From the Ashes

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: The House of Macabre

Submitted: August 11, 2017

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Submitted: August 11, 2017

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I awoke from a black sleep that seemed to be an eternity, finding myself sprawled out on the ground under the shading of tree tops that let sparkles of sunlight pass through empty spaces between their green leaves. Grass and dead limbs poked at my uncovered skin that my faded black shirt and my old blue jeans couldn’t cover. Wetness covered my body from the early morning dew, and the moisture of my clothing made them stick to my skin and I grew cold, but the rays of sunlight slowly took the feeling away as it shined down on me. I rose to my feet feeling my damp clothes try to drag me down to the ground, and I looked around me seeing the vast trees and bright green grass with wild flowers blooming here and there, caging me like an animal. The sweet smells that I so longed missed in my slumber hit my senses, and a smile grew upon my wet face. Wiping away the minerals of water from my face I felt a medium sized beard, curly and messy, that wasn’t there before, hiding my chin away from the world acting as if it were shy to show itself. The feeling of hair touched my finger tips as I reached for the back of my neck to massage the aching that crept into existence. My hair was always a short black bush upon my head, but now the feeling of long hair that wasn’t there before mystified me. Confusion took over for mere seconds until the high pitched chirping of birds broke the silence of the woods, and the sight of the little honeybees gently landing upon a flower collecting pollen then moving to the next, took away that state of confusion and replaced it with joy. Forgetting about the physical changes to myself, I walked deeper into the woods. ‘How I got here’ or ‘Why am I here’ left my thoughts, for my memory, I had no recollection of the events that brought me here.

I walked further with a smile planted on my face, the birds still chirping and the bees still working. For this moment of time I felt like the happiest soul on earth. For me, this was the closest I have been with nature and finding it pleasurable. The city life kept me away from such pleasure, for work never allowed me to escape to this dimension of the world, and the closest I have been with nature besides this moment, was the little cactus plant that dangled in its medium sized pot on the balcony of my wife and I’s third story apartment, that stood on the outer portion of the heart of New York City. Now the thought of my wife, Ellis, filled my mind. A wretched woman with a foul mouth, if there was any good in her heart it had long since died. She was evil, the perfect sinner the Devil could ask for, but I loved her so. She was never home because of her work at sea, but when she did come home on rare occasions, she would deliver punishments upon me, in public or home. Probably when I return home after being gone, she will spit sinister words like daggers upon me, hiss words of hatred that rested in her soul to me, but how I loved her so. Maybe she would smack me or punch me, but yet I would still love her and remain her obedient pet. Treated like a dog from 4 months into our relationship, before marriage at the age of 24, and all the torment I went through, during the five years of marriage seemed to make me fancy it. Now as I think of her a smirk grows on my face.

I continued walking in the depths of the woods and darkness seemed to creep in the sky, slowly blackening out the brightness of the sun. Storm clouds rushed in but delivered no rain. A large opening in the trees let black fragments descend to the ground and I caught a piece from the air and analyzed it. A smoky fume arose from the black fragment and with the touch of my free hand it separated into hundreds of pieces. It was ash from a burned paper or cardboard or leaf of some kind. Puzzlement clouded my mind.

As I strolled along the straight path I was making, the heavier the ash thickened in the sky. More and more fell upon the earth, now blanketing the bright green grass with black snow. Ash was now clinging to my jeans, shirt, and hair, all of which were still damp. The black snow that paved the ground buried my Nike shoes with each step I took. Instead of white, they were now black. Within the distance I saw an opening enlarge as I drew closer. Through the large cracks of space I saw smoke rising in the distance, thick and heavy. Finally when I reached the opening, my face changed to shock. Where I would find my home with its towering buildings and beautiful city lights, was now a land of smoke and destruction. A mile I walked to reach the outer boundaries of this once beloved city, and saw rubble painting the ground and streets. The bases of buildings still stood, no more than two stories tall, but every piece of steel, glass, and cement above that was now lost in the mixture that lay in the streets.

I roamed upon these ruins, finding cars and trucks destroyed and buses that were flipped over. Farther into the heart I went, not knowing if it was day or night. The most horrific sight I looked upon of all this chaos was a school bus that punched through the wall of what was once the Empire State Building. When I looked the driver was dead, and the sight of innocent children that lay quietly asleep not awakening to the sound of my presence, brought bulbs of tears to my eyes. The sight of this sickened me and made my stomach turn, and drop after drop the tears fell away from my eyes hitting the floor. I headed East towards the Atlantic Ocean, and while I journeyed I found bodies of citizens laying in the streets; some out in the open while others were entombed by rubble and a single arm from the buried was sticking out from underneath. The city I once endured in was now a living hell.

