Day 2

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I woke up at 5:00am this morning. Or rather, I opened my eyes at 5:00am this morning and got out of bed. I never really slept. Every small noise in the night made my ears go on high alert for someone trying to break through the door. I had nightmares of looters taking what little I had and killing me in the process, just like they killed my family, or rapists grabbing me in my sleep while I was unprepared and defenseless. Both very real dangers now.

I grabbed some stale cereal from the fridge and ate it dry without milk. Milk spoils too easily and is too difficult to replenish. I think I have enough cereal and preserved foods to last me my entire life if need be, which is good, because I might need to live off of cereal and canned soup for the rest of my life. I have a small grill to heat the soup with; I hold the can above the flames and stir it around for a few minutes. It’s not the best method, but it’s better than nothing.

I wolfed down the cereal and washed the bowl in the sink, though I think that might be pointless; the water here doesn’t clean anything. It just makes everything dirtier. It’s filthy.

My carpool honked from the curb. It’s too risky to leave your vehicle for any reason if you have one that wasn’t stolen. I peeped through the tiny windows in the door to make sure the way was clear and dashed to the car as fast as I could run, remembering to lock my door securely behind me.

The military base is in shambles. They can barely feed themselves, let alone protect the people of Riverview. Half of them are criminals in disguise, trying to take over and corrupt the military. It seems to be working, too, but not if I have anything to say about it. I’m going to keep my head low for now and work hard, making sure the few honest people left here notice. I’ll be so quiet about it I’ll rise in the ranks without anyone batting an eyelash at my presence. Before anyone has a chance to suspect anything, I’ll pull the rug out from under these corrupt fools’ feet and start to rebuild again.

At night, when I’m alone and everything is quiet is when I think the most. I think about my family and whether they’d be proud of me for staying here and trying to end this devastation, or whether they’d think I was crazy for staying here and not fleeing to save myself. I think about whether Riverview and its people are worth trying to save. I think about whether it’s even possible to save this town. The only thing I know for sure is that I can’t bring myself to leave. I can’t abandon all the innocent people trapped here, being preyed upon by the worst of criminals and dying from illnesses that would have been completely preventable and curable if we still had access to medical care. The rest of the world has given up on them; on all of us. If I give up, too, all those people will die because of me. I have to protect them. I have to revive Riverview.

But I’m scared.

Day 3

My plan to lay low and work hard seems to be working. My boss called me into his office today after my morning drills and told me he was promoting me to Mess Hall Server. I haven’t figured out whether he’s secretly part of the mob yet or not, but if he is, he doesn’t suspect me. If he did, he would keep me at the bottom of the ranks or fire me right away. I just thanked him and went about my usual business the rest of the day.

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I worked out some more to the little boombox in my shelter when I got home. I’m working out as much as I can in my spare time. I want to be in top physical shape for both my job and my own protection. I’m really starting to smell gruesome, though. Sometimes I have to plug my nose to stop myself from throwing up at my own stench. I tried washing my hands constantly and splashing water on myself from the sink, but it never made any kind of improvement. In fact, I think it made me smell worse, so I just ended up giving up. Sometimes I wonder if I’d done better to choose the Medical career so I could lead some kind of health restoration effort, but when I think about the criminals who brutally murdered my family, I know I did the right thing by choosing to eradicate them instead and make the streets of Riverview safe to travel on again.

It’s late and I’m exhausted. I think I’ll end this entry here and try to get some sleep tonight. As always, I’m keeping one eye and one ear open… just in case…

Day 4

The same routine as yesterday; wake up, eat cereal, go to work, come home, work out.

It’s becoming monotonous. If I didn’t have this diary to jot down my thoughts, I think I’d go insane and start talking to a volleyball, like that guy in that movie… Castaway, was it? Who knows anymore?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve been trying to do; rebuild Riverview and restore it to its former glory. I realized that I’ll never be able to accomplish this in my lifetime. I can make a sizable dent and get started, but that’s it. It will take many generations to solve all the problems and dilemmas happening here. This isn’t just an economic depression or a gang war… this is the apocalypse.

It’s such a discouraging thought. Knowing no matter how hard I work, it will never be enough. I would need to have at least one child and that child would need to have children and so on until every single one of us has done something extraordinary to rebuild this town. I don’t want to bring children into this kind of life. It’s cruel and unfair. Most children don’t even live to see their first birthday here anymore. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child, but I don’t ever want to find out.

Tomorrow’s my day off. I have all day to brood in misery and self-despair, so for now, I’ll sleep.

Day 5

You would think a day off would be relaxing… it isn’t. Not for me. I can’t stand sitting around, doing nothing. I have to find some way to keep busy and stop myself from tearing my hair out from sheer boredom. I made a mental itinerary for the day.

1. Eat.
2. Work out.
3. Work from home.
4. Clean.

There isn’t much to clean in this place, but I was scrounging for things to do to pass the time. I followed my itinerary. My muscles are constantly screaming at me from all the physical strain I’m putting on them; the radiation in the air deteriorating my bones and muscles makes it hurt so much more. I keep pushing myself, anyway. I have to. I can’t afford to slack off and give my body a break. I need promotions and lots of them, fast.

