A Short Story by Jimmy Wyatt

A thin layer of fog obscures the view from my bedroom window. Or maybe it’s smoke—I can’t tell anymore. The unkempt grass is overgrown and pours through the cracks in the pavement of the sidewalk. The street I grew up on, the one that was home of many a one-on-one basketball game with my father, is destroyed. Chunks of tar are missing from the decrepit road. The trees haven’t had leaves in years.

Sirens scream in the distance.

There’s a small knock on the door behind me. As apprehensive as the knock was, I flinched anyway. It’s a habit now. I know it’s my mother, and I know I’m safe with her, but the world has conditioned me to live in fear. She knocks again after a few moments of silence, and enters the door. Her face is old. Older than it should be. Her eyes used to break hearts, but now her eyes are just heartbroken. Her lips are parted—either because she’s still in shock, or she’s thinking of the words to say. She stands in silence.

There’s a loud crack, and the house shakes. I thought, perhaps, The Controllers were giving us power back, and the surge shook the house. But the continued darkness informs me that it was just another detonation a few miles out.

“I think we’re out of options, Jimmy. It’s time,” she says, gently.

“I figured” I respond, as I glance at the bag I’ve already packed. “Where are we going?”

“The Nolan family heard rumors of a settlement near where Philadelphia used to be. If we leave soon, we might catch them before they move on.”

My mother recommending a twenty mile excursion on the off chance of a new settlement scares me. Her desperation is… Terrifying. Her hope is abysmal. I look back out of my bedroom window for the last time. This room that I grew up in will soon be but another memory that will hurt to think about. The trophies I earned as a kid, the 21 Pilots posters tacked to my wall, the gifts from ex-girlfriends stored in a box under my bed. Soon to all be out of my physical reach, and only accessible in the caverns of my mind.

I stand without a word, and grab my knapsack. I give my mother an exhausted look, and exit the room. I hear her choke up, and try to hold back a wail. We’ve both tried to be so strong for each other, and it’s taken its toll on both of us.

Her bag sat at the base of the front door. It sank in that this is it—we’re really leaving. Her hand found itself on my shoulder.

“Do you want to say goodbye to the house?” she asked.

“No. Let’s just go.”

I put on my gas mask hanging beside the door, and she put on hers. I placed my hand on the doorknob, took a breath, and opened the door. I stepped outside, and my foot landed on a “CAUTION: HIGH RADIATION AREA” sign. I kept walking. The streetlights don’t work anymore. My walk only illuminated by neon “Make America Great Again” signs. How ironic.