By the time I step outside, the leaves are on fire. Coming outside was a good and bad idea at the same time, but my house is gone, and I didn’t have a choice. I run and curse into the air, but my words are jumbled up sentences that mean nothing to the thing that is devouring the world. People are screaming, screeching, and crying as they try to avoid the fire, often without success, and hoping not to fall into the endless abyss that is the monster’s mouth. Also without much success. But I don’t care. I only care about running. Running for my life, that is. My heart beats mixes with the dull thunk of my boots, and time slows. Ripping off the cheap leather backpack I brought from Levey’s doesn’t help. Tearing my bulky clothes off doesn’t either.
“Arrgh!” I scream to the heavens as I do an unintended front-flip and smash into the pavement.
Blood spatters everywhere. I look at my mangled leg and my broken, burned, and beat up arm. So this is how it ends. I look up and see the thing. The monster. The devourer. WHY!!!! I scream in my head. Then I scream out loud. Really loudly.
10 years ago...
It wasn’t always scary in my little town.
When I was young, about nine years old, I would go downtown to meet up with my best friends, Elliot Poppins, or Eli, and Elizabeth Ann Mary Jane Queenigton the Third, or Liz. Eli would always show up late to our treehouse meetings and we would laugh about it. We were always together, whether we were playing at Redwood Park and covering our ears as the swings groaned or sharing our ice creams with dogs and then flinging the melted ice cream at each other.
Then, on one freezing autumn day, Eli and Liz came to me. Eli was wringing her scarf, and Liz was sobbing into her muffler.
“Tara-” Liz choked, then let out a wail. “Tara.” Eli repeated, her voice steady despite her gleaming eyes. “I’m… moving. To… California.”
Moving. I felt my eyes grow wet.
“So… this is goodbye?” I managed to say. We all started crying then and hugged for six geological ages.
When the day finally came for Eli to move, Liz and I stood waving at her from her old driveway.
I yelled “Text us when you get there!”
Eli yelled back “I will, and I will send them every day!”
“This distance won’t keep us apart!” Liz screamed at the retreating car.
Eli laughed and waved, then she was off. Tears streamed into her freckled face, onto her beautiful red hair, and flowed down her neck.
Then I broke down. It wasn’t like me to cry. Usually Liz would make it rain on her face, and my dad would’ve called it the “waterworks.” So, it was a surprise that one moment, I was waving at Eli. Then the next, Liz was patting my back, and I was crying into my jacket. Dumb tears!
“S-she’s gone.” I said stupidly, as if Liz didn’t know that. I looked up and saw Liz’s face, looking motherly and kind.
“Yes- yes, she’s gone Tara, but we’ll still text each other, and the distance isn’t going to break us a-apart.” Her voice quivered, cracked, and broke down as the tears came and my hands met hers.
Then we hugged like at the playground, but without Eli. Liz and I both cried a billion tears. After Eli left, it felt like I had lost a part of myself. Eli was the class clown, the funny girl, the witty joker, and the queen of hearts. But now she is gone. At least I had Liz. Kind, caring, soft and sweet; she’s the first girl to come to your aid.
I just never expected her to get rushed to the hospital.
It was a normal, Eli free day. Tuesday, to be exact. We were running to Liz’s house for tea when, out of the bold blue sky, she doubled over and vomited. I was 3.7 steps ahead of her when I slid and crashed to a stop. “Liz!” I screamed. And screamed. Hysterically. Liz then hunched over and caught my eye. Then she fell on the floor and fainted. I knew she had L.U.N.G Disease (Lungs Union Nerve Germs). Weird name, I know. But I never knew it to be so bad. Liz was rushed to the hospital. On the phone, she told me that it wasn't my fault, and she would get better.
I never saw her again. She’s still in the hospital, but i don’t know anymore. After that, my childhood was a bumpy, sad one, but at least it didn’t have a world ending threat. That is in the next phase of my young adulthood.
3 years ago…
September. School. Sadness. I was friendless, lonely, and bored. Eli tried to cheer me up, but I wished she were here. Liz said she missed me, but I wished that she would get better. Dabbing my eyes forcefully, I leapt off the ledge and soared through the air. Backflip and tumbles and cartwheels followed. Then, breaking out, I ran and jumped. Landing in the damp grass, I breathed in the minty scent.
I looked up and wiped a smudge of dirt off my Volkswagen Bug. It was a light purple, sleek, and smart car. I had brought it yesterday and coined my driver’s license test late Sunday. Flipping up, I dove into it, and soared on the streets. It was peaceful. Zenlike. Calm. Almost as if-
“Move it here- NO!!! I said move it- Argh! Do I have to ram it up your damn faces? Will you morons understand?! Ok, then move it- AAAH!”
Breaking my Zen like a knife shattering glass, a mean, rough voice- no, a mean, rough screech came out of nowhere. I turned the wheel and drove to the voice. It came from the abandoned school! Throwing the door open, I leapt out, and sprinted to the voice. At least I can solve this… Whatever this is.
