Crumbling Earth

While we all go about living our lives, a small group hold, possibly, the most important information in the world. The Earth is crumbling.

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14. Epilogue

They all sat in his room, none of them speaking although Kailen had long since caught her breath again. Naid laid there as undisturbed as he'd always been. Unmoving and unchanged - the blankets she'd removed had been fitted back into place by his older sister and they rose with his chest.

The remainder of the concoction Kailen had made was stored in the back of the so-called pantry. It was one flask that they doubt they'd ever use again but were just as reluctant to get rid of. So they left it there, like galaxies in a glass container.

At the foot of the bed, the two long-time friends watched one sibling fuss over the other. She ran her hand through his hair, over and over, and her gaze didn't waver from his position. It was almost as if the action soothed her more than it did him. So they looked away, allowing her the privacy.

 

Until they heard her say, "Naid? Naid, can you hear me?"

Kailen looked up, opening her mouth to tell the older girl that he was unconscious and they'd already confirmed that, when she saw the dark head of hair shift of its own accord. A few seconds later and there it was again.

Trecia took her brother's hand in hers. "If you can hear me, squeeze my hand." Hands shaking, she waited. And waited. And waited. Then nothing. The breath rushed out of her, like she'd been deflated. Her gaze fell to the floor.

"Wait," Kailen insisted, standing and walking over to where she was perched on the bed. "Look at his eyes."

The others soon followed the brunette's gaze. Naid's eyelids opened by a fraction and closed again, creating a greater gap each time they did so.

 

"Come on, you can do it," Trecia pleaded.

Kailen hoped, for all their sakes, that he could do it.

And Grey's hands were clasped impossibly tight.

At last, the eleven-year-old boy opened his eyes and the first thing he saw was his sister as she pulled him into a hug.

 

Odd tears leaked from her eyes at first, before they became a steady trickle down her cheek and onto him. Her hands remained tangled in his hair but, this time, he could grip the back of her t-shirt in two small fists. Kailen wasn't sure which one let out the first sob, or why they finally parted and Naid dried his eyes with a smile while Grey shifted from his position to pull Trecia into his arms. She was sure that they'd had some sort of unintentional practice at that.

As Trecia rested her head on his shoulder and Grey's lips hovered so near to her cheek, Kailen found it within her to look away. And, when she did, she caught Naid's eye - he was grinning. Broad and simple. There was no malice or pain behind it. He smiled because he was happy.

 

 

Her feet crunched into the ground beside the reservoir, a noise she hadn't heard since those school trips to somewhere rural and foul-smelling in a way city girls could never get used to. Trecia walked beside her, hair moving with each step, solemn-faced.

After a few steps, she began to talk. "Before either of us was born, there was a group of people who used to come here on expeditions from your world. They came across the barrier during the routine storms, back when they were the only storms we had, and we'd exchange bits and pieces of our culture. Some would stay behind and become one of us. We were different but we had similar technologies - electricity, computers, microwaves, bombs - and we advanced at similar rates."

Kailen looked over at her as they walked. The older girl was looking for permission to carry on, so she nodded and faced forward again.

 

"Then our world caught the virus. It infected everything, not just humans. It killed scientists before they could share their discoveries about its origin. So, when the travellers from your world joined us the next time, we told them they could no longer come and visit. Most of them were a bit put out but they accepted it. And the disease crept slowly across the world, disappearing after toppling one town and reviving itself as many as ten years later."

The brunette bit her lip; that would explain the countless souls that'd crawled out of the Sea of Lives no more than a few hours ago, and how there could still be so many left.

 

Trecia took a deep breath before she spoke again. There was a sort of tension in her features. "What we didn't know is that a handful of the visitors had formed a pact. They were going to get back here if it killed them. And, for some of them, it did. They spent so long working on a way back that they had no livelihood and couldn't afford food."

And then the reason for the tension made itself known. "Fortunately for you, your parents weren't the kind to forget about their stomachs. They got jobs and your mother decided she wanted a child. You. They were one of three families that survived to have children, calling them 'soldiers'. They were going to steal from us, to take by force what they'd previously been given for free. We never heard from them - I only know this because of your mother."

 

What crossed Kailen's features wasn't shock. Shock didn't fit her. It wasn't disbelief either. She'd given that up as a bad habit a long time ago. It was amazement. And not in the sense that she was proud of her parents and their former colleagues, or interested in what they'd done.

It seemed unreal that her entire life had had plan she didn't know of, that she wasn't alone in that plan either. But she believed it and it didn't surprise her after what she'd learned in her time in Namardia. So she called the emotion amazement.

"Go on," she commanded, throat dry.

The older of the two had eyes wider than they'd been when the conversation started, but they didn't look away from her. Then the words left her like a procession.

 

"Your mother said she was trying to give you the best childhood she could until you met your fate. But your father, while he wasn't a bad person, never forgot his obsession. She saw it getting out of hand and decided to make the trip herself, to satisfy him. She figured he'd be at least far too old to care by the time another fifty years went by and the time came to visit again. Except, she was nowhere near a regular storm. So she broke the barrier herself and messed up our entire storm system, leaving the city even more damaged than it already was.

"We'd blown up everything within miles and miles of the border. It stopped the spread of the infection but created the Sea of Lives and trapped us all inside. I was seven. She hadn't meant to harm us, but the combination of little food and poor sleep made people furious.

"They punished her because they thought it'd make them feel better and she accepted it. Because, although she wouldn't get back home, her mission was accomplished. She knew she'd stopped your father from using you, even if it wasn't in the way she'd wanted to."

 

They'd both come to a stop, a few feet away from the water, and Kailen knew Trecia was analysing her reaction. Despite the sadness of the tale, something in her felt lighter at the knowledge.

"I'm here now anyway, aren't I?" she replied. It missed the undertone of 'it was all for nothing' that usually came with her words.

"Would you rather be back home or here?"

"I don't know... I don't really have a choice, I'm stuck here." When Trecia frowned, she nudged her with a smirk. "Hey, it's not so bad. At least I don't have to steal food."

That drew one out of her in returned.

They turned to see Grey standing on the bank, staring at the surface of the water.

Kailen leaned closer and whispered, "I dare you to push him in."

And Trecia chuckled. "One day, I might."

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