by Arianna C., Age 13 , Grade 8, The Academy, Thornton, CO USA
Teacher: Caroline Cutshall
Short story final draft
They say the rest of the world was bombed just like the U.S. I’ve never traveled away from home so I wouldn't know. In fact, I don’t think I want to know. I have everything I need right here in Manhattan, New York. I was born after the disaster they called “The End”.
In 2022, a huge bomb fell upon the U.S. and killed over 6 million people. The cities were burned down, broken, and most buildings had fallen. With barely any food or water people went crazy. No electricity, no wifi, no phones, and no social media. One million people survived, 500,000 in Wyoming, 90,000 in Texas, 250,000 across California, 100,000 in Colorado, 120,000 in New York, and the rest scattered all over.
My mom said people went crazy. They were so hungry that they started hunting their own kind. About 350,000 people were still alive after year one of The End. My parents are very grateful to be alive. Everything calmed down after a few months, but it was still dangerous to even be in your front yard alone or unarmed. Soon enough people learned how to grow crops and hunt just like they did thousands of years ago. In 2030, I was born.
Ever since I was a little girl I liked to party. I would make my mom play me music on her piano while I danced with all of my stuffed animals, my long brown hair following behind me. I would jump on the table and occasionally break things, but my mom always thought it was funny. I like to think that’s why I do what I do.
I’m Cameron Alex. I live in a small gray house on Bradburn Street or what used to be Bradburn Street. There are four rooms in my run down home. One for my mom and dad, one for my little brother, Toby, one for me, and one for the rats and rotting corpses that came along with it. It’s been sixteen years and nothing has changed except for the fact that there are travelers that patrol the streets. The traveler’s paranoia causes them to kill anything that moves. But of course I’m too drugged up to care. My friends and I throw a party at a vandalized motel every Saturday at 12:00 sharp. A bunch of crazy people like me gather there and we party till seven am. My parents hate that I do that because of the travelers, but my buddies and I are smart enough to party in Brooklyn. Somewhere they don’t go. Brooklyn is so worn down that nobody lives there so it’s the perfect party hotspot. When I come home my parents scold me, but I never listen. I can see the fire in my mom’s eyes every time I come back. It’s like she doesn’t want me there.
I awaken to a loud bang. I jumped up and stood there for a while. Waiting in my blue crop top and white shorts from the night before. The loud noises continue. They get louder and louder. I walk towards my door and slowly open it. Heart beating faster and faster. I half-turn the knob. Halfway there, the door swung open and slammed right into my shoulder, pushing me into wall. I let out a loud grunt. I opened my eyes to see my little brother standing in my doorway with his stuffed bear. I got to my feet and screamed at him.
“You scared the livin-”
“You’re late.” Toby said crossing his arms, staring at me with a cute anger in his eyes. I’ve seen this look before. He gives it to me every time I’m late to breakfast.
“I’m sorry, Toby,” I said, “I know I missed breakfast.”
I walked towards him with my arms open but he pushed me away.
‘Toby, our breakfast isn’t even breakfast; it’s just snacks we call breakfast.”
“It is breakfast.” Toby argued.
“Chips with cheese is not breakfast,” I replied, “A sandwich is breakfast.”
Toby turned and stomped away. I could hear him mumbling something but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It sounded like he said “Zombie” but I knew that wasn’t it. I closed my door and flopped onto my tiny mattress. I had a major headache. I couldn’t remember anything that happened the night before. I feel like something important happened. Something or maybe someone. The last thing I remember is a dark room with a tall red candle in the far right corner, music blasting, and loud yelling coming from the other side of the door. I was sitting in there with multiple people but only one stuck out. A man in a monkey mask and a black suit. Something about him felt familiar. Like someone you knew when you were really little but then you were separated for a long time and don't remember their name or their face. It’s a strange feeling it bothered me that I couldn't remember anything else. I stared at my ceiling. I hate that ceiling, I hate this room, I hate how dark it is, I hate dark the whole world is, but most of all I hated myself. I hated myself for not being able to remember more about the night before. It didn't change how I felt about partying or the safety in this area, but it did make me wonder. I hate wondering
I didn't think about it any longer. I jumped up and marched down stairs. My mom and dad were standing there arms crossed facing me. I was hoping I could sneak past them.
