A bad dream. It was all a bad dream. Laura poked the belly of the animal to make sure it was dead. How could she continue her journey to the Dome without a ride? No way she’d hitchhike with the whackos and criminals wandering the streets since the sun stopped shining five days earlier, right when she celebrated her eighteenth birthday. Talk about a lucky day.
Her best friend Julie had organized the perfect party for her in the basement of her parents’ house while they were on vacation. Five guys, five girls, alcohol, LSD and ecstasy, good music and twelve hours to kill… A real blast. Laura woke up feeling the weight of an arm on her chest, and when she opened her eyes she realized the arm belonged to John. She loved that guy. He was sweet, cute, mostly sweet, no, mostly really cute… She stared at his bright blue eyes and she lost herself thinking she could be his girlfriend until the end of the year. Maybe they could go to prom together and have sex. Having sex was a big deal and she wanted John to be her first one. She wouldn’t regret it if he gave her her first sexual experience because she knew it deep down he’d be fantastic in bed.
Far memories, long gone down a drain of nonsense. Laura bowed her head and tried to contain her anger while walking away from the horse that had collapsed under her. That freaking horse was a piece of crap, just like everything else she found on her way to the Dome. Her friends, yeah “friends”, had ditched her after they stole a car and John, this jerk, drove away without even taking her with him. He said they had to reach the Dome before it was too late. How about their time together, didn’t it mean anything at all? They kissed and shared pills, she even let him slide his hand under her blouse. Such a waste. All she could manage to steal was this deadbeat horse, or was it a mere pony, she had no clue anymore, she spotted as she passed by a field about three days ago. The animal offered no luxury but she needed to move faster and the Dome was miles away. Did it really matter now how far the Dome was? Not really.
She climbed up the stairs back to Julie’s living room, still high from the night before, as she noticed the sky didn’t change color and it was ten in the morning. She didn’t understand why the sun wasn’t up, and she blamed the LSD for altering her vision but what she considered a hallucination soon became an ugly truth to acknowledge. The TV news reports kept repeating the same stuff: an experimental probe had exploded and caused the sun to lose all its nuclear power, the last rays of light had reached the terrestrial surface while she was still asleep and dreaming of making love to John, and now it’d be night forever.
Shit. She violently hit a stone with her foot and cried in pain. She couldn’t see anything, and didn’t even have the brilliant idea to take a flashlight when she left the house. She felt cold, and wrapped herself tighter with her coat. Tears kept rolling down her cheeks but she ignored them. Maybe she’d have to hitchhike after all.
She turned her head and looked behind her, hoping to see car lights in the distance but the road stayed empty and clear of any living soul. All she could see was the dust of the desert dancing in little swirls over the asphalt and she blinked at the stars bursting through the darkness like diamonds. The freezing temperature forced her to sneeze, and her snot instantly stuck to her nose. She shivered more.
She suddenly heard the sound of an engine roar. She stared at the vehicle approaching and moved to the middle of the road, waving her arm at the driver to make him halt.
“You need help?” the old man behind the wheel asked while he pulled down his window. Laura saw a shape in the passenger seat next to him.
“I’m going to the Dome.” She said.
“We’d take ya but how d’we know ya ain’t gonna kill us?” an old woman replied.
“I don’t have a weapon.”
“How d’ya come up here?” the man asked.
“On a horse.”
“Where’s it now?” the woman said.
The old man didn’t respond and whispered something to his female companion.
“We got nothing to eat, we take ya if ya show us the beast.” He finally mumbled. “Ya walk, and I follow. Now go.”
Laura headed to the ditch where the horse had collapsed an hour earlier. Her feet were aching and she hoped as hell this old couple wouldn’t kill her after she’d lead them to the animal. How did she know they could be trusted? She didn’t. The car lights created a halo around her frame as the old man slowly drove behind her. She finally stopped walking when she recognized the carcass of the horse on the side of the road.
“Here.” She said and the man halted the car.
“Get in.” the old woman ordered, suddenly pointing a twelve gauge sawed off shotgun at Laura’s head.
“Why you wanna shoot me?” Laura yelled, instinctively showing her hands at her aggressor.
“Safety measure ‘til we pull the horse inside the trunk. My Billy need t’cut it in pieces first, and meanwhile I gotta watch ya so you ain’t got the right idea to become criminal on us. Now get in.”
Laura reluctantly moved toward the car, never losing sight of the gun pointed at her. She wouldn’t survive very long if she rode with such hillbillies, but she needed their car and their weapons if she wanted to reach the Dome alive and in one piece.
She slowly opened the back door and jumped in. The right moment for her escape would show soon enough… When Billy finished loading the last piece, he sat behind the wheel and lit a cigarette.
“Good. Now we got one horse and one girl for dinner, Mary. Take care of her for me, will ya?”
Laura felt a blow to her head before she fully processed what the man just said and everything went black.
“The criminal cop killing hip-hop filling minimal swap to cop millions of Pac listeners.
Your coming with me, feel it or not you’re gonna fear it like I showed you the spirit of god lives in us. You hear it a lot, lyrics the shock is it a miracle or am I just a product of pop fizzing up. For shizzle my whizzle this is the plot listen up you bizzles forgot slizzle does not give a fuck…”
The future was doomed and primitive needs had become paramount to everything else. Following the beam of his car lights, John shook his head to the beat and his foot instinctively pressed harder on the gas pedal. He needed to reach the Dome before running out of food and water, and the last gas station he passed had already been looted.
He didn’t see another vehicle for miles, and almost came to the conclusion everybody who couldn’t flee on time died until his attention got suddenly caught by a truck halted on the side of the road. The truck’s blinkers were on, flashing through the darkness like two orange fires. He wasn’t sure whether to stop; yet what he saw made him slam on the brake pedal with so much strength, his brains would have decorated the windshield had he not been wearing his seatbelt.
