“No thanks, I’m allergic”.
“More for me then” he said as he slurped back the rest of the can of peaches. The syrup overflowed from his mouth and ran down the right side of his cheek to his earlobe. He reached his uninjured hand up, tugging on the IV line and wiped the syrup away with the back of his hand.
“Stop tugging on that or it’s going to come out, and I don’t have the supplies to fix it.” Julia said, as he finished wiping the side of his face.
“Sorry”, he said sheepishly.
“What’s your name lawyer man?” She asked.
“How did you know I’m a lawyer?” he asked. She pointed to the ground between the kitchen and the living room, right near the door where his smashed BAR certification lay amongst his shoes.
“Oh… ya, that kind of gives it away” he said as he laid back down on the cool floor.
“Not going to tell me your name?” She asked again.
“Oh, right. sorry. My name’s Garrick.”
“Garrick Whyte” he replied, as Julia stood up from her crouched position and began looking around the pantry.
“What kind of a name is Garrick, especially nowadays?” Julia asked with a small laugh as she checked some of the contents of the pantry.
“My parents liked old fashioned names. You should see my sister, her name is Katelina, but she goes by Kaylie…” he trailed off as he suddenly realized that he had no idea if anything had happened to her in this attack. Did they only hit his City? Had she seen it coming? Did she get away somehow? What about his parents? He had no idea what happened to anyone in his family, his dad, his mom, or his sister, and it made him worry.
“I’d probably go by Kaylie as well if my name sounded like an 1800’s Russian ballerina” Julia remarked as she began grabbing some of the undamaged canned goods and putting them in her bag.
“I haven’t spoken to her in weeks…” Garrick said as he sat up off the floor for the first time in a while. He could feel the throbbing in his head of his body not liking the sudden change of position, but he ignored it as he rested his back against one of the shelving units that lined the walls of his pantry. “I have to get a hold of them” he finally said after a few moments of uneasy silence as Julia picked her way through the canned goods.
“Ya, that’s not going to happen bud” Julia said as she continued to grab cans of all kinds, adding them to her bag which was beginning to bulge from the contents. She turned to him and looked him in the eyes for the first time since meeting him. Garrick turned his head upwards to look her in the eyes, locking her gaze as she started speaking. “There’s no communication. Internet, Cell phones, radios, hell…even the landlines are dead”
“Fuck” he said as he lowered his head again defeated.
“Ya, right now, we gotta grab what we can and move. Yours wasn’t the last building on this block and there might be some more people who need my help.”
“Okay, I understand. Give me five minutes to get some stuff together. Can I take this IV out now?” Garrick asked as he stood up using the shelving unit for support. Julia moved over and checked his pulse and blood pressure quickly before cutting off the IV and removing it from his arm.
“You should be okay for now, I can save the rest of this for someone else. If you start feeling feint or anything you need to tell me immediately though, okay?” She said as she cut the used end of the IV that had been in his arm and packed the rest of the bag away safely in her paramedic bag that had been holding the canned food. Garrick moved down the hall past his bathroom and into his fairly untouched bedroom. There was a fine layer of drywall dust that had fallen over everything from the explosions that had rocked the building. Had the world not been ending he probably would’ve cared but it didn’t matter now. He moved towards his closet on the far side of the room adjacent to his window. As he opened the closet door, he looked out the window and couldn’t believe what he saw.
It wasn’t the City or neighbourhood he remembered, it more or less resembled a war zone. Debris and craters littered the street. Chunks of his building were strewn about the front of the property completely covering the small bit of grass on an otherwise barren landscape. Cars were covered in concrete dust, chunks of buildings, or they were overturned in the street. Some of the street lights were ripped down and lay across the road while others were just missing with small craters where they used to be. Water was spilling into the street from a burst fire hydrant and there was a city bus missing then entire top half of the frame on fire in the middle of the street. Mostly though, he noticed the bodies. Not just a few here and there, dozens of people strewn about in various locations. Some had obviously attempted to flee and were shot down, some were blown to pieces and some looked like they had been burned. He saw a couple of dead police officers behind their cruiser which was parked diagonally in the middle of the road in front of his building. It looked like they had tried to defend the people around them and paid the ultimate price. He tore his eyes from the street and continued grabbing some clothing out of his closet and packing himself a large backpack. As he finished packing his bag and changing into a more acceptable, attire of dark jeans, hiking boots, and his favourite retro t-shirt of a concert put on by Iron Maiden nearly 80 years before, his eyes lingered on the long case at the back of his closet. Resolving he might need it, he grabbed it and left his room to meet up with Julia in the kitchen. She had found his hockey bag and upturned the contents on the floor. She had taken all of the canned goods she could find along with the extra jug of water from the pantry and stuffed them in the bag.
