Everyone Gone

It took three days to travel up the rain-swollen river. Suhan piloted the boat.

“Doctor go to big house. Very much sick,” he would say over and over like a mantra.

Each day the sun beat down without mercy, and I would feel my skin blistering as the sweat soaked through my clothes. I listened to the brown water pushing the boat onwards, the birds cackling in the lifeless trees, and drank sparingly from my bottled water.

On the second day towards evening, the boat collided with something, and Suhan called out in terror. It was a bloated body. Suhan began to rock and pray.

On the third morning as we drew close to the plantation the river was choked with bodies, and a plume of gray smoke rose into the sky. The great house was burning.

“Everyone gone,” Suhan said, his eyes like black tunnels. “Everyone free.”

Despite the heat, I began to shiver.

Awakening

The deep rumbling sends pebbles skittering as the hard ground begins to shake and a small fissure opens in the rocky soil> It widens as the rumbling grows to a crescendo. The woman’s head and shoulders emerge from the newly formed crater, lush green against the grey stones and brown earth.

When she pulls her arms free, she tosses seeds into the air, and shoots of green begin to spring up through the earth. Saplings rise and turn to trees. She laughs and water begins to pour from a dried stone fountain.

“Live again,” she says. She runs her fingers through the water and lets it pour through her palm.

A single tear trickles down her face. It lands in the water with a tiny splash, and she watches the widening concentric circles with satisfaction.

A phoenix rises in a flash of light.

She nods. “Fly, my child. You are free. The age of man is over.”