The bitter cold slices through the trees, landing within men’s hearts. Is it merely the winter breeze, or a cold that remains past winter months? I know the Lord speaks about men’s hearts growing cold, but I never imagined it like this. You remember the church opening their arms to us when we were homeless, right? I miss that. As I walk down this jagged landscape, I see an abandoned town. There has been a vast line of abandoned towns; it was hard to tell one from another as each village had lost their individuality and morphed into the collectiveness of decay brought by the looting and desecration of the war. The world we knew is gone. My eyes survey the empty darkness where did all the color go? The way the world has changed…was it the fault of the warmongers, or simply us, accepting the degeneration of our society? Did our silence, our selfishness, cause this bleak existence? None of us ever imagined our world could become this. Men living as moles and cockroaches, it’s insane, we once lived in luxury. Sure, our family was poor, and I had to join the military to make money, but we ate together and loved one another. Where had it all gone?
I quietly approach the town and notice a broken fence to go through. In case there are beasts, I fall down to the ground, crawling like a cockroach hiding from the light. Slipping under broken fence then to concrete rubble, I slowly make it into town. What is this mound of rubble, maybe a lookout? Well, it was definitely targeted, since all that’s left of whatever it was, is now only a heap of debris. Looking out to the town, it seems fairly large with several side streets and houses. How many men lived here…? Could you ever imagine owning one of these houses? Don’t get me wrong I thank God for what we had, but if we had a different life, maybe you would still… As my mind trails off, I slowly stand up and walk down a dusty street. The bent sign to my right is on the ground faded, but the letter m remains. Must be Main street, I mumble to myself.
In the distance, I see a small square building, being different than the houses around it. Approaching the building, it has a 7-eleven logo wrapped around the building, with some parts of the logo gone leaving jagged edges in its place. Still, the walls of the store stand proudly. The giant glass windows have been broken, and the glass door has been torn off. As I peer in, I see parts of the ceiling ripped apart and caved in. You know, this store reminds me of the 7-eleven we use to visit in the city, it was so small compared to the skyscrapers. Yet to me, it held more character than any building just made to be tall. At least everyone chilling out there would say hi. When we went to those business buildings, the people would always hold their noses up at us and look at us through narrowed eyes as though the sheer appearance of our poverty was too harsh for them. It makes me laugh, remembering how the hierarchy of society spat upon us. Hmm.
Oh, do you think I should go through the front door? It is wide open. Nah, people might hear me, or possibly one of those creature. The broken window seems good enough. I slowly creep through the window, making extra sure not to cut myself on the broken glass, or worse, make noise. I finally make it through only to step on glass, the crunch of the glass under my boots would only be but a peep in a bustling city. However, in this wasteland, it was a scream.
Standing motionless, I rip my head every which way. Good nothing in sight, I’m safe. Jumping to the side to get away from the glass, I walk through the building. All the shelves in the store have been picked clean. Heck, they must have licked the crumbs off as well. As I walk to the back of the store rummaging around, a drop of water hits my head from the broken ceiling. The cold breeze from earlier picks up through the broken windows, coasting past my ears.
I just hope that a storm doesn’t pick up, the storms nowadays shred everything to pieces. Ever since the weather bombs were created, the weather has only gotten worse. Cataclysmic storms with hurricane winds tearing a roof right off, and hail that crushes right through sheet metal. You have always been clever, so I am sure you figured away to avoid them. What were you doing when I was overseas? When I came back home, I couldn’t find you; I only found silence and solitude. Our neighbors were even gone. I shake my head; You’re alive. So, I need to survive, first off bunker.
With a new focus, I rush out of the hole where the front door should have been. Where would a bunker be? Jogging down the street I catch what looks like an old city hall. I stop in my tracks to gaze at the strong redbrick building. It stands in defiance against the test of time, as vines seek to bring down this man-made structure. The greenery has managed to get into some parts of the brick, causing holes and decay. However, trying to eat away such a heavily built structure will take the vines decades to bring it down. A set of rusty metal stairs lead under the building. A sign is on the plated steel basement door saying.
“N C R S.” It looks just like the other bunkers I have found in cities. Taking a mental note of its location, I press on for supplies.
The front of the building has concrete steps towards the rotting double wooden doors. I walk up the concrete steps with missing handrails. Feeling comfortable knowing I found a bunker; I push against the wooden door…no budge. I step back and slam into the door with my shoulder, nothing.
