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Waking up was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. I don’t know what drove me to do it, but I had to fight the darkness threatening to engulf me. I could feel whatever it was trying to consume me, and everything I had. I fought blindly, not knowing what to do, or even why I was doing it. It was pushing me down, farther and farther down to who knows where, until I was sure it would crush me against the bottom of the cavern I was in. I pushed back, up and up, giving everything inside me to stop the ceiling of blackness from squashing me out of existence. After a struggle that felt like eternity and hell mixed into some awful combination, the darkness gave way, like the first drop of rain falling after a drought that’s gone on for way too long. And when I opened my eyes? The panic set in. I was trapped. My body was buried in mounds of dirt and rubble, crumbled brick and vinyl and who knows what else. I fought and struggled my way through mounds of rubbish, until I emerged into the air, thick with dust, warmed, but barely illuminated by an ever dimming sun.
I started breathing normally again, and the adrenaline rush followed by my awakening slowly faded away. Where was I? I looked around at my surroundings, sure that I’d never been here before. It looked like I was in the ruins of some ancient, long gone civilization. It was standing on a cracked street lined with buildings that were all utterly smashed, like someone driving a wrecking ball had snapped and decided to wrecking-ball everything. And I mean everything. Nothing was left standing. It was impossible to tell what any of the buildings used to be. The air was filled with reddish brown dust, thick to the point where it seemed almost as dark as night. I could barely make out my surroundings. Whatever surrounded the forsaken street I was on was a total mystery to me. I looked up- the sky wasn’t there, only dust. Everything was covered in the dust. What had happened here?
There was none one around me. How had I gotten here? Where was my family? The last thing I can remember was going to sleep in my own bed after a normal school day. I started to worry. A million questions, with no one to answer them for me.
“Is anyone out there?!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. My voice sounded like I hadn’t spoken for ages. “Can anyone hear me?” I tried again. Nothing but my own echo answered me.
I ran- what else was there to do? I ran, looking through all the buildings hoping to see someone- anyone. Anything to get me out of here, and back home. The possibility of all things evil lurking in the smog was scary, but being alone, abandoned here with nothing? That was worse. It was getting harder to breathe, the dust was too thick. My body kept pulling in more air, only to find that it too, was laced with pollution. I couldn’t run any farther, and I collapsed and curled up in a ball in the middle of the street.
“WHAT HAPPENED?” I screamed, knowing no one would be there to answer me. I didn’t know what to do. I never knew what to do. “Help me!” I yelled again.
Then I saw something that gave me hope- something that looked like a person lying on the side of the road. I jumped up and ran towards it, ignoring the red dust filling my lungs. It was a little bit away, but as I came closer I was surer and surer it was a human. “Hello?” I called out.
I reached my destination and let out a bloodcurdling shriek worthy of the scariest horror movie ever made. It was a person all right, and whoever it was had been dead for quite awhile from the looks of it. They were decomposing and there were maggots and… ew. We’ll leave it at that. I kept running. As I high school girl, I’d never actually been to the front lines of war or anything like that, so the presence of a corpse left me feeling rather nauseous.
I stopped running just as my foot was about to hit something on the street. I stopped, and picked up something I’d recognize anywhere. It was torn in places and covered in much more dirt than I remembered, but I knew it was my little sister’s teddy bear. Now, I was really concerned. This was looking all too much like the plot of some cheesy action movie. Would that make me the heroine? Let me get something straight here. I am not a heroine type of girl. I’m not the underdog with extra special determination or this giant heart and the courage of a lion. I’m not even that nice. I am absolutely average in every way.
But looking at the toy in my hands, mutilated almost beyond recognition, I knew something bad had happened. My sister never went anywhere without her teddy bear. Anywhere. Very bad feelings were starting to sink in. And then? Then the real shocker came. I looked up and recognized the building in front of me. Know where this is going? It was my house. Not the way I remembered it at all though. It too, had been wrecking-balled, and barely anything was left standing.
I curled up in a ball again on the ground, as tears poured out of my face and sobs shook my whole body. I had never, in my entire life, been more terrified than I was at that moment. Everyone was gone- what had taken them from me? Any why had it left me behind?
It sunk in, then and there. The cheesy plot I had just witnessed myself play the lead in? it was my life now. The ancient, long-gone civilization that used to inhabit these ruins wasn’t some tribal culture of days gone by. It was mine.