Coming across what looked like a schoolbag Rae tipped its contents onto the floorboards; Book on ballet steps, a plastic water bottle, a rotting apple, hair bands and hair brush, a pair of black leggings many sizes too small and a notebook and two pens (one works, one doesn’t). Leaving the ballet book, soft brown misshapen piece of fruit and useless pen where they fell she uses the leggings to smear the remnant of spoiled food from inside the bag and hurriedly stuffs the rest back in. The bag contains little else of use save for the odd trinkets of interest she has found along the way, remnants of a civilization lost. After their car breaks down they are forced to walk and spend the night in some wooded area at the foot of rocky cliffs. It is here by torchlight that Rae takes out the notepad and after a few scratches reignites the pen to life, and sits hunkered in a fetal position on the dirt with her back against the rock.
I have to write this down just in case. I need them to be remembered. We left in such a panic I didn’t have time to grab even a picture of them. Nothing. They could so easily be forgotten. Three little lives that may never have even existed. So many others to drown them out.
Damon, Jamie and Kasey Lee. My babies. My reasons for living. Why I worked. Why I laughed. Why I cried. Reason I got out of bed of a morning and fell into bed at night. Damon is almost 20 months; dark hair and grey eyes. He had a hairlip (cleft palate) that made his smiles seem lopsided but special. Loved his art. Scribbled on everything. My little artist. Jamie was 10 months. Was. God it just hit me. He was the first. He ran a fever for days but then he was always the sick one. I couldn’t comfort him. I brought him into bed that night with me and Kane. That’s when- (illegible writing has been scribbled out)
Kasey was my angel. My princess. She’s the reason Kane and I found each other. A happy accident from some one-night thing and we were suddenly parents together. And I couldn’t have been happier. Or prouder. Kane was an amazing first time dad. He adored her so. Was too afraid to hold her because she was so tiny and he feared he’d break her or drop her. She barely had a chance to live. Three weeks. So tiny. So much hope. All gone. I keep thinking that night didn’t truly happen, that I made it up. Fantasy can’t be so terrifying can it? Can it?
I miss them. My kids. I miss everything about them, even the stress and the smell. What I wouldn’t give for one slice of that normalcy back, of thinking a full diaper was worth complaining about. It’s all so small now. Insignificant. Pointless. I’m starting to think life as we knew it back then was really the lie and this, whatever this is now, is the truth of it. This horrible unreal nightmarish thing I keep waking up to day after day. And that’s even if I manage to sleep at all during the night. I want to wake up back in my home, in my nice warm bed with the familiar dents and squeaks and smell the fabric softener on the covers as I hold them to my face. I miss so so much.
The nights are the worst. The inky thick blackness that stretches on forever. That surrounds me. Its even in my head, in my stomach, in my chest. I can’t eat. Kane tells me I should. He says I need my strengths though I’m not sure why. Can’t call this living. Not even surviving. Like rats, human rats, we go from place to place, search car to car, raid bag to bag and box and anything remotely valuable in between. And for what? Those things keep coming. I can hear them sometimes. Sometimes I think it’s just my imagination. When I turn my head too fast I think I even see my kids as they were, those… things snapping and snarling with open mouths barely forming teeth. And that horrid fetid dead breath. Like roadkill left baking in the sun for days. Makes my skin crawl when I think about it. Even when I don’t. It doesn’t leave me. Eating away at my sanity one terrible fucked up memory at a time.
This silence is killing me. The nothing. I’m used to routine. To reliance. On technology. Availability. To having a car I can just get into and go where I want when I want for no reason at all. I miss stupid things like flicking through TV channels just to have the choice. Now every tv I see is black and dead. Everything around me is dead or dying. Computers, phones, cars, the Internet, neighbors, friends, life is all dead. My kids are dead. I keep telling myself that they’re still out there somewhere, that somehow someone snuck in during the night and swapped them with those… things. That maybe we’ll find them, Kane and I. I want to believe so badly it hurts. I physically ache to hold them. Just to hold them for one last time and see their bright content little faces. I just wish (more illegible writing scratched out with hard pen strokes)
I don’t know why I’m even writing this. I have to do something or go insane. If I’m not on my way there already. Don’t remember what real sleep feels like anymore. Or a full belly. Or to relax. This cold hollow weight inside is with me every minute of every godforsaken day. I think maybe this is what soldiers feel like, taken away from one life and thrown somewhere else never able to just be. I’m not a soldier. I’m a mother. I’m a middle-aged mom from suburbia. I shouldn’t even be here. Why didn’t that thing that took them take me? What if I gave it to them somehow, passed it on? And what of the others? Those I knew. Bex, Jon. I wish we had never had fought. So much time wasted on being stubborn… (This last sentence is scratched out with hesitation marks after the last letter).
Kane says I have to save the torchlight. Maybe those things can see it. As if I needed to hear that. I love you my babies. Mommy will see you again real soon. Promise.3