Tuesday, October 08, 2013
SIX | TEENAGE WASTELAND
Let's get out of this place,
Cause you're starting to waste,
Within this teenage wasteland.
- Lana Del Rey
The Great Shake has disturbed most of our atmosphere and the rising dust clouds have cast us into a hazy darkness. We are rarely visited by the sun and as I contemplate my ragged state in the bathroom, I notice just how much my pale skin reflects that sad reality.
My conversation with Elvis kept me up most of the night, thinking about strategies and plans for Phillip and myself. I figure our best option would be to leave the cabin and go searching for more profitable grounds, if any still exist. Those four men who found us will surely come back and I don't want us to be here when they do.
I close my pack and head downstairs where Phillip is finishing up the chores around the kitchen. He lifts his head when he hears me and smiles. I smile back and throw my pack on the chair beside him.
"Are you heading out?" He asks me, and puts down his rag. There is genuine concern in his eyes.
"We both are," I start, waiting for his reaction. He only gives me a sideways glance, slightly puzzled by my declaration. "Those men are going to come back. I think I know a place where there are more survivors, we're going to head out there today."
"What do you mean, "other survivors"? Katie, we can't go out there, you told me so yourself." His voice is strained and I can tell he's trying to hide his fear. He's trying to be brave for me and it warms my heart.
"I told you that because that is what Maggie told me - and she isn't here anymore." I see him look away, towards the view outside the window. "I didn't mean it that way, Phillip. It's just...Maybe Maggie was wrong, maybe there is more out there then we know."
When Phillip looks back at me, his eyes are filled with tears and the skin on those puffy little cheeks are turning red. He couldn't play tough any longer. "Katie..."
I run to him."I know it's scary, Phillip. I'm scared too, you don't have to hide it." I get down on one knee and, like Elvis did to me last night, I hold onto Phillip's hand and look into his eyes. "Hey, everything will be okay. I promise you, I'll find us a safe place to live."
He nods and looks away. "Is there any more Mapleroots?" And accompanying his words was a low grumble in his stomach.
I hold him at arm's lenght and smile. "We're going to have to find some. On our own." I answer him, wiping away the tears in his eyes. I get back up on my feet and sling the pack over my shoulder, trying desperately not to display my anxiety. Because I have so much of it building inside me.
What if we don't find anyone? What if I am unable to distinguish what is Mapleroots and what isn't? I've never seen it's original state, only the hot brews that Maggie prepared for us. I've gone out exploring once and it almost got me in trouble when I spotted the people by the fissures. Maggie had warned me about them later, told me to stay away, that they were not what they seemed. It scared me to think what could happen to us out there, in the wastelands.
"Are you ready, Katie?" Phillip asks, tearing me out of my mental exhile.
I take a second to examine him. My Phillip; with his dishevelled hair, his turned up nose, and cute-as-a-button smile. I have to fight for him, to make this new world seem less of a burden on him. We are going to make it.
"Let's go." I say, as calmly as I can.
Monday, October 07, 2013
FIVE | MY BEST DAYS
I asked you beside me
I have you, yes I have you
- Lana Del Rey
The fireplace is crackling and spitting embers on the wooden floors of the living room. It's warmth is making me drowzy. I bury myself further in the blankets and keep my eyes on the starless night sky that looks down at me through the foggy windows. For a moment, I imagine myself in my old victorian bed. Just for a moment.
"Are you just going to stare out the window?" He says, snapping me back to reality.
I shift in my seat and place myself to face my guest. His presence alone comforts me, reminds me of times back home with mom when we would sing his songs on rainy Sunday afternoons. He came to me in times of need, and for that I will always be grateful.
I smile. "It's surprisingly easy to get distracted when you're alone."
"Where's Phillip?" Elvis asks, his eyes masked by those dark sunglasses.
I look towards the kitchen. Shadows from the fire's light bounces off the staircase. "He's sleeping." I reach for my cup and take a sip of my warm Mapleroots tea.
"So," he says, and gives me that trademark smirk, "why did you call me here tonight, cupcake?"
