Hiruni sat on the rock under the shade of the oak tree and hugged her son Janith to shelter him through the apocalyptic night, from the heavy rain which had fallen along with the cities around. Everything around her, in the cities, in the villages, in the deep mountain jungles, in the valleys, in the concrete; everything, around her, was blown to smithereens and the smithereens were quivering in the treacherous rain, just like her faith. No help was going to arrive; she knew that she had to reach to the safe zone at the north end. Tears spilt from her eyes but her wet face didn’t let the drops make past her cheeks, the water on her face dissolved them, just like the water around her had dissolved everything into it. The winds were still fierce; her bones were cracking up against the heavy gusts. What a misery had befallen. The demon had danced in front of her eyes in the southern region; half of the country was wiped out to the bricks and stones in that cataclysmic event. As far as she looked, it was only Janith and she; were there any other survivors out there?
She had seen people dying in the blink of an eye and homes collapsing and drifting away in the cyclone. They knew it was coming, they were prepared for it, but what came along with it made everything crumble and fall. The cyclone, Maha Sohona, was followed by an earthquake of 9.7 magnitudes. The cyclone was heavy-lifted, it wasn’t what was expected, a class five instead of class three. Nature was going against the civilization and it was just the starting. Did they have to try to control the weather? Was the project end of the world? People had warned, protests were made, factories shut down but nothing worked. The scientists did what they had to do. And the result was this, after a month of successfully, how much though, managing the weather at the human kind’s own will, nature was going to take it back, perhaps, for good.
She had lost her husband to the earthquake. Had it not been for the concrete bunker that her home was, she would have been dead along with Janith. But nature’s play was not over yet, it had just begun. And carrying a child who suffers from asthma was only going to add to her hurdles in finding the safe zone. She had to find medication for him before he got another attack, she had to find food for him, her broken arm was not that a big concern for her anymore. The survival instincts were pumping enough estrogen into her veins to make her forget her physical pain.
It was almost midnight when she fell asleep under the strong oak tree which had withstood the cataclysm just like both of them. Deadly rain poured all night, often waking her up from her famished sleep. The thick oak tree protected her from the winds and the rain until the light reigned once again to lead her in the wake of destruction.
The storm hadn’t dropped its powers yet, there was no possibility that nature was going stop any sooner. The grey light broke through the stormy black clouds, accompanying the thunder in the sky. This morning was different; there were no birds, no car horns, no people and no homes. The only thing that made its presence noticeable was the wind lamenting over the deaths of a million people. Janith was still asleep in her arms. It is strange how much trust a child could put in his parent. He had slept through the night, where yesterday only he was inconsolable and scared to death, today in the morning, he had found relief in his mother’s arms. Maybe he knew that she would not fail him. Looking at him made Hiruni cry, she had to protect him. She woke him up for the water in the area had started to rise, she had to migrate to a higher altitude and reach the northern region where things were better presumably, maybe she would get shelter and safety.
With the sounds of thunder accompanying their footsteps, they began. Walking through the gusts of wind was like cutting through the water. Janith was wet since yesterday, his coughing had started now that he had woken up. She had to find a shelter as soon as possible. They kept on walking, without stopping for a second for the broken, fallen and smashed trees, for the destructed land, over the debris of the houses, schools, hospitals and whatnot, over the dead bodies waiting for the decay. Her eyes were scanning everything on the way, her hope was dwindling. Though there were a few houses that seemed to have withstood the catastrophe, they were completely sterile for the purpose of shelter. They were ripped off of their walls at places and were still being tested.
The whole afternoon passed, they stopped and started again a few times. They had not come across a single living being so far. Were they the only ones remaining? The answer came from an unlikely place. On their right side, there was a partially destroyed home; a yellow light was funnelling through the broken window of the fractured wall. Someone was there. She hurried Janith along with her to the door.
“If somebody is inside, please open the door,” she cried but nature was crying louder than her. She waited, there was no response, she panicked and started to struggle with the door with her left hand. Someone opened it from inside. There stood a man in front of her; his face was painted in dry blood that had oozed from the wound in his head. “Please help us, please,” she begged. The man stood for a while as if he was lifeless, then he moved to one side drowsily and let them in. He gave them clothes with a grieving heart and whatever food he had with a shivering hand. His face was pale and eyes red.
