The terrain had dramatically changed with the wavy dunes now far in the rear, Kira found herself driving on more flat and sturdy ground. The cracks reminded her of old dried water basins. In the proper hands, these lands would have flourished. ‘What a pity,’ she thought. There was not a town, or even a truck stop in sight. She had been off-road so long she was wondering if the folk here even understood the concept. Kira was tempted to give her feet some rest. She hit the ‘cruise control’, moved her legs up over the dashboard, with one hand on the steering, she finally decided to take it all in. She basked under the warmth of the sun and wind soothed her skin as she took big cathartic breaths, enjoying every second of the air aerating her lungs. The atmosphere here wasn’t at all like at the crash site. The air here was fresh, nurturing, and pure. She marvelled at how this place survived this long, all on its own. Where were the vegetation, the hydroponic farms? The trees? How could a planet sustain human life without any trees? These were just some of the questions that kept ruminating in her head while she cruised toward the empty horizon ahead stretching out to what seemed like infinity; a view so exponentially lifeless, her mind rather daydreamed. That or maybe her body just felt like it could finally relax. It was all just putting her to sleep. Maybe it was the exhaustion but the urges were slowly taking over and soon enough her eyes were closing shut even without her permission.
Kira woke up, her body tossed to the back, turned around, face pressed against the backseat. She felt nauseous and completely disoriented. Her head was spinning. All of these lasted for about 30 seconds. Then she finally got a grasp of reality. She adjusted herself to sit and then noticed that the front half of the vehicle was completely obliterated. The cushions torn and the seats broken. The front of the truck was completely smashed into a concrete wall. Kira was unhurt. She actually felt blessed that she wasn’t in the front when all this happened but she had no idea how long she was out, never even realizing she had collided with something in such high impact. She pulled herself out and surveyed the damage. ‘No way is she coming back from this,’ she mumbled. ‘Guess this is my stop,’ she consoled herself.
The wall was high, almost as if to intimidate. She traced the sides until she reached an open entrance leading to an open yard like space between two towering building. It was like the ruins of an old shantytown, littered with junk. Scraps of metal and garbage everywhere, floors of it towering her sides, and the only sunlight came from a narrow opening at the top dimly lighting up the place. She heard movement.
‘Hello?’ she shouted. ‘Is anyone there? You don’t need to feel afraid. I’m unarmed.’
There was a tiny screeching noise, from one of the floors above, ‘What the hell can that be?’
She grabbed a metal rod incidentally found adjacent to her and started to creep toward the noise, where she found a rusty ladder, creaking while swaying left and right. Only problem was, there was hardly any wind in here. The sound became more audible, this time like whispers, like language, like human language. She figured people did speak English over here, or at least that is what the man in the truck from earlier spoke. ‘Hello?’ she called out. She tested the stability of the ladder before beginning her climb. Her heart was beating in anxiety but if she found life, maybe she could find help.
As soon as she was on floor two, she noticed even more garbage. Plastic, metals, paper, cloth, and polymer of all sorts you wouldn’t expect to find in a primitive civilisation. She noted several compartmentalization, akin to rooms, just bordered by old stone and cement. She assumed this was an old housing complex, maybe midway in construction before solar flares forced the project to stop. However, the garbage suggested people lived here once, a lot of people. Maybe it was thriving, maybe there was an earthquake, maybe it was an evacuation site, or even an isolation site. Or maybe it was just something else entirely. There was no way to know for sure, not when there are no legible forms of writing or signs anywhere. What might have been something remarkable was in wasteful ruins, abandoned, far from civilised road, lonely and dangerous. She crept cautiously, a step at a time, lifting her tightly gripped metal rod with both hands in case of an attack. Her neck hairs stiff, her eyes alert. Then, in her peripheral vision, MOVEMENT. She turned right.
The mound of plastic suddenly moved, and from under it, a shadow rose. Kira took a step back, ready. ‘Show yourself,’
A figure ascended, a girl, adolescent. Her hair was red, bathed in mud and slime. Her clothes ragged, brown and withered. Her face dirty, as she smiled, and walked close, bare-footed on top of the mounds of junk, not even cautious to see what she was stepping. Kira noticed her abdomen distended, ballooned, as would a malnourished child. She wasn’t afraid and just smiled. Kira wasn’t really sure if she should smile back. Who was this lonely garbage child? Has she been out her all by herself just surviving eating whatever scrap she could scavenge? The girl stopped before her and reached her hand out. Kira had to make a choice and decided to trust her. She smiled as she gave her right hand. The girl only smiled even more as she swung Kira’s hand left to right. Kira laughed at her silliness. It had been a while since she’d been entertained by a child.
