After the war all signs of vibrancy were gone.
We went, my friend and I, to the old mall where once we’d spent many a lazy, pointless morning. It had been a tribal rite of sorts, the meetings in the mall. We’d shopped sometimes, sometimes drank coffee, and more often than not spent what felt like endless hours in the games room, pretending to be soldiers in some futuristic war. But nothing’s endless, not really, except the end.
The war came, not so futuristic, and so much more terrible. And we were solders for a time. And we survived, he and I. Just like we won the games, over and over, and maybe because of it. I guess we will never know.
Now when we visit, the lights are out, and all is wreckage. Even if the games room still functioned – and nothing does, not any more – we would not have the heart to play. We wander in the fall out, shaking our heads, no words to say. We sit by the escalator, build a small fire, warm ourselves and dip our cigarettes to the flame to smoke.
You weren’t allowed to smoke in here before. Now there are no more rules. There’s no more of anything, not really.
We’ll have to go out and hunt soon for food. But we both know it’s a fruitless quest, a pretence we have that there is a future, for us, for anyone. We haven’t eaten in days. This little fire won’t heat the cold and hunger within.
“Twenty days and counting,” my friend counted.
Twenty days since we made it back home, and found a ghost town- nothing more. What had we been fighting for? And what cruel god had let us survive, when so few did?
I shook my head. “Here’s to twenty more” I said, but I didn’t mean it.
“We won’t last that long,” my friend mused, but not unhappily. Like me, he yearned for the freedom that others had gained in death. Starvation in a ghost town is a particularly cruel way to go.
“Here’s to that, then” I said. “Here’s to that.”
(c) Helen M Valentina 2017