Washed by a Wave of Wind
M. Shayne Bell, editor
Pueblo de Sión
Charlene C. Harmon
[p.175]Vibrant orange, red, indigo, and green blazed across the sky while the sun set, as though textured with a palette knife by an angry god.
Appropriate, Marisa thought. The sky even looked a little bloody, as if millions of droplets of blood tainted the atmosphere. For all she knew they did. Maybe the blast, like a volcanic eruption, would leave the atmosphere tainted for months. She stared at the colors of the sunset, trying to see inside them, memorize them, lose herself in them, until they faded and died.
Finally Marisa closed her eyes and allowed the anguish she had held back all day to engulf her, drown her with its blackness. With the blackness came her memory of the great burning wind, exploding across the sky of her mind with the force of a hundred tornadoes, terrifying her senses as strongly as its reality had the day before. The stench of burning nitrogen was so strong she could taste it. Marisa curled into a fetal position and bit into her arm. She would not cry out. Not this time. Then the storm vanished, leaving a silence so heavy she could hardly breathe. Slowly the voices of her father and the others in the Anasazi pueblo filtered into her numbed mind. With reality came a renewal of the void left by the death of her mother and sister, her friends, her town. Her world.
She pulled her windbreaker more tightly around her to ease the chill still lurking in the spring air and looked down the hill to the pueblo. It was breathtaking. Even in Marisa’s emotional state, she appreciated [p.177]its majesty. Built inside a giant, shallow cave, the pueblo stretched two city blocks wide and nearly one block deep. Most of it still bore the ravages of time: broken-down kivas, roofless dwellings, caved-in walls. But the part where they now lived was beautifully restored. Marisa concentrated on looking at the pueblo, examining it in detail to rid herself of the memory of the storm that had screamed overhead, destroying everything above the canyons. She saw the open doorways and windows, the rough surface of the adobe, the way the colors of the clay blended with the reds and oranges of the canyon wall. She thought about Martin and Janet Smith, the only other people they had seen since they had entered Quetzal Canyon several weeks ago. The Smiths had been touring Canyonlands when the blast came. They were having a picnic near the rim of the canyon, had seen burning debris whip through the fiery wind roaring over their heads as if they were under an invisible floor looking up. They went to the surface and found nothing. No cities. No homes. No people. Nothing but sand and the canyons. The Smiths stayed at the pueblo long enough to discuss the possible cause of the desolation and beg some food. No one really knew what the blast had been, or if there was any radiation. They had no way of knowing how far the blast extended, whether a few hundred miles or a few thousand. There was still a lot of atmospheric interference, so radios were useless. Her father thought the blast was due to the N-Cycle testing in New Mexico, at a facility built by the government specifically for highly controversial and dangerous experiments. They were testing a new bomb that was supposed to ignite the nitrogen in the atmosphere. The Smiths thought the blast was divine retribution, that the Second Coming was at hand. They argued for a while, and left to find other survivors and convert them to their point of view, mumbling something under their breaths about “blind fools.”
Somehow that memory brought Marisa to tears. She didn’t know why the Smiths would make her cry, but the crying eased the void in her soul. Since Marisa was alone, she let her tears run unchecked. Marisa cried for the death of her mother and sister. She cried for the loss of her friends. She cried for her older brother who had died in the Great Mormon Migration of 2047.
“Why, God, why were we called from Mexico to die in the deserts of Zion?” Marisa didn’t understand why a loving God would call his people together to kill them a short seven years later.
Her father had declared a day and a half of mourning. After that [p.178]they would get to work so they could make a new life in the abandoned Anasazi pueblo. Her father said they had too much to do to survive. Marisa was sure that Olga, whose emotions resembled an ice floe, would have no problem.
“¡Mariposa! ¿Donde estás, hija?” It was her father, calling her from the pueblo to ask where she was.
Marisa quickly dried her tears and took a deep breath. The air smelled so stale and sanitary now. It would be hard to get used to. She wiped her eyes again, not wanting her father to see her crying. “I’m here, Papá. I’ll be right down.” Good! Her voice sounded fairly normal. Marisa took another deep breath and climbed off the rock she had adopted as “hers” and slid carefully down the hill.
