Romance, Grey and Desperate

Submitted into Contest #60 in response to: Write a post-apocalyptic romance.... view prompt


Romance African American Teens & Young Adult

I can’t do this.

We’re only seventeen.

I pull back the covers, swing my legs over the side of the cot, and stand up quietly. I grab my pistol from under my pillow and slip on a jacket from the hook at the door. I unbolt the door quietly, slip out of the bunker, and lock it behind me. I move slowly up the steps to the world’s surface.

I look at the moon. It’s paper-thin and grey. Probably around four in the morning. I glance around.

Everything, of course, is flat. Shattered remains of glass, concrete, wood, barbed wire, metal, bricks, and hope lay still, tumbled dustily over each other, stretching out as far as I can see. The sky is red, even this early. Small fumes of smoke drift up from broken piles of lumber. There’s the occasional twisted tree or bush or lamppost or wall from a building that survived, but mostly it’s just all flat.


There’s nothing to see, and even if there was, I couldn’t see it. It’s too dark, and foggy, always foggy, even at noon. Everything is grey.

I sigh and begin wandering wearily throughout the land. My boots crunch over broken window remains. At one point, I pick up a brick from the ground and look at it, then let it fall once more.

There’s no point.

What am I doing out here? It’s not like the air is fresh. Part of me says I want to enter the woods. But no, I’d never do that. Well, I have--we both have--but I’d never go far.

Never to the center.

I seat myself unsteadily on a burnt metal folding chair and lightly drop my weight into it, seeing if it will hold. It does. I sigh and lean back to look at the sky.

The stars aren’t silver anymore. Of course, stars weren’t really silver, to begin with; they were white, or sometimes blue. But they weren’t white, not really. At least, not the kind of white that they are now. The stars burn so blindingly bright that they look like maggots in the red sky, like maggots among the blood of their prey.

I grimace and look away.

I have nothing to do. It’s dangerous out here. Don’t I know never to go without Jordan? Wouldn’t he be worried and angry at me if something happened?

I used to be religious, once. Before the bombs came.

The folding chair gives. I fall back onto the splintering pieces of metal, but my pants provide enough protection that I only feel a few mere pokes. I sit up and dust myself off.

Far in the distance, I hear a sound.

They’re coming.

I scramble to my feet and take off running for the bunker, dodging half-crumbling walls and scattered, twisted household items. I make it to the steps, run down, fumble my key to unlock the door, and yank it open. I dash through the doorway and slam into Jordan, hard, in the chest.

I lose my breath and fall, gasping, to the ground on top of him. I roll over to the side and cough, knowing that we need to bolt the door, we need to bolt it.

I can hear Jordan, no doubt just as winded as I am, stagger to his feet, pull the door shut, and turn all the twists and gears that lock it into place. He flicks on the light switch and falls to the floor, spluttering wetly, and we both try to regain our breaths. My chest hurts.

After a minute, Jordan gets to his feet and offers a hand to help me up. I take it and get up. “Sorry,” I mutter offhandedly.

He glares at me. “What the hell, Harper?”

“I said I’m sorry!”

“As if one little word made it all better.” He crosses his arms. “Oh, so you want to die, now, and leave me alone in this freakish netherscape? As if I could survive without you!”

“I bloody well could without you.”

Jordan sighs and crosses the room to his bunk. He sits down in it wearily, his head in his hands. “I know, Harper. I know you could. But I couldn’t, I really couldn’t. So please stop doing this, okay?”

“Okay,” I say offhandedly, and, after a moment, sit down on the bed beside him.

He’s silent. I don’t know if he’s formulating a response or not, but while I wait, I look blearily around the room. Everything’s concrete--floor, walls, and ceiling. Our cots are each the bottom mattresses of two skinny metal-framed bunk beds, bolted into the walls eight feet across from each other. Our various possessions are hanging on hooks or scattered across the floor at our feet. In the corner to the right of Jordan’s bed is a crude metal sink that dispenses only slightly brown water, and in the corner opposite that, by the foot of my bunk, is a cracked porcelain toilet that sometimes flushes. Along the back wall, near the low ceiling, are a few moldy wooden cupboards for food storage. There’s one light overhead. The room is maybe twelve by twelve feet.

Jordan sighs again, and I turn to look at him. “What’s wrong?”

The light flickers, and he scowls. “You know well and good.” When I don’t respond, he adds, “It’s 4:30 AM and we’ve nothing to do. We’re fine on food and water, but if we go out, especially alone, especially at this time, we’ll probably die, one way or another. We have no phones--they blew up. No books--they’re all burnt. No family--they’re dead, and no friends, because they’re dead too. We’re the only people on the planet, or at least that we know of. And we’re miserable, and have nothing to do.” The whole time he’s saying this, he keeps his wrists crossed at his knees and his neck hanging down, his face speaking to the floor. “You know good and well what I’m talking about.”

I do. I feel my face flush. “What would our parents say?”

“Our parents are dead, Harper.” Finally Jordan turns and looks at me. “Our parents are dead, and I’ve loved you for so long. Longer than you could know.”

I swallow. “And how long is that?”

“From the first day I met you, idiot. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Monday, August 22, 2033. Homeroom with Mrs. Johnson. Don’t you remember?”

“I only met you six months ago.”

“How long ago,” Jordan murmurs. “How very remarkable.” He shoots me another glance. “You’re avoiding the question.”

I breathe shakily.

We’re only seventeen.

I can’t do this.

We stare into each other’s eyes, each the same shade, almost, of dark, dark brown. Our skin tones match; even our hair has the same curls. We could be related.

We’re not, though. That would be weird.

My breaths come short and heavy. I’m sweating, for sure. My brain is exploding, and my head is so, so hot. Jordan keeps swallowing. I’m sure I do, too.

And slowly, slowly, our faces move towards each other until they touch, and we kiss.

I don’t know how long it lasts. There’s no way of telling. But each second that we touch, it becomes harder and harder to turn away.

Jordan reaches for me, and I almost let him take me. I almost let myself give in.

But, inexplicably, I pause and turn my head. And there’s no going back.

I can’t do this.

We’re only seventeen.

September 25, 2020 00:52

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Dr. Katherine
19:59 Oct 06, 2020

Powerful hook! You're a masterful story-teller.


21:18 Oct 07, 2020

Thank you :)))


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Sierra Tkacik
21:05 Sep 30, 2020

This was so good! I completely love the line you repeated, “We’re only seventeen.” It had a melancholy darkness to it that I so enjoyed.


18:15 Oct 02, 2020

Thank you so much!! Awesome name, by the way ;)))


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