I sighed as I looked down upon my withering hands, I was getting old. I’d lived in these caves across Zion for 32 years, and I’d never been able to have contact with anyone in that time. I’d lost my wife, my unborn child, my home and my past when the bombs fell in 2078.
32 years ago I’d lived in Cedar City before the nuclear holocaust. At the time when the apocalypse rained down I was camping in the Zion National Park. I saw the destruction from afar as a spectator, I remembered the deafening sound, the fear that had torn my mind, the fire, everything. I sometimes wished that I’d been that I’d been taken with them.
I remember that I’d lived completely isolated for what I thought was almost 20 years after that day; I had to stay inside this cave to avoid the radiation 3 months after the cataclysm. I’d only seen mutated rams with massive horns, no wool and red decaying flesh. Occasionally I would’ve seen a bear creature but they were rare and hard to spot. Up until then that was all I’d seen to indicate that life still existed. But then I saw people settle in the canyon. I remember that they looked as if they were in need of help. Before I wanted to approach them I thought I would scare them, I saw that most of them were gravely wounded and were dressed in torn clothes. I remember that when they first slept under the moonlight I decided to give them an old lighter I’d salvaged from the national park gift shop and some of the mutated ram’s meat. I thought that I would be able to help them survive here, and then I would reveal myself and live with them peacefully. I remember distinctly being overjoyed at the thought of once again speaking to people and maybe once again having a family.
After that day as I watched over the group again under the lush golden sun they looked at my gifts in puzzlement. From my perch high up on the canyons edge I could make out them accepting my gifts, I remember thinking that now I would have a new reason to live in this wasteland of America.
I remember that a week or so after that when I figured it was time I revealed myself to the people. As I sneaked closer to their camp I then found out that they didn’t speak English. I remember sneaking away after that. I felt crushed inside but I still persevered.
But a month after the group’s arrival I heard gunfire while I was sleeping, that sent a chill down my spine but I reassured myself and decided I would check it out in the morning. But what I witnessed in the morning was a horrible scene. I felt like I’d been scarred for life once more. I’d witnessed the biggest crime against human nature. The events that had happened up to that point were staining my sanity to its breaking point. I remember gazing down at the mutilated bodies of people I’d helped, people I’d cared about. Faces of terror were painted on half eaten bodies. I cried to myself “No, no, no, why did this happen,” “Why do I have to survive through this,” That night when I went back to my cave and had suicidal thoughts, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Now it’s been 12 years after that atrocity according to the scattered notes I’d written and the markings I’d left on the caves walls. I haven’t avenged the people I’d seen die, and I’d only seen one visitor wandering this canyon. That visitor was a freak of nature, it had the same flesh as the rams but it looked like a human that was deformed with no nose and no eyes. It tried to lunge at me but I had to put it down. That thing was what had made me want to stay in Zion even after the travesty that had happened to this place, I could only shudder at the thought of what lies in the wasteland after seeing that abomination. I’d felt on edge after that encounter, I was aging approaching 79 years of age and with that I was getting much weaker over time, I felt like that if more abominations venture into the canyon I wouldn’t be able to protect my land.
I knew I was approaching death and I was losing a will to live, every time I ventured out to the bluff where the rams stayed my bones ached and creaked. I could tell I was standing on my last legs. Then when I was watching from my perch at the canyon wall I saw another group of people. Only as I peered closer I could see that they were not adults they seemed to be all children alone without someone to guide them. I knew that this was my last chance to not fail and leave a legacy before the elements took me.
I decided to leave the children a story book, a piece of paper that said “From Zion,” I thought these children needed the same guidance that my child would’ve needed if the bombs never fell. I didn’t know what the children would do or where they had even come from but I hoped that I would finally be able to have redemption. The next morning similar to the settlers I’d given gifts to the children were puzzled by the book and paper but accepted it. Now I thought I had a new reason to live on this ruined world.
I continued to give everything I had to these children to ensure that they grew up into good people. I decided that I wouldn’t show myself to the children as I didn’t want to spoil their vision of me as a kind deity with a noble cause instead of an old man in his final days. When I gave them supplies I eventually stopped giving them books and education and I started to give them weapons to kill rams and medicine to heal them when they were wounded they seemed to be more satisfied with the new practical things.
I felt like I was beginning to become more of a father than a guardian of these children. I felt like I was responsible for them and that I now had the children that I’d never seen. I began addressing myself as “Father” on my notes instead of Guardian or Zion, because I felt I was that to them. As well as the practical things I’d given the children I decided to start sharing lessons I’d hope that they’d pass down written on my final few notes.
I’d been seven years since the children arrived and I’d finally decided that I couldn’t keep living any longer, I’d been wheezing and getting shorter breaths I thought I was getting cancer from the radiation. I didn’t want another birthday. On my final note I gave them I told the children to “Children, I want you to read and learn to make the most of your new home. I want you to take care of my most precious gift to you, Zion. I want you give you Zion to make up for all the sorrows man has caused upon man and the harm that man has caused upon you. I want you to be kind and modest to each other. I want you never to hurt anyone unless someone else comes along and tries to hurt you strike back with righteous anger. This will be my final note and gift to you children of Zion, -The Father.” After I delivered that note I used the last breath I had in me to walk up to Zion’s highest point where I could let nature give me the death I could’ve never asked for myself. I came up with my rifle from before the war and a note that I would leave for whoever finds the skeleton of Zion’s Father.
I lay down under the night sky. There were no stars out and the wind was ominous and cooling. I looked up at the stars and thought about my life. What was the point of my life? I’d made so many failures, so many mistakes. But life forgave me, it let me cheat death. It wasn’t my choice to live this long, it was life’s choice. I chose to die again and again but life refused to let me die. I wished the children well, they seemed like a gift to me. They seemed like the perfect way to end it all and behold me redemption for my failures. “Goodbye, Zion,” I muttered to myself under the breeze. I slowly closed my eyes and let nature grant me my final wish.