I woke up to a horrible noise permeating the air. It was like someone was taking two pieces of rusty metal and grinding them together, only a trillion times louder. Through what I could see, Johnny was hiding behind Gina in his sleeping bag, and Chris was rolling in agony. As was I. I just got time to let out a scream before the shock came. It was as if we were small leaves blowing in the wind, because once we were met by it, we went flying into the air in our little tent. I held on to Fred, since I was sure this was the last we would ever see of each other. Just afterwards, I felt a sudden stop, and all went black.
Through the small crack in my eyelids, I could see dimly two, maybe three faces staring at me. I closed them, and opened them again. This time, it was only the colour white. I let it go a few seconds before doing the same again, only this time my sight started to return. I blinked, and there they stood. Gina, Chris, Johnny, and… Where’s Fred? I sat up, and asked the same question to the others. Gina looked at me more seriously this time, and leaned towards me. “Lil,” she said, a tear in her eye, “Fred’s dead,” Nothing could prepare me for that. I just sat there, unable to speak, unable to cry, unable to fathom what had happened. Fred’s dead. The words echoed in my brain. I just sat there and thought about it, until another thought popped up. The meteorite had hit. I suddenly remembered. My parents were studying medicine at Texas University, and had been chosen to go to the Colony. I wasn’t so lucky. I suddenly set my mind. I am going to survive this. For Fred.
My friends weren’t so determined. When I came to them, they just sat there, silently. “What are you waiting for?” I said, a bit more angrily than I planned. “Don’t you want to live?” I didn’t get much in response, a little nod from Gina, maybe. “Okay,” Johnny managed to say. “What are we gonna do?” “Go to the city,” I said, confidently. I knew that it wasn’t that safe. It wasn’t a big city, and most people knew we were atheists. That was a bad thing. The fundamentalists had taken control in the country after the shuttles went, three years ago. They had managed to convince nearly every religious person of the evil, immoral ways of anyone non-religious. Therefore we had to be careful. And careful we were.
We sneaked around buildings, making sure we weren’t seen. I’m pretty sure we succeeded, but what we saw, was terrifying. Buildings were torn down by the shock, and people were stumbling mindlessly around the streets. In the background the cross on the roundabout had been reduced to its steel frame. Although I was against the religious regime in America, I thought of that cross as pure art. [Author’s note: this is the reference requested in the task]
Before sneaking into the line of fire we had come up with a list of supplies. The list included, but was not exclusive to: A car, gasoline, canned food, water (a lot), water cookers, new clothes, guns, and tents.
We started by finding the guns, since we most likely had to protect ourselves through the rest of the city. In the gun shop there was no one. We took some knives each, and searched the area. After clearing out we got a hold of all the machinery we could carry; two handguns and an assault rifle each, plus a lot of ammunition.
The next was to find a car, and it also went surprisingly easy. It seemed like no one was anywhere around. The same was for the clothing, gasoline, water cookers, and canned food. Just as we were going to find water I realized what we were going to. Around the corner stood at least a thousand people. All ready to get their supply of water. To get water, we had to go out of our car, and we didn’t want to do that. We had to steal it.
We waited until night came to execute our plan. Thinking about stealing the life from so many people scared us, so we tried not to think much. This was a time when everything was about personal survival, and we couldn’t survive without water. We had to do it, and this was how: the plan started with Johnny cutting the throat of the guard. Then Gina, Christopher and I were to run and get the 50 gallon tank, carry it to the car, and drive. No one was to notice. Or, so we thought. The first part went flawless. Johnny seemed to have no problem executing the guard, but 50 gallons is a lot of water. As we noticed we couldn’t carry the tank, I whisper-shouted for Johnny to come help us. That was not a smart move. Just as Johnny came, and the tank lifted, a voice sounded across the alley: “Hey, a bunch of heathens are stealing our water!” (In retrospect, I don’t really know how they knew we were non-religious, but I assume they just saw some thieves and drew that conclusion.) We didn’t know yet, but those words would be very dangerous for us later on. They started shooting at us, but it didn’t seem like any of us were hit at first, and the tank wasn’t leaking. We got in the car and drove away. We were safe for now.
After driving for about 10 hours I noticed some weird black patterns along Johnny’s thighs, but didn’t take much notice of it. He had been looking a bit more quiet than usual, and had a tensed look on his face, but he assured me nothing was wrong.
About 30 miles later the engine overheated. We had to stop and eat some food, and drink water. We let a half hour pass before trying to open the hood of the car. Johnny took a quick look into it, before looking confidently at the others and saying, “Okay guys, what we need to do now is to fill up the engine cooler with water. Chris, you get the tank,” Chris was just about to turn around and get the tank before Gina stopped him. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. I can fix the problem without wasting water. Just get me the tool box, Chris,” Once again was Chris stopped, but this time Johnny did it. I just zoned out, because I knew what was coming. What I could gather from the fight was the words “majoring mechanics”, and “my dad says so”. Normally such a fight lasted about 5-10 minutes, and today was no exception. I could seem to notice that the black vein patterns on Johnny’s thigh were growing. I snapped back to hear Gina ask if I agreed with her. I just nodded. I didn’t know it, but I probably was. As usual.