He parked the stolen BMW a few feet ahead and made sure to grab the colt hidden in the glove compartment before heading back to the truck. The air temperature had dramatically dropped, and as soon as he set foot outside his eyes watered and his nose started to run.
It was hard to see inside the truck given the huge amount of blood spattered on all the windows. He carefully circled the car and checked the rear to make sure nobody was ambushing him, and reached for the right back door handle. He pointed the gun at the opening and released the safety.
There was a body lying on the back seat. Two more sat in the front, their head reduced to mere pulp. John reached for the body’s leg and received a kick.
“Can you breathe?” he yelled while holding the colt with shaky hands.
“Help…” the body faintly whispered.
John put the gun away and pulled the body by the legs. A girl. Her face was smeared with blood and half her hair stuck to her skin, but she seemed fine.
“Are you hurt?” John asked, searching for a pulse.
The girl murmured inaudible sounds and he leaned closer to her mouth but couldn’t make up any words she said.
“I’ll take you out of here, alright?” John ran his arm under her waist and carried her out of the truck back to the BMW.
After installing her on the passenger seat, he checked the truck for supplies and found three shotguns and a dead horse cut in a million pieces in the trunk. The stench of the dead animal smelled so strong he almost retched on the side of the road. No need to stick around any longer. He took extra ammo and ran back to the BMW. Turning up the heat he glanced at the girl he rescued and wondered for one second whether it had been such a good idea to play the Samaritan for once. He stared closer at her face and felt like he knew her from somewhere, but she was covered in too much blood to tell exactly what she looked like. Once they’d reach the Dome she could take a bath.
“Soon as a verse starts I eat it at MC’s heart, What is he thinking? How not to go against me? Smart. And it’s absurd how people hang on every word. I’ll probably never get the props I feel I ever deserve, But I’ll never be served my spot is forever reserved, If I ever leave earth that would be the death of me first…”
They drove for hours. John had listened to the same CD over and over again and almost knew all the lyrics by heart. He started to have enough of the ride and wanted to reach the Dome at last.
He glanced from time to time at his passenger and tried to figure out who she reminded him of. The party at Julie’s house felt like a mere blur, and he barely remembered making out with Laura and taking so many drugs he blacked out on the floor of the basement and woke up only to realize the sun had never risen. Once he entered the living room he saw Laura running around like a frantic bug and he tried to calm her down but she kept hitting him, unable to listen, lost in a confusing state he preferred not to witness while he still could run away without anybody noticing. After checking the news, he walked out and searched for a car he could borrow. He had never stolen before, and if things worked out at the Dome he could maybe survive and give sense to the chaos that had so suddenly ruined his life. He didn’t have a real plan about what he’d like to do once he’d be there; he simply needed to find a way out of this mess so he left. Laura cried and begged him to take her with him, but he couldn’t handle a crazy girl on top of the end of the world as he knew it.
After several days he realized he had been driving in the wrong direction. He had wasted precious time and had to turn back; how long would it be until he could find the right road to the Dome and not give up complete hope? Despite knowing the Dome existed, nobody told him exactly where it was located as the number of free spots was extremely limited. Like a lottery system, only the fittest could have access to a life away from darkness and certain death by hypothermia. He knew he could make it. If only he hadn’t taken the wrong road, he’d probably be there by now.
The girl seemed in shock. She had been sleeping for so long it seemed she’d never wake up. How did the two other bodies die in the car? Did she shoot them? Was she their captive?
John sighed and tried to relax the muscles of his neck. He could feel the fatigue slowly taking him over, but he had to keep moving. No more time could be wasted.
John’s head hurt like hell. He opened his eyes but couldn’t see much ahead of him. Darkness everywhere. He also couldn’t hear a thing besides his own breathing and his face seemed wet.
Why was he not driving? The throbbing pulse of blood in his head made him dizzy. Was he upside down? His hand ran along the dashboard, searching for the glove box handle. He had to move slowly because his ribcage ached every time he exhaled and after a few seconds he took a break. He sat so close yet so far from the flashlight and the seatbelt prevented him from moving freely inside the vehicle. What if he unbuckled it?
Searching for the release button, he felt something warm. An arm. The girl next to him. Was she dead? He heard the dripping of blood on the ceiling and wondered the extent of his head injury. He couldn’t panic now. Scalp wounds were supposed to bleed extensively. All he had to do was find the freaking seatbelt button and get out of the wreckage then he could worry about the rest.
The Dome. How could he reach the Dome? Everything had turned to shit. Dammit. He landed right on his head when he finally got out of his harness. Ouch! The glove box. Once he held the flashlight he crawled out of the car.
Maybe not seeing anything was a better idea after all. A tree branch had pierced the windshield like butter and impaled his passenger right in the middle of the chest. You talk about a spectacle. He didn’t have time to think twice before emptying the content of his stomach on the side of the road. The retching lasted a while before he could look at the car again without feeling nauseous anymore. And now what?
He quickly started to cough blood and the pain in his brain became unbearable, causing blurry vision and disturbing his balance. The coughing increased and he felt like air was missing. Maybe a broken rib had pierced one of his lungs?
Come on! The flashlight fell to the ground and John collapsed to his knees, catching a last bit of oxygen and he rolled to his side, his mouth stuck to the asphalt, his face covered in dirt and his eyes staring at the darkness, suddenly thinking of a dead horse head stuck in a trunk. Who cared about the end of the world? Where he was heading now, he needed no warmth and no hope.
The sun stopped shining and he died from a car accident. Way to go buddy.