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Fiction Teens & Young Adult Science Fiction

We stood at the window, watching the first monsoon of death this season.

“Do you remember when the rain wasn’t poisoned, Ellie?”

Daisy breaks my thoughts of him…I shake my head to clear his name, then look down to my sweet, six year old sister. I’m like a mother to her at nineteen, since our mother died five springs ago, caught out in a freak monsoon. Nobody saw it coming. Not like we have weathermen anymore.

“Kinda,” I said. I was only nine when we came inside. It’s really not that different, except I miss playing in the rain, when I was your age.”

Her eyes widened, imagining someone actually, willingly standing in the rain. 

The rain. I remember hearing about acid rain as a kid, and thought the rain turned to actual acid. 

By the time I found out what it really had been, nobody cared about acid rain anymore. Chemical attacks, bombs, and warfare on a technological level that nobody had ever tried before poisoned the rain, the water, the oceans. 

Spring and well water is okay. Underground streams and rivers are also mostly okay. There aren’t many in SouthwestUSA.

“First, it feels nice and soft, like a warm summer rain,” Mother had said on her deathbed. “Then the blisters come along with the chilblains. Then your eyes hurt, so much you don’t want to keep them open. Your muscles ache and burn, and your nerve endings fire up. Then your lungs fill with fluid, and that hurts, let me tell you. I was only caught out for thirty seconds,” she had whispered, before painfully coughing. “Thirty seconds in a place where it only rains thirteen days a year.” 

She’d sounded wistful then, but wouldn’t talk about the rain after that besides getting us to swear we’d be careful. 

We had immigrated to the desert country of SWUSA when I was three, before Daisy. I don’t remember much, but I remember my mom making me hide in a suitcase. She carried me through from CaliUSA while my dad bribed the intake worker. SWUSA was the most populated country in the whole of North America. Even CanaUSA (We annexed them in the war) where people had run in droves during the war was now a ghostland. 

Most of North America was a ghostland. Billions of people died in the war, or they came home from war to find the rain had killed their family. So even though SWUSA was heavily populated, that meant there were about a million and a half people over what used to be Arizona (where we were), New Mexico, and Texas. North America’s population was only sixteen million, total. So seeing another person was rare unless you were at the barter markets. We lived far out in the desert, on a ranch outside of a town that used to be named Sunflower. 

Thinking about my parents’ bravery brought tears to my eyes. They had lived for us. 

Dad was lost when raiders came three summers ago. We cowered in the shelter that Dad had built, hidden from the world unless you knew where to look. He kissed my forehead and gave Daisy a long, tender look, and he was gone. He went up, and he defended us. We listened from below as the evil raiders pounded the floor with their heavy boots. The muffled yelling. The shot, then the thud. For hours, they stole, and then they went to sleep, drunk on our last bottles of liquor. 

I waited until Daisy was deeply asleep. Then I quietly went upstairs, exited the shelter, and like a ninja, I took my knife and silently slit the throats of the sweetly sleeping monsters who had slaughtered my father. They never knew I was coming. When Daisy woke, they were already with the pigs, becoming worthful for the very first time in their lives, as a meat product. The pigs were joyous as I dropped in their bodies. 

My father’s body is buried under the mesquite tree out back. Daisy was awake by then, but I felt she deserved to see the finality of it, so she would understand Dad wasn’t coming back.

Daisy was my world and I would do anything to protect her. 

We had water - well water - we were lucky. There weren’t many wells left. When it would run out was anyone’s guess. We survived, though, Daisy and me. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t feel a knot under my sternum as I missed my parents deeply. I felt like that knot was still them - they were still guiding me to survive.

However, when he arrived, I didn’t know what to do. It was three days ago. 

He’d simply walked through our traps, setting them off without a care, then called, “Hello, the house!” and cordially knocked on our door. As if we lived in a time when neighbors looked out for each other. I sent Daisy to the shelter, while she whimpered the whole time that she didn’t want me to leave her. I didn’t want to leave her, either. I had to, before he broke in. He knocked again, and I ran from the bedroom closet - where the secret entrance to the shelter was - and caught my breath before cocking my gun and pointing it at the door. 

“State your business!” I cried through the door. 

There was silence for a minute, then, “I’m lost. I’m sorry. I’m out of water and it’s going to rain any second. I’m sorry to trouble you, but may I ask for shelter and a drink? Then I’ll be on my way.”

My hands were shaking and the gun felt heavy. What should I do? 

As if in answer, there was a clap of thunder so loud and deep it shook the windows and vibrated in my bones. Rain was coming, he’d been right about that. 

With a deep breath, I opened the door. 

Then I pointed my gun at him. I hoped he wouldn’t notice the tremors. 

“Disarm.” 

He paused a beat, and then nodded to himself as if making a decision. 

“Fair enough,” he said, and began to pull weapons from everywhere and set them gingerly on the floor just inside the door. It gave me a chance to get a better look at him. 

