by Shawn White
A nuclear attack on NYC leaves a young couple devastated and lost without each other.
"Oh, not again. I'm so sick of hearing this," the young brunette said with a significantly sassy tone. She grabbed the television remote and immediately turned off the television with a great force of hand. She continued to sit on her wicker couch and sip her green tea. Adjacent to her sat her younger brother, Jake. He was more concerned about the news he had just heard than his sister, but he was always very anxious.
"Aren't you worried about the attacks? I mean any moment they could drop a nuke on us and we would be dead," he said, worriedly.
"Oh, they've been saying that for years. If they haven't nuked us by now, I doubt they will. Those goddamn terrorists don't have the balls," the brunette remarked.
"Celia, I know you don't believe it all, but that sounded like a serious threat." Jake pointed to the newspaper on the oak end table next to the couch, which also had the same story printed on it.
"Oh fuck, Jake, you're too worried." Celia's chestnut hair flipped as she spoke, and her small stature was surprising given her very large attitude. Jake on the other hand was taller and more broad, one feature the two siblings contrasted in.
"Alright, well I gotta go. Emily will be home soon." Jake grabbed his coat and put on his shoes as he approached the apartment door. Celia, as usual, replied with a sassy but heartfelt goodbye.
It was that time of day for Jake, the love of his life, the reason for his awakening, Emily would be returning from her job as a barista soon. Jake was a freelance writer for the city newspaper, and as a novelist on the side, and worked whenever he had the time, but at four o'clock each day he made sure he was home. The scripts and pages didn't matter to him at that time. Even though the two had been engaged for a month, and dated for eleven, each day he saw her was new to him. He never missed that blonde head walk through the front door of their apartment, with her designer purse in one hand and apron in the other. He loved her more than anything he could ever imagine, it was his first love--his only love.
Their apartment was small, but that didn't matter, the love they shared was bigger. It was now 4:05 P.M. and Jake waited for her with a kiss and a hug. Then there she was, she walked through the door with that same smile, hair and fragrance of strawberries that she had every day. She and Jake had their evening kiss and they sat down together on their old couch.
"Welcome home," he said.
"Ugh today was rough. Did you hear on the news about the terrorists, the people in the shop were going crazy." Her voice was like a soft melody that Jake never got tired of hearing.
"Yeah I heard about that, but anyway, I have a surprise for you." He was so swept up in love he didn't choose to hear or care about the current events, at the moment. Something he would soon learn to regret.
"Really, a surprise?" Ellie was surprised herself, but she went along with it.
"I, for the first time, have prepared you a wonderful dinner, just for the two of us." He revealed the decorated dining table, candles and flowers, and of course the food, all set up in the romantic atmosphere he created.
"Aw, thank you. I can say this is definitely a surprise," she chuckled.
"Well yeah, and it was a lot of work too," Jake responded as he lit some candles, "now let's eat."
The two sat down together and enjoyed their meal as they talked about their day. Ellie reminded Jake of her recent humanitarian work, which included helping those less fortunate. That was one of those things Jake loved about her, aside from the way her nose twitched when she sneezed, but her generous attitude and her loving heart. She also told him of the most recent painting she sold to a critic and yet that was the biggest connection the two had--their love for the arts. The two drank their wine and laughed and had a wonderful evening of warmth, love and passion. For the moment, neither of the two thought things could get any better or worse, however, this feeling was short lived.
Two weeks had passed since the news of the attacks in New York City, where Jake and Ellie have resided. The threats continued to increase, the terrorists had officially placed fear into the minds of every citizen in the country, which was a more powerful weapon than all the nukes in the world.
There were rumors that a plane was flying around the east coast--but they were only rumors.
Jake had just finished an article in the paper about the flooding of a southern country when the phone rang. Ellie was in their small bedroom, trying on her mother's wedding dress, which had been passed down to her after her mother's untimely death. The phone rang not once, not twice but three times when Jake finally answered it.
"Hello?" He greeted the other end.
"Jake, its Charlie, we need an article a.s.a.p." Said Jake's quick-to-change boss.