That nickname. It gives me butterflies in the pit of my stomach everytime he says it. And with that charming, southern accent.
"I just wanted to talk. It's lonely without Maggie."
"Maggie," He whispers, "have you found out what happened to her?"
I take another sip of soothing, hot Mapleroots tea and set the cup down on the table. When I look back up, there are tears in my eyes. Elvis gives me a sympathetic smile and I return it in kind. The only time I come close to feeling joy since her dissapearance is in moments like these; having a chat by the fireplace with the King.
"Phillip doesn't understand what I'm going through. I mean, it's understandable, he's never met her. But losing her and then having Phillip suddenly wake up is all so confusing. He's not at all what I thought he would be."
"And how is he copping with this new landscape?"
I roll my eyes and sigh. "A lot better than me. He's only thirteen -"
Elvis cuts me off. "And you're only sixteen, cupcake. And this sure ain't Memphis anymore." His tone is smooth and comforting, and I know he's telling me this to reassure me but at which point does his exitence becomes my imagination?
"But I need to be there for him." I shrug and look away, slightly bothered by my own conclusion. Maybe he is just part of my imagination. "Like I need you to be there for me. Are you really there, Elvis?"
He smiles and leans forward, taking my hand into his. He rubs it gently and looks into my eyes. "I'm here cupcake. Now tell me why it is you really called me here tonight."
I take back my hand and slide off the couch. I kind of push Elvis as I make my way around him and into the kitchen. I lean against the counter and take a deep breath. Phillip and I can't possibly make it on our own, we don't have the knowledge that Maggie possessed. I don't know where to find Mapleroots or how to salvage toxic waters. It was always Maggie who had done that. Always Maggie.
I turn around to face Elvis, his handsome face almost completly covered by darkness. All I can see is that signature smirk on his lips.
"I wanted some advice..." I look away, "about what to do next?"
Silence. He loses his smirk and for some reason, the air shifts in the room. I first notice the dying fire and then a sudden heavy weight on my body.
"I'm not a tour guide, Katherine Elizabeth Calvert. Nor am I here to meddle in your affairs. You will have to find your own way through the wastelands." He says, with finality.
"But i'm -"
And he vanishes. The fire roars back to life and I feel the air around me get thinner and lighter. The cabin remains eerily silent as I contemplate his last words.
Thursday, October 03, 2013
FOUR | LAST GIRL ON EARTH
No one lives forever
But that's no reason to give up
- Lana Del Rey
"I don't think she's coming back, Katie." Phillip chimes in, as I pace around the living room. Katie. Nobody's called me that in well over seven months; it soothes me when he reminds me of home.
Phillip's resting carelessly on the kitchen counter as if Maggie hadn't been gone for four days. Something terribly bad happened; I know it and he knows it but I can't believe it.
"No. She has to come back." I feel my heart beating through my chest and I can't stop fidgeting, and I hate when people fidget. "Want some Mapleroots?" I ask Phillip.
"I'm not thirsty." He answers, and jumps off the counter. "What is your plan if she doesn't come back?"
"She will. I mean, she has to..." I walk into the kitchen and rest against the counter. I blow away the strands of rebellious brown hair that have fallen in my face and contemplate the situation. I don't know what I would do if she doesn't come back. I can't take care of us. I just can't.
"Katherine," Phillip says with urgency, his eyes glued to the kitchen door, "There are people outside the cabin."
My heart tugs at me, and fear like I've never experienced before ravages my inside. I run towards Phillip, grab him by the hand and drag him behind me as I lead us towards the bedroom upstairs. A sudden burst outside fills the windows with a bright light and we are momentarily blinded.
"WHAT IS THAT?" Phillip cries out and I feel his grip tighten.
"Just stay close to me!" I feel my skin burn when the light touches it but I say nothing to Phillip.
I run up the stairs with Phillip behind me and we find shelter in Maggie and I's bedroom. I start moving furniture in front of the door and Phillip soon helps until everything in the room is blocking that entrance.
I tiptoe towards one of the windows and see the little one following me. "Phillip, stay away from the windows!"
