As she stood looking out at what was once the proud city of Manhattan, she caught her reflection in the dirt covered window of her low-quality apartment. Her eyes were that of sadness and sorrow at what had befallen the city, which now lay in ruins. She was no older than twenty-five with the dreams and aspirations that every young hopeful brought with them to the city. But right now, those dreams were about to be crushed in the cruellest of ways.
As she looked at the crowded streets below, cars and other vehicles were littered all over the streets ablaze. As if some giant angry toddler had tossed them around in frustration. The toxic flames lit the street with a flickering orange glow. It seemed like the fires were desperately reaching for the buildings surrounding them. Possessed to feed its insatiable need to burn, destroy and consume everything that it could.
The flames illuminated the crowds of foot soldiers and criminals that had by now outnumbered the defending police and national guard, and was spreading throughout the city like a cancer, infecting and destroying. Her chances of getting out the front were bleak. The only thing she could do was to hold up in her tiny residence and hope for rescue. But in recent days hope had abandoned everyone that had been caught up in the chaos that had taken hold of New York and the surrounding areas. Thousands were dead and thousands more were likely to follow.
She pulled her exhausted and weary gaze from the streets and looked up. Her eyes were red from the tears streaking down her face, but she looked at the neighbouring building across from her. It had faired worse than her own. It was some sort of new apartment complex, but now it was maimed and desolate, like a wounded soldier. Nearly every window was shattered, and deep flame lit gashes were now part of its cosmetics. As she looked past the monument of ruin she could see the rest of the city. The whole area was glowing orange. Dark smoke rose into the inky night sky, and the once beautiful skyline looked like a hostile and alien environment. Tiny specks of intermittent red flashes could be seen making their way across the air above the city.
Either airlifting the last people away from the overrun city, or newscasters filming the chaos and unruly on the ground below. But they were moving away from the city. She was filled with fear and anger. Fear because herself and others alike were being abandoned to the hostile hordes below, and anger at the government for abandoning her.
Somewhere below someone threw a Molotov cocktail at her building and an intense heat and light engulfed all below her. She gasped and quickly stood back from the window in fright. Had someone seen her looking out? Seen her praying that they would; for some reason leave her building alone and move onto the next street?
Now she heard others in her building, on her floor screaming in blind panic as they were desperate to barricade themselves in. Hopeful that it they make it through the night, they’ll be fine. She stood frozen looking at her apartment door. Hoping, willing for it to remain shut. The power was out in her building. Possibly the whole block. Hell, even the whole city could have been shrouded in the black endless veil of darkness, were it not for the dozens upon dozens of infernos that decorated the city, like some dark twisted version of a Christmas decoration.
Moments passed by, and her positive, optimistic conscious told her that she was fine. All she had to do was wait for the national guard to send in more troops and retake the city. But an explosion shook the building in a violent assault. Cracks split up and down the walls and ceilings, appearing like dead tree branches or exposed veins. Dirt and plaster fell to the floor and a white dust from the cracks fell creating a pale mist in the room. The explosion had been that violent she thought for a moment that the building was going to collapse. But it remained upright. But seconds later she heard screams and shouts from the floors below her. People were in the building. Spreading through it like a swarm of ants covering and consuming a wounded animal.
She had nothing to prop against the door. Nothing to barricade herself in. But if these insidious and malicious people wanted into the room, a barricade would only do so much to stop them.
She had a decision to make. Either stay here or wait the inevitable or make a run for it and hope she could find a way to the other side of the river. It was her only chance right now.
Glass was smashed somewhere in the building. The high pitch scattering of shards rang out for a moment and then replaced by shouting and screams and more smashing. The enraged wave of insurgents were flooding every part of the building. She only had a minute at best. She ran to the door. Nothing on her person. Everything that she owned was expendable. If she didn’t make it, anything she owned would have been inconsequential. So why bother. She was dressed in jeans, an olive-green shirt and had soft white trainers on. Good enough to run through the city.
She grabbed the latch on the door and pulled it off and then went to unlock the door. The lock was stiff. It was old and unkept. She had to be careful not to break the lock, but she had an insatiable desire to get out and time was against her. So now was not the time for caution. She jiggled the lock and it resisted. Defiant in its stance not to be released. She was getting desperate. The door wouldn’t open. She pushed her full weight up against the door and pulled the latch to open. Then she heard a thump as the latch released. She pulled the door open and looked out into the corridor. It was dark and people could be heard running up around and up the stairs. Either the invading horde or her neighbours panicking to lock themselves in or mounting a final defence of their home.
