Life was simpler then. I lived in a quaint little house at the end of an innocent little culdesac right across from main street. Everything I could ever want was at the edge of my fingertips. Any food could be found at one of our three farms, fresh marts, or convenience stores. Any sports gear, such as footballs, basketballs, or soccer balls could be found at Joe McGee's Sports Emporium located in the center of our small community. Anything, whether necessary or merely desired, could be located, at most, a few miles away.
Despite this, my mind would still wander on occasion. I would become curious; a bit too curious for some people's liking. You see, unlike many others in the community, I wasn't ready to just pretend that the world before never existed. Though fleeting by the day, memories of a bygone era fastened themselves to my consciousness. Twelve years had passed since, leaving five to misremember, but just as I would notice the degradation of my recollection, I would hone in on the finest details. An auburn leaf dancing toward a jagged sea of yellow and green; brittle and misshapen, yet subsequently immaculate in its descent. The bittersweet tang of my father's coffee, the temperature of which intermittently singeing my tongue upon every sip I snuck. Needless to say, I was different. I was far more terrified of forgetting than I was of remembering. Every night, just as the sun began to set, I would venture off to the edge of the dome- away from the saccharine "reality" we'd all conformed to. Away from the imitation trees and plastic dreams to journey into the real world- albeit with my mind performing most of the theatrics.
I would sit there at the edge of the transparent dome, recalling images of life before the war; before humanity was irreparably maimed. Visions of what once were family and friends dancing along to a tune oh so welcoming to longing ears. Children playing baseball on an open field filled with real grass. However, those phantoms were but a fugitive thought to a weary mind, as looking out into the foreboding, barren wasteland I once called home only further roused apparitions of barbarity, destruction, and anarchy. Regardless, those few seconds of joy, even knowing of the desolate backdrop behind them, made the experience worthwhile.
My ability to recall certain memories faded over time, but I could always vividly remember the day we were rushed into the dome. My parents were very influential people before the war, and knew of the world's imminent, unavoidable expiration months before it occurred. Thus, when plans for a "Super Dome" - a habitat for an exclusive selection of humanity's survivors - was announced, they did all they could to send me in. The price to get one person into the dome was astronomical; getting three would be impossible. Even given my parents' incredible wealth at the time, they knew that they could barely afford one ticket, let alone two or three, so they secured my safety at the sacrifice of their own.
I was only about seven years old at the time, and thus couldn't fully comprehend the enormity of the circumstances. All I knew was that mom and dad were going on a vacation for a little while and I got to stay in some extravagant hotel. Of course, when the bombs dropped, I was exposed to the ghastly reality of my situation. Fortunately, entry into the dome was well-worth the asking price. As marketed, those who were granted admission were, in fact, the last surviving humans on Earth. The world outside was now too hazardous and defiled for human existence, so exiting the dome was a death wish, assuming such a feat would even be possible.
The dome was sealed shut on all ends with nothing but an emergency exit that could supposedly withstand any blast, weapon, or temperature. The sole method of exit would be to utilize a keycard that was only given to the highest ranking officials and GOLD member officers. This door would only be used under two circumstances: if a member of the community was facing exile or if there was "catastrophic breach" within the dome. In the rare event that there was a breach and the door was opened, all GOLD member households contained Life-Suits that would allow the person wearing the suit to survive healthily for up to 6 months in the foreboding wasteland on the outside. Luckily, given their multitude of connections, my parents were able to secure me a GOLD membership, hoping that I would then be safe under any and all circumstances.
My childhood essentially consisted of lessons in how to be a functioning member of the community, the dome's cruciality in my survival, and the consequences of disobedience within. Members of the community with disabilities or genetic flaws that could be passed down through generations were normally quarantined or sterilized, depending on what type of member they were, while those with no real use to the community (the elderly, the mentally ill, and the sickly) were euthanized via lethal injection as they were deemed as "extra mouths to feed", despite their prior admittance and the surplus of food that we supposedly harbored. This originally led to controversy but as time went on we just learned to accept it as a part of life. Because of this, being a functioning member of society was of the utmost importance, as your life was literally on the line otherwise.
