By Alexia Tzortzis, TIWP Student
There are things you knew you would miss when the end of the world came. Things like ready-made food. Electricity and Social Networking. Human interaction. You knew you would miss these things, but you underestimated just how much you would miss her.
She was the girl you had been crushing on since the 6th grade. She wore peach sundresses and yellow bandannas in her hair. She carried around a bag filled with a notebook and fresh fruit, and always had a sprig of some flower in her hair or peaking out of her boots. She was the one who sat next to you at lunch when everyone else made fun of your scrappy jeans and dust covered boots. She brought you fresh strawberries in the spring and hot chocolate in winter. She sat with you in the shade of a big oak tree when you took a break from working the farm. She was the one who taught you how to play the cloud game, and the one who took you down to the creek on hot days. She was the one person who cared. And now you don’t know if she’s alive.
When the end of the world came, it came in the form of a rain storm. Three storms, and civilization as we know it was wiped from the face of the earth.
Those of us left formed small communities scattered across the globe in order to survive the aftermath of the storms. We all had lost someone in the storms, and some of us never got over it. The deaths of our families, our friends, the majority of our communities and towns nearly crushed us. But we survived. At least until the second wave came.
An acid rain that poured for three days and three nights came as our second reckoning. Almost nothing was left. Out of the original 80 that had survived the first storms, only 10 of us were left.
I chose to leave the town, with my farmstead and life having been destroyed in the second wave, there was nothing left.
I walked the overgrown roads leading out of town, stopping at abandoned houses and ranches for rest. This carried on for weeks, months, walking and scavenging for food, until I came upon the cherry farm.
Despite the decades of neglect this house has been through, it stands tall and proud. Vines of wisteria and jasmine climb the walls like armor, and the old rocking chair still stands guard on the porch. The orchard out front still grows strong, producing more fruit than the mutated birds can eat.
Inside, the house is quaint. Old wood railings line the oak steps, and cast iron pots and pans still hang on hooks in the kitchen. A large root cellar holds hundreds old mason jars filled with canned fruit and preserves. The upstairs hold two bedrooms and a bathroom, the water in the faucets still run, presumably from a private well and solar panels. The bedrooms are clean and tidy, the beds still made and small closets hold clothes neglected on hangers and hooks.
This is impossible.
Nothing could have lasted against both waves of rain and come out this pristine and untouched. Not without outside help.
That’s when I hear the footsteps behind me.
And there she is, a flowing sundress dancing around her knees, her signature yellow bandanna tied in her hair—and a loaded shotgun pointed at my chest.
Everything about her looks the same, the way her cheeks blush in the summer heat, the way one strand of hair falls stubbornly in front of her face, the smattering of freckles along her nose. But the hard steel of her eyes is new. And the way her small lips press against each other is new. The lines of worry on her face and the callouses on her hands are new. But I guess we all had to change when the rain came.
You. The word barely falls out of your mouth, the sound nothing but a sigh on the wind. You can see the second she recognizes you. Her eyes widen a fraction her hands wobble slightly.
Impossible. She whispers back, her arms slowly lowering the gun in her shaking hands.
I thought you were dead. Is all she says. You just smile shyly,
I guess I’m hard to kill?
A quiet laugh comes out of her mouth, and she drops the gun and runs to you. You scoop her up in your arms and hold her close, your head buried in her hair and her’s in your neck.
She smells like peaches. Even after all this time, she still smells like peaches.
Slowly she pulls back and you brush that stubborn piece of hair out of her eyes, the same way you did back in 9th grade.
Tell me everything. You whisper to her
She sits at the small kitchen table, her hands clutched around a ceramic mug, the scent of fresh jasmine tea filling the room. You lean against the sink, watching her.
I don’t know how I survived the first wave, she begins. My gut was screaming at me to stay inside, and it’s never been wrong before, so I followed it. I stayed inside until the last storm had passed, and by that time I knew that things in the world were changing. When that last storm passed I looked for you, but you were gone, and so was the rest of the town. I started wandering then, looking for you, looking for my brother, looking for anyone I knew. Looking for something that made me feel less alone. She glances down at her tea. I found a small town. It wasn’t far from here, maybe a 30 minute walk there and back, 10, with a horse. I lived in the abandoned manor ten minutes down the road at the start, but when the second wave of rain came, the town disbanded, and the man in this house left to chase after another girl. One who made him cherry tarts and left notes. It made me think of you. She smiles shyly for a second. I moved in not long after, and have been here ever since. But it wasn’t a month until you showed up, she glances down at my boots, then my jeans. Dirt on your jeans and dragging mud through the house, same as always. She locks eyes with me. What happened to you.
You take a deep breath.
Well, when the first wave of rain hit, I knew it was coming, because my sister was the one who created it.