Marc was the first person she saw when she got to the pueblo. He was the youngest member of the team, only a few years older than Marisa. He was tall and blond and built like a football player. He was also kind. He treated her like a legitimate member of the team—unlike the others, who only tolerated her presence because she was Pedro Ovando’s daughter. “Hi, Marc. Did I miss anything?” She hadn’t wanted to hear all the arguing. She’d rather wait and hear the Cliffs Notes version.
“Not much. Tim’s been on his soapbox. He’s sure we’ll all die of radiation sickness in the next few days, so we should all give up and await our fate. Your father’s set up a work schedule for tomorrow. Olga’s just there as usual. She hasn’t said much, just nodding agreement with everything your father says. That’s about it. Where have you been?”
“Watching the sunset, and thinking.” Marc caught the undercurrents of pain and didn’t ask any more questions. He just gave Marisa a quick hug and walked on. Marisa watched him for a moment as he crossed the compound, a small smile on her face. They had all become a lot closer since the blast, not knowing if the western half of the United States was gone or if the blast had been small, covering a few hundred miles. Hopefully the air would clear up soon so they could get some sort of news. Even if it came from Radio Havana it would be something. They only had enough gas to drive to the nearest service station, which no longer existed, and only enough food to survive a few weeks. Whatever the cause of the blast, they were stuck.
The pueblo was their best option, since it provided shelter and more than one source of water: a small waterfall in the back of the cave and a river not far away. Each person had his or her own room on the ground [p.179]floor around a large courtyard or plaza. They were protected from the elements by the cliffs above and behind them and had a good view of the valley in case anyone came.
Marisa walked over to where her father, Tim, and Olga were seated around the fire pit in the center of the courtyard. Tim was thirtyish with stringy brown hair and a perpetual frown. Olga was older. Maybe forty or fifty, Marisa wasn’t sure. She kept her Swedish blonde hair pulled back in a bun and had a quiet air of snobbishness. Marisa didn’t like her. She reminded her of the KGB spies from old 2-D television shows. Then there was her father, the team leader. He was in his fifties and still took pride in his large, bushy mustache. He thought it gave him character, especially among all the gringos. Marisa thought it made him look like Groucho Marx.
“Mariposa, hija, where have you been?” Even after seven years in America, and years before that teaching in both Spanish and English at the Universidad de Magdalena, her father spoke English with a heavy accent.
“Out. Watching the sunset,” Marisa replied with patient exasperation.
“You didn’t go near the surface?” Her father looked at her sharply in sudden concern.
“No, Papá.” Sometimes her father made her angry, treating her like a child instead of an eighteen-year-old adult. He had forbidden her from going to the top of the canyon for any reason. If there had been radiation, the fallout would get them anyway. She wondered if it was his way of dealing with the firestorm or if he was in some form of denial.
Marisa sat on a block of rough adobe and poured herself a cup of Brigham Tea. She didn’t know the name of the plant it came from, just that a lot of it grew around the pueblo. It smelled bad and it tasted awful. She took a swallow and grimaced in distaste. It was hot and soothing, she kept reminding herself. Sort of. Maybe. Okay, it was just hot. She drank it more for something to do.
“¿Qué piensas, Mariposa?” Her father’s voice interrupted her thoughts.
Marisa looked up. “What do I think? About what? I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening.”
“We are going to see if we can start up the irrigation system and get some of the wild grain harvested. Most of the fields were on top of the canyon, but there are one or two smaller ones nearby. There might [p.180]be enough wild grain there to be of use. It is early enough in the season that we could have a harvest before it snows. I would like you and Marc to work on that tomorrow.”
“Okay.” She was glad it was Marc. She’d rather work with him than Olga or Tim.
“It doesn’t matter,” Tim said. “We’ll all be dead before we can harvest anything. Why bother?” He’d been going on about death and dying since the blast. The Smiths hadn’t helped. They believed it was the end of the world and God was cleansing the Earth before the Second Coming. Tim believed them, and since his past was far from spotless, he was sure he was a goner. He wouldn’t even help collect water. He just sat in the courtyard and preached gloom and doom. But for all his words, he wasn’t adverse to eating with the rest of them.