He was a bit older, maybe twenty-five. Green eyes were the first thing you noticed about him. They were bright, and there was intelligence in those eyes, I could tell. Damn. I had to admit he was handsome. He had a week-old beard, brown and red whiskers that I bet itched like hell in the heat, and as if he could read my mind he scratched it absently. Straight, long nose, a dimple in his chin. His brown hair looked thick and was just past his ears. 

I still held the gun on him. Cute guys could be monsters, too. 

After what felt like forever, a moderate pile of knives, guns, and other weapons were on the floor. He straightened up and looked me in the eyes. Smiled, and it was a gentle smile of understanding. 

“You can keep that gun on me if it makes you feel more comfortable, though I have to say I’m not keen on being shot. I won’t hurt you. I’m not here to take from you. Although I do ask you for water if you can spare it, and shelter from the storm. I can be gone when it’s over. Is that okay?” 

Speechless, I waited, sized him up again, then finally acquiesced and lowered the gun. I nodded. 

“My name is Caleb. You can call me Cay, if you want. Everyone does.” 

“I… um… My name is Elle. You can call me Ellie. Everyone does,” I mimicked. 

We both share a nervous, awkward smile.

Then lightning lit up the house and sky. I quickly closed the front door. Rain was here. 

I got Cay a jug of water and he gulped it down in seconds. I refilled it, and he did it again. Finally, on the third fill, he slowed down to sips. 

“Oh man, that is the best water I have ever had.” He wiped his mouth with his sleeve.

“How long has it been since you had a drink?”

“Yesterday afternoon. Raiders came. They took my home. I was lucky to escape with my horse. Oh, which is in your barn, by the way. Sorry, I took the liberty. I couldn’t risk anything happening to him.” He shrugged, as if to say, what else could I do. I didn’t mind that the horse was in the barn, but I minded that Cay was in my home and I didn’t know yet if he was a monster. 

“I’m sorry about your home. Was it just you?” 

His green eyes darkened. 

“My little brother,” he said, then hung his head. 

He didn’t need to say what happened. I already knew. 

“I’m terribly sorry. You’re welcome to water, and a hot meal even. Would you like that?”

Cay closed his eyes. I can’t believe that I finally found someone who isn’t…” he didn’t finish his sentence. I knew what he meant, though, A monster.

Maybe that meant Cay was a good guy. Maybe it didn’t. We would see. 

I filled his water again.

“All right, Mister Thirsty, drink up. When you’re done, the bathroom is going to be down the hall, first door on the right. Just in case,” I smiled. He grinned back, and I flushed. My face burned with heat.

“Don’t suppose you’ll let me shower and shave, too?” he said, and now his face burned with embarrassment. He did stink. I would too, if I’d been running in the desert for twenty-four hours straight. 

I walked him to the bathroom, handed him a towel, and set the timer on the shower. 

“You can shave at the sink, not the shower. Three minutes only, we have it on a timer, so shower quickly. You know the drill.” He nodded, because he did know the drill. Water was so precious, and we lived in a desert. 

Once he got into the shower and I heard the water running, I flew to my bedroom and closed the door behind me. As fast as I could, I opened the closet door then the door to the shelter. 

I explained a nice man was here and needed help, but she still had to stay down in the shelter. 

“No, Ellie! I don’t wanna! I want to be with you, I’m scared.”

I weighed my options, then went with my gut. Cay seemed all right. He could have hurt me, and he hadn’t - yet. 

“Okay.” 

“For real?

“Yup, for real. Come on and help with dinner and you can meet Caleb. That’s his name, but he goes by Cay, just like I go by Ellie.”

We exited the shelter cautiously, and by the time we were in the kitchen, I heard the bathroom door open. 

“Get behind me,” I said to Daisy. She did it with no questions asked. 

God, I love this little girl! Let her stay safe!

Cay came out, and his beard was gone, and was wearing the same dirty clothes he had, however. 

He peeked around me. 

“Hey there, little miss. How goes it?”

I took Daisy’s hand and brought her around to meet him. 

“This is Daisy,” I said.

“My name is Cay,” he said to Daisy. 

“Your name is Cay but really Caleb,” Daisy said, elated to be included and to know a fact. 

“That’s right,” he said, then tugged at his collar. 

“You have to feel gross - here, I bet you could fit into…” I trailed off as I entered my parent’s old bedroom. My Dad was sure to have things that could fit Cay. I didn’t mind, for some reason I couldn’t understand. 

I grabbed a fresh set of clothes and handed them to Cay. “Change in here. Dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes,” I said. 

Dinner was simply leftover stew from the night before, so heating it up and serving it was a simple thing to do. 

Cay walked in and those green eyes met mine. He smiled. “Thank you so much for everything.”

