I’m currently taking part in the 30 Day Writing Challenge, but I also like to take part in other blog challenges, including Sue Vincent’s #writephoto. As it turns out, today’s 30 DWC prompt is Aftermath, which also happens to fit the piece I wrote for Sue’s latest photo.
Perhaps I’m being a bit cheeky by hitting two challenges with one stone, so to speak – I do hope not. Here’s my story, inspired by Sue’s beautiful photograph.
‘So this is what you get, in the end.’
I nodded, my head on his shoulder, tears blurring the distant colours into even more fantastical shapes. His arms tightened briefly around me. I was cold, we both were, but there was nothing more to be done.
It was upon us. And with it came a sense of relief that finally our bare existence, scraping hand to mouth in an unnatural winter, might be over. I could feel snow seeping through the coarse weave of my trousers, stinging the lesions in my skin, but I didn’t care anymore.
‘We’re so stupid,’ he went on.
‘We are?’ I tilted my head to look at him and he smiled, whisky brown eyes crinkling in his tanned face.
‘Not us.’ There was that brief tightening of his arms again, comfort against the cold. ‘I mean humanity. Humanity is stupid. And we’re part of that.’
‘I guess.’ I mean, we were human, so on one level we were part of the whole. But we’d had no part to play in the first cataclysm, struggling in the aftermath just to survive. And now, once again, we were caught up in events beyond our control.
‘I know,’ he said. ‘We have no part in this.’ It was odd to hear him echo my thoughts. Strange to think anything I said or did might be on his level. ‘Stupid,’ he said again. ‘We should have been working together to make a new world, not fighting over the dregs of the old one. And now they’ve done it. Set the final act in motion.’
He fell silent and I felt him shiver against me. I snuggled in closer, trying to give him what warmth I could, but there was a cold in him I could never reach. He was older than me, his memories longer. I would hear him cry out in the night sometimes, or find him outside our camp staring up at the cold stars, tears on his cheeks. I never asked him what part of the old world was pulling at him, never wanted to pry. But now I kind of wish I had.
‘So what happens now?’ The colours were getting brighter, and there was an ominous whooshing crackle.
‘We wait. Until it’s over. It won’t be long.’
My mouth twisted, and I felt pain in my chest. Everything blurred again and I saw the field as it once was, green and flowered, the stream running clear.
‘If I have to do this with anyone,’ I said, overcome,’ I’m glad it’s with you.’
The noise was so loud now I doubted he heard me, but I thought, just before the shock wave hit us, that I felt his arms tighten around me, one last time.