“Tomorrow, Tim and I will go hunting,” her father continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted.
“I’m not going hunting,” Tim said. “If we catch anything, it’ll be so full of radiation we’ll die all the faster.”
“Unless you want to starve to death first. You help or you do not eat. It is your choice.”
Good. It was about time her father laid it on the line. He was beginning to irritate her. He was such a lazy good-for-nothing, work would do him good. Marisa had no idea why he’d been selected for this dig. He’d had nothing to offer.
“What about Olga? She never does anything, and you treat her like royalty,” Tim complained, stuffing a roll in his mouth. Olga was an anthropologist. She spent a lot of time with Dr. Ovando, “studying his technique” and learning more about the Anasazi. Olga did whatever Marisa’s father told her to do without a murmur. Marisa thought she was a little too obvious. It was disgusting. Especially as her father was married. Or had been. Marisa bowed her head and clenched her fists for a moment, controlling the pain.
Her father chose to address Marisa rather than Tim, who probably knew already what Olga would be doing but asked just to be nasty. “Olga is going to look around the pueblo. There is a good chance there are some sealed rooms we have not yet found. Other sites have had them. If there are, there may very well be some things we can use.”
Marisa poured herself another cup of Brigham Tea and stood up to go to her room. She had been told what she needed to know. Now [p.181]she wanted to be alone. “Sounds good. I’m going to bed now. Good night.”
“Buenas noches, hija,” her father replied. Olga merely inclined her head. Tim mumbled something about dying in her sleep. Marisa pulled her mini halogen floodlight out of her pocket as she went into the adobe and clay room that was now her home and shined it around, checking for snakes. She picked up her military sleeping bag by the bottom and shook it out vigorously. It was one she’d bought a few years ago at an army surplus store. It was warm and comfortable and had been with her on many camping trips. Once she was sure it was empty, she carefully straightened it out again.
Her books and writing tablet were sitting on a “shelf’ in the wall, just below a painting of men hunting antelope. Her two pairs of jeans, T-shirts, and other personal items, including a 3-0 holograph of her family, decorated other parts of the room. It didn’t make it seem any more like home. Nothing would. Marisa wondered what they’d do for clothing when theirs wore out. The thought of wearing animal skins made her itch. Marisa set her still-full cup of Brigham Tea on a shelf. She didn’t know why she’d brought it into her room. She wasn’t going to drink it. She pulled out her Book of Mormon. Maybe it would help her feel better. She sat down on the hard floor and read for a few minutes, then settled down into her sleeping bag and tried to sleep. Even with the pad under her, the ground was hard and cold. She moved around a bit, trying to get comfortable. Finally she settled her derriere in an indentation in the floor that wasn’t too awkward. She turned out the light and snuggled down into the bag to sleep, and the nightmare started.
She was standing on a sandstone formation that looked like a small stegosaurus, watching the sun rise above the sandstone cliffs, spreading light and color, when the great firestorm came. It darkened her mind and filled it with a hungry roar. The searing wind burned her flesh, but left her chilled to the marrow. Suddenly a giant hand reached out of the storm and grabbed her, pulling her into the swirling darkness. Marisa screamed, trying to pull away from the hand, but it was too strong for her. In the maelstrom she saw her mother clawing and screaming. Then her mother burst into flames and scattered into the wind. Marisa screamed again and again, but the wind ripped her voice from her and threw it away.
Marisa felt something warm holding her tight, enfolding her in its [p.182]arms. She fought and struggled to get free, afraid that she too would burn. “Marisa! Wake up!” Hands shook her, then slapped her across the face. Again the arms held her close, and she felt herself being rocked back and forth by the wind. “It’s okay, Marisa, wake up.” Slowly the storm faded. Someone was holding her, comforting her, making her feel warm and safe. She buried her head in the soft sweatshirt and cried. She didn’t care anymore if her father knew. At least she assumed it was her father.
“¡Mariposa! Marc. ¿Qué pasa? What are you doing?” her father demanded from the doorway of her room.
Marc? Of course, it had to be Marc. As much as she loved her father, she hadn’t felt warm in his arms in a long time. And he would have spoken in Spanish. A dull red spread up her neck and across her face as she pulled away from the comfort of Marc’s arms to address her father, but Marc spoke first.
