The power outage had been far from unexpected. Actually, every single person had been ready for it 10 minutes before the clock struck 7:28 p.m. on April 16. After all, that was when the sun broke it’s protection and the darkness crawled out of it’s cave, slithering through the city and infecting any light with it’s poisonous touch. The people of the city had been warned of this magic and the dangers that it possessed. Darkness meant trouble. And they couldn’t have trouble. Especially in a time of war. Peyton Harvey tucked his head and pushed them to his knees as he held them tight in the bathtub of Apartment number 6B on Ashbury Street. He rocked slightly back and forth, trying to steady his shaking breath. His parents placed him in there since that was one of the safest places in the apartment before leaving him and hiding under the dining table. His nose ran and silent tears poked and prodded at his eyes until they streamed down his face. His eyes burned as he squeezed them shut. He finally opened them and as he looked around the bathroom, he felt shadows creeping across the walls and trapping him in their grasp. He craned his head and peered at the window but with the curtains drawn and towels squished up against the edges, nothing could be seen from there either. Suddenly, he heard planes from above. His heart dropped to his stomach, and he tucked himself in so tightly he felt as if he would explode. He bawled his eyes out until he wasn’t aware of anything around him. He felt emptiness, fear, loneliness, everything. He sat there and cried and cried until he just stopped. Eventually, everything went black and he drifted off into a deep sleep, away from reality.
“Luckily yesterday night no bombings happened,” The newsreporter read from his script, fingers latched together as he stared at the camera, trying to break his stern face and produce a small, humble smile - something everyone needed. “Thank you to everyone for doing their part, and we will continue this procedure until everything is clear.”
Peyton slightly jumped when the TV clicked off, drifting back into reality.
“I’ll go make breakfast,” His mom said quickly as she gracefully swept herself up off the couch and maneuvered her way to the small kitchen where she began cracking eggs and pouring the contents in a pan sizzling yellow with butter.
Peyton sunk into the couch, reaching into his pocket and retrieving his phone. The moment he clicked the on button, the screen burst to life with messages from his friends, family members, and more. He opened up his phone, sucking in a breath before reading some of the texts.
How are you guys? Everyone okay? A text read from his Aunt Gina. Before responding, he opened up a few more, each expressing the same concern as the first one, asking if anyone was hurt or if they needed anything. The text messages began to overwhelm Peyton, and he let the phone slip from his grip, dropping and bouncing on the cushion next to him. He smoothed out his hair, and let out a deep breath.
“Everything okay kiddo?” His father asked, looked at Peyton from the dining table with concern.
Peyton was barely aware of the question, for his eyes flashed with memories from the night before. The cold touch of the bathtub on his back, the plane engines cutting through the air producing frightening thoughts from him as he squeezed into a tight ball. The feel of tears smathering his pale face as he tucked it in between his legs.
“Yeah, all good,” He said, his voice slightly higher than intended, raising the concern on his father’s face.
After sliding around the eggs and breaking the thin layer that caused the yolk to spill over the eggs, Peyton shoved a few bits into his mouth and left the room in a hurry. When he made it to his room, he swallowed the rest of the contents still poking and prodding in his throat. He barely made it to the chair placed in front of the desk without his legs giving out from beneath him. His mind raced and his breath increased steadily. Barely thinking, he swiveled the chair around and threw the top of his laptop open, typing in his password with lightning reflexes and opening up a window. The bright light caused him to squint and he finally located the missing social studies assignment he needed to do before the semester ended. As he opened the link to the video about the Civil War, his mind drifted off slightly and his eyes became glued to the window. With the video playing in the background, he surveyed the ground beneath him. Far less people were roaming the streets and only a small portion of cars were speeding through the narrow pathway. People were scared. He was scared. And it was because of the same exact thing. With his eyes watching the activity of people below picking fruit from the stands and sipping the last of their iced coffee before tossing it aside, when the air horn sounded he jumped up and a shiver coarsed through him. He paused the video and stood, listening to the whining noise of the blaring siren. Something was wrong. He peered all around until something caught his eye. In the corner of the window pane, soldiers were pouring into the streets, firing their weapons at lightning speed. Screams and cries were heard even through the glass, and cars swerved trying to dodge the bullets but crashed quickly. People were struck and they collapsed in a heap to the asphalt and concrete, the contents they held scattering across the ground. Peyton felt like screaming. He could barely move a muscle and his mouth opened slightly but nothing came out. Just… emptiness. His eyes bugged out at the sight of what laid out in front of him until he saw two soldiers run to the entrance of their apartment and then disappear. His heart dropped faster than a bowling bowl, and suddenly, his instincts took over. He turned and ran out of the room as fast as he could.
“MOM! DAD!” He screamed.
