Cassie yawned and stared into the fire. It was exactly like it was before but somehow different, before she was happy to be alone, but now all she wanted was someone beside her, someone to talk to. Jon, Dad, Mom, her sister, all of them were gone, so Cassie just kept staring into the fire, alone. She was leaning against a tree, close enough to the fire to feel its warm orange glow, but far enough not to feel the heat singing her skin, it was kind of peaceful. Cassie closed her eyes and basked in the heat, forgetting the world, and began to daydream. Memories, long since forgotten, unfurled in her mind and whisked her to a world before. In all of them there was a girl, a smiling girl, who always stopped to pet dogs, who loved the outdoors. The girl introduced herself as Joan. Cassie knew it was her own given name, but it didn’t feel right anymore, it didn’t fit, but at the same time neither did the name Cassie. The girl opened her eyes; the fire had begun to die down and she knew it was about time to go to bed. Cassie walked over to her backpack and pulled out a sleeping bag, she spread it out and slipped herself inside. It was a warm summer night so she didn’t need a tent to keep her warm. Cassie stared up through the trees into the beautiful night sky. Each star shone down onto her, brighter than ever before. In the past, before the whole thing started, the stars would be drowned out by city lights and flying planes, but now you could see straight into the sky and appreciate the beauty. Cassie wanted to draw a picture, to capture the perfect night, but she knew that it would end up looking like blobs on paper, and that was if she could find some paper. Under the glow of the gentle night Cassie closed her eyes and fell asleep. She instantly fell into a world of memories, all the way back to the day she was in the cabin. Alone. There was a creature there. It chased her away. Into the forest.
The creature took a step forward, and then turned its head. There was something out there, it knew, and Cassie knew that it would find her soon, so she had to do something. The little girl sat behind a tree, her legs pulled up to her chest, and not twenty feet away the faceless person stood. With each passing second it grew closer towards the girl, it knew something was close. It had been in the cabin, it had been right there. Cassie had managed to get away, but it followed her. Cassie took a deep breath and let her hand drop towards her pocket. Inside was her little knife, and she pulled it out. She had never used it before, at least not to hurt anything, and her hand shook like a jackhammer but she held it as tight as she could, and prepared to face the looming creature. Its head popped out from behind the tree and in an instant Cassie plunged the weapon forward. There was a screech, either from Cassie or the creature – she wasn’t sure – as she continued stabbing. She couldn’t see anything, her eyes were closed, but she stabbed, and did not stop, even when the creature had stopped moving she did not stop. Only when her hand grew too tired to hold up the weapon did she let the knife fall to the ground. It fell slowly, she watched it as it dropped and hit the ground with a soft thud. She looked at the creature she had just murdered, and then looked back to the knife, then once again to the creature. She was confused, alone, and just wanted to run away. So she did.
Where was she? How was she going to get back to her mother? Cassie turned around, somehow, the little girl had ended up standing next to a river, lost; She closed her eyes and retraced her steps in her mind. First she had left the ranger’s cabin and then walked to the shack. So if she found the shack she could find her way back, but the faceless man had chased her way, how would she get back? Cassie curled her hands into fists and began punching her head, hoping this idiotic ritual would give her an idea. It didn’t, so she continued standing next to the river. The little girl looked down at her feet and discovered an empty beer bottle; curiously, she picked it up and inspected it, maybe this was a solution to her problem. She put the bottle on the ground and spun it, whatever way it pointed she would go, it seemed logical to her.
It was a long time later now. The day before she went into the city. Her hair fell into her eye and she quickly brushed it away. In the last year it had grown longer and longer, but the girl hadn’t yet cut it. Long ago she had given up searching for her mother; she was probably dead, and still cradling that stupid baby. About three week ago it had stopped snowing, so blankets of white had quickly faded, she would miss the sound of crunching snow underfoot. She only a couple miles from her camp, she had gone exploring in the forest in search of food and supplies and had exited nearly empty-handed, but she didn’t dare search in the city, there was too many faceless things in there. The girl took a look behind her, the sun was dropping down below the trees, and the little girl hurried off. She had set up a tent a while away from the town and had been staying there for quite some time, ever since she’d lost her mom; the forest was nice, but the girl sometimes saw things in the corner of her eye, those things scared her, so she always made sure to walk quickly, in case one of the things was real. It was pitch black out by the time the girl made it to her tent and she quickly hopped inside, and instantly felt safer inside. The little girl pulled off her backpack and rummaged through it, there were a few cans of old food but one thing inside she found particularly interested her. When her little hands found it she quickly pulled out the tin and smiled at her prize, chocolate syrup. She hadn’t had hot chocolate since before it began and was excited to once again have the delicious treat. Her hair fell into her eyes again, but first she had to cut her hair.
