The next concrete thing I remember is hearing voices. Loud voices, all around me. Some further away, some coming closer. One or two right next to me. Voices, shouting for me to get up and move.
My world had come to an end. And even several minutes afterward, I was still staring at the blank, lifeless face of my dearest love. Even several minutes later, I was waiting for her to magically spring back together again, sit up, and tell me it was all a joke. I was waiting to hear her beautiful voice.
But it was over. She was gone. My Jesse, my love...was dead.
I had climbed into the carriage when I had finally found strength in my muscles to move. I had sat down beside her slumped form, laid my head upon her silent chest, and stared up into the empty, glassy eyes. The colorless face. I could not bring myself to look anywhere else. I did not feel the warm blood I sat in, soaking into my clothes, or see the horrible mess that now splattered everything that had been in front of her, including me.
I had completely forgotten Mayflower. I didn't care anymore. I didn't even feel it when, after several minutes, he started walking by himself again. I didn't notice that the commotion I had heard before was growing louder, or that the lights had grown brighter.
The voices surrounded me. The lights were almost blinding. And somewhere nearby, an army of engines roared. Explosions echoed in the distance. A faint, but piercing metallic scream.
"Ma'am? Ma'am! Are you injured?"
Hands settled on my shoulders, shaking me. A flashlight shone in my eyes. Dimly, I registered faces, my unfocused gaze being manually moved back and forth as I was jostled. But I remained catatonic, unable and unwilling to move. I didn't care anymore. All I wanted was to lie there and die too.
But at long last, feeling returned to my limbs, and my consciousness reasserted itself. Mostly because those same hands had grabbed me again, and was attempting to lift me out of the carriage.
"NO!" I screamed, the world snapping into sharp focus as I kicked and struggled. "No! I won't leave Jesse!"
"Ma'am, calm yourself!" a deep, authoritative voice shouted. "I have orders to evacuate every civilian found."
"Your friend is dead. You can't do anything else for her now."
Despite my struggles, I was pulled away from Jesse, out of the carriage, and set down on my feet. I looked up and stared into the severe faces of the stern men holding me. Both were wearing military combat uniforms and held large guns in their free hands. One had a microphone attached to his helmet.
"Take her to the choppers," the man on my right said to the other. "And hurry! That thing's going to be here any second."
The man on my left tightened his hold and started pulling me towards one of the Humvees. I looked back, tears streaming from my face as the view of Jesse's body was blocked by the soldiers. They were cutting Mayflower free of his harness, but nobody was doing anything to Jesse.
"Jesse!" I screamed again, but at that moment I was grabbed by the waist and shoved into the backseat waiting Humvee. The soldier buckled my seatbelt, and then slammed the door in my face.
"Move!" he shouted to the driver as he jumped into the front. A massive explosion echoed behind us as he shut his door.
I was rocked back and forth as the Humvee started off. It drove by the carriage, but Jesse's body was in view for only a second before everything was left behind us. I pressed my palm to the window, the tears now falling silently. I was losing strength again, losing the ability to care about where I was, or that I had been rescued. The creature was visible in the distance, coming closer as it started moving in the direction we were headed.
"Damn it!" the driver shouted. "If that thing reaches the evac point, we're all screwed."
"There's only three or four flights left," the other soldier said.
There was silence for a few seconds as the driver swerved around debris. My forehead smacked against the window, but I didn't notice the pain.
"What are they doing with that horse?" the driver suddenly asked.
"Turning it loose," the other replied. "Doubt it'll survive, but it has more of a chance now."
I gritted my teeth, squeezing my eyes shut. I didn't want to hear it anymore. I couldn't stand it that they were more worried about Mayflower than Jesse. I tried to hold back a sob, but it escaped anyway, sharp and strained. The soldiers weren't paying attention. One of them suddenly cursed.
"It's catching up!" the driver shouted. "Shit, it's right there!!"
The same metallic scream echoed, making the entire Humvee shake. We were roaring closer to more lights, and I could hear the drum of helicopter blades.
I was thrown against my seatbelt as the driver slammed on the brakes. Two seconds later, the other soldier was ripping open my door. He unbuckled my seatbelt and dragged me out. Despite myself, I looked around again as he started pulling me forward. I could see it now, more close than it had ever been before. It looked to be right over Grand Central Station. Rockets were exploding against its hide, but not affecting it at all.
"Get her in!" the soldier suddenly shouted.
More hands grabbed me. I turned back to see I was being led towards a helicopter sitting in the middle of what looked like a makeshift helipad. Concrete barriers formed a ring right in the middle of the intersection. Soldiers, tanks, and Humvees were everywhere, a chaos that yet still had some sense of order. The soldiers were calm as they led me forward. The helicopter had its blades at near full speed, ready to lift off at a second's notice.
I cooperated with them, climbing into the helicopter and sitting down on the seat they pointed out. Another soldier strapped me in. There were two others sitting near me, but I did not look at them. I kept my head bowed, my eyes shut, trying to block out the noise around me.
Shouts echoed from the open helicopter door. More people were being led forward. A young woman was helped in, taking the seat next to me, the last available one.
"You're on the next chopper!" I heard someone shout.
The helicopter door was slammed shut. I heard the girl next to me shouting, but her words were drowned in the scream of the engine. I felt the helicopter lift off, gaining altitude fast as it turned and started away. The explosions, shouts, and screams died as the city fell away beneath us.
For a moment, nobody spoke. Everyone sat in their seats, gasping for breath. The girl next to me had slumped against her restraints, much like myself, and like me had tears running down her face. Despite myself, I turned to look at her more fully. Her clothes were blackened and tattered, but she wasn't splattered in blood like I was.
The girl noticed me looking at her, and turned to me.
"They'll be on the next chopper," she said dully. "They'll be alright."
Something about a bombing run echoed from the radio in the cockpit, but I ignored it. I gave the girl a dull, defeated look, and I saw her gaze travel over the copious bloodstains across my face, arms and clothes.
"You keep thinking that," I said softly. "Someone should."
The girl stared at me for a long moment.
"I never thought something like this could happen..." she whispered.
I returned her gaze, but in the end, I said nothing else. The helicopter carried us out of Manhattan, to a makeshift base somewhere in New Jersey.
I don't remember much else after that. The military took everyone they evacuated by that chopper and processed us, getting names and information and a medical checkup before turning us over to the Red Cross to try and reunite us with family or friends. They took me aside and kept me longer, the military doctors fearing all the blood on me was my own. But they eventually let me go too.
The Red Cross took me to a shelter set up in a community center along with a group of about thirty others. I don't remember anything about the stay in the shelter. I only know I wasn't there for very long. I didn't try to find out anything in that time; my life was already over. I just laid in a cot, ignoring everyone, my mind filled with memories of Jesse.
I only came back to myself when I heard someone speaking my name.
It was Jesse's uncle that had found me. As I later found out, he had been in New Jersey on business that day, and so had avoided the disaster. He had been searching every shelter in New Jersey, searching for news of his partner and Jesse. And seeing me, lying there alone, had told him everything.
Jesse's body was never recovered. It was destroyed, like almost everything else, during the final bombing run that had leveled Manhattan. I stayed with Jesse's uncle, sharing in his mutual grief. To this day he has not discovered what happened to his partner.
So that's it. That's what happened. To everyone else who lost friends and loved ones that night...well, you aren't alone. And I'm sorry if this sounds selfish, but I don't care any more than that.
I survived Cloverfield.
The greatest woman in the world did not.
That's all I have to say.