodies hadn't been there, he would have taken their place.

The sun kept burning, he imagined it was noon, even though its position proved it was evening. He didn't pay much attention, for himself there were other things that had higher priorities, like finding someone to explain to him what had happened, where he was, maybe even aid him in regaining his memory through discussion. He felt disoriented, as if he was trapped in a maze and everything around him remained the same.

He noticed a raising grey streak on the sky that looked like smoke. Finally. A dose of hope flowed through his blood, "Wherever there's smoke, there's a fire," he thought, and he knew that fire was a sign of life. Maybe it was his chance to be liberated by the maze of the unknown. He saw that the smoke was coming from a spot in the forest that was before him. "A forest in a city?" he wondered, "Very strange," and he started approaching it.

A huge concrete open area appeared in front of hm. It looked like it used to be a parking lot, since he saw many abandoned cars with faded colours, like someone had been using sandpaper on them for days. He crossed the parking and found huge trees and a great expanse of land surrounded by water, like an island in the middle of nowhere. On his right hand there's was a bridge but he was focused to the area opening before him for a long moment before he turned his attention to it.

The bridge led to the artificial island and as soon as he crossed it, the landscape changed. Though the huge trees appeared an amusement park, and then he realized that he had to be in one of the city's theme parks. Intense fauna had covered a large part of the machines, while the famous carousel looked rooted in the ground and the little horses had taken on a green colour. A rotating ride with little airplanes was not it it's spot, but lied fallen on a kiosk, "These destructive results could only be caused by an earthquake," he thought, but even then, where were the people who would rebuild them from scratch? His head felt close to breaking. The headache that he was beginning to feel was a combination of unending questions that made him suffer, but the main reason was his mind, a mind bombarded by questions, tied to the present, forbidden from travelling to the past, or even the future.

The fire had to be burning still, since the smoke was still visible. He hoped that the discovery he would make at that place would soothe him and lighten his head. He kept on his course and passed by a large round kiosk, with its columns collapsed, and only its green roof still standing. From afar, the kiosk seemed to be wearing something like a green hat, like a sombrero.

As he approached the forest he had seen from afar, the huge trees and the tall grass appeared again, "Somewhere around here must be the fire," he thought. The tall grass made walking difficult, but the rough terrain didn't cow him, and he kept walking until at some point he saw an overhang, which he could clearly make out in the distance.

 When he reached it, he located the source of the smoke, which was burning a bit further away from the overhang—which someone had transformed to a tent—and with a makeshift construction that held a cooking pot over it, there was food cooking. The area here seemed more trimmed, "cleaner," and there was nothing else beyond the tent; whoever lived here, was isolated from everyone else. As Jaydon walked towards the tent, he saw something scattered in the grass that was contrasting with the green, as if it shone because of the sun. He chose to ignore it, since his priority was getting to know the owner of this "complex."

In the little detail that he chose to ignore, was the whole plot of the play that was about to follow. If he had taken even a single look to one of the shining things, he'd face the pieces of a puzzle, not like the ones we know or have in our mind, but a living puzzle that if you managed to connect every piece, the final result would be a person's face. You'd find ears, noses, lips, cheeks, even fingers, that as it seemed, were pieces taken from a different "box" of a new puzzle.

"Is there someone here?" he shouted, and a noise came from the tent.

Jaydon was alert, his eyes glued to the makeshift house's entrance. With everything he'd been through, he wanted to be ready for every possibility.

A man, his skin a few shades to the darker side, came out of the tent. Jaydon stood silent, and just observed him. He seemed dirty, like he hadn't bathed for days. The smile he formed on his face showed rotten teeth, while the weird hat he wore that looked like a pyramid made out of some sort of cloth, or an animal's hide, made him wonder about the image he was seeing.

"Stranger," the man shouted, "Why are you standing out here?"

"I need help," he said, desperate, "I don't know where I am. In what country I live. In what time,"

Jaydon's call for help made the man smile again.

"You seem tired. Come, let's eat first, and then I'll tell you everything as we go,"

Jaydon saw no alternative and his stomach agreed on his decision to accompany the man for dinner.

On first sight, the man that would entertain him seemed kind and polite with him, something that dispelled the fear Jaydon had. He had him sit on a stool that looked borrowed from a shop, since it didn't fit with the rest of the area.

"What's your name, stranger?"

"Jaydon."

"Very good," he said, and stood to bring the food from the fire. "My name is Seraphim, and not to toot my own horn, but I am famous in the area for my stew,"

"I hope so, because I haven't eaten anything in hours."

"Hours?" Seraphim asked, curious.

Jaydon threw him a strange look, "I think so."

Seraphim seemed to change to a slier look when he heard his answer.

"Where are you coming from?"