“How was the party?” my mom said.
“It was good. Would you like to know all of the juicy details?” I replied.
I crossed my arms knowing my mom would get mad. We used to get along but not anymore. When I was five my mom, Angela, used to play house with me, but she started to get boring. Always drinking, fighting with my dad, and yelling at Toby and I. She started getting sick. None stop crying, coughing out blood, never hungry. She almost died, but she slowly got better. 13 year old me was so scared to lose her mommy, but looking back now, I really shouldn’t have cared if Angela died. My mom just doesn’t get me anymore. My dad is a different story. He understands why I party, but he still doesn’t like it. He’d rather have me stay at home and play checkers with him. But I’m bored! I have nothing to do all week so I get my fix every Saturday to get me through the following week. Tonight is different. It’s the fourth of July Sunday bash! I leave to the motel in an hour, but I need to get away from my parents.
“Well, mother and father, I must go.” I said.
“Where?” My mom replied.
“Well, it’s the Fourth of July and there is a very nice motel over yonder,” I said, “need I say more?”
“Leave,” my mom snapped, “leave now.”
I smiled and turned around on my heels. My door slammed shut behind me.
“What the hell.” I said.
I felt a cold breeze across my neck. I looked up at my window to find it open.
“What?” I said to myself.
I knew it wasn’t open when I left. It was probably Toby. Yeah, Toby. I couldn’t help but feel like I was being watched. I shrugged and walked to my closet. I opened it and pulled out a red and blue tank top with white stars scattered around the neckline. I have waiting for this day for a while. I paired the tank top with black short shorts and a big white bow. I gathered my soft long hair and pulled it into a high ponytail at the top of my head. I was starting to hum a song I heard from last night until I saw a dark figure out of the corner of my eye.
“Cute.” the figure said.
I spun around to see a girl with long dark brown hair, a sharp face, small lips and eyes, and olive skin.
“Adrian?” I asked.
“How have you been, chica?”
“OH MY GOD! I haven’t seen in you in YEARS!”
I hugged Adrian tightly.
She shrugged, “Yeah I’ve been...busy.”
“Well, I’ll forgive you if you come to the Sunday bash tonight.”
“I’ll be there.” she said.
“Good,” I said, “12:00 pm SHARP.”
“You got it dude.” she said while carefully placing the bow on my ponytail.
“I was going to put the bow on the side of my head.” I mumbled.
“Honey, you aren’t going to get guys looking like a 12 year old.”
She spun me around and pushed me towards the door.
“Go change.” she told me.
I quickly picked up my clothes on my way out and made my way to the bathroom.
When I returned Adrian was lying on my bed holding Toby’s teddy bear.
“Where did you get that?” I asked.
“Not important.” she replied.
“So...why did you climb through my window? What brings you to my lovely bedroom?” I asked.
I walked towards her and pulled her off my bed.
“Time to go. My parents hate you!” I said
“Your mom loves me.” she protested.
“Well either way you have to leave. I’ll see you at the party.” I said while pushing her out the window.
Once she was gone I got my Adidas Superstars and hopped onto my bed. I slipped them on, grabbed my blue pocket knife, and walked downstairs. I always take my blue pocket knife with me for safety. My brother was in the living room kicking around a ball, making sure to hit every piece of furniture there was. I tiptoed to the front door and just as I was about to take my first step out the door my parents stopped me.
“Where do you think you’re going?” my mom asked.
“Oh you know, here and there. There and here.” I replied
As soon as my mom started to speak...I MADE A RUN FOR IT. The warm sun hit my face, surprising me and almost knocking me off my balance. I kept running. I ran as fast as I could. I didn’t stop until I got to the motel.
By the time I got to the motel it was already dark out. 7:30 maybe. I was startled by how many people showed up for the party.
I searched the crowd to try to find my best friend, Liam. A hand fell upon my shoulder and pulled me back.
Liam was suddenly in front of me.
