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What'll Happen to the Kids?

Part 1

By Jen MearnsPublished 3 years ago 5 min read

They said it wasn’t a big deal. President Best said, in his words, “It’s no worse than the flu. Don’t worry. Don’t panic. We won’t shut down. It would be murder on the American economy.”

What a joke. What economy? There’s nothing left.

I’ve had the flu. So had my parents. It was nothing like this virus. This virus caused my parents to die, slowly suffocating on their own mucus. I was so sick, I didn’t think I would make it either. It was touch and go for a while. My fever would spike to 105, even 106, but even after my parents died, I knew going to the hospital was worthless. They couldn’t do anything. They were filled past capacity. Doctors and nurses were getting sick and dying at alarming rates. All I could do was lie in bed and try to keep fluids down and watch the news. Until they stopped broadcasting because everyone was sick or dead.

I’m better now. Weak. I’ve lost at least 20 pounds on my already thin frame. I’m fourteen years old. My name is Daisy. My mom’s name was Rosie and my dad’s was Tom. They are sending collectors around to collect dead bodies. Until there aren’t enough people alive to do that job.

I don’t wait around. I can’t stay in the house with my parents’ bodies one second longer. I pack my backpacking pack with clothes and supplies. Thankfully, my dad was into camping and hiking. He taught me how to set up a tent, build a fire and cook. I throw in the book he bought on edible plants and mushrooms, the one we made fun of him for because, who was he kidding? Was he going to go out and live off the land for months at a time? He was a history teacher and he coached soccer.

I’m not laughing now.

We have a large 6-person tent in the garage, but I can’t take that. It will be too heavy. I bring a tarp in case it rains, and my sleeping bag.

Most of the people in my neighborhood are dead. The streets are quiet at 4 a.m. the day I feel strong enough to take off. I make my way to the local Walmart, which is about 10 miles away. Going so slowly, it takes me the entire day to reach the store. The windows are busted because people can’t help themselves in times of chaos, but there aren’t enough people left to empty the store.

I shuffle over to the camping section, too tired to do anything but place my sleeping bag in the aisle and go to sleep. I grab a can of self-defense spray off the shelf and keep it in my hand in case anyone bothers me. I’m asleep before my head hits the pillow I grabbed from the home goods section on my way through.

The next day, I awaken to the sounds of someone rifling through my pack.

“HEY!” I shout and fumble for my spray. I’m just getting ready to pull the tab so I can squirt the noxious stuff in the interloper’s eyes when he holds up his hands and backs away.

“Woah, hey. Stop! I was just looking for your ID. I didn’t want to wake you up.”

“You could’ve just asked me.” I eye him warily. He looks to be about 16, but I don’t recognize him. I had entered high school and attended for only two months before the pandemic hit, so it was entirely likely he did go to my school.

“I didn’t want to wake you. I already said that.”

“Anyway, I don’t have ID. I don’t have my driver’s license yet.” I pull my pack closer to me and glare at him.

“How old are you?” he asks.

“Sixteen,” I lie. I don’t want him to know my real age.

“Really?” He seems skeptical. I guess with my 20-pound weight loss from the stupid virus, I could likely pass for 12.

“Yes.” I thrust my chin up, committing to the lie. “How old are you? What’s your name?”

“I’m Jack and I’m sixteen.”

“Really?” I mimic him.


We stare at each other for a while. I don’t trust him. I won’t trust anyone. I’m not stupid. He probably doesn’t trust me either. Good.

I slide out of my sleeping bag and adjust my clothing. My eyes peruse the shelves and spot a box of Cliff bars. I grab it and take one out. I’m starving. My appetite hasn’t quite been the same since I was sick, but right now I could eat a buffalo.

The bar does little to sate me, but another one and a bottle of water from my pack seems to do the trick. I can’t eat fast or a lot as my stomach has shrunk so much.

Jack helps himself to my Cliff bars and munches thoughtfully.

“Those are mine.” I say, stupidly. I didn’t pay for them. I don’t have any money and there’s no one here to take it even if I did. Jack just rolls his eyes.

“What’s your name?” he asks me.

I consider lying, but what would be the point? “Daisy.”

“Nice to meet you,” Jack says, holding out his hand.

I eye his hand skeptically, then shake it.

“What’s your story?” he asks me.

I shrug. “What’s yours?”

“I asked first.”

“I asked last.” Jack stares at me and I stare right back. Finally, he rolls his eyes.

“Parents and sister dead. Aunt and uncle, cousins, dead. I’m from Virginia, but I’ve been coming south. I’m thinking about going west to the mountains.”

“Do you have a car?” I ask.

“I have a motorcycle.”

“Is there gas left?” I ask him.

“For now. There aren’t any people using it, so…”

I think for a minute. I hate being so alone, but I don’t know if I can trust him. “My mom and dad died. I don’t have any siblings.”

“Where are you going?” he asks.

I shrug. “I don’t know.”

“Want to go with me?”

“Why the mountains?”

“Why not? It seems as good a place as any. There’s been unrest at the coast. I think the countries that have people left are sending their militaries to check us out. I’m afraid there might be a war.”

“How? There’s no one left.”

“There’s people left. Just…not that many. Anyway, I think I’ll be safer someplace more remote.”

“It’ll be cold there. In the winter.”

“Maybe I can find an abandoned cabin or something. You should come with me. It’s boring being alone. You can keep that,” he said, gesturing to my self-defense spray.

“I will anyway.”

“Good.” He wandered away, giving me some space. I watched him search the aisles for what, I didn’t know. Probably nothing. Just wasting time until I answered him.

“Fine.” I say. What did I have to lose? Maybe we could help each other.

“Great!” He grinned.

Looks like I had a partner. In crime?

Young Adult

About the Creator

Jen Mearns

I've been writing for fifteen years and have published many articles online, as well as my fiction on Amazon. I find it fulfilling to know that people are reading my stories. Writing is a passion, not a job.

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    Jen MearnsWritten by Jen Mearns

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