Roads & Ruins

I watched as the last sights of the world slip from my vision. Then came the creatures. Their shape was twisted and distorted. The shrieks came first. Demonic sounding wails that rang out like nuclear fallout alarms. They were approaching me in swarms. I ran, but they soon overtook me. A whip-like vine lashed around my leg, and dragged me into their pit of. The hive swarmed with all of them, and I was taken.

I woke up in a forest. Everything was silent. Was this what the afterlife was like? I looked around the surrounding terrain. There was a lake, and on the other side of it, was a town. It was quite a beautiful sight. But in between him, and the lake, was a deadly-looking jungle. Then I remembered something that reassured me that I must be alive. The plague. The one that was rapidly killing off humanity, or so they said. It was hard to tell how the world was doing when you were locked inside a quarantined zone.

The jungle became denser as I went deeper into it. I looked up, and saw a blue sky. Was this earth? A fog began to settle over the valley. The sky began to become darker, and the lake was still at least a few miles away. That is, if I was headed in the right direction. I suddenly came across a compound. Four stone buildings encircled a sort of lookout tower. This was the first sign of another human being that I had encountered. I cautiously went into one of the stone buildings, and found some useful things. A flashlight, and some crude-looking tools lay on a worn wooden table.

I turned on the flashlight, and looked around in its red hue. The walls of the compound were covered with writing. Things like “It’s over” and “No hope left” and “They’re coming!” This reminded me of a place I had been before. I walked out the door, and the flashlight’s beam caught something written on the wall. I gasped. I realized that I had been here before. QUARANTINE ZONE 3456, MODULE 6. This was where I died! Or at least thought I did. This was the compound I had spent the last years of my life in! But if this was in fact my grave, then this couldn’t be heaven. It was earth, and earth sure didn’t look like heaven.

I decided then and there to leave the compound where I spent a nightmare of a time in, and headed for the lake. Not for the town, but for answers.

When the outbreak first hit the town, people were shipped to Australia, the first country to be infected. If they were suspected of being infected, you would go there. But when the first death from the virus was reported, things got serious. It was the beginning of an end.

Suddenly, I saw it. The horrible creature that had been in my nightmares. And now it was right in front of me. Its whip-like tentacles shooting towards me. In a state of shock, I was frozen. I tried to brace my arms or dodge out of the way, but I couldn’t. The whip cracked, and the side of my face erupted in flames. Well, not literal flames, but it sure felt like it. The creature recoiled suddenly, as if in shock. I didn’t waste a second after that. Bolting through the forest, with a giant demonic insect hot on my trail, I tripped. I stumbled for several seconds, before crashing down on the forest floor. I looked up through the treetops, and suddenly felt a sentimental feeling about the place. Then I saw it. A bright orange ball of fire that illuminated the whole jungle. The sight was soon hidden again by trees, but I had a feeling I needed to look at that star or whatever it was again.

The compound. It had been a week since the death of the first virus victim had struck the world. I was told to go into lockdown. Separated from friends, family, and others. I was isolated to an underground compound with little light, and zero contact with the outside world, save for the meals that came, then abruptly stopped. And then came the order to die.

The shrieks. Demonic as they were, made me feel strangely comforted. Then I remembered the dream. In it, they come in swarms. First comes the wail, followed by a thousand more, and the insects come. I began to get up, and noticed that there was something seriously wrong with this jungle. The Sheer size of the trees hit me first. Each branch was as thick as a ship, and the trees were as tall as skyscrapers. I looked at the flora. The strange plants and animals were almost alien. Some recognizable creatures could be seen, but all too vaguely.

I began to run. Not from the monsters, not from the jungle, but from everywhere. I noticed a single crude looking silhouette against the falling orange light. It began to wail, and several other similar cries echoed the hill. More crude shapes came rushing over, and I didn’t bother run. It was over. So this is how it ends? I thought, and braced for the death that was coming.

It came. The inescapable fate that went exactly like the dream had foretold. I was dragged behind them, and into their hive. Only they didn’t kill me. The tunnels that they were in became darker and darker. Until you couldn’t see your own hand in front of your face. Then the whips released their grip, and I was left alone in the darkness. I switched on the flashlight, and looked around the tunnel in its red hue. It was hopeless. The tunnel went in all directions, up and down. Who knows how far down the insects had taken me. Then my flashlight caught on something. A tattered note. It was written in bright red blood, and it was messy and rushed.