“It’s so crowded. This is the BIGGEST turnout so far. There's at least 600 people.” He screamed with a big smile on his face.
I love his smile but I had no time. I was really excited for this party, but I mainly just want to find the monkey mask guy and ask him some questions.
“Liam, you know I love you but I have to go.”
I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and made my way through the crowd. Liam was like a cousin to me. Sure he’s cute but he’s my best friend. We tried the dating thing when we were younger but it was so weird. I’ve known Liam for 6 years. We met when I was 11. He was already 13 at the time. I was out in my backyard hiding in a bush because I was bored and I see a boy with a black hoodie jump over my fence. He had a knife with him. Like a dumby, I jumped up and said “Don't shoot” which
A) Never works
B) Could have gotten me killed and
C) He didn’t even have a gun.
He turned around and ran right in the fence. I felt bad so I walked to him and picked him up. He didn't run or stab me so I told him my name and we started to talk. We hung out behind the bush together and we did that the day after and the day after and every day after that for 3 years. Then we stopped doing that and made this partying business happen. We make money from this even though we don't need money. You just take what you want in this world.
I had made it to a long alley way between two of the rooms. I saw a faceless man the end of the alley. No not faceless. Monkey. Monkey guy. I walked towards him, slowly. He turned and went behind the room on my right. I ran but by the time I got to the corner he was gone. I turned back and saw Adrian. I ran to her and hugged her.
“Hi. I’m glad you came.” I said.
“Let’s sit down.” I said.
We walked over to a bench and sat for a while. I was tired from running here and I was bummed that the man ran from me. At this point I wanted to just go home. I knew if I got up and left now Adrian and Liam would hate me. So I stayed for a couple hours. I partied and drank, Danced with Liam, and blacked out a couple times. I decided to finally go home at 4:35 am.
The walk home was quiet and dizzy. When I got home I was almost completely sober. I noticed all the lights were on in the house. I figured my parents were just up having game night. When I approached the front door I noticed it was open and the doorknob was broken. I opened the door and saw all of the furniture and pictures everywhere. Broken glass was scattered over the floor. I panicked and took a step back. I was breathing heavily. I quickly gathered my thoughts and stepped inside.
“Mom? Dad? Toby?” I yelled.
“Where are you guys?”
I walked into the kitchen and into the living room. Nothing. I walked upstairs and noticed my door was broken down. I stepped in and looked around. Nothing but the door was touched. I went into Toby's room and found Teddy on his bed. In Teddy’s lap was a note.
Welcome to Wonderland! I have a game for you. Ultimate hide-n’-go-seek. Your family and I will hide and you will seek. Fun right! SO here are the rules you find me and I’ll give you your precious family. Now I know this seems like a deal with the devil but you can trust me. I'll be waiting for you. Kisses.
I ran out of Toby’s room.
“Toby?!” I screamed.
I ran to my mom and dad's room. I stopped right outside the door. I could smell fresh blood. I slowly opened the door to find my dad on the floor. Lifeless. I ran to him tears running down my face.
“Dad,” I whispered, “Dad no. Don’t be dead. You can’t be dead. Come back. Wake up.” I shook him.
“WAKE UP!” I screamed.
I shook him again and again. I collapsed on top of him and closed my eyes. When I opened them I saw that there was red spray paint on the wall.
Well, dad’s dead. Bumber. You have 48 hours. Come find me……@Red man's Factory. Kisses.
“I hate you.” I whispered.
My dad had been stabbed multiple times in the stomach and had a slit on his throat. I can’t let Toby die. I got up and left the house. I raced down the street. I didn't know where to go so I just kept running until I couldn't run anymore. I ended up in the city. I found an old dinner and camped out in there for a couple hours. I sat looking out the window thinking about my dead father. I wanted to scream and cry and kick but I kept it inside. I looked across the street at a boutique and a boy about 20 came out with a girl that looked like she was 19. I ducked down. I thought to myself....
What do I do? What do I do? Walk over there its fine. They won't kill you. It's not like they have GUNS or anything. Just go. Ok ready? Breathe….3...2...1…
I jumped up and ran outside.
“Hey can you help me?” I yelled, quickly waving my hands.
