Post revolution within the United States featuring Kevin O'Connor, the novel's protagonist
The Old City
The once serene walkways are now polluted with debris and garbage, frequent use of them aging back many years ago. Silence is broad, and any activity minimal. It wasn't always like this, it's ridiculous to think of the changes that took place in this city. A once well-established town that grew into the perfect destination. What used to be the most populated city in the state is now a ghost town. An unsettling eye sore to say the least. The buildings aren't so great in this city. The shops were ransacked, and households got broken into. City Hall was attacked and collapsed early on, this is what let the chaotic state of Hampden continue. Heh, the building lies as rubble now. The day City Hall fell is the same day Hampden lost its order. The only satisfying thing about this city is the silence. It's so quiet here I am surprised it is still listed on the map.
The only people here are those that are just passing through, or those that are incapable of leaving. People without the money or resources are stuck here, and I wish I was over-exaggerating on that. I'm different from those people, however. I've opted to stay here; to study here in my childhood home. My home is the only lit-up building through the nights of Hampden. Having a functioning generator and fuel in your possession really helps. With my luck, I guess you can say I am the smartest man in all of Hampden. Jokes aside, I came back to study neuroscience; to do so in a peaceful environment. The environment was better before the fights, I can promise you that. Just to give you an idea, the last time I've studied neuroscience was maybe five or six months ago. It's just hopeless to do so in a broken city.
Everyone in the city comes off as disoriented, and they do some shady things. At times I walk around the city (have to keep up with that exercise somehow), and I'm greeted by blank stares - as if I'm in the wrong neighborhood. The population here is scarce, and if you do come across people, it's best if they run away from you. I just don't know what happens if they don't run away, I never experienced that scenario. Make no mistake, it's not safe here. I am in the one-percent when it comes to civilization. Due to the city's current state, I need to find and buy supplies by myself outside of Hampden. Lucky for me, there is a neighboring city, Titus, which is at least somewhat functional. There is a little inconvenience, however. Riots might be taking place there right now - I didn't get the chance to see them first hand, but I've picked up clues from the people passing through Hampden.
I really hate admitting this, but I'm lonely here. When civilization was a thing, I would only ponder about it now and then. Now it is all I think about anymore. I choose to look out the window often, but it's not because of paranoia. Even in this terrible situation, I still reap happiness by glancing out my window, glancing at the old city. I reminisce over the once lively city Hampden was. There were big parties every other weekend, and lights all over the place. People were everywhere as well. There were all kinds of people walking to and from attractions in the city, be it a bar or a best friend's house. The concrete walkways never looked so... lonely. I'm imagining the glittering walkways on party nights, oh how marvelous they were!
Every time I look through the window, I always look over at my neighbor's home. The house is worn, and it's been empty for quite some time. It's no different from any other household in Hampden. The thing is, the house is different. I actually knew the man that lived there. When the fights occurred, I didn't just lose a lifestyle. I've lost a best friend, and it's been hard to cope with. Truth is, I don't know where those who left went. They just packed up and left, and most never said a word - to anyone. It seems like they knew ahead of time what they were going to do, as if they knew the fights were coming to the Hampden.
I miss my neighbor. He understood me, knew what I was going through, and least of it all, he cared for me. He was more than a best friend, he was like a brother. His name is Mitch Farley, and he's my best friend. I've known him before I moved back to Hampden. He was a good friend of mine before I moved away. I don't know where he went, and I've been worrying about him for quite some time. When I'm not contemplating my loneliness, I'm probably thinking about his safety or what it is that he's doing.
Not too far past Mitch's house is Autumn Park. The park that was our childhood resort. Every kid in the city would frequent that collection of sand and asphalt daily. Autumn Park isn't much different than it was two years ago. The swings remain rusty, slides collapsed upon themselves, and the seesaws are half-broken. Children did not even use the playground much, anyways. They compensated the saddening sight by using their imagination. I was often impressed with their roleplaying they did from time to time. The park remained kid-friendly until half past ten. Teenagers would enter the park regardless of the city's curfew. Autumn Park also had troublemaking teenagers frequenting it afterhours. Bringing drugs and cigarettes into the playground. I'm not proud saying it, but I was once part of that crowd.