She glanced left and then right, but it was no good. The whole building was in darkness. The insidious horde were making their way upward, so she had no chance of getting out through the front entrance. Her only hope was to get to the roof and make it down the fire escape.
There was more thumping, shouting and smashing from below. She willed herself to run. And she did. Running blindly down the corridor. Hoping that nothing and no one was there for her to bump into. She reached the end of the corridor and burst into the stairwell. The echo of shouts and carnage from below rose like an exploding geyser. The heavy stumping of boots running up the stairs could be heard. Her gaze was at the stairs from the lower floor expecting to see a wall of criminals fill the empty space. She had a best a few seconds and she ran towards the stairs going up. Running hard up the flights of stairs, darkness surrounding her, trying to halt her ascent. Exhaustion began to set in after the first flight, but the shouts and screams from below kept her adrenaline pumping and she fought through the pain of fatigue and took each step in her stride. Not stopping until she got to the roof.
She continued through the dark, gloomy stairwell. It was deserted as best as her eyes could make out. She was heaving with each step. Her lungs felt like they were at their maximum exertion but stopping wasn’t an option. Once she was on the roof and heading down the fire escape, would she allow herself to recover. The added assistance of gravity going down would bring her breathing back under control.
She reached the very top of the stairs, sweat was streaming down her face and her eyes were burning from the perspiration that had seeped down from her forehead. Once she was off the last step she flung herself towards the last door at the top and tackled the door open. The shroud of darkness lifted slightly as outside there was some light, courtesy of the scorched and gutted landscape that used to be a metropolis. The smell of burning vehicles and fumes filled the air. Smoke was everywhere, but she was able to see through the intoxifying mist and she ran to the end of the roof towards the external stairs that led down to the street. The roof was covered in dirt and grime. Rubbish was littered around the area. The owner had let the building fall into disarray. Not that it mattered much now.
She was in full sprint across the roof. Her feet were burning from the excessive force of cardio she expelled within the last couple of minutes, but she kept telling herself, not to stop or to slow down. She would afford herself all the luxuries of relaxing and calming down once she was out of the city.
She reached the fire escape. It was still in one piece and the side street was nearly deserted. It was clear the occupying force had neglected the fire escape. The ladder that led to the ground was still up and inaccessible to anyone at street level. She thundered down the stairs. Clattering down with each step. The metal rattle of the stairs shook under the pressure of her desperate escape attempt. The building was only a few storeys high, and she’d be on the ground in no time. She looked up and saw the Hudson in the distance and stopped. Sorrow and disbelief filled her very being. The George Washington Bridge was in the distance. But she didn’t stop in her stride to view the bridge that would lead to her escape.
The bridge had been blown up.
All that was left of it were two frayed and wrecked ends of the bridge. One side in Manhattan, the other in New Jersey. Her body slumped. The feeling of despair and failure weighed down on her. She was trapped in the city. But now she had a choice to make. Head back up and face whatever onslaught was awaiting her in the building or take her chances on the streets. She closed her eyes to gather her thoughts. The building was a death trap. The odds were her neighbours that were barricading themselves in their apartments were already dead. She thought of anywhere she could go that wasn’t already under siege. She couldn’t think of anywhere. But she made the decision.
The street was her best chance of survival. Better to try than give up.
She continued down the fire escape and got to the ladder. She got on it and it groaned and shrieked as it lowered her down to the street level.
The streets were littered with rubbish. Alight with the hot orange glow of fire and ferocity. Cars had been tipped over and were ablaze. A gutted bus was smouldering and black from being torched. Glass shards littered the whole streets. As she slowly walked towards a husk of what was once a car, the shards crunched under her feet with every step. Then she noticed something else in the streets. Amongst the carnage and fire, she saw them. Dozens of them. People on the floors. Sprawled out in horrifying and contorted poses.
They were dead.
She gasped in horror, fighting the urge to scream at the unfortunates that now decorated the streets. Tears filled her eyes. The miserable stench that was humanity had outdone itself. She didn’t think she would get out alive. But she had to try. She straightened herself up. She looked up and down the gutted street. There wasn’t anyone around, other than the dead that lined the blacktop. She slowly put one foot in front of the other and disappeared into the orange glow of the new landscape.