By Maxine Pollock, TIWP Student
Someone coughs behind me and I shudder, burying my face further into my jacket.
I need to get out of here, I think, and my pace quickens. My black combat boots strike the unforgiving pavement as I move away from civilization. The atmosphere wraps itself around my throat like a boa constrictor and it becomes harder to breathe. I need to hurry. I rush past the closed stores, past the people hacking at my feet, and away from the rust colored air, plagued from disease and who knows what else. I gasp for a breath and know I don’t have much time. Then, through the black mist I see it. The one thing that will save me. I clutch my throat, dark spots entering the sides of my vision.
As I speed past an alleyway, there are two men fighting over something. Their clothes are torn, revealing their protruding ribs underneath. Even from a distance, I can tell they are barely breathing. Their bony chests hardly move as they pull on the one thing in between them. As I look closer I realize what it is. A mask. It is as tattered as the men but probably worth hundreds. The men tug and tug and the SNAP! The mask tears in two and both men fall to the ground. Their chests stop moving. I avert my eyes and hurry on.
Finally, the pavement underneath me fades to dirt with patches of dead grass. I start to feel dizzy. The dirt crumbles into sand. I can smell it now. I summon every ounce of energy I have left to cross the last distance. My legs start to buckle as I peel off my boots and my socks with them. They clatter as they hit the sand. My thick parka cascades off my shoulders. Suddenly, the lack of air is too much. I fall to my knees and clutch my sides as my world starts to turn black.
Water laps at my legs and I raise my head. I reach out a hand to feel it for myself. Slowly, I make my way forward, practically crawling on the sand. The water moves up to my elbows and I find the strength to stand back up. I continue on through the oily black water with no sun to illuminate it. I sink further and further into the waves. Droplets weave themselves into my hair. I take one last look behind me then dive in.
And the messed up world fades around me and suddenly everything is normal. And suddenly I can breathe. And suddenly I am home.