Although not prohibited, it was not advised to go near the outer limits of the dome, as the transparent structure could serve as "nothing more than a bleak reminder of our traumatic past" according to the officials in charge. Honestly, I can't blame them for claiming that either, as a lot of people's mental states were deteriorating even without the constant reminders. Many inhabitants of the community had gone through episodes of "Nomadic Fever" as it's put, which in minor cases is nothing more than a passing bout of lunacy, but in more severe cases is a permanent illness that can lead to a plethora of consequences. It's not exactly known why this sickness occurs. Perhaps a combination of being confined to a dome and the constant reliance on near-palpable, artificial air can do a number on a person's psyche. One day your neighbor Jim is your best friend, the next, he's trying to raid your house with a butcher knife, claiming that God had spoken to him or some shit. The only consistent symptom of the sickness is a tendency to incessantly ramble about "forgotten people", though doctors always attributed this to delusion, speculating that those afflicted experience hallucinations of deceased loved ones as their condition develops, similar to what many people claim to witness on the brink of death. Everybody knew someone who'd suffered from the sickness, and only the luckiest among them knew survivors.
Whether mentally stable or not, if you were considered a major threat to society, you were either executed or exiled from the community. As there was no prison system in place, this was just the easiest method of dealing with criminals and other threats to our community. If you were lucky and didn't commit too heinous of a crime, you were executed in a relatively expeditious fashion. However, if you were a severe offender (murderer, rapist, etc.) you were exiled.
At one point I bore witness to the normally secretive expulsion procedure. It was late, far past curfew, and being out at this hour, especially with the goal of witnessing an exile, was an act that could lead to massive consequences. However, with all of the talk and all of the warnings since my first years in the dome, I had to see it with my own eyes at least once. After word had spread about a murder spree committed by James Trufandale, and the verdict on his impending expulsion was announced, I knew that I had a chance. I camped out by the officials' office and waited for James' release from his cell. After a mechanical buzz and a shrill, metallic clang, three men wearing Life-Suits promptly walked out with James and carried him to the outermost western part of the dome.
There wasn't a single light shining within any house or any lamp upon any street, thus allowing my secrecy to be maintained. James was dragged out confined to chains that were clamped far too tight for even the slightest bit of comfort, let alone circulation, as even from a distance the otherwise inconspicuous veins in his arms shot out like wires. As he was being hauled, he was spewing every cuss in the book- how any family was able to stay asleep during this period is a mystery in itself. The trek to the dome's exit took about 15 minutes, the entirety of which filled with obscenities and prophecies of "forgotten people" knowing "the truth", and that "They" will return. Hiding, I watched as the three suited officials walked into a secluded room containing the exit. I was not able to ascertain what went on inside the room, I was only able to witness James being forcefully thrown out into the wasteland and the ensuing aftermath.
After James was thrown out, the three officers nonchalantly strolled back to their office and didn't even pay James a passing glance. I kept my eyes fixated on him though, waiting for any noticeable changes. James immediately rose to his feet and seemingly desperately pleaded for his life. He banged his fists against the walls of the dome, bawling hysterically with the most immensely terrified expression I've ever seen in a man's eyes. Upon realizing his begging was to no avail, he began to continuously ram himself into the walls of the dome, whipping his head onto the structure until he had a crimson mask. Unsure of whether this was a willing act of defiance or a futile attempt at suicide, I struggled to watch. James then abruptly began coughing and sputtering violently until he fell to the ground and started shaking as if he was having a seizure. His skin began to bubble then pop, leading to splatters of blood and pus that landed on and then dripped down the side of the dome. He attempted to stand up and prevent further masses of skin from boiling away but would collapse soon after, the skin on his legs pooling off like butter under a blowtorch. His screams were inaudible due to the soundproof walls, but the sight of his jaw agape and of the flesh on his face melting from the bone made the sound of screaming ring within my head. I wanted to look away, but I couldn't. Whether I was paralyzed with fear or simply going mad I couldn't divert my attention from the scene. The bloodied heap of flesh that remained slowly turned pitch-black, almost as if it had been charred to the core with red spots appearing all over, encompassing much of his remaining flesh, bone, and near liquified skin. Though he was now unable to maneuver his jaw to scream, the frantic movement of James' eyes illustrated to me that he remained both alive and suffering.