“Put your hand up.” the boy yelled. He pulled out a gun and pointed it at my head. The girl hid behind him and stared at me.
I stopped in my tracks. My heart skipped a beat.
GUN! I didn't move and neither did they. A few minutes had passed and nothing had happened.
“I’ll check her.” The girl said.
She walked over to me and patted me down. She found my pocket knife and threw it to the ground.
“Don’t move.” the girl said.
Ok I have two options run and get shot or stay and get shot. I feel like I’m going to get shot.
“Ok...are you going to shoot me?” I asked
“I don't know yet.” the boy replied.
The boy was very handsome. Short messy brown hair, button like blue eyes, and a small elf like nose. He was wearing a black and red checkered flannel with blue jeans and dirty high-tops. I suddenly lost my mind. Liam was cute but not as cute as this stranger. I pushed that feeling aside and went back to reality. Reality is that I'm probably going to die before I get the chance to find Toby and my mom. But I need to stay positive.
“Come with us.” the girl said.
I followed them into the boutique.
“So why are you here?”The girl asked.
“Well, my dad's dead, I'm trying to find a guy wearing a monkey mask while trying to find my mom and little brother at the same time, and I have 48 hours to find them. THIS has taken up 3 hours of that so if you could direct me to Red Man’s Factory that would be great. Thanks”
The girl slapped me “Don't get smart little girl.” she said.
I stood up ready to fight. I’ve been in fights before and I've won all of them so I was confident with myself. The boy told me to back off so I sat down. I just wanted to leave.
“I want to help you.” the boy said.
“What?” I replied.
“You heard me.”
“Yeah, I did but why would you want to help me?” I asked.
“I lost my brother a few years back.”
“I'm sorry, but I haven't lost my brother and I'm not going to.” I started to raise my voice.
He grabbed me by my wrist and pulled me outside. He dragged me down the street until I pulled away.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“To find your brother. I don't care what you say we are going to find him.”
The girl came out and stood behind him.
“I don't even know who you are.” I said.
“Wow you are annoying,” the girl said, “I’m Ava and this is my friend, Evan.” I rolled my eyes and started walking north until... BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Gun shots in the distance. At least two streets down from us.
“Run.” the boy whispered.
“What?! What? Where?” I said. I panicked and spun around a couple times until Evan grabbed my arm again and pulled me behind a truck. We didn't speak. Ava wasn’t behind the truck with us. She was across the street curled up against a wall. The boy told me to stay hidden so I sat back against the truck until I couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to know what Ava was doing. She seemed sort of weird and creepy. It made me suspicious. I poked my head around the corner of the truck again and saw Ava shaking in fear. I looked past her and saw a man in a black hoodie walking towards her with a gun. My eyes widened but I didn't say anything. I sat still and watched as the man come out from around the corner and shot Ava in the back of the head again and again and again. I wanted to barf right then and there. A little voice in my head screamed at me Run! Run for the hills! I started to get up but I didn't know where to go. I thought to myself maybe I can run down the street and make it to that alley then I can just keep running. But that could get me killed. Just stay here. That guy won't notice. Stay with Evan. Stay with Evan. STAY WITH EVAN! I didn't stay with Evan. Instead I pulled him up and yanked him down the road to the alley way. The man in the black hoodie saw us and started to shoot, but he was too late. We were already at the alley. I ran so fast that I felt like I was flying. Evan tried to free himself from my grasp but I held on to him. We ran all the way down Brandy until we ran into a highway. I let him go and looked him in the eyes. They were so blue.
“Where is Red man’s factory?” I said with intenseness in my voice. He seemed scared for a moment. His eyes widened but quickly went back to normal.
“It’s at least 3 miles from here. We can make it by nightfall if we run.” He replied.
“Well then let's get this show on the road. You said you were serious about helping so now you're stuck with me. Let's go.” I said. I was almost killed back at the boutique so I really didn’t care about coming off as rude.
“Are you not going to ask me how I'm doing? My girlfriend just died.” He said.
“She said you guys were friends.”
“She’s crazy.” Evan replied. He dropped his head down and put his hands in his pockets. I chuckled and started to go south.
