We became teenage soldiers scouring the endless barricade of semi-divided houses, looking for survivors, but as the long summer evenings progressed into the orange-lit night we lost hope and decided to raid the neighbourhood instead.
We became pirates on the playgrounds scattered in little manicured green belts. We shouted and drank rum and bountied souls lost at sea.
We became situational best friends with groups of passers-by, trying our best to either sound really normal or way too insane. They laughed but never stayed long.
So instead we became nomads, now searching for food, or drugs, or shelter, or sex.
We were broke and all too hungry. So we scampered endlessly through random neighbourhoods—more and more tangles to run our hands through. More grass, more glittering lights, more lethargic introverts holed up in tidy hideouts.
Even when we were tired we all kept walking, each one walking for the other. As the night reached its peak we kept each other excited with stupid ideas. Wild brainstorms that beamed as quickly as our eyes; anything would inspire us.
We became cautious thieves. Streetlights made us paranoid and forced us to move quickly. We stuck to the shadows, tiptoeing and eyeing each house for a door, a window, a porch. It was just a matter of time until we found doors with no locks. Up planks of wood that buckled under our weight we each slipped into the front door, closing it lovingly behind us.
We became the headquarters of the armageddon’s survivors, nervously peeking out windows all the way to the top floor turret room. We stared out at the blacked out sky, reminiscing over the lost stars.
We smoked, laughing, coughing, whispering, shouting, imagining all the things we were not. Pirates! Thieves! Spectacles! Artists! Unknowns! Geniuses! Adventurers! The last society on earth, and not one woman to be seen.
When gangs rolled down the street we became stealthy, but still liked to watch them pass. Eventually, they would find us.
When they did, we booked it out the back door, yelling taunting battle cries as we disappeared into the night.
We scampered away from the unfinished neighbourhood, all skeletal and fleshy, looking like rotten corpses that no scavenger wanted to pick at. Our legs dragged, but we all kept moving. Dehydrated, hungry, and fatigued, we lurched through the streets in backward route and became lost every time.
As lost as we were, it never really mattered where we had been. We would be the last people on earth together or apart. It was inevitable that we would become inseparable; we were no different than the crows.
We became distorted clocks, hopelessly ticking. A night feels all the much longer when there is no hope for the day, especially when we knew we would be on our feet for days at the least and a lifetime at most. With nowhere to go and the raving need to go there we kept marching. There had to be others somewhere along our wanderings who would take us in, there had to be a place to go.
Maybe we would give ourselves up to the gangs. Maybe we would follow them unto a mass grave, following ordained loyalties. Find an old poison stock and put an end to it all. Maybe a destination would make the journey better.
The sun kept its schedule, raising fog. We used to hide in the mornings. But then we taught ourselves that all the menacing figures we thought we saw distantly in the fog were a ghostly illusion. Instinct taught us to avoid low visibility, and that was exactly why we walked down the middle of the streets carelessly. We cut through a large open park, a no man’s land in good weather. We found an old spruce tree, and sat under its canopy. With fingers numb from the matinal chill we tore into any food scraps we’d collected. Then, mellowed by nutrition, there was a long pause when we all laid down and watched the fog in silence.
If there was ever a time to wake up from this nightmare it would be now. So we would remember this serenity, and forget about our aching legs. Not even the crackling roar of a passing engine could wake us. This was a deep sleep if it was sleep at all.
Before the fog lifted we dashed away from the park, leaving inconspicuously, as per usual, lurking like the shadows in our fantasies.
To find somewhere to sleep; to escape back, or wake up; do anything besides wandering. So we slept in the thickets on the edge of the nearest neighbourhood. It was a dangerous luxury we believed we deserved.
And maybe we shouldn’t have let ourselves sleep. Because when we were swooned by slumberland we imagined all the things we could be, only to wake to the realization that we could be anything but not everything.
© Jack Caseros
Jack Caseros is originally from Mississauga, ON. He works as an ecologist in Canada’s boreal forest to support his writing habit. Jack’s work has recently been featured in steelbananas & Eunoia Review. His first novel, Onwards & Outwards, is finding a home.