Author: Kaci Curtis

You said that everything was going to change. I remember where we were sitting, sand clumped between our toes. I remember being afraid. Not of you; never of you. But of the picture of inevitability that you painted upon a rough and murky canvas.

“Everything will be different,” you warned.

And it was. The world took a turn that was so sudden, so irrevocable, we may as well have jumped off a cliff and tried to fly. Well, some of us tried to fly. The rest just fell, screaming all the way down.

You said that it would get better soon. We sat in the shadow of a crumbling bridge. A stringy bird charred over our fire. The darkness was full of enemies.

I remember scoffing when you said it. For the first time, I didn’t believe you. Nothing was going to get better. And you, once a mountain of a man, became a liar in my eyes. Because you couldn’t trust me with the bitter, relentless truth.

Fathers and daughters were supposed to trust each other. You feared that I would break; run screaming into the night and become of a victim of those who wanted what little I carried in my pockets. So you lied to me.

And in the same breath, you lost the parts of me that cared.

You said that I needed to be more careful. We soaked in a stream, scrubbing the blood from our clothes. I was humming a song from back before it all went silent. Your warning went unheeded; it was useless to me. I’d been careful for too long.

I wanted to be careless, to run shouting through the trees and draw them all to me, for miles and miles. I wanted to find the edge of the world and sail right off of it. To put an end to this monotony.

You could see my restless spirit, like prey trembling on exhausted legs just beneath my skin, jumping at the smallest noise.

“Be careful,” you cautioned.

As if I had a choice. As if my cavernous soul and rotting mind was something small to be swept away by the current; cleansed and forgotten.

But I was too often hunted, too often hungry, and far too gone.

You said that you were sorry. I was lying in a casket of mud when you finally found me. Someone had taken my knife and bundle of snare wire. They’d left me with a deep gash across my stomach.

You said that you should have been there to protect me. That had never changed, even when everything else spiraled into something savage and unrecognizable. There was still a father and a daughter, and a desire to live.

Except that I lost mine, didn’t I? I think so. I think it fell off that cliff I was seeking and didn’t have anything to grab on the way down.

What else was there to do, when the world as we knew it ended and everyone lived off what they could steal from others? When food became as scarce as good water and there was nowhere safe to sleep? When the electronics that we’d let devour us went dark and half of us didn’t know how to start a fire? What else was there to do but to falter, crash, and break apart?

You said that you were sorry, and clutched my hand. And I would have told you that I was sorry, too. That I had fought to stay with you.

But I’d already gone.