I had no cares in the world then. Grades were dire and dropping each and every day. I did not care about my future, either. Only the time of the next cigarette was a concern to me. My "friends" at the time had me hooked on drugs shortly thereafter. I wasn't the best fighter, but somehow I ended up in many fights those days. School suspensions and conference meetings followed my shameful behavior. At the same time, I knew there was a problem. It did not help that I shrugged it off between hits of a cigarette. Drugs were a great problem of mine, but denial definitely did it for me. By the end of rehab, I had no hopes or dreams. I just wanted to die for I messed up my only future.
Mitch Farley, a kid whose name I didn't even know then, came up to me when I was walking around by myself in Autumn Park. I won't forget that look on his face with those watery eyes.
"Why'd you do it, Kevin?" Mitch exclaimed. "Why did you throw away your life?! Do you even care? What the... what is wrong with you?"
Mitch turned his back towards me and rushed off. He was deeply disappointed, and I had not the slightest clue why he cared about me. I was absolutely speechless in that moment. I had no answer to his questions. I did not shrug them off, either. Later at midnight, I pondered his questions. I contemplated my life, and realized I was a just another coward. Careless at the time, I was letting someone else pull the strings. I was a puppet to society, and that's how my life ever was! It ended that night in my poorly lit home. I was done with being that bane to society.
Not one person was awake in my house at midnight. I felt the need to vent. I needed to change, and I wouldn't forgive myself if I did not make an effort doing so. Searching through the drawers downstairs, I found a worn but untouched notebook. I've decided to title the notebook as "A huge makeover for my incapable self." In it, I had notes about myself. I listed the good and the bad, and prioritized what needed to change. I dedicated the notebook to Mitch, "the eye-opening kid". I don't know if Mitch realized his impact on me or not, but it did not matter.
My teenager-self went up to Mitch the following day. I wanted to share the answer to his questions. To tell him the truth, that I did not have an answer. Rather than lie, I vented to him. I remember being embarrassed, for I was new to the whole thing. I never spoke to my family about my problems, let alone a complete stranger. Mitch was moved by my statements. Apologetic at the time, he shared a secret of his own.
He had a brother who was just like me. Brown hair, green eyes, and tall, I looked just like his brother. Everyday his brother would smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. Mitch went on to say that his brother became abusive when drunk. The brother would physically abuse Mitch in their house every other night. One day, Mitch's mother found his brother on the side of a city road, bloody and lifeless. The brother was hit by a car, and it was confirmed not to long after that he was killed by a drunk driver. What are the odds?
"You're not like my brother, kid." Mitch said, "You're different, I had a feeling you would change."
Mitch and I became friends over the next few days. I was able to experience what it was like going over to my first friend's house. Our friendship marked a genuine change in myself. Drugs, depression, and denial never came to mind when I was around Mitch. The best sensation I've ever had was hanging around with a true friend. Forget the drugs or cigarettes, and the coward friends I once had to deal with. Timothy, a kid from that drug crowd once threatened Mitch and I. We were unsure why Timothy did it, but I've realized it was because of me. Because of my luck, my second chance at life. Timothy was a jealous loser, and he tried to impress his friends by acting tough. When I said coward, I had no intention of joking. We did not hear from Timothy or his crowd anymore.
Even though Mitch and I were quite different, we were sometimes in the same situation. We didn't know what to take up in college, but we knew there was that standard with feeling the need to go. Mitch suggested we take up something involving our strongest subject in school. Keep in mind, after meeting Mitch, my grades and focus improved immensely. Out of all things, I did well in the science courses. Mitch did best in the history courses. Even then, I still did not know what to study in college. I got accepted into a local university called Chilete University. Unfortunately, my best friend got accepted into a different university cities away. I ended up in neuroscience, the guidance counselor suggested it. I'm not sure why neuroscience, but her statement of I'm sure you'll do fine in it kind of came true.