Phoenix

barren

I walk in sync with the chopping of a helicopter fleet in the horizon, the sound of the blades piercing the dusty, lifeless air echoing my heartbeat. What will it be like when I get there? Will there be a bowl of Mama’s hot soup waiting for me, just like before? And my brother Caleb – would he still be sporting that scruffy beard that we all told him makes him look like a caveman? Questions continue to saturate my mind as I think of how time is the only variable keeping this from being just another afternoon.

A chipper sparrow-lark whizzes past me and darts into the flat, beige sky. I track the bird until it disappears into the dusty atmosphere. The status of the world worries me; after awakening from the emergency cryogenic chamber in the basement of my school, nothing seems to be the same as it had the morning I left for class. Trees that I normally pass on my way back home are naked and black; weeds overtake the cracked road, and there are no vehicles in sight. Surprisingly, the residential centers along the road are still intact and appear lively. There has to be people somewhere, but where?

As I get near my turnoff, a familiar face greets me at the gate. “Galahad!” I shout, wrapping my arms around my dog. “Look at how big you’ve grown!” The last time I saw Galahad, he was only a playful pup. The dog I’m embracing now is anything but – his fur is ragged and clumpy in parts, a long scar occupies his muzzle. His peacock-blue eyes are faded into a cloudy gray. However, despite his dirty appearance, his stomach is plump and thick, indicating he’s been well-fed. His delighted licks wipe the soot off my neck and chin.

Galahad follows close as I finally arrive at a vacant driveway. What’s left of my house is a jagged, busted foundation and a rusted swing set in the backyard. Not even a dilapidated frame or any furniture remain – any evidence that this was once a house has been reduced to dust.

Dust. The idea of it and losing everything I used to love and know to it makes me chuckle, but no amount of laughter can mask the tears welling in my eyes. “Well, Galahad, it looks like it’s just you and me now,” I whisper, dropping my head and turning away from the depressing scene. My cries resonate in the barren wasteland, an unofficial funeral for the reality I used to know.

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