By Kim Plyler
261 days since everything went to shit. Since the phones, Internet, all of communication
got lost. The world as we knew it is over. No government helicopters are coming to save
anyone. Our part of the country is completely cut off. Everyone is on there own. I’ve found
myself hiding out in the dugout of some MLB stadium. Even 261 days ago, I couldn’t have told you the team. I don’t care.
I know I’m the one they’re after. It was my fathers invention that started this. That
brought about the end of life as we know it. An accident. He didn’t mean for this to happen
when he set off the reactor. It was rigged. I was my fathers head assistant, privy to all his
research, findings, and work; it should have worked. Instead it set off a chain reaction that
wiped out half the United States.
A few days before that fateful night, he gave me a key. He told me it was for “if everything went wrong”. I didn’t know then what he meant. He seemed so unusually panicked.
I chalked it up to overwork, but now I think I know. Someone wanted this to happen, and this
key is a clue. And now, whoever those people are, they’re looking for me. They think I know
something that I don’t. I’ve noticed myself being watched when I go out for supplies. I have to figure this out.
I venture out of my dugout to lay in the stadium grass. I’ve set up all the proper precautions and feel safe in this space. No one is getting in. Think, just think. I’ve spent so long trying to survive, now I have to try to understand. Staring up at the blackened stadium lights, I wrack my brain of all the things this key could go to. What did my father keep locked? His gun safe. His office at work. Neither of these seem a logical place for holding a secret. The gun safe is an obvious no-go; my mother and younger brother also had access. And his office? His secretary, assistants, and partner all spent plenty of time in there. What else?
I’m looking back on all the times I spent with my father, trying, pleading with my memory to drudge up anything that could be helpful. These memories are tough; I know my father died that night. He was the one flipping the switch; when the reactor went off, he was taken out with it. I let myself cry for the first time in a long time. I’m remembering Sunday dinners with the family. My brothers’ soccer games, my ballet recitals. The small metal music box he gave me after my first one. The music box with a lock, which I’d lost the key for years ago. The key. Small, ornate, much like the one I’d been wearing around my neck for close to a year. I bolt upright in the neglected grass. Could it be? The answer to everything was in my
apartment the whole time.
My apartment. It’s about 15 miles from the stadium. I know that the majority of the
building is still standing. I had to leave it when I realized I was being watched. The music box
was there. If I could make it to it, maybe I could start to figure things out. It’s night now, should I go now, or wait until daytime when there are more people out? Tomorrow, I think to myself. There will be people on the streets, a distraction, I’ll be less conspicuous for me to be out of my camp. I take the night to gather my things; I doubt I’ll be back after tomorrow.
The morning comes. I eat the food I’ve rationed for myself, enough for my trek. Grab my
pack. I make my way out of the stadium cautiously. I know there are eyes on me. I make my
way through what’s left of the world. I act as nonchalant as possible; just another supply run.
From the corner of my eye I see the men tailing me. I duck into a shop that’s formed, trading
one thing for another. Before I can be followed, I dart out the back door. I’ve lost my followers.
At this point, I’m halfway to my apartment.
Keeping to the alleyways and looking over my shoulder, I make my way closer. My
apartment is just in front of me. I can see that it’s being guarded. I have to figure a way around these men. Staking out my home, I’ve learned there is a guard switch every few hours. I have to take advantage of that.
After a few hours, I hear the whistle blow. Now is my chance. No one is paying
attention. I’m able to make my way through the back door of my building. It’s crumbled all the way to my floor. I work my way into the shambles of my apartment. The music box was on a shelf in my bedroom. It’s destroyed; I can tell that it’s been ransacked on top of the explosion.
Digging through the rubble, I find the small metal box. I pull the key from my neck. It fits.