This story is by Joshua Moniz and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
A waiter had served the food in the classic red and white themed dinner. I was at my first city tournament with my basketball team when the bells rang.
The war ravaged across the world, and the bells were put in place, to warn us of enemy. They had never been rung before but all hell broke loose as our Captain, Liam and the rest of the team bolted outside, aiming for the school bus we took here. We ran into the street, our team squeezed into a tight formation. There were hundreds of people, all running in different directions. A street full of savages, clawing for safety.
A wave of fear filled people rushed our own. Liam and I were pulled away from the team, the force so strong. Further and further away, the team faded away as they headed to the coach bus and we were lost to the chaos. We tried our best to push through but it was pointless. We couldn’t break through. The team disappeared as I fell, the concrete greeting me.
A voice woke me up. It sounded very distant but slowly, my hearing returned as my eyes took time to adjust and the world came into view in blurry pieces. I was on the ground, my back against a brick wall, dumpsters surrounded me with trash littering the alley way. Liam was at my side, shaking my shoulders lightly, calling my name. A grim smile filled his face when he saw my eyes open.
I took a shaky breath, air filling my lungs. My body ached from bruises, my broken skin stinging from where the crowd trampled me. I stood slowly, Liam following suit, his eyes trained on me. I tensed my muscles, flexing each one slowly. “How long was I out?”
He let out a sigh of relief, and ran a hand through his raven hair, his thick dark lashes, blinking away dust. Care filled his voice as he said, “40 minutes, give or take.”
A bell rang in the distance. I turned my head to the street behind me, panic overcoming me, “What are we going to do? We can’t go underground. Hiding in a building won’t help if a bomb is dropped on it. There is nowhere in the city that’s will keep us alive!”
Liam looked at me with a taunt face, “We should head out of the city, maybe we will find something or someone to help us. Either way, we have an hour till it begins and anywhere is better than here.”
We prepared ourselves as best as we could and made our way into the street. No people. No sign of life. No sounds but the bells ringing in the distance. The whole city was trashed. Cars were in wrecks, some flipped, others crashed into stores. We made our way down the street, jogging, through cars and past intersections as we headed north, out of the city. We pressed on, Liam taking the lead while I followed behind.
The sun had blazed above us, sweat sliding down our face. Dehydration hounded us but we pushed on. Ten minutes passed, the city was still deserted and there was no hint of where we could find salvation.
Liam caught me breathing hard and stopped. I waved him off, but he admitted he needed a break too. I assumed he was fine and was only admitting weakness to make me feel better.
We leaned against the hood of a van, breathing in deep and wiping the sweat from our faces. My gaze slid to him as I wondered if he was as anxious as I was. If he was, he hid it well, his face focused on the task at hand, finding a safe spot. I, on the other hand, was wracked with fear, so much so, I turned to him, “Are we going to make it out of here?”
He huffed and looked down the road “I know it’s hard to be optimistic but we will, Damien. We just need to keep moving. Trust me, I’m not dying today or anytime soon. Not a virgin anyway.”
I coughed out a laugh, rolled my eyes and gave him a blank stare, “Your right. We should keep moving.” We continued our jogging pace as he went on about not finding the right person yet. I rolled my eyes again as the corner of my lips twitched upwards.
Eventually our pace slowed and we surveyed our current position. The road came to an end, turning right and left. Left would take us back towards the center of the city and right, was blocked off by a fallen electrical post. My gaze lingered on an apartment building to the left of the pole. I jerked my chin towards the building and Liam nodded and made his was to its side.
We approached the side of the building, the metal of the fire escape gleaming in the sun’s rays. We had decided to use the roof to get our bearings, so the fire escape would be our way up. Liam stopped under the ladder several feet above us and cupped his hand. I stepped into his cupped hand and grabbed his shoulder, one hand reaching upwards. I clasped my hands around the cool metal, dropped my weight onto it. With a click, it fell, shooting to the ground with a clang.
Together, we climbed up the ladder and made our way up the stairs, each flight more exhausting than the last. By the time, we reached the top, my legs were wobbling. The sound of stone crunching under our feet filled the silence. Looking out over the city, we watched the sun descend, it’s light illuminating Liam face, his eyes reflecting it in glimmers. My mind opened to the possibility of surviving this as I saw the distance we had covered in such a short time and the little bit of distance we still had to cover before exiting the city.
A gasp erupted from Liam as he pointed towards the horizon and stepped back. Pure terror filled his face. I followed his gaze towards a small blot. Several small blots. Planes. Bombers. My heart dropped to my stomach.
The following moments were a blur as we reached the next set of stairs, a couple buildings down and then sprinted through the empty streets, our lungs burning. Running faster and faster. The sound of the planes got closer. We pumped our arms, willing our legs to move faster. We were out of time.
The ground shook as the first bombs were dropped, the sound was a roar in our ears. We both stumbled, trying to find our footing as our legs gave out. The world was spinning and balance evaded me, as I fell, stars bursting in my vision. Disorientation struck hard as the world tilted. I felt a hand on my shoulders, hauling me to my feet. I heard something about a garage and saw his finger point to a building to the right. I understood enough and nodded.
Liam got to the door first, fumbling to get a grip on the handle. It was stuck. The door was jammed. I lunged for it, throwing all my weight into the door. Nothing. He joined. Nothing. We slammed into it again. A little movement. Again. We slammed into it again, putting all our force into it. It blasted open. We threw ourselves through the doorway, into the building, slamming it shut behind us. The third round of bombs exploded, the heat so close to us. We moved for the stairs, our bodies shaking.
Each step was excruciating, my legs giving away after each bomb exploded. The garage shook to its foundation and the stairs cracked apart. My feet came out from under me and I tumbled down the last two flights of stairs, my body slamming into concrete. The world spun and my body shut down. I couldn’t take anymore as I faded in and out of consciousness. I was dragged to the closest wall, Liam slamming us into the wall. The garage shook and I waited for it to fall on our heads. All we could, all we did do was hold each other tightly, our eyes squeezed shut as the world shook.
I muttered a prayer and whispered, “May we meet again”. Concrete rained down on us as dust filled the air and the world went dark.
I awoke to silence, pain searing all over my body, my head pounding. There was concrete everywhere, dust coating my lungs. I coughed, desperate for clean air but that faded as my attention shot to the cool hand I had in my own. I whipped my head to Liam, his chest rising and falling in uneven breaths. I fell back against the wall, my head resting on his own. He was alive. We were alive.