“What’s in the case?” she asked as she bent down and hefted the large bag of supplies while her paramedic pack was strapped firmly to her back.
“It’s my compound bow and hunting arrows. I haven’t used it in a long time, but it’s the only thing I have besides my kitchen knife.”
“It’s better than nothing” she said as she moved to the door of his apartment. She set the bag down and crept out into the hallway. Garrick set down his bow case and followed her, making sure to make as little noise as possible. She leaned against the wall opposite his door and held her breath listening for a few seconds. Not hearing anything she put her fingers to her mouth and let out a long, frighteningly loud whistle.
“What the fuck are you doing?!” Garrick whispered at Julia as he started backing into his apartment. There was a response whistle and Julia looked at him with a smile on her face.
“What’s the matter? I had to see if anyone was left in the building. Let’s go” she said as she moved into his apartment and picked up the bag of supplies again.
“How did you know that there weren’t more of them?” he asked as they made their way down the dark hallway towards the staircase past other blown open apartments while the bodies of his friends and neighbours littered the ground.
“I listened and didn’t hear anything. So I took the chance that they were gone or that the only two sent to clear the building were dead in your apartment.”
“That’s a pretty fucking big chance to take” Garrick growled under his breath.
“Zip it! I saved your ass! Don’t you forget that..”
“It’s all good. Now help me carry this down the stairs and out to our truck. I’m strong but bot that strong”. Garrick placed his bow case on top of the supply bag and grabbed the one end with his good arm. Down the stairs they went, stepping over chunks of concrete, unknown bodies and missing chunks of stairs. They didn’t find any familiar bodies until they got near the bottom of the stair case. As they rounded the last small flight of stairs to the exit door,Garrick noticed the stairs were covered in bodies not just the nameless people on the street or farther up the stairwell, Garrick knew these people.
The entire Gonzalez family, that Garrick had dinner with on occasion, was at the base of the stairs by the door, Janet and David Thomas who hosted the building’s wine nights were between Jason and Tyler who lived the floor above Garrick, all of whom were halfway up the stairs their survival bags still clutched in their hands. The thing that hit Garrick the most was James Victor and his daughter Stacey who had been killed at the top of the final staircase as they tried to run back up to safety.
Garrick sank to his knees on the landing as he looked down at Stacey’s face. There was no pain in her motionless visage. If anything, she looked like she had been sleeping when she had passed. No pain, just a peaceful passing. The drying blood clotting in her auburn air, and the red stains on the back of her tanned neck and between her should blades showed it had been anything but a peaceful death.
“Is this your sister?” Julia asked as she moved over behind Garrick lowering herself to her knees and putting her hand on his right shoulder in an attempt to provide some comfort to him.
“No, this isn’t Kaylie, this is Stacey Victor. She lived with her dad James two apartments down from me. She was accepted to Stanford Medical School in the fall. I helped her study for the SATs… She was so excited to go…” Garrick whispered as he reached down to move a strand of Stacey’s hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear. As he brought his hand back he noticed it was covered in blood and wiped it on his shirt, leaving large crimson streaks down his front. ” I knew all of these people” he said as he looked about the massacre in the stairwell. ” What purpose does gunning down innocent people have?” he asked the anger rising in his voice.
“I don’t know what they are or why they did this. But I do know that you can’t help these people anymore, they’re gone. There are people waiting outside who do need our help and who are in very real danger right now, so we need to go” Julia said as she stood up removing her hand from his shoulder.
“How can you be so callous?” he snapped, tears welling up in his eyes.
“You can’t save everyone Garrick. sometimes you can do everything right and it doesn’t matter, you lose someone. That’s just how it is. So you concentrate on the people you can save, the people you can help, and you mourn those you lost.” Garrick sat unmoving staring down at Stacey’s body and slowly panning his vision to look at the rest of his neighbours and friends who lay dead around him. He took mental snapshots of each person so he would be able to remember them and the times they shared; the new tenant mixer that Janet Thomas had thrown when he had moved in, helping Stacey with the SATs, Cinqo de Mayo with the Gonzalezes and Tyler’s 22nd birthday, all great memories that he could recall to bring a smile to his face. A lasting memory for these people he had grown to regard as a surrogate family. He stood up, taking his pack off and started his work. He began moving their bodies very carefully to the sides of the staircase, taking care not to cause any further harm to them. Eventually there was a small path he and Julia could walk down to get to the door.
Wordlessly, he walked up the path and grabbed his pack, he adjusted his bow case on top of the supply bag, moving it to the center of the bag, that he had discarded so he could move his fallen friends. Julia moved beside the supply bag and together they lifted the bag and made their way down through the veritable honour guard of Garrick’s fallen neighbours. Julia put her shoulder to the door and pushed with all her might. There was a loud scraping sound as the door swung open and blinding light filled the small space.