We ate in silence at first, each of us lost in our own thoughts. Once or twice I looked over at Cay, and every time he was also staring right at me. I was glad the heat from the stew made my cheeks red, as I had something to blame my blush on.

Soon, Daisy was full of questions for Cay, and I let her. She was a naturally curious child, and a new face was almost too much to bear. She was so excited. I hid my smile, because kids are wonderful interrogators. 

“Monsters came and took your home?” Daisy asked Cay. 

He glanced at me, and I nodded. Better to let him deal with a six year old’s curiosity than have me pepper the conversation with questions, which I had been planning to do. I needed to find out more. 

“Yeah, Daisy, they sure did. I escaped with my pack and my horse.”

“Did anyone else live there?” 

He glanced at me again. I shook my head slightly. I didn’t want her to feel sad, and she would take it on. My sweet sensitive Daisy. 

“Ah, no. It was just me.”

“Where?”

“Where what?”

Daisy rolled her eyes. “Where did you live?”

Cay smiled, and glanced at me again. Now I pretended to be interested in my stew, as if day-old food was more exciting than this stranger having dinner with us. 

“It was up north, more toward the higher desert,” he said. 

The questions continued, and he answered them all. There was just one more that Daisy missed, so I spoke up. 

“How did you find us? You set off all our perimeter alarms, then strolled up. How did you know I wouldn’t shoot you?”

He took a spoonful of stew, chewed slowly, then took a deep breath before answering. 

“My last name is Harper.”

Now it was my turn to take a deep breath. I set down my spoon. 

“As in… Angus Harper?” 

“Yeah. He was my Dad,” Caleb said. 

“Sorry for your loss, I didn’t know.”

“Who’s Angus Harper?” Daisy asked, her little feet kicking me under the table. 

“He was Dad’s best friend,” I explained. 

“He had a best friend?” Daisy asked, pain on her face. She wanted to know so much about our father. She didn’t have real memories of him, just stories. She looked like him, with her cornflower blue eyes, her curly blonde hair, and a wide smile that was contagious. 

“He did,” I said to Daisy. Then to Cay, “Why didn’t you just say something when you got here? I could have shot you!”

“There was just you. Didn’t see your Dad, you could’ve been a different group that took over, but when I saw Daisy I knew it was okay. I remembered him telling me about her when she was born. A desert baby.” He smiled at Daisy, who beamed. 

“As you probably know, my Dad ran a couple booths at the barter market, back in the day. Do you remember your Dad going to help?” Cay asked me. 

It came to me then. “Yes! I do. He sold weapons and held bow making classes, right?”

Caleb nodded. 

“Well, the good news is that all of that inventory is stored in a secret location that only I know the way to.”

“Like a treasure? You have a secret treasure?” Daisy gaped.

Cay laughed. “Yeah. I do.” Then his expression grew serious, and he cleared his throat. “I need help. My Dad told me once that if something ever happened to come here, to your family. I didn’t know it was just you.”

“Just me?”

“That’s not what I meant,” he ran his hand through his hair. “What I meant was, I need manpower at the booth. I’m going to start over and show these guys who the survivors really are,” he said, cracking his knuckles.

“I can help. I know weapons.” I was proud that my parents had taught me so many defensive skills. The stone in my gut reappeared, reminding me that my parents were tough and they still didn’t make it. 

I shook off the ugly thoughts. 

“Do you really know them? He asked.

“I really do. If Angus said we’d help, that includes me.” Daisy kicked my shin. Hard. “Daisy, too.” The kicking stopped, and the angelic smile returned. 

“One other thing,” Cay said. “My Dad helped your Dad build the shelter. I just wanted you to know I know about it, because I want you not to be afraid of me. You’ve been so kind, you know?”

I did know. I knew what a little kindness meant when you were all alone out here. “It’s okay,” I said. “I know.

That was our first meal with Cay. Daisy fell in love with him immediately, and I could tell the feeling was mutual. He really cared about Daisy, and that was amazing to me. 

We set up our shop at the market. Daisy was our little mascot, always dancing to the music from the booth next to us. 

Soon, Harper and Sons became Harper & Harper. I married him a year later, and Daisy took his last name as our adopted daughter. We also started a posse, made of good people who patrol the area looking for raiders.  

Soon, the rain will come again, and we’ll have time for more stories. There’s always time for each other. 

September 18, 2021 02:56

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2 comments

G.H. Karol
21:09 Oct 01, 2021

Hello, I quite enjoyed your story. This seems like something that could definitely be explored in depth, without the restraint of 3000 words max. The ending felt a bit rushed, though —a bit lull after so many emotions were on display. Overall, it was a great read.

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Mustang Patty
13:07 Sep 25, 2021

Hi there, I hope you don't mind a critique of your writing. Your story idea is sound and you have created a storyline that is clear. Some of your grammar and punctuation skills need a refresh - I recommend getting a Style Guide to help you with these issues. It was a pleasure to read your story. ~MP~

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