Who am I? I’m just like you. I have secrets. I have a past. Possibly a future. I do stupid things, like push doors that say pull. It’s in my blood to be melodramatic, and care too much at times. I am often unsure, and even selfish. People say I’m a downer, but I’ve learned to dance in the rain. I have a crazy family, and even crazier friends, that are convinced I’m a liar. I dream big and pretend that when dawn breaks, he thinks of me.
Who am I? Why, I’m just like you.
I. My Life
I could tell you I love my life, and that I don’t over emphasize small problems, and that birds still sing. But that would be a lie, and my friends would be right. I don’t hate my life, but I don’t particularly favor it. I make a big deal out of everything; I’m quite the drama queen. And birds? They haven’t been around since the air was clean in 2093. But that was a long time ago.
The world I live in now is filled with doubt and shadows. It is an era of darkness, fear, and death. It is interesting, but painful to talk about. So instead I’ll tell you about the world I used to know and love. I have a habit to live in the past that I’m trying to get over, but I know no matter how hard I try, I will never break it. So I may as well embrace it.
I have always hated stories that start with: “It all started when…” But now I have to use that line. For it all started when I was sixteen, and quite the adventurer. I would wander out into the woods by my house, looking for something. Anything. But there was nothing but trees and grass. No bugs. No animals. That was the first time I realized pollution had killed off all creatures, even the dogs and the cats. Humans survived by buying air. Not air, actually, but a very special, very rare, and very expensive air conditioner. It would clean all the air within a mile of it.
Of course, then all the folks that didn’t have the money to buy it would hide out by the people’s houses that did. Soon our tiny town was filled with struggling, broke people who I like to call “Moochers.” I don’t blame them though. Living now is simply a luxury, one most families can’t afford. Literally.
Anyway, when I got back to my house, I asked my sister Jillian a question. I was told when I was young not to ask any questions, none at all, because they are supposedly a burden to others. At first, Jill stared at me as if I were crazy, but answered me. She said: “June, mother died in a plane crash when you were little.” It had been the only question I’ve ever asked, and I had been hoping for a more joyous answer. You’d think I would be sad, but how am I to miss someone I don’t remember?
Years past, and things only got worse, but I would tell myself things get worse before they get better. So they would eventually get better. I was wrong. Anyway, after I found out about my mom, I stopped exploring all together. There was nothing to find, so what was the point of looking? Life continued normally until one cold December night, when disaster struck. The skies had gone dry; it hadn’t rained or snowed for a century. Somehow, it seemed as though the clouds had held in all the water and waited to let it out until the right time. It thundered, and rained, and there was lighting; lots of it. I wasn’t scared because I wasn’t exactly sure what I would be scared of. In fact, I enjoyed the storm for a while. But soon, things got out of hand. The sewers flooded and the pipes burst. In panic, people ran about the streets, trying to escape. My father, my sister Jillian, and my brothers Steven and Daniel hid in our attic, while I offered to wait outside and see what was happening. I hadn’t even heard of drowning until it started happening to the young children that couldn’t swim. It was horrific watching helpless, innocent people die before your eyes. But it wasn’t that uncommon in the time.
The water rose to at least three feet. Streetlights fell and stop signs were pulled away with the current. I was forced to retreat to the attic just to find my father had had a heart attack. Steven screamed and Jillian cried and Daniel was yelling at me to do something. But all I did was stare at my dying father. The rain came down even faster, and soon enough, it leaked through the walls, and flooded our attic in a matter of minutes. He closed his eyes, gasping for air. It was the first time any of us cried, for we were convinced for a long period of time that there was not a single thing to cry about.
I turned away, and jumped into the water before he died, for it was not something I wanted to see. Jillian and Steven came after me, but Daniel never left my father. I don’t know if he drowned with him, or if he escaped and found a nice, new, safe place to live. All I know is I haven’t seen him since then.
Jillian, Steven, and I locked arms and hurried out of our house. But the water pushed us back and kept us from leaving.
“Listen to me.” Jillian had said. “Take a deep breath when I say so, and swim out through my window, I left it open.”
“No!” I remember saying. “I can’t do it.” She looked me straight in the eyes and told me I could, and that we’ll be alright. As if she knew.
Only seconds passed before Jill screamed: “Now!” I took the biggest gulp of air I possibly could, and swam into her room. Steven swam by me in the hall; he was always the faster swimmer. I watched him go through the window and disappear into the distance before I even got into Jill’s room. Time went by slow and I was running out of air. On the way out the window, I saw a picture float by me. I remember staring at it in disbelief. I hadn’t seen a picture in years. And what it was a picture of was even more surprising. I’m not positive, but I think it was my mother.
