They gathered their stuff and looked around to see if they could find anything useful before deciding to climb to the hole and to venture out of the hospital. They had found nothing that seemed useful and had proceeded to climb the huge pile of rubble standing in their way. Zachary had stopped before the huge rock he had managed to move and noticed the strange finger shaped marks carved deep in the rock. Did I do that? He thought, thinking back to the strange black limbs that had been protruding from his back a few minutes before. He had no idea what had happened or what those things were, only that it had somehow been his doing.
Nothing had been right since he had woken up in that room. First was the clown, then he couldn’t explain how he had gotten up to that shaft… His thoughts trailed off as something hit him, it was just a hunch but if he was right then it explained how he had managed that feat. If, just if, he could make these ‘arms’ somehow appear then maybe that was what had happened in the room, allowing him to reach to the ventilation shaft. He was lost in his thoughts and hadn’t heard Amelia come back beside him.
“Are you coming?” Asked the little girl as she tugged on his arm to catch his attention.
“Yes, sorry, I was lost in my thoughts…” He admitted with a nervous smile as he rubbed the back of his head. She turned back towards and started climbing again as the young man followed her closely, careful not to let her slip again. When they finally reached the top of the pile of rocks after a few minutes of careful climbing, they stopped and looked at the scenery that was displayed before their eyes.
What lay before them was a strange sight. A huge empty street passed right by the hospital, curving near its entry to allow better access in case of emergencies. Across it was a large park, dotted with tall trees, in the center was a small lake and both Zachary and Amelia could see the dirt paths that went around the green area. On the far side of it the were tall buildings, on the right side the park became a forest and on their left they could see a residential area. Behind the clone houses and dominating the whole city could be seen a high rocky cliff. But what was strange was that no sound came from these different parts of the city, everything was silent, only the light howling of wind and the rustling of the leafs proved that they hadn’t gone deaf.
“It’s so silent…” Said Amelia, her brows furrowed in a thoughtful expression.
“Yes, I find it strange too, something is no right here.” Nodded the young man as he looked at the sky. The sun was high, though he didn’t know if it was still rising or already setting, but the strange red color of the sky remained. Where are we? Zachary didn’t know the answer but if he was asked to guess he would have said that they were not on Earth anymore, never had he heard of a red sky anywhere, though that was a completely wild theory. Well, maybe not as wild as what’s happening here… There were no clouds in the sky and the air was warm, not hot but just warm enough to be enjoyable.
As he started slowly climbing down the pile of rubble he heard the cries of a flock of birds in the distance and he saw them take off from around the tall buildings on the other side of the park. Then he heard a deep howling coming from the same general direction.
“I think we should go that way.” He said to the little girl as he pointed to his left, preferring to get far away from whatever had caused the bird to fly away. She nodded, looking somewhat uncomfortable with the tall buildings, and followed him carefully as he descended to the road. He looked around, searching for any sign of life, but nothing moved, there was no sound of cars filling the ears, no smell of food roaming in the air and no sight of any movement. Everything seems abandoned, that was the impression that was starting to grow in Zachary’s mind. As they walked towards the residential area, dominated far behind by a high cliff, the two new-found comrades stayed in the shade of the tall buildings. Apparently finding the silence quite boring, Amelia started talking about her house, the large garden they had and the hours she spent in it playing with her dog Billy. Her parents were both doctors, her mother a surgeon and her father a dentist, they worked long hour but always found time for her and she was happy about it.
She loved pancakes with maple sirup, didn’t like lobster, her favorite color was bright red, but he already knew that, she liked to wear dresses at her friends’ birthdays and had just started learning how to skate, she even had her own skateboard! Her father had been at work that day and her mother had been baking cookies in the kitchen when everything had gone black. She only remembered Billy barking at something and then nothing before waking up in the bed. Zachary saw her suddenly sullen expression as she told him all that and tried to cheer her up by telling her what he thought he knew about himself. He remembered things about his parents, like his mother’s fruity perfume, or the chilly days he had spent outside in winter, but other than that not very much. As the information about him quickly ran out they started talking about the place they had ended up. The buildings were decreasing in size as they were progressing through the large streets and the sun’s intensity seemed to die down a bit so the young man deduced that noon had passed since some time already. Even if that was true though, the orb of light did not seem to descend in the sky and remained roughly in the same spot all along the afternoon.
