Prologue 7

End-Day + 7

I wake from a nightmare to see dad sat on a fold out garden chair, facing me. He is in front of the open bunker door.

Even in dreams, my subconscious wasn’t cruel enough to let me believe that the world still existed. It was something else that made them terrifying.

I was in the house again. There was the flash of light, the sudden shudder through the floor. I saw the ground splitting, and the sky darken in the distance. It was just as it had been, the same as when it really happened. But in the dream, I ran out of my bedroom, into Ben’s, peered into his empty cot. When I doubled back, the stairs had collapsed and there was no way out.

I squint, rubbing my eyes. “Where today dad?” I say. My legs are aching, the calves tight. I imagine how many miles I’ve walked.

“Nowhere,” dad says. “Day of rest.”

“It’s not Sunday... is it?” Maybe I’ve slept for longer than I think.

But dad chuckles, “Morgan? It’s Friday.”

Man, Friday. Robinson Crusoe kept a stick in the ground with notches carved in it, and thereby kept an accurate calendar for twenty years. I can’t keep track of a week.  

Dad’s voice is soft, “Even God rested on the seventh day.”

The nightmare was a never-ending loop. I was back in my bedroom again. The rumble of distant thunder. Again, I moved out to look onto the street as it crumbled. But this time, I went straight down the stairs, made for the back door. This time, I heard dad’s voice, and went back to search for him. The ceiling plaster started falling it great flat sheets.

My whole body feels leaden and warm. I say, “Is it just us? Or is it the whole world?”

Dad looks out of the open bunker door. The ash is catching the sun, becoming a bright beam of light.

My mind won’t let me remember how I got out of the house. All it has is starts and endings. The horror of the nightmare wasn’t so much that every different way I tried, I never escaped. Rather, it was that something always brought me back. Whenever I failed, whenever I made the wrong choice, I was sent back to try once more to find my way out.

Mum is cooing Ben, but I can already hear that it’s no good: he’s just building up steam. Dad is watching me while he listens. I can see he’s weighing up whether to offer to help, trying to guess whether it’s what is wanted.

Rest of the day, a day of rest. I close my eyes again, listen for the sounds of home.

End-Day + 8  >>