Smoky grey clouds loom, low and threatening in the sky above me. Drops of rain the size of quarters fall, thick and heavy. Crashing violently against the earthy green poncho covering my head and shoulders. With each step, thick, grimy mud grips my boots, nearly yanking them off my feet. A dense shroud of evergreen trees lined either side of the forest path I walked on, offering some protection from the harsh winds that swirled around. Still, even with the coniferous shields surrounding me, occasionally, a mighty gust would come at just the right angle to push me around a bit. It was rough going, the storm was brutal and had come out of nowhere, but it wasn't the worst I had seen. Belligerent weather like this was nothing new. I'd been wandering for the last fifteen years, hard to tell how long exactly, so I had become accustomed to it.
I pause a moment at my last thought. Fifteen years? Had it really been that long? My mind raced as it relived everything that I've endured over all this time. Reflexively, my hand shoots up, reaching for the tarnished silver pendant hanging from my neck. I feel the smooth metal of the heart-shaped locket between my fingers and take a deep breath. A gentle peace washes over me as the necklace draws my fear and anxiety away.
The locket and the woman within have been my source of comfort for as long as I can remember. Whenever things got rough, she was always there for me, my constant companion. I could always rely on her to be there, giving me strength despite all the losses she represented. This tiny metal heart is all I have from the old world. The world before it ended.
Fifteen years ago, an asteroid roughly the size of Texas impacted the moon, shattering it to pieces. Fiery stone debris of every imaginable size showered down on us for days. Cities were laid to waste, our oceans raged, and forests burned to a cinder. Countless lives were lost in the bombardment. Those that survived might have been able to start over if things had actually ended there. But without the pull of the moon's gravity, the earth's axis was pulled out of place, and the world tilted. Weather patterns were thrown into chaos. Massive storms roiled through the atmosphere. Terrifying arcs of lightning set fire to whatever they could touch. Tornadoes and hurricanes demolished any remaining structures without remorse. Nothing could be done, so we watched as the world crumbled around us.
Some of those that remained tried to start over, forming small communities and settlements. Begging for any trace of normalcy. I recognized the futility of that particular course of action. Things would never get better. Ever. So instead of putting any hope in one of these communes, I decided to just walk. I've been wandering ever since.
Another heavy gust of wind nearly pushed me over, and I came back to the present. The downpour around me hadn't let up, and obnoxious raindrops stung whatever skin I had exposed. Standing in this torrent thinking about things that could never be changed was pointless. I loosen my grasp on the necklace, feeling it fall back to rest against my chest. My nerves were at ease once again, so I wiped the thick layer of rainwater from my face and continued my walk.
A few minutes of travel later, and I see a curious sight on the side of the path ahead. The wall of weather surrounding me makes it hard to see clearly, so I inch closer. The curious thing is familiar, bright green leaves sticking out in all directions, and bundles of deep blue orbs dangle from the branches of the bush. I finally get close enough to see the plant clearly, and a rush of excitement fills me! I had randomly stumbled across a blueberry bush! Fresh food was a commodity, and coming across a find like this was a godsend! I'd been living off whatever flavorless, packaged, and preserved food I could find. The thought of tasting a fresh-picked blueberry consumed me, and I quickened my pace to get the tantalizing fruit.
My focus is solely on the bush, so I don't see the exposed patch of slate right in front of it. The slick mud and water coating my boots held no purchase against the slippery rock, and my right leg violently came out from under me. I'm thrown into the air, weightless for just a moment, then my back hits the ground with a sticky thud. I lay there, my body sinking inches into the mud, catching my breath and taking mental stock of any possible injuries, before realizing that I hadn't stopped moving yet. Slowly, almost imperceptibly so, I slid across the mud feet first. Lifting my head off the ground to peer in that direction is when I finally see the edge of the ravine hidden behind my blueberry bush, kept secret by the trees. And I was heading right into it. My sliding became faster, and the unknown valley in front of me got closer, my feet now hanging over the edge! I roll over quickly, scrambling to find something to grab onto to stop my descent, coming back with nothing but handfuls of cold, wet mud. Desperately, I flail my legs, trying to get my knees beneath me so I can crawl to safety. But with every try, I just gouge swaths of earth out from under me, hastening my trip to whatever waited below.
I could do nothing to stop it, so as my body tumbles over into the steep decline, I wrap my arms around my head, try to make myself as small as I can, and brace for impact. The trip down to the bottom is a frantic combination of sliding, rolling, and occasionally careening off of mounds in the mud and going a completely different direction.
Then, suddenly, I feel a harsh impact on the side of my left leg and hear a sickening, squelching, and cracking noise. Pain shoots through my whole body, and I let out a guttural, choked scream of agony. Then, almost immediately, nothing. From my left hip down, I had gone completely numb. I look around and see that my fall had been cut short by the enormous trunk of a massive tree. I feel thick, wet warmth creeping across the front of my worn pants, and I risk taking a look.
The night had finally settled in, but even in the dark, I could see the jagged, stark white of my femur protruding from the extensively bleeding wound in my leg. I stared at it for much longer than I should have. Just breathing heavily and letting tears stream down my face. I knew, just from looking, this is it. There was no way I would survive this. Of all the roads I had walked in the last decade and a half, this would be my last.
As I lay back against the cold, sodden ground and calm my breathing, I stare up at the night, the last remnants of the moon left in the sky shining down on me. Fumbling around my neck, I grasp the locket and rip it off my neck. Holding it in front of me, I fiddle with the tiny treasure, trying desperately to undo the child-size clasp that kept it closed. I needed one last look at her while I could. Finally, it pops open, and in the dim light of the shattered moon, I can just make out her long, loosely curled blonde hair. Her glimmering green eyes seemed to be longingly looking at me. We had been together so long, through so much, and now she's here with me at the end.
I'd been wandering around, somewhere near what used to be Baltimore, if I remember right. Just poking through abandoned houses, scrounging for supplies. The locket had been stashed away in a corner drawer in a decrepit kitchen. It hadn't been tarnished then. It was still bright and pristine, a perfect thing in a dreadful existence. So I kept it.
And as I lay there in the unforgiving rain of a perishing world, I wish I could've known her name.