MidReal Story

Surviving Together

Scenario: A boy and his father share a bond of father son relationship after a disaster
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A boy and his father share a bond of father son relationship after a disaster
These days, the streets were cluttered with debris.
Charred pieces of wood and brick populated the corners and sidewalks.
Ash floated through the air like snow, and the scent of smoke still hung heavily, despite the months that had passed.
Downtown was nothing more than a skeleton.
The heart of our town had been ripped out and left to die.
Even now, I could recall the memories of my father lifting me above his shoulders as we walked down the street, in awe at the shops and restaurants.
Now, all that remained were a few broken windows and empty buildings.
We walked through the destruction quietly, picking our way over glass, around craters, and through the narrow paths left behind by looters.
The sun beat down on us, making it hotter than normal for this time of year.
My eyes stung from the sweat that ran into them, and the back of my neck felt like it had caught fire.
“So, I think Mrs.
We finally broke our silence after nearly an hour of walking.
I glanced over at my dad as he nodded toward a tree in front of a house about four down from our own.
The tree was full of leaves and greenery—a stark contrast to the other trees around it.
A pink flamingo lawn ornament sat in a cluster of flowers below the tree.
And there, perched on a branch high above the flamingo, was Mr. Hall’s lawn gnome.
It was still wearing its purple coat and red hat.
Its beard was still long and white.
But now it was surrounded by actual nature and not just plastic plants.
“Well shit,” my dad said with a chuckle as we walked away.
“I guess it’s safe to say we don’t need to worry about Mr. Hall coming back to get it.”
Our laughter faded, leaving us with silence once again.
We’d come too far to just turn back, so we kept going.
We’d been walking for just over an hour before we finally reached downtown.
Most would take the shortcut, but my dad didn’t want to risk it, since so many buildings were still on the verge of collapsing.
Instead, we went around the long way, which added a little more time to our trip but kept us safe from falling debris.
I’d been nervous during some trips, but I’d done this so many times now, it was like muscle memory.
We were able to make it through downtown without any problems, other than the usual stares from the looters who assumed we had something they wanted.
I learned early on that it was best not to make eye contact or talk to them if they started shouting or whistling at us, so I just stuck close to my dad and tried to keep up as best as I could.
My dad gets quieter every day, or at least it seems that way to me.
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“Hey, Dad,” I said as we walked down the street, my voice echoing softly through the stillness.
“Yeah, bud?”
I could see it in his eyes.
He was tired.
Not just because we’d been walking for hours, but because he’s been working so hard for so long.
He’s always working at something, always doing something, even if I have no idea what it is.
“I was thinking about how much stuff you’ve been able to find over the months,” I said.
“Did you start preparing for something like this before it happened?”
We stopped walking, and my dad turned around to face me.
“Not exactly,” he said, placing a hand on my shoulder.
“But I did know that we’d need extra supplies if we were going to make it through whatever happened.
I didn’t know what would happen or when, but I did have a feeling that something would happen.”
“So you were prepared.”
He paused for a moment, as if contemplating his response.
“No, not really,” he said at last.
“Nothing can really prepare you for something like this.”
I nodded, not sure what else to say.
There was a lot I wanted to say, a lot I wanted to ask, but I didn’t know how to put it into words.
We walked in silence once again, picking up the pace.
I’d always known that my dad kept extra supplies around the house.
I remember asking him about it when I was younger.
It seemed like he always had a reason, even though the world around us always seemed perfectly fine.
I’d ask him why we needed fifty rolls of toilet paper, two cases of bottled water in the basement, canned food in the pantry that never got used, a closet full of batteries, medical kits in various rooms throughout the house.
The list went on and on.
It was a running joke in the family for a while that my dad must be part of some secret survivalist group that I didn’t know about.
Now I knew why he’d always kept those items around.
Although nothing could prepare us for this.
Our neighborhood had become a ghost town.
You wouldn’t think there were ever families living here at all.
The houses were empty.
The lawns were overgrown.
Not a single car had driven down the street since the disaster happened.
There were no children playing outside.
No dogs barking in the distance.
No lawnmowers humming on Saturday mornings.
There were only a few people scattered about, like us, who were still here trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of what was happening.
And then there were those who only came out at night, who were no doubt hiding just out of sight, watching us to see if we had anything they could take from us.
I’m not sure which group I feared more, but I knew we needed to be careful not to show any signs that we had anything worth taking.
We were nearly home by now, but I knew that wasn’t the end of our journey.
We’d been gone for a few hours now, and I knew my dad must be tired, but he never showed it, never complained.
He just kept walking and moving forward.
I watched him as he moved in front of me, his eyes scanning what little was left of the neighborhood around us.
Every time I looked at him, I saw a little bit more gray in his hair and beard, a few more wrinkles around his eyes and mouth, a few more scars on his face and hands.
He looked older than he used to, but he also looked stronger to me in a different way.
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As we walked, I watched him out of the corner of my eye, taking everything in.
I watched him look at a pile of rubble that used to be a house, and I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was remembering something about it before the disaster happened.
I stopped walking and stood next to him, watching the emotion play across his face as he stared at the pile of wood, bricks, and stone before us.
“What is it, Dad?”
I asked, following his gaze as we both looked at what remained of a home where someone used to live, laugh, and love.
He sighed heavily, then turned and looked down at me.
“Nothing.” He said softly, then put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a weak smile.
“Let’s keep moving.”
We walked a little farther and passed another pile of rubble that used to be a house before my dad stopped walking again and stared at something in front of us.
I followed his gaze and saw what he was looking at.
In the middle of a pile of bricks and wood sat a child’s tricycle, shredded almost beyond recognition.
