An unobstructed, bright gold sun glared down the backside of Raya. She sat in her back yard drawing clouds in the dirt with the tip of her father’s bowie knife. She hadn’t meant to take it, didn’t plan on hurting herself with it, or anyone else for that matter, but it looked nice and shiny lying on her father’s dresser, and today, she needed something like that, wanted something that gleamed against the white rust that threatened to ruin everything in the world. If she could cut it away like a soured friendship, she would.
“Raya, your thoughts are not clear,” she heard her mother scorn. Her mother was dead, but she still spoke to her, a voice in the back of her mind. “Your father will ...view middle of the document...
She continued sculpting clouds in the dirt. Having never seen an actual cloud, she drew them according to her mother’s pictures and stories. One she made fluffy, a circular lattice of hearts, another strung thin and wispy like a tangle web, and on her current attempt, she gave up halfway on a mushroom-shaped ball, kicked dirt over the top of it, and stabbed the knife into the earth as deep as it would go. The tip of the blade clicked against something beneath.
“Raya, please,” her mother would have said. “Stop this nonsense. Go back inside and put your father’s knife away. Hurry, he’s probably on his way home now.”
Her mother was right, her father probably was on his way home, but what lie underneath the rock engrossed her more. She dug excitedly, scratching yaw marks into the ground with the blade. She scraped around a small rock until she could lift it up. Underneath, she found a seed pod. “Mother, I’ve found another one.”
She dusted dirt from its shell and cupped it in her palm as though it were a faerie. It was shaped like a pine cone with tiny red seeds inside. “It’s a large one, maybe a tree of some sort, like Magnolia or a Lilac.”
It might as well have been a faerie, Raya thought beaming. She scooped out the seeds and put them in her pocket with others, then stepped back to examine her cloud sketches. “What do you think of my clouds?” she asked her mother.
But they weren’t. Raya knew that much. They resembled not the soft shapes of rain-filled clouds, but the clunky hard disks of the white rust. “You always say that, mother.”
“What comes from you is impossible to think otherwise.”
Raya looked up, could have sworn that last thought hadn’t come from within her. A dust-filled breeze blew in and scraped at her bare skin. She felt the inner workings of tears tugging at the stem of her throat, but her eyes would stay dry. Those days spent weeping had long past. Today, there was only the silent ache.
Fitting the bowie knife snug into her back pocket, Raya headed for home.
* * *
The news reported the last rain forty-two years ago today, but to everyone, it seemed much longer. All that thrived now was the white rust, and it grew over all that had once been verdant and alive. Scientists called it ‘the mold of dust.’ They said it was a new strain of Aspergillus, a mold which thrived under parched conditions. Employment and funds poured into research in hopes to develop a suitable vegetative invasive species but with little success to date.
Raya snuck back into her father’s room, wiped the blade of his knife clean on her shorts, and laid it on his dresser just how he had it. While she missed the weight of it in her hand, she enjoyed more the rattle of seeds in her pocket. She carried them with her everywhere she went, loved to roll the light, toothed-feel texture of them between her fingers. There were tawny, green, and black ones. Rounded, sharp ovules, and some that were tear-dropped shaped....