Authors: Trish Marie Dawson
Tags: #action adventure, #urban disaster fiction, #women heros, #romance adult fiction, #thriller and mystery, #series book 1, #dystopian adventure, #pandemic outbreak, #dogs and adventure, #fantasy about ghosts
I HOPE YOU FIND ME
By Trish Marie Dawson
I HOPE YOU FIND ME
Copyright 2012 Trish Marie Dawson
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For Shane, Rory and Foxx. This is for
I can’t remember now how long their bodies
burned but I do remember the sun setting before it was over, not
far off in the distance, just beyond the still and dismal outline
of downtown San Diego. Its flame-colored glare hit the Pacific
Ocean and slowly, steadily, melted beyond the horizon as smoke
drifted up in dark gray coils into the sky. The fleeing sun took
the heat away with it, and as the first stars of the night made
their appearance, the crisp chill of January returned.
Ash settled all around me, resting on my
eyelashes and the tip of my nose…threatening to choke the oxygen
from my lungs. I kept vigil over my dead family while I sat at the
edge of the garden, slumped forward with my legs crossed and my
hands resting loosely in my lap. A steady breeze from the
approaching night collided with the draft from the fire, sending
hot gusts of air in my direction. My face and arms stung from the
warmth but the smell was worse than the heat. The strong odor of
burning flesh kept my nostrils flared and stomach turning.
I knew that day it was true what they say;
one can never forget the smell of a dead body. I know, I’ll never
After spending several days in bed crying, my
broken heart didn’t actually kill me like I had hoped it would. The
weather felt cold and gloomy when I finally climbed out from under
the covers and stumbled into the bathroom. I turned the water
faucet on, but the tap was dry and for the first time that week, a
stab of panic spread through my chest at the irony that I could die
after-all…from thirst or hunger.
I blinked in confusion at the harried
reflection in the oval mirror staring blankly back at me. The
porcelain counter-top felt cool beneath my weak fingers as I leaned
forward and stared at the hollow expression of the girl that
resembled me. Her blue eyes seemed trapped in a stormy darkness,
and the circles below them made her cheeks appear sunken
in…completely defeated. Long, blonde hair hung from her scalp in
greasy and knotted strands, having lost its luster.
I blinked again and pushed off the sink,
wanting nothing more but to run away from that girl in the mirror,
and my elbow grazed a small drinking glass, knocking it over the
edge of the countertop. I gasped when it shattered on the white
tile floor and watched, mesmerized, as a shard spun wildly away
from my feet until it hit the edge of the fluffy blue bathmat, and
bounced to a stop. I stared at the broken remnants of the glass
with fascination, before I slowly reached down to pick up the large
sliver that had nestled against the side of the mat, and pinched it
between my fingers until a small bead of blood formed on the pad of
my thumb. After letting the glass fall back to the floor, I rubbed
the blood between my fingers until the warm fluid began to stick to
my skin. Outside, the clouds parted briefly and sunshine teased
behind the curtains, willing someone to open them, to let the light
back in. When I looked back up at the mirror, it was me I saw.
I ran my fingertips across the grain of the
distressed oak dresser, leaving thin trails in the dust as I stared
at the picture frames, the generous pile of my son’s miss-matched
folded socks, and my wooden jewelry box. Inside the small glass
door I could see the delicate necklace my daughter gave to me three
years before on Mother’s Day. I reached inside and tapped the
golden locket until it swayed slightly on its chain like a
pendulum, before carefully shutting the glass door, locking it
inside the jewelry box forever. I stood in the doorway and looked
at my neat bedroom and sighed. Everything was in its place, but I
felt as if I no longer fit there.
It was the same feeling in every room I
walked through, even my office, with the massive piles of school
work I never got around to grading over the winter break that had
snowballed out of control and spread along the desk top like weeds.
A bright white piece of paper with a messy fingerprint on the right
upper corner caught my eye, and I picked it up to read the name and
title: Mariposa, The Happy Butterfly, by Cecy Aguirre. I read
through the first paragraph about Cecy’s fictitious garden
butterfly before I remembered the class assignment. My third
graders had turned in a fantasy paper about their favorite insect
just before the school closed for the holiday break but I hadn’t
read any of them. An overwhelming sadness flooded through me, and I
sat down at my desk, red pen in hand, and worked my way through the
mound of papers, writing an “O” for outstanding at the top of each.
When I was finished, I put the papers neatly in a stack, with
Cecy’s paper right on top and moved on to a pile of math papers,
and went through those too. Even the ones with wrong answers got an
“O” at the top, scribbled neatly in my red grading ink.