“It took everything I had; my wife, my three daughters. They all are buried in the debris of my own home,” he started to cry as he spoke to Hiruni, “I saw the back of our home falling upon them,” he could not stop his tears, “when I woke up at the night, I tried to pull them out from there,” tears kept rushing, “I don’t know why I am still alive,” he fell on his knees. He screamed, he lamented, he hit his hands on the floor. She was sitting on the bed along with her son; she understood the pain he was going through but there was nothing that she could do to comfort him. She hugged Janith who had started to cry seeing the man like that. She tried to comfort her son until he pointed her attention at the man. There was a pistol in his hands, he was looking at it with a face which showed no terror but a remorse that had consumed him, “I was going to shoot myself before I saw you two outside,” he put the gun to his temple. Before that Hiruni could stop him he pulled the trigger. The sound of the bullet overlapped the sound of the storm outside. The very next moment his brain was splattered on the wall by his side. Janith screamed with terror and vomited. Quavering with terror, chocked, Hiruni hugged her son. She felt his breath, it was not normal. She pulled the inhaler out of his pocket immediately, shook it and made him inhale. It was the last dose they had for him but the dose was not enough. She made him sit on his knees and hands to relieve the pressure from his diaphragm; It took him ten minutes to get back to the normal. She had to wait for the storm to get over.
The wait was over by the evening. Finally, the storm had gone and the wind had slowed down. They had spent their whole day in the home with a dead man lying on the floor. Hiruni had not let Janith look at the dead body or the wall. He had fallen asleep once again in her arms. The sound of rain and howling winds stopped outside, she woke Janith up and led him outside of the home with his eyes closed. She asked Janith to stay there and went inside to scavenge. She returned with the pistol, a torch and a few bananas and a bottle of drinking water tied to a cloth.
The scene outside was scarier after the storm. Maha Sohona had left bereavement and annihilation all over. The sound of silence was creepier than the sound of the storm she realised. Water had logged up to two feet in that area, she could only imagine the submerged areas she had left last night. There were just a few trees standing tall, barely. Everything else was broken on the water.
They still had two hours of light to move ahead. After walking for one and half hour she saw something horrendous. She covered Janith’s eyes again. Finally, there was someone else alive in front of her. The sight was horrible to her guts but at least they were not alone. There were some dogs who were feeding on the dead body of a man, tearing the flesh from the bones. One of the dogs saw them and growled, warning them not to come closer to their food. She and Janith stepped backwards. Janith did not speak a thing; he had not spoken a thing since yesterday. The dog got back to devouring the dead flesh. They walked away from the dogs.
The last light was gone long past from the sky. They had come across a few animals in past five hours, which was a sign that they were not far away from the help, from the living. They were tired and needed to relax but the next city, or whatever had remained of it, was just two kilometres away. She hoped that she would find help there, so they kept on walking. Once they reached to the ruins of the city, the disappointment hit her. It was the same, a cemetery of civilization.
Just when she thought that there was no hope, she saw a flashlight a little far away from her, approaching her. She flashed the torch, it was a man. He was holding a lumber in his hand and walking towards them speedily. Her instant instinct was to run but she stayed, she flashed her torch at him again and noticed that it was not a single man but there were three. It did not take her long to realize that there was something sinister about them. They started to run in the opposite direction, through the lanes, walking through the debris and demolished buildings.
“Catch her,” shouted one man from behind. She could not risk making Janith run for longer, lest he would get asthma attack again. Either way, they were in danger. They lost the men on a turn and hid Janith in one of the ruined buildings. Giving him the pistol and edible she promised him that she would return soon. “Shoot at anyone who comes at you,” she had never thought that she would teach his son t kill. But it was the only thing she could teach him now. “And do not come out, no matter what,” she whispered and kissed him on the ear. She picked an iron rod from the floor and stepped outside. She could not risk hiding for a long time, Janith did not have enough time before he got another attack. She had to fight them and leave that city. She walked through the lane with great caution, looking around. There was no one. She had barely got into the next lane when someone kicked her from behind. She fell on the ground and the iron bar slipped away from her right hand. It hurt her broken arm and she fumbled in pain.
“Where do you think you are going?” one man shouted at her in a nasty tone, “don’t worry, you are going to enjoy it bitch.” She cried lying on the floor. She wished they would rape her and leave her. That was the only thing she could wish for now.
