By KEVIN HUANG
…As the sky weeps and the earth roars
beneath the dusky light of heaven stained
we stand our ground on blood-stained dirt
united, back to back, from start ‘till end…
The ground is slick with rain as I sprint down the road. I’m surrounded by neon lights and food stalls, and the nightlife of the city has just begun. As I head towards the centre of the city, the crowds of people become denser.
I turn around a corner and run into a businessman in a suit. He grabs me by the collar and yells in my face. The tension in this city is reaching breaking point, and everyone’s on edge. I’m desperate. I shove him hard in the chest and he falls over backwards, sprawled on the pavement in the rain. With no time to apologise, I continue to run down the street leaving the man cursing on the ground.
I turn into an alleyway, hoping to reach my destination faster. Now I’m surrounded by beggars, their drooping faces like those of ghouls. No one has time to care about those less fortunate anymore. In a world where cruelty and selfishness have become the norm, these people will never receive help.
A man in rags blocks my way with a knife. He probably used to be a beggar, until he decided to take his life into his own hands. Not admirable, but it’s a means of survival. I have no time to deal with him, so I toss him my wallet and run past while he scrambles for it. There are things more important to me than money.
I’m running out of breath, but the adrenaline keeps me going. My heart is thumping hard and fast in my chest, so much that it aches, and my lungs are screaming for respite. I finally arrive at the building – a decrepit apartment complex, which has been abandoned for many years. I immediately begin climbing the stairs, panting heavily as I do so. Each step takes me closer to her, to the only thing that brings meaning to this existence.
At last, I reach the door to the roof. I grab the handle, but hesitate. For the final time, I weigh the value of my life against the value of hers. There is no contest.
I slam open the door to find three men standing on the roof. One’s holding a knife to the girl’s throat.
“So you actually came. You have so much foolish courage, which I truly appreciate. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time, you know?”
I force my words out of my mouth.
“Let her go. Otherwise, you’re not going to live long enough to enjoy your revenge.”
“I’m sorry, but this time it’s different. Neither of you are getting out of here alive. Enjoy watching her die, kid. It’s the last thing you’ll see.”
She screams and thrashes, but she cannot free herself from the chains that bind her to the wall. I shout in rage, or perhaps fear, and charge towards the closest man. He pulls out a knife and lunges towards me, seeking blood.
The man’s actions are slow and easy to read – it is clear that he is not particularly well trained in the use of a knife. However, the fact that he possesses a weapon gives him a huge advantage over me. If I waste any time dealing with him, the others will move into position to assist him and the fight will quickly spiral out of my control.
I allow the knife to plunge into my arm, and the man briefly hesitates in surprise. Pain surges through my body, but I cannot allow myself to miss this opportunity. In a single fluid motion, I bring my elbow down hard against his neck and he crumples to the floor.
Another man now runs towards me, also wielding a knife. I immediately tackle him to the floor. I try to hit him, but my arm is no longer functional after the knife wound. Instead, I slam my head against his nose. His eyes roll into his head and he begins to spasm while frothing at the mouth. Blood trickles down my brow and into my left eye, causing my vision to blur.
By now, the third man has stepped away from the girl and stands facing me with a pistol in his hand.
“You really are a brutal kid. I’m sorry, but this is the end of the line. Looks like you won’t get to see her die after all.”
A bullet hits my side with a heavy thud, pushing me back. Unlike when I was stabbed with the knife, the bullet sends a cold sensation flooding through my body. I try to take a step forwards, but my leg disobeys and crumples. I fall to my knees, groaning in pain.
“Goodbye,” the man says with a cruel laugh, before placing his gun against my head.
For the last time, I gaze at the girl who’s still chained against the wall. Tears are streaming down her face, and she’s shouting at us. However, all I can hear is my own heartbeat.
There’s a moment of regret before it ends. I promised to never let her cry, didn’t I? I realise that this is the first time I have seen her tears.
It’s going to end now. But it’s not going to end like this. No matter what, she’s getting out of here alive.
The man pulls the trigger.
However, just a split second before, I rammed into his leg. The bullet finds its way into my shoulder instead. There’s no pain anymore.
My entire body feels heavy, but I tell myself I’ll be able to rest soon enough. With my arms around his torso, I push the man against the railing at the edge of the roof. He realises my intention, and in desperation he shoots me again and again. Bullets bite into my flesh one by one. It doesn’t matter. I’m already dead. However, it’s too late for him, and we both fall over the edge.
It’s a couple hundred of metres to the ground from here. No matter what I do, death is certain. I resign myself to my fate.
The man who’s falling beside me screams in fear. He curses the world, but his words are swept away by the howling wind. I, however, begin to laugh. This might just be a dream, because I should already be dead. I continue to laugh at the world.
I succeeded. She’s still up there, alive. She’ll survive through this, one way or another.
Perhaps I regret leaving her alone in this cruel world.
This world is no longer what it used to be. It has been devastated by war, corruption and madness, and all that’s left behind is a lifeless grey husk. Nations have fallen, cities have burned, and their inhabitants are wasting away. This world has finally fallen to its knees. This is a dying world, a dead world.
Surely our race is cursed. We have always been trapped in this eternal cycle of conflict – we slaughter each other, look back on our sins, and attempt to repent. We promise each other that it will never happen again. There is a momentary pause, a false peace that is only ever skin-deep. Eventually, there is another spark. Promises are forgotten, and the memories of the horrors of war fade away. Again, there is slaughter.
This cyclic continuum binds us even now, in our dying days. Not even our imminent extinction can free us from this cycle of war.
However, this is not the end. Just as humans are cursed, we are also blessed. We have an undeniable desperation to survive, and not even the destruction of this world is enough to end our race.
As the ground nears, a light appears before me. I reach out to it, hoping to find some confirmation of a future. It burns brighter and brighter, until I can feel its heat on my skin. There’s a warm, enveloping sensation that washes away all of my worries, purging me of my sins.
My body feels ever so light. Perhaps I no longer have a body. For this short moment I experience true freedom, unshackled by worldly restraints.
Glancing back, I see our cold, doomed world one last time. It fades away, slowly swallowed by the light. I close my eyes.
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