The ground buckled. Mountains shattered. Volcanoes let loose millennia of built-up pressure, filling the air with ash and fire. Everything fell to pieces.
He wandered the last vestiges of civilization, searching. Few had survived – fewer still would be of any use in the fight to come. So he searched for the one individual who would. Though perhaps individual wasn’t the right word – he would be a broken man, now. But he would be needed.
His search took him across the globe. He helped those he could, and ignored those he could not, though it pained him to do so. It was not his nature – or did he even have a nature anymore? Regardless, it hurt.
The plans he came up with during his travels were not his best, but they were all the world had. All he had. He set them in motion, hoping the empty hope that they would come to anything at all. Following a series of leads, his search eventually came to an end. Would that it were actually an end, as opposed to the long, painful beginning it was looking to become.
The town he entered had recovered faster than most, and already a stable collection of shelters stood, the largest two stories tall.
“Ho, stranger,” he called out, approaching a young man pounding a nail into a board on the side of the building. The man turned, face drawn.
“We’re all strangers now, and so none of us are. I’m sorry, but if you are looking for lodgings, you’ll find none here. We barely have enough room as it is.” The man talked as if his life were already over, as if he’d watched it crumble away before his own eyes. He probably had.
“I’m looking for a man – or a boy – I heard word he’d been seen around here.” Hopefully the townspeople haven’t found out too much about him, or they’ll be skeptical of any such inquiries. “He’s probably in shock, probably hasn’t spoken a word – acts like everything scares him.”
The young man nodded gravely and jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “He’s inside with the only other kid still alive. Poor boy’s not fully there. Hell, none of us are, and rightly so.” Then he turned back the sign he was putting up and lifted his hammer. The young man didn’t ask how he knew the boy was there. He didn’t ask how he knew the boy existed. Questions like those were things of the past, now. They didn’t help you stay alive after the world had ended.
Inside the building it was twilight, the air dryer than a desert after a drought. A young boy of perhaps six was curled up on a pile of rags, arms around his knees. So young? But no – in the back of the room, sitting motionless beneath the shadows, sat an older boy. His wide eyes stared out, not blinking, not shifting at all. It’s him. As he neared the boy, he heard sharp, shallow breathing. The eyes stayed trained on him, watching his every move.
“Tudor. Hello. My name is…” The man trailed off, eyes unfocused. He blinked, shaking his head, then brought his gaze back to the frightened boy in front of him. “I need your help, Tudor. You know what to do. Tell me, and we can fix this. Put it back the way it was.” The boy tensed, muscles tightening like a rope stretched taught. “Don’t be frightened. It’s going to all right – I have a plan.”