A freeze leaves the world nearly unlivable. Yet, a few kids will brave the cold and continue to fight for their lives in hopes of a better tomorrow. (Story you auditioned for)
Behind me I hear a twig snap causing my head to whip around, free hand instantly going to my knife. Thankfully it’s just Frank. He smiles warmly at me, holding up a dead rabbit.
“We don’t need any fish this morning,” he says, heading back into the trees.
Pulling my hand out of the icy water, I tuck it into my jacket, following the foot prints made by my friend. By the time I reach him he is already skinning the animal, holding pieces of the bloody meat over the fire.
Walking a little further I find a few branches and snap them off of the trees. Usually I wouldn’t do this but times are different now, the trees are dying…everything dying. If we don’t use every bit of what nature is giving us we’ll be dead as well.
Coming back to the fire I place my branches near the fire, laying strips of meat over the branch suspended over the flames. The fire won’t cook the rabbit all the way but at least it won’t be raw.
For a while Frank and I sit in silence, watching the fire lick at the meat, little bits of fat cooking off and falling onto the snow and rocks. Frank, his stomach audibly growling takes a small piece off the branch and chews on it, ripping pieces off with his teeth.
“It’s a little chewy but other than that the meat is nice and tasty,” my dark haired friend says between bites.
I nod, grabbing my own piece of meat and biting into it. At this point in time we could be eating rat shit and I’d probably think it tasted good. Two days without food will drive a person to that. Not, of course, that I would ever actually consider eating rat droppings if other food was available, but in this kind of climate one never really knows.
“The color is starting to come out of your hair,” Frank says, twisting a faded dark blue strand of my hair around his finger.
“Mhm, I have a few berries left. I’m trying to save them, I don’t know where I’ll find more,” I respond.
Even though the berries I’m using on my hair aren’t edible, they’d kill you faster than anything else out here, I try and save them. My hair has always had some sort of color in it. Sure, it’s kind of a think of the past but I like holding onto part of who I used to be.
“We can go search for some tomorrow, maybe see if there are some edible berries as well. I might go back to where I caught the rabbit today. It looked like there might be more holes,” Frank goes on, ripping apart the last of the meat, handing half to me.
I sigh, sliding my gloves back on after I’ve finished, “We can’t stay here much longer. The creatures will start moving this way.”
This is the one thing Frank refuses to agree with me on. He would bet his life that there really aren’t any creatures, that when this whole thing first started happening the media just wanted something more tangible, more exciting, than the world freezing over and people dying of the cold.
I on the other hand have seen these things. Frost bitten, blood sucking things that prowl the frozen lands in search of food, in this case their food of choice would be people. They are horrid. I watched my younger sister turn into one of them and didn’t even bat an eyelash when I blew her head off. It’s better for them to die.
“Rain, we haven’t seen one of those things yet. I’m telling you they aren’t a threat because they aren’t real,” Frank answers, standing up and dusting off his pants.
“We’re going to have to find a town soon so we can restock, our pants are starting to get warn. The last thing we want is for one of us to get frozen,” I answer changing the subject. I’m not in the mood to argue with Frank.
“We can head that way tomorrow.”
I nod, leaning my back against a tree, pulling the haphazardly stitched fur blanket tighter around my shoulders as off in the distance a wolf howls.
I think back to when this all started. Things got really bad pretty quickly. Temperatures started dropping, people started to get sick, crop couldn’t grow. By month two you had neighbors killing neighbors just for food or a blanket. Then people started turning blue in the face and sucking out people’s insides. Month three my parents died, went a drove off a cliff. If you ask me it was a selfish thing to do but I don’t begrudge them. Neither of my parents would have made it in this life. They were just too used to the old ways. Four months in and the cold had claimed pretty much everything. There were no lights, hardly any food and if you found a living person you could consider yourself lucky.
