Authors: B.J. Knights
Tags: #Science Fiction, #post-apocalyptic, #Literature & Fiction, #Dystopian, #Science Fiction & Fantasy
Table of Contents
A Kid Named Brian
Something was happening, though Brian didn't really know what. To some people it didn't seem that anything was out of the ordinary, and if so, it seemed purely cyclical. The way statistics raise and fall each year, making news along the way. The way the stock market fluctuates—down one hundred points one day, up fifty the next. But this time, to those who were paying attention, nothing seemed like it was getting better. In fact, in the U.S., and all over the world, for that matter, things were just getting worse and worse with no end in sight.
Brian never paid attention to any of this, but he often heard his parents talking endlessly about it. Their conversations incredibly bored him. As the family drove out to eat—Brian in the back seat with his younger sister, Kiya—his mother and stepfather would talk and talk. He knew exactly when they were talking about adult things because they would tune everything out but themselves. The words they used sounded to him like static. He knew that it was talk about “politics,” which to Brian was something that adults talked about because they were old and lame. Brian and his sister couldn't get their attention even if they grew wings and flew out the car window. Sometimes he would throw his arms up in frustration and say, “You guys are so boring!”
But his groans fell on deaf ears as his mother spoke a mile a minute while his stepfather, at the wheel, tried to get a word in, succeeding only intermittently. “I'm not leaving the country!” he would shout.
“You think that I
to leave?” she asked. Then there would be an argument and Brian wished he could just block out all the noise and have his parents act normal again. They had been acting like this throughout the entire summer. Now here it was, fall, and they could not have been more distant. None of this greatly bothered Brian because he had his own problems to worry about. The school year had recently started and with it came the first year of high school. His younger sister, Kiya, had just entered the sixth grade, attending the same middle school as he. Brian was glad to leave Sun Crest Middle School before his sister got there because he thought she was a big baby, maybe even a dork. However, he soon realized that as a ninth grader in a new school, he was actually the dork.
The first things Brian learned about high school were that the school was bigger, the kids were older, the girls were meaner, the work was harder, and a lot of his friends had changed, joining other cliques. He understood the necessity to attach yourself to different cliques in high school, because you had only a bare minimum amount of time to announce your social standing and be marked forever. But it still hurt his feelings when people he thought were his friends shunned him during lunch time or between class periods. One loyal friend he made in the sixth grade, Tobias, had stuck by his side to this point, which was relieving. As excited as he was to have started high school, Brian soon learned that the beginning of the school year would be as dreadful as when he started middle school.
Back then, Brian's family had just relocated to a suburb in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The move was sudden and shocking. Brian had already made bonds and friendships in elementary school. He even kissed a girl on the playground in fifth grade. Her name was Sarah, the very same girl he liked since the third grade, but was always too terrified to ever say. One time, in fourth grade, Brian was hanging around with a group of boys on the playground as they were talking about how much they hated girls. Sean Richards, a kid who liked skateboarding, looked right at Brian, as to tease him, and said, “Brian wants to marry Sarah because he's a big doofus just like her. I'll bet their kids will be stupid and ugly!” Brian panicked because he had never made any indication of this to anyone. He knew he had to distance himself from the claim.
“You're full of it. I can't stand Sarah!” he stated boldly.
“That’s ‘cause she’s a pig,” Sean Richards shouted. All the boys laughed. An improvised chant grew from their within their circle “
Sarah is a pig, a big fat stupid pig
.” Although she wasn’t actually fat and she was hardly stupid. Their laughter could be heard from everywhere. Brian didn't join the chorus, but he knew he had to laugh along. He noticed Sarah from across the distance standing with a few girlfriends. They all looked shocked. Brian immediately stopped laughing, but there was no taking anything back.
By fifth grade he had worked up to courage to talk to her on the very same playground. He told her that he was sorry. It seemed a perfect opportunity because no one was around. Naturally this emboldened Brian to go even further.
I'll tell her that I've had a crush on her since the third grade.
But he stumbled after the initial apology. When the words wouldn't come out, an awkward silence followed. Then Sarah leaned in close to him, talking almost secretively. “That's alright. I know boys can be mean, but you've always been nice.” She kissed him, a quick peck on the lips, and then turned and walked away. Brian stood there in shock as the class bell rang.
Chapter 2: Brian’s Family
All of this ended when Brian's mother re-married Randall, or Randy, as he would tell Brian to call him. He never once told him to call him dad and that was fine with Brian. The family moved from the familiar surroundings of Forest Park, Georgia—where Brian had been born and raised—to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Randy insisted on this move, and it seemed that what Randy said went.