“Maybe we’re in Narnia. Or in Oz!” Suddenly exclaimed the young girl with a bright smile.
“That might indeed explain most of the weird things that have happened today.” Agreed Zachary. “But I don’t seem to recall the sky being red…” Amelia thought a little before replying.
“Well then maybe not those places but somewhere just like it!” She said with another bright smile.
“Maybe.” Smiled the young man in turn. “But that means you think we’re not on Earth at the moment, right?”
“Perhaps…” Responded the little girl as she carefully stepped in the middle of the large slabs of stone that composed the sidewalk. “I’m not sure but this place doesn’t look like home at all…”
“Yes, that much I’ll agree with… Everything is so strange… And why aren’t there any people?” Nodded Zachary thoughtfully.
“Maybe because they all vanished?” Offered Amelia as she jumped from one slab to the other.
“Perhaps.” Replied Zachary with a small smile. But why would they all vanish? Where have we ended up? He followed her as they slowly progressed through the large street. A local mall, displaying a 24/7 sign, was opened, the neon lights where on and buzzing lightly. The young man pointed towards it before walking in its direction.
“I think we might find a phone or something in there. Let’s try.” He explained as the little girl asked where they were going. “Plus there might b someone and if you’re hungry we can probably buy something to eat.” Amelia nodded and followed without a word. As they entered the small shop Zachary noticed one of the large window panels of the front had been smashed. There still seemed to be no one around.
“Hello?” He called out. “Anyone there?!” His voice echoed feebly around before dying in the oppressing silence that reigned all around. No reply came, even when he called a second time, so he directly went towards the counter and looked for a phone. He spotted one just under the cashier’s desk and took it, but as he pressed it against his ear only the sound of the tone dial could not be heard.
“Damn it!” He cursed as he pressed the different keys. He checked if it was plugged in, which it was, and plugged it again just to be sure, but it didn’t change anything, the phone was as silent as can be.
“What happened?” Asked Amelia’s voice from the other side of the counter.
“Uh, nothing. It’s just that the phone is dead so we can’t use it…” He replied as he put the device back where he had taken it and walked around the counter towards the girl.
After a few hours of non stop walking Zachary decided to stop and rest a bit, the young girl hadn’t complained at all but he could see she was getting a bit tired. The intensity of the light had decreased significantly and the sky was turning from bright red to a bluish purple. The sun hadn’t moved an inch in the sky, it’s light simply seemed to become dimmer as time passed, it was slowly disappearing in the darkening sky. Zachary didn’t know what to think of it, everything had been so strange since he had woken up that he didn’t know if he was sleeping or awake, so he was simply doing with it for the moment, not trying to comprehend the situation. His top priority was trying to find help and get him and Amelia out of there. They had stopped at the limit of the city center and a residential area, stopping in one of the many empty identical houses that bordered the street. All along the way from the hospital the only signs of life they had been able to discern were rare flocks of birds on the horizon and a cat that had crossed the street to their right. There were no signs of any human life, all the cars were left of the street, doors open, as if the inhabitants had fled in terror, the houses were left as is, doors unlocked, lights still on sometimes. But the most frustrating thing was that there was no signal, the phones were dead and the internet was down everywhere apparently. No TV or radio either. They were completely isolated from the world, lost in an unknown and empty city.
