No one kept track of the days after the world ended. They had started to, but then one day bled into the next somewhat easily. No one really kept track of the days after we managed to collect, and stick together. No one even really kept track of the days after Songfall was cleared, but once we began to live, to dare to thrive, we began to mark time again.
In this way, we saw the children grow, like weeds, and yet still so small. We saw our garden grow, and our birds get fat with eggs and then some of our eggs became birds, and on and on the cycle went. Days and nights grew hotter, rather than colder, as if the earth were not merely ash, but ash atop a smoldering coal, slowly coming back to life from the wind’s breath.
In those days, tempers occasionally ran high; wanting to survive at times kept many fights in check, but now that we had more under our control, we seemed to find reasons to argue, where before it wouldn’t have mattered. Things grew even more tense as, along with the slow flourishing of our lives under the Captain’s rule, couples formed within our grouping — families. There was no template for who grouped with whom; no one cared about what made a family, only that there was enough food and shelter for those involved. When several of the women grew round, all of us sang and celebrated; more children meant more mouths to feed, but it was a sign that we were not yet defeated.
We felt on the rise, even after all that had happened to us. We felt whole.
We felt strong.
It was only when the first one was born we realized we still did not understand all there was to know about this new world, this place in which we’d found ourselves. The child came into the world as most children do, messily and screaming. A little girl, pink and shaking and squalling, was named Enim, and laid to its mother’s breast. We breathed a collective sigh of joy and relief.
The next morning, many of us awoke to the sound of shrill, awful screams, the sort that had filled the air when the world collapsed, when the sky was smoke and fire and the ground was ash and blood.
The children were gone to do their morning’s work, but Enim was gone, as well.