Gone

By
The boy brushed some of the ash from his father’s face, before giving him a final kiss on the forehead. He pulled the last of the blanket over his deceased father’s head and, still making an attempt to grasp the overwhelming thought of meeting another child for the first time in his life, staggered back to the road. The man was there waiting for him, shotgun out and held at his side. Kneeling down to make himself at eye level with the boy, the man grasped his hand. Each one stared in to the others’ eyes, not sure of what was to come down the road on which they were standing.

Did you say goodbye to your father?

Yes.

Are you ready to leave?

No.

What’s left?

Nothing.

Then let’s go.

Okay.
The man moved to fix the pistol back to the boy’s waist, but the child merely took the gun from his hands, attaching it to his hip in a much quicker motion than the man could have achieved. Standing back up to his full height, the man returned the shotgun to the tattered case made of scavenged materials that he wore on his back. They walked a ways, with the man pushing the cart and the boy walking alongside, his hand grasping the carts side. The wind was growing stronger, and there were ominous looking storm clouds over the ocean. The newly found pair could barely make out the clouds from the ashen, gray horizon. A monochrome landscape lay before the two, as they ambled down the road.


How much longer?

Not long. A couple days maybe.

I miss my dad.

I know. He misses you too.

I know.

He would be happy.

Why?

You are here.

Oh.

He’s with you now.

How do you know?

Because you are thinking about him.

Okay. What is here?

What?

You said he was happy I was here. What is here?

I don’t know.

Will I ever know?

Are you sure you want to know?

Yes.

I don’t want to know.

Why not?

There are things I’d rather not know.

I know things I wish I didn’t.

We both do.

Okay.
Rain started to fall, and the little light that made it through the lifeless sky was beginning to diminish. The two hunted for a safe place to spend the night that was both out of the wind and away from trees that may break in the storm. They came across an outcropping, discovering hard granite beneath the layering of ash. The boy began to clear the rock of its covering while the man set up a makeshift tent of collected wood and the tarp from the cart. As his hand ran along the rock, the boy came across a soft, cold object lying underneath the ash. He tested the material, pushing slightly in. His hand met with some resistance, then suddenly sunk about six inches further into the ash. He felt a spongy texture pushing in on his hand from all directions. Sharp hard objects jabbed into his wrist from various angles. He jumped back, retracting his hand with a suddenness that caught the attention of the man. The corpse of an unlucky victim rolled, out from under the ash, resting on the ground. A cloud of debris was thrown into the air and a small avalanche of ash slid off the rock. After the air had cleared, the body lay in plain sight. The skin was equally as pale as the rock it had lay on, and there was a fist-sized hole in the abdomen where the boy’s curious hand had punctured the dead man’s body. The corpse had long been stripped of any clothing, and lay there helpless and pitiful. The child covered his face and ran inside the half-built shelter.

Please come back out.

No.

He was already dead; it’s not your fault.

I know.

Then come out.

No.

Do you not want to talk?

I am talking now.
The boy edged his head in to the man’s view. Tears ran down his young face, but it held an expression that was hard to read. He did not look scared from the sudden appearance of the corpse, but appeared sad. As if the poor man who’s body lay behind him would begin to cry as well.

He was already dead.

I know.

Haven’t you seen corpses before?

Yes.

Then this one is no different than the others.

Yes. Yes it is.

Why?

My father is one of them.

He’s different.

How?

He is special to you.

This one was special to someone.

Okay. You’re right. He is different. But he is dead. There is nothing we could have done.

Okay.

We cannot help him. He is dead. We are alive.

What is the difference?

What do you mean?

What is the difference between him and us?

He’s dead. He can’t eat, walk or breathe.

Okay.

Okay? Come help me get wood for a fire.

Okay.





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