by ANALICIA TORRES
The world is nothing.
Everything is gone and only ash remains. Embers smolder as they die, winds drag along the scent of smoke and death. And yet here I am– alive.
Blood pools around me in a crusted mold. How long have I been here? Where exactly is here?
An echoing snarl curdles from behind me, close enough so that it reaches my ears with crystal clear definition. Now there’s hurried footsteps and growls of animals readying to attack. I dare not to look at it. Instead I push myself off the ground and run the opposite direction, away from the voices. My legs shakily pump against the ground and drive me forward, but not far enough. Adrenaline runs in my veins, shutting out the pain in my side and the soreness of my body. I run faster.
The snarls quickly shift into dark raspy voices, cold with hunger. They scream at me, chittering catcalls and clicking their tongues. It’s the sickest game of cat-and-mouse. But I’m smaller than a mouse, and there are too many of them to be one cat. Along with sweat, tears slide off my face. I trip over a skeleton, falling onto the bones of another. The howls grow louder. I break off a rib, clutch it against my chest, and push off the ground to break into a run.
Hands shoot out and wrap around my ankles. I tumble forward, smacking against a stump of bricks from a destroyed building.
I’m going to die.
You know that feeling when you’re underwater and you’re completely oblivious to what’s above the surface? The world is muted, and you’re only aware of the rushing glimpses of sun poking through the ripples. But as you rise higher and higher towards air, the world slowly comes back to life. Sounds become muffled instead of silent, and voices become an incoherent rush of words. And the second you explode above the surface, a loud whine bounces inside your head, the sound of water leaving your ears, the feeling of something being drawn out. Right now, the world slurs, bodies lumber closer. Breathe, I tell myself. Over and over again I suck in air and let it out, until I’m almost dizzy with the lack of air to my brain. I reach to free my feet and freeze.
They aren’t hands clawing at my ankles. They are human teeth.