Oliver Smith

School: Lockerbie Academy, Dumfries and Galloway

The Empty World

Day #803

I have now spent 803 days in this hospital, so maybe it is a good time to recap on exactly what has happened. My name is Dimitri Petrov and I am a survivor. It all started many years ago, back when everything was normal – the year was 1997 and I was but a foolish young teenager leading a carefree and reckless life. I lived with my mama in the Hovrino district of Moscow, my father was rarely at home as he worked with the government, what in the government I do not know, however, as he never talked about his work.

My earliest memories of what happened were when I saw the broadcasts on the television. There had been some sort of plague or virus that had been infecting and killing people in Bolivia, however President Yeltsin claimed there was nothing to worry about. After a few months the disease had nearly wiped out the whole of Bolivia’s population and many people in neighbouring countries were getting scared. Eventually the disease spread to these countries and after only six months Paraguay’s government had disbanded and the country had fallen into anarchy. Many nations in South America were trying to shut off their borders and put extra security measures up. However it did very little to stop the virus, which, after around a year and a half had reached the United States of America. They had still not developed a cure. After America failed to contain the disease it spread like wildfire over into much of Europe.

By this point my mama, just like a lot of people in Russia was extremely scared about what was going to happen and my father said it would only be a matter of time until it reached Russia. I still remember to this very day what my mama said to me.

“Remember Dimitri, no matter what, your father and I love you, but you must not despair when we are gone, you must stay strong and make us proud.”

After the virus had spread to eastern Europe, Hovrino was a dangerous place to live. It was then that the Russian Mafia truly came alive, they provoked the police and started riots in the streets, shops were robbed, empty buildings turned into gang headquarters and in general things were well and truly falling apart. The government had shown absolutely no compassion for the citizens, however. Ordinary people like myself were given no information or help – we did not know what to do in the event of somebody in our area catching the virus and if there was an emergency we had to fend for ourselves. The emergency services had stopped responding to calls as there were too many incidents involving theft and murders to keep tabs on…or that’s what they said anyway.

One day my mama and father decided we would flee to the countryside as we would have a higher chance of survival in the middle of nowhere than in the bustling city. We packed the car with as many supplies as we could – we also packed valuables and a couple of items of sentimental value such as a teddy bear that my mama gave to me for my third birthday. I was 17 at the time and I had kept good care of that teddy ever since I got it.

We were driving through northern Hovrino when we heard a loud bang in front of us. I saw a bright flash of light and heard the sound of glass shattering when  my mama let out a high pitched scream as my father slumped over the wheel. We veered off the road  into the side of a building and my mama was flung out the windscreen as she had not put her seatbelt on when we left the house. I noticed I had a few cuts and grazes as I got out of the car and raced to the front of it to see if my mama was alive. She lay on the ground, her leg twisted at an awkward angle which must have surely meant it was broken. She was gasping for breath and then started coughing and spluttering. I kneeled down beside her, tears running down my cheeks, I had no idea what to do. She mustered some strength and rolled over as I wrapped my hands around her.

“Go Dimitri…” she whispered to me. “There’s nothing you can do for me now, so go, they will come back to finish the job off, you need to go now! Remember what I always said – we love you!”

She fell back and crumpled up on the floor and I knew then that she was dead and I was truly on my own. I lay on the ground as the tears flowed off my cheeks in great numbers. I attempted to regain my composure but it was no good. I had just experienced the most traumatic event of my life and had no idea what to do – I just wanted to curl up in a ball and wish this horrible world away. I wanted to fall asleep and never wake up, to rewind time and never come back to this day but as much as I wanted all this to happen I knew it wouldn’t. I ran over to the car and salvaged my rucksack and pocket knife and ran away from the crash.

From there I went to the first place of hiding I thought of – the Hovrinskaya hospital. Work had started on it in 1985 but nobody ended up wanting to fund it all the way to completion so despite the actual building being near finished, there was very little in it. However it housed around seven departments and eleven floors so it would be an excellent place to hide. My father warned me that it would be full of both homeless and dangerous people and I was under no circumstance to enter it with my friends if we were in the area. However I guess I fitted into the “homeless” category as it would not be safe to return home, not then anyway. 

I climbed a tall dying tree and leaped over the fence as I made my way into the actual building and from there I lived off rations I had brought with me and dried food I found in masses in the canteen area. It had been deposited there but never been opened.

I rarely ran into trouble, it was a horrible place, the hospital – the grime and mould in the walls, the floor in ruins, bricks, pipes and rubble lying everywhere, the constant smell of waste and the voices. I’m not sure who the voices were but they scared me in the beginning. I eventually got used to them and prayed they would not find me as I didn’t want to know who else was with me in the building.

I would carry on writing. However something is feeling off - I can hear the ceiling creaking and the murmur of voices is growing louder. I can hear footsteps now. I don’t like this. I’m going to investigate and see what I can find…


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