"I'm from here, but I have a small memory problem,"

Seraphim served two deep bowls in the same time to them. The smell that rose didn't whet the appetite, and its image differed from what a soup should look like, it was thicker and had chunks of meat.

"What kind of soup is this?" Jaydon asked, looking at it sceptically.

"It has meat in it. Eat, you'll like it. It's my special," he said, smiling.

Even though he didn't receive a proper answer, he decided to try it, and brought the spoon to his mouth. His tongue set to work immediately, all the different tastes rose up, and the result was utopian in comparison to what he initially imagined. The smell could easily prevent him from eating, but the taste could lead him to finish it.

The main dish was a thing of the past, the menu would finish up with a dessert made by tasty questions and topped by unexpected answers.

"Where are we?" asked Jaydon.

"In Phoenix, Arizona."

"We're in the United States of America?"

"Former. Now, we're just on a piece of land called America."

"What happened?"

"What does it look like it happened?" Seraphim said, looking a bit irritated, "War happened, like it always does."

"What war?"

"A great war that happened moments ago."

Seraphim was a man of a few words, he seemed to think them through, as if he wanted to hide his whole "sentence." He was an enigmatic man, who seemed to know more than he let on. Jaydon thought that maybe the man that was a stranger to him had suffered though that war, and maybe even talking of it hurt him, or even angered him. He also thought that maybe Seraphim had played a darker role, and that was why he was unwilling to go deeper into it. Was he a deserter? A traitor? A prisoner of war? Condemned to exile? All his thoughts led to the result that he was hiding something.

"Why are you talking about moments?"

"What's wrong with you? Did you just wake from a coma or something?" the man said ironically.

"That's impossible, isn't it?" said Jaydon, awkwardly, "It made an impression to me, because I hadn't heard that before."

"The sun stopped setting in Phoenix many moments ago."

"What exactly do you mean?"

"Time has stopped, stranger,"

Jaydon stared at the man, dumbfounded.

"Don't look at me like that. You'll get used to it. Also, when time passes without you realizing it, then you know you're getting mad."

Maybe he was a madman lost in time? Jaydon didn't know if the phrase Seraphim used was supposed to scare him or make him sad and empathetic for a man whose appearance clearly showed that he had been through a lot.

"What do you mean?" he asked, afraid, "Are there many mad men out there?"

"Not mad, schizophrenic," he replied, and there was something in the man's eyes that sent a strange shiver down Jaydon's spine.

Until Jaydon had decrypted the sentence's meaning, Seraphim, with a lightning-quick motion shoved his hand in his pocket and grabbed the makeshift knife he had made. His motion was made with such ease and spontaneity that showed that this whole process was done mechanically, like his hand knew this motion perfectly by having executed it countless times. The knife's smooth, thin, pointy edge shone under the sun's rays, and its base, covered in tape, looked locked in the man's hand, as if they were one.

Jaydon blinked as if that light blinded him. Seraphim was ready to plunge the knife in his left outer carotid artery, and the craving that had covered his face looked like the one on a hunter's face, the moment his gun shot out the bullet towards his target.

The knife was coming, with strength and determination behind it. Jaydon's perception made the event seem inevitable, like everything had already been decided upon. But in the immense room of his mind, a light turned on. As if someone in the darkness of the night pulled on his lamp's switch and allowed Jaydon a look in his dark past.

 

November 30, 2005

The room was filled with shouts and the sounds of struggle. A mass of stylistically similar people had filled the area. In their majority, they were well-muscled men, but this didn't stop some women from participating in the series of exercises. On first look, the image could be taken from a gym class, that's how close together and synchronized they were. The average age couldn't be over twenty-five, and it seemed as if that was a sort of limit.

The area seemed closed, there were no windows, the only light coming in the room came from the lamps that were placed in such a way as to light every inch of the room. The concrete's grey colour on the walls gave off a dull sense, as if they were miles underneath earth's colourful and warm surface. This exercise seemed serious, since a strong, deep voice covered the area continuously, shouting at the students to correct their mistakes.

"No one forgives a mistake," he shouted, "Not even your god. Make a mistake once, and you'll be making mistakes forever."

The man looked like a war veteran that had managed to leave the battlefield but not the post-war life. He was still carrying the thought of war, and now he was sowing it in the fertile soil of the room, convincing himself that the seed would grow for a good reason.

The iron door opened, and a younger man entered the great room. He wore the same clothes as the rest, a deep blue short-sleeved shirt that bore the three initials C. I. A. in white, a pair of pants in the same colour, and black athletic boots. The trainer saw him and shouted with his deep voice.

"Wolden, pair up with Jones, quickly."

"Yes sir," Jaydon replied, shouting.

They were all separated in pairs, training in close quarters combat. The one of the two would hold a knife and try to attack, while the other would defend, trying to disarm him. Jaydon took a defensive position and faced Jones.