There was a small stuffed bear laying on its side next to it, covered in dust and debris.
I could feel tears begin to form in my eyes because I knew what it meant, but I didn’t want to believe it.
I didn’t want to think about all those little lives that were lost when this happened, how those children never had a chance to grow up and live their lives, how their parents would never get to watch them grow up or see them do great things with their lives.
I thought about my own childhood, and how grateful I was that I still had my father here with me, even if we’d lost everything else around us.
I felt my dad put his hand on my shoulder, then wrap his arm around me so he could hold me close.
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I knew he was feeling something too, but neither of us said anything.
Instead, I just leaned into his side and he put his arm around my shoulder and held me close.
We stayed like that for a minute or two before we continued down the road.
When we reached the next intersection, I pointed at a small grocery store down the street.
My dad nodded in acknowledgment before looking both ways down the street to make sure it was clear of any danger.
He put his finger up to his lips to remind me to stay quiet, then motioned for me to follow him.
My dad wasn’t one for talking much anymore, but that was okay with me.
I could read his moods pretty well without having to use words.
If he looked at me with anger in his eyes, then I knew I was doing something wrong.
If he gave me two quick taps on my shoulder like he just did now, then I knew it meant that I should follow his lead without question.
We moved quickly down the street and stayed close to the buildings so we wouldn’t be seen by anyone.
Luckily for us, there were no cars or people in our way as we made our way toward the store.
Before I knew it, we were standing in front of the grocery store, looking for anything useful that might be left inside.
I looked down at my feet and saw an old, torn backpack laying on the ground.
It was a light blue color, with black straps, and it looked as if it had seen better days.
My dad followed my gaze, then placed his hand on my shoulder as he squatted down beside me.
He reached out and turned the bag around so I could see it.
“You remember that one?”
I nodded, but I didn’t answer him.
I didn’t need words to let him know I remembered.
That was my old backpack that he gave me for my eighth birthday.
It was one of my favorite presents.
He had put some of my favorite things inside of it, like a yo-yo, comic books, markers, colored pencils, a sketchbook, and some candy.
I took that thing everywhere with me when I was growing up until it got too small for me, then I had to get rid of it.
I wondered if he still had any of that stuff in there.
I watched him pick up the bag, then put it on his shoulder.
“Let’s see what’s inside.” He said, then motioned for me to follow him into the building.
We moved quietly through the store, checking every aisle as we made our way toward the back of the building where all of the supplies were kept.
I saw my dad stop at one of the shelves in front of us, then reach out and grab some of the bags off of it before moving to another shelf to grab some more.
He looked back at me and gave me two quick taps on my shoulder, which I knew meant to help him load up on supplies.
I reached out and grabbed as much as I could carry before turning around to follow my dad down another aisle.
We stopped at one of the registers, and I watched as he loaded everything into my old backpack, then hoisted it up onto his shoulder.
I wanted to tell him to be careful not to rip it, but I didn’t want to say anything in case there was someone else in here who could hear us.
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I followed behind him, watching as he crept through the store, checking each aisle before moving onto the next one.
We were almost to the back of the building when I heard a loud crash coming from somewhere behind us.
My dad put his hand up, signaling for me to stop, then crouched down behind one of the displays near us, so I did the same thing beside him.
I looked around, trying to figure out what was going on, when my dad pointed toward one of the open doorways in front of us.
I leaned over slightly so I could see better, then gasped when I caught sight of several people in grimy clothes, with wild hair, running through one of the outer aisles near us.
The people looked like looters, judging by their appearance and by how they were hauling all sorts of stuff out of the store with them.
“Looks like we have company.” My dad said softly.
He placed his hand on my shoulder, then pulled me closer to him as we both watched the looters make their way out the door.
“And they’re not too happy about whatever they found in there.”
“Should we go after them, Dad?”
I asked, trying to sound tough even though my stomach was doing somersaults.
“No, let’s just wait here until they move on, okay?”
I nodded, then turned back to watch the looters through the doorway.
As soon as they were gone, my dad stood up, then pulled me to my feet.
“Let’s go see what they took, okay?”
We stepped out from behind the display, then made our way toward the back of the building where the looters had been.
We arrived at the last aisle, but when we turned the corner, we saw that the shelves were completely empty.
The looters must have taken everything!
I looked at my dad, and I could tell he was thinking the same thing.
“What do we do now?”
I asked, grabbing his hand tightly.
He looked down at me, then lightly squeezed my hand before pulling me closer to his side as he scanned the empty shelves again.
“Looks like these guys got here before us.”
I turned back to look at him and saw him looking down at me with a small smile on his face.
He reached out and placed his hand on my other shoulder, then leaned down so he could whisper in my ear.
“Don’t worry buddy.
We’ll just have to go get some more stuff somewhere else.” He said.
I looked up at him and saw that he was smiling down at me, but it was different than before.
This time his smile didn’t quite reach his eyes.
I knew it meant that something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was.
I wanted to ask him why he looked worried, but before I could say anything, he reached out and took something out of one of the pockets on his jacket.
He held it out toward me, and I saw that it was one of the knives that he had grabbed from our apartment earlier.
He pointed it at me, then motioned for me to take it.
I looked up at him with wide eyes before reaching out and wrapping my hand around the handle.
He looked down at me and gave me a small smile.
“Just in case.”
I could feel my own eyes start to water, but I blinked away my tears before looking up at him and nodding.
“Good boy.” He said.
He reached out and took my free hand in his before pulling me even closer to him.
I looked up at him and saw that he was looking down at me with sad eyes.
I wrapped my arms around his waist and hugged him tightly before looking up at him again.
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