Kim’s Earth: Kate: Heading Home

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the Kim's Earth collection

Three days after the injection Kate was beginning to feel uncomfortable. She’d ended up sharing a bunker with six other people, because one of her parents had read too many conspiracy theories, and under normal circumstances she would never have spent more than five minutes with any of them. It wasn’t that she disliked them, because she actually found herself getting on with the group, but she hadn’t heard from her parents since the night after they’d had the injection, which was beginning to worry her. A couple of others were also talking about heading home, even though they’d all been told to stay for at least a week.

Gideon was the only one who disagreed with the idea of leaving the bunker, but then he also believed the conspiracy theories so it was easier to ignore him than listen. Finally Kate made the decision, after ringing home one last time, to head back. She picked up the bag she’d thrust some spare clothes into, said her goodbyes, and left the bunker, knowing it was unlikely she’d ever meet any of them again. It only took her a few minutes to realise that someone was following her. Sighing, sure she knew who it was, she turned to look at Gideon.

“Why?” Kate asked, almost surprised at the lack of emotion in her voice.

“I don’t want you going home alone.” Gideon smiled at her. “Every girl who leaves the bunker will have a male companion, just in case.”

“Just in case of what?”

“We don’t know what might have happened, Kate, and it’s entirely possible that you might need help with your parents.”

“What about your parents?”

“They were prepared for what might have happened after the injection.”

“Right…” Their eyes met and Kate gave in, knowing Gideon wasn’t going to take no for an answer. “If you really want to come with me then I’m not going to stop you, but if we get to my house and my parents are fine please just leave.”

“Do you think that’s likely?”

Kate shrugged. “I haven’t heard from them, but that doesn’t mean they’re…” Shivering, she pushed the thought to the back of her mind. “They might not be able to get to the phone for some reason.”

Nodding, Gideon took a couple of steps towards her. “I hope you’re right. I hope that nothing has happened to your parents, or mine, but you have to be prepared for the worst.”

“I know.” Kate gripped her bag a little tighter. “I just don’t want to think about it right now, Gideon.”

“How far away is your place?” Gideon asked, and she found herself smiling at him to thank him for the change of subject.

“It’s about a fifteen minute walk.” Kate started walking. “Dad gave me a lift to the bunker, so I’m not entirely sure of the route, but I’m pretty certain I can get us there.”

“So it’s just your parents you want to check on?”

“Yeah, my older sister moved out last year. She’s living with her long term boyfriend.”

All Kate could do, the entire walk home, was think about what she might find. Gideon had fallen silent and she couldn’t help wondering if he was doing exactly the same thing, but she didn’t want to ask the question. The chance they might have both lost their parents, because of an untested contraceptive injection that was supposed to solve the problem of the population still growing too much, was one she had tried so hard not to think about the whole time she was in the bunker. She didn’t want to believe it was possible. No one did. Even those who had planned for it, she was certain, hadn’t really believed that something was going to happen to them.

Glancing at Gideon she bit her lip. Fifteen minutes of walking in silence wasn’t exactly what Kate had planned on, and if she knew how to break it without bringing up the subject of their family she would have done. Even though she hadn’t really liked him at the bunker, because he had been too sure that something bad was going to happen, it was nice to have the company, just in case. Thanks to a couple of TV shows she had watched before the injection was even a rumour she knew how much things might have changed, thanks to the unexpected changes. As she nibbled her bottom lip, unable to stop herself, she realised she might really have lived through the end of the world, at least as she knew it, and she didn’t know how to deal with that.

Unwanted tears filled Kate’s eyes. Everything, if Gideon was right and the injection had ended up killing everyone who’d had it, was going to be different. She would be an orphan, her sister might be dead, the people she went to college with could all be dead… “Kate, stop thinking about it,” Gideon said, making her jump even though his voice was quiet, because she hadn’t expected him to say anything. “There’s nothing we can do about it now and thinking about it is only going to make things harder, so right now what you need to be doing is planning for the worst. What are you going to do if you step into your house and find that your parents, the two people you relied on to look after you, are dead?”

For a moment Kate wanted to argue that she hadn’t relied on them to look after her, she was entirely capable of looking after herself, but, really, being able to do her own washing, cook, and pay her parents some rent every month wasn’t the same thing. “I don’t know,” she replied, honestly, trying to work out what she would do. “Cry probably.” She sighed. “Although that isn’t going to do any good.”

“Okay, the best thing you can do is bury your parents, or burn them, because leaving them there to rot is only going to cause more problems in the future.” Kate shuddered at the thought, but knew Gideon was right. All of the bodies that would be left… “Then gather up any food you have that is going to last. Cans, packets, pretty much anything that isn’t fresh, as it’s already been three days and anything that was fresh isn’t going to be any longer.”

“What do I do after I’ve gathered up the food?” Kate didn’t quite know why she was suddenly relying on Gideon, but it did seem as though he was much better prepared that she was for the worst case scenario. As she hadn’t let herself think about it, at all, it wasn’t that much of a surprise, and for the first time she wished she’d listened when her dad had told her that something awful might happen when they had the injection. “I’m not ready to walk in to my house and find they were right.”