"I want them to go away!" He yells.
"Shhh, I want to see who they are." I whisper, peering out of the window. Just when I look out, one of the four men turns his head and looks up straight at me.
Phillip continues with his eerie chant. "I want them to go away! I want them to go away! I want them to go away!"
I turn towards him and shush him. When I look back out the window, I find that all of the men have dissapeared. In a instance, they vanished. Phillip had wanted them to go away.
"How did you do that?" I walk up to Phillip and put my hands on his shouler. "Phillip, how did you do that?"
"I don't know. What happened? Did they leave?" Phillip shrugs my hands off of his shoulder and hugs me. "Did they leave, Katie?" I hear Louis just then. I hear sorrow and pain, and I can't have Phillip living this way.
I return the gesture and wrap my arms around him. I ruffle his untidy black hair and give him a kiss on the forehead. "Yeah, they left. I scared them away!"
"Race you to the last Mapleroots?" Phillip says, looking up at me. A smile forms on his lip and it amazes me how much that makes me happy. I want him to be safe. What happened today opened my eyes; we need to arm ourselves.
"No need, you can have it. I'll go out tomorrow to get some more."
He gives me one last squeeze and we begin to remove all of the stuff we used to block the door. Maybe Maggie won't come back, maybe she will. But after tonight, I don't have to worry about it any longer.
Wednesday, October 02, 2013
THREE | FIND MY OWN WAY
We don't need anybody when we're down
We don't really find it hard to get around
We'll find our own way back to town
- Lana Del Rey
I wake up in a puddle of my own sweat for the third time this week. I must be down with the flu or something. I manage to pull my legs to the edge of the bed and struggle with the remaining part of my body. I don't want to move; what's the point anyways?
As I finally push myself out of bed, I notice that Maggie's bed is empty. She's normally awake and at it before I even finish my dreams but this morning something catches my eye; the old woman's bed is untidy and the blankets seem just thrown about. Maggie never leaves her bed in this state.
I tiptoe towards the door and peer out, listening for any odd sounds from the hallway or below - but there is nothing. I check in on Phillip and see that he's still as ever, his shiny black hair glued to his forehead with sweat. It's a shame his eyes are closed because he was blessed with the most beautiful blue eyes; the colour of the ocean. I sigh and bow my head. Poor Phillip, I think to myself.
With that thought in mind, I close the door and make my way down to the main floor. I half-expect to see Maggie resting in the living room, with a generous helping of Mapleroots, the only thing that is still eatable in this God-forsaken wasteland. It's a tedious process to extract the juices from - I guess you could call it a fruit - but Maggie had excelled at it. I also suspect she may be out exploring for hidden treasures, such as canned goods. Those are a gem nowadays.
Knowing she may be out for a few hours, I decide to tidy up the place before her return. Maggie does alot for us - Phillip and I - and the least I could do is help her with the chores. The cabin is small and we don't do much to dirty it, but soon before long I find myself dusting the place and whistling my favourite Nancy Sinatra song.
I get lost in the nostalgia and begin to dance while cleaning, even giving in to bursts of laughter here and there. I'm spinning in circles in the living room when a male voice catches me off guard.
"Who are you?!"
I stop, search for Elvis, but when my attention rests on the staircase, I realise it isn't he that is talking. It is Phillip.
"I can't believe you're awake..." A lump forms in my throat and tears well up in my eyes. Phillip hasn't moved a muscle since we found him let alone utter a single word. He looks so distraught, scared.
"Where are my parents?" His voice is cracked and strained. Regardless, it carries with it a certain worry. I look into into his eyes, blue against blue, and I try to form a smile.
"Whoa, Phillip! It's okay, let me explain."
"What is this strange place?" He backs up as I approach, tears forming in those beautiful blue eyes. "Who are you?" Phillip asks again. I know him but he doesn't know me. The feeling is strange and now I understand how Maggie must have felt when she found me, when I awoke to this new world.
