Letter from the Stone World

By Kevin Barkman

Photo from Pexels

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Letter from the Stone World

 

Day one: I woke up this morning lost and confused, in the middle of what I can only assume was once a city. I have no idea how long it’s been. Decades, centuries…millennia? Long enough for most manmade structures to begin to crumble. Trees tower high above where they long ago broke through the concrete and asphalt. I had to rip my way through vines and branches just to get myself moving. So far, I’m the only human to awaken. I can see them though. All the people who once thrived here, like statues frozen in time. Bodies and clothing captured in the exact moment the phenomenon. It’s truly disconcerting. I didn’t have much on me when I awakened. This notepad, my wallet and keys, and a locket meant for you. None of it seems to have decomposed, so whatever affected me affected everything that was touching me at the time. I don’t know what to do. I barely know where I am, and it’s getting cold. I’ll have to get a fire going before long.

Day four: The more I think about it, the less it makes sense. Why me? Why am I awake while the rest of the world is in stasis? It doesn’t really matter though. I haven’t gone long without thinking of you. I think it’s why I started writing this. This place is lonely, and I’m honestly terrified. It took me two days, but I was finally able to find something substantial to eat. Turns out, if you know where to look, this place is teaming with wildlife. I crafted some snares from the vines and ended up catching myself a couple of squirrels and a nice rabbit. I’ve caught glimpses of curious deer edging closer and closer to my camp. I got lucky yesterday when I found a pocketknife on one of the frozen. The pocket crumbled to dust when I wrenched the knife from it. It makes me fear what might happen if I did the same to their body.

 

Day seven: I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you. This little locket my constant reminder. It’s nothing special. Just a silver heart on a chain. I was going to give it to you that night. I was on my way to meet you for dinner when… It wasn’t even a special occasion. Our anniversary wasn’t for another few weeks, your birthday passed two months ago. I was just in a thrift shop, goofing around on my day off when I found it. I thought you’d like it, so I got it. Even had a photograph of us printed just to put it in there. I was so excited to give it to you, I couldn’t hold off that long. Even now, I keep it in its little box, tucked into my shirt pocket for safe keeping. All for the off chance I’ll get to give it to you one day.

Day fifteen: This solitude is really taking a toll on me. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this. Hundreds of lifeless statues staring at from behind their glassy eyes. A few days ago, I decided I couldn’t leave the city. Not yet. Not until I find you. I don’t know what good it could do. I have no way to bring you back, but I will find you.

 

Day thirty-three: I’ve been searching for weeks to no avail. I thought I knew where I was in the city. Thought I knew how to get to you, but so much of this place has changed. If I’m being honest, I don’t even know where you were when it happened. For all I know, you could be buried under a ton of rock. No, I can’t think like that.

Day sixty-seven: I’ve checked everywhere I can think of. The area where your apartment used to be, the restaurant, your work. I’ve had to dig through rubble, cut through vines. I found several people buried underneath, but not you. It’s slow going, painstaking. I don’t know how long I can keep this up. I’m almost glad I haven’t fount you yet. Too many of the people I’ve recovered have been crushed and broken. Limbs and heads separated from their bodies. I just need you to not be one of them.

 

Day seventy-five: I finally found you. Intact, at that. Thank heavens. Somehow, you must have been at the exact right place when it happened. Your building crumbled around you, but the room you were in is almost perfectly preserved. I can’t even explain to you how happy I am to see you. Even in this state, you’re the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. I’ll admit, I cried a little bit when I first saw you.

 

Day one hundred, I think: It took some time, but I was able to reinforce the structure around you. I made sure it couldn’t collapse on top of you. At least, not for a long time. The weather here is starting to turn, though. It’s getting colder fast. I’ve been able to keep myself warm so far. Deer hides have been my only salvation, but it’s getting bad.

 

Day one hundred five: It’s finally getting to me, the solitude. Now that I’ve done what I’ve found you and made sure you’re safe, I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know how to bring you back. Hell, I don’t even know how I came back. My only solace is talking to you. Whether or not you can hear me.

 

Day one hundred fifteen-ish: I think I might be going crazy. This morning, I though I saw someone. Someone else who’s awake. I hope my mind isn’t playing tricks on me. It was just a glimpse, a shadow in the woods. But I swear there was someone there. It’s probably just an animal, but I’ll try to check it out tomorrow.

 

Day one hundred twenty: I found them. The other person. She’s just a kid. Her name’s Allie. When I finally got to her, she was half starved, dehydrated, freezing. It took some coaxing, but I got her to come back to camp with me. Once she ate her fill, she passed right out. She seems like a nice kid.

 

Day one hundred twenty-six?: Allie’s a quick learner. She’s been helping me set the traps, collect firewood, even skinning our dinners. It’s been pretty nice to have someone else around, but I don’t know how long we can stay here. The weather has gotten really bad. Temperature’s have plummeted. The first snow started a couple days ago. Game is getting more scarce and harder to track. We don’t have enough preserved to make it through the rest of winter. Besides, with the river freezing over, our water source is rapidly disappearing. I don’t want to leave you, but I may not have a choice.

 

Day…I’ve lost count: I don’t think we can’t stay here. We haven’t been able to catch anything in a week. Our water supply is low. If it were just me, I might try to stick it out. Stay here with you. But I have Allie to think about now. You and I…we always talked about having kids, but I never thought it’d be like this. We’ve become pretty close. Her laugh could light up a room. I hope you get to meet her one day.

It’s been two days since I last wrote: It’s also the last day I’ll be writing to you. Allie and I are heading south. As far south as we can. I’m hoping we’ll run into some others who’ve awakened. I mean, there’s no way we’re the only ones right? Seven billion people on earth and only two come out of stasis? And in the same place? No way. Leaving you here is probably the hardest decision I’ve had to make, but you’re safer here. I plan to come back when I’m able to, but that may not be for a long time. For now, I have to let you go. I have to do what’s best for Allie. She needs me. If you wake up…when you wake up, come find me. 

I love you. I miss you every day.

Yours forever and always,

Phillip

*****

Phillip rises from the cold ground, wrapping the notebook in a thin leather pouch. Using a piece of makeshift twine, he ties the leather pouch around his beloved’s wrist. He pulls out the jewelry box. Taking the locket by its chain, he lovingly drapes it around her neck. He brushes her stone-cold cheek with the back of his hand, tears welling up in his eyes. With one last longing, aching look into her glassy eyes, Phillip grabs his pack and heads out into the winter air where Allie awaits him. He feels a tingle of warmth as she slides her little hand into his. A smile cracks across his lips as the two set out into the world.