Word Count: 864
By the time the dust had cleared, everyone I had ever known was gone. Dead, I presumed, given the way bodies were dotted so casually across the sidewalk, slumped up against cars, twisted gruesomely in impossible positions. Wide, open wounds gave way for pulsating vivid red liquid to flow out of their body, like an endless waterfall of death. Some of their eyes were open, glassy and cold, but staring right at me.
It had seemed to happen too quickly. The person I had been talking to just before the earthquake had hit was still beside me. Well, from the knees upwards he was. I didn't care to think where the rest of the guy's legs were. The stench of death seemed to cling to every inch of my skin, ringing clear throughout the air. The silence was almost deafening and an eerie amber glow seemed to subjugate the sky.
I turned away from the body in front of me, disgusted. My stomach lurched and I had to swallow the bile back down. I wasn't going to throw up. Not now. Not here.
Though I supposed it didn't really matter; no one was alive anyway.
Picking my way through the catastrophic destruction seemed to be an unfeasible task; bodies were everywhere. Where there wasn't bodies, there was rubble. Where there wasn't rubble, there was blood. It was a total mess. And incredibly disgusting. I knew I should feel something about seeing all these bodies. I should feel frightened, distraught. Something human.
But I didn't. All I cared about right then was getting somewhere that wasn't dominated by the dead.
A wild hysteric giggle fought it's way through my lips. I clasped a hand over, quickly, questioning what was so funny. It appeared to me that maybe the reason death was all around me was because I was dead. Metaphorically speaking of course. People had always told me I wasn't human. They said I was too cold-hearted to be a human.
They said I was dead inside.
Even now, just thinking about it, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on edge in pure rage. They didn’t know that they had made me like that. Years of betrayal, desolation and despair had carved me a whole new persona. One day I just thought to myself that life would be a lot, lot simpler if I just…switched off. If I didn’t care, then I couldn’t feel. I couldn’t hurt. Obviously, I was still human and emotions still plagued me. Nobody could escape life that easily.
Something clattered behind me, dragging me out of my thoughts. I whirled round, to find a figure standing only a few yards away.
‘Alice,’ they whispered in a dry, cracked voice. A chill ran down my spine and I took an automatic step backwards.
‘Who are you?’ I frowned.
‘Alice…’ they repeated.
‘Congratulations, we’ve established that you know my name. Now do you wanna tell me who the hell you are?’
‘Funny…you should talk about hell,’ they went on. ‘Hell on Earth. Hell has come. For everyone. But you.’
‘No questions. The dead don’t answer your questions.’
I simply stared at the person with wide eyes, like a rabbit caught in the death stare of its predator. Any moment now they were going to strike.
It came slowly. A lot slower than I had imagined. It started off with my heart, which was already pounding away against my ribcage, quickening in pace. I clutched a hand to my chest, knotted my fingers in the fabric of my shirt, confused. A burning sensation trickled down my arms, my waist, down to the soles of my feet. My breathing grew stertorous, it felt as though my lungs were closing in on me. Panic began to take over.
I was dying.
Without warning, the most terrifying, most excruciating pain I had ever felt exploded in my head. I was too shocked to cry out, too shocked to move. I could only manage a strangled cry. And throughout it all, the strangers’ hood was pulled back. He watched me, with no emotion.
Pain enveloped me. It seemed to be coming from everywhere. Hands of death clawed at me, dragging me down. I was going to become one of the bodies on the sidewalk. I was going to die.
This is what death feels like.
Just when I thought the pain couldn’t get any worse, it intensified. My bones felt like they were turning to ash, crumbling beneath my skin. I collapsed to my knees. My eyesight blurred, my hearing vanished. Darkness shrouded me and all I became, was pain. All I knew was pain. It was everywhere.
Until something heaved me off the concrete with impossible strength.
I was too disorientated to protest. My arms hung limply by my side as I was hauled away from the pain. Away from death. Away from the stranger. Pain still crackled at my limbs, but not nearly so much as before.
My head lolled to the side, my eyes drifted upwards. A man with a hard jawline and tan skin. That’s the last thing I remembered before I blacked out.