Through The Crowd
The day it rolled across our part of the country, we were eating Christmas dinner. The whole family was there. Laughing, having a few drinks, you know, the usual things a family does at that time of year. It was smiles and happiness all around.
Of course, that was before everything…
Now… here I am year later, among people I have known for only a short time, among a mass of sadness and depression. My family is gone, all of them, dead. I saw it with my own eyes, right at the table. There was no way anyone could have seen it coming. By the time the warnings went out, everyone was already gone.
Everyone but me… and a few select others.
I walked the streets alone, trawling through the stinking mass of bodies that littered every area, rendering no place clean, perpetually toxifying the air. I could do nothing but walk in a direction where I could be free of the oppression such death brought, free of the bodies I left behind still sat at the table. I felt terrible for that, but what else could I do? So, I kept going until I hit the country, far away enough to not smell the stench of death, or hear the buzzing of the flies. There, in the hills, the world was as it always was. Clean, normal. I tried to make myself believe that in the following days. I rationalised, told myself I was in a dream. I couldn’t believe something so terrible could happen in reality. Something so completely destructive.
One of the assistants ushers the line along. We slowly move like an endless, human caterpillar, always in continuous motion. I have my papers ready, as the people do around me. Some of them friends, some who I recognise, others who I like a lot less. However, we are all after the same thing, all heading in the same direction. We want safety, continuity, clean food and water. More than anything we want a return to normality, no matter what form it comes in, or how we get there. Humans are a civilisation built on strong culture and society, both of which we currently reside at zero.
A small stand hands people soup in tiny cone cups. I grab one, thankful for the warmth on this cold night, thankful that people have been good enough to do even this. Maybe there is still hope to be had. I pray that this might be true. The broth is sweet, and about the best thing I’ve had all week. Its steam rises, quickly condensing before vanishing into the dark. I can’t help but think we are all like that steam.
Nearing the checkpoint, and with soup in the bellies of the people, the atmosphere feels somewhat less impenetrable, less hostile. A quietened chatter fills the air. And unlike the stagnant, finished voices one normally hears out here, there is hope in and amongst the whispers. A hope that fills every aspect of our bodies. A will that things are going to be okay. A need for everything to work out in the end. Though, I sense people hang onto their pessimism, unsure of what the next corner might bring. Suspicious of anything that sounds too good to be true. People have walked long and far to get to this place, as I have too. Whatever caution we cling to has to be discarded, it is this or nothing. Life in there, or life out here. The latter is too hard a concept to grasp. It is no life. This isn’t living. Looking back, I can’t comprehend how I have lasted a year in that godforsaken land.
I hand the armed man at the checkpoint my papers. Papers which consist of nothing more than my name and age. He nods and I am huddled along through to another who pats me down, removing the knife from my belt and the pistol from my bag. I don’t protest. There has to rules, they are the bedrock of society.
I am here, at last.
They call it New Hope, which I think is an utterly ridiculous name. Nonetheless, it makes it hard to mistake what this place is. What it offers to all of us passing through its gates. We hope this is it… life, once again. We all need something to help us forget the past, what happened and what we’ve lost. For we have lost, so, so much.
I follow the people, grouping up with my friends. We glance at each other, filled to the brim with anxiety. And yet, beneath that there is a well of excitement and happiness. Because we know we will never be given a better chance. It is all or nothing.
We have to make this work, no matter what. It has to. For humanities sake. For our legacy.