The day dawned empty and grey, the air moist with a spine-tingling chill that spoke of snow to come. Not a twig in the bare tree stirred in the stillness that encapsulated the morning, nor was there even the usual chatter of birds. If the puffs of the girls’ breath didn’t slowly drift away, it could have been a picture, though the field’s image was still alive and etched into their minds.
“It’s peaceful, isn’t it?” Marge looked up at her older sister. Sable nodded, eyes not leaving the tree, the sole interruption of the flat field, the only thing that had any detail in the light fog.
The day before wasn’t so peaceful. The field was full of people, people talking, people shoving, and people with angry voices. Marge hadn’t seen such a crowd since the Days Before.
A wet flake came down, followed by a few others, yet the real snow was still in reserve, waiting for the day to grow older.
Marge was only five when the Collapse came and her memories of the Days Before were vague: sounds of happy voices and music filled the air, the smell of fresh food and the taste of cookies. People were happy, but she doesn’t remember it being peacefully. She remembered the rush and jostling. She remembered the jumble of sights and sounds, the confusion, the overwhelming busyness of it all. Not peaceful at all.
They weren’t really flakes coming down, but more snowy globs. The tiny snowballs splashed like rain when they hit the ground, and yet there were already white patches growing.
Flashes of the escape from the burning city threatened to come up as they occasionally did in Marge’s nightmares, so she thought of happier times.
They had arrived in the out of the way village four years previous after a year on the run. Most of the other people in the village were refugees as well, though few from their city. Dad said that was for the best. They were warmly welcomed, fellow survivors of a harsh time, but Mother and Father tended to confine themselves, tilling their own fields, taking care of their own animals and repaired items from the Days Before for their own use; they didn’t visit or go out unless they were needed for communal work.
The globs and flakes came down harder and faster. A little rain and sleet mixed in causing the snow to be wet and slushy, seeming mostly rain, but not enough to melt the snow which now covered the ground.
Sable continued to stare at the old tree. Random flakes and globes had hit her face soher cheeks were red, puffy and wet. She didn’t bother to brush it off. Marge watched carefully and sighed an inward sigh of relief when her sister blinked. She had seen too many unblinking eyes staring into the distance, though she knew her sister was still alive. For a second she saw her parents staring eyes watching her as she was held below them, but she pushed it out of her mind.
Sable was only ten when they arrived in the village, the same age Marge was then, but she was always serious and silent, like a little adult. That’s what the grownups said, at least. “Sable, you are so serious! You’re a kid, not an adult. Smile!” If no one was around, she told Marge that she was observing and thinking, thinking and planning. Marge had no idea what she meant. Sable had made few friends while Marge had many.
Well, she used to have quite a few, but no more.
There were the whispers and dark looks from her friends’ parents. Strangers would stop and stare. She no longer saw smiles, only frowns and sneers. She felt the sting of rocks thrown by little boys hitting the back of her head.
“Daniela’s mom said Dad was a computer engineer,” Marge had said to Sable when it first started.
Sable had just looked at her with sad eyes.
“They say he went to college. To college! he was one of them! Worse, he had a Master’s Degree. And Mom had… she had…uhm, she had a Doctorate. That’s what they said.”
“So they say,” Sable said, and walked away.
It couldn’t be. The elite from the Days Before were evil, Mom and Dad weren’t evil.
That had been only a month ago, yet it felt forever ago, a different place, a different time with different people.
Marge shook her head, sending snow flying out of her hair, but the snow continued to pile up on her shoulders.
“I’m cold,” she said. “We need to move.” She knew that she was whining, but she couldn’t help it. They needed to be out of the village.
The snow came down faster and harder, slightly less wet and globby. It was beginning to build up. Soon the road would be impassible.
Finally Sable pulled her eyes off of the tree where their parents were hung as witches the day before, smiled at her little sister, and nodded.
“Yes, little one, let’s get moving. We have a long way to go.”
They walked off into the snowfall, their footprints rapidly disappearing, the white, foggy air seeming to gobble them up so that soon there was nothing to show that they had ever stood at the edge of the field.