If you are reading this, I am dead.

But you will be spared.

Keep turning left, and you will get out.

Go to the town, but don’t talk about the ruin.

They did this to me.

-Paul

Paul? That was the last person I ever spoke to. He was a friend as well. But how he ended up here, I don’t know. It’s strange. So very strange. Call me a sociopath, but that is probably what kept me sane in all those years of death. I just can’t feel that much empathy. Even so, this whole thing just doesn’t make sense. All of this nonsense seems like a dream. But some hope is better than none. I used his guidance, and, keeping a hand on the left of the tunnel, I soon saw a light. The entrance was silent. Perhaps they were nocturnal? Anyhow, I had somehow survived, and soon set off for the town. On the way there, I noticed smoke coming from somewhere beyond the hill. I noticed that the closer I came to the town, the friendlier the wilderness seemed.

Then I saw the sun. No it wasn’t the sun, it was earth! The huge sphere was almost unrecognizable. Its swirling clouds of orange, and prominent ring, made it mistakable for a gas giant. But as misleading as it was, I knew it was earth. But that meant this wasn’t. I almost thought I was in heaven again, but I dismissed it because heaven wouldn’t have man-eating bugs.

The clearing where the smoke was became clearer, and I saw a wrecked stone building, and a fallen tower. All smouldering away. I saw bullet marks too, all lining the ruin like moss. Wait, that note, it said something about a ruin. Could this be it? The town was still miles away. I surveyed the wreckage, and found something useful. A sort of vehicle that was mostly intact. It resembled a futuristic motorcycle. I looked around, and saw a body. It was sprawled across the ground as if trying to escape. It almost looked as if the whole place had been a battleground before I arrived. The corpse had a single bloody hole in its shirt, which must mean that it was in a firefight. This was no accident, this was an attack.

I tried to start up the vehicle, more eager for answers than ever. The bike started up, and sped out from the ruin. The trees turned into a blur of green, and the miles were greatly diminishing. I soon was within a mile of the town, when the engine sputtered and died. I ran the last mile. The town was a lot smaller up close. High walls surrounded the town, and a huge, metal gate barred entry. The town seemed more like a castle than a town. The huge gates remained closed as I entered.

Unsure of what to do, I yelled out. The door opened a cringe, and I shuffled in. I found myself in a long corridor, with no doors, except one at the very end of the hallway. I approached it, as it slid open. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I saw quite surprised me. Instead of the high-tech buildings of the future one might expect to find, a cluster of primitive-looking dwellings were scattered around a three-story structure. People-the first live ones I’d seen in years, didn’t seem to care about my arrival, as they scurried through the gnarled structures.

I approached one of them. I had so many things to ask. I was about to speak, when the person raised a hand, as if to stop me, then pointed toward the three-story structure. I nodded, then frustrated darted towards whatever the building was holding. I rapped thrice on the oak wood door, and it instantaneously budged open. A flight of stairs lay ahead of me. I ran up them. Another door. I opened it, and saw a weathered man sitting behind a grand desk. The alliteration “RUNA” was posted on the wall behind him. A weary smile spread across his face when I entered. Then he spoke. The first words I’d heard in years.

“Kamari Assanadro” He said. “I feared you wouldn’t show up.

I remembered the note don’t listen to them. How did he know my name? I knew the note, and I also knew that Paul wouldn’t lie. I was about to ask him a trillion questions, but then I was cut off again.

“It is all a very sad story. One I do not enjoy telling. Earth is gone. This is the last outpost of humanity. Everything on the surface of the earth was destroyed by the plague. We are lucky to be alive at al. But it’s okay here, you are safely” Said the man.

“Where are we then?” I blurted out.

“A colony of Luna.”

“The moon?”

“Correct.”

“This is all that is left?”

“Yes.”

“Then what about the ruin?” Oops. That was one of Paul’s last words don’t mention the ruins.

“Ruin?”

“Uh…Yeah, you know, the one that is emanating all the smoke?”

“There is no such ruin. All other settlements in this habitation were destroyed years ago.”

There was no point in hiding it now. “By what?”