Refusing to witness any more, I scurried back to my house undetected. As you would expect, I managed not a wink of sleep that night and became petrified at the thought of life, or lack thereof, outside of the dome. It took me a few months to regain the courage to venture back to the edge, as eventually the urge to "live in the past" took hold yet again. Out of what I can only amount to morbid curiosity, I eventually returned to the scene. James' body was nowhere to be found. So there I sat, every night as the sun set beyond the stark landscape, trying to expel dark memories and rejoice with the jovial ones; a constant battle, over and over again.
I did this for years until one fateful night everything changed. I sat down on a "tree", aimlessly peering into the abyss when I noticed something amid the encompassing darkness. Although hard to make out, I spotted a handprint upon the wall of the dome. Perplexed, I climbed down the tree and cautiously ambled over to the print. It was dusty and disfigured- there was something off about it, but I couldn't put my finger on exactly what. I had never seen a marking on the walls, as every substance that touched it either bounced, dripped, or slid off without leaving a trace. Naturally, I was confused and attempted to wipe it away. I did this a few times yet nothing happened. It was at this moment that I realized something; something that broke me to my core; I realized that the handprint came from outside.
Bewildered, I staggered backward and darted all the way back to my house and into my bedroom- trying to convince myself that I was merely in a part of some twisted dream. Eventually, my heart-rate slowed, my eyes grew heavy, and I was able to force myself to drift into sleep. I awoke the next morning not even greeting my foster parents, and ran out toward the edge of the dome. However, my vision was obscured by a cloud of dust.
It seemed as though a dust storm had struck, making the entire dome enveloped within a cloud of dirt. After about thirty minutes of desperate searching for the handprint, I gave up and rationalized that it must have actually been a dream. It was at this moment, however, that I saw a hand print form yet again, this time right before my eyes. I walked over to it, a mix of fear and anxiety brewing within me. This one handprint turned into two handprints, then three, then four, and so on until an entire patch of the dome's western perimeter was covered in grimy, malformed handprints of all shapes and sizes.
Not only was a portion of the wall covered, but the ceiling of the dome was too, and the sudden darkness caused a small crowd to survey the blockage. Classes were let out early that day, and officials began surrounding it, barricading any citizens from entering the immediate proximity. Officers began trying to figure out how the hand prints were formed, along with how to remove them as the mere sight of them was causing mass hysteria. Time appeared of the essence, as every few minutes or so a new handprint would creep into the picture.
Officials began sending out officers in Life-Suits to attempt to remove the prints from the outside. Not a single officer who ventured on this expedition returned, however; their tattered Life-Suits coated in a variety of bodily fluids being mockingly being thrown back with each dispatch, though this was kept confidential to the public. The line was drawn and officers ceased to be released when one Life-Suit was returned intact, save for the notable absence of a keycard.
On the second day we, as the public, realized that this was no ordinary dust storm. It had been 24 hours and the dust still had yet to settle- our vision was still obscured from the inside, and if not for our ability to tell the time, we would have no idea if it was day or night. More concerning, however, was that in this span of time, another collection of handprints completely covered half the dome leading toward the exit door.
