Echoes of an Abandoned City

Submitted into Contest #53 in response to: Write a story that begins with someone's popsicle melting.... view prompt

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Adventure Mystery

That day was supposed to be like any other and my curiosity as a child created grand ideas of a magical adventure. Were there goblins hiding under the city well? When will I be able to learn magic? I picked up a stick with my right hand and started to wave it around like I saw in that one movie. I had hoped a spell would come out, but the only thing the stick did was make a swish noise through the air. I noticed another sound as well, the sound of dripping. I had my mind focused on a lot of things and didn’t notice my melting popsicle! It soon slipped off the stick and became food for ants.


I had wished a melting treat was my biggest worry that day, but I was wrong. I was in the fenced-in backyard of my house when it happened. I saw a thick plume of smoke coming from somewhere in the city. Was there a fire? I thought. Sirens soon started to blare from firetrucks and disappeared into the distance. I was about to forget about it when I heard another noise. It was the muffled sound of guns firing in the city! Fear and anxiety overwhelmed me as I looked on with horror. More and more buildings started to smoke as they eventually ignited into flames. 


I could see the devastation from the suburbs while another horror came to mind. My parents were in the city! I didn’t have long to decide what to do as I noticed something speed towards my house from the sky! I mustered up the courage to run, and run I did. I was able to get inside my house when it struck. Everything went black soon after as I lost consciousness.


***


That was the last memory I had of my old life. They say that day was the day World War Three started. I had long since forgotten the cause of it. Even though It was finally over after all these years, the devastation of the pure chaos still left a wound on the world. The fate of humanity relied on the future, but the horrors of the past called me back.


I was standing in that same yard where my old life stopped, while the hellish one began. The grass was overgrown, and thick vines crept up the side of the house and fence. However, the thing that stood out the most was the massive hole where the backdoor used to be. I suffered severe injuries that day but was eventually nursed back to health. I never understand why they helped me; maybe they wanted to condition me into the perfect warrior. Regardless, I fought well and hard. I was happy the chaos came to an end, but it felt like I was still grasping at dust. I didn’t know what I was doing anymore. I thought this city could provide me some direction.


I stepped into the house and looked around. The windows were shattered, with broken glass littering the floor. Nature had swept in from the massive hole and covered nearly everything in green. As I looked at the living room, memories flooded in of movie nights filled with laughter and fun. I remembered the feeling, but it felt foreign and strange. I looked around once again and saw something that nature hadn’t reclaimed; it was our family picture. I picked up the frame and wiped the dust off. A ten-year-old me was in between my mother and father as we all smiled. None of us ever thought something like this would happen when we posed in front of the camera all those years ago. I never got to say goodbye.


I set the picture down and looked around once more. I saw the entrance to my bedroom and stepped in with a hint of hesitation. I walked in with my eyes closed and only opened them after a long moment. The view that reached my vision wasn’t what I expected! Much of it was how I left it as various action figures populated the shelves while posters adorned the walls. I sat on my bed and grabbed a nearby comic. I blew thick dust off the cover and flipped through the pages. I never really understood these superheroes, but I loved the pictures back then. 


After a while of reading, I sat up and put the comic down. It was nice to remember the past, but I needed to search the city before it got dark; I was looking for something. I got out of the room and exited the house using the front door. As soon as I stepped out, a cold breeze swept through the empty street. I got out my map and had to hold onto it tightly as the wind tried to take it away. I traced the route to the city and headed towards it with anticipation and fear of what I might find. 


Like a slowly marching caterpillar, I advanced towards the city step by step. I could always see the tall skyscrapers from the suburbs, but stepping right up to them made me feel smaller than any ant. I was now at the mouth of the abandoned city and scanned my surroundings. Multiple buildings were charred black and had crumbling supports. The roads weren’t any better as rusted cars cluttered them. I took out my map once again and focused on my destination. There was an old general store around here that I was trying to find.


I carefully compared the map with the city and planned out a route. The debris of fallen buildings and pilled up cars required me to make a detour. With my map in hand, I cautiously navigated the apocalyptic jungle. The sounds of my footsteps clashed against the forgotten city and reminded me I was truly alone. Places like this appealed to me as a kid, but that was before the war gave them any meaning. Now, they served as a reminder of the death and destruction that took place.


I weaved and shuffled my way through the city before I finally came up to a square building. I checked my map to verify if this was the right place. The shopping building was scorched but was in good shape overall. I stepped forward with a tense body and entered it. A little bit of light spilled in from the outside, but it wasn’t enough to light up everything. I fumbled through my pack and brought out a flashlight. I turned it on and shined it through the empty void.


