Oliver and I stood on the cliff that overlooked what was once London. I could still imagine the busy streets full of life and people. But now, all of that life was reduced to ash. We stared at the dead city that was surrounded by other dead cities, in a dead country, on a dead planet. The sky was a deep burgundy red that faded into crimson. The air smelled of the smoke that cast a yellowish shadow on everything it touched. We stood on tha bluff for what felt like hours, silently debating which was worse--the sight of the blighted world that spread out below us now, or the nightmare memory of all the people who had inhabited it going up in flames and disappearing in an instant. The silence was the worst part. It was unending and unbroken, making me feel more alone than I ever had felt before. But silence is fragile and at long last Oliver destroyed it.
“Do you know what I think, Davina?”
“I have always wanted to go to Buckingham Palace.”
“Seriously? That is what you are thinking about right now?” I scoffed.
“What should I be thinking about then?” he retorted.
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the fact that we just witnessed all the people we know and all the people they know turn to ash? Or at least that is what I am thinking of. All you seem to want to do is take a selfie at the palace for the Instagram that no one is alive to see.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say no to a selfie. But before you get all judgy, maybe you should hear my plan to save the world. I think my Instagram would profit a lot more that way.”
“What are you talking about, Oliver?” I asked.
“There was a plan put in place in case something like this ever happened. I worked at the palace-”
“As a janitor!”
“Clearly, you have heard of me, but that does not mean you know me.”
“Ok. Fair enough. So, who are you?”
“When I worked at the palace, I was as quiet as a mouse. So I heard everything. I stood outside the doors listening as I worked, and no one ever noticed. I was practically invisible.”
“And you heard about Code Phoenix.”
“Um... I...” he started to say but apparently decided not to because he continued with a different sentence. “Code Phoenix was the royals’ contingency plan. The king had his royal scientists create a device that would reverse the destruction of another one. One hundred years ago, a weapon fell with an asteroid, and no one knew what it did for years, until two scientists discovered what it did.”
“And what did it do?”
“It supposedly would turn the world to ash. They briefed the current monarch and then tried to destroy it, but nothing would break it. So, the king had the scientists create a device that would reverse the process. It would raise everyone from the ashes like-
“Bingo. But the king also had them develop something that would make people invulnerable to the weapon. It was meant for the royal bloodline. Whenever someone took it, they would become immune, as would all of their children and their children's children, etc. would also be immune. But the scientists became greedy, and the king became harsh. So the scientists took the cure for themselves and gave the king a cup of camomile tea that would do nothing. That brings us to why we are the only people left standing.”
“We are descendants of the two scientists.”
It is to us to save the world,” I said, turning back to the view of London. I could feel the wait of the world set on my shoulders. But then I faced Oliver again, “And maybe gain a few Instagram followers.”
“Not just a few Davina, I think that if we save the world, we can get all the followers we want.”
We both smiled at his joke and began to descend down the mountain. I had never properly met Oliver until now. I had seen him before but I doubt he ever saw me.
After 30 minutes we had reached the city and were walking along the streets towards Buckingham Palace.
“I have never been to that museum before,” I said, pointing to the British Museum. It looked so mesmerizing from the outside. The great pillars that stood in the front towered over twenty times my height and seemed to be calling me in.
“Do you like history?” Oliver asked as we stopped to look at it.
“I love it.”
“And you live in London but haven’t gone there?”
“It seems kind of silly when you say it like that, but yes.”
“Then let’s go.”
“What are you talking about?” I said, running after him as he was already halfway to the building.
“Come on Davina! Live a little with me!” he exclaimed, turning back to face me while still walking towards the great museum.
“Oliver you can’t be serious,” I said almost laughing.
“I’m very serious. Saving the world can wait an hour. Besides you seem like the type of girl that is nothing but serious. Let me help you have a little fun. Come on Davina!” He yelled with a smile as he jumped onto the first step of the building. “Well if you’re not going to then-”
Oliver was already inside before I could respond. I knew in my head that going after him was the last thing I should be doing right now. But everything else in me told me to run after Oliver, have a good time for once, and take a break from the seriousness of life. Besides he was right, surprisingly. But still... I had spent my entire life trying to be perfect and now had the choice to literally run away from that.
“Come on Davina,” I thought out loud, trying to convince myself.
“Oliver! Wait for me!” I yelled as I sprinted up the steps and burst into the museum.
I gasped as soon as I entered it. I spun around not knowing what to look at first. The tile echoed every time I moved, and the high ceiling was filled with glass. In front of me was a set of marble spiral staircases that connected to the next floor.
“See that smile right there. That is why we’re here,” Oliver said as he approached me. And he was right again. My face had lit up, and I could feel happiness fill every inch of my body.
We raced about the museum together looking at the mummies and statues while talking the whole time. He told me all about his life and interest in egyptology. After what only felt like five minutes, I felt Oliver’s hand tap my shoulder.
“Follow me. I want to show you something,” he whispered in my ear, took my hand in his, and led me to another room.