Finally, some excitement!
Slipping in the MPR and batting at the cobwebs, I saw, in the corner of my eyes, a burly man with red ears, a skinny boy wearing the latest shoes, shirts, and pants, looking bored, and a corpulent dwarf of a man who was yelling things my mother would have called “names that wild horses couldn't bring her to repeat.”
My hand went to my pocket, but my phone wasn’t there. Ugh. Then the skinny boy pulled a lever. I had just noticed the lever.
“Tommy!” screamed the dwarf, “ I said don’t pull-”
“Hey, l-o-s-e-r, your lousy bottom said that you will pay me, so shut up!” fired back Tommy, as the dwarf screamed.
The burly man kicked the dwarf, turning even more red, then ripped the covering of the thing that Tommy pulled out. It read: Autumn Forever Organization (AFO) The Autumn Taintor /Autumn Monster. Wrenching my gaze away, I looked around me and saw a clipboard. It said Testing: People, trees, dogs, sea life… Radioactive Material taken from a Nuclear bomb.
That is highly illegal and banned in the Equinox Complex City! I grabbed the clipboard from the floor and ran to my car, slamming the door and speeding away.
I was so shaken from the encounter with Tommy, Dwarf Guy, and Burly Man that I fell asleep at my house, forgetting everything I had planned. Looking back, If I had just stayed a little longer then I could’ve prevented the horror I was facing now.
Closing my eyes, I got taken back to the pool day with Eli and Liz, when we were all still together, and happy. I had stayed in the pool to play by myself after everyone had long gone in. Suddenly I was grabbed to the bottom. I screamed, a noise that no one heard except for the filter of the pool. Twisting, turning, and swirling in the water as bubbles shot out of my mouth, I was desperately reaching for an invisible handhold. My feet touched solid ground as I finally escaped the clutches of the water realm. My hair was plastered to my face as my slippery hands grabbed the handholds and filled my lungs with air.
That drowning feeling is what I feel now, but in my present-day situation, I wasn’t going to make it out alive. Plus, I had no friends, so I would die, alone, with the Autumn Monster etched into my ever-gazing eyes.
Relaxing my arms and legs brought me to the present. Then I screamed in my brain, feeling it explode inside of my body, bringing back the feeling of burning fire in my limbs, a unmerciful thing called pain. I wondered if I could just give in. I couldn’t hold out for much longer. Then, as the monster screeched in triumph, that it had finally caught me, that it would- it turned away from me. It was distracted by something. I realized the ever-burning leaves were flying, dispelling the fire on them, and with gunshots, flew into the monster. Like the monster was a magnet. A tornado was formed as the angry, hysteric, and boiling leaves roared with agony. The devour was attacking back! Ripping off most of the leaves and throwing it on the ground, the thing cackled. The leaves were reforming. But the monster only had eyes for me. That was its first and last mistake. The leaves tackled the monster, with a sickening crunch. I wanted to cheer for the leaves, but I was also fighting. Fighting the pain. But I was losing and struggling to keep conscious. Where is the help? Where- Then the fight was over with a loud, sharp whip. It had ended quicker than it started. The monster was gone. There were only some torn leaves. I managed to sit up and see the wailing siren of an ambulance. Flashing colors. And the dwarf… The dwarf! He has a knife! What- Aaah! As I black out, fading to the floor, everything turning fuzzy, and blackness covers me, I saw one last thing. The dwarf was writhing as the police were yelling inscrutable words and holding tasers. The knife falls just as I faint and slump to the floor, bleeding profoundly.
How does a story end? Usually just “The End” or “And so they lived happily ever after.” Usually it ends on a cliffhanger, like “Will he survive? Or will he fall off?” Or perhaps a sad ending, like “He bit the dust, and the bad guys got the money. The End.”
Well, I can say that I had a relatively good ending. Waking up in the hospital, with my leg in a cast and my arm enclosed in a steel case, I learned that Tommy, the dwarf, and burly man were a part of the Autumn Forever Organization, like their machine said, and had tried to turn the whole world into autumn. But the monster was a failed test, and somehow conducted the leaves to attack.
Good for me.
I am also pleased to say that the hospital I’m in is where Liz is staying! The moment I could stand up I went to hug her. I was happy for the first time since Eli had opened her mouth and said, “I’m moving.” But one damp hospital day, when I tried to contact Eli for the third time since last week when she sent me this text: “I am moving! Seeya!” I heard two girls walking down the hall and pushing my door open. My heart leapt. Was this what I had been trying to ask Eli? Could it be… I looked up from my phone and saw that one was Liz, cheerful with tears in her eyes, and one was Eli, holding two duffel bags. With the force of two torpedoes she ran into me, Liz following. Though tangled limbs I heard mixed up words about getting a job here. Riding a two-hour plane. Jumping trains. Hearing I was here with Liz. Saving all her money to come here. Staying with me and Liz. Happy tears flooding our eyes, we talked into the night, past twilight, and past everything, pushing away troubles.
And finally, after all these years, I was whole again.