Author : Priya Chand, Featured Writer

I put two bottles and two cards in front of the NGO lady. She scooped them and nodded. “Karen Wallacho. Your sister isn’t here?”

“She’s eight. She doesn’t get up this early,” I lied. “Your scarf is pretty.” She always had a scarf on her head. Today it was bright orange.

The lady smiled, with big white teeth like I wanted, and gave me two bottles of fresh water.

“Thanks,” I said, and skipped out past the line. Mom made Sharon wake up early, but she didn’t have to come here until she was ten.

I went straight to our basement. Sharon was standing in a corner instead of running around. I walked over, quiet. When I got close, she pointed at something on the ground.

Little pink things squirmed in a pile of ragged strips. A fat brown thing—but covered in short hair—came over and sat on them. It had black eyes and a flat pink nose, and long white hairs coming out of its face. A mom animal and her babies! I almost screamed. No one ever sees animals, especially not with babies.

But our side of houses was on recycling duty today, so I pulled her back.

“What were the pink things, Kary?” she said. “I thought there was only one kind of animal.”

“Babies. That was a mom animal.”

We ran up to Mom and told her all about it, but she just looked at us and told us to go help with the paper. I wanted to pull apart the old tech things, but that isn’t allowed till you’re 16. And even then I bet I’d be stuck watching Sharon. Being older sucks.

Sharon and me were walking to the pile when we saw some wiggling shrub. It’s little green needles on long brown wire things. It’s alive just like we are, but it doesn’t move by itself.

“Another animal!” Sharon tiptoed forward.

“Don’t scare it.”

Not it, them. There was a whole bunch. We watched them for five whole minutes. In school we learned animals came out at night, but these guys were running and squeaking all through the shrub. “We have to go back and tell Mom,” I said.

Mom looked up, but the sky wasn’t anything special, it was just windy. “Kary, take Sharon to the basement, and stay there.” She walked away. I wanted to make her come back but I knew she was Weather Monitor for our neighborhood. I had to help by keeping Sharon out of the way.

We went straight to the babies. Their pink bodies were wrinkled like Mom’s forehead. Some of them made hungry faces.

“Where’s their mom?” Sharon said.

“Watch, she’ll come back. I bet she had to do important animal work.”

Sharon giggled and moved closer to me. We stood together until she was leaning on me and my feet hurt. I heard the wind outside roar. Our windows shook. The babies squirmed and squirmed. I wanted to hold them but everyone knows animals don’t like that.

Then I felt a tap on my shoulder.

It was the NGO lady, except her scarf was missing. She had amazing hair, wriggly and sticking out everywhere. “You need to come with me, kids,” she said.

“Why? What’s going on?”

She shook her head. “Please come upstairs. There’s been a storm. You’ll see your mom in a bit.”

“Where’s our mom?”

The NGO lady said nothing, just walked straight out the door of our house, and we followed her because we didn’t know what else to do.