This chamber was filled with statues of all kinds.
“It’s beautiful,” I said softly as I stood peering around the room.
“It is,” he said. But when I turned around to face him I was surprised to see that he wasn’t looking at any of the statues. He was looking at me.
“I knew that all royals were supposed to be beautiful. But I never really witnessed it until I met you.”
“How did you know?”
“That you’re an adopted princess? I heard that about twenty years ago a baby girl was adopted by the queen. I connected the dots after you knew what Code Phoenix was called before I ever told you. And a history buff that lives in London who has never been to the museum is virtually impossible.”
“Impressive. You know, I should really have you fired for eavesdropping on classified conversations.”
“But then my poor Instagram would suffer,” he joked.
“I’ll follow you.”
“I really don’t think that would make any difference. Besides, if you get me fired, I will turn all of social media against you.”
“Uh-huh. With your what? Ten followers?”
“Actually I have twelve.”
We smiled together for a moment before I began to walk along the edge of the room. Oliver quickly followed me.
“You know I have always wanted to come here ever since I was a little girl. But I couldn’t without the paparazzi knowing and making a fuss about it. So, it has just been a dream of mine, until now. Thank you, Oliver, for making my dream come true.”
“It was my honor, your highness,” he said jokingly and bowed. We laughed together for a few more minutes.
“We really do have to go,” I said, returning us back to reality.
“Lead the way your royalness.”
“Ha! Try and catch up janitor boy!”
We ran out of the museum, down the steps, and towards the palace. Soon we had entered Saint James Park and were almost to the palace entrance.
“Oh my God,” I said as soon as we entered the palace.
All over the floor there were spots of ash where my family had been. We had been lucky with the museum. I guess that it had been closed for the apocalypse today. But my home was never closed. Tears began to flow down my face.
“Hey. Hey Davina,” Oliver said brushing some of my tears off of my cheek. “We’re going to save your family. I promise.”
“Ok,” I said, taking a deep breath and hugging him tightly. Oliver seemed to be slightly surprised by this, but after a second I felt him hug me back.
“You know, you are awfully smart to be a janitor. Everything you told me about the artifacts in the museum,” I said, stepping back.
“I am a janitor by day. But by night, I’m studying to become a history professor specializing in Egyptology.”
“I knew it!”
“Come on. It's hero time!” Oliver exclaimed, gesturing towards the stairs.
Five minutes later, we had reached the library. I walked over to a bookshelf covered in dust and looked about it.
“What are you doing?”
“Like you said, it’s hero time,” I responded, grabbing an emerald green book. As I did so the entire shelf moved to reveal a stone passageway lit by flaming torches.
“Have I told you that you are amazing yet?” Oliver asked and I chuckled as I stepped into the corridor.
We walked in silence for almost a half-hour before reaching our destination. We entered a circular stone chamber surrounded by a dozen red torches that lit up the cave but failed to expel the chilling cold. In the center of the room was a wooden podium that had a square glass case resting on top. Inside of the case was a circular device covered in symbols that glowed brightly in deep emerald green.
“That’s the device?”
“How do we get it out, is there a key or something?” Oliver began to look about the room.
“Something like that,” I said and grabbed a wooden walking stick from the ground and hit the glass hard.
“Or you could just do that,” Oliver said, walking over to me.
“This is it,” I grabbed the device and turned to leave the room.
“Where are you going?” Oliver exclaimed, running after me.
“To the roof!”
Once we had finally reached the very top of the palace, I set the device down and walked over to the edge of the building.
“I know this sounds crazy but-
“But you wish this could last forever,” he finished, walking over to me and holding my hand in his.
“When you discard everything else. This- this freedom and joy I have felt this past day with you…Today has been the best day of my life. And you-you are why. And honestly, if I could spend every day like this with you I-”
But I never got to finish that sentence. Oliver had kissed me and I found myself kissing him back. I had meant every word that I had just said. This truly had been one of the best days of my life (excluding all the tragedy that it had brought).
“I think the Imperial Collage could use a new history professor.”
“What are you talking about Davina?”
“I can’t have a man that will have over 12 Instagram followers and has saved the world being a janitor. Besides, this way you won’t have to move away to some American college.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Oliver said with a stunned expression.
“You don’t have to say anything. It’s time to save the world.”
We kneeled down by the device, I pressed a few symbols, and a burst of green and gold light came out of it. Oliver and I stood up and raced to the edge of the palace roof and watched as the light touched the whole of London and the world. The sky cleared and turned into a brilliant blue, the air smelled of rose and lavender, and the sun shown down on us as if saying thank you. Down in the streets, people began to rise from the ashes in a burst of gold light. They cheered and hugged their loved ones. I had never seen the world look so alive before and found myself promising to never take it for granted again.
“We did it,” Oliver said softly as a smile appeared on his face.
“We did it!” I yelled laughing as I hugged him.
The two of us stayed there for a while laughing and hugging as we gazed at the city that we had brought back to life. The city that had risen so beautifully from the ashes like a phoenix.