Frank lived on the plot of land just north of mine; I trudge five miles to get to his house. At first I thought he was dead. Thank God he wasn’t. Frank and I, well, we’re just no good without each other. Neither of us would have survived this long without the other. He knows how to set traps and skin animals. I’m a natural born leader, good with my hands, and quick to identify edible plants and such. Together we’ve learned hour to preserve foods, make pelts into blankets. I wouldn’t want to be here with anyone else.
Frank takes my arm and begins to trace the vines I got tattooed on a little after my seventeenth birthday, which was four months before the world went to the cold. For some reason this calms him down and brings him to a different place in his mind. In the beginning it annoyed me but I’ve gotten over it, if the tracing helps I have no problem with it.
“What are we going out here Frank, what have we gotten ourselves into?”
With his free hand my best friend gently forces my head onto his shoulder. For a few minutes he just strokes my dark hair, humming a song we both used to like.
“Don’t start doubting yourself now Rain, we’ve made it this far, we can make it to New York.”
“It’s such a long way away; we’re still only in Georgia.”
Frank just shakes his head holding me closer to him as the wind picks up. I try not to shiver even though it’s freezing outside. I don’t want Frank to know I’m cold.
“Hey Rain,” Frank says after a few minutes.
He pulls out the map, laying it out over our laps before continuing on.
“I have a friend who lives here –” he points to a spot on the map just a few miles from where we are right now – “we could walk to his place today; maybe see if he’s still around. It would get us out of the cold for a while.”
“Who is this friend of yours?”
“Gerard, he went to my school,” Frank answers.
I nod, chewing on my lip. Frank had mentioned Gerard to me before. They both went to the same private school. I’ve never actually met the guy but from what Frank has said he seems like he’s a good person. I’m just worried that we’ll get there and Gerard will have already left or worse he could have turned into a creature. Then again I guess it’s worth the walk. If shit hits the fan at least we’ll have someplace that is semi-warm to sleep in tonight.
“I think we could manage that. We’ll just follow the river up and then find our way from there,” I reply tracing our course with my finger. “If we start now we might get there by night fall.”
Frank nods as be begins to put out our fire with snow, packing things into our backpacks. I fold up my blanket and shove it into my backpack. Standing up, I dust off my pants, strapping my crossbow across my back before slinging my pack over the opposite shoulder. My dark haired friend grins at me before taking my hand and leading me towards the river.
Thankfully the sun stays visible throughout the day, helping to keep us warm as we walk. Neither of us talk much. Frank occasionally wanders off, sometimes bringing back a rabbit or other type of game, other times he comes back empty handed. This goes on until we stop to eat. Deciding to save the rabbits for later, I work on catching fish. Eventually I manage to catch to medium sized fish.
We beat them against rocks to kill them. It’s not the most humane thing to do but it beats wasting arrows and I feel like in the end the fish don’t really mind.
“If we stop and eat we won’t get there before dark,” I say as Frank goes to sit down.
“That’s true,” my friend answers before continuing on.
As we walk Frank and I pick the scales off our fish, picking around the bones to get to the flesh. Fish is the one food that is alright to eat raw. I don’t think my best friend and I would be alive if it wasn’t for the water creatures.
“They taste like mud,” Frank complains. He’s never really liked fish.
“We’ve eaten worse,” I reply.
Frank mumbles under his breath a while longer, eventually tossing a clean fish to the ground. I try and savor mine, not knowing when I’ll eat again. Sure we have the rabbits but if we do pick up Gerard they won’t last long. I’ll probably end up giving my helping to the new guy.
The sun begins to set as we reach the place where we leave the guidance of the river and venture down the road towards Gerard’s house. Frank pulls out the map, drawling a crude pencil line to where we need to go.
“We should pass a Food Mart and a Taco Bell before we turn onto Gerard’s street,” Frank explains as we walk.
“We should stop and see if the Food Mart has anything left that we can use,” I reply.
