New York, The Bronx
The bodies still littered the streets.
The earthquake was terrifying.
I held on to my brother for dear life, hoping that it would all be over soon.
I hoped for better days.
And it was useless.
I was eight years old. It happened on a Thursday - Thursday, the first of August 2026, to be exact.
The first signs were that the birds didn't chirp like usual in summer time. My mom was tense that day. She was on high alert. My dad quietly spoke with her and they packed some bags. At least that is what I caught them doing.
Then it happened.
There were sirens blaring outside and muffled screams of people.
My mom immediately urged me to walk down the stairs to our basement. I held my baby brother Henry in my arms. She didn't even say goodbye. She just smiled and said "It will be okay."
It wasn't. It never will be.
The earthquake shook our house down to the foundation. The light bulb dangling from the ceiling danced from the impact, sending distorted shadows throughout the crammed room and shivers down my spine. I didn't scream. I didn't cry. I just forced my eyes shut and pressed my brother to myself to protect him from the small grains of plaster trickling down on us - plaster that had come loose from the ceiling.
Surprising enough, our home only had minor damage done to its structure.
I never saw my parents again after that day.
I never saw anyone again after that day.
No humans. Nobody. Nobody came to save us, nobody came to look for us.
No emergency services, no military.
The earthquake eventually settled again.
But we didn't leave the basement. I didn't know what would await us on the other side of the chipped wooden door separating us from the outside world.
I was terrified.
Terrified of what I would find. Terrified of accepting a fact I had to accept later anyway.
We waited in the basement for three weeks.
Three weeks of agony. 504 hours of drawing out the most vivid things in my mind. And twenty-one days of my little baby brother growing up. He was five months old at that very fateful day.
I tried to keep him - and myself - busy from overthinking too much. I learned how to write and read during that time. My mother kept some food stock in a metal shelf in the basement, it barely lasted.
After these three excruciating weeks, I had enough. We always kept a key under a slightly cracked flower pot for emergencies, since the door was so heavy that it sometimes fell shut on the person staying down here.
I unlocked and pushed open the door from the basement.
When I stepped outside to the open world with my brother in my arms, I was shocked. No, being shocked for seeing something like this at age eight is not the right term.
I was horrified, I felt betrayed. Lonely.
The earthquake destroyed all of the Bronx. Houses collapsed like they were built out of playing cards, trees collided with the hastily parked cars in the middle of the street.
The affects of the destruction have left huge cracks in the asphalt.
Everything looked like a hell-bound dream, a hell-bound nightmare.
But mostly, it looked lonely - except the remnants of what used to be a living civilization.
I didn't look at their mangled faces, but I was sure that my parents were upon them, finding final peace in such an awful way.
The bodies littering the streets made even the bright sun shining down to me appear like a weak flame of a candle you put on someone's grave. It was a weak flame of a candle for the graves of the human population on earth.
And when even that light set behind the collapsed skyscrapers in the distance, one thing made itself very much clear and present in my mind.
I suddenly couldn't remember what happened on the day before the earthquake hit. I couldn't remember what happened on Wednesday, the 31st of July in the year 2026.
I couldn't remember what my mother's embrace felt like.
I couldn't remember what my childhood was like.
I couldn't remember.
I cannot remember what happened before all of it. My entire childhood got blown away like a leaf in the wind. Me and my brother Henry are the only sole survivors - to our knowledge. It has been nine years now. The world looks different - different than it looked at the beginning. After the earthquake hit, more weather anomalies happened. When massive snow storms cut our ways short, flooding acidic rain destroys nature around us and terrifying hurricanes tear the roof off our heads, we go from day to day, thinking we would not make it far.
In the post-apocalyptic world, resources are rare and we never settle. We are alone.
But when the floorboards creak at night, I am left with one and only one blank question.
"Are we really alone?"
I never could have imagined telling myself otherwise, but one day, something unbelievable happened. And I am here to tell my story.
My name is Valencia Evelany Forther.
And I will remember.
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