Afterwards, I sat at the desk with my face
stretched out in a manic-like grin as I stared at the graded
papers. I felt accomplished for the first time in weeks. Even
though the papers would never make it back to their eight year old
owners, at least they hadn’t been completely forgotten. Earlier in
the morning I had showered in the tub with cold, bottled water and
put on a clean change of clothes before wandering through the
house, feeling detached with a million fragmented thoughts running
through my mind like wild horses. But with the papers done, a brief
spell of peace calmed me, and all that was left to do was sit and
I pushed away the thought of starving myself
by going back to bed for the next month, and because I had spent
the last few years turning my house ‘green’ there wasn’t anything
harsher than vinegar to poison myself with. The strongest medicine
in the cabinets was a half-full bottle of syrup for colds that was
acetaminophen-free. I know because I checked the label. Twice.
And there was the dog to think about. The
virus that had swept across the nation like an unchecked wildfire
killing most in its path didn’t do a damn thing to me, or our four
year old black mini-lab/cocker spaniel mix. I leaned back in my
ergonomic office chair and looked at the small furry body at my
feet. Zoey was resting on her front paws, which often served as a
pillow for her whiskered chin. Even though she appeared to be
sleeping, there was a ring of moisture around her closed lids. I
had no tears left, but the poor dog hadn’t stopped crying.
So I really only had one option, as difficult
as it was to comprehend. I had to leave. To get as far away as
possible from the life I had lost; the life that threatened to kill
me slowly by driving me insane. I couldn’t walk down the long and
narrow hallway between the bedrooms without hearing whispers, or
feeling eyes on me. The edges of my psyche were beginning to crack,
like the seams that held me together were unraveling, so I decided
to go to my Mother’s apartment in the city and figure things out
from there because the longer I stayed in my own house, the more
alien it felt. I was afraid the walls, or something sinister living
inside them, would close in around me and swallow me whole.
Roaming through the house to pack my
belongings didn’t take long. What I really wanted to take with me
was in a smoldering heap in the backyard. There wasn’t much I
needed other than food and water, some clothes and my little pocket
first-aid pack. I sat down at my computer with a handful of
flash-drives to copy pictures and videos of the kids since that was
all I could really keep of them.
Out of habit I tried to go online but I
wasn’t connected; there was no internet service. I wondered briefly
if the internet still existed at all inside the satellites flying
around Earth or if it died from its own silent virus along with the
rest of humanity. I guess I would never know, not that it mattered.
Knowing the details wouldn’t change what had happened.
I carefully tucked the flash-drives inside a
sandwich bag before double wrapping it and sealing it shut. I
rolled it all up delicately and set it inside a fabric pouch
in silvery-pink thread and put the pouch
in a zippered side pocket of my back pack, next to Cecy’s paper.
For some reason, it felt good to take it with me.
I had enough food for about three days, and
water for about one. Even though I could see the skyscrapers from
our living room it was at least five miles to downtown and
considering we might end up walking, I packed only what I could
On our way out the door, I hesitated at the
entryway where several framed pictures of our last snow trip to the
mountains hung up neatly on the wall. I took down the one of the
kids sitting on their sled and peered into the faces of the smiling
girl and goofy grinned boy before slamming it up against the door
frame. Zoey scurried away and looked at me reproachfully underneath
her long dark lashes.
“Sorry girl.” I apologized, as she carefully
sat down in the driveway, anxiously waiting for me to exit the
I picked the broken glass out of the frame
and removed the picture, holding it in both hands. She was 8 and he
was 4. They were beautiful. I folded the paper in half and slid it
into the front of my backpack, next to the tooth fairy pouch and
Cecy’s paper. When I shut the door behind me, I only turned around
to make sure the note I wrote earlier was still firmly pinned into
the red wooden door. I read the words silently, one more time.
Family and Friends: The dog and I have left
to find my Mom. Most of you know where her place is, the corner of
9th and F. I’ll leave a note there before I move on. Everyone here
is…gone. I can’t stay. I’m not sure when or if I will come back
here but leave a message anyway.
I hope you find me. – Riley
I sighed heavily and turned around to face my
dead neighbor’s brand new cherry-red Jeep Wrangler, which looked
out of place parked atop the weed-filled cracks of my driveway.
Before I climbed into it, I ran my hand over the white
lettering that was printed along the side of the
hood. It looked straight off the dealership floor, and even though
my neighbor had brought it home six months before, he had taken
exceptional care of it. Even the tires still looked untouched by
the road. I had broken into someone’s home, stolen their car, and
honestly didn’t care. As I drove the Jeep out of the driveway, I
looked at the place that held so many of my memories. It felt like
a cemetery, but I didn’t see myself returning to visit any time
There weren’t many cars blocking the streets
around my neighborhood but within a mile of the freeway the frozen
traffic was bumper to bumper and I realized with horror and sadness
that people had flocked out of their homes only to die in their
cars. I couldn’t think of anything more depressing. Even with most
of the windows rolled up tight, the smell of the decaying bodies
wafted out of their tin coffins and surrounded the Jeep like an
invisible fog, and I questioned, not for the first time, my need to
go into the city.