They came running out of their rooms with the same expression on both faces and without a word they each grabbed him by the arm and they all ran faster than the speed of light, swinging the door open and bursting out into the hallway. They could hear shouting from the stairwell behind them, and when Peyton turned around he was met with a sight of the top of soldiers' heads breaching from the stairs. Before they could see them and fire their weapons, Peyton was pushed through a doorway and he could barely feel his feet as he was sent down the metal stairway, being squashed from either side from his mother and father. The cold breeze sliced through the air, and sent more shivers up and down his spine. His eyes flashed so quickly from one thing to another he barely had any idea where he was or what was happening. All he could hear was gunfire, the heavy breathing of his parents as they pulled him down the stairwell, and the pounding of his heart that sent waves of pain throughout his chest. When they hit the pavement, they broke free of one another and ran. They ran as fast as they could. No regrets. No looking back. Only looking forward. They ran and ran and ran into the depths of the night, trying to get away from the darkness that threatened to consume them.
The sun burned through Peyton’s eyelids, and he groggily sat up, rubbing his eyes and stretching as he took in his surroundings. Silence. He peered around, and found himself lying inside of a dugout. The place was abandoned, except for a few bats lying in a corner and a bag of baseballs sitting on the bench, with few other balls scattered around the area. He walked outside and stared at the field. The wind blew slightly, and the blades of grass blew in the same direction as if they were one. Peyton was confused at first at what had happened and where he was, but he recognized this as the baseball field in Bentley park. He remembered when did his Little League games here. He could still picture him at the base, ready to hit with the bat over his shoulder. The pitcher threw, and the contact of the bat with the ball made the perfect sound, sending waves out into the crowd as they all jumped up and yelled their cheers and approval as he ran around all three bases, and finally sliding into home just on time. Teammates ran from the dugout he was now sitting in, and they all toppled on top of him, throwing hugs and playful fists at him as he smiled. The smile showed slightly right now as the corners of his lips pulled up. Then, he looked behind the other dugout and saw the building tops of the city. As quickly as it had come, his smile slowly fell, and the once happy memory shattered as it fell to the ground. It was replaced with flashbacks from the night before. The gunfire that still ran throughout his ears. The pounding of his heart, daring to rip out his chest. The darting of his eyes from one scene to another, the motion moving all too quickly for him to comprehend. A hand was placed on his shoulder and he looked up into his father’s eyes. Nothing true or happy held in their either, just an unoccupied space where deep, dark thoughts lay.
“What do we do now?” Peyton asked, his voice flat.
“Well, the best thing to do is go to Aunt Gina’s house. It’s a few miles out from here, away from the city,” He replied, wholeheartedly.
Peyton turned his head back to the field, his eyes on the wispy grass as another wind blew, sending them twisting and turning every which way.
“Well the sooner we get there the better. Let’s go wake mom up,” He clapped his hands together and walked away to prepare for the journey.
The walk was longer than expected. Or maybe it was just Peyton’s imagination. But, the thing that guaranteed was that it was not easy. Aunt Gina lived 4.6 miles away from Bentley Park, and it was an exhausting adventure. Not having eaten or drank anything since the night before was taking its toll on Peyton as he head hung low and the tips of his shoes scraped against the asphalt, causing his mother to wheel around to him before yelling at him about how he shouldn’t do that because they weren’t sure how much longer the 3 year old shoes would last. He rolled his eyes when she turned her back on him. Every time they heard or saw a military truck in the distance, they ran into the bushes and ducked until the coast was clear. They weren’t sure whether the vehicle that had passed was good or bad for them, but they weren’t particularly interested in finding out. After a few slow, dreadful hours of jumping in and out of bushes, they finally took a turn onto Aunt Gina’s road, and then walked a few houses before going up the driveway, through the cobblestone path up to the steps, and rang the doorbell. Out of breath and covered in prickly thorns, the door was finally opened and out came Aunt Gina, hands on her hips and her lips curled.
“Thought you’d never make it,” She said, pulling the door open further. “Come on in.”
After spending a few minutes in the bathroom washing up and pulling out the prickers that got caught in Peyton’s shirt and skin, he walked back out into the living room where a plate with a burger and some fries lay in between everyone else’s. He hopped over the top of the couch and plopped down onto the cushions, reaching for the burger and taking a huge bite, mouth watering and hope restoring. The TV flickered before changing stations until finally the picture brightened and the sound became clear.
“Everyone, please get as far away from the city as possible. Military is trying to fight off the others and we don’t want anyone to get hurt. In some more unfortunate news, we have breaking news. So far, there have been 453 confirmed deaths and 289 injured including soldiers. Like I said before, everyone please evacuate the city and its surroundings. After the station went dead, everyone sat there for a moment avoiding eye contact until finally Aunt Gina broke the silence.
“Well, looks like we’ll be on the road for a while. Let’s get packing.”
After filling up the Jeep with bottles of water, some food, blankets, pillows, a few sets of extra clothing, and rolls of cash along with some credit and gift cards, everyone piled in with Aunt Gina and dad in front and mom and Peyton in the back. As the Jeep rolled out of the driveway and Aunt Gina switched gears, Peyton craned his head behind him as he peered through the piles of supplies and took a look at the gleaming, shining city, wondering if he would ever see it again.