The girl kept swinging, and dancing and laughing, and that’s when Kira noticed her teeth. The little girl suddenly pulled Kira down close to her, and without warning bit into her right in the forearm. Her teeth was sharp edged, like carved with a blade, and it dug right in. ‘Arghh!’ Kira screamed as her flesh was being torn apart. She swung her rod at the girl’s head, hoping to knock her off. But that was not what happened. It didn’t just bounce off leaving a nasty bleed, rather it pierced right through, buried into her skull and lodged in her brain, immediately deforming the kid’s face.
‘AHHHH!’ the kid squealed as her eyes turned red and swollen almost about to pop out. Blood poured out of the wound drenching the rest of her head and her entire body. She cried in agony as she walked back with little piece of Kira’s skin stuck to her teeth, the metal rod slowly releasing her from her pain. Kira pulled back, squeezing her forearm. She tore a bit of her sleeve and fashioned a bandage. The kid grew tired, pale, and fell to her knees before collapsing, silent. Kira vomited, repulsed at the very sight. ‘What the fuck did I just do?’
From behind her, more rustling. She turned back to see at least 20 heads popping out of the ground in the distance. Closer to her she could feel movement. She looked down. There were arms and hands trying to grab her, dirty, withered, brown. ‘Ah!’ she screeched. More and more revealed themselves and growled like feral creatures, hungry, desperate. ‘Shit!’
She moved backward, and tried to reach for the ladder. The bolts immediately came loose as soon as she touched it and the entire construct fell. A loud bang, metal clanging on metal, and the whispers got suddenly very much louder. She could see she had alerted the compound. The mounds of garbage burst open everywhere and everyone was awake, alert. Their eyes watched her, fear-stricken and severely outnumbered. Kira was surrounded by what looked like men, women, children and even infants; dishevelled, horrific looking. These were the eyes of the sick, stripped off all humanity, just craving for pure sustenance, just empty vessels looking to stay afloat another day.
‘Rarrrrr’ a figure launched from her side. She swung her rod, and it mangled his skull. He screamed to his death. She had no choice but to jump of the ledge back down, and so she did. The fall was bad, and she heard her ankle pop. A few others jumped right after her fracturing their fragile bones and immediately killing themselves. Kira got up and felt a sting in her ankle. Her neck was hurting again. She eyed for the closest exit, the way she came in.
She started to move. The others followed her, running, leaping and crawling, almost toying with her. She limped as hurriedly as she could while swinging her rod viciously at whatever came. ‘Rarrrrrrrr’ launched another from behind. Kira found herself pinned down, nails clawing in to her back. She squealed in agony as she tried to turn herself over. She gave herself one push and flipped. There was what looked like a grizzly old women, her skin pale and sloughy, her hair thin and patchy, her teeth made of razor sharp metal implants. She was frothing from her mouth, chomping away trying to get a bite at Kira’s face.
‘No!’ Kira pushed, her palms resisting hard, and then suddenly, with all the weight the cannibal was forcing on her, Kira’s hands found its way penetrating into the lady’s breasts, through and through, crushing all her ribs and piercing into her lungs. ‘BAHHH!’ the women screamed. She continuously coughed and spouted red gelatinous material onto Kira’s face.
Kira swung the now lifeless body to the side. She pulled herself to get up. 3 of them jumped at her all at the same time. One of them pulled the rod away from her and bit into her shoulder. She screamed and pulled on his face. She tore his skin off and ripped apart his skull from his jaw. She couldn’t handle all of them. Her clothes were torn, her skin had bite and claw marks everywhere. She kicked, punched, smashed a few skulls, broke a few bones, and kept going without much thought or strategy; just pure carnal instinct. She noticed that some of them had left her to feed on the injured ones. She flung the bodies far to buy her the time she needed to escape. As more moved away, she found a small window of opportunity to run back to the entrance.
She limped, and hopped and pushed herself forward. She shook off whatever clang to her calves, stepped and broke whatever hands that held tight to her sleeves. She noticed the ground beneath began to shake unsteadily. She felt as though she was now standing on fragile foundations. As more came at her, it finally broke and she fell into a huge pit filled with what she could only guess to be oil.
The ones that came after her drowned almost instantaneously. She floated to the surface and looked up. More kept diving in but none knew how to swim. The oil was viscid and it was difficult for Kira to keep her head afloat, but at least it she noticed it went somewhere. This was not a dead end. She saw a long stream leading to a narrow tunnel, only half of it in carrying oil. Kira swam ahead to investigate. The echoes were louder from the other side and her body was small and slippery enough to pass through.
She wriggled her way and found herself in another chamber, wider and without any access to the ground above. She felt strange sensations touching her body only to realize it was the dead carcasses floating in the oil. She looked out for a ledge, or just anything she could use to climb out. The oil was toxic, burning into her skin and the wounds much worse.