“You are not authorized to that information.”

“Why is that?”

“Because then we will have to destroy you.”

“Well I know who did it.”

“Who?”

“You.”

The man was clearly disturbed. He stood up on his desk, and began to pound his fists on the table.

“You were a mistake! A mistake!”

“I was a mistake?”

“This whole program is a mistake. We should have let you die!”

“What!”

“See for yourself, waker.”

I turned my head, and stared in horror. The screen began to play old newscasts. Hictoni virus vaccination found! World is saved! The virus was cured?

“The virus was cured! Why am I here?”

I looked at the date on the man’s clock: 3454 A.D. That means more than 1000 years have passed since I was told to climb into the cryogenic module.

“3454 A.D.? Hictoni virus cured?”

“You’ve seen enough!” The man shouted “You will never learn the true meaning behind our ambitions!”

He pulled out a weapon, and pointed it at me. He pulled the trigger as I dodged. He shot again. This time he hit my shoulder. I jumped on him as he tried to fire more shots. I tackled him to the ground, and pulled at the rifle in his arms. My shoulder exploded as he punched it. But I used my left hand to pry it from him. He recoiled into the corner, and I pointed the rifle at him.

“Answers.” I said.

“Surely there has been a misunderstanding.” He said.

“I said answers. Now.”

“Well if you really want answers, then you wouldn’t kill me. Go ahead, if I go, no one will give you answers.”

It was true. He did have a point.

“If you won’t give me answers, then I’ll find them myself.”

“I’d like to see you try.” The man retorted.

I looked at the screen. It kept flashing pictures of the death the Hictoni virus had caused a thousand years ago. Not much else was showing. I looked at his desk. It was empty. I looked around the room until I was looking back at the screen. The sound of death was becoming an annoying drone. I abruptly tore the screen from the wall and smashed it on the ground in anger. The gaping hole in the wall revealed another screen. But this was a completely different scene. Republic of the United North Americas flashed across the screen, then Ring of fortune project. A bunch of people began talking about bringing in asteroids to orbit in order to mine them.

The scene on the screen changed into chaos. The sky is falling! And Armageddon strikes earth! Began to appear in news flashes as videos of meteors striking earth appeared. I caught the date: 2345 C.E. 500 years ago. The series of news reports turned into an official-looking screen with the words Habitation project on it. A smart-looking man started to speak “The purpose of this project is to find out-” The screen blinked out. I whipped around, and was struck in the head. I saw through fuzzed vision, the man and a monster beside him. But the monster didn’t attack him.

My head began to throb. I felt something wet on my skull. I pulled my hand back and found blood. The monster crept closer.

“This is what you did to Paul! This is what you did to the other settlements! Why?”

“That is not for you to know!” Screamed the man.

Then noticed he was holding a sort of remote. I glanced back at the monster, and then at the remote. It must be connected. I then burst. Taking on the full force of the whips, I ripped the controls from his hands. I accidentally pressed another button, and the monster spun around, and devoured the man, who had a confused look on his face. I quickly looked for a power button. I found a red one, and punched it. Sirens began blaring on and off, and red lights flashed in a deadly red glow. The whole town began to run towards the structure. Everyone pried open the door, and a flood of people came in.

In the scene, I was shoved. I tripped over the railing, and down the stairs. I hit the ground with a smack. I looked around, and saw various glowing screens. I raced towards them, and saw what they were showing. Answers. Habitation project complete! First ark has been launched! I looked at one of the computers, and saw the meaning of all of this. The habitation project was designed to keep a selection of people out of the plague, to see how they would cope with being in a module for a long period of time. This was because the modules were proposed to be taken to other planets. I looked at the date on the most recent one: 2785 C.E. That was when the last module was closed.

Then why was this one still open? I the last one closed a long time ago, then this one had something wrong with it, or something was wrong with the people… Now something makes sense. I remembered him saying it was safe here. That means that the man wanted to stay in the module even after the project was completed. Then the mystery is solved. Except for one thing: earth.

I have got most of the mystery under control. I was frozen along with countless others, and not awakened even after there was absolutely no reason for me to be asleep. The reason: human greed. Why such a place existed in the first place, is because it was a stepping stone to interstellar travel. But one question remains: what became of earth?