SANCTUARY

Part One

  I walk. I walk until I find someone. Anyone. I can't be the only one left. It's too déjà-vu. You know what I mean: the One in fantasy books or science fiction movies, or superheroes in comic books. I can't be. This is really not an imaginary world. Because if it was, I'd be wearing awesome black clothes and high-heeled boots and I'd have a gun and I'd know how to use it and I'd be with some mysterious sexy dark-haired boy to protect me and fall in love with me at the end. But I'm not. I'm on my own and I'm walking. Just walking.

  I can't explain what happened really, it's like my memories have been erased. Well only the part between boring day life and this apocalyptic universe. Actually, I'm not sure where I am. There are no more buildings around. It feels like I'm in the middle of a troublous ocean of tar. It is kind of creepy. But the creepiest things are all the lifeless bodies. I have to concentrate really hard so I don't throw up and cry. It's difficult. That's what I did the first days after I woke up. I just cried, curled up in a ball, waiting for someone to find me and tell me it was okay... but it did not happened.

  I don't know why I'm still alive. I don't think I believe in God but right now if he exists I wanna know why I'm still here. Just so he knows I'm not okay with being in his personal reality show.

 

  I can't tell how long I've been awake. I have lost track of time. But if I look at the sun, I can tell it's probably around noon now. The sun isn't very visible because of those huge clouds. Dark clouds. But not full of rain. Unfortunately. It's been a long time since I haven't taken a shower. What remain of my clothes is completely shredded and filthy. I did my best to remain clothed as much as possible. I ripped my jeans to turn them into shorts and my tee-shirt successfully covers my breast. That's the important. About my hair... until I find something to cut it, I have to deal with it. It's a bit burned at the tips. I don't know how it happened.

  I look around me trying to find something telling me where I am but I don't recognize anything. The last thing I remember is that I was in my parents' car and I was driving them to the airport. They were going on holidays, just the two of them. For their twentieth wedding anniversary. I saw them when I woke up. I was still in the car, in the middle of other crashed cars. My parents were a bit further. They were dead. Burned. I don't understand why I survived but not them. This isn't fair. I seem quite calm now but I wasn't back then. I screamed so hard... I was so desperate. The second thought I got was about my sister. My little sister. She wasn't with us, she was in school. I have no news. Of course. I don't know what happened to her. I know there's little chance that she's still alive but I don't wanna stop hoping. When I'll find exactly where I am, I'll go find her, at her school. She can't be dead. She's just sixteen.

 

  I'm lost in my thoughts when a low and masculine voice calls me. I turn my head to the sound and wipe the tears off my cheeks. I look around, searching for the voice. Someone may be alive like me and needs my help.

  "Excuse me, young lady? I'm up here."

  I look up and see a man, about fifty. He is lying, up on one arm and looking down at me from the second floor of an old building that has no walls anymore.

  "Oh, hello. Do you... do you need help?" This is weird.

  "A little company would be welcome. There is still some kind of stairs just there if you want to join me up here."

  The man seems nice, I think. If we were in a normal day, in an overcrowded place, I would gladly have a nice conversation with this old man, but we are in an apocalyptic situation. Anything can happen.

  "Don't be afraid, young lady. l won't do anything to you. I lost my legs, I can't move. But if you prefer to stay down there, I totally understand. This is a very unusual situation. Oh, I lost my courtesy. My name is Jonathan Wright."

  He takes off his hat - that he succeeded in keeping even with the apocalypse. I don't know what to do. I really don't know. He doesn't seem dangerous.

  "Err... my name is Tonie. I'm... err... wait, I..."

  I walk inside of what was a huge building and find the shaky stairs. Carefully, I climb the steps and see the man. He wasn't lying, he did lose his legs. I walk carefully toward him. When he sees me, a smile spreads across his face.

  "Nice to meet you Tonie. It is an interesting name you have here. Is it a diminutive? Sorry I'm not getting up to salute you properly. As you see, I have lost this ability."

  He seems so calm and serene. It's obvious his legs were cut during the apocalyptic thing, the wounds are still quite red. But he is smiling, he seems happy?

  I sit next to him. "Yes, it's the diminutive of Antonina... Are you, are you okay, sir?"

  "Oh please, call me Jonathan. Antonina is a very beautiful name. And I'm fine thank you."

  I'm lost. Seriously, this man is sick, crazy. He is happy while everything has been destroyed and everyone - almost - is dead.