"But I just finished mine, you know about the flood in--"
"No, throw it out, we need one about the terrorist threats before we print next week, can you do it?"
"Why can't you just ask someone else?" Jake was growing frustrated by his boss's rapidly changing plans.
"You're the only freelance I have right now, now I need this article by Friday, okay?"
"Good, see you then."
Jake placed the phone back on the receiver and walked towards the bedroom. Without knocking he went in, and Ellie immediately tried to cover herself.
"Hey, knock first, ya moron," she said, with a lovingly laugh.
"I didn't know you would be trying on your dress, sorry!" He responded, and quickly backed out of the room.
"What's up?" She asked, from inside the room.
"I need to go get some contacts for my article, so I'll be back in an hour or so, okay?" He explained. His words meaning so much more than he thought at the time.
"Okay, I'll be here."
Jake grabbed his keys and headed for the door when suddenly Ellie popped her head outside the bedroom.
"Hey, just remember," she began, "I love you." She said this with a twinkle in her eye, a twinkle and a smile.
"I love you too," he responded. Oh how these words weighed more now than they ever have before.
Jake left the apartment and headed for the street corner to catch a taxi. He never even bothered to look back at the building--not even once. As he sat in his taxi and thought about his future, the sky turned a dark gray, almost coal-colored. The world seemed to be slow today, but a young couple in love, nothing mattered to them. Jake, sitting in his taxi thought about Ellie and how much she meant to him. Ellie, trying on her dress, thought about Jake and how much he meant to her. Jake's chestnut hair blew as he put down his window and the cold autumn air hit his face like a brisk breeze. Jake was reading the re-writes of his latest novel that he had been in the process of writing for two years. He felt the creativity flow through him like never before, proving that love was the greatest inspiration. For the first time in a long time, he truly felt like an artist. Ellie, on the other hand, sat in her wedding dress, looking over some of the receipts from some of the latest paintings she sold. Their passion and drive to create something beautiful guided them throughout all of the missteps in their life and all of the hard times they had together. In the end though, all that mattered was that these two artists loved each other--and their work.
That moment was purely shocking--it was the most expected yet unexpected event to happen to the people of the city--and the country. Buildings caught flame quicker than the eye could see, trees and bushes ignited like a piece of a paper. People were filling the streets--not live ones, but their corpses falling over immediately. Others were caught in the blaze, others had died of shock. The sky was a color of gray and black mixed together, almost cement like. The bomb had dropped miles away, yet the flames and smoke continued on, ruining city after city. The people who weren't immediately killed were being poisoned by the radiation, which was a much more slower and painful death. Those who had survived the blast, were hideously deformed from the flames and emission. The world was shocked--and for one time, everyone in the country had come together as one.
Jake steadily rose, standing on both feet after a few moments. His shirt was mangled and his body scarred and bruise. The cafe he had been sitting in had caught fire quickly, and lots of people were killed in the blast. Jake, and a very select few had survived. He had hurt his arm, but he just tried to escape the remains of the cafe. By the time he limped out onto the sidewalk, the street was filled with panicked and hopeless people. People were trying to help each other jump out of burning buildings and try to savage food. Jake reached in his pocket for his phone, but it had unfortunately been destroyed by the blast. He thought of his love, his reason to live and breathe; Ellie. Was she alive? Was she...dead? These thoughts raced through his mind quickly. He had to get home, his apartment wasn't very far but in his current condition it was a challenge. He limped and staggered down the street, passing the sick, the injured and the dead. He felt like every bone in his body had been crushed, but he didn't care, he wanted to get to his fiance. With all of his might, he pushed past each street, each one being more difficult to maneuver than the last. Each street contained more of the sick and injured, families weeping over the loss of their loved ones. One family he had seen walking down the street across from him; was carrying the body of a young child covered in a blanket, most likely charred and disfigured. The father carried him and the mother stood close, letting the tears flow through her and onto the sidewalk, where everyone elses' tears had fallen too. The street was becoming an ocean of loss and grief.
