Staring at the dried waterhole, I can feel my tongue drying out with the last hope for water. The planet’s dead. And so are most of its inhabitants. That’s what we get for using all its resources. Pure selfishness, really. Touching the clay basin, the remnants of moisture collecting on my fingertips, I can tell I’ve only missed it by a day.
The sun burns into my eyes. When I was a child, the days the sun poked out from the clouds was to be cherished at the beach, or park. Somewhere your family could gather and enjoy the warmth. Now, its rays tear away life. Shriveled plants and skeletons prove its devastating force.
“There’s got to be another puddle around here somewhere,” my sister says.
She’s still young enough for optimism. I know our best chance is to return to the cave. I can’t tell her that. I can’t dash her hopes. “Sure, let’s check over that ridge.”
Scrunching her face into a furrowed knot, she says, “Whoever said the war would help was an idiot. Where was that guy from? Greece? Guyana? It was something with a G.”
“Just worry about keeping the bag in the shade. We don’t want to spoil the food we’ve found,” I reply. “Forget about the war. It’s over. There’s nothing we can do.”
Nukes. That’s what really took us down. People literally huddled into bunkers, caves and basements. Anything to stay safe and away from the terror above. The sun took its toll, but it was the irrational delusion that war could save our planet that cut us off at the knees. The mushrooms and apples we found were a godsend. Enough to feed us for a week. Funny, when life was easy, before the bombs, we would probably have eaten through it in a day.
Our tired feet carried us over the ridge to where a pond once engulfed the entire watershed. Now, it’s reduced to a puddle too small for the dozens of birds crowding it to get their ankles wet. “Shoo! Get!” my sister shouts, flailing her arms as she rushes towards the water source. The birds don’t scatter. Not anymore. This is there lifeline as well.
She resorts to throwing rocks, but it’s useless. “Forget it. We’ll just fill our bottles. Ignore them,” I say, stepping into the mud flats that stretch out from the puddle. My heart freezes. In the middle of the flock of misfits birds was a hare. Something substantial to eat. Without any weapons, birds are impossible to catch. But a rabbit, that could be snared. I hear the breath of air suck into my sister’s lungs as she spots the critter.
It takes all that we can muster not to dive into the water after the meaty beast. Its brown eyes wide and unassuming as it laps the sustenance. “Food,” my sister muttered. Big mistake. That one little grumble catches the rabbit’s attention, turning its fury face in our direction. In an instant, the killer instinct disappears inside me. All we each want is a drink of water. Something to keep us alive until tomorrow. I sigh. “Fill the bottles. That’s it.”