Maybe a day and a half along the way, I stumbled upon a weeping sound that echoed out into the street from a darkened alley on the right side of me. It sounded of a little girl. I stood at the mouth of the alley hearing this desperate crying from the dark abyss that stood at the depths of it. Now terrified of the thought of what horror was luring me to walk down into the alley’s throat, I drew nearer to the weeping  and found a little girl, probably no more than seven years old, with her head buried in her knees behind a rusting city dumpster with splotches of the original green that it once was. There were rips and blood stains on her shirt and pants, her once bright pink and black shoes were now destroyed by black dust and use. I kneeled down before her and placed my right hand upon her left shoulder. She flinched in surprise then flung her arms around me squeezing the breath out of me, placing her head on my shoulder. I could feel her sorrow internally; it was like it was transferred to me when she wrapped her arms around me. In response I hugged her back like she was my own child.

“What happened here?” I asked her.

“Planes from the skies dropped bombs on the city…… gunfire and bullets in every direction…… people dying around me, my mommy and daddy too.” She started to sob even more trying to explain. “The war of all wars came.”

This last line of words she said echoed in my ear as I registered that World War III had recently happened. The war that was so believed to end the world if it ever happened, which now it did.

“What year is it?” the words shot out of my mouth without thinking.

“2037.” She replied keeping her head pressed against my shoulder.

After hearing this, my skin seemed to turn pale. Twenty years had passed while I was asleep, and the world has now burned in the flames of evil and chaos. Everything that was beautiful is now destroyed. ‘Is my wife still alive or is she dead too like most of the people’ I thought. The question was without answer. The only way to know was to find out myself.

“Would you like to join me on my walk?” I asked the girl.

“To where? There is nothing left.” She said pushing away from me now looking into my eyes.

“The ocean.” I replied.

“For what?” she questioned.

“To find some sort of happiness from the ashes.” I said to her. With confusion I could easily read from her face, she nodded and stood to her feet and I followed. We walked out of the alley her left hand connected with my right and headed East. Along the way we found other people; women, men, and lonely kids of all ages sitting on the open sidewalk that wasn’t covered by remains of buildings, with scrapes and cuts all over their bodies and ripped clothes with red stains covering themselves. Even a priest joined us and conducted prayer (that I never took part in) when we came to rest. During the resting periods that we took four times a day, the men of about twenty came with me in search of food in restaurants and stores. These places were once live and crammed with people of all sorts, rich and the poor, but now stood as haunting places of good memories and that’s all that was left of them, just memories.

About two hours after our third rest of the fourth day (maybe), we came upon the remains of the apartment my wife and I bought. I looked in horror as my eyes and mind took in all of what remained. The nice leather furniture that was in the lobby and the adult gaming area behind the wall of the front counter, where men gambled their money away on pool, was all gone, now a thing of the past. The spiral doors were now blocked by a medium sized mound of ruin, their golden glare now covered in dust. Everything that I loved and cherished was gone. My vinyl records of Jimi Hendrix and other classical rock bands, my piano where I sat and played sweet melodic tunes, and my typewriter where I would sit at the kitchen table and press the different buttons that created words amongst a page, now they were nothing more than a memory. A small rectangular piece of paper was seated outside the base of the mound flipped over hiding its contents. I walked over and picked it up revealing the photo of my wife and I on our first date on Ellis Island. How pretty she looked in her green clothes. I held the picture close to my heart finding that there was a sense of hope that she was still alive. This eagerness drove me for another day this time adding into the prayer the priest delivered. I prayed and prayed in my mind about her not being dead and sometimes when we rested I looked to the darkened sky imagining the glowing stars in the heavens watching their shining beauty, and wondered if my wife was doing the same thing if she was still alive.

On the last of my journey with the many people I walked with, with a smile on my face and memories of the time I spent with these people that I could hold onto in this ruined world, we finally reached the Atlantic Ocean. From there we all saw the happiness we all needed from the ashes. There she stood with her burning torch of freedom and faith of a new hope; my wife and my lady liberty I have come home to.


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