Survival: The Remains
I watch the sun suspiciously, knowing that if I just move fast enough I’ll make it in time. I can do it; I know I can. I’ll be able to make it to my destination and back before nightfall.
The afternoon light casts rugged grey shadows across what was once the familiar streets of L.A. Even though I hadn’t grown up here, I’d grown fond of it in those few years before the war.
I study the rubble in the streets with a focused, survivalist mindset. I look for anything worth taking with me, ignoring what the structures once were, what they once meant.
Sentiment doesn’t come easy to me anymore; not after ten years of pushing it down.
But every once in a while, it bubbles back up. I used to mock anyone foolish enough to travel back to their hometown, intent on seeing what was left of what they once had, who they once had. Still, here I was, crawling around the remains of a place I once knew. A place I once called home.
As I climb over the rubble, I force myself to center the mental map in my head and focus. The worst thing I can do now is get lost. I make sure to keep to the shadows, stay out of the open, and never let my guard down. That’s always important, but even more so now, when I’m alone.
One more street over, and I’m in what once was a residential area. The view ahead of me looks more like a tripped-over Lincoln Log village than an urban street. The houses are crumbled and pillaged and left to be forgotten. I squat behind a rusted, wheel-less car, if it can be called a car anymore, and scan the area. Not even the wind moves.
It’s foolish of me to be here.
I’d told myself that I was coming here to retrieve my hidden stash of weapons—if anyone had foreseen the war coming, it had been me. It was the truth, but a nagging thought told me I was wrong. Told me I was weak and sentimental like the rest of them, wanting to revisit home. Wanting to believe for just one second that things could go back to the way they were ten years ago.
Ten years. God, that makes me feel old.
I slide away from the car, hand ready at my side to draw a weapon if I have to, and sprint across the torn-up road. I stop in the doorway of a dilapidated house, the second story just a memory, the first in shambles. It’s almost unrecognizable, but I know it’s the right place.
I step into the crumbling structure, my eyes swiping left and right as I meticulously scan the area. No signs of life. No salvageable parts. I don’t think about the memories I have from this place—it looks too different to bring back any. I expect to feel something, but I don’t feel a thing, just a numbness that starts in my fingers and ends as a buzzing in my head.
I grit my teeth, tearing at the floorboards. It’s easy work; the boards are loose and, in places, already missing. I cling to the hope that no one’s found my hiding place yet, that it hasn’t been ransacked.
The ceiling of the house is long gone, and the room darkens as the sun continues to set, disappearing behind the half of the kitchen wall that’s still standing. I’m kneeling in shadows now, everything a deep blue as my hands dig into the wood and the nails and the dirt and the debris.
I don’t let myself feel relieved when I feel the metal of the latch; I need to stay alert. I hastily pull the rest of the floorboards away, revealing the metal door underneath. My eyes fall back to the latch—an untouched lock still attached. For just a moment, I let myself grimace out a smile. There was hope yet.
I pull at the chain around my neck, taking it off. I’ve been wearing it for ages—since the beginning—waiting for this moment to come. My fingers slide along the chain, brushing past the ring and onto the key. It fits inside the lock perfectly and makes a satisfying click when it opens.
After all these years, I’ve finally unlocked my secret bunker.