Author : Andy Mee

It would be easy to say that they had disappeared, but that wasn’t quite true. What was once a row of Victorian terraced houses still lingered in the cold swirling air, now just a choking dust, like a visible air-borne virus. An hour before sunrise, as she trudged through the dusty remnants of the quarter, Eve impulsively guarded her eyes from the waltzing smoke and dust circling above. She couldn’t re-route. She’d be late.

This wasn’t an excuse to miss Lockdown. According to them, these bombings hadn’t happened.

Eve looked up at the star-poked violet-plum sky. In the eastern corner of the night sky a reddish-purple haze was spreading into the darkness above.

Lockdown had begun, she’d have to hurry. She gazed to the heavens and felt a slither of fear run the length of her spine as the stars started to disappear.

She remembered the clouds. At least, she thought she did. They had gone when she was very young. Yet, even now, she still pictured them, still drew their individual white shapes in her mind. No two the same. Not like them.

Her pale grey standard issue overalls were now a heavy brown of incinerated brickwork and slate. Maybe she’d stand out a little in the Vault.

If you listened carefully, you could still hear the elders whisper of ‘rain’, tales pouring from their mouths; storms of a time before. Echoes of an age before the sun burned away the clouds. They saw it coming, but they let it happen. That’s what they couldn’t understand.

The elders still talked of the colours of dawn, the star-poked violet-plum sky, a million shades, oranges, reds, purples – dawn’s tapestry. Nowadays they waited for the blackness of safety. She believed they missed colours the most.

Eve finally arrived at the checkpoint, seven minutes after Lockdown, fifty three minutes before sunrise. It was folly that she would beat herself up about later as she slept through the day.

She handed her pass to the guard.

She noticed (or perhaps it was just her over-active imagination) a different expression in his face today. What was in it exactly, she couldn’t tell. Anger? Disappointment? Relief? She was, after all, later than usual. His face soon fell back to default: blank, glazed. The black-metal gun was placed back into its holster to rest, while they went through the daily routine: her spreading, him scanning. The hand-held detector ran over her rigid body but, obviously, remained mute. She knew the rules. He detected the chip in her left forearm, opened the gate, and she entered.

The darkness swallowed her as the warmth of the coming day wafted into the open wound of the vault’s concrete tunnels.

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