For those who’d survived the fallout, winters grew a little longer and planting time much shorter.
But the worst part was the black rain.
Whereas before they were givers of life, the dark, dense clouds now drenched the Earth in death.
The day before the attack happened, she’d lovingly tilled the soil in their small garden by hand, wrapping seeds and saplings alike in tiny pockets of nutrient-rich earth.
She’d hoped against all hope that some of them would make it, just to see something, anything survive; now, she could only watch as the scarce crops withered and died in the tainted rain.
And that sickening, helpless feeling returned.
Why had she let them leave for their trip a day early? It was a question that would forever haunt her.
Blue had waited at the door for them for days. At first, his tail wagged expectantly, certain that they’d come bounding off the school bus any second to greet him, just like always. Soon, his whimpers turned to worried whining.
He was as confused by the lingering silence as she was devastated by it.
“I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” she’d said distractedly, taking for granted the belief that many more goodbyes would lie ahead. She replayed the conversation over and over in her mind, each time wishing that she’d cherished it.
Blue rested his head upon her shaking shoulders, trying to comfort her as she sobbed in uncontrollable grief. He felt the emptiness but of course had no way to know that her children had been reduced to shadows, that there had been nothing left to bury.
She watched the dark, sticky rivulets run down the glass panes of her windows and tried to take comfort in wondering if there were any traces of them in the liquid carbon, if parts of them, however small, had finally made their way back home.
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