When the third day struck, all livestock either went insane or dropped dead for no identifiable reason. Fearing the worst, my foster family, much like many others, stored and gathered as much food as they could. Markets were ransacked, and there weren't nearly enough officers or officials to stop the rioting. The dome was in a perpetual state of dusk, the only source of light coming from the dim sunlight that just barely forced its way through the cloud of dust and the spaces between fingers. The handprints had completely covered the dome
On the fourth day, we were greeted by the wailing shriek of sirens. All electricity was cut out from the dome and it appeared as though the dust had thickened, along with the handprints seemingly layering onto each other, leaving the entire dome shrouded in shadow. All families were instructed to remain inside of their houses as the siren softened and a message was broadcasted to every radio in the community, the only piece of technology that appeared to be working. Feeling that this message would be of dire importance, I jotted down what was spoken.
"The following message is transmitted at the request of the Officials in the Mendacity Dome™. This is not a drill. There is an imminent threat to the community in the form of-"
It was at this point that the message audibly degraded and became incomprehensible. The only thing breaking the silence of the dome was the static being emitted from the radio and the occasional, jarring scream in the distance. After a few moments the radio qued back up again, and an unnatural, raspy voice took hold. The speaker's voice was airy, ghostly even, and it painstakingly uttered every syllable of every word while wheezing and breathing heavily, almost as if through debris, making sure to articulate their message perfectly so that it could be heard over the ever-present white noise. The speaker stated:
"You believed we were gone... that we had vanished away into the darkest recesses of your mind... a faded memory... a lost cause. You believed that we had been whisked away... whisked away at the cruel hands of light... of power... of warfare. You may have been right in that regard... we had left you to fend for yourselves as you did to us. Whether erased years gone... or expelled from your serenity... we let you know now... we have returned."
The radio clip ended. The static ceased. Shocked, paralyzed, petrified, there was not a single noise coming from any household in the community save for the occasional whimper or gasp. Suddenly the radio cut back in again. The static resumed, but among the static we heard the sound of a heavy door creaking open, and then a metallic slam, along with the sound of an army of footsteps trudging forth. The radio cut out again. Much like many others, my foster parents shot upstairs and grabbed our Life-Suits. I quickly entered the suit, knowing that the exit door had been breached, and that contaminated air was now pervading throughout our dome.
We began barricading our doors, but then rationalized that if whatever was out there could get past the exit door, they could easily get past a few wooden planks and couches. I began scavenging for any weapons throughout the house, but seeing as guns were prohibited within the community, I had to fend for myself using a measly steak knife. My family and I went into hiding, finding solace within our attic- the safest place we had in our house.
The room contained nothing but a desk to the far right, a set of chairs, a spare radio, and a tinted window near the roof. We all huddled beneath the desk, praying to any God we could think of and planning an escape route if need-be. All that we could hear from outside our house were blood-curdling screams, the sound of liquid hitting concrete, and the crackling of fire.
The radios turned back on. Once again, nothing was audible other than the sound of static. This persisted for a few minutes, until the static changed to a rather cheery tune. Almost as if whatever was out there was mocking us. I recognized the song from my earliest days, and amid the chaos I even chuckled a bit. On loop, "Mr. Sandman" by the Chordettes began playing, one of my favorite songs from my childhood back before the war. That moment of joy, however, didn't last, as soon the song looped over so many times that it felt like we were going deaf.
We sat there for hours with nothing but the sound of screaming and that goddamned 50s song pummeling our ears. Eventually, my curiosity got the best of me yet again. Slowly, I crept over to the tinted window and peered out into the ensuing anarchy. I was revolted by what I saw. Bodies thrown about, torn to bits within the streets. Tarred-black corpses speckled in red lining the sidewalks, with bodily fluids of all types painting buildings in the distance like demented graffiti. The neighborhood next to mine was in the midst of being ravaged by a militia of lost souls, and I knew that mine was next.
I stepped away from the window stricken with fear and speechless from the chaos ensuing before my eyes, I slowly sat down yet again next to my parents. Concerned, they looked at each other and rose up, cautiously walking toward the window.