‘You asked for this, I mean you used to give kids advice about all kinds of stuff Kira. “Careful not to drive while you’re sleepy kids, and you just might end up in some kind of a chemical sewer filled with flesh eating cannibals” was not part of any outreach program that I knew of.’
She noticed the current getting stronger, and drawing her in fast. ‘Shit!’ She knew what this meant. The stream was getting rapid, and it only meant a large drop was coming. The echoes were louder and louder and that only meant a bigger drop. She could vaguely make out ahead that several streams were leading to the same place she was going. She began to force herself upstream again trying to grab on to something besides dead bodies. Some of the bodies had already fallen.
‘Fuck it!’ she surrendered looking at how she had not much of a choice left but just blindly hope her God will save her.
Kira was immediately swept with the current. There was a wide ledge and then, down she went with several other dead appendages beside her. It was at least 20 seconds before she plopped into an even larger basin. The consistency though felt different the deeper she went. This was ‘water’. She could tell ‘water’ no matter what planet she was on. She floated back to the surface, happy to be alive amongst the dead. She dipped back down to drink a gulp and then came back up again. She did this repeatedly until she was satisfied. The water might have been deadly, it might have been toxic, it might have had parasites that could kill her in just hours, but dear God it was fucking water. Kira was seeing things a lot clearer and she felt some energy kick back in. Ahead she found a dimly lit ridge and swam ahead. She climbed up and rested her bottom. She noticed how shiny her skin looked despite feeling like she was on fire.
‘When will this fucking day end,’ she cursed herself. Then echoing from a somewhere, a voice, in English. It sounded like a woman, grunting in pain, cursing just as she was earlier. Kira noticed the voice coming from behind the wall. She followed it to discover an opening- a dark tunnel leading up. ‘Should I?’ she asked herself, ‘What other choice do I have?’
Kim was now far from danger, travelling alone in the rainy tundra. She was getting pale and lightheaded and her eyes wouldn’t stay open for much longer The rains were hitting hard and the leaking through the roof. Any moment it would pour right in and short circuit everything. The smell was putrid. To her left, she noticed something familiar. ‘Yes!’ overjoyed. She had been here before – a place she had buried in her memories as deep as it was buried in sand. It was once a refinery, then an abandoned hideout, a den of thieves and drug users. She drove a little to the side, checking the perimeter. ‘I hope it’s still here.’
Ahead she saw two cylindrical monuments facing a ledge and a deep cliff beyond that. ‘That’s it!’ The only problem was getting there. The rains and wind blew wild and she knew she had to stop and make a run for it.
She drove close enough, to where the road ended. She turned off the engine and took a long silent breath. She heeded the thunderous roars from the skies above. The dripping through the roof had became a constant stream and it was pouring over the passenger seat, eating it up as it made its way to the ground. ‘Come on now,’ she told herself, ‘there will be no dieing here. Not today.’
She swung open the door and jumped down. The rain seared her, burning her skin with every drop. She was already half drenched. ‘Argh!’ she moaned. Kim started to pace as fast as she could. Every drop trailing down her skin burned everything in its path even underneath her already thinning clothes. Her hair drooped down, blocking her vision but that didn’t stop her. ‘Just a little bit more,’ she told herself as the soaking bandages around her hands fell off, exposing her wounds.
She finally reached the edge of the cliff and started to navigate along the narrow ridge that separated it from shelter. Just a few minutes of tip toeing and she would be in the clear. She pushed through with all her courage as the unforgiving skies wailed even more. She felt like she was bathing in some weird wet fire. She was not planning to slip, not when she was this close.
With one final leap, Kim was finally under one of the huge cylindrical structures. She walked in a little. The place was dark but at least it was dry. She rested her back against the wall and slowly allowed herself to drop to the ground. She let her arms and legs loose.
She heard a squeak. Little tiny eyes glistened ‘What now?’ she asked annoyed. ‘Rats!’
She remembered something someone had taught her once if ever in a situation like this. She reached into her pants and fiddled a bit until she found a tiny string. With one gentle pull, she removed a wet, blood soaked tampon. ‘You want this you little shit-fucks? You want to suck on this here pussy blood?’ The rats squeaked excitedly as she wiggled it around on the string enticing them before flinging it to the far back. The entire mischief ran after it.
‘Well! There goes my last one.’ She closed her eyes and breathed gently. She felt a feverish chill and her fingers slowly becoming numb. Her head was light and the rain noises became softer and softer though it was pouring only heavier than before. She closed her eyes and finally gave in to rest. She could not hear anything else anymore but the sound of her heartbeat like disappearing far into a distance and into another reality. ‘Hello Death, it’s great to see you again. I’m not sure if I’m only visiting this time,’ she mumbled before her body collapsed to her side.