Note: I sort of rushed this because it took me a while to write it, so I had to cram a lot of writing into the last day. Lmk if it feels rushed and feel free to give me other feedback as well. Anyway, here it is:
New York City, New York, USA
3 weeks since the flood
She finds me on the roof, staring down at the endless indigo sea that’s invaded our city.
“Whatcha lookin’ at?”
I spin around to see a tiny girl - couldn’t be older than eight or nine - standing there, her copper-colored face like a penny in the silver moonlight. Although she’s skinnier than a scarecrow and barely two-thirds my height, her hair makes up for it - a huge, wild, frizzy afro sort of situation. I suppress the urge to touch it.
“Um,” I start, not sure what to say. I settle on “Who’re you?”
“June,” she replies absentmindedly, now picking at a hangnail. “Who’re you?”
“Ryan?” she says, her nose wrinkling. “Ryan’s a boy’s name.”
“Well, it’s also my name, and I’m no boy, so…”
“Huh,” she says, going back to her hangnail. I look down at the water again. The minutes tick by, but I still can’t figure out how I could possibly escape this place - the place I'd gotten trapped in when the flood hit. I probably shouldn't be complaining, though - I fared better than most people in the building. I was lucky to be on one of the highest floors when it happened. But still - it's been weeks. Everyone keeps on saying dumb crap like "The government'll save us!" and "We have to wait for help to come!" Every single person here is useless. It's clear that help is not going to come, and I'm pretty sure that there's no government left to save us. We're on our own. And I need to get out of here, now.
“Why’re you just lookin’ down at the water? Ya lookin for something?” June says suddenly. I jump; I had assumed she’d left.
“I’m trying to figure out how to escape,” I reply. Might as well just tell her the truth. I’m no good at lying, anyway.
“Me and Alan are gonna escape,” says June. “Our cousin’s got a boat.”
I turn quickly at this. “A boat?”
“Yeah,” she says. “I think Brooklyn’s on her way. She’s our cousin. She’s got a boat.”
“What- how? How’d you tell her to come here? How’d she know-”
“Alan called her. I dunno, he just hacked into the signal thingie and dialed her number. He’s good at that kinda stuff.”
“Okay, so your brother called your cousin, who has a boat. And she’s coming here? To help you escape?”
“Yeah. I already said that,” she says, raising an eyebrow. Woah. I can’t even raise one eyebrow.
“Take me with you.”
“Cause I need to get outta here.”
She shrugs. “Sure.”
My eyes widen. “Really?”
“Yeah,” she says. “Why not?”
“Cool.” I’m chill on the outside(or at least I hope I am), but my brain is jumping up and down excitedly in my skull.
I’m finally leaving this place.
I follow June through the door that leads off of the roof to a staircase. We take the stairs all the way down to the 7th floor. The 7th floor is a famous floor in our building; it’s the lowest floor that went untouched by the flood. In fact, I can just see the dark, murky water submerging the stairs that continue below.
Some guy who’s also living in the building told me a couple weeks ago that the flood happened because of us humans - apparently we polluted the air so much that the sun’s heat somehow got trapped in the atmosphere and melted all the icebergs, until the oceans overflowed and bam, flood. I wasn’t sure if I believed him, though. I didn’t know what to believe anymore.
We emerge from the stairwell into a long, mold-green-carpeted hallway. God, I’ve had enough of that shade of green in the past three weeks to last me more than a lifetime. The hallway’s pretty spacious, but I’ve been here so long that it feels claustrophobic. That’s why I spend so much time on the roof - well, that and my desperate need to escape.
June leads me down the hallway and into a room I’ve never been in before, with floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of the inky water and the buildings surrounding ours. It’s still weird, looking out a seventh-floor window and seeing all these city buildings half-submerged in water.