“It’s north.” He said.
“I knew that. I was just testing you.” I said. He laughed and gave me a big smile. I’m going to call it the “Evan smile”.
A good six hours had passed and in that time period we had jumped over a couple rivers, hid from travelers, pooped in bushes, and made small talk like “When were you born?” and “Have you ever had a squirrel as a pet?”. One question Evan didn't bring up was “What’s your name?” and that really bugged me. But we kept walking. We walked past ice cream parlors that looked like prisons, and billboards that said “Time to die”, forests, and old homes. We made it pretty far and the trip was going pretty well until I said, “You never asked what my name is.”
“One more mile,” He replied.
“You completely ignored what I just said.”
“No, I heard you and I responded so I didn't ignore you.”
“Yes you did! And you're still ignoring what I said!” I told him, kind of annoyed.
“Ok fine. I don't need to know your name.”
“And why is that?” I asked. I stopped in the middle of the tight road surrounded by houses and crossed my arms.
“Because I already know what it is. It’s Cameron, right?”
“Yes...how did you know that? That’s kind of creepy.”
“I know it because I was in love with you when I was six. I was walking around one day on Bradburn Street looking for food and I heard a small voice singing a song. I didn't recognize the song. I thought it was my brain but the voice got louder and louder. Then another voice chimed in. A male voice. Your dad’s I’m guessing. So I decided to check it out and I saw you on your tire swing in your backyard. The tire was hanging from a slanted tree. It looked like it could give out at any second, but it didn't. You were having so much fun until you saw a bird sitting on the fence opposite of where I was. You got off the swing and picked up a big rock. A look of fright spread across your face as you walked towards the bird. I saw you draw the rock back behind your head and aim it at the bird. That bird was sitting there doing nothing. MINDING ITS OWN BUSINESS and you threw the rock at it for no reason. Once the rock hit the bird it fell back and disappeared behind the fence. It didn't fly up and leave. It went down like an airplane crash landing. Your dad came out of the house and yelled your name. I only saw his back, but it seemed like he was angry. You marched inside and didn't come out, but I liked how you were before you hit the bird,” he said, still walking, “So I followed you for like a month. I started to think it was weird so I stopped and came to the city where I met Ava.”
I was so surprised by what he had just said. I didn't know how to respond. I hate that memory. The day I killed that bird. I started walking and caught up to him again.
“WOW! I just shared that awesome story with you and you say nothing?” he said.
“Oh sorry if I’m kind of disgusted by what I just heard. That's really creepy.”
“I don't follow you anymore.” he said. He seemed completely calm. I felt disgusted, but flattered at the same time. But I only told him the first part.
We made our way to the highway, which had a lot of abandoned cars, and stayed the night in an RTD. I was scared to sleep because I had a feeling a traveler would come and shoot our heads off, but Evan told me we were fine. I slept under the seat in the back of the bus so that no one could see me. And if a traveler did come I would be able to jump out the back door and run. No travelers came in the night. When I woke up Evan was curled up next to me asleep. I got out from under the seat to find a blue banner clinging to the ceiling of the bus.
Wakie wakie! Time to find me... 10 more hours. Kisses. I woke Evan up and directed his attention to the banner. He didn't understand so I told him everything about the little messages that I have received in the last 28 hours. I didn't realize how much time I had lost. Ten hours is not enough time.
“We need to go now.” I said. Evan pushed himself off the ground and we left the bus as fast as we could. I speed walked all the way to the factory. Once we got there I realized how crazy I was. The factory looked like a slaughterhouse. I didn't want to walk in. Especially unarmed.
“I need a gun.” I said.
“No you do-”
“Yes I do. If I don't I could potentially die. This place looks like death.”
“I don't think that how it works Cameron.”
“SHUT UP!” I yelled. I was started to get scarred. I wanted to turn back but my brother could be in that hell-hole.
“Come on Cam. Stop being a scaredy cat.” Evan teased.
“Don't call me that.” I snapped. He pulled me forward and yanked me toward the doors of the factory.
“Do you like yanking me around like that or are you flirting?” I asked.