“Neither am I.” Gideon shrugged. “Even though I kept telling you all to plan for the worst that doesn’t mean I was expecting to happen. It was simply what my parents had told me to do, and if they thought it was that important then I knew it was something that I should do, no matter what I thought.” He sighed. “When I tried to get through to them the first night only to get no answer I knew there was something wrong, but I didn’t want to believe it – I kept hoping that the next time I rang them one of them would answer the phone and when it didn’t happen… Kate, you have no idea how hard it was for me to be in that bunker knowing that they might be dying. All I could do was keep telling myself that they told me to leave it three days. Once the three days was up I could go home and then, once the three days was up, I found that I didn’t want to leave. Going home might mean that I find my parents dead.

“Anyway, yeah, after the food look for blankets, pack some clothes, and leave the house. Don’t stay in a place full of memories, because it isn’t going to do you any good. Remember that this world isn’t like the one we left behind three days ago. Things aren’t as bad as they’re going to get, but they’re going to be bad enough, so I suggest you find somewhere safe to stay, preferably with other people. I have a feeling that you might find a couple of people that we spent the last three days with at the bunker.”

“Don’t you want me to come with you?”

Gideon shook his head. “No, I don’t want you to. It would be nice if you did, I could do with the company, but I’m not going to ask you to.”

“You chose to follow me, Gideon, because you were worried and didn’t want me to be alone. It would be wrong of me not to go with you, as long as you’re willing to stay while I do as you suggested.” Kate smiled at him, even though he wouldn’t be able to see it, because she’d just realised how glad she was that she was going to have company at what could turn out to be one of the most difficult moments of her life. “Then we can find somewhere safe together.”

“From what everyone said they were all thinking, if things are as bad as we really don’t want them to be, of going back to the bunker. Even though we don’t all know each other we are all in the same position, so that’s an option.” Gideon sighed. “There are going to be other survivors, I hope, building communities, some of whom we might actually know.”

Kate bit her lip, trying to remember whose parents had been able to pay the fine in order to make certain that their child was safe, because it was likely that everyone was at least a little worried that something might go wrong. She hadn’t really believed it was possible and yet there had still be this niggling worry in the back of her mind, probably thanks to the reports she’d been reading in the papers. They kept going on and on about how it wasn’t possible for the World Government to have tested the injection well enough, but everyone had wanted to believe the lies – it was easier than thinking that something might go wrong if they had the injection. It had been her dad who had pushed for her to go somewhere safe, wanting her away from everything that was happening, and when she hadn’t arrived they would have had to pay £1000, which was an amount very few people could afford.

If she was being honest with herself Kate wasn’t entirely sure where her parents would have got the money from. That was a month’s salary for her dad, after tax and National Insurance, which had to go to paying the mortgage, the bills, for the food, and they tried to keep some to go into their savings account. Maybe they’d had enough in there to be able to pay the fine. Sighing, she told herself to stop thinking about it, because she was never going to get the answer to her questions, and thought about what Gideon had said. Would she know anyone who had survived, if things were as bad as the newspapers said they could be?

“Do you think anyone you know might still be alive?”

“No, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to hope that they are.” Gideon smiled. “There is a chance that some people did survive having the injection and my plan was, after checking on my parents, to go around the houses of all my friends to see if any one did, but I don’t know if that’s a good idea. If I don’t check on them then I won’t know if they’re alive or dead and I almost think it’s better that way. At least then I can imagine them surviving, going on to live a life, maybe having children, before dying at the age of 85, surrounded by their children and grandchildren.” He shook his head. “That makes me happy that what is likely to be reality, as their parents wouldn’t have been able to afford the fine.”

“How did yours manage to find £1000?”

“They never said, and I never asked. Honestly, I don’t know that they would have cared too much, because they truly believed this was going to be my future.” He sighed. “Nothing I said was enough to convince them they might be wrong. I’m glad it worked out the way it did, but they could have come too. If they truly believed I was safe in the bunker then…”

“Only one of you could be missing, Gideon. Had they not gone too there was a chance the World Government would have known something unusual was happening. I don’t think they were truly surprised by the number of young people who had parents pay the fine for them. Five years is a long time.” Kate raked a hand through her hair. “For someone my parents age it wouldn’t have mattered too much. My older sister… well, she was on her own. Had she been living at home things would have been different.” She shrugged. “They did what they could to protect us.”

As Kate turned onto a road she knew she realised she was far closer to home than she truly wanted to be. She slowed, listening out for any of the noises she would normally have heard, but the silence was louder than everything else. Biting hard on her lip she focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Needing to know for certain wasn’t helping. Needing to see that they were both gone… it wasn’t as though it was going to change anything. They’d be dead, and she’d still be alone, dealing with the end of everything she knew. Unexpectedly she found herself reaching out to take Gideon’s hand. Feeling him squeeze her hand when she did helped. She wasn’t alone. Maybe Gideon wasn’t a friend, hadn’t been anything more than the guy she’d tried to avoid most of the time, but at least she had someone with her.

“You were right.”

“Right?” He shook his head. “Right about what?”

“Making sure we all had someone with us. Doing this alone… it wouldn’t have been as easy as I assumed it was going to be.”

“Nothing ever is. We’ll find a way to deal with this. It’s probably going to be the hardest thing any of us have ever done, but it’s not as though we have much of a choice. We’re on our own, it seems, and I’ve seen enough stories about the end of the world to believe it’s possible to get through anything, no matter how difficult it is.”

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