Brian was used to a routine before Randy came along. It was Brian, his mother, Alice, and his sister. His parents had been divorced since Brian was five. He didn't know his father too well. His mother called his father a drunk. Someone who drank a lot. The kind of drinking that made you do stupid things. It may have been an issue that was always there, but for some reason, his father's problems surged after Kiya was born. Brian would receive letters from him from time to time. He was always in prison. The prison address changed every time Brian got a letter.
Once a promising student attending the University of Georgia for Business Administration, Brian's father succumbed to drugs, alcohol, chasing underage girls and a DUI accident that would be the beginning of the end. No one was killed, thankfully, but the property damage was excessive. Brian's father was wasted and plowed through a neighborhood house with a young girl from school in the passenger seat. All that damage, lawsuits, and medical bills soon followed, falling squarely in Alice’s lap.
He didn't remember seeing much of his father after they went to the hospital. His father lied there unconscious, a cast around every conceivable part of his body. The rhythmic beep of the ventilator and other machines echoed throughout the room. Alice, at the time, was an airline ticket agent. She became saddled with the enormous bills that followed. All the property damage, lawsuits, and medical bills fell squarely in her lap. Even after she officially signed the divorce papers and changed back to her maiden name the bills wouldn't stop coming in. Then came the unpaid student loans. Then came the airline layoffs. Then came the unemployment and odd jobs. Then a few years later, came Randall.
Randall worked for a government contractor where he manufactured parts in a warehouse. This seemed to be a good gig, and certainly more stable than anything Alice had going on. But soon came the layoffs and then miraculously, Randall's new job manufacturing parts in Pittsburgh. The family promptly relocated without question.
“What about all my friends? “Brian asked his mother.
“You'll make new friends at a new school.” She answered, distracted as she carefully placed wrapped albums in a box.
“This is stupid, I don't want to go to Pittsburgh!” Brian shouted.
Alice looked up from the box, first with anger, then with calmness as she saw Brian's face stricken with confusion and hurt. Sometimes she forgot how much she expected from her children because it seemed that things had always been so hard for her. She wanted to them to be strong, but not emotionless, like she felt sometimes. She set some wrapped dishes aside then opened her arms to Brian. “Come here.”
Brian reluctantly staggered over to his mother as she wrapped her arms around him. He hadn't remembered when his mother had hugged him like this. It felt strange, but oddly comforting. For once he had all of her attention.
“I know I've been asking a lot from you and your sister lately. You have to understand that I love you both more than anything.”
“More than Randall?” Brain asked.
“Yes, even more than him,” she said.
“But I don't know anyone in Pittsburgh. Maybe dad lives in the area somewhere. I could stay with him,” Brian continued.
Alice knew it was a foolish idea, and even her son saying “dad” sparked anger within her. But he was just a child. And she always knew that she had to be delicate with the matter.
“I'm sorry, Brian, that is not going to happen.”
“Maybe in a few weeks he'll send a letter, maybe he's out of prison by now.”
“He's not the man I knew. He
still your father, but his is your family now. Someday, when he gets his act together things will be different. But for now, this is what we have.”
Brian knew that mentioning his father was a desperate attempt to try to take control of the situation. The timing of the move couldn't have been worse. It was the summer before the sixth grade. He had just got a kiss from Sarah. And when he would tell his mother
all my friends
he mainly meant
. He feared he may never see her again. He had to find out where she lived before they moved. He would go to her house, bang on the door and ask her to marry him. No, he thought, that was a stupid idea. He would ask her to be his girlfriend. No, that wasn't going to work either. While he listed his options he realized that all he really wanted to do was to ask her not to forget him. Before he could even put a plan in motion, they were on the road to Pittsburgh.
Chapter 3: Meeting Tobias
The first day of sixth grade for Brian was surreal as their new neighborhood. Everything looked nice on the outside. The air seemed fresher. It wasn't as hot as Georgia. People seemed friendly enough for being on the outskirts of the city. However, on the inside, Brian felt sick. He didn't belong here. Alienation seemed to follow him wherever he went. Not a single kid talked to him on the first day of school. There were also too many kids. The school was much bigger than what he was used to. Long hallways, bright lighting, kids immersed in their own worlds. The teachers were indifferent, but polite. The classrooms were in actual classrooms and not portable buildings. Brian was also trying to get used to the idea of having a locker, which was cool, but annoying at the same time. On the first day, he had gotten his locker assignment, but forgot to bring a lock. “No big deal,” he thought. But with each class period he was given some more books.
He had four different classes to attend and by the end of the day, it felt like twenty books. Though it wasn't actually twenty many books, they were certainly enough to fill his backpack and then some. As he walked down the hall after the final school bell, having not said a word to a student all day, he saw an oasis in the form of exit doors to the outside bus loop.