Tara stood on the low wall surrounding the fountain. She was shouting, but she'd almost
forgotten what she was shouting about. The slogans all ran together after a while. Justice for the Dead; Give Us Back our World; Shame! Shame! Shame! For all the good it did. The dead rested
uneasy. Still just as lost to whoever had loved them.
A shaggy-haired man named Sef was handing out cheese scones, going from protester to
protester, feeding them, offering encouragement. He patted an old woman on the shoulder when he saw her tears, said something that seemed to stiffen her, gave a her a smile that showed missing teeth and gums blackened with rot.
But most of them were healthy. Young. They were fervent, and some of them were grinning. Some of them had faces lost behind the masks that began coming out with the sunrise. Some people thought that did some good. Some thought it did no good at all.
Sef was suddenly in front of her.
She shook her head.
“You gotta keep strong, sister.”
“I'm sorry. Whoever it was.”
Robbie. Who had just been a baby. Her little son. She visualised him at once in her head
– the way she always did when anyone said anything – and she visualised him perfect. She remembered him tiny, with almost white hair, just tiny wisps of it sticking out at odd angles over his
smooth little head. She remembered the grey-blue eyes that her mother had told her would go slate-dark-grey over time. His soft cheeks, sitting high on his miniature face, his rosebud mouth, those
perfectly formed little fingers.
She refused to picture what had been by the end.
Two years, four months, two days and eight minutes. It was a wretchedly insufficient lifespan. Someone should answer for it. Should answer for us all while there's time.
“They're good y'know.” Sef. Still in front of her.
“None of us are.”
“Well, for now.”
His face said: You're lucky.
She felt a reflex to scream back: Lucky? Lucky to have lost a child before his third
birthday?! That kind of lucky? But she'd be lying wouldn't she, to say that she'd wished she could have died in his place? She knew she was meant to wish it, and maybe, right in the aftermath.... But no, she was hanging onto life, she couldn't stop wanting to fight for every day. She reached into her
pocket for her mask, conscious of the bitter glances from those for whom it was simply too late.
Tara hated looking at the sunrise. She hated to see the rosy glow turn yellow, for the sky to turn saffron and sepia, to see the dust that was always in the air turn a thick, curry yellow. At this time of
day the cloud cover would be bright, there would be layers of dust, and sun-drenched algal blooms. It reminded her of a nuclear explosion, frozen in time, spread across the pit of the sky, its spoiled, savoury colours leaching into the air, into what had once been a blue, blue sky. Gold glared down on gold, reflected burnt-gold in the oceans, saffron-gold glared up again at itself.