'Twas the night that two strangers, a man and a boy, made a trip on foot in search of civilization out west. The east coast of the United States and parts of Canada had been completely obliterated by a nuclear bomb.
The tragedy had just begun, but it felt like it had already been years. Their loved ones were gone, and they didn’t even have the time to process the grief. It was the beginning of World War III, and they were trapped in the center of it; the man and the boy had to relocate, and they had to do it quickly.
A good amount of debris had fallen earlier in the day, and it was blocking the exit to the bunker, where they had been hiding for the past twenty-four hours or so. The young boy had never been claustrophobic until now. He began to hyperventilate from all of the anxiety, when Zion put his hands on his shoulders to calm him down.
"Look. I know this is tough, but dying down here of starvation is much worse. There's no time to panic. Take a deep breath, and then I need you to stand over there in the corner, while I saw through the door. Go on. I got you. I'll be right here every step of the way." Zion said assertively as he softly dropped his hands from the boy's shoulders and opened the closet to retrieve a hand saw. It doesn't take long before Zion cut a hole large enough for the both of them to squeeze through.
Zion went back into the closet to fetch the heavy-duty oxygen helmets and body suits and tossed one of each to the boy. "Put these on, and don't take them off for any reason," the man said with great concern. The boy nodded and followed instruction.
"After you," Zion uttered.
The boy followed the kind man's order again without any hesitation. After all, he knew he was alive because of Zion's willingness to share his bunker with a kid he didn't even know. Frantically, the boy grabbed hold of the ladder and climbed up. There was no way he was going to die down there. It was dark and cold. The ground had no tiles, only dirt. It was practically an unmarked gravesite.
"Carefully!" Zion shouted while he reached out to catch the boy as his left foot slipped.
"Thank you," the boy sighed.
Zion replied, "No need to thank me. We're in this together."
They both made it out of the bunker safely. The silence outside was uncanny. The sky was gray, and there was nothing to see. Everything had been destroyed. There were no buildings or any sign of life. It appeared that nothing survived the attack except for Zion and the boy.
"We'll head west until we arrive in Las Vegas," Zion stated to redirect the boy's attention. He figured that if he announced a specific destination, then the boy would stop feeling so hopeless in a very hopeless place. He needed the boy to have hope, because it gave him hope in return.
Zion heard on a radio podcast that there was a bunker somewhere in Vegas with enough resources to feed hundreds of thousands of soldiers. It’s supposed to be as big as New York City used to be.
Days passed by, and Vegas was right up ahead. The boy had sweat dripping from his helmet; he was immensely hot underneath of the body suit, but Zion told him not to take it off under any circumstances, so he didn't complain. He reached for his water that Zion collected in a pouch along the way, but it was empty. Not a single drop was left to clench the boy's thirst. He looked up at Zion and shook the empty bag with sad eyes.
"I packed an extra one just in case one of us ran out before we reached Nevada. Have a sip," Zion said. The boy snatched the water and enjoyed much more than a sip. Zion laughed and patted the boy on his helmet.
Zion and the boy continued on their journey in search of the military's bunker, but they couldn’t find it. The boy grew tired from walking all day and lied down on the sand. This time, they were really out of water and running low on hope. As the boy's eyes closed, an unfamiliar voice called out.
"Hello! Can you hear me? Are you all alone?"
The boy wiped the sand from his eyes to see where the voice was coming from. It was a lady in an army uniform not too far away. He looked over to his right, where he thought Zion was sitting, but he wasn't there.
The boy quickly stood on his feet and looked around to find the man, but he was gone. Vanished. He checked the sand for footprints to see which direction Zion left, but there were only footprints the size of a small boot. He was incredibly bewildered. He had spent the past several days with Zion. He couldn't comprehend how the man could just disappear without a trace.
The woman soldier continued to move closer to the boy, but the boy had not yet responded to her questions. Her voice got louder as she screamed more questions, "Boy, where did you come from? Are you hurt? Have you been exposed to radiation?" The boy still didn't answer.
The grieving boy cried out, "Zion, how could you leave me?"
Right before the soldier was close enough to hear a thing, a whisper from the heavens replied to the boy's cry, "My sweet boy, I didn't abandon you. I lead you all the way here. Engulfed in the desert's parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.”
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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