The Forbidden Room
She awoke in the forest with him breathing heavily beside her. Her surroundings were motionless. It had been like this for as long as she could remember. She crawled out of her sleeping bag quietly trying not to wake him up, walked over to the cliff and stopped. She knew that they had to move south but what she didn't know was how long her brother would last. Max already had a thunderous cough and a progressive fever. She looked across the countryside; barren, dull and soulless. The cold chill wind reminded her that another winter was not an option.
With the first break of light Max woke up and looked over to his sister, “Morning.” He whispered rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“Morning how are you feeling today?” asked Julia, not wanting to look at how much weight her brother had lost in the years since they had arrived. He was the only reason she battled on, the only reason for her not giving up.
“Much better I think.”
“Good pack your things, let's go.”
The two hungry children packed their few meagre belongings, which they had scavenged from different villages. She knew the only way to get out of this nightmare was to reach their home and reactivate the room, the only place now that gave her that ounce of hope inside of her. But there was that slight problem, winter was sneaking up faster than she had anticipated.
They headed down the treacherous cliff where different types of mutilated animals lay roasting in the suns rays. Yet again, there was no life. They reached the road and Max panted, and coughed “Where are we going?”
“Home.” replied Julia surprised at him finally asking a question.
“Where is that?” he asked knowing full well the answer he would get. It was the only conversation that they ever had.
“Very far from here.”
He didn't answer instead he withdrew back into his silence. They stopped only once when the sun was at its peak, to rest and have something to eat. She guessed that it must have been over 55 degrees.
They only ate what they found in different towns. The last one provided them with two bottles of water and a packet of cornflakes, which had long lost its crunch. The water quenched their thirst and the cereal went a little way to satisfy their hunger but it kept them moving. Eating and feeling better they headed off once again. The asphalt on the road was hot and sticky. Too much heat had fallen on it today and their worn shoes couldn't bear the taunts of the tar, it was like a snake lunging to devour its last meal. They had lost everything. They only had the clothes that they managed to find on their trek. Max wore an oversized t-shirt that he found on the road with burn marks and holes in it. He had small shoes, too small for his feet. Julia wore a dress and a sun hat, and some boots to protect her from the sun. Having discovered the road to be too hot to walk on, Julia decided it would be best to walk alongside it. She took out her map to see whether they were at least heading in the right direction.
“What's this?” Max pointed to a place on the map.
“This is where we have to go.” She lied.
“Is it far away?”
“Yes it is.”
They carried on. The truth is that she didn't have a clue, she was guessing. Max's silence suited her, and at least she never had to keep on lying.
They had found a book on ‘Harry Potter' on their journey which they read whenever Max got scared. It somewhat reminded her of the situation now Good versus Evil? Brother and Sister versus death? Or was it a test from God to see how far they could go? She didn't know what would last longer, the book or the journey. As they rested their limbs for the night in a cave, Julia lit a fire with two rocks and told her brother a story of what things used to be like. All was lost now. All was gone. After, when her brother had fallen asleep she draped her blanket over him to stop his cold from progressing. She lay down and stared into sky.
“Julia go and take care of you baby brother. I'm going out for a while.”
“Okay mum.” She switched off ‘Big Brother' and went to Max who was sleeping. She looked over to the door, the room her father told her never to go in. She turned away quickly. Never.
She awoke with the sound of her brother screeching. “Max wake up! Wake up Max, you're having a nightmare!” She ran to her bag to get water and splashed it on his face.
“Argggh!” He opened his eyes, “Mummy?” He winced in pain.
“No Max it's me. It's Julia.”
Neither of them could get to sleep now. Wondering whether to stay and rest or keep going, Julia decided on the latter.
Soon they came across a field of old decaying trees. With the sun staring at them like a King from its high throne, they sought the refuge of a Chestnut tree to avoid the King's overpowering glare. It was the only tree that was standing straight. The other trees were all misshapen and twisted, cowering in shame, slaves to their hot and harsh master. In this world the Sun was God. The grass was wearing a coat of black ash; of death.
At dusk they left and continued heading south. An old town was approaching, but like all the other towns, it was deserted. The ground was littered with dead bodies. Julia pressed her hands over Max's eyes. He knew why she did that, so he never asked why. He knew about the others.
They entered the shop and looked around. Her brother ran off while she searched for some packaged food.
“Can I take this with us?” Max tugged at her, smiling holding up an aeroplane.
“Yes you can.” Resisting was not possible, it was a rare smile.
They left the shop and headed for a hotel near the town square. They went upstairs and found a bedroom were they could stay for the night. They feasted on tinned food and fell asleep, it came easier today.
“No Max! Don't touch that door!” His mother ran to him.” Listen dear, and listen to me good. You will never ever go near that door.”
“Mum leave him alone he's only two.” Julia ran to his rescue
“I know honey but if he goes in that room…”
“Well I guess you're old enough to know now. Well dear, your father is a scientist and the work he does is for an organisation that is top secret. The room in there can turn your nightmares into reality. It changes your fear into something that will haunt you even if you're awake.”
She awoke wracked in guilt. Why had she disobeyed her mother? Why couldn't she leave well alone? Just because Max had managed to open the door she didn't have to step in and look. In all her despair she looked at Max smiling, sleeping soundly………too soundly