Jake pushed forward, just trying to think of his love as his motivation. Then, moments later, he saw his sister in a crowd of people. They were exiting a building that appeared to not have been too damaged by the bomb. He yelled for her: "Celia!" His yell was weak, but it worked and she approached him, with tears all over her face and her face a general wreck. She hugged him and although it was physically hurting him, he knew she needed it.
"I should've listened!" She screamed, knowing she didn't take the threat serious enough.
"Its okay," he said, "It really is. Are you alright?"
She stopped crying for a moment. "I think so, my leg hurts a little but I'm okay. I was in the basement doing laundry anyway," she stated trying to sound relieved.
"Where do we go now?" Jake asked.
"I heard that citizens should report to a fallout shelter, and I think there's one in City Hall, its' not too far," Celia said, holding back the tears.
"Go there, Celia, and I'll meet you there. I need to get to Ellie." Jake responded.
Celia was surprised, "No, Jake I need you--"
"No, I have to find her... I have to." He argued.
She didn't seem to argue back and agree, she kissed him on the cheek and, with some of other survivors, walked towards City Hall together. Jake wished her the best, and hoped she made it their safe, but now he was close. His apartment building was right around the corner.
There it was, partly destroyed from the bomb. The roof had caved in and some walls were just missing completely. It wasn't the same building he left this evening, that's for sure. And he hoped to God that Ellie was alive. Some people were exiting the building when he got to the other side of the street. He asked his neighbors if they had seen her, however they all replied with an indifferent "I don't know." He rushed through the front doors, and marched up to the third floor with all of his might. It was like climbing a mountain, but he pushed and he pushed until he finally reached the third floor. Unfortunately, it seemed that the third floor received the most damage. He saw their apartment, the front door was completely off the hinges and he could a gaping hole in the floor where their rug used to be. He entered the ruined apartment and yelled for his love: "Ellie! Ellie!" He shouted.
At first there was no response, he thought the worst. Then, moments later, staggering out of the bedroom...was Ellie. She was filthy, covered in dust and smoke-stained but to him she was beautiful as always. They both smiled at each other, and no words were spoken. He stumbled to her and she stumbled to him and they fell in each other's arms.
"I thought I'd never see you again," he said to her, holding her in his arms.
"Me too, but I love you, I love you." She replied and the two shared a passionate kiss as the apartment fell around them.
"Come on, we can get to city hall, they have shelter there," he explained. However, he then realized. He looked behind her, and large pieces of metal were slicing her back and his hands were covered in blood. He saw Ellie's face turning white and he then realized...she was leaving him quickly.
"Ellie, don't worry, we can get help. Please, please we can get help!" He said, with tears running down his eyes, trying to find the smallest source of hope.
"Jake," she said weakly, her blue eyes focused on him, "I love you okay, but you should go."
"I will not leave you here!" He exclaimed, still holding her body.
"Don't die here, please, let me die here not you," she replied coughing violently.
"I can't leave you here, I won't! We can get help." His face was covered in tears he was shaking, beginning to lose hope.
"Jake, please. I love you, but you're okay... I don't want to move, it'll hurt too much. Just leave me here."
He didn't know how to respond to her, they shared one more long kiss. He realized if he moved her she would die anyway, the pain was unbearable for her.
"O...okay. But Ellie...I don't want to go out there alone."
"You can, I know you can. AGH." She screamed in pain, with tears now flowing from her eyes.
"Goodbye, Jake. I love you... so much....more than... any... ...... " And like that...she was gone. Her body now a lifeless corpse, just like the others on the streets. Jake was still holding her bloody body, and now his arms soaked in blood too. He kissed her corpse, still crying and weeping. He grabbed a blanket that was saved from the fires, and draped it over her body. He stood up, still crying, and looked at her "burial."
The sky had remained a dark gray, and the city smelled of smoke, but nothing could change the lives of the ruined and hopeless people. The city had become a lifeless caricature of what it used to be, and so did Jake, and the rest of the people of the city. Jake stumbled back downstairs, leaving his love, his life and his world behind him now.