top of page

Journey through Nowhereland: a choose-your-story (Ch. 1)


Art by Grace Gill

This is Chapter One of a series. It’s recommended you remember and/or keep track of each decision you make, as they will likely come into play in future chapters.


Choose wisely!


Disclaimer: You are a character in this story - your name is Jude. Your version of Jude looks like you do in your life, only much more apocalypse-worn. Your Jude can be whatever gender and use whatever pronouns you prefer.


1

Welcome. You are about to enter a post-apocalyptic world and wander on a journey through cities and forests full of wonder and danger. Be ready with your writing materials. Be prepared to interact with characters, utilize survival skills, and make sacrifices that will alter the course of your life.


Your name is Jude. You are fifteen years old.


There’s a pounding in your head. You can’t see anything, but you can hear the tap tap of something dripping. You start to move and feel your muscles straining from the stiffness that has settled. One of your shoulders weighs you down with soreness. With some effort, you open your eyes that have been stuck closed with sleep. Light burns your vision as you adjust to the room around you. You sit up and witness the sky above your head, the greyness around you. You’re in a building, but a large piece of the ceiling above you has fallen away. Cement pillars ridden with cracks and vines and sprinkled throughout the strange empty building hold up the rest of the dilapidated concrete. You push yourself off the ground with your good arm, the throbbing in your left shoulder still unrelenting.


The building you find yourself in looks like something of a parking lot, though it could be anything considering the unrecognizable state it’s in. Darkness creeps in from every corner. It looks like the only light is coming from the hole above you. There’s a pillar near the opening, covered in dried ivy vines. You walk over to it, gripping the vines with both hands and pulling. They seem firm enough to climb, but as you pull, your shoulder pinches and your arm shakes. You look back around yourself. It’s either risk your arm giving out, resulting in a fall onto crumbling cement, or journey into a darkness that may not even have an exit.


Do you:

a) Venture into the darkness, risking encounters with hidden dangers

b) Try to climb the pillar onto the roof, risking a potentially fatal fall onto the cement below


If a, read section A. If b, skip section A and read section B.


A.

You take a breath and turn toward the darkness that surrounds you. You can’t even tell which direction you woke up facing. You do a slow spin, checking to see if there’s anywhere that you can go that looks at least remotely illuminated. There is none. You begin to walk, the ground beneath you crunching with each step. You begin to fall into rhythm with your footsteps.


Just as you begin to relax, you hear something of a hiss to your left. You freeze. You slowly turn your head, but in the darkness, there’s nothing to glue your eyes to. You pick up the pace, trying to keep quiet. Another hiss, the same distance from you. It’s moving with you. You begin to run. You can hear it running with you.


Just as you begin to familiarize yourself with the certainty of your own death, you see a light in the distance. You run even faster. The sound of the foreign footsteps disappears, but you don’t stop. The light becomes a doorway. Two metal door frames mark the exit. Careful to avoid the broken glass lining the frames, you step into the sunlight and have to shield your eyes as they adjust to the violent heat. You inhale deeply, trying to catch your breath. You turn around and look back into the darkness; whatever that creature was is nowhere to be seen.


Skip to section 2.


B.

You shake out your limbs, rolling your shoulders and trying to ignore the ache that allows fear to settle in your stomach. You give another hard tug on the vines that wrap around the pillar. They won’t fall, you’re only worried that you will.


You hoist yourself up and manage to get a foothold. Your fear starts to fade away. This isn’t so bad. You reach up your right arm, then your left, then your feet again. You’re halfway there already. Again, you grab a vine and try to hoist yourself further up. It gives out.


As you drop, one of your feet loses its grip on the vines. You cry out. Your heart catches in your throat. Replacing your foot and pulling yourself closer to the pillar, you decide to rely only on your good arm. As quick as your tired muscles will allow, you pull yourself as close to the pillar as possible and let your right hand leap up and catch on vines further above you before you have a chance to fall back. You take two steps. Then, again, another jump with your hand. Your arm is getting tired. You step up. One more. You reach up as far as possible with your right arm. You catch a vine. You take two more steps, and now you can reach over the ledge. This time you allow your left arm to help, and with nothing to grab onto, you press your palms and forearms hard against the cement of the structure’s roof. You kick against vines and stale air as you hoist yourself over. Finally, your knees make it over the ledge and you let out a long sigh as you roll over, and lay flat, your eyes to the sky, squinting against the brightness of the day.


After a few minutes, you push yourself off the ground and walk around the perimeter of the roof. The sight is horrifying, and beautiful. The cityscape is standing strong, not much is crumbled. Some structures are charred, most have broken windows, but even in its isolation it resembles an ecosystem.

After scanning the horizon with your eyes once more, you peel yourself away and start to look for a way down. There’s a short concrete railing along the perimeter except for in one corner, where the hinges of a metal gate mark an opening. You peer over, and see a precarious flight of metal stairs leading to the ground. You take a step onto the first platform. It sways, but it won’t fall. You trek down the steps.


Read on (section 2).


2.

You find yourself at the entrance of an unidentifiable structure. Something had to have happened to it. You survey the area. There isn’t a living thing in sight aside from a few crows flying through the air and landing on a telephone wire.


