The rain was still gently pattering against the shattered windowpane. It had been three days. Three days since life as he knew it had been obliterated completely. Three days since the hurricane struck. They said it had been a record intensity, a category 5. This hadn’t meant much to the residents in his small suburban town. All this talk about storm front, high and low pressure winds, it meant nothing to him. They had been told they should evacuate the area. No one really listened, maybe six or seven families. Most people around here didn’t have the money to just move, their house was their only material possession. No one knew exactly how devastating the storm would be.
He awoke in a daze, and began to take stock of his surroundings. As he scanned the area, he realized that it was an abandoned house. Yet it hardly resembled a typical household. From his vantage point, he could see that a whole wall had been torn out; only the skeleton of the house remained, with one shattered window. He tried to turn around, and then realized he couldn’t. Looking down, he realized he was pinned under a massive section of his roof. That was when he started feeling the pain. It came in waves, almost unbearable pangs that sucked the life out of him. He tried to wiggle his way out, but he realized that he was completely pinned. He surmised that he had two broken legs, with massive arterial damage to his legs. He would likely need a blood transfusion, and possibly a double amputation. For some reason, he was calm. Maybe it was because he knew he wouldn’t make it out alive, and there was no use in trying. He made himself comfortable, and fell asleep.
“ Hey man, how much longer ‘till we find some freaking food?”
Travis and his friend Max had been walking for a day now. They weren’t even supposed to be here. They had been driving Travis’s Porsche to a party when the wind started blowing uncontrollably. Luckily, they had not been hurt or killed, but right now, Travis wouldn’t have minded being dead right now. He had a massive cut on his arm, and had lost a sufficient amount of blood. Maybe too much blood. He shuddered at the thought. Then again, he couldn’t die; he was only seventeen, with a whole lifetime ahead of him. He had been accepted at Notre Dame University on a full ride football scholarship. What if he could never throw a ball again? His dad would kill him.
“Did you hear me T-Man, when the hell do we get some grub?”
“Listen Max, I have no idea. In case you didn’t notice, this place is a disaster area. We might never find food. Now shut up for a while.”
Travis had been friends with Max since they were four. He never knew why he was a friend with him, but Max liked him, and craved attention. Travis just didn’t have the heart to tell Max what a jerk he was. So he just endured all of Max’s annoying habits, like spitting too much, swearing a lot, and just plain being ignorant.
“Well, I’m starving!”
Just as Max spoke, Travis heard a groaning noise. It was coming from a wrecked house, just twenty yards away. Ignoring Max, Travis hesitantly creeped towards the sound.
“Is there food over there Travis?”
“Shhh, there’s someone here.”
“Is it food?”
“Max, think, there’s someone in there that needs our help!”
“Well, I’m not helping him, I’ll leave him to die while I find some grub.”
And as quick as that, Travis and Max went their separate ways. Travis shivered as he inched towards the source of the sound, an abandoned house.
He awoke with a start, only to realize where he was. Still pinned. But something was different. As he glanced around, he saw a young, muscular teenager approaching him. Did the boy see him? Did he care? He worried that the boy was just passing through, or only coming around to search his pockets. But as he got closer, he slowed down and looked him in the eyes.
“My name is Travis, who are you?”
The man looked like a nightmare. He had probably been there since the beginning of the storm. A giant piece of the roof had fallen on him and completely crushed his legs. He looked pale and weakened, and Travis couldn’t imagine this guy ever living past a couple of days.
“ Hello Travis, what do you want with me?”
Travis looked down again, and noticed the man was glaring at him apprehensively.
“Well, I just realized, um, well, I heard you groaning, and I thought you could use some help.”
“ Well, unless those arms of yours could lift this here boulder off me, I doubt it. You can be on your way now.”
But Travis didn’t leave. He found a comfortable enough area of wreckage, and plopped himself down there exhaustedly.
It had been two days since Travis had found the man, and he still hadn’t muttered a word, except to wake him up to tell him to stop snoring. He didn’t know why he stayed with the man, but he felt like it was his duty to watch over him. He had been sitting there for a while, when the man spoke
“Tell me about yourself.”
It was the first thing the man had said that hadn’t been malicious, and it caught Travis by surprise.
“Um, excuse me?”
“I said talk to me.”
“Well, ok, what do you want to know?”
“Anything, just talk.”
“Ok, well, I was born in 1989 in Jacksonville, Tennessee. I have one brother, and my parents are divorced.”
The man interrupted “Why are they divorced?”
Travis continued, “I don’t know, it happened when I was eight. I don’t blame my mom though, my dad can be overbearing at best, just a plain jerk at worst. He’s a huge football fanatic, and he always forces me to play, every year.”
“Do you like to play?” responded the old man.
“I guess, but not as much as he does. He played in college, but suffered a career ending injury a week before he would have been drafted. Maybe that is why he’s so bitter. I think that watching me play reminds him of what could have been. He’s more intense than both of my coaches, and all he cares about is how well I did, not even if the team won.”
