words Michael Bell
The girl marched through the dead city ruins, the wind whispering through the broken glass to create a haunting echo. She was small, missed by the dark shapes that now prowled the streets. Brother told her to hide when they came. He taught her how to choose the cloth that matched the walls. To blend.
No more brother. No more mother. The sickness got them. It tried to get her first, but mother said she was too strong, so it went into mother and brother. She did not remember being sick. The body forgets, brother said.
“To survive. Pain to strong, overwhelms.” He had stopped, coughing.
A shape suddenly appeared to her left. She spun, holding a small knife. Protection. Always protect.
Brother had rules. He helped mother first, before he had the sickness. Taught her things. Useful things. How to hide, when to run. What was good eating. Where to bury mother.
The dusty shape was her, reflected in glass. The knife disappeared again. Her face was as sharp as the knife in the glass. Not much food survived. Not much grew anymore.
She had forgotten mother’s face. Maybe the head forgets too. She remembered the dress, covered in dirt. Mother had been lighter than brother. She wished she forgot that.
The girl stopped suddenly and looked down. Creeping up through the crack in the concrete was a dandelion. Its little yellow flowers waved at the disbelieving girl. Everything was dead here. Everything.
She felt something rising in her chest. She pulled one of her collecting jars out of her bag. The knife appeared, stabbing the edge of the plant to pull it from the crack. She placed it carefully into the jar.
Not everything was dead. Not her.