In the mists of memory

I was just a child when the world almost ended.  My recall of the events is fuzzy to say the least.  As the years pass, I find my memory wandering even more and I am not sure of what was real anymore.  So I am writing this down, somewhere private and hidden, so that if I start to forget, I can remind myself of how things are and of how they used to be.

In the early days, my parents had joined the streams of people heading south to the capital.  It was safe there, we had been told.  I remember very little of the journey other than a hunger that was never satisfied.  We ate at night, whatever we had carried with us, all the while surrounded by large groups of people for safety.  In the morning, some of those people were no longer there and we knew they had been taken.  My father told me that we should always be grateful that it happened to someone else and not us.  My mother stayed silent but I knew that she was horrified.

Arriving at the gates to the capital, the newly erected walls stretched to the sky, sealing the people off from the horror outside.  Days we queued to get inside.  Each and every person was checked for signs of infection before they were allowed inside.  Always a small group at a time, as if there was no rush.  I saw people go mad in that queue.  Fighting for scraps of food or position.  My father kept us safe though, his build giving the impression that he could handle himself.  Luckily nobody tested that theory.

Inside the city was in stark contrast to outside.  There was light everywhere, glinting off the shiny buildings and making everything feel familiar and safe.  I waited for my parents to get through the checkpoint, sitting in a waiting area with other children.  Friendships were made and lost as eventually we were re-united one by one with our families. I was one of the lucky ones, my parents got in.

Then we were allocated living quarters in the newly constructed part of the city.  My mother kept saying that the government must have known the disaster was coming.  How else would they have had all this ready, she whispered to my father.  The wall, the houses and the screening.  He just told her to accept it.  This was not the time for questions.  Conditions were basic but this was surely temporary.

It wasn’t.

As the years passed, I was moved to a more child friendly part of the city.  My parents were sad but strangely I felt excitement.  This was an adventure of the kind I used to read about while my parents went out to work.  I boarded the train, telling them that I would return soon with tales of my travels.  I waved once and then did not look back as the train pulled away.

I never saw them again.

My daily routine was established back then.  Rise from my bunk, eat the allocated food in a canteen with others of my age while the large Television showed what life was like outside the walls.  Packs of mutated beings, scavenging for scraps.  Killing any and everything they came across.  Occasionally our army would rescue survivors and we got to watch the whole operation live as we ate.

It never occurred to me then that the camera placement was a little bit too convenient.  You don’t.  It is far easier to believe what you see and hear.  The plague had made the rest of the country a wasteland and we were safe here.  Conditions were harsh in the city but the alternative was worse.

Of course I know different now.