“ Then why don’t you quit?”
“Yeah right, my dad would kill me! The only time I ever see him is at football games. He doesn’t even talk to me if I have a bad game. I can never talk to him about stuff like girls, school, friends, only how many yards LT gained last week. If I even try to talk about anything else, he either ignores me, or somehow brings it back to sports. He makes me sick sometimes, it’s like he only cares about football, like it’s the only thing that keeps him alive.”
“Well, maybe it is, maybe that’s his one link to what could have been. Maybe he would be a completely different person if he had the opportunity to play at a professional level. Maybe he’s too caught up in the past to worry about the present. I’m sure your dad loves you more than you think, and he would respect your decision if you decided to stop playing football.”
“Yeah, maybe. But maybe…”
But it was too late, the man had already drifted off to sleep.
Travis awoke to the sound of bicycle wheels. When he looked up, he saw two men riding by, while a third dragged behind them, the two men dragging him along. He had seen a lot of strange things in the last week. Many people hopelessly hauled their loved ones through the streets, looking for refuge, while even more ran wild in the streets, stealing anything they could find, killing anyone that got in their way. This is what mankind reverted to when there is no technology or government to help. The primitive mindset of the masses outside the house where Travis and the man stayed sickened Travis. If everyone just worked together to help each other, then they might be able to survive, but the thieves running in the streets just compounded the problem. Disgusted, Travis again fell into a troubled sleep.
“Wake up boy, I want to talk”
“Travis shifted uncomfortably on his rock, and sat up. Hunger ate away at his stomach.
“Well, what do you want to talk about?” grumbled Travis.
“Ok then, go ahead.”
“I was born in 1964, in the Bronx. As a child, I was beat often, both by my dad, and my peers. I was the only white kid that went to my school, and every day people let me know about it. My mom had polio, and my dad was a garbage collector. He left when I was twelve, and I dropped out of school to work, so I could live with my mom. I did every odd job I could find, and scraped up just enough money to get my mom and me by. When I was eighteen, I joined the army. It wasn’t my choice, I did it to stay out of jail. You see, to make ends meet, I had done some bad things, selling drugs and the like. Well, when I got caught and the judge heard my story, he felt sorry for me and sent me to a correctional institution instead of the penitentiary. To get out of that hellhole, I had to sign up for the army. Overall, it wasn’t a bad experience, it taught me discipline, gave me direction in life. I was honorably discharged in 1994, and I have lived down here ever since.
“Doing what?” Asked Travis.
“Well, not much of anything really, I’m what people commonly call, a hobo.”
“A hobo! Are you kidding me! You’ve been telling me what to do with my life, and you’re a failure at yours! I can’t believe I’ve been talking to a freaking failure all this time!”
“Now you better listen son. I’m perfectly content with my life right now. I kept my mother and me afloat, served my country as a paramedic in the US Army, and now I’m just ready to settle down. I didn’t have an immaculate record, and any job that was offered to me, I knew I couldn’t do the world a service. So, I lived on the streets, and gave my two cents to any fool who would listen. You tell me what you have done with your life Travis, tell me!”
Travis struggled for an answer, than upon realizing he had none, tried to change the subject.
“If you were a paramedic, then how come you couldn’t find work back home?”
“Well, fine. I wasn’t exactly honorably discharged, I was forced out. I ran out into the middle of a battle to try and tried to save a dying man. Three men ran after me, and they were all shot down. The army thought I was too dangerous to have me around, I was too impulsive, so the kicked me out and blacklisted me.”
“Oh.” Travis muttered sheepishly, then remained quiet until the man once again fell asleep.
This time Travis woke up to a different sound. It was very loud, like a tornado. He looked up, and spotted a helicopter directly above them. He got up with a start, and started signaling wildly to the chopper. It must have noticed them, because they dropped a small wooden ladder down to them. A voice spoke over a mega phone.
“Are you injured?” The man said.
“Not too bad, but my friend down here is, he’s pinned under a part of the roof.
The paramedics swiftly descended the ladder and began attending to the man.
“He’s not going to make it.” One paramedic exclaimed grimly.
“Isn’t there anything you can do for him?” stammered Travis frantically.
“Not unless we can get a Jaws of Life in the next half hour, no.”
“Well, can I talk to him?”
“I guess so kid, but we better get that nasty scrape on your arm attended to.”
Travis hadn’t even noticed the pain that had been lingering in his right arm. Suddenly he felt uncontrollably weak, and he could barely stand, but he had to ask the man one more question.
“Hey kid, how’s it going?”
“I’ve been better, but I can’t complain after seeing your state.”
The man attempted a laugh, but it turned into a pathetic gasping wheeze.
“I got to know one more thing, what is your name?”
But before the man could answer, the man had breathed his last breath, and was gone forever.