I’m lacing up my shoes to get myself ready to move again, when I hear a faint buzzing sound coming from above me. I look up and see a silver orb flying overhead.
Oh no, I think to myself. Here I am, the person somehow lucky enough to avoid being seen by an entire fleet of tanks, only to get caught by a solitary drone.
I stare at the drone briefly. Frozen in space. Not sure what to do. It has obviously spotted me, but does that mean it’s too late to run?
Something falls from the drone and it takes off higher into the morning sky.
I bend over to pick up the small white item which landed near my feet.
I hear the faint sounds of a guitar and drums.
Jack and Diane by John Mellencamp.
The back of a golf cart isn’t exactly the most comfortable place I’ve ever slept, but with how little rest I’ve been getting, coupled with how little food I’ve eaten lately, I’ll be honest, it didn’t take long for me to pass out. And I passed out hard.
I’m guessing it took a lot more effort to wake me than it took for me to fall asleep, based on the look on Eve’s face when I finally succumb to her shaking and whisper-yelling, “Wake up already!”
“What?” I ask, feeling groggy, but somewhat refreshed. I hear my stomach grumble.
“We’ve got to move,” The Geek says from Eve’s side.
“I thought that’s what we were doing,” I say, realizing the golf cart isn’t moving and the sky is beginning to brighten.
“We were, but the cart’s out of power, we’ve still got about seven miles to home, and we noticed a few helicopters flying overhead just a couple minutes ago,” The Geek explains.
“So, what?” I ask. “Just because helicopters are flying around doesn’t mean it has anything to do with us. There are a whole bunch of reasons they could be out and about, what with the destruction of the federal government and everything.”
“While that might be true,” Grant growls. “Whoever is controlling those things is someone with power. And everyone with power wants a piece of you. Even if they’re not out specifically looking for you, you can bet they’ll be on the phone calling someone if they happen to spot you.”
“Alright, alright. Fine. I’m up.”
“Good,” The Geek says, clapping his hands. “Now, we’ve just got to head northwest, almost exactly. I estimate it will take us about an hour and a half, which, if we’re lucky, should get us home early enough that we won’t be easy to spot from the sky. But we’ll still want to stick to as much covered space as we can find.”
“You know this isn’t the first time I’ve been on a run, right?” I ask The Geek.
“Just making sure we’re all on the same page,” The Geek retorts.
“Where are we anyways?” I ask, noticing there is very little civilization visible for this to be my home town. I see trees, a large mound of recently dug up sand, and a couple of run-down buildings. But outside of that, nothing. This looks more like something I’d find in the mountains than in the middle of LA.
“North of Griffith Park. This used to be a zoo. There’s plenty of tree cover here, which makes it perfect for us. Those trees right there are what is going to keep us from getting spotted the next time those helicopters fly by. Everyone ready to go?”
“Let’s do it,” Eve replies excitedly.
“Okay, this way,” he says, walking down the broken concrete pathway.
I remember The Geek finding this old movie once about a theme park with real honest to goodness dinosaurs. It was out in the jungle or something with these gigantic trees everywhere. If it weren’t for the obnoxiously oversized electric fences everywhere, you never would have thought much about where you were. Well, the fences, but also the loud roars of the enormous dinosaurs everywhere. Oh, and, I guess the actual seeing of the dinosaurs might have tipped you off as well. Anyways, this place reminds me a lot of that movie. Large overgrown palm trees cover most of the paths. Although the sky is getting brighter, it’s still pretty darn dark in here. And the road stretches on for forever.
I’ll tell you one thing, if I hear a growl, I’m running and not looking back. I don’t care if the dinosaurs get The Geek.
“Hey, Cyrus, you remember that movie—“ The Geek begins.
“Yeah, um, yeah. Let’s not talk about that.”
“What movie?” Eve asks.
“You don’t want to know,” I answer.
“It was a good movie though. It—“
“Nope,” I cut him off again. “It’s creepy enough in here already. I don’t need you reminding me of all the specifics.”
Many of the fences are in severe disrepair. So, you know, if dinosaurs were in here, they would be on the loose. But, seeing as these fences aren’t any taller than me, I guess I can rest assured that they would at least only be the smaller types.
Now that I think about it, weren’t the smaller ones the ones who caused all the trouble?
We reach a fork in the road. One path goes left and one goes right, you know, like most forks in the road. My brother, however, decides to climb the fence directly in front of us.
“Can’t we go a different way, little brother?” I ask him.
“You sure seem on edge, Cyrus,” Grant says.
“Yeah, he’s kind of scared of everything,” Eve chuckles.
“I’m just saying, if this place was once a zoo, these fences were here for a reason. What if there’s a tiger or something running around back here?”
“The zoo wasn’t closed because everyone died, Cyrus,” The Geek reminds me. “I’m sure just like every other form of leisure, it was shut down by the government and all their valuables were sold off to the highest bidder. Besides, this place has been closed for over a decade. There’s very little chance anything could have survived that long without food or water.”
“What if we’re the food?” I ask him.
“Now you’re just getting ridiculous,” Eve says, jumping the fence after The Geek. Grant follows.
They all walk off into the distance, leaving me behind.
I know I’m being silly, but something about this place just gives me the creeps. That being said, I’d also much rather not be out here by myself.
“Sheesh, alright already,” I say, running to the fence. “I’m coming. Are you happy?”
They don’t answer.
They better be happy.
A few feet in and there’s another, taller fence to climb, which causes The Geek a bit of trouble, but we’re over in no time. I can’t say it makes me feel any more comfortable that there are two fences guarding whatever was supposed to be back here, but the signs of human life here help ease my fears. There’s a big building, several trailers, and a whole bunch of cars, not to mention dumpsters and garbage everywhere.
“Look out, Cyrus!” The Geek shouts as a rabbit runs out from under some nearby brush. He and the rest of them laugh.
It really wasn’t that funny.
After about twenty feet, all of the human structures disappear and we’re in the hills, with nothing but a few trees covering our heads. There’s an old unused dirt road zigzagging up the hills. The Geek chooses to ignore the well-packed road and takes us up the hill in a straight line.
About halfway to the top, we come across an old shack. It looks like someone might still be living here, based on the smoke coming out of the smokestack on top, but they’re not outside. We all instinctually move extra quietly as we pass.
When we reach the top of the hill, I’m able to spot the good old Verdugo Mountains off in the distance. And laid out below us is the majestic sprawl I call home. Burbank.
“We made it back,” I say under my breath.
The Geek, hearing me, smiles, puts his arm around my waist, and says, “Who’d have thought you’d make it round trip on this one, bro?”
“Are you saying you didn’t believe in me?” I feign annoyance.
“Hey, of course I believed in you. But you have to admit, the odds were stacked against us.”
“Don’t celebrate too quickly,” Grant warns. He points off into the distance where a large cloud of smoke covers the western half of Burbank. “I don’t suppose you guys live over there, do you?”
Go to Chapter Twenty-Five