The sky was an ugly shade of grey. There was a woman screaming in the distance somewhere, like someone had died or like she was dying or something inconvenient like that. The buildings had been burning for hours, and the soft blue lights from the wispy clouds continued to move gently over people panicking in the streets, calming their writhing motions and quickly dissipating the atoms of their flesh. The black-clothed, stoic figures continued to move down the streets of the falling city in lines, their metal guns in hand.
It had been like this for a while. The dictator was either dead or at large. The media had collapsed months before, and then the shootings started. And then they came, and everything just became that much worse. Families were split. Flowering mushrooms appeared in clouds of smoke. And everything burned. As time went on, everything burned.
Most everyone was dead or gone with the lights. There were still a couple hundred people huddled together in the sewers with the rats, too afraid to emerge, even to look for their families. Others still lay dying and broken under the rubble of the fallen buildings, pierced with broken pipes or crushed by boulders of concrete, slowly fading as they watched the rest of the city fade with them.
Rubble and debris lined the streets. They piled up like cancer cells within an arbitrary artery. She looked down at her child, trying not to remember his brothers and sisters lying in the pieces of torn building below them. Through all of it, he had remained asleep. She had wrapped a plastic bag around his sleeping, swaddled form and stowed him in a pipe – and when she returned, her other children gone, tears drying on her stony face, he was still fast asleep, like the little angel he was. She unwrapped him and he stirred, cried a little, but then nestled back to sleep in her arms.
And so, dodging the lights and those who walked in dangerous lines, she moved to the pile of building remains that had covered her children, burrowed into it, and looked down at her last son. She ran her thumb over his cheek, and his dark eyes opened and looked up at his mother, the blue lights above creating a halo around her cropped hair. His limbs moved in the blanket that held him. She looked like a backlit angel above him, so he was smiling. He didn’t understand what was happening in the slightest.
And then, she was crying and smiling at the same time. He was confused, and being confused made him laugh. He giggled up at his mother, breaking a chubby arm free to grasp at the air next to her face. She smiled, tucked his arm back into the warmth of the swaddle that covered him, and began to sing. She had never sung to him before; in the chaos that quickly followed the days of his birth, she had been slightly preoccupied, but she sang nonetheless. Her voice was sweet and slow, like the honey she had been fed on a spoon as a child. And as she sang, the world stood still around them; the moaning below them quieted as if to listen, the lights hesitated above them, the screaming paused as if to take a breath.
That was the last time he could remember being happy. After that, the city and many of the adjoining cities lost their light, save for a few chemical fires, as if a cozy blanket of black fur had been thrown over them. He didn’t know what happened to her after that tumultuous day that would forever live in infamy, a day which he slept through, just that the blue lights above them ebbed and flowed around the edges of her face and made her look kind of fuzzy, and then he had wondered where she had gone.