Author : Debbie Mac Rory

“It’s beautiful”

“What is?”

Jake looked over at Sara, sitting on the ledge where the window used to be. She was hugging her knees and staring out at the sunset.

“The sky. It’s pretty tonight, like someone reached out with a paintbrush and dabbed the colour there t’lift our spirits”

Jake leaned over to whisper in her ear;

“What if I was to tell you that, over there, over where the hills are that you can’t see ‘cos the city’s in the way. Over there, where the country starts, that’s where all the people were running too. Runnin’ ‘cos that’s what the broadcasts were tellin’ them to do. Run, and don’t look back. Them ships are coming, with bellies full of weapons. So they ran. And when those ships sailed over and opened up those bellies, they fired just at them peoples. That’s why these building are still sitting here, so the likes of you can sit here and wax lyrical about the pretty colours. They sailed right over the city, but they hit those people dead on. The sky’s red like that ‘cos the firestorm’s still burning. It ain’t no artist that’s makin’ the sky all pretty, its them dead people, all turned to dust when the bombs hit.”

“Why weren’t you with them?”

Jake laughed hoarsely, his throat strangling the sound into ragged coughing.

“I was with ‘em girly. Me and the rest of the boys, herding all them people like so much cattle. Thinking we were helpin’ em when alls we were doing was gathering them up nice and tight for them big guns. Why d’ya think my lungs are cut up so bad. Nothin’ quite so bad to breathe in as dust that was still people only a flash before.”

Sara slowed hard and looked over her shoulder at him. Grimy bandages wrapped his face and hands, in an effort to protect the worst of his scorched skin. His lips were cracked and blackened, and blood spotted his shirt and hand from his last coughing fit.

“You gonna die?”

“Course I’m not gonna die. Promised your Daddy I’d take care of ya, and I can’t be doing that very well if I go and leave ya on your lonesome, can I?”

Jake started coughing again, doubling up as spasms racked his chest.

“And you gonna show me a real sunset?”

Gasping to catch his breath, Jake followed her gaze up to the swirling red clouds of the setting sun.

“There won’t be any real sunset fer some time, not till them people all settle back down to th’earth for their final rest. But if you cin be waiting that long, then yeah darling, I’ll show you the prettiest sunset you’ll ever see”.

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