I told myself, this is where I die. This maze of cars long since abandoned all because some stupid little girl couldn't stay with the group. I brushed the thought out of my mind. The thought wasn't true and I knew it. We'd lost track of time finding Amy, too much damn time. With no light but the artificial orange glow of our flashlights to guide us through the maze of drywall and boarded up windows, the setting sun refused to tell us just how close we were cutting it. But as soon as we returned to the parking garage on floor one, as if mocking us, the sun stared at us intently, far too close to the horizon for comfort. With panic in our hearts, we looked at one another with faces as white as our wide, disbelieving eyes. I looked at my brother Nathan, my new brother Carter, holding little Amy in one arm, her arms wrapped around him lovingly, her head on his shoulder. Carter found the hand of his equally-trembling and ever-pregnant wife, June. Her free hand stroked her swollen belly, knowing full well that she and the baby that grew inside her might not live to see one another face to face. With the now reunited family in front of me, I recalled the scene of Amy. When we found her, my feelings were a healthy mix of relief and envy, rather than anger. She had been in a supply closet, dried chocolate around her mouth, cracked from feverous chewing, wrappers on her lap. Trophies, marking the chocolates, mints, and chewies she had already joyously consumed. I tried imagining how she must have felt, pilfering through the boxes and bins for the colorful and playful wrappings of candy, designed to look eye-catching and alluring to innocent children like herself. I envied her, because in those heart-pounding minutes (possibly hours) of discovery, Amy forgot all about the death and decay around her.
"It's too late to head back, they'll be coming any minute now. To the roof, let's go!" Silently, we headed back up the stairs at a pace faster than a walk, a teetering line between control and panic. The echoes of our rubber boots on the metal stairs serving as little distraction from the rhythmic pacing of our hearts. The door to the roof was made of thick, reflective steel, not unlike the door of a walk-in fridge. Good, they'll have a hard time breaking through this, I thought to myself, hoping it never came to that. Like a giant child woken from years of sleep, the hinges of the great door groaned and screamed, as if demanding the door stay shut. But the door would open, must open. For June and the growing child in her womb, for my friends and my brother, I forced the door open.
The change from the dank and dusty air of the stairway to the sweet, damp air only Richmond in spring could produce hit me like a wave. The roof was nothing we expected. A blanket of thick, healthy grass covered every square inch of the place. Each blade shown with a powerful bluish-white, like the tails of small electric dragons sticking triumphantly out of the ground. The generously scattered droplets of dew reflected off the grass like a starry night sky over a still and vast ocean. I snapped back to reality, ashamed that something as simple as grass on a roof could distract me from the disparity of our situation. The perimeter of the roof was lined with a ten-foot chain-link fence. This would help our odds of making it through the night, and I was thankful for it.
My brother and friends found sleep quickly in the comfort of the grass. Carter, June, and Amy all curled up against one another, Nathan off a small distance from them. All wrapped up like human cocoons, with the peace of marble statues. I watched them sleep with the envy I felt earlier towards Amy, desperate to join them. But I resisted the urge. When I wasn't scanning the neighboring rooftops for movement and seeing none, fortunately, I was looking at the grass. It seemed to sing to me now, the voice of each blade more beautiful than the last. The sweet sound whirled around playfully in my ears, tickling my. Resisting sleep was too hard now, and I lay back on the grass.
Sleep quickly found me, and I dreamt of fields. An endless ocean of beautiful mint-blue steel, gently rising and falling like the belly of god himself. Some distance in front of me, with moonlit hair shimmering almost as intensely as the grass beneath her, was Amy. She sat cross-legged, a small pile of wrappers on her lap, licking her sticky fingers clean. As the landscape rose and fell between us, she disappeared from my view. When the giant wave of land she sat on brought her back, the pile at her lap was considerably bigger, now spilling down to the ground at her sides. I watched this constant rising and falling, Amy disappearing and always reappearing until the pile grew so large, only her happy chewing face and arms were visible. I heard the gentle smacking of her lips as she ate and ate, the crinkling of candy wrappers rolling away from their master and recollecting at her feet as the hill she sat atop swelled and depressed. Like thousands of tiny flames crackling. But most of all I heard the field. The hum of countless and endlessly sweet voices filled me ears, my body, my entire being. Until there was nothing left but the sound, I listened. Matthew, Matthew, Matthew, the sweet music sang.
"Matthew!" My brother said to me as he shook me awake. "Matthew, wake up!" he said in a frantic voice little more than a whisper. What I saw made me wish that I hadn't. More than a wish, every bone in my body needed to go back to the fields. I saw my three friends dancing on the grass, ear to ear grins on their faces, blazing wild eyes. Carter, June, and Amy were gone and I knew it. Lost in the fields. As I looked beyond my friends at the rooftops surrounding ours, my blood ran colder still. Hundreds of hateful, yellow eyes peered down at us. The night men, with their giant chained beasts, all staring at my dancing friends. I reached out to them with a trembling hand, as if I could grab them and pull them to safety. "Don't." My brother said, wrapping his arms around me, "They're already dead."