  "You seem exhausted. Where are you from? Where were you when this happened?"

  "I don't know. I was in my parents' car, driving to the airport. But l don't recognize anything."

  Jonathan is still smiling even if it faded a bit when I talked about my parents. It's not hard to conclude they're dead.

  "I'm sorry, Antonina."

  I don't look at him. Because l don't want to see the pity in his eyes and also because his legs - well what remains of them - are quite unbearable.

  I am going to ask in which part of London we are when a loud and dull thunder, closely followed by some cursing, echoes. I jump a little by surprise and get up, turning to the stairs. A man appears, carrying car wheels.

  "John! I found wheels the same height but not too high so I can try to build you a wheelchair... who's that?"

  The newcomer stops walking and looks at me with round suspicious eyes. Logical. I look at him, just the same. He is tall, about two heads more than me. He is probably in his thirties or something like that. He has honey-colored hair and contrary to mine, his is short. I'm still staring when Jonathan speaks.

  "Antonina, please meet Richard. Richard, this is Antonina. I saw her in the street so I invited her to keep me company. Be nice to her."

  I'm not surprised by his last sentence. This guy looks like Rambo. Except he's blonde. He's wearing military clothes which are completely ripped. And the headband, seriously. He doesn't even have hair to put away from his face. I look at him, waiting for him to say something. But his eyes are stuck on my breasts. Obviously.

  "Hello, Richard. My eyes are up here."

  He raises his head and doesn't even seem embarrassed. He comes to me and reaches out to me. "Rick."

  I take his hand and shake it lightly. "Tonie."

  That's all he said. I look at him while he goes back to his wheels. I turn my head to Jonathan who is shaking his from left to right with a disillusioned expression, his black hair stroking his cheeks.

  "He is a weird guy but he is kind, don't worry. He found me when my legs were still under a part of what was the third floor. He helped me out."

 

  I sit back next to Jonathan and keep an eye on Rick. So I'm sure it's not some kind of trap. I replace a lock of hair behind my ear. It feels so disgusting; I haven't washed it for so long... I need to cut it. As soon as possible.

  "Jonathan... in which part of London are we?"

  "We are on Dodson Street, next to Waterloo Road. The London Bridge isn't that far, this way. And Big Ben's the other way."

  Jonathan points outside the "building" to famous monuments. But there are probably just memories now. I think for a minute, if he's making sense. Yes, he is. My parents lived on the other side of town from London airport and we had just left home when the apocalypse happened. As I don't answer, Jonathan puts his hand on my shoulder.

  "Are you okay, Antonina? You are far away from home."

  I let out a long sigh. "I'm okay. I just don't understand."

  "There is nothing to understand. It's the end of our world. The most important thing now is surviving as long as we can."

  I turn my head toward Rick. He just says that. Not surprising. He looks like he has waited for this his whole life. This guy disgusts me. I don't know him, and I don't want to.

  I watch outside the building. Because there is no more structure around, we can see far away. So far away.

  "I don't see the point of surviving if we're all gonna die."

  "We are not going to die, Antonina. We have to be positive. I am pretty sure we are not the only ones outside. If we are still alive, it's because we have a mission. We have to rebuild society. To make it good. Better than it was. Humanity has to prevail. We have to stay human."

 

  I think for a minute about what Jonathan just said. He is probably right. We were chosen to rebuild a new world. But what Rick said is quite eloquent too. We are surely all gonna die. I take a look at Rick, still working on that wheelchair, and then ask.

  "What were you planning to do?"

  "Richard has a plan, but he doesn't want to talk about it. Do you want to join us, Antonina? It'll be good for us to have the company of a woman to make the atmosphere a little bit more pleasant."

  I don't know if this is a good idea, but at this instant, as I watch the crashed environment, I'm convinced I'm going to die. And l don't want to die alone. I look at Rick, who hasn't said anything about me joining them, and then I look at Jonathan with a smile. "I'd love to."

  "Great!" That was Rick. And that was sarcasm. But I don't care.

  "Don't listen to him, Antonina. He is grumpy today. Oh, tell me. I haven't asked. When did you wake up? You could help us find what day it is."

  "Sorry, I don't know when we are. I... I think I've woken up two or three days ago but I don't know how long I've been... sleeping."

  Said this way, it's kinda weird. I was sleeping. During all this destruction, I was just sleeping. It feels unbelievable. I watch the greyish sky with the sound of Rick tangling with his wheels.

  "Done!"