I squeezed through the window, and was extremely tempted to look back and see if Jill had made it. But my chest hurt and I desperately needed air. I pushed myself to the surface, gasping, and looking around franticly for Steven and Jill. But they were nowhere in sight.
Tears fell down my cheeks. Sadness was a feeling I wasn’t used to, and I despised every second of my pain. I know, I know. Self-pity’s bad, blah, blah, blah. I had my reasons.
I swam to a nearby pine tree and began to climb it. It was tall, but the water was rising fast. When I looked down, I saw Jill, and an overwhelming feeling of happiness replaced the depression. She was alive, but struggling, but still alive. Having known I had to help her, I scooted back down the tree and yelled: “Give me your hand!”
First she shook her head and yelled back: “I can’t do it! I’m afraid!”
“It’ll be fine!” I remember telling her. “Just take my hand now!”
She did and I pulled her up with me. And we waited. And waited. And waited. We were there for probably an hour, and eventually, the rain died down, and the water lowered. I don’t know what happened to Steven. After the flood, I never saw him again.
Then I slide down the tree, with Jillian close behind. I stared at the ruins of our town, and felt tears fall down my cheeks again. But as soon as I started crying, I stopped. Anger replaced the pain. Without saying a word, I took off running into the woods, leaving Jill behind.
I ran and ran, going nowhere in particular. Anywhere was better than the remains of my destroyed home. All I wanted was to be alone. When I got to the middle of the forest, I stopped and collapsed to the floor. I allowed myself to cry, for my father, for Daniel, and for Steven. I laid there sobbing for a long time. Finally looking up, I saw him. He was staring at me as if I were crazy.
“Are you okay?” He asked. I had sighed. I remember not knowing how to answer.
“Here.” He offered me his hand and helped me up. “I’m Lae.” He’d told me.
“I’m June.” Right about then Jill had finally found me and began screaming at me for taking off and not saying where I was going. Of course, she then realized Lae was right in front of us, and turned to him, embarrassed.
“Hello.” She’d said, nervously chuckling.
“Hi. I’m Lae.” She’d then looked back and forth between us, and then said:
“Excuse my sister and I a moment.” She the continued to yell at me, in private of course, as Lae waited patiently for her to finish. I wasn’t exactly listening, but I nodded occasionally and promised to never do it again. When she was done giving her lecture, she turned to Lae and said:
“I’m Jill, and this is my sister June. Can I help you?” Jill never was one for strangers, especially during chaos. She liked being left alone better.
“No.” He’d said, and continued standing there. I had to control my laughter because Jill was getting annoyed and he wasn’t leaving. I’d found it rather funny.
Jill then sighed and rolled her eyes as if he was doing something wrong.
“C’mon. Let’s head back to Parkside.” I had then shook my head furiously and said:
“No. No, no, no! I am not going back there!” Then Jill had literally dragged me to the Parkside. I was screaming bloody murder and fighting her off. Lae didn’t seem to notice. He simply followed us, humming to himself. I remember thinking: “I can’t go back there. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!” As if it was the end of the world. But really, it was just the beginning.
Anyway, by the time we walked into Parkside city limits, I had final broke free of Jill’s iron-like grasp, and began running from all the bad memories that had happened not even an hour ago. I needed time to calm down before I would have to see it all again. Of course, me being a total klutz, I tripped and fell out 1/3 of the way through the woods. I blacked out, and didn’t wake until about an hour later. When I did, Lae and Jill were kneeling over me.
“What happened?” I’d asked them.
“You tripped and hit your head on a rock.” Jill had said.
“Are you alright?” I had noticed blood on their hands. Then I tried to sit up. Out of nowhere, my head began pounding, and I thought my skull might explode. I had never gotten a headache, so getting a major migraine was just awful.
Then Lae had picked me up and asked Jill: “Where do we go now?” Jill had shrugged and mildly suggested: “The woods, I suppose.” As if hundreds of people didn’t just die in a flood that killed her family. As if we didn’t not have a home. As if our town wasn’t now just fallen houses and fallen dreams. They both acted as if nothing had happened, of course, not that I was walking down Mourn Road. It stills bugs me that they could just forget everything and move on so quickly. Without as much as a single goodbye, Lae carried me through the woods with Jill following.
TO BE CONTINUED.