“She was screaming, sir. I came to see what was wrong.” Marc quickly stood and walked over to face her father. “She had a nightmare. I was trying to comfort her.”
“Marisa?” She knew he was angry. He only called her Marisa when he was displeased with her. Otherwise he used her childhood nickname, Mariposa, or butterfly.
“Es La verdad, Papá. It’s true. I was having a nightmare. Nada ocurrió. “Didn’t he know her well enough by now to trust her? She was embarrassed enough having cried all over Marc. She didn’t want her father treating her like a teenager.
“Bien. Lo siento. I am sorry. I was on the other side of the compound with Olga, we were talking about what could be done to the pueblo, and saw Marc go into your room. I was too far away to hear you. I naturally assumed … I was concerned.” He turned to Marc and nodded his head. “Muchas gracias.” Feeling he had explained enough, he turned and walked out the door. Marc went to follow him, then paused.
“It’s okay, Marisa. I have nightmares about the storm, too. If you need to talk, let me know.” With a smile and a wave, he was gone.
Marisa sat for a long time, staring out the door at the night shadows. Marc was nice. He’d known just what to do. He hadn’t made fun of her nightmare. Otherwise she would have been too embarrassed to work with him. Thinking about Marc helped her sleep.
The next morning neither her father nor Marc said anything over [p.183]their ash cakes and Brigham Tea about Marisa’s nightmare. After they cleaned up Marisa and Marc walked in silence, enjoying the peace of morning as they headed east along the canyon to where an old grainfield and irrigation ditches remained.
The sun was just coming up behind them, making the reds, yellows, and oranges of the sandstone brighter, the leaves on the trees and the plants greener. She had always liked morning in Canyonlands and Zion National Park. It was so full of contrast: bright colors and deep shadows.
Many times she had spent the night in the bottom of one canyon or another to rise early and take pictures. Her pictures were never as good as ones she’d seen in tourist brochures or magazine covers, but they weren’t bad. Her camera was in her backpack at the pueblo. She’d taken a few shots since she’d been here, but she had no way to develop the film now. Marisa closed her eyes for a moment in pain and stumbled over the rough terrain.
“Careful.” Marc reached out a hand to steady her. She thanked him, and assured him she was fine. As they started walking again, Marc asked, “Did you sleep okay last night?”
“Yes, I slept okay.” As okay as she could under the circumstances. “Thank you for your help last night.”
“No problem. I haven’t slept well either.”
Marisa thought she’d done a good job of covering her feelings. She would have to try harder.
They talked a bit about the area, the flora they encountered: the sage brush and cottonwood trees, the sego lily and wild onion. Plants they could use later for herbs and clothing or food. Marisa had heard that cottonwoods could be used to make clothing, but she wasn’t sure how. The sage would help if they had to cook wild rabbit. Marisa noticed that it was quieter than usual, as if the insects and animals were in mourning. The canyon didn’t sound like what she was used to. She took a deep breath and sighed in disappointment. It would take her a while to get used to it. Even the plants and trees around her couldn’t cover up the sanitized smell from above the canyon. Marisa shook her head and thought about something else.
The first thing they did when they got to the grain field was to survey the area and see what was still growing from the Anasazi. Most of the grain had died and been taken over by sage and rabbit brush, but there were still quite a few patches of wild wheat and barley and an occasional squash. They walked the perimeter, noting the size of the areas they [p.184]could reclaim. In the northeast corner they found what looked like an old creek bed that had been an irrigation ditch. They decided to follow it and see if it connected with a viable water source. If they could trace it to a river, they might be able to divert water back to the field and start growing crops again. If not they’d have to find another way to get water to the area. It took them most of the day, but the creek bed didn’t die out. It went to within a few yards of a tributary of the Green River. If they could dig a trench the rest of the way, they might be able to irrigate. They discussed the various possibilities and opted to try digging a small trench between the tributary and the creek bed. They ate a late lunch of MREs and Kool-Aid. She had the Beef Stew, and Marc got the Chicken á la King.
The team had come prepared to stay for several weeks at the pueblo, doing the final surveys and studying any remaining debris before opening it up for tourists. They had brought along several weