When We Were Human
2015 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards
for Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fiction
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November 12-18 only
“They came four years ago. Invaded our planet, rounded us up, decimated the human race. We fought back, and some even say we won, but they’re wrong. The invaders took everything from us. Our family. Our hope. Our humanity. We won the war, but there are no humans left. Only monsters who will do anything to survive. Some look human and some don’t, but they are all the same.”
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When the camp comes into view I have a difficult time not throwing up. Water and carrots slosh back and forth in my stomach. The sweat on my palms has nothing to do with the humidity, and my legs are so weak they feel like pipe cleaners trying to support a rubber ball.
The fence surrounding the camp is down in most places, and the majority of the hastily set-up tents have blown away. The few left are ripped. The canvas blows in the warm breeze, flapping back and forth like the wings of an ominous bird.
The storage building is still standing, though. If it isn’t empty this trip might be worth our time, but if it’s been cleaned out all this emotional turmoil and pain I’m going through right now will be for nothing. And I don’t have a lot of optimism that things will turn out in our favor.
Atlanta is just visible in the distance. Or what’s left of it, anyway. A ruined building juts up here and there, but for the most part the city is flat. It looks as if like the earth had just opened up and sucked the city down. It’s what the creepers did in the first wave. Wiped out the all the major cities until there was nothing left but a landscape of rubble and dust. Killing millions in the blink of an eye.
Walker heads into the camp, and I follow silently, trying not to think about those terrifying days. My throat tightens when we step across the toppled chain link fence. The rusty metal clinks under our feet and my heart pounds harder with each step.
When I finally enter the prison camp where my sister lived out her final days, it feels like I’m walking into a cemetery. In many ways I am. Bones of the former inhabitants are scattered across the ground as far as the eye can see. The bodies have been picked clean by animals and bugs, and the clothes have long since blown away, but the skeletons remain as a heart-breaking reminder of everything we lost.
Which one is my sister?
“This way,” Walker says, tilting his head toward the storage building.
The three of us pick our way across the camp, stepping over debris and remains. Tara won’t stop looking at me, and every glance causes my insides to harden even more. I wish I’d never told them I lost my sister here. I hate thinking that they associate me with this place. Even worse, I hate that I associate myself with this hell.
I catch sight of a charred, mangled tree and the urge to hurl hits me so hard that I almost have to stop. The stump juts up from the ground, and to the left of it sits a small crater. It’s like a missile took out the top of the tree, then hit the ground next to it. The black circle from the fire extends for about ten feet around the hole. The fire burnt the tree to a crisp, leaving almost nothing behind.
Our tree. Mine and Lilly’s.
I force myself to turn away from the remains before I burst into tears. I shouldn’t have come here.
We get closer to the storage building but something looks off. The brightness of the sun makes it hard to see and forces me to squint. Then it hits me. The walls are covered in writing and discarded cans of spray paint by the dozens lay on the ground. At first I’m not sure what I’m looking at, but it only takes a few seconds of scanning the words to figure out what it all means. They’re notes left by survivors. People hoping to find loved ones they’ve lost.
Stupid people clinging to hope that doesn’t exist.
“What is this?” I ask, coming to a stop about ten feet from the wall.
“Survivor’s wall.” Walker glances toward Tara, then turns at the entrance of the building. “People leave messages behind just in case a family member comes through. We’ll check it out before we leave, but we should look for food first.”
Tara nods and follows him, but her eyes are glued to the wall. They never stop moving, never stop reading the names.
I keep my eyes on the back of Walker’s head as I follow him inside. Away from the wall and the words of desperation painted on them. There’s nothing on that wall for me.
╣About the Author╠
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