"I don't want to hurt you. Maggie and I found you. There's been a terrible tragedy, Phillip. We're all that remains, and you must trust me." I extend my arms forward in sign of solidarity. He keeps backing up, afraid and skeptical. "Look outside if you want, there is nothing left but fissures and ghostly figures that prey on the livestock."
Phillip remains still on the third step, his big blue eyes locked on mine. He doesn't look away, doesn't blink. My heart flutters with excitement and fear, as I cannot predict what Phillip will do next. It must be hard for a thirteen year old to process this much information. To come to the conclusion by himself that his entire family has perished.
"What are you thinking about, Phillip?" I ask, taking a few steps towards the staircase. He keeps his sight on me but doesn't move. I'm only a few years older than him, surely he doesn't feel threatened by me?
"Is this hell?"
I can't resist. I rush up the stairs and wrap my arms around him. He buries his head in my embrace and begins to sob. I can't help but to imagine Louis in my arms - my adorable six year old brother.
The sun sets as Phillip and I cry in the creaking staircase, waiting for Maggie to come back.
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
TWO | ELVIS
Elvis, where are you
When I need you most
White comp sequin jumpsuit ghost
- Lana Del Rey
"Have you lost your mind, child?" Maggie screams, dropping the blankets on the sofa. I've never seen her get so pale so quickly before. She looked stricken with worry.
"Don't talk down to me like that! I saw some of them down by the mill. They were lurking around the fissures! Humans, Maggie." My eyes open wide, with excitement or fear I do not know. But for the first time in six months, I feel alive.
The tingling in my body reminds me of summers by the cape and the rush of blood to my head brings back feelings of hope; a feeling I've so desperately searched for since the Great Shake. But again, Maggie seems unconvinced.
"You were crazy enough to wander off, and crazier still for approaching the fissures. That's where they come out from. Are you trying to get yourself killed, Katherine, because I know -"
"I am not crazy. I know what I saw. Maggie, please believe me. Please." I cut her off. She despises signs of disrespect and I usually don't display them but I am sure of what I saw. I know I saw humans. I clasp my hands togheter in sign of mercy. I need her to believe me, to validate that there is still life out there, that we're not the only ones left.
She rests those fading blue eyes on mine and I can't tell if she's glaring at me or pitying me.
"Katherine, I don't want you out and about, exploring the wasteland anymore. There are things you don't quite understand yet but I can assure you that what you saw at the fissures, those humans, they are not what they seem to be." Maggie finally said.
She picked up the blankets and continued on as if I had said nothing. She made her way up the stairs and left me in the kitchen. But I couldn't doubt her, though, not after what we've been through.
Maggie had found me in New-York, even though I was from California. I was pretty roughed up and it took her several months to get me back on my feet. I had and still don't have any memories of the Great Shake. Once I was able to walk, we made our way north - Maggie thought the colder temperatures might mean lesser chances of being surrounded by fissures and eruptions. We found Phillip somewhere in Canada, he was unconscious. We carried him in a stretcher Maggie made with branches and twine. She was handy and I admired her skills and determination to never let go.
Then we found this place, two months ago. We placed Phillip in the smaller bedroom upstairs and ever since, Maggie has been feeding him liquids and keeping him alive. He hasn't moved, he hasn't spoken, and he probably never will.
And she was doing that just now, when she left me in the kitchen. Going up the stairs to care for Phillip, while I stayed down here, hopeless.
"Are you there?" I turn towards the darkened living room.
He steps out from the shadows of the corner, dressed in his white jumpsuit. He's handsome and his hair is particularly well groomed tonight.
"I'm always here, Katherine. What's wrong, little one?" Elvis answers, with his comforting, southern charm.
"I don't know what's wrong. Last night I saw Buffy - well - Sarah Michelle Gellar...anyways, I saw her in the bathroom. She was just looking at me, her head slightly tilted to the left. I thought it was cool seeing you and didn't think much of it, but after seeing her last night i'm starting to wonder..." I look away from Elvis, my voice trailing off, "am I crazy?"
He chuckles a bit and then answers me. "I've been dead for thirty six years. What do you think, cupcake?"