They both stared out that window for what felt like an eternity. Eventually, they both turned back and gazed at me, expressionless and with a mile wide look in their eyes- almost as if neither one of them was all there anymore. Looking back at them, I noticed something. My father began to smirk, that smirk turned into a grin, and that grin turned into a sickening, devilish smile. He had a look in his eyes, different than any other I've ever seen on a person. He looked over at my mother and then over at me, his eyes darting in all directions. He then began walking toward me, more jolting than anything, it looked almost as if with every step he was attempting to dislodge a bone in his body. He stood before me, same maniacal grin on his face:
"Dear, be a doll and give daddy your weapon, okay?"
I wasn't in the right frame of mind- nobody was. I remained motionless, a surge of thoughts flying through my head like a bullet through a flock of doves. I dropped my knife to the floor, not able to respond in any other way. My father picked up the knife, toyed with it a bit like a child would with a Christmas present, and slit my mother's throat.
I watched as this happened, not moving a muscle, and even worse, not caring. Blood spurted out of her neck like a faucet, the liquid getting on my suit and staining my soul. My father fell with her to the ground, tears streaming from his eyes yet his smile remained. He looked over at me, apologized, then did the honors by slitting his own neck. I looked down at their corpses not saddened, not traumatized, hell, not even phased.
Eventually, I dragged myself to the tinted window, not willing to even glance at my foster parents' disheveled bodies and ignoring the stench of death. So there I sat, watching as my neighborhood was torn apart limb-from-limb by an army of pitch black, red spotted carcasses, all deformed in different ways. It felt as though time had froze, I could see the world yet nothing but chaos remained. I studied the grizzly scene with my eyes, the last sight I believed I'd ever see.
An army of tarred black carcasses speckled red tore through people's houses, each member looking different than the rest. All of them had a few distinct similarities: they all had beady, bloodshot eyes that could stare into the soul of even the most steadfast of individuals. All appeared to have unnatural strength, along with the tendency to spew an acidic substance out of their mouths that as far as I could tell could melt any metal, fabric, or piece of flesh. Many had mutations such as extra arms, sharpened claws for hands, or even no hands at all. Others had abnormally large legs and used them to stomp through their prey's heads. Many were capable of climbing or walking on walls whether sideways or completely upside down, defying all known laws of physics. The only other thing that I noticed was that they weren't slaughtering us for food as I never witnessed them devour any human flesh, they were doing it for fun. They were relentless in their ways, and showed absolutely no remorse or mercy. They had vengeance on their minds, or at least what was left of them.
I sat there at that window, waiting for the forced entry of my home, waiting for the sweet release of death. I shut my eyes, expecting to hear the sweet sound of my door breaking down and of my stairs being trudged upon- yet nothing happened. There was complete silence for the first time, save for the sound of Mr. Sandman bludgeoning my ears like a sledgehammer. I opened my eyes and directed my attention outside. The entire army parked themselves in front of my house, watching my every move. I looked down at them, finally accepting my fate, and motioned for them to get my death over with, yet once again, nothing happened. They just stood there, staring at me with beady, bloodshot eyes. They remained there not budging for hours, and I realized that they were waiting me out. Forcing me to come to them- knowing I didn't have enough food to survive forever. We were locked in a stalemate, but I was not going to just give up and give them that satisfaction. They were going to have to wait it out with me, and even if I was prolonging the inevitable, it at least made me feel as though I got the last laugh.
Now we're here: I've sat in this attic for days now, surviving off of nothing but canned beans and fruit. The only way I've been able to keep my sanity has been writing this. At least now I have something to do with myself, something to preoccupy me from taking that steak knife and plummeting it into my chest. Even if that means writing this memoir over and over again.
Every now and then I'll look out my window at that unforgiving army and drift off into thought. I look back at my fondest memories and remember how even in the wake of chaos and after the adversity we had all faced, life was simpler then.
Written by Incorrect3