Age: 13, Grade: 8
School Name: Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn, NY
Educator: George Seferidis
Category: Science Fiction & Fantasy
I Like to Think We Walked Away
The day that the world broke was the day that you fell.
They told me that you don’t remember what happened that day, what happened to us. What happened to all of us. But I’m not here to tell you about how the sky cracked, how the ground split, how many people left. How many people were left. I’m sure that there are tens of hundreds of thousands of people that could tell you that. Maybe they already have. But I won’t.
I’m here to tell you what happened to us.
Because you don’t remember.
Because I want you to remember.
We were sitting on your kitchen counter. You had on those ripped jeans you always wear, your hair in a ponytail, bangles in your ears. We were playing black-jack, and you were cheating, sneaking peeks at the cards and then slipping them up your sleeves. Your long-fingered artist’s hands were quick, but my eyes were quicker. I would catch you, and you would laugh, and then you would do it again.
That was when the first glass fell off of the shelf.
It shattered on the ground.
You put your cards down, went to the window. You looked out and I looked at you and you looked back and I looked away.
You grabbed my arm, said, “We should go,” and dragged me out into the hallway. Everything was already starting to tilt by then, and we practically slid our way into the elevator. You pushed the ground button, as calm as ever. Neither of us said anything. We weren’t very good at doing that.
We ran into the street, and you gasped. Only a little bit. It could have been because of the bicycle hanging over the intersection, a traffic light stabbed through the spokes on one of its wheels. Or maybe it wasn’t. I wouldn’t know. There were crashed cars and broken buildings and people running, running away from the river. So we ran towards it.
The thing was, the river just wasn’t there.
Instead, there was a hole. A hole going right through the world. Right through the sky, right to the stars, sparkling like gemstones in the ground. Gravity wasn’t working in ways that it should. Science had flown out the window and I wanted it back. I don’t think that you did, though. You laughed and grabbed my arm and then we were running up the side of a building. Glass under our feet, standing parallel to the ground, and the whole city stretched beneath us, beside us, I wasn’t sure. We sat down on the edge, our legs dangling in the air, so so far off of the ground.
You looked up at the sky, which was turning purple and orange and red reflecting off of your face, and said, “I want to paint this someday.”
“If we survive.”
You laughed. You laughed a lot. All of the time. I liked that so, so much about you. You replied, “If we survive.” You said it like it was a game. Like life was a game. You almost made me think that it was. Almost.
“If we die,” I started.
“I won’t be able to paint my picture.”
I bit the inside of my cheek. I looked at you. You were smiling. “If we die, I want you to know something.” But I didn’t say it. I couldn’t say it.
“You have to tell me, or I won’t.”
I bit my tongue instead, that time. It didn’t make it any easier. “I…I…,” I shrugged. Sighed. Couldn’t make the words form on my bitten tongue. I looked down at our hands, inches apart from each other on top of the midday sunset-tinged glass of the building. I felt your eyes on my forehead, burning into me. I looked up. You nodded. I’m still not sure at what. It’s not like you can tell me. Not anymore.
But I’ve decided it doesn’t matter. Trust me, I’ve had enough time to think about it.
What matters is what happened next.
You grabbed my hand.
You were wearing two rings. One on your index finger, one on your pinky. There was a callous on your thumb from where you always held your pencil. We sat there for a while, not saying anything. And then I looked up and you were smiling, and I was smiling and then we were laughing.
You said, ”We should go,” and then we were walking down the side of the Freedom Tower, holding hands while the sirens wailed and the rockets left and it didn’t matter. Not to us. We didn’t have a care in the world. The world, our world, at least, wouldn’t be there for very long anyway.
I could tell you about how you slipped, on the edge, not five feet from the ground. How you fell, slowly, because gravity had forgotten how to do its job. How it didn’t matter, didn’t lessen the impact. The cut on your head, and how it bled red, and how I dragged your limp body until a police officer started helping. How we were some of the last people that left the city that day. How you’ve been gone for six months, two weeks, and four days.
I could, but I won’t. Because I don’t like to think about it. I like to think… I like to think so many things. I like to think so many lies.
I like to think that we walked away.