Godspeed By D.I. Jolly
“My father had always told me that, at some point during the apocalypse, you have to put on the shoes you are going to wear for the rest of your life. As a child, I’d never really understood it, maybe because I thought I’d live forever, or maybe because I couldn’t grasp the concept of an apocalypse. As I got older and suffered through a few life experiences my understanding grew. I think what he’d been trying to tell me was that some choices can’t be unmade. In the end, you have to make a choice and stick to it no matter what. So, when the day came where I had to flee my home and literally run for my life I paused for a moment while putting on my shoes and thought of my father. As the world around me literally exploded and builds came crashing down I couldn’t help but wonder if these would be the shoes I would wear for the rest of my life, and how long that might be. Of course, when a shell hit the building I was in and rock started to fall down around me I forgot all that, pulled on my shoes and ran with everybody else.
The war that had been raging for so long had finally left the newspapers and reached the border of my city. Even then it seemed unbelievable and although it wasn’t an apocalypse in the biblical sense it certainly felt like one to us. As my neighbours and I ran through the streets with our homes and favourite shops, restaurants and bars exploding around us, I think we all would have agreed that it was the end of the world. If we had the time to think of course, which we didn’t, we could only run. In hindsight, it was stranger than you’d think. In many ways, I felt more alive and more present than at any other time in my life. My thoughts were on the exact moment, every moment. My reactions were immediate to the world around me, and every time it changed I changed. It had to be that way, if you didn’t you died. And not slowly, not like life said you would be, where at the moment you stop changing to the world you begin to die. Not in a retirement home watching old television shows, talking about the days when the world made sense to you. You died right then, right at the moment, you didn’t change with the world. It was the entire of life condensed into a single moment, and every moment was another entire life.
We had been running towards a bunker that had been advertised on the news, but when we reached it, it was already gone, some stopped to scream and cry. We never saw them again. Other including myself simply kept running, aiming for the east side of the city, which happened to be across a river. No one thought of the bridge but anyone who’d lived in that city long enough had at some point swam that river. So that’s what we did. We dove into the water and swam across, and once there we kept going. By the time the explosions sounded more like thunder than death, I was surprised to discover that it had only been 25 minutes. We had as a group stopped to catch our breath and I managed to spot my building just before it collapsed, and I thought again about my shoes and my father. Then I turned towards the journey in front of me, to the only option anyone could think of. Keep running until we find the next place and hope the war hadn’t reached them and that there was enough civilisation there so that we could run further and faster. And so we did, we fled the city and kept going. Some stayed behind to try hiding, some spoke about fighting, some gave up along the way. But myself and a few others found good fortune in each other’s company and kept going until we reached the next city. At that point we had decided that whatever we did we did it together, and so we pooled what money we could get and bought a car, warning everyone we met about the incoming invasion and then left to continue running away.
And eventually, we ended up here.”
The man pointed at the small camp around him and smiled while the reported busily wrote down notes then she looked up at him gravely.
“So what do you plan to do from here?”
“We’ve heard that they are letting in refugees at the northern border and giving safe haven, that the counter attacks are finally working and there is hope the war will end soon. So we’re sticking to our plan and heading north. We … we are not the people who started this war, we don’t believe in it and we cannot end it, all we can do is run from it. It isn’t the noble choice but it’s the one that has kept us alive. And if there are no people left alive at the end, there will be no one to rebuild.”
His smiled turned distant for a second and then they heard the call of his friends to start getting ready.
“Just one more question if that’s ok.”
The reporter smiled and closed her noted book.
“Are you still wearing the same shoes?”