The little girl sat in the old couch of the fancy looking house after putting down her bag near the small table. She immediately yawned and closed her eyes, drifting to sleep almost immediately. Zachary took a look around the house before also settling down in the kitchen. The door of the large house had been left open, the keys were still on it, inserted from the inside, so the young man had decided to go in so that the little girl could rest a bit. He was expecting someone to return at any moment and decided to not get too comfortable, but the house was completely empty and so were the ones in the whole block. Still he felt uneasy. What had forced all those people to flee? And why was he still there? Were they really alone? A few times he could have sworn to have seen moving shadows on the top of the tall buildings, but he had dismissed that as being figments of his imaginations. Or maybe birds. He had closed the main door behind them and any other entry way in the house as he had looked around, just to be sure. He opened the fridge and was only half surprised to find it full of food. Nice, he thought, at least we won’t get hungry. He wasn’t extremely comfortable with stealing from others but if he and Amelia got hungry he wouldn’t hesitate to take a little. He took out the chocolate bars from his bag and opened two before eating them with appetite. The young man also tentatively turned on the television but as in the last five houses they had visited, it was only displaying snow. He sighed and looked around, searching for something to do while the little girl was sleeping, he didn’t want to wake her up just yet, she had deserved a bit of sleep. His face brightened as he found a shelf full of CDs. He stood up and walked towards it, opening the two doors under the small space only to discover more. The small piece of furniture was full of music and movies. He took a few out and spotted some he remembered like Star Trek and Iron Man.
“Well” He scoffed lightly as he quickly studied the opportunity offered to him. “why not.” Zachary took Star Trek’s DVD case and turned on the player as he opened it before inserting it in. He sat down besides the young girl as the menu appeared n the screen and he chose “play”. He was almost halfway through the movie when Amelia stirred and opened her eyes. Night had fallen and the sun had disappeared leaving its place to a pale moon, which apparently was as much unmoving as the sun had been during the day. The little girl stretched and yawned like a cat, which made the young man laugh.
“What?” She asked curiously.
“Nothing.” He replied with a smile. “Slept well?” He asked in return. She yawned again before answering.
“Yeah… But I’m hungry now.” Amelia said as she rubbed her tummy.
“Well then let’s get you something to eat!” Exclaimed the young man as he got up and walked towards his bag. He grabbed it and walked bag to the couch before putting it down beside the little girl.
“Take what you want, I’ve already eaten a bite.” He said as he sat back down. He was about to put the film back on when he noticed Amelia looking at the content of the bag with a hesitant face.
“What is it?” He asked.
“You sure I can eat these now? I mean, aren’t they for dessert or a snack?” She asked with a concerned expression. Zachary laughed again.
“Don’t worry. Tonight’s special! I can cook something for you if you want but you are also allowed to eat snacks!” Replied the young man. Amelia looked at him with huge eyes.
“Really?!” She asked, a big smile appearing on her face.
“Sweet!” She exclaimed as she opened a chocolate bar. “At home my mother would never let me do that!” She added while biting in her chocolate bar excitedly. Her smiled faded a little as she said that and Zachary immediately knew why.
“Don’t worry.” He started. “You’ll be home soon, I’ll do everything I can to help you get back!” He said with a smile as he put his hand on hers. She looked at him and her smile grew a bit again, her mouth was already smeared with chocolate.
“Thank you Zachary. I hope it’ll be soon…” She added as she moved to sit next to him. He put his arm around her small shoulders and it seemed to reassure her.
“I promise.” He added before letting silence take over the room.
“You know,” Amelia started after a few seconds. “it feels a bit like home right now.” Zachary looked at her and smiled once more as he saw her big round eyes fixed on him.
“I kinda feel at home too.” He replied. “So, want to watch with me?” He added.
“Yeah.” Nodded Amelia as she crossed her legs and rested her head on the young man’s side.
He pressed the play button and the movie started again where he had stopped it earlier. Zachary only half watched it as his mind was concentrated on other thoughts. He still didn’t know where they were or how they were going to get back home, nor why the city was empty or the sky was red. But the strangest thing of all was this strange thing he had done earlier in the day, with the arms sprouting out of his back. He knew he had done it, but how? That was a question that had been trotting in his head since, he had tried to make them appear again a little earlier in the evening but nothing had happened. What were those things? How had he done that? Where were they? And what had happened to him before he got there? Why could he remember almost nothing? He knew that these questions, maybe not all but at least a few, would be answered by getting out of this place. But how were they going to do that? With no means of communication, no means of transportation and no one to be seen anywhere it wasn’t going to be easy… The little girl stirred by his side, placing her body in a more comfortable position, and it made him sure of one thing: he would get her back home safe and sound. He let his shoulders relax a bit and focused on the movie again, after all what could he do at this hour? He had to get some rest to be up for it tomorrow.