“Both.” he replied smiling. It startled me how he didn't think twice about throwing me into the lion's den. We entered the factory to find a single lamp on. It sat on a small round table in the middle of the room. We slowly walked towards the table. ALL of the lights in the room flashed. They flashed twice then turned completely on. The light was coming from at least 80 other lamps on tiny tables of their own bordering the walls. A big metal door was revealed in the top left corner of the room. It gracefully slid open. Out came that Monkey guy and another masked person. This was a frog mask. The frog came closer and slowly took of the mask. When the mask was off I gasped.
“Hola chica.” the frog said. The masked nobody was Adrian.
“Adrian?” I asked in shock.
“Do you know her?” Evan asked.
“Yes, she's my best friend,” I said, “Why are you with that guy? Why do you have that mask? What’s going on?”
“Funny story, we killed your dad,” she said with excitement, “we have been planning this family reunion for years and your dad decides to get in the way by hating me? First of all, that's rude and second of all, I didn’t want him to mess everything up so we added him to the plan.”
I felt like I had just gotten kicked in the stomach. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
“Why do you keep saying ‘we’ and what do you mean plans?” Evan asked.
My brother and mom came out of the open door.
“She means my plans,” my mom said, “Here take him.” She shoved Toby towards me. I ran to him and cradled him in my arms. The man in the monkey mask took off his disguise but I didn't recognize him.
“Hey sis. I’m Isaac.” he said. I was completely lost.
“She's confused. Mom, tell her.” Adrian whispered.
“MOM!?” I blurted out.
“Honey, sit down,” she said to Adrian, “SO here it goes. Ever since you were a little girl you were always jumping and screaming and at the time I thought it was cute but then it started to get old. I started to hate you more and more. Yes, you are my kid and yes, I am definitely your mom and your dad is your dad. But what you didn't know is that when you turned 7 I decided to make another family with another man. That's where Adrian and Isaac come in. I wanted you all to be siblings and to live in the same house with me and both of you fathers. I tried so hard to make both of my families join to make one big family so when you both were 15 I started to force Adrian to hang around you until you felt like sisters. Isaac didn't fit into this equation so I kept him with his father for a while. Your dad hated Adrian. He got in the way, but I couldn’t just tell him “That is your step daughter so be nice” so Adrian and I devised a plan to make this family whole again. You were always too busy with partying to hangout with Adrian so I made her lay off. You never listened to me so I knew what I had to do. I had to get your attention! So I killed your father. He never saw it coming. I left the little notes and gifts around the house and took Toby here. He thought it was just an adventure so it wasn't hard getting him here.”
“Stop.” I whispered. Tears started streaming down my face. Anger was starting to rise inside of me.
“I knew that your dad meant a lot to you. It was perfect. I had Adrian and Isaac follow you around and keep watch for me. I killed him, you're here, and now we can be one big happy family.”
I pushed Toby aside and ran for Angela. Evan tried to stop me but I spun him around and took the gun from his back pocket and tossed him aside. I pulled up the gun and shot several times at my mother’s head. Adrian screamed and jumped in front of my next bullet. I turned to Isaac and shot him twice in the leg. Evan rushed to me and pulled the gun from my hand.
“GET OFF OF ME!” I shouted.
“They are dead.” Evan replied.
“Not yet.” I dropped the gun and grabbed the lamp from the middle of the room. I pulled the cord out from where it was plugged in and marched to Isaac. I hit him multiple times. When I was done I dropped onto my knees. A sorrow sprang up from inside of me. The same sorrow I had when I killed that bird. The worst part was… Toby saw all of it.
“I'm sorry.” I told Toby. Tears falling down again. He came to me and hugged me.
“I want to go home.” he said.
“I'm sorry we live in this time. You know, during The End.” I said.
“It's ok.” Toby replied.
“I'm sorry I took your gun, Evan.” I said.
He chuckled, “its ok.” I was relieved. 1 minute ago I had felt like I had made every wrong move but now I know I made all the right ones. We sat there together. Evan sat next to me and held me while I held Toby and for a split second I felt like my father was there. Watching me. Happy for me.