There comes a point where my body goes against my will and quits on me, though. Once the room started spinning and I stumbled into the wall, I knew it was time to stop for the day, as much as I didn’t want to. I sat down at the computer and booted it up. It takes almost a half hour just for the old thing to start. It might be older than me, actually. Of course, there’s no such thing as the Internet in Riverview anymore. All I have is Wordpad on this old clunker, but it was enough for me. I got started typing away, keeping an inventory of all the food served to the soldiers on a daily basis and the total cost of providing each meal. Thankfully, there’s a calculator on this computer. I’m smart enough; I did go to college, after all, but I’m no genius. I can’t add large sums in my head lickity split like some of my math major friends could.

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I just finished working from home a few minutes ago. I feel pretty good about it. Of course, I don’t have a printer or ink, so I had to jot down everything on paper to take to my boss tomorrow. I know that kind of defeats the purpose of typing it up in the first place, but the sound of keyboard keys clacking incessantly for hours is kind of soothing. I’ll take any form of relaxation I can get here.

Day 6

Another promotion. My boss was so pleased that I took the time to sort out all the mess hall figures at home that he promoted me again on the spot. I’m beginning to think he’s one of the honest people here. A mob member wouldn’t want someone who wasn’t in their inner circle getting too high up in the ranks. Maybe he sees that I want to rebuild Riverview and is secretly helping me. I won’t let my guard down, though. He could still turn out to be a criminal or the mob could bully him into joining. That’s how they get most people to join; they threaten to hurt their families, take away their jobs, steal their possessions. It makes me sick. I want to stop it.

Even though I’m just a Grunt, I need to keep a low profile. If I start saying too much or drawing too much attention to myself, things could get a lot harder for me than they already are. I need to start working on my mechanical skill to get promoted again. I have Handiness Vol. 1: Unplug it, First!, but it’s for beginners. I’ll grow too advanced for it eventually and then I don’t know where I’ll get my hands on a higher volume. The shops are in shambles and looted dry, and it’s too dangerous to venture to the library to see if there’s a book left there that wasn’t stolen or destroyed. I guess I’ll be thankful when the few possessions I have break, like I was today when my toilet clogged.

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I don’t want to spend so much time worrying about how to gain mechanical skill that I forget to keep improving my athletic skill, so I turned on my boombox again and fought against my screaming muscles. I pushed myself to the limit, but it was worth it. When I was finished, I felt pumped and more optimistic about everything.

I know it’s still early, but my body’s yelling at me to sleep, so goodnight for now.

Day 7

A sharp knocking on my door woke me up today. Within seconds, I was out of bed and peering through the tiny slit windows in the door suspiciously, curling my hands into fists. I was ready to fight for my shelter, belongings, life and virginity; whatever they wanted from me, I wouldn’t let them have it.

“Who are you? What do you want?” I demanded harshly, shouting through the door. I could see three men in black suits with slicked back hair and plastered smiles standing on the tiny balcony I had.

“Are you Killara Burnum?” the middle man asked in an oily voice.

“That depends. Who the hell are you?” I snarled.

“Excuse my rudeness. We’re under the employment of the lovely Vita Alto. We’re here to collect the town’s weekly Protection Tax. May we come in?” he asked.

“Protection Tax? What are you talking about?”

“The Protection Tax is a necessary precaution, put in place for the people’s own good. In these hard times, residents fall victim to looting and theft easily. The Protection Tax ensures that none of your belongings will be harmed,” he grinned as the two men behind him cracked their knuckles. I gasped.

They’re the mob! I thought to myself. They’re taking money from people now so they won’t have their stuff stolen? Despicable! I could feel red hot, indignant anger bubbling up inside me.

“Go to hell!” I spat. The middle man sighed.

“That’s just too bad. I had hoped you’d work with us, but you’ve given us no choice but to use force.” The man to the right of the middle man pulled out a gun and blasted the lock on my door away like it was nothing more than paper maché, leaving a small pile of twisted steel in the bullet’s wake. I tried to hold the door shut, but three against one just wasn’t going to work out for me.

They came barreling in and I leaped on them, swinging my fists wildly. I felt brass knuckles collide with my face and I fell to the floor, screaming in agony. The pain blinded me. I could taste warm, sticky copper oozing down my face and my nose made a sickening crunching sound that made me gag.

One of the men dragged me to my feet by my hair and held a knife to my throat while the other two ransacked my shelter, digging for my hard-earned money. I fought and struggled, trying to knock out the criminal holding me captive, but he whispered in my ear. “Struggle any more and I’ll stay behind after they leave to have my way with you,” he threatened. That kept me quiet. I could handle broken bones and bloody wounds, but that… I couldn’t handle that.

Once they were done, the man threw me to the ground and spat on me. “Maybe next time you’ll be polite and let us in, won’t you?” he laughed cruelly, leaving with the other two. I crawled to the door after them.

“YOU BASTARDS!!! BURN IN HELL!!!” I screamed before slamming the door shut and curling into a ball on the cold stone floor.

I don’t know how long I stayed like that. It could have been seconds or hours. Other than the burning pain of my wounds, I felt nothing and thought nothing. I was numb. The only thing I was aware of was how good the cold floor felt against my stinging wounds. I lightly touched my nose and winced. It was broken.

I laid there until I fell asleep. When I woke up, it was dark and I feebly crawled into bed, reaching for this diary as my tears soaked the sheets under me in a mixture of salt water and blood.

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