At first, there was nothing. Empty shelves and boxes littered the floor. I carefully stepped over them and walked towards the back of the store. The dust was slowly cascading through the beam of my flashlight; It was so thick that I ran into something. I waved my hand through the air to clear the dust. That was when I saw it, a skeleton! It was still wearing its work clothes as if business was still open. You didn’t deserve this, none of us did. 


I stepped around the skeleton and the ones that came after. I eventually made it towards the back of the store and stood before a locked door. I made an audible gulp as I took a key from my pocket and struggled to open it. My hands were shaking slightly, but I was able to unlock it. Click! The door opened with a creak as I stepped inside. The rectangle room wasn’t as spacious as I remembered. I scanned around with my flashlight, hoping I wouldn’t find anything. I had almost searched the whole room when I found something I didn’t want to. In the far-left corner of the room were two skeletons! They were clutching onto an old photograph; it was a copy of the same one we had in our house. 


I fell to my knees as an emotion I hadn’t felt for a long time welled up inside me. I had hoped that they were able to get out somehow. I always feared it, but never got the chance to see for myself until now. I sat there for a while as the tears streamed down my face. I was overwhelmed with sadness but felt slightly relieved at the same time. Now I could say goodbye. I got up and walked over to my parents. I wouldn’t let this be their final resting place.


I carefully moved their remains outside and towards the back of the building. I went back inside for a shovel and started to dig. The wind blew away any tears that tried to form. I didn’t know how long I had dug for, but I knew it was enough when a large grave started to form. I carefully placed them into the grave along with the picture they were holding. Bit by bit, I covered the hole with dirt. It was harder than anything I had done in the war. I filled the grave in the end and said two things. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there, you can rest easy now.” With my last words, I slowly turned around and headed out of the city.


I finally got to say goodbye.


August 04, 2020 21:22

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14 comments

Amany Sayed
22:36 Aug 04, 2020

This was so sad. I like how you kind of combined two prompts; he returned to a place he hasn't been to since his childhood...He's also kind of haunted by his past. One thing, I don't think skeletons take that short of an amount of time to form. I think he would've just found decaying bodies. Other than that, it was great. I wrote a story for this prompt as well, and it's interesting how different writers can take it. If you could go leave me some feedback on it, I'd be grateful. It's titled "The Flavors of Life". Overall, I thoroughly enjoye...

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Brandon Johnson
22:51 Aug 04, 2020

Glad you enjoyed it! I will check it out.

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I. F.
02:13 Aug 08, 2020

Great Job Brandon! Your story flowed really well, and I loved the bittersweet ending. Could you check out my new story "Peaked in High School" and leave some feedback?

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Brandon Johnson
04:30 Aug 08, 2020

Glad you liked it. I will check it out!

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Raquel Rodriguez
15:36 Aug 05, 2020

Great job, Brandon! Love this. :)

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Gopika Ashokan
12:21 Aug 05, 2020

Hey! You have a wonderful way of describing things. Really felt the story. I was reminded of Holden from The Catcher in The Rye in parts where you were talking about goodbye. That how one tries to feel some kind of good-bye. Because if you don't feel, you feel even worse. Thanks for writing!

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Brandon Johnson
13:14 Aug 05, 2020

Thanks for reading it!

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Rayhan Hidayat
00:10 Aug 10, 2020

Wow his reaction to finding his parents gave me chills 😮 An ambitious take on the melting popsicle prompt, and you pulled it off quite well! Good stuff! 👍🏽

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Aditya Pillai
08:33 Aug 09, 2020

Such a heart-wrenching read...great stuff! You certainly know how to convey the emotions to the reader. Loved the writing style and the overall flow. Such a unique take on the prompt, and you nailed it. Wonderful job! Would love to hear your thoughts on my latest! :)

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Brandon Johnson
18:27 Aug 09, 2020

I'm thrilled you enjoyed it! I will surely check it out.

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A. S.
01:11 Aug 09, 2020

Good job! Overall I felt that it was a very smooth and gratifying read, but there were a few times I wished that you had shared more of the main character’s emotions. As soon as I really noticed that however, you had begun describing his despair with his parents.

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Deborah Angevin
11:24 Aug 08, 2020

I didn't imagine a post-apocalyptic story when I first read the prompt, but it was well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! Would you mind checking my recent story out, "(Pink)y Promise"? Thank you :D

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Jonathan Blaauw
15:52 Aug 05, 2020

I love post-apocalyptic stories, so I'm a biased judge on this one. Regardless of the subject matter, though, your writing has the smooth flow of long practice and natural ability. It's a pleasure to read. I also enjoy your attention to detail, and the ending is bittersweet, but in a genuine, heartfelt way. Excellent transition from a popsicle melting to WW3. I really enjoyed this. Well done!

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Brandon Johnson
17:12 Aug 05, 2020

I'm happy I could make a story you enjoyed!

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