Falling debris shaded our eyes with darkness. What time was it? Two, three in the morning? People are so inconsiderate.
Victoria wasnâ€™t pleased. It was the third time falling trees awoke us. It was enough to drive even a patient individual insane.
Most days there was no fallout…could something else have collapsed? Could it have been an object that we didnâ€™t know existed? My instincts yearned to see, but the thought was insane. Victoria didnâ€™t let me go, her arm wrestled my chest, forcing me onto the cavern floor next to her. Iâ€™d resist, but it was rather pointless.
â€śItâ€™s fine Damien, Iâ€™m used to everything collapsing….itâ€™s the new normal I suppose.â€ť
Her voice carried that certain sadness that sunk to the bone, as if the core of her being contained no joy. My lips alone couldnâ€™t restore such an absence, the horror of it all still puts her in shock.
Itâ€™s sad her idea of â€śnormalâ€ť is chaos….chaotic order I suppose.
Light falls through a crack in the cavern roof, telling us when morning outgrows the night. She swears itâ€™s God witnessing Earth devour our corpses…yet to me itâ€™s the resurrection, the peeling back of the tomb doors. Victoria gets pessimistic like that….Itâ€™s that one trait I canâ€™t stand about her.
It seemed larger in the morning sun. A crack of a few inches became an abyss of ambience. all with the mere force of a few ambitious men.
Victoria and I moved around the broken Earth, watching the fragile shell of dirt crumble above our heads.
â€śWhat now?â€ť she angrily asked, her hands raised towards the mess.
â€śThere should be supplies in the nearby city, but I canâ€™t get there like this…not in the suitâ€ť
Dirt covered fingers comforted her lips as those green eyes pondered the possibilities she could create.
Her figure fell into motion, pulling through empty chests she discovered deep inside the caverns. Along with a weeks supply of rabbit meat and custom made clothing laid a 20th century trench coat. It looked aged, circular brown stains dotted the sleeves, adding to the worn look it carried.
â€śGod…itâ€™s filthy! Donâ€™t you smell it?â€ť My nose rebuked the shaded cloth.
â€śI donâ€™t have to wear it, and you need to go to town…so itâ€™s going with you!â€ť
â€śNo…no way!â€ť I backed away from her arms as they forced the coat upon my body.
Victoria frowned, her upper lip and right nostril flared at me, telling me that this really wasnâ€™t my choice to make.
â€śYouâ€™d risk your own safety, and the chance of a decent shelter, for your dignity and pride? Damien look at yourself! The jacket hides the antax!â€ť
She came closer as I prepared my body to move, evading any chance Iâ€™d have of it touching my skin. The subtle features in her face revealed a bubbling frustration.
â€śEither you go, or I WILL!â€ť she threw the jacket in anger.
Itâ€™s never a good thing when she makes a hasty decision like that, and as I looked into the rain that began to pour into the outside world, I knew I couldnâ€™t let her leave.
â€śIâ€™m tired Damien…really tired…and I just want some comfort, thats all….Is it too much to ask?â€ť
I looked at her, and thats where things went wrong. My hand swiped the jacket from her fingers as I moved toward the caverns mouth.
She stopped me before I stepped out.
â€śYouâ€™re face, Damien…someone is sure to recognize you!â€ť
She handed me a hat, which unsurprisingly, look just as old and disgusting as the jacket.
â€śRight…â€ť I mouthed, wedging the faded brown bowler cap onto my skull.
â€śKeep the suit covered baby, Alexandria is full of men who know remember you!â€ť
She was right, but I didnâ€™t want to hear it. I didnâ€™t even want to hug her, I just longed to leave.
â€śof course..â€ť I yelled from afar, my body picking up speed as I ran through the rain beyond the cavern.
It was the place where dreams went to die, and more importantly, the place I least desired to be. The haven of fallen heroes and rising tyrants lofted the soul into depression. Even the smokestacks that rose from the towers polluted the mind, and spared no man, so that the grasp of control consumed everyone.
I didnâ€™t want to stay long, but considering my situation, I didnâ€™t deserve to choose.
The roads were flooded with filth, and winds brought in all sorts of trash, making it hard to keep myself clean. The sewer systems below my feet regurgitated decades of radioactive waste.
It was easy to forget about the water, the one element government still couldnâ€™t control, and the longest disaster to plague America….although the President claims the danger has passed.
Voltaire, the highest general in the American military, promised the nation a nuclear free world…and the sad part was that I once believed him.
Everyone believes him at some point, thatâ€™s why they buy into his lies…they’re convenient…
Iâ€™d walk along the alleyways in between buildings, riding on a string of hope that I wouldnâ€™t be recognized. Itâ€™s funny how darkness consumes the smallest crevices of civilization. Even the midday sun illuminated the city, I couldnâ€™t past the shadows of garbage and an occasional stray dog wishing it would find acceptance in my arms. That’s what we all long for, isnâ€™t it? Acceptance?
I saw bodies of both the living and the dead, and knew that each had the same fate. Neither man nor animal escapes the falling of the night, or the rise of the morning sun. Yet we hide from it in our houses, our crevices, and shut out the light, fervently praying that darkness doesnâ€™t consume us as we forsake our only chance of destroying it.
There comes a point in life where the ear is not satisfied with hearing, and the eye is not sustained with sight, but the vacancy of action damns the senses, so the results of our lives become merely vanity. I saw this truth in the men in the shadows. No man in the city has the means to stand up, let alone live the life of purpose.
Why do men choose the shadows? Does it encourage the thought that nothing exists outside of themselves? Iâ€™d long to ask these men, iâ€™d long to have that knowledge, but my own fear of the light kept me from discovering the truth, and in the end, Iâ€™m no better than they are.
Most of the buildings smelt of old money and mold, as if the central bank itself had rotted to the core, leaving a frail scent of an expired economy. You could taste mahogany drip off the structures as the plastic value of money melted before the bright American sun.
The sounds of the city formed a symphony composed of life’s greatest mysteries, bound together by the crossbeams of all living things.
My eyes locked to the ground, hiding away from the world. People see fear in a mans eye, and my soul couldnâ€™t bear the chance of exposing the truth. It had been months…no…years since the last time I stepped into Alexandria, but the uncertainty remained.
Much can happen in four years, people change, buildings change, cultures change. But the one thing that doesnâ€™t change is the uneasy feeling of distrust, the fear that safety is an illusion. I know what that feels like, and how much suffering it causes you to accept the truth.
I looked up at the silver linings of city hall, and for the first time,my face exposed itself to the world. The blue eyes in my skull beheld the monolith of oppression, and the longer I stood there, the more I saw the sun tuck behind it, throwing my body back into the darkness and obscurity of night.
I could hear footsteps behind me, but I ignored them….It was part of the mystery.
When my insecurity bared it no more, I turned to a short woman waiting on me.
I wanted to look away, but the intensity in her face stole my ability to breathe…
â€śDamien Boyd!â€ť the voice captivated my attention, â€śItâ€™s been quite a while. Do tell me, how are your dear children?â€ť
I could feel the Antax heat up, it was my anger waiting to paint the roads with lovely stains of red.
She moved closer towards me….her gloved hand reached for mine.
Pride and Penalty Part II by Andrew Purdum
â€¦..What a miracle.
Story by Andrew Purdum
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