The empty streets were getting old. Naya was sick of it; of the ruffle of newspapers in the wind as they tumbled down the street, of the creaks of shutters, of the occasional caw of a bird, but mostly, of the incredible stillness and silence of it all.
She hated it.
She peeked over the corner of the house, looking at the empty boulevard. This used to be a place full of life and joy and families and laughs, but there was barely anything left. No people, no joy, no life.
A ghost town, just like thousands upon thousands of cities, suburbs and houses Naya had visited in the past few months.
Naya cautiously walked to the middle of the road. The wind blew, as the town creaked and shifted once again. A bell tinkled in the distance as Naya overlooked the place.
Houses were neatly lined up parallel to the street, but that was only only thing tidy about it. They were beyond repair; the once colorful paint on the walls starting to peel. A few roofs were collapsed; concrete and dust littering the road. Moss and vines grew on the side of the buildings, as the front lawns overflowed with invasive vegetation. It was clear no one was here for a long time.
A few papers floated to the middle of the road. A tumbleweed rolled. Then the wind stilled. Nothing moved. Naya could only hear her own breath.
The place was wintry in a dreary way. But it was the summer season, as the sun was beating down on Naya, but the place was so desolate that it felt cold, cut off from the world. Bleak.
She walked down the middle of the road, watching everything. The entire landscape was turned to dark muddy brown, probably due to the amount of unmoved grime and dirt. She dragged her feet across it, leaving a footprint on a nearby pile of overthrown soil. It was the only mark on the dirt. There were barely signs of life. A tree there, a flutter of bird wings there. Just Naya and what was left of humanity.
This place was once bustling with activity, Naya was sure. But now...just arid. Barren. And sweltering hot. Naya wiped away a thin layer of sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand.
She soon arrived in what seemed to be the downtown part of the small city. Shops with faded and crooked signs were squeezed together along the road. Naya walked along the sidewalk, out of the way of the sun. She hid in the shadows, under the crumbling roofs of the little houses.
She walked under a pathway, looking at the signs as she passed by. Beauty Spa, she read as she ducked under a sign that was hanging by a few splinters of wood. Lorrie’s Tea Place, Britannica Arms Bar-
Something right above Naya creaked and snapped, the wrenching sound echoing. She felt a scream build up her throat as she dove for the ground, covering her head. She slid against the smooth stone of the pathway as something crashed right behind her, where she stood a split second before.
Then, once again, nothing moved. Naya peeked over her the crook of her arm. One green sign had fallen, splinters thrown all over the place. Naya stood up on her unsteady feet and brushed off the shards of wood and soot. That sign was probably the only that had moved for days, or even years.
Naya continued her way, but decided to return to the middle of the road. The scorching sun was better than being crushed, right?
She was bored, anyway. There was nothing to do in this place. Randomly picking a shop, she opened the door that was slowly rotting away. She sighed contentedly as she finally arrived into the shop, into the shade.
Her brief sense of happiness didn’t last long. Naya wrinkled her nose at the smell of mildew as she walked further into the shop. She took a look around, her eyes slowly adjusting to the dark environment. Bookshelves as tall as the ceiling stretched before her. The shop was pretty small, but it seemed like the owner tried to shove as many books in here as possible. The air was still, though, and Naya coughed at the amount of dust, causing disruption in the motionless room. She suddenly felt like she was intruding, even though the owner was long gone and it was just her.
Some books were eaten by animals. Others were in perfect condition, kept in plastic bags or under a sheet. Naya walked around the shop, cringing as the floorboards that creaked unnecessarily loudly. She picked up a thick book on a stand, blowing off the dust on the cover. She rubbed her finger on the front of the book, wanting to know the title.
It was a dictionary. Naya resisted the urge to roll her eyes. What fun.
She opened the book anyway, flipping at a random page almost idly, around the middle of the book. She read the first word at the top.
The deep fear of stillness , solitude or deserted places.
Naya snorted. How ironic. She didn’t have eremophobia, but it felt like she was starting to. At strange moments, she was terrified of it all. But the boredom and curiosity overshadowed it. Besides, she would have to conquer that fear. Naya already accepted that this was going to be the rest of her life. Alone in the world, leaving the last footprint in the footprint of mankind.
She closed the dictionary, a sour taste in the back of her mouth. She rushed out of the book store, and back to the middle of the street, her breath coming out in harsh puffs. She didn’t want to like this, in a godforsaken world. Alone, for the rest of her life. Alone, walking down empty streets. Alone.
She calmed herself down as she took out a lighter out of her backpack, trying to even out her breathing. Brushing her dark hair back into a loose ponytail, Naya took out a plastic box from the front pocket.
She cautiously opened it, perring at the vanilla cupcake. It was kept in a freezer in a restaurant from the last town she visited. Perfect for her own little celebration.
She lit up a small match and put it upright into the frosting. She didn’t have candles. A match would do. She should be grateful she found an untouched cupcake in the first place.
“Happy Birthday, Naya,” she muttered as she blew off the match, throwing it away. Peeling slightly the wrapped away, she took a bite, savoring the sweetness. She didn’t have a treat in a long time.
She didn’t have anything for a long time.