Monday, January 14, 2013
1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Bidania Rev 1
Name: V.T. Bidania
Genre: YA Apocalyptic/Thriller
Title: Till the End of the World
I’m scared. Not only because my family’s the only family left in our suburb. Or because looters keep coming by the neighborhood. Or because Mom’s getting sicker every day, or even that I’m never going to see Nick again. I’m scared because the world’s ending and I don’t want to have any hope that we’re going to survive -- and then not.
It’s not yet dawn and I’m crouched by the kitchen window, peeking out the curtains, gripping my brother Ben’s old varsity baseball bat in one hand and Mom’s birding binoculars in the other. It’s my turn on watch.
Here in the kitchen where just a week ago we were enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, now I’m alone, surrounded by a silence so deafening I’m afraid my ears will burst. Down the hall, my family sleeps. I hear them crisp and clear from where I sit. Dad and Ben’s synchronized snoring. Mom’s noisy, winded breaths; her oxygen machine is off and her breathing is loud. Yet the silence continues to blare at me.
Through the tiny slit in the curtains, I see the sun slowly creep over the treetops, quietly paint a coat of blue-gray light onto the empty driveways and abandoned houses.
It’s been days since we heard any warning sirens, since army trucks rumbled down the street to remove any wreckage from riots, since we saw anyone out besides looters. Now the only movement I can spot is the occasional plastic bag whirling across the ground like tumbleweed.
I hold the bat so tightly my knuckles hurt, and I wonder if I’d be brave enough to whack a looter on the head with it. If a group of looters actually stormed into our house right now, if they tore down our doors the way I saw them do yesterday to Mrs. Fitzgerald’s deserted house across the street, would I really be able to use this bat as a weapon?
My eyes flit back to the window and I lean closer to the glass, scan the area once more. But it’s dead quiet out there, too. Not even a breeze stirs through the trees. As I stare at the calm, leafless branches, I try hard not to think about Nick. As I watch the curving, winding sidewalks, I try to stop wondering why he didn’t tell me, why he didn’t warn us. With his dad being some kind of important Pentagon official, you’d think he would have had the resources to help us somehow. If he’d wanted. Or at least to give me the heads-up. Didn’t he owe me that much?
Focus on the curbside, the road. Nick is gone now.
“April, where are you?”
I turn around to find Mom in the hallway, searching the gray shadows of the kitchen for me. She’s wearing the pink flannel pajamas I got her for Mother’s Day. Her favorite wool sweater is draped over her shoulders like a shawl. With one hand pressed against the wall, she looks more frail than usual. Like she might fall over if she lets go.
“Mom, why are you up so early?”
She spots me by the window and frowns. “You need rest,” she says and takes an unsteady step toward me.
I toss my bat and binoculars onto the counter and rush over to help her. It’s probably too early for looters anyway. Mom holds onto my hand as we step down the hall. I can feel her veins protruding from underneath her soft, thin skin. Her fingers are so cold.
“How are you feeling this morning?” I ask, although I doubt she’ll tell me the truth. She hates it whenever any of us worry about her, especially if it’s me.
“Good,” she says and I know she’s lying. I see the truth in her tired eyes, her slow breaths. She tries to clear her throat but is interrupted by a sudden coughing fit. It forces her bony shoulders to shake up and down violently, flushing more red into her already pink cheeks.
“Are you okay?” I rub her back and Mom nods, pounds her chest with her fist. “Come on, let’s get some oxygen.”
I tug her gently into the family room, where we’ve been sleeping since the Voluntary Evacuation. It’s now morning but the room is still dark. The entire house is dark because Dad and Ben worked late into the night boarding up most of the windows and doors from inside.
I help Mom into her wheelchair by the side of the pullout where Dad is snoring away. Just as I pick up her oxygen mask, a thunderous pounding rips through the house. The mask drops from my fingers and I spin around, my heart stomping fast.
The front door’s about to burst open. The panels of wood boarded across the doorframe shake and rattle as the pounding roars louder.
Dad snaps up from under the blankets. Sleep lines criss-cross the side of his face like scars. “What is that?”
“Someone’s outside!” I whisper.
“Ben!” Dad hops off the couch to wake him, but my brother’s already kicking his covers away. He springs up from his air mattress on the floor, turns his head from side to side.
“What happened?” Ben asks.
Dad points to the front door and Ben stumbles to his feet. His thermal top and sweatpants are wrinkled, his messy hair stuck flat to the back of his head. He grabs Dad’s golf club on the coffee table. They both start for the foyer.
“Wait!” I see red and blue lights flash in from the foyer window. Through the frosted glass, I can make out figures standing on our front steps. Probably not looters.
I scurry ahead of them to the door. I rise to my tiptoes and squint out the peephole. A group of soldiers and a cop. Behind them two army trucks and a squad car are parked sloppily in the street. I exhale. “Soldiers and police.”
“Open up!” a voice hollers, pounding again.
Ben and I look at Dad. He nods and reaches for the power drill on the shelf.
When Dad pries the door open, four soldiers and a police officer peer in at us. One soldier points a flashlight into the house. The rest stare with wide open eyes, their curious faces frozen on ours.
“Good morning, I’m Sergeant Thompson,” says the one with the flashlight. He motions to the others behind him. “Sergeants Michaels, Jones, Cruz, and Officer Harris. Is everyone in here okay?”
Dad nods. “What’s happening out there?”
Thompson flicks off the light. “Looks like you’re the last family in town. We’ve been combing these neighborhoods and everyone else has cleared out.”
I notice the soldier beside him watching me. I think I recognize him from somewhere. He’s looking at Ben, too.
“So what’s the status?” Dad says. “Can you tell us anything? About the… anything at all?”
Thompson shakes his head. “No information, sir. You know as much as we do. We’re moving through the area, making sure those who stayed behind are safe. That’s all we know.”
“Josh Michaels?” Ben says.
Sergeant Michaels steps closer to the door. “Berkeley! Ben Berkeley from Little League, right? I don’t believe it! It’s been what, ten, eleven years?”
So I have seen him before.
Ben shakes Michaels’ hand. “Just about. How long’ve you been in the military?”
“National guard, three years now. How’s your family? Wait, why are you still here?”
Ben glances at Mom. “My mom’s sick, and our cars were stolen.”