I place down my waxed canvas backpack and pull out a hatchet. My backpack is a thick canvas material that I found in a guide shack; it was well preserved at the time it was found. However, I have made it mine by black charcoal coating that came from when I almost burned the whole thing, sleeping next to a fire. Slashes can be found throughout it from going under barbed wire and broken structures. However, the hatchet is in pretty good condition, having a hickory handle and an old steelhead. The hickory handle I found at a woodshop, it has turned gray with age, but remains steadfast. The ax head I found, abandoned while walking through a forest, it was all rusty, but no major pitting. I tried to clean off the rust, with rocks the best I could, and sharpened it. Then I just oil it every time I find motor oil left in a car. I grab the hatchet in a good position to start chopping and pull back, winding the weight of the ax. The steel glides through an arc to make an impact in the rotten wood. The first cut did almost nothing. The ax just sank through. I make a second cut and a third and fourth and a fifth until I lose count. My arms started to ache, and my breathing grew louder, warning me I am doing too much. Catching my breath, I stop to look at the door. The door has a gaping hole that would cause the weight of the door to fall onto itself. Placing my ax down, I slam my weight into the door causing it to fall straight through the entrance, making a loud crash with the weight of water and termites running out of it. I shrug it off since this place has no one. The hatchet is placed gently away in my bag which I sling over my shoulders and then head inside.
The wooden floors are warped with water damage; I start to walk inside, creaking my way to a staircase. Looking up the broken staircase, something moves out of my line of sight. My heart skips a beat. What was that? Crouching down and I take my handgun out of its holster. Only have five rounds left, dang it, that ain’t much. Oh Lord, please help me. My chest feels heavier for some reason, as I start to hear my own breath. Fear spreads throughout my body as a poison in my veins. Stay calm, stay calm, I remind myself; trust the Lord, trust the Lord, I grab my cross in one hand for comfort, and the other shaky hand holds the gun. The fear starts to leave, as my body relaxes. With two hands on the gun, I slowly walk up the steps, skipping the broken ones. The top of the staircase introduces me to a narrow hallway.
Why do these walls have to be here? The narrow hallways always make everything more difficult; someone might be behind any of these doors. Do you think this could be an old office complex? I better check every room. Most of the doors are broken off, so I peer into the rooms, left and right. Nope, nothing, nothing, nothing! I guess it must have been nothing but my imagination. I slowly turn around only to see what I can call an abomination. The creature screeches, using its arm to bring me up in the air and slam me down to the ground, forcing all the air left in my lungs out. These creatures were created for war and have survived better than us humans. Stupid, warmongering elites thought it would be great idea to mix humans and animals only to create these chimera type hybrids. Yea, great plan until it acts more like animal than man and can’t decipher friend and foe.
The creatures lowers towards me, sniffing to see if I am alive, but I remain on the ground with my eyes close in hopes it leaves me alone. I can’t help but remember the time I saw one of the chimera’s eat the head off it’s “keeper.” I pray to God that doesn’t happen. The monster clasps its fist together forming a boulder and slams down on my head. My face smashes on the wooden floor, becoming bruised up as it slams me a second time. I can feel the blood rush to my now open wound. I am forced to mentally stop my arms from grabbing the wound. I clench my jaws hoping this will change the focus, however, the pain only seems to become stronger traveling throughout my skull to my brain, causing a piercing headache. I can feel every heartbeat, as it travels to the pain. This thing just double-tapped me; there must be some gray matter between that animal’s thick skull. The abomination grabs my arms and starts to drag me, my skin burning as it is sanded off by the broken debris. Where is it carrying me? I have to remain still, please, oh Lord, save me, God, please, I beg of you give me a way of escape. A cold breeze brushes my skin.
Opening one eye for a second, I see I am being carried across the road, towards a forest. My eye closes quickly as the creature glances over its shoulder. I can tell I am off the road once sticks start to stab into me as I am dragged across the forest floor. The creature pauses then throws me at a tree; my side takes the blunt of the hit. Which I can only bite my tongue to stop my screams. I squint one of my eyes open as I notice the creature checking its perimeter, the human brain only helps it become more carnal. Rolling to a better position, I reach down to my boot for my knife and slowly unsheathe the blade. Good, it didn’t hear, Praise You, Lord. I bring my knife into my sleeve, as I lie and wait. The creature comes back… I wait. Footsteps get closer… I wait.
Hearing heavy breathing, I sense its presence near my face. Opening one eye at a time, I am introduced to my nightmare. The monster’s mouth is wide open, with four splits going each way. I grimace in horror as the Venus flytrap of a mouth goes to swallow its fly. My knife slips out of my sleeve into my hand; with all my might I drive this stake into the vampire’s mouth. My knife lands in its throat, with half my forearm in its mouth. It goes back on its two feet forcing me to stand. I turn the blade, it tries to push me back, but I grab ahold of its face with my other hand. Panicking, the abomination starts to punch me and clenches down on my arm with its teeth. “WHY?!?!” I screech in pain, but don’t let go. I keep turning the knife, seeing blood come out of its mouth, I only wonder if it is mine or the creatures? The punches lessen and its breathing stops. I look into its black beaded spider-like eyes hoping its spirit has left it. If it even has one. The creature begins to collapse, taking me with it. I land on top of the creature and cry from the torment of having to pry its disgusting mouth open. I grab a stick near me, wedge it into the side of the Venus trap and push. Its no use the teeth only dig in more. I reach for my bag, but I can’t carry the weight of the beast. I try again with the stick, the mouth creeks open like an old rusty bear trap, giving me enough room to take my arm out. I drop to the ground with my arms wideout. The sky holds darkened clouds adding to the torment within my being. My breathing becomes less labored as my heartbeat stops punching my ears. How did we get here, where are you? Maybe I should just remain here…? but the pain jolts me back to remind me of the coming storm. My bruised and bloodied arm may get infected, so I’ll have to use the rest of the alcohol I’ve been saving. I crawl over to my sad excuse of a bag and pull out the glass bottle of moonshine. The alcohol I found in an old barn tucked away in a haystack. The only reason I found it was because I hid in the haystack to avoid some people. I stare at the bottle, silently questioning myself if this is the right choice.