“Where is the son of the bitch?” another man shouted with intense lechery.
“We don’t need him,” said the third one and embraced her face, “we need her.”
“Fuck her but I need him,” he said. All the pain in her body was taken over by a chill which left her numb for a few moments. She turned and looked at them with a horror on her face. How was she going to save Janith from them? The world seemed to have stopped moving, it was over for her. She prayed to her gods to not let them find Janith. The same man hit her on her face with his knuckle, “where is your son, bitch?” holding her by her chin he screamed at her. Her nose bled, she was shivering with fear. Janith was listening to all of it from his building from around the corner in that ghost-town, but he had not stepped out as his mother had asked him not to.
“Enjoy with her now you motherfucker, we will find his son for you after killing her,” said the first man. She felt like she was a chicken stuck in a wolf’s den. Her mind had gone numb. One man grabbed her by her hair and pulled her upwards and started to tear her clothes apart, she was so shaking that she could not protest, she could not scream but hang there in their grip like a dead body. Janith was listening; the absence of his mother’s sound startled him.
She was almost naked, yet she offered no resistance. The man threw her on the ground and dropped his pants, saliva dripped down from his ugly bruised lips into his vomit covered beard. His stern dick hung from his body, he came to his knees and touched her legs. She lay there like she was lifeless, shivering and shocked. He caressed her legs and his hands reached to her vagina when a bullet went through his neck. It splattered the blood all over her abdomen and the men fell on her, holding his neck, gurgling the blood and writhing in pain. Other two men looked at Janith who was standing there with the gun aimed at them, “let… m..my …mumm..my go,” said Janith almost losing his breath. One of them charged at Janith who closed his eyes and pulled the trigger again. The Bullet went through his heart and he fell lifeless to the ground. Janith cried, “Go,” persistently, pleading with the third man, who, caught up in the horror, ran away.
Janith ran to Hiruni and helped her get up on her trembling legs, writhing in pain. They sat there for they did not know how long. It took Hiruni time to get back to her senses. And as soon as she recovered, she found Janith lying by her said, gasping for breath. She hugged him and looked around. With shivering hands she made him sit on his four and her eyes fell on the destroyed grocery shop that was there in front of her. She ran in and started to look for the oils. It took her a few minutes to shuffle when she found the lavender oil covered by the debris. She ran outside and picked the iron rod from there, came inside and put all of her strength in pulling the debris enough to get the oil. She left the shop and ran out back to Janith, he had fallen on the road, struggling to breathe. She shuddered and cried as she picked him up in her lap. She poured the oil on one of her clothes lying on the ground made him inhale its essence.
The night went by and the sun came up behind the dark roaring clouds. They had moved ahead, leaving the nightmare behind, once again to find the safe zone. They had almost reached the end of the city when Hiruni saw an old woman whinnying in pain at the corner of the destroyed road. She ignored the woman and kept walking. Janith left her hand and ran to the old lady. He reached to her and tried to help her get up. Hiruni walked up to both of them.
“Help yourself,” she said in her bleak tone, “walk away from here before that the catastrophe breaks out again.”
“Again?” asked Hiruni.
“Yes, there was a news on the radio that another cyclone is going to hit the area again,” she said as her voice shuddered more, “those who survived, left to reach the safe zone,” she took a deep breath, “help would not arrive. Go now”
Hiruni held Janith’s hand and pulled him to leave with her.
“Why can’t she come with us?” he spoke, finally, like he used to.
“I can’t walk, son” she struggled to breathe again, “animals would attack you if you don’t go away from here, nature has turned on us,” she took a long pause to gather the courage to speak again, “go now.”
Janith did not want to leave her behind but Hiruni knew that they had to in order to survive. Colombo was still one hundred and fifteen miles ahead; the presumed Safe Zone was there. No one knew if the capital had survived, they just hoped that it did. She did not have anything else on her mind since last night but only a few lines which echoed, ‘there were no friends anymore,’ that ‘she had a dreadful journey ahead’ and ‘she had a son to keep safe.’ She pulled Janith and he moved with a sad heart. They left the old woman behind, she felt nothing for her. There was a huge jungle between Colombo and them. They would have to cross it through the road.
They had come passing through millions of dead beings, a few living dead beings, annihilated villages, man-eater animals, extinguished cities and the one who committed suicide. They were hungry, without the food and water and the shelter was far-far away from them.