Find the Sky
published online in FlashFlood, journal
by National Flash Fiction Day
June 16, 2018
Mother used to tell us about the sky.
I would watch her face change as she spoke, wistful. Hey eyes sparked like flashes of lightning that sometimes played across the smog, illuminating masses of permanent dark clouds. Her voice was silken velvet, her tongue rolling as she told how the sky used to look crystalline like glass, like if you reached up to touch it the sky might shatter into diamonds and rain down.
Mother told how the sky stretched across the horizon for miles - a bright blue, sometimes pure turquoise, navy in the evenings with a scattering of bright, twinkling lights - stars.
Before the dusk took hold, Mother said, there were magnificent sunsets. Glorious colors as if someone had taken a dripping paintbrush to the sky. Vibrant orange like the flames of a bright, crackling fire. Fluorescent pink, eye-popping, like something out of the old pictures Mother would sometimes bring out of a box, fondling their edges with her fingers, tears forming in her eyes and dripping down on shiny paper. The sun, she said, used to be a bright ball in the sky - if you looked too long, hot imprints dotted your eyes and your skin burned red if you stayed under its rays.
Mother told us everything that made her happy in the old world, before the Surge - before the walls, the smog and people fleeing.
This is the only world Kiera and I know. Children of the Surge, some call us. We are the only young ones who didn't make it out. Mother died before she could find a way to leave our crumbling, dilapidated city. But before she died, she made me promise.
I would get Kiera safely from the city; bring her to find the sky.
Kiera and I sit together now, shoulder to shoulder, and watch the grey overcast darken into black from our rooftop perch atop the Locust where nobody can see us, but we can see anyone approach. The fog seems to engulf our city like a cave or a yawning mouth, eating it alive. My stomach grumbles at the thought of eating.
I'd given our final rations to Kiera. I gaze over at her from the corner of my eye, pretending to stare off into the distance at our imaginary sunset. If we look hard and long enough the dark clouds might morph before our eyes into the masterpieces Mother always said they became - before.
Before the Surge, when there was still a sky to wonder at, a sky to cherish, to welcome warmth on our skin. When we didn’t have to venture out with bandanas tied tight around our noses and mouths and we didn’t worry what our next meal would be.
A time when a ball of light burned bright in the sky, shaking off the fog and darkness clouding overhead. A time when there was still a sky to discover.