Editor’s note: As part of upcoming “Vitriol” issue, Black & Grey in the Schools oversaw a competitive contest by today’s young writers to promote new talent. The following piece was a winner of this contest and is written collaboratively by Casey Koutris, Melanie Rosado, Joel Kremer, Dominic Sisto, Linus Morales, and Ian Sterner.
As a child, I saw a land abundant. Illawarra Flame, ficus, and Jacaranda timberland. Hyacinth, cattleya, and lotus expanses. Gallinule, dhole, and loggerhead dominions. From the tallest peaks through the liveliest groves and into the deepest waters. I recall songstress birds soothing the woes of the wood with their melodies, and the mutual love exchanged between human and mother nature. But those days were past, and now the earth sat suffocated in noxious haze and the horizon scorched.
Every morning I glance out my window, hoping to see that pyre extinguished, yet not even this harrowing wind and fortnight downpour have vanquished even the smallest flicker. The encroaching despair from the cataclysm’s plague and chaos only accelerated our ongoing rot.
As Luna’s cycle repeats, the pandemonium worsens, and the rancor across town has only grown more violent. Soon I fear that the unholy trinity of the climate, spirits lost, and the rioters will have grown too strong for me to escape this hamlet.
Overwhelming fear comes over me. I stay in the background of the chaos feeling forgotten until my mother grabs me tightly. She is not saying anything. Wait… why are we here in the first place? My mom’s family is here, with my dad’s family…they would never gather before today. My thought is interrupted by the piercing sounds of everyone screaming. I duck my head and cover my ears. It does not work. My hearing goes out. All I hear is silence. Snatching myself away from my mother’s arms, I scream, asking everyone “What’s going on!?” while tears race down my face. No one acknowledges me. I run to the window and see things in the air that should not be there. The sky is every color but blue…as I lose myself, my hearing comes back. The sound is no longer piercing. I hear distant noises… everyone is gone. I lift my shirt and wipe my face. I look again…I am alone.
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I walked outside and gazed at twin tornadoes thrashing. They were taking everything within their range. Bricks skipped on the ground like leaves in the wind. Siding peeled off of the house. Everything was so loud. I shouted back inside but even I could not hear my spoken words. To my left, there was small Ficus tree that had not been bruised or beaten. In fact, it was dancing. The tree was dancing in between two cyclones. Dodging flying slabs and stones, I ran up to it and roared at the top of my lungs, “We’ve gotta get out of here!” The tree halted and let the wind blow its leaves. It looked up at the whirlwind and in a deep voice, it retorted, almost with a whisper, “That’s always the way it goes, isn’t it?” It stepped back and continued the dance. The wind picked up. I fled to an old, beat-up Chevy, opened the door and hopped inside.
I started up the engine. The odor was too much to accept, and the passenger side was filled with plastic bottles. The stench of cigarette smoke was a convenience passed down from the previous owner so I lit one up. The burning tip resembled the horizon, and I remember thinking, “what the hell is happening here?” That is when it began to fall. It was melting my windshield as the masses sprayed out of the sky. With the wipers jammed, my vision became an oddity. Imagine driving 500,000 paces with a windshield melting before your eyes… Under the stress of these conditions the Chevy was now a pressure chamber. It bent the cigarette smoke into the words “Lord Can You Help Me?” and I could not tell how much further I could go in this maddening maze. The trip is bitter with undertones of vague intrigue, and industrial pain. The sarcastic laugh belted out by my ego reminded me, “This is not the end.”
I remember exactly how the water cast a polarized view of Birmingham Germany’s decrepit skyscrapers. The exposed metal beams of the towers sprung out like teeth from the endless rows of concrete monsters. The sun’s rays poked at me daily, straining my already strained eyes. All I wanted was a pair of sunglasses. My paddle sank deeply into the thick chunks of muddy waters that surrounded my repurposed raft made from my old Chevy. Even in its current mutilated form, the cigarette smell was still present. I drifted under a building with a sign reading TIM’S BUY AND SELL. Inside, I noticed who I presumed to be Tim, sitting on a recliner and eating spoonfuls of green beans from a can. Tim’s shelves were stacked with junk metal and cans of various vegetables. After an hour of searching, no sunglasses. I would do anything to get out of this city. I paddled out of the building in search of land, land and sunglasses.
The barn was rotting. It was frigid. There was plenty of food, but it was running dry. Pretzel Sticks and cubed cheese. I filled my gut with it, but a void was left in place of that which was eaten. We could not survive on this. At least 25 others. I looked out the barn door, and there were zombies walking around. The rules of this “game”: Only at night, could I run out and gather supplies, for us all. As a rusted Calliope in the corner played me off, I dashed across the short landscape and grabbed some rakes to kill the killed. But, I missed the rotting living dead man on the ground who began to consume me. It began to consume beyond me. The vision faded, the zombie disease began to fill in a void in the universe. The dank emptiness of existence began to fill with a black disease the enveloped from the Zombie. Forever, until the darkness faded.
Literary Editor: John Yu Branscum