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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Aaron's Journal: RIP Danny Matheson

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A few months ago, when Charlie was first setting out to get Danny back, I stood in my house, hyperventilating, holding the damned pendant that Ben handed me before he died - and in that moment, if there was any way out for me, I would have taken it. I'd spent years after the Blackout in the wild, fighting just to eat. I'd lost everything to it, even Priscilla. And the truth was, I was scared of what was out there. I wish someone else could have taken the burden from me... but they couldn't. Because I owed Danny too much to stay behind, even if it meant ending up bloody in a ditch halfway to Philadelphia. His parents brought me in from the cold, but it was Danny and Charlie that showed me there was still something worth a damn in the world.

When I first met Danny, he was this scrawny, asthmatic kid who could barely keep up with his big sister. I couldn't help but see myself in him. And there weren't many people like me left. Danny and Charlie, they had something that nobody has anymore - innocence. Ben and Rachel shielded them from the worst of things. Let them be normal kids, most of the time. I'm not saying they didn't have to learn to field dress a deer when they should have been watching "Bambi," but to them, the world outside their cul-de-sac was still, somehow, a beautiful place. Because it was full of possibility and things they'd never seen or even heard of - these kids had no memories of movies, or planes, or even of riding in cars. To see the look on their faces whenever they saw some new artifact from before the Blackout, the sheer wonder... it let me see the world that way again, too.

One day, I left our village to scavenge for books. There was an abandoned city not too far away, and I hoped that somebody had spared Joe Hill from becoming firewood (or worse, toilet paper). On the way, I ran into a guy on the road. A guy who didn't seem like he had much of anything to lose. I could tell he'd been walking a long time, and had spent too much of it by himself. He pulled a knife and asked for everything I had on me, which wasn't much - and for him, wasn't enough. Just when he decided it'd be worth the small amount of trouble to cut my throat, there was this rustling in the forest. At that moment, I was praying for an angry raccoon - anything that'd distract him enough so I could try to run. But out came a 10-year-old Danny Matheson, blonde hair in his eyes, arrow notched, bow drawn. As intimidated as the squirrel he was out trying to hunt, but that didn't stop him from standing between me and the sociopath. The sight was just... insane. The guy could have broken Danny in half; he could have killed the both of us, but he didn't. He laughed... at the look on Danny's face, at the notion he might survive the better part of a decade after the Blackout only to be shot by a long-lost Hanson brother. I have to believe a little humanity was sparked in him by the loyalty Danny showed me. I know it was in me.

Today, I watched that boy get killed. And I don't know if I can ever think of the world as a beautiful place again.