I need the Lord. I bow down to pray, “Lord help this to cleanse any disease or illness off me, save me and help me live for Your name alone.” Well time to take a ride. I splash the last bit of moonshine on my wounds, and an ounce of adrenaline hits my heart causing me to grit my teeth. I convulse from the sheer torture I just put myself through. With the new spark of fuel, I throw the bag off myself, figuring out what could be used as a Band-Aid. One of my tee-shirts should do. I cut a few pieces with the small blade in the Swiss army knife. I use this for when a sharper blade is needed. Since whetstones are scarce, having two blades makes life here easier. The pieces wrap nicely around my hand and start to turn bright red until it stops right before the blood can drip. My arms swing up as I take a deep breath in, landing me on my behind, where I exhale. The swiss army knife goes back before the war; I use to laugh at people who would have these. However, since they were made in bulk, these multitools are easier to find in in this wasteland of a world…
I force myself to stand to my feet with one hand going on my knee to push me up. Glancing sideways at the dead carcass of the slain beast, I can only see a monster with hideousness that only a man could create. The creature has human hands with long sharp claws of a hawk, the mouth of a wolf full of razorlike teeth that opens four ways. If that wasn’t deadly enough, the creature is much stronger than a man, several men actually. Preparing a loogy in my mouth, I hurl a big wad of spit right on its face, let judgment reach those who play God. These things have taken several of my comrades. Through my teeth, I yell, “THIS IS FOR THE FALLEN” I take my knife and jump on the monster. Stabbing it repeatedly, as tears come down my fallen countenance, I remember those creatures, attacking even children, eating human flesh, ripping my friend’s jugular out. I won’t ever forget, people I have to forgive, but I will never forgive these creatures. A screech comes from my gut, “GO TO HELL, YOU BEAST.” My knife slips, eating the dirt next to the disfigured…thing. My body can’t hold up its own weight as the adrenaline fueling me leaves. I fall onto the corpse as all my relentless torment is reintroduced, my raw skin, my headache, my arm, and my being.
I pick up my head and look at the chimera. From my inner man, I hear a voice, “you don’t hate these creatures but those that created them. Forgive even them for your Father forgave you.” I roll off the corpse, and pick up my knees one after the other, kneeling to pray. Bowing my head, I pray, “Lord, I forgive even the enemy. Forgive me for my sin of hatred, and violence, cleanse me, Jesus, for down to the inner core of my soul has been corrupted by this world, please cleanse me through the blood of Jesus, for I am not worthy, but the Son of God is.” Everything stays motionless as I feel weight melting off me, and a light being rekindled within me. I can’t explain it, but I start to feel less alone. The torturous memories begin to fade as I look up into the sky through the barren trees. Hoping to see God, I only see gray large puffy clouds. Great, just what I needed Storm clouds. Now that they are gathering and judging the distance from where they were before, I don’t have long to find a bunker, or else I will be torn to bits.
With one hand, I take off my hoodie, being extra careful not to damage my hand any further; I wrap it around my head, tying it tight with the ragged sleeves, which alleviates my headache. All right time to go, I grab my backpack, sling it around me, and book it towards the bunker I saw. I stumble out of the forest, resting on a tree, which is on the perimeter of the city block. I look up to see in the distance a hurling force of tornado approaching, slamming things every which way. I grind my teeth with anxiety, and with the little strength I have left, I run to the bunker. Stomping through the clouds as they get lower and lower around me, air starts to swirl around, and my eyes get slammed shut as I push through the pain. I can only let out guttural noises as energy is sapped from me. Come on, body just a little longer; my legs can’t make it. I fall on the ground, only meters away from the bunker. The lactic acid has seized my muscles into disobedience. I struggle to remind my arms, “keep moving.” Crawling with little strength left…I pull my whole-body weight with each arm pressing down. Passing the broken parking meter, I push myself to the stairs. I reach down to slowly put my weight onto one arm, but I can’t keep myself stable for too long, and I fall down the stairs. As I somersault downwards my head bangs onto the metal door, loosening the hoodie around my bruised head.
Even though the pain returns twice as strong, I can’t help but laugh, “Thank you, Jesus, I made it.” Pure euphoria starts to rise up in me as I reach for the doorknob. Only inches away now, and then I can finally rest from the day of hell. Hope billows within me, giving me the steam to reach further touching the doorknob. The metal door screeches open up, as my hand lowers to the ground. “What’s going…?” An arm from the darkness interrupts my whisper forcing me into the bunker. Kicking my happiness and hope to the curb, I can only ponder, am I safe? Or have I just entered my tomb?