The sky is dark despite the sun being straight overhead. It's blocked out by the raining ash and smoke that has engulfed the sky and refused to diminish in the past six months. The only light is the glow of the distant, ever burning, fires. There isn't any visible vegetation nor is there any movement below, other than the ash that constantly floats down to the blackened earth. Concrete litters the ground, twisted, splintered, metal, which would seem indestructible, covers every inch of the surface. Through the black snow and dark shadows two pairs of eyes are visible peering out from behind an overturned truck and a jungle gym of twisted metal.

"It's getting colder, at least a few degrees." This voice is male, though young around fifteen, and the owner has long knotted, dreaded brown hair, with peach fuzz covering his chin.

"That doesn't mean anything, the sun is going down" whispers a female voice that can't belong to anyone over eighteen. Her matted hair is tangled in knots and her fair face is covered with dirt and ash.

They're sitting underneath the bed of the upside down truck, looking out of the tail gate. Both of them are wrapped in a worn blanket. There's a bottle of water between them, half empty. The two of them haven't moved in the last six hours.

"Could be them" says the young boy, Will. He is very skinny but then everyone has lost weight since it happened. He has dark brown eyes and an average face with a crooked nose that looks like it has been broken several times.

"I doubt it…try not to be so jumpy." Claire has an attractive face with green eyes. She is wearing a white Orioles t-shirt and torn blue jeans.

The truck that they're under is lying on top of a large pile of rubble and bent re-bar. A grim view lies in front of them. It looks down on the ruin of the world. Remnants of decaying buildings, crumbling highways, and large piles of debris and junk that has been gathered together by the forces of nature in the past months. Beyond the mountains of filth and wreckage there is a glimmer on the horizon. The gleam of the fires fights its way across the land mass and through the ash and dust. Its glow is the only source of light that they have, the sun is now completely covered by the dark sky. The only product of the fire that reaches them is the light, its warmth and passion can't penetrate through the miles of destitute earth.

"I only said it could be them, I'm not jumpy."

"Just relax nobody's coming they just want us to be ready"

The wind suddenly changes, a cloud of ash and soot blows towards them like a swarm of wasps, they duck under the blanket in an attempt to shield their eyes. They stay under, the wind howling on the other side of their blanket. The rusted truck bed creaks and lifts a few inches off the ground before the wind dies down again and it slams back down with a loud crash.

Claire peeks her head out and gives the all clear. Will takes out a small rag and does his best to wipe his face clean of ash before handing it to Claire for her to do the same.

Will glances over at Claire and moves a little bit closer to her. "So what do you think of the rumors?"

"Which ones?" She doesn't look over at him but continues to stare into the darkness in front of them. Watching for any sign of movement.

"Him being an art teacher", he says, with another glance at her.

Their breath is now visible and the wind starts to pick up again. A few hundred feet in front of them a cyclone of dirt, dust and earth rises high into the air. The wind whistles as more and more filth flies into the air and spins like a tornado.

"All lies" she replies with absolute certainty.

He tears his eyes from the windstorm to look over at her and sees a look of confidence, "Are you sure?"

"Of course, it's not possible…just a story" Her right leg is asleep and she starts to pound on it trying to wake it up. She shifts onto her left side.

"I heard Tom and him talking about it, I think, I think it might be true"

For the first time she turns and looks at him, "You honestly believe that the man who fought his way out of D.C. alone, who managed to rescue me and you and hundreds of others and who has never lost a fight, was a fifth grade art teacher"

He hesitates, "yes...I...I heard them."

"You're a moron…they were messing with you they must have known you were there" she says as she shakes her head and draws her arms to her chest, pulling the blanket closer to her body.

Defensively, "I was hiding under the alter, they couldn't see or hear me"

She tries to suppress a smile, "you're the clumsiest person I know...I'm actually amazed you're still alive.".

"If I'm so clumsy then why am I a lookout?" Will starts to shiver, the thin blanket is unable to fight the dropping temperature.

"Because they don't want you down there knocking everything over and getting in the way, plus, like I said the Ghosts aren't coming."

His voice is shaky and his teeth start to chatter, "Well I still say it's true, he was an art teacher...its too cold, they always come with the cold."

With a pretty smile, ignoring his last words, "I guess you believe Tom was a janitor before all this too."

This time the boy blushes, "I never said that."

"So is James being an art teacher. I heard he was in the milita-"


There is a humming sound coming from the north; the young boy turns his head towards it first. They both are silent and still. A faint light is fighting its way through the dust and ash. Claire wiggles back to make sure she is completely hidden under the truck. Her arrogant, confident look is gone, all that is left is a pale, dirt covered frightened face.

Fear and cold takes over them as the spotlight sweeps across their view. The sound grows louder. Will is the first to react. The boy crawls out from underneath the upturned truck. He grabs her arm and pulls her out and to her feet, they take off down the hill of wreckage, stumbling all the way to the bottom. Will leads her underneath a crumbling bridge and they begin to run from the humming that continues to get louder.

They run at a full sprint, away from the oncoming sound. They dodge the debris in their path, street signs, rusted cars and rubble. The path they're traveling is barely discernible. It would be impossible for someone who has never traveled it before to move faster than a slow walk.

The Spot light is searching the area, occasionally moving over their path. They continue to run, refusing to look back. Dust and ash flies into the air as they run. The spot light stops in the path in front of them. Will pulls Claire off the path and pushes her to the ground. They crawl, in the dirt, up to a fallen light pole and wait.

Both of them are shaking uncontrollably from the cold. Wind blows and another windstorm starts up, swirling right in front of them. The light moves slowly over the wreckage. It stops on a small rusted car whose hood is smashed in and windshield shattered. A skeleton lies in the drivers seat, the seat belt that couldn't save them still buckled and strapped across their chest.

Claire is looking at the spot light, tears in her eyes, willing it to move on. Beside her, Will almost breaks into a smile despite himself as Claire grasps his hand tightly and holds it close to her body.

The light leaves the path and they start moving, cautiously, once again.

Ahead of them, is a church whose crucifix is broken in half and its door shut. The spot light hovers over the door to the Church.

They stop and crouch behind an old highway sign (Exit 39 Lodgings) and wait.

Heaving, Claire whispers, barely audible over the howling wind and wicked hum that rumbles from over their heads, "Wait..wait.."

Finally the light moves away, "Now!"

They run and the boy reaches the door first and pulls it open, he waits for Claire to enter before slamming it shut again and locking it. The cieling of the church is on the verge of caving in. The benches are charred and the crucifix that hung at the front now lies on the ground, forgotten.

Will is bent down next to the door tampering with what resembles a car battery and a tank of gasoline. Claire is going through the same motions with similar equipment at the back of the church. She finishes first and moves to the wooden door in the corner as she looks up at Will, "Hurry, we need to warn them!"

Will nods impatiently as he fumbles with the wires. His hands are freezing and aren't cooperating. Finally, he finishes and stands up and runs to Claire at the back of the church and together they pull the wooden door open. It opens up to concrete steps that descend into black. They start down, Will in the lead.

They reach the bottom of the stairs, the hallway before them leads into complete darkness. It only takes a moment for their eyes to adjust. Will bends down and starts to connect wires on a third battery.

Claire is standing over his shoulder waiting for him.

Will looks up at her, "Go! Tell them they're here and that we have about ten minutes…I'll be right behind you."

Claire hesitates and opens her mouth to argue, but then nods and sprints down the hallway and into the darkness.

Will watches her go.