You try hard to remember how you got here. You see flashes of people. The world before, the world now. You don’t remember why it died. Where did everything go? How did the world become like this?


Then you see flashes of people now, in the aftermath. A group. You were a part of a group.


But where are they now? You woke up, lying in a dangerous abandoned building, with a hurt shoulder and hardly any memory. You had to have hit your head. You don’t remember them well, but you assume your group would have saved you if they could have. Unless they betrayed you.


You can hardly remember anything, but it seems awfully unlikely that you would find yourself in such an uncertain situation if you had been surrounded by trustworthy people. Unless they thought something happened to you, or they were attacked and chased away from you. Or, they left you to die.


Do you:

a) Assume they thought you were dead, or that they were chased off; give them the benefit of the doubt.

b) Be pessimistic. They left you. They betrayed you. You can’t trust them.


If a, read section 2A. If b, skip 2A and read 2B.


2A.

You are calmed by the thought of people you can trust. You can’t remember names, and you can’t remember faces, but something tells you that you’ll find them again and that you’ll be safe there, with them.


You observe the world around you. You’re standing on a sidewalk of what probably used to be a bustling shopping street, with empty stores for days and cars parked askew in the middle of the road. Most of the signs have fallen off of buildings and the letters have been scrubbed off by time, but you can recognize a grocery store and, beside it, a clothing store. You don’t have time to wonder why these two buildings were placed next to each other.


You glance down the street and although the odds of there being anything in either the grocery store or the clothing store are likely zero, the odds of any of the other buildings – old crystal shops, delis, and souvenir stores – having anything useful are probably even less.


It’s sunny, and it looks about midday, but even still there is a chill in the air that wraps around your exposed neck and arms. You look down and survey your clothes; green cargo pants and a black top with the sleeves cut off. You shiver. A jacket, or any piece of fabric, would sure be nice about now. Then again, food seems almost more important. You decide you’ll go to both.


Which will you do first?

a) Go to the grocery store first - you need food sooner than you need warmth.

b) Go to the clothing store first - if you’re able to warm up a bit, you’ll be able to think more clearly.


If a, skip section 2B and read section 3A. If b, skip sections 2B and 3A and read section 3B.


2B.

Put on edge by the thought of enemies, you take a wary breath as you get accustomed to your surroundings. You don’t remember names or faces, and yet you spite them all. You’ll know it when you find them again, and you won’t make the same mistake of trusting them twice. If, that is, you manage to recognize them.


You observe the world around you. You’re standing on a sidewalk of what probably used to be a bustling shopping street, with empty stores for days and cars parked askew in the middle of the road. Most of the signs have fallen off of buildings and the letters have been scrubbed off by time, but you can recognize a grocery store and, beside it, a clothing store. You don’t have time to wonder why these two buildings were placed next to each other.


You glance down the street and although the odds of there being anything in either the grocery store or the clothing store are likely zero, the odds of any of the other buildings – old crystal shops, delis, and souvenir stores – having anything useful are probably even less.


It’s sunny, and it looks about midday, but even still there is a chill in the air that wraps around your exposed neck and arms. You look down and survey your clothes; green cargo pants and a black top with the sleeves cut off. You shiver. A jacket, or any piece of fabric, would sure be nice about now. Then again, food seems almost more important. You decide you’ll go to both.


Which will you do first?

a) Go to the grocery store first - you need food sooner than you need warmth.

b) Go to the clothing store first - if you’re able to warm up a bit, you’ll be able to think more clearly.


If a, read on to section 3A. If b, skip section 3A and read section 3B.


3A.

Standing at the broken glass sliding doors of the grocery store, you push away the sinking feeling that there won’t be anything of use inside. What would it hurt to check? You step over broken glass. There aren’t any lights on inside but there are a few large holes in the ceiling where squares of rotting plaster fell to the floor. You wait a few moments to allow your eyes to adjust to the dimness before beginning to traverse the isles.


First, you look around the checking areas. Anything hiding behind trash cans, hidden under desks or in drawers. You find nothing. Every register is open and empty. You don’t bother to wonder what good money might do in a world like this.


When your search of the front of the store proves fruitless, you begin to walk down isles of empty shelves. Nothing, nothing. So, with little hope, you walk towards the hanging black strips that lead to the employees-only stocking room. But before you reach out to move aside the silicon tentacles blocking the doorway, something bumps against the toe of your boot. You look down.


At first, you think it’s an illusion, but the longer it sits on its side at your feet the more concrete it becomes. A can of peaches sits, unopened, ready for the taking. You reach down and lift it up, examining each side. A few dents, but no holes, and the label is strangely unharmed.


How did it get here? You didn’t bump into it, it bumped into you. “Hello?” You call out. “Is someone there?”


Silence. You tuck the can into a deep pocket on the side of your pants and push aside the black rubber, peeking into the storage room. It’s practically pitch black. You take a breath, mentally preparing yourself.