She didn’t have anything to see herself in so she had cut her hair blindly, and once or twice nicked herself, which caused a stifled yelp to emit from her. In place of scissors she used a knife, which was faster, but hurt more against skin. After a half hour of slicing randomly at her hair the girl was satisfied and put down the little knife. Her hair was short now; it wouldn’t fall in front of her eyes anymore. She remembered the chocolate syrup she had found and licked her lips in hungry anticipation; she couldn’t wait to have hot chocolate. Above the fire the pot began to boil and the girl poured the outdated chocolate syrup into it. She then stirred the brown-ish black liquid through the water, mixing the two substances. She excitedly pulled the pot from above the fire and poured it into a cup, and the girl with the short dark hair sipped the black liquid.
When Cassie woke up the sun was just rising. It was an odd dream, everything had come back and hit her, it confused her, so she pushed it out of her mind. She stood up, and admired the view.
“Hullo.” A small voice said, Cassie whipped around to see a little girl, hidden by the shadows.
“Hullo.” Cassie said slowly. The girl was young, maybe eight, and had a surprisingly clean dress on.
“Are you one of the fellows without a face?”
“No, are you?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Oh.” Then the conversation dropped into silence, Cassie was still curled up in her sleeping bag and felt strange seeing someone younger than her. Cassie turned her head to scan the forest, there was probably someone with the little girl, ready to grab Cassie and steal all of her things.
“My Mum is with me, a little bit behind.” The girl said, as if reading Cassie’s mind, then a smile grew on her face, “You should come back with us! There’s a bunch of kids there, and you could be my best friend!” Cassie stared at this girl, questioning her sanity; she seemed so calm, unaware of the world, as if what happened hadn’t affected her in the slightest. A voice called out behind her and Cassie flinched, “That’s mum! Let’s go ask her if you can come with us! There’s a big fenced off face, and none of the faceless men can get in.” The little girl said excitedly, “What’s your name?” Cassie paused, everything in her life had changed, everything, and she had no idea who she was anymore. She wasn’t the sweet little girl she had once been, she knew that much, but the name Cassie felt dirty to her, it held all the things she had done to survive. It was everyone who died to keep her safe. The girl knew who she was, she was no longer an innocent girl, but didn’t want to own her past, she was someone new.
It was summer, so the girl with the short dark hair wore a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. As she walked she could feel the wind blow through her hair and a smile crawl on her face, she liked to smile. All of the kids were going to the lake again, it was cold when you got in, but warmed up after a few minutes. Or was it just that your body got used to it? From the lake you could see the edge of the fence, but nobody went near it, they were all scared of the faceless ones. Most of the children had never left the safety of the fence, which stretched eight miles wide, so they reveled in the girl’s stories of adventure and daring against the outside world. Of course they were touched up a bit, to impress the kids, but most of it remained true to the source material. The girl hadn’t talked about Jon in a long while, she didn’t like to remember him. Today was special though, it was her fourteenth birthday, which meant she had been there for two years, and in those two years she had learned how to feel safe. There were about ten kids at the lake; they usually weren’t allowed there, but today was special, so an exception was made. They jumped in, swam, and played on the beach, it was nice. When the girl walked up to the lake everyone cheered and waved,
“Happy birthday!” They said, and the girl was happy.
After a few hours of splashing in the lake the sun fell too low and everyone went back to the camp. In the centre of all the fences sat a trailer park with nearly thirty trailers pulled in, and in each one a family. There were a couple of tents for storage and cooking and a makeshift tower where a man with a rifle sat. The girl slept in the trailer with the brown and orange stripes with four other people; three were older, but one was her age. He had also lived outside for a while but then he too came up over the fence. He slept on the bunk beneath the girl. The girl lay in her bed and looked up at the ceiling. The one thing she missed about sleeping outside was the view. Everyone else was asleep, so when she hopped from her bunk and tip-toed outside no one noticed. When she opened the trailer door a rush of refreshing cool air hit her and she smiled, it was a beautiful night. The girl quietly climbed up the ladder to the top of the trailer and lay down, up above her the stars shone brighter than ever and she became immersed in their beauty. The girl did this every night, from the first time she slept at the camp until the night she died, just stared into the sky. She loved the outdoors. She loved the night sky. The girl remembered the world outside of the fence, and that made her love her life inside of it even more. In the next years she would live her life in the camp, happily, and start a family, and share her stories about the world outside the fence, but they weren’t stories about her, they were stories about Cassie.