Story: On The Last Wave
Kayla and Sammy lay in the muddy hole with their Father clasped between them. It was a shallow hole, but they were hidden from the view of the lumbering shapes that moved across the altered landscape. It had been Father who told them how to dig the holes and hide, and how the creatures that hunted them watched for movement from lazy distances, but Sammy had not heard him say it. Father only spoke to Kayla, and that was right because she was the oldest.
Sammy slept until his feet stopped aching, and lay for a time looking up at the clouds. They hung like dirty blankets, yellow and poisonous. He imagined that there might be birds up there, just hidden from view, but he knew that wasn’t true. The skies were dead now, and the ground was the only place for living things. When Kayla woke up they set off again, carrying Father between them.
This place had once been a town. Sammy supposed it was still a town, really, because most of the buildings were still there, even if no people lived in them anymore. They could hide in the houses that hadn’t fallen down, but Father said that other things lived in there now, and it was best to be careful. Sammy had wanted to know what things, but Kayla had shaken her head and said he was too much of a baby to know that.
Where they were was not where they needed to be, Kayla said, and they had to keep moving. Father had told her that there was family waiting for them, out in the world. Sammy hoped so, because being alone was sad.
“Do you think we’ll ever see another bird?”
Kayla looked at him like he was stupid.
“Father says they all died when the skies changed,” she shook the bucket, as if for emphasis. “The birds flew up there without knowing it was dangerous, and it killed them all,”
“Perhaps there are birds that don’t fly. Perhaps those ones didn’t die,”
Kayla rolled her eyes.
“You’re such a baby.”
Father had died when the disaster happened.
Not straight away, like Mother did, who was outside and in the full glare of the light, but gradually. He’d been standing by the window where only a long thin wedge of the bad light could get on his face and arms; that had been enough, as it turned out. In the terrible, frightening days that followed Father had tried to take care of them but his flesh had started to peel off in gritty hard chunks, until he was little more than a raw skeleton.
The light was hungry and it ate people up, but it must have gotten full because they could walk in it now and not get hurt.