“Employees only. You can’t come back here.” A woman’s voice. You freeze. Her voice sounds calm, but there’s anger beneath it. “Get out of my store,” she says, louder, followed by a serpentine hiss. Something tells you she isn’t human.


You step back, letting the silicon fall back into place. It lifts. She’s coming. A head emerges from between the strips. Her hair is matted and her clothes are torn, but her face is calm. Her eyes, though, are completely grey. Not a faded white, but a grey. The grey of faded asphalt.


You turn and run. You hear her footsteps after you. “This is my store,” she repeats, calm and rabid all at once. When you make it to the parking lot, you barely look over your shoulder to see that she’s gaining on you. You sprint to the road, and once she’s far enough behind you, turn down an alley. You climb a ladder to a metal balcony, laying down and curling into a ball. You squeeze your eyes shut and try not to breathe.


You hear the creature walk into the alley after you and for about five minutes pace up and down its length. Finally, the footsteps walk back down the way you came and fade away.


Once you’re certain it’s gone, you slowly climb back to a standing position and peer over the edge of the rickety balcony. You climb down the ladder and hop down, deciding to be safe and exit the alley on the side opposite where you came from. A chill runs up your spine as the wind whips past you.


Walking out into the light of the day, you’re reassured by the weight of the can in your pocket. Outside of the alley, you walk into something that looks like it could have once been a town square or a park, with two empty fountains in the open area. Wrinkled newspapers fly through the air and a tire free of its rim is propped against a bench. You don’t remember much, but you know enough to feel the wrongness of the world around you. It shouldn’t be this empty, this dilapidated. The people shouldn’t have tranced grey eyes.


In the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but ghosts, you realize that all there is left for you to do is survive. And so you will.


End of chapter.


3B.

You step over the broken glass lining the broken sliding doors. There are naked mannequins fallen to the floor, some spray painted with gibberish messages about the apocalypse being sent by aliens. You walk up and down isles of empty shelves, then circle every rolling rack with broken hangers and not a single piece of clothing to be found. You begin to lose hope. What good will any of this do? You pick up a broken plastic hanger and decide if it’s sharp enough to be used as a knife. You pocket it.


Moving on through the store, it gets darker and darker but at some point, your foot recognizes stepping onto a different texture on the ground. Something is soft. Nearly blind in the darkness, you reach down and feel what you’ve just stepped on. It’s fabric, something to keep you warm. You’re glad you didn’t turn back. You pick up the thing and turn it over in your hands. At first, you think it’s a jacket, but there’s only one part of it that feels like a sleeve. Before you can try to better understand it, a loud click echoes through the empty store. A light turns on. You turn to the source of the hospital-white glow and can see the silhouette of a man beside an LED lantern, standing at a cashier station.


“Can I help you find anything?” he asks.


A person. A real person. “What? Hello?”


“Can I help you find anything?” Again.


“What’s happening? I woke up and I don’t have any memory and I have no idea where to go. Will you help me? At least tell me what happened?”


A hiss. Like a snake.


“There’s something in here,” you call to the man as quietly as he’ll hear, your heart pounding louder than your voice. “What is it? Do you know?”


“You are trespassing,” the man says. “You have to obey. Get out. Get out.”


“What? I’m sorry, I’ll go, I just need to know what’s going on.”


“Get out. Get out.” Another hiss, this time merged with words: “Get out. Get out.” The hiss is coming from him. He is that thing.


The silhouette begins to walk towards you. It speeds up. You turn and run. Still with the lump of unidentified fabric in your hands, you sprint into the daylight and down the road for what feels like an eternity. You turn briefly to look behind you and see a man, with matted hair, a vest with a nametag, and solidly grey eyes. The grey of faded asphalt. His movements are rigid, violent, but his face is calm.


You quicken your run. When you gauge he’s far enough away, you turn down an alley. You climb the first ladder you see up to a metal balcony, laying down and curling into a ball. You squeeze your eyes shut and try not to breathe.


You hear the creature walk into the alley after you and for about five minutes pace back and forth. Finally, the footsteps walk back down the way you came and fade away.


Once you’re certain it’s gone, you slowly climb back to a standing position and peer over the edge of the rickety balcony. You climb down the ladder and hop down, deciding to be safe and exit the alley on the other side. A chill runs up your spine as the wind whips past you. You finally examine the piece of fabric, still in your hands. It is a jacket, with one sleeve cut off. Better than nothing. You pull it over your shoulders and put one arm through the sleeve and the other through the hole where a sleeve used to be. There’s an unexpected weight at your hip when you adjust into it. You reach into the jacket’s pocket. You pull out something hard and cold.


A knife. You smile and put it back in your pocket.


Walking out of the alley and back into the light of the day, you’re reassured by the weight of it. You toss away the broken hanger you took.


Outside of the alley, you walk into something that looks like it could have once been a town square or a park, with two empty fountains in the open area. Wrinkled newspapers fly through the air and a tire free of its rim is propped against a bench. You don’t remember much, but you know enough to feel the wrongness of the world around you. It shouldn’t be this empty, this dilapidated. The people shouldn’t have tranced grey eyes.


In the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but ghosts, you realize that all there is left for you to do is survive. And so you will.

45 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page