• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 10


No one knew how the cars had gotten up on the dead tree. Mara’s first thought was how pretty they were, these pastel-colored vehicles. She hadn’t seen anything but the light taupe of sand and a sickly green sky all her life. She didn’t know such colors as red and pink and blue could exist.

Her grandmother used to tell her stories about wanting clothes the colors of the sunset. Mara had never seen a sunset, so the old woman described the colors by pointing to the splotches that covered her arms. Mara could only wonder why anyone would want clothes the same color as old, dying skin.

They were heading north. They’d always been heading north, and Mara thought perhaps the cars were a kind of marker. She wanted the cars to mean that they had reached their destination, that they could stop and rest. There were fewer of them now.

When they started, Mara could lose herself in the crowd, hide from her brothers and their resentment that she lived, that they had to care for her. That’s how it was. There were so few women that every woman had to be protected, even one like Mara who had dull stringy hair and was built like a boy. She never worried that anyone would hurt her. All any of them wanted was food, something other than the rough grass that grew in patches along the road, and water, more than the dewy drops they’d lick off the grass.

Her grandmother had told her stories of how people would get so thirsty, they would try to drink the blood of the dead. But it made them sick, so they stopped. And then women stopped being born. Too many men and not enough women led to too many men, she told her.



At first, she said, women were abused (she didn’t explain to Mara what she meant by that) but eventually the men saw that they only hurt themselves when they hurt the women.

So the women became protected by all the men, and no one touched them. And then the women stopped having babies altogether. Mara was the last one born, and she was almost twenty.

She looked up at the cars and noticed for the first time that the sky was blue around them. They rose above the lichen-colored haze, and Mara felt a desire to climb the dead tree, to pull herself up and over the cars until she got to the top. She’d get into the white car, put it into gear, and drive off, looking for the sunsets of her grandmother’s youth.

They all stood there, looking up at the cars and the blue sky that encircled them. Then one of her brothers clasped her bony arm, and they all began to climb.