- Vol. 03
- Chapter 06
The stairs were dark and slippery under her bare feet. Going down into the cellar was clearly dangerous, but then nowhere seemed to be quite safe at the moment. It had been past midnight when the storm started, and most of her neighbors had been dreaming cozily by the time the wave came. Notwithstanding a few nightmares, they had had no reason to be afraid. There had been no warning.
Down in the cellar a few wooden boxes played at being boats. Unable to distinguish one from another in the darkness, she chose at random and waded back toward the stairs. It was not the cold that made her shiver, even though it was freezing. So far nobody had come. The few people she had seen were looking for help and not in a position to give it. On any other day she could have counted on the good nature of people. Recently she never wanted for a seat on the crowded buses, or waited in line at the post office. Now even her condition wasn't enough to get anyone to stop, and she was afraid.
At the top of the stairs she found some shelter among the ruins. Part of the kitchen was still there, although she could barely recognize it. What remained of the roof was just enough to shield her from the storm. Her teeth clattered, keeping pace with the steady rain that pelted the world around her. She needed to make a fire, and she would burn anything to make it.
There was paper inside the box, but not the kind she had hoped for. It was filled with pictures of her family, dating back to her great great grandparents. Somewhere in the box, she remembered, was a picture of her mother on her first day of school. She had always loved that one. Now her fingers ripped through the treasurepaper indiscriminately in the darkness and stuffed the shreds into the fireplace until it was halfway full. By some miracle the matches beside the hearth were dry enough to spark a flame. The little fire sprang to life and its light reflected in her dark brown eyes.
Her family burned well. She was not sure which of them she had sacrificed to start the fire, but she could not allow herself to care. The faces in the fire smiled happily for a moment and then turned to smoke. She watched a young man dressed smartly in his military uniform, knowing that she would not have another chance to see him. Her husband had died almost a year ago, and now she was watching him disappear one more time. Some of the pictures made her smile as they warmed her, but not for long. She missed her mother most when she was gone. The wooden box itself, at least, kept the fire going until daybreak. "It's a new day baby," she said, and with one hand one her stomach, she got up and stepped into the light.