Returning Home

Returning Home

A Story by Mutley

A boy returns to his home after two years in a post-apocalyptic world.

The house protruded out of the earth like an ominous gravestone. Its windows were shattered, gaping eyeholes. The front door swung open and shut in the wind, coughing dust onto the cracked sidewalk.

With a shaky voice, Oliver spoke, “Do you think…?”

“We must look.” was the woman’s curt answer. Her name was Rose, as delicate as the thorns.

He nodded and gazed up at the dusty afternoon rays settling on the house. If it can still be called a house. He thought mournfully. Then Rose started up the brown lawn, and he followed.

As the dead grass crunched under his boots, memories flashed through his mind’s eye. A summer day, the sun a bright yellow, not like this orange inferno, the grass was green and wet with morning’s dew. His sister squealed with laughter as his father chased her across this very same lawn. His hair flew in the light breeze that lazily drudged over the land like an overweight bird gliding nowhere in particular, just satisfied. All he ever thought of was no homework, ice cream, and sunny summer days. Where have such days gone?

Rose paused at the swinging door. As it swung open, he could glimpse pieces of familiar furniture strewn in unfamiliar places. The banister of the stairs in pieces on the living room carpet, a leg of the dining room table dented by the swinging front door, his mother’s prized chandelier smashed into their TV, and he could see part of one couch upside-down in the living room doorway. A great fury had visited here, someone or something with an insatiable desire to destroy.

She turned back to him and put a hand on his shoulder, the most compassion he had ever seen her give. “Are you sure you want to go in?” she asked, “I could go alone.”

“No, I have to see this.”

“Very well.” She withdrew her hand from his shoulder. “Just stick close.”

Holding the door open, she advanced into the house. He could see even more of the wreckage appear over her shoulder as he followed. He had seen such devastation plenty of times before, but this time… this time it was real. This time the devastation was actual devastation, not the common landscape that had become of this land. This was a memory torn to shreds and left, with fresh, glistening wounds, to swelter in the undying sun. This was like the first few weeks, when he had yet to become familiar with the ruins; when, wherever he looked, he saw things destroyed. Now, he just saw things broken as they are, and as they will always be.

He had learned to control shock, however, and he did not make an audible gasp. Every new room brought a fresh venue of destruction, and a fresh wound to the heart. This was where his sister and he would brush their teeth every night. This was where his mother would cook a great big dinner every Sunday night. Memories passed through the crisscross of havoc like ghostly apparitions, moving about as if everything was back to how it should.

A creak and groan of the ceiling above sent Rose’s hand grasping for her holster. She had her pistol out in three seconds, and she scanned the room around them with it pointing wherever she looked as if it was a water hose that could wash evil from the room.

She nodded to the doorway they had come from, pointing the gun in the general direction. He understood, and retraced their steps until they reached the stairway again by the front door. He could see the footprints of some unknown boot in the dust that had settled on the wooden stairs. He thought for a moment that this must be what it feels like to be robbed. Then he realized he had already been robbed. He had been robbed of childhood, happiness, and a loving family. These footprints where probably of some innocent passerby who was hungry and desperate for survival. Laws regarding thievery no longer existed.

Then, she pushed his dazed body aside and began to ascend the steps, leaving her own set of stranger footsteps to the stairs like a visitor signing the guestbook, allowing her, like the others, to take what she pleased. He followed, slightly angry, but more frightful of what was to come.

At the top of the stairs, she swiveled the gun from one side of the hallway to the other, as if, once again, vanquishing evil from the dark crevices of the debris. Turning right, she slipped through the hallway silently and stealthily. Once she had reached the end of the hallway, she motioned for him to follow. He obeyed as she watched the hallway behind him with her pistol raised, waiting for movement.

She then began exploring the room closest, which must have been his parents’ bedroom. The bed frame was bare, no doubt picked cleaned by cold and desperate survivors. The dressers were thrown open and tipped over. She could see no clothing left in the gaping open drawers, every article of clothing was useful, all the way down to the skimpiest of panties.

She was investigating the corner behind one of the tipped over dressers when it suddenly occurred to her that Oliver was not behind her. Whipping her head around, she saw no sign of him in the darkening room. Not wanting to risk alerting any enemies, she silently crept back towards the doorway that lead into the hallway.

He was sitting in the dust and rubble of the room adjacent, clutching a battered stuffed animal, a dog missing an ear. His back was to her, but she could see the sobs shake his frame as he silently petted the soft material of the dog’s back. It struck her as odd, until she noticed the faded pink wallpaper and the small bed frame in the corner of the room. This was his sister’s room. That was his sister’s stuffed animal.

Sympathy overwhelmed her. It had only happened once before, when she found him cowering underneath a supermarket counter. Oliver was only 12 then, innocent to the chaos raging around him. He struck a soft spot within her, a spot she never knew she had. She took him with her, not able to leave him to die in the supermarket. Two years later and he still travels with her, learning and hardening with the toils of survival. But now, lying in the rubble of his sister’s bedroom, and holding the last memory of her he had, he was that twelve year old boy again, cowering and lost in the ruined world. Her heart sunk at the sight. She walked to him, sat down next to him, and wrapped her arm around his shoulders.

“This… this was her f-favorite.” He said through sobs. “She would never leave it… Why? She… she can’t be…”

“Shhh…” she whispered to him, tightening her hold on him. She wished she could tell him that his little sister was all right, that she was with their father in some shelter somewhere, safe from the death. But, she knew it could not be true, the odds of survival were slim.

As his sobs subsided finally, he fidgeted with the dog and his finger slipped into the ripped out hole where the ear once was. With a shock, he shoved another finger into the whole and then pulled out a tiny folded up piece of paper. His heart jumped with joy at the find.

“A message!” he almost shouted.

“Shhh! Read it.” She whispered. He unfolded the paper and with great delight found his father’s scrawling script addressing him:

Oliver, heading south to Whitewater Station. Tracy and your mother okay. Love, Dad.

He read at least five times, letting the short message sink in. Tracy was his little sister’s name. His worst fears were belayed, his family was okay. For the first time in a very long time, he smiled.

“What does it say?” Rose said, trying to read the message in his hand.

“We need to go to Whitewater Station.”

© 2011 Mutley

Author's Note

Excuse the abruptness of the ending, this sort of came out of nowhere, and I ended up writing it like a chapter in a book. I might continue it later if anyone really wants to read more....

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Added on March 21, 2011
Last Updated on March 21, 2011
Tags: post-apocalyptic, returning, home, boy, family



Chesterfield, VA

Hi, If you like my writing, want me to look at your writing, or just want to talk then don't be afraid to message me! I'm an aspiring writer. I mainly like to write fiction, but poetry is fun to w.. more..

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