The trainer oversaw them. "Begin," he shouted, giving them the signal.

Jones made a move to charge Jaydon, but he, in his first attempt to parry the attack, failed. He immediately looked at the trainer.

"I'm sorry, sir. I didn't put the necessary strength behind it."

"It's more important to focus," the trainer said, "When your life's in line, you'll find the strength."

 

The lights turned off, but the switch remained on. Jaydon's irises were expanded, his senses sharpened, adrenaline filling his body, his brain functioning lightning-fast, processing information in lightspeed. In the already existing situation, the command was given to apply the defence plan.

With a motion that surprised Seraphim, Jaydon used his arm as a shield and stopped the knife's trajectory, grabbing and squeezing the man's hand. Seraphim, seeing the unexpected for him development, seemed lost, his calculations turning up wrong, since he had never seen resistance from the food he hunted. Up to that moment, his only problem had been cooking it. Who would imagine it? He had to fight for his own life, a life he had never thought that he could lose, even though he had been completely alone out there for all those moments. The will to live that Jaydon's eyes projected made Seraphim reconsider his beliefs. The fire that used to burn inside him had been extinguished a long time ago, and that very moment made him realize that. The wick had melted off, but he couldn't remain idle, he couldn't not fight for his motivating power, for the treasure that contained life's loot.

Seraphim saw Jaydon forcefully take the knife with his right hand from his own, and with a hate that he had never seen on a person's face before, he prepared to take his material form, since he had long ago driven away the soul that used to be housed in his interior to be the monster he had become. He closed his eyes, waiting patiently for his defeat. The knife was shoved so forcefully in his carotid artery that the blood spluttered like a fountain and drops fell on the floor like rain. Jaydon's arm was covered by the red "water." Seraphim fell on the ground. Jaydon stood and stared at him coldly, his face calm, as if he felt no regret for his actions. As if he had a stuffed toy or an unimportant bug before him, something he had just squished with his foot.

His first thought wasn't to leave the crime scene but to get rid of the corpse, since he couldn't leave it there. The fire that had cooked their food had been extinguished, so he gathered as many logs as he could to relight it. As soon as the fire was going again, he grabbed the lifeless body feet-first, and dragged it there. After he raised it on his back, using his arms, he threw it in the fire, which instantly grew bigger. Looking at the fire, he was filled with questions. Who really was that man? Was he a cold-blooded killer? Did he feel no remorse in taking a human life? Had he obeyed, unconsciously, to the law of the jungle, to the survival of the fiercest? Or had someone stolen the sense of remorse from him? Tortured by all those questions, he stood to observe his almost killer burn and turn to dust.

He still had the stains of his survival on his arm. Jaydon wanted to cast them off from himself and searched around the tent for something to use for that purpose. He discovered a bucket filled with water, and without thinking, plunged his arm inside. The water was warm by the place's ever-shining sun. He started rubbing and scratching the dried blood forcefully, trying to remove it from his skin, the bucket's surface slowly filling with the colour of war. The reflection on the water showed a face unknown to him, that of a stranger that he met for the first time. Coldness had covered his eyes, and whoever was on the bucket's mirror, was surely a thing of the past, a past that the deeper he swam in its depths, the more afraid he was to release it in the surface of the present, "Maybe, in the end, amnesia is a gift, a second chance at life," he thought and shook his head, since what he needed to think about was how to go on from this point. He remembered Seraphim mentioning that there were other people in Phoenix, but the area was completely unknown to him, so he had to discover them advancing blindly. Habit is something that's known, and for him, the unknown had become a habit.

Before abandoning the place he was in, he decided to search the tent, hoping to find something useful for the hardships ahead. The tent's interior was disorganized, and it seemed like a miniature of the person that had once lived there. There were soft drink cans thrown on the ground, and a rudimentary mattress was placed on the tent's edge, its sheets tied into knots, covered in dirty patches. He didn't know what kind of dreams he could have on that mattress, living in an atmosphere infected by an endless void and an insipid abyss without purpose and hope. When reality is a nightmare, only sleep could bring the dream.

Somewhere in the pile of garbage, there was a backpack. He approached it, opened its zipper and realized it was empty. He wasn't discouraged, though, since what was important for him was that he had found a storage space. When he tried to find something actually useful to carry in his backpack, he realized that the only thing that seemed good enough to carry with him was the murder weapon, Seraphim's knife, and he "saved" it in his pocket.

After putting his backpack on, he took a deep breath, and with the sun burning his face, he took a step towards his future present.

About the author

Maybe you know me, maybe you don’t. Maybe I’m a famous writer, maybe I’m an unknown dreamer. view profile

Published on March 11, 2020

200000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

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