We were all told this would happen eventually—the world was bound to come crashing down but we hadn’t expected it this soon. You see, it had been nearing the two-week mark of my father lying in an ICU bed. We had started this journey full of hope but there was an inkling of doubt in the back of my mind. It started out as a tickle, the welling of tears as my throat squeezed tight with panic. I hadn’t registered reality, my dad was dying and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I clutched the small heart shaped locket—a vintage piece full of intricate swirls that he had gifted me some odd years before as I stared down at his beautiful face. I couldn’t fathom what was happening, how he could be here one minute and gone the next. I joined my siblings on a small couch under a window near his bed as we flipped on the television—I didn’t care what was going on outside of these four walls. The world could have burned down around me and I wouldn’t have known.
As we watched buildings crumble and bridges falling into choppy waters it had become increasingly clear that things weren’t going to be looking up for us. How could we expect the doctors and hospitals to keep caring for our loved ones when they had to think about themselves and their survival? What would all of this mean for us, for me, for my family…for my dad? Where would that leave us? Honestly, as with everything going on— I didn’t think things were this bad when I first heard the news on the radio on my way to see my dad a few days before. Just as I didn’t think sedating my dad was that bad of an option. Sure we knew the risks but he had been healthy and strong when he went in. How could we have known that his liver would start failing. Just like the doctors had made everything seem possible, the news made it seem like another major storm was headed our way. This was something we were used to living in Florida—Hurricanes and bad weather. It would be sunshine and clouds by the end of the day—or so I thought.
If I had paid attention and stopped welling in denial than maybe things would have been easier for me to process. Reality was soul-wrenching, a finality that was unmatched by anything I had dreamt. The weather was the least of our problems and I was determined to stay and fight with my dad for as long as we could. I knew he was still in there—strong in mind. I replayed the words the Doctor had said hours before—“his mind isn’t preventing him from being here, it’s his body. His body is shutting down. There isn’t anything else we can do. Trust me; he would give anything to be here with you all”. Those words stung worse than the words that scrolled across the bottom of the television—“We are under attack. The best chance for survival is to move north. Millions stranded, even more dead”—the problem was, we were as far south as one could get—smack-dab in the middle of central Florida. It would take hours to get out of the city and there was no telling how long it would take to get to the upper part of North America…and then, what would we do? Wait? Wait for what?
There wasn’t a plan for what would happen next. The safest place anyone could be was nowhere. All the buildings that once soared high above Earth and touched the clouds were gone. Cars lined the roadways stranded between chunks of broken asphalt. It looked like someone dropped a wrecking ball and pulled it up the street, uprooting the smooth mantle that had once been our lifelines.
The Earth had started to break apart.
Scientist predicted this would happen—a series of events that started when an Island broke apart in the northern tip of Africa setting off series of violent Tsunami that destroyed miles of coastal waterfront all along the eastern United States, gutting whole cities and burying inland towns under debris. Power outages were rampant and what was left of many places had been set on fire by riots and looting. All across the world it seemed that things were going haywire.
News channels broadcasted breaking news reports and updates every five minutes or so—the death tolls were insurmountable. It wasn’t just my family that was going through the trauma and heartache of losing a loved one. Everyone was affected. It seemed that the decades of drilling into the Earth for gas and oil coupled with the vibrations of heavy machinery creating thousand story-sky-scrapers had finally done their damage. Cities with the most growth had felt the greatest impact first. Whole buildings gone, sucked into the Earth as blocks of vibrant metal buildings disappeared from sight miles below Earth taking with it—everything in its path. Mother Nature had done her bidding. She was tired. Her bones were brittle. She couldn’t hold up anymore.
The Earth as we knew it was killing itself and we were stranded left to wait for the inevitable. As I sat nestled between my brothers all I could hear on repeat was the last words my dad ever spoke to me—“don’t worry about me, be strong. I will be fine, this will all be over soon and I will see you in a few weeks”—well, here we are, a few weeks later and as I looked over at my father resting peacefully—oblivious to the chaos outside of this building—it was all too much to bear. He isn’t okay. He is dying. I wonder if he knew this would be the outcome. I wonder if he was scared. I wonder if he should have come in sooner or if he would have made this decision at all if he had known he wouldn’t survive. All of these thoughts—but now I am the one who is scared. We are all scared and not because the world is crumbling down around us…we are scared of what the world will be if and when my dad isn’t in it anymore.
Days before I couldn’t imagine this new world without him by my side but here I am, faced with the most devastating decision I could ever face. I knew couldn’t leave my dad in this hospital bed to die alone but I didn’t have any other options. What else could I do? There was no other choice. What else could we do? No one could change what was happening. Eventually we would have to leave and he would want us to move forward and save ourselves. He wouldn’t want us to give up. He would want us to live.
Plumes of black smoke were high in the sky. Mixing in with the orange and blue clouds; as I looked out of the large window to the parking lot below—the gates to the hospital were sealed shut. Every few feet were National Guard members posted up with guns on the inside wall keeping watch. Per Federal Order, the hospital was required to hold us until further notice. At least the nurse had come by to make sure we were comfortable, as comfortable as could be. The chatter amongst the rest of the stranded hospital-goers was that a helicopter would be sent in to extract volunteers and those who could lend a hand elsewhere. We put our names on the list.
I tossed the idea around in my mind. It was a magnetic pull. On one hand I wanted to be anywhere else but here. On the other hand I wanted to stay forever in this moment with him while he slept but I knew that couldn’t last forever. Mobs of people are huddled at the gate and scattered across the parking lot looking for help. We are safe for the time being but it would be far too dangerous to try and leave here on foot. The helicopter is our only option.
The hospital can’t risk an uprising and people barreling in but what happens when the food supplies run out? What happens when we lose power? We are being held prisoner in what would normally be ones refuge. There isn’t much hope for those left behind. Where will the helicopters take us? Can they take us all to the same place or would we be separated forever? There aren’t many people still alive in each town. News estimates that only a fraction of the population still exist and they are pushing for peace, trying to provide a semblance of normalcy for those who have become homeless. There are camps being set up and guarded by military and police for those of us who can make it in so for now, my siblings and I will have to remain strong and stick together. This fight for survival is just the beginning.
As we gather around my father one last time, the priest says a prayer. We will have to say goodbye for now. They are going to take us to the next camp, we have to leave. The doctor hands us a set of coordinates—“these will be where we put your father. Once it is safe, you may come back to retrieve his remains”. I smile as I fold the small piece of paper and place it into my locket. It is a reminder of peace, something we can take with us…something we can come back to.
The rush of warm air floods around us as the whirling blades soar above. I hold my siblings hands as we board the oversized helicopter, our destination unknown. Once we float above the hospital I watch as it drifts from sight as we slowly make our way above what was left of our hometown. Miles of suburbia and urban living gone—vacant, over-run, decimated. I clutch the small heart shaped necklace in my hand as I whisper the coordinates over and over and over. “I will never forget you” I cry out as hot tears roll down my cheeks.
This was just the beginning. There would be many hard days ahead; all we could do was keep moving forward—one foot in front of the other.
About the Creator
Writing my escape, my future…if you like what you read—leave a comment, an encouraging tip, or a heart—I’m always looking to improve, let me know if there is anything I can do better.
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