<p>This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a – lol jks it will end with us banging.</p>
I heard George before I saw him. After waiting twenty minutes at our rendezvous – the barely-standing Mordialloc College – I had begun to think something had happened. Glancing up to see him frantically waving his arms, being chased by four of the YOMG kids, I realised I was correct.
I snatched up my bags and ran into the college ruins.
Ducking under loose ceiling panels and leaping over mounds of brick, I ran through the corridors toward the darkest corner of the building, where the roof was still partially intact and provided shadows for cover. I curled up into a ball, grabbed a sharp piece of wood as a potential weapon and waited within the locker bay.
At the sound of footsteps running toward me, I stiffened. Only when I peeked through a gap in the wall and saw that it was George did I relax.
“Fuckfuckfuck.” He collapsed beside me and leaned forward, his face close to the ground. I thought he was going to puke.
“Why did you lead them here? I thought you were going to lose them by the creek.”
He ignored me and continued trying to slow his breathing. Besides the flushed cheeks, he looked pale and was damp with sweat. If the two of us weren’t so unfit, we could have outrun the YOMG kids and lost them on our way back to camp. Alas, the run from main street to here alone had already given me some seriously traumatic flashbacks to the beep test.
A yell and some manic whoops at the other end of the school told us that the kids had made it into the front entrance. I felt like we were in the damn Hunger Games or something, half expecting a parachute to float down from the sky and bless us with Gatorade.
“What do you think they’ll do if they find us?” George whispered.
I shrugged, beginning to eye the metal locker beside me. “Steal our lunch money, I guess.”
I shifted closer to the locker, ignoring the yells that seemed to be getting louder and closer. I opened the locker and pulled out a burnt backpack, George wincing as I unzipped it. He mouthed to me, “Shut up”, but I ignored him and rummaged through the bag.
Decomposed fruit. A mouldy sandwich with maggots crawling inside. Fragments of Hamlet. A Nokia smartphone, without a single scratch on its screen.
The sight of the phone filled me with an almost religious joy. I thought I would faint when I pressed the power button, and its screen illuminated into life.
I elbowed George and showed him, enthusiastically pointing out its nine percent battery life, but he was more preoccupied with the preteens whose shouts were closing in on us.
The phone connected to the internet instantly as I switched on mobile data. Not stopping to wonder how or why, my thumbs went into overdrive.
In spite of himself, George peered over my shoulder. “Tinder?” he hissed. “What the fuck are you logging into Tinder for?”
“I am searching for survivors,” I mumbled.
“To eat you out?”
“Shush, they’ll hear you.”
He shut up, and glanced around wildly.
Some of the profiles were old, dating back to the early days of the Apocalypse when we still had Wi-Fi.
Living in an old Subway – I’ll show you more than one six-inch.
This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a – lol jks it will end with us banging.
Please someone get me some nugs my Maccas has just been bombed ty xo
I sniggered at some of these and tried to show George, whose eyebrows only rose higher with each ‘please shut up Ro we are going to die‘ he attempted to convey.
We both froze as voices came echoing from the corridor beside us.
“Hey! I think I heard a chick laugh.”
“Aw, fuck off Harry, you did not.”
“Mate, try me. They’re down past the library.”
George and I stared at each other. Shit. I shoved the phone into my pocket and grabbed George’s arm. I think he was in the middle of a prayer, to one of his precious but most likely dead glam rock idols, when I shook him and spat out, “The bike shed!”
His eyes widened and we scrambled up, jumping through a hole in the wall and racing to the furthest part of the college. Only one bike in the forgotten shed seemed okay to ride and that didn’t even have a seat. George sat on the handlebars and I rode standing up, grinning as we heard the angry shouts of the YOMG kids from behind us.
It was only after we had made it back to our train and Mum had pulled us in, hugged us tightly and warmed our soup, while Susan sneered at our close call and suggested our general incompetence as scavengers, that I remembered the Nokia.
Curled up on a six-seater, I turned the phone on to check for games but was distracted by a notification. Frowning, I wondered if it were a software update.
Roella and Hazel: it’s a match!