March 5, 2020

From the Ashes

Through the faint clouds of ashes that swirled softly over the road, she saw the outlines of buildings that had been scarred by the war. For a moment she thought she could feel the ghosts of the people who once lived and worked here. The sound of the cups and saucers over the chatter of friends and workers at the café, the children playing in the nearby park. It made her feel sad knowing she would never relive those moments, but also a sense of guilt for being alive.

Fire had, by all accounts, destroyed everything here as it had done everywhere else. Charred remains of once everyday objects now stood as small monuments to a modern life now gone forever. Empty shells of the electric cars that were designed to save us all, the twisted frames of bicycles that we all had to rely on when the fuel had run out, now all strewn across the road like broken, discarded toys. Humanity had known it was doomed years before. Desperately seeking hope through leaders, it was inevitable that a madman would slip through and commit us all to an apocalyptic hell.

By now, she was convinced that she was the only one left alive on Earth. She hadn’t seen another living soul since the last bomb dropped all those years ago. Every day she missed Mum and Dad, and so desperately wanted to tell them that she, and her faithful teddy bear Panda, had survived. What saddened her the most was that with every passing day, she forgot another feature of their faces. One day, she knew, she would forget what they looked like.

Desperately searching for water isn’t what she had planned for her teenage years, and neither was roaming barren wastelands looking for signs of life. But in scavenging the empty carcasses of the homes and shops in what, she recognised, used to be a town centre, she caught a glimpse of something.

“What could this be Panda?” She whispered into the teddy bears ears. “Shall we have a look?”

She stepped over a collapsed wall and ducked under a fallen wooden beam towards the object that sat on a table, illuminated from a source of natural light that shone through a hole in the ceiling. As she got closer, she found more of the same object stacked on top of shelves. She hadn’t seen one of these for years, but as she ran her hand over the paper surface, she instantly remembered what it was.

“It’s a book, Panda! A book!” Her eyes widened with joy as she turned a page. “I used to read these when I was a little girl with Mum and Dad! Do you remember that?” She used her fingers to make Panda nod in agreement.

She turned another page and on it was a picture of a fairy flying in the night time sky, pointing her wand towards children sleeping in a bed.

“How did these survive I wonder?” She stood a while and read the beginning of the story of how a fairy would make the wishes of children come true. She removed her rucksack and placed it on the table before placing the book inside of it. She turned to find herself in a room full of them. Almost everything was covered in dust and ash, but she dusted them away as she perused the shelves.

She eventually came across a book titled “DIY Rescue- Fix it, Build it, Love it!”. She sat on a torn leather chair and studied the pages. From woodwork, to electrical, plumbing and heating, everything a family needed to build and repair. Her imagination ran wild with all the possibilities this book presented to her. For years she lived in a faint hope that she would be rescued, and if she travelled far enough, she would find what she was looking for. Perhaps this was what she was looking for - this was the end of her journey.

“Panda?” She turned to her teddy bear. Panda turned to her and cocked his head to one side.

“Everything is going to be OK. Do you know why?”

Panda shook his head slowly.

“We’re going to build ourselves a house! It’s going to have a roof, and some walls, and inside, it’s going to have a bed, some chairs, and even a place to get water from! Doesn’t that sound great?”

Panda opened his arms and held them up in happiness. “I know, it’s exciting isn’t it! Come,” she stood up, “we need to find some tools. We’re not going to be able to build our new life without some of those!”

She grabbed her rucksack and, with Panda in one arm, and the DIY book in another, she stepped outside, and, for the first time in what felt like an eternity, she genuinely felt happy.

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