It would be nice to have some food that we don’t have to catch. Just some bread or bottled water would be a luxury. Maybe we can even find some zebra cakes. They were Frank and my favorite. We’ve not had them in months.
“Sounds like a plan.”
I smile as he takes my hand in his, our fingers interlacing. I lean my head on his shoulder. We walk like this until we reach the Food Mart.
Frank, who refuses to let me go in first, breaks the glass on the front doors, making sure there are no threats inside. After he motions for me to come in I crawl through the door and enter the small store. Thankfully the shelves are well stocked and most things are only a month old. I break over a few cases of water, shoving the bottles into my backpack. Frank opens up a Snickers bar and eats it as he grabs a few other things and shoves them anywhere they will fit.
“Rain, come here,” he calls from the back of the store.
“What?” I answer, still working with the bottles of water.
“Just come here,” my best friend whines.
Sighing I leave my bag and walk towards him. As I approach Frank pulls something out from behind his back. In front of my face is a box of zebra cakes. I squeal like a child and snatch them from my friend’s hands, dancing around.
Frank laughs, a huge smile playing across his face. I’ve not seen him smile like that in a long time. It’s nice.
“That’s the only box they have,” he says as I open it up and pull a package out.
Ripping open the plastic I take a cake for myself, handing the other to Frank. These are a delicacy. We’ll have to be very careful about eating these.
For a few more minutes Frank and I shove our faces full of things we’ve not had in months. Some more things go into our packs and once again we’re on our way.
As we pass the Taco Bell Frank and I argue over wither we should stop or not.
“Frank, it’s getting dark, we need to get to Gerard’s,” I explain, glancing over my shoulder as the wind blows through the trees in the surrounding forest.
“Just real quick Rain,” he answers, wrapping an arm around my shoulder.
I sigh, “Please, I just wanna get there.”
In truth I’m cold and my feet hurt. We’ve been walking since this morning. I just want to get to Gerard’s and sleep. At this point in time I don’t even care if the kid is alive; I just want to be in out of the cold.
Eventually, after me almost begging, Frank decided that we’ll just continue on forward.
“His house is just up this street,” Frank says, taking my hand and leading me down a side street with just a few other houses along it.
At the very end of the street sits a big white house. Frank walks straight up to the front door. He knocks before stepping back a little. Just as we’re about to leave, assuming no one is around, the door opens.
A dark haired boy pulls open the door, a knife held in his hand. Frank puts his hands up, showing that we mean no harm. Within seconds the boy who opens the door drops the knife and pulls Frank into a hug.
“I though you were dead,” Gerard says after he’s invited us inside.
“No, Rain found me a few weeks after this whole thing started. We’ve been traveling together since,” Frank explains, dropping his bags and sitting down on the living room couch.
“How’d you find me?” Gerard asks, grabbing a can of some kind of beans off the table and continuing to eat.
“We followed the stream up and then took the main road,” my dark haired friend explains.
Gerard nods, swallowing hard, “I’ve been here since the beginning. My parents didn’t make it back from Europe. I’ve been living off of all that canned stuff we have in the basement. So what are you’re plans for the future?”
“We’re heading towards New York,” I answer.
Gerard perks up a little bit, “Can I travel with you guys?”
I look over at Frank. He just shrugs.
Gerard smiles getting up to hug his friend, “It’s late, are you two tired?”
Gerard gets up and leads Frank and me upstairs. The floor is wooden and our footsteps echo through the house.
“I’ve just staid in my room but everything else is open. The bathroom is between my room and the guest room and the master has its own bathroom. We’re on a well so the house still gets water. It’s just a little cold though,” the boy explains showing us the rooms as we walk.
“I feel like we should give Rain the master bedroom,” Frank says. “I’ll take the guest room.”
Gerard nods his agreement before we all retire to our rooms. This will probably be the best nights sleep I've gotten in a while.
Author's Note: First chapter up. I really hope you guys like it. Auditioned characters will start coming in around chapter 3 or 4. Remember to R&R.