Standing in front of the windows is a tall, dark-skinned boy with short-cropped, fuzzy-looking hair. “June, that you?” he says when he hears us come in. He turns around. “I think Brooklyn’s almost-” He cuts off when he sees me standing next to his sister. “Who’s this?” he asks, scowling.
“Ryan,” says June, unfazed by his expression. “She’s gonna come with us.”
“Like hell she is,” he responds with a scoff. “Where were you, anyway? And where’d you find her? I thought everyone was asleep.”
“I went to the roof, to see if I could see Brooklyn,” says June. “And Ryan was sittin’ up there. And I told her we were escaping, and she asked to come with us, and I said okay.”
Ryan lets out a noise that appears to be a snort-grunt hybrid. “No. No way.”
“What’s the harm in me coming?” I ask, annoyed at his immediate rejection.
He turns to me. “If you come, that’s one more mouth to feed, one more person to take care of. I’m not bringing more people if I can help it. Go back upstairs, or wherever you came from. There’s no way you’re coming. Don’t know why June said you could.”
“I can take care of myself, thanks,” I shoot back. “I just want to leave this place. You don’t need to feed me or worry about me or anything. You can just drop me off once we get to land. Plus, I can help you. I’m good at a lot of stuff.”
“Like what?” he asks, looking like he can’t believe I could be good at anything.
“Like I know my way around the city really well. I can help you find your way outta here. And I’m good at finding food and water and stuff. And I can help take care of June. And plus, you can always use an extra pair of hands.”
He stared at me for a while. “Fine,” he said, although his eyes were still skeptical. “You can come. But don’t expect us to give you any food or anything. You’re just tagging along because you might be useful. And if you’re any trouble at all, I’ll throw you off the boat. I mean it.”
I smirk. “I don’t doubt it.”
We stand there silently for a little while, Alan occasionally whispering something unintelligible to June, eliciting tiny giggles from her. I stand there awkwardly, waiting. Just when I’m about to ask whether this Brooklyn person is even coming, we hear a low rumbling sound that grows steadily louder, until it seems to envelope the entire room and vibrate my bones. I look out the window to see a sleek white boat - the kind that rich preppy people have at their summer houses - pulling up outside. Alan smiles a little and waves to the girl at the wheel: a girl with wild, curly hair tied back with a bright yellow scrunchy that’s trying and failing to tame it. She grins and waves back while simultaneously looking at me curiously.
“So,” I say, turning to Alan and June. “How’re we gonna get through this window?”
“Don’t worry,” says Alan. “I got that covered.”
He takes a tiny contraption out of his pocket and presses it against the window. I stare.
“Is that what I think-” I start.
“A bomb?” he interrupts, turning around and smirking at my shocked expression. “Just a small one. It’ll only break the glass. You might want to stand back, though.”
We all back up against the wall opposite the windows. I look over at Alan. “How the hell did you get a bomb?”
“Made it,” he says, his voice tinged with pride. “Used some wires and stuff from people’s computers in all the offices.”
I nod, just as the bomb goes off and the glass shatters with an earsplitting, shrieking sort of noise. I cover my face until all the fragments have settled.
“Who’s that?” the wild-haired girl - Brooklyn, I guess - shouts from the boat, gesturing in my general direction.
“That’s Ryan,” says Alan with a sigh. “She somehow wheedled her way into coming with us. Still not sure how she did it.”
“Oh, yeah - that’s another thing I’m good at,” I say with a smile. “Persuasion.”
Alan rolls his eyes. “Alright, everyone get in.”
We clamber through the hole in the wall that used to be the window and into the boat. Brooklyn takes off as soon as we’re settled. She’s a good driver(boater? boat-driver?) and seems to know where she’s going, so I guess all that talk about me knowing my way around the city is kind of a bust.
But that doesn’t matter now. Because I’m here, and I’m leaving that horrible moldy-carpeted prison of an office building behind. And I can’t help but let out a gleeful laugh because the wind is whipping my hair into my face and the night sky is wide and open and star-specked and I’m escaping. I’m free.