The wind is a cutting thing—a brutal force wrecking all in its path. It sears with icy tendrils, whipping hair in my eyes. Tears sting and fall, freezing on my lashes. A biting, burning cold, it ekes its way through my bones. My thighs tremble and steps falter as I wedge myself against its force.
It wasn’t always this way. There was sunlight and warmth in this place once. A deep resounding joy used to exist here. But they came and took the sun away. The Others. The ones who offered love and light and lust—they came and took. They took the women. They took the warmth. They took the sun. They left lies and loss in their wake. And cold—they left the cold.
I’m the last woman here. And I walk alone. I cling to the shadows, in hiding. The baby pressed close to my breast, I try to offer warmth. I’m willing her to live. Not to sustain our species, we’re doomed. I’m sure of that. I’m willing her to live because the mother in me refuses to let go of hope. I refuse to let her die.
She whimpers in my arms, turns her searching mouth to my breast. I turn my back to the cruel wind and open my coat enough to adjust my breast. She finds my nipple and starts sucking. I smile and wince in pain. She’s such a greedy thing. A small pink, wiggling, greedy child—I have to keep her safe. I quickly zip my coat up again.
My fingers tremble, blue with cold. I turn toward the wind again, my face raw and cracking. There’s a cave up ahead, a safe place, it’s a secret passageway in and out of the monastery. It was a sanctuary for the monks before the Others came. I remember playing here as a child. I remember their chants. I remember the carnage. I fight the twinge of pain the memory brings. The image of the monks falling one by one, not fighting, just falling in quiet protest has stayed with me all of these long days. They laid down their lives with dignity.
The young men from the village hadn’t been so quiet. They’d fought. They had wanted to live, to mate, to marry. But the Others needed women. They needed fertile women to repopulate their planet. So they came and lured ours—then stole those who couldn’t be tricked.
Save me. I saw the evil in their words, the selfishness in their eyes. Seers always know. I watched them cut down Saul. I watched his blood fall. I watched his eyes glass over and go dark. I felt his child kicking in my womb as if she knew. I buried him under our tree. I covered his beautiful body with jade colored rocks. I sang our old songs. But I didn’t cry. He was gone.
I ran away. I stole into the hills and ate berries. I turned to our old ways. And I watched from a distance as the Others raped our world, murdered our men, and took our women. I called on the heavens to help us. But no answer came. And then one day the Others took our sun and left. They loaded their vessels and I watched their glowing lights get swallowed by the darkness.
The animals are dying. The plants can’t thrive in this dark cold world. It won’t be long before there’s nothing left to eat. The few survivors in the village are already warring. I had a vision of horror. I saw them killing each other and cooking the meat off their brothers' bones.
Our species is so fragile, so prone to despair. They lash out when they should draw together. But it matters not. We are doomed, the Others saw to it. I climb the rocks leading up to the old monastery. I see the statues of the monks' God. It’s a God I never served, but I bow and nod in respect anyway. I pray She will keep us safe.
I go to the food stores and find grain. Good. Praise be. I run frozen hands over the squirming lump sucking me dry. I’m so tired, so alone. No. I’m not alone. I have Rayanna. I smile to myself and pat her soothingly. There’s enough grain to last a good while.
I go looking for items to burn, to give us warmth. Bed linens, curtains, any cloth or wood that’s dry enough will do. I create a pile in the great hall. I light it with a match. Soon warmth fills the space. I unzip my coat and hold Rayanna close to me. She smacks her tongue against her gums making little slurping sounds in her sleep. My sweet angel. I rock her slowly and sing softly to her. I kiss her forehead with cracked lips.
We’ll sleep here tonight, next to the fire. But come morning I’ll move us and the grain to the cave. No one else knows where it is. So we’ll be safe there. And it’s deep in the ground with natural warmth, a hot spring flows through it. The monks used it for ceremonies, believing it to be sacred. But nothing’s sacred anymore. The deities have abandoned us.
I brush away a tear. I’ll not mourn for old ways lost. I’ll not mourn at all. I hold my baby closer and kiss her once more. I’m so tired that I’m asleep before I know it…