Two hours later we were up and running again, and we had the radio set to AM in case there were any important messages. There were a few between the different cities, where the religious ruled. Nothing noticeable had come as we entered a city. This was a place where we could hide, where no one knew who we were. We thought. We were driving slowly through the wrecked streets of what seemed like a ghost town. Not a single person was there that we could see. While slowly rolling down the streets, we heard a gunshot sound. A bullet whistled straight in front of my face and through the edge of Johnny’s thigh. Without thinking, I took off my shirt and pressed it towards his thigh. He looked in shock, so I just shouted for him to drive, and he did so. As he sped through the streets I felt a few bullets right beside my head, but nothing hit. We managed to get out of the city before anyone else were hit, and stopped about 5 miles away.
I tried to get Johnny out of the car while still keeping pressure to his wound, but he was getting weak. Both Gina and Chris came with water, but we knew it was too late. The water would just be wasted, so we decided to stop. Gina started to cry, and hugged him so hard we thought he was going to be strangled. I held back, and managed to hear Johnny say his last words before passing: “Survive for me,”
As we stood there looking at each other, we made a mutual agreement. Without words, we all decided to survive.
Back in the car we turned on the radio. We thought we might just use some food, but there wasn’t much left. Before leaving home, we all thought that we would reach a safe town in a week. Now, it had gone three without any refills. We were lacking in everything, except the water. And we were thankful for that. As we ate what may have been our last meal for another two days, we heard something remarkable on the radio:
“Hello, fellow Galileans, Darwinists and Newtonians. As you know, our state has been taken by a powerful force. They have most of the human needs covered now. But luckily for you, they lack one thing that you have. Intelligence. I hereby invite you all to a place where intelligence is rewarded, not punished. Religious or not, I invite you to solve the riddle explaining our location. Just listen to this: ‘We are in the centre, but yet we aren’t. We are what the Green Men looked to when in need of help, and now we will help you.’ Good luck, fellow intellectuals, and take care.”
A light went up. How didn’t I see this earlier? Of course that was where they were. “Alright, Gina, pedal to the metal! We’re on our way!” Gina sounded confused. “Where to?” Now it was my turn to get confused. How did she manage to not get that? I stared dumbfounded at her for a second. “Houston, Gina,” Chris managed to say before me. I confirmed quickly. Gina shrugged, and set off.
We had been driving for 5 hours when we started to notice some building wrecks in the horizon. I quickly checked the map, and said to Gina that it wasn’t Houston. “Do we have enough gas to go around it?” I asked. “Well considering that we have half a tank now, and that we have 50 miles left driving in a straight line, I’d say… Hell no!”
So it was. We had to drive through a town, probably packed with people, all set to kill the “heathens in the black pick-up truck”. As we closed in on the town, we started to ready our guns. Chris and I had one rifle each, and three handguns. We left a rifle for the one who was first without ammo. It went three minutes before we got to the edge of the city. We decided to have our aims at the rooftops (or, what’s left of them) while Gina tried to get us through as fast as possible. All seemed to go as planned, until we were in the middle of the city. A car came smashing into our right back door, and we were pushed at least 50 yards to the left. I think Chris passed out, because Gina shouted for me to get his gun. I did exactly so, and realized that a lot of people came running towards us. I never thought I would kill someone, but now I had no choice. I shot wildly around while Gina tried to manoeuvre our car away from the other one. We were just free when I saw another car speeding just past us. I turned around to see it smashing into the first car, setting it on fire from the impact. As in a miracle, Gina managed to get our car back on course while I shot down assaulters like they were mosquitoes. On the second to last crossroads before exiting the area a car almost set us out of course, but we got through it.
We continued to keep the same pace for at least 30 miles, before the engine ran out of fuel. “FUCK!” Gina shouted. “What are we gonna do now?” I tried to stay calm and explain that we only had to walk 10 miles, but I couldn’t hide my frustration. I suddenly remembered something else: Chris. I looked to his seat, and there he was, completely unconscious. “Is he dead?” I asked. Gina touched his neck, and confirmed my fear. Once again, we didn’t need words. We started to pack a couple of cans of food and some water. And we started walking.
We had been walking for 3 hours, and I wasn’t sure if we could get any further. Both our water bottles were bone dry, and there wasn’t a bean left in our cans. Just as I started to lose hope, I saw some buildings in the horizon. Gina seemed to see it too. I ran as fast as I could towards the buildings. I just got to one of them before realizing it was nothing but a mirage. I fell to the ground, and closed my eyes.
Upon waking up, I saw a white room. Inside it, there were people dressed in white walking around me. In fact, everything around me was white. A figure came towards me, almost soaring. I looked at what probably was its head, and said to it, “Are you an angel? Is this heaven?” The face started to take shape now, and as I noticed what it looked like, it answered me in the kindest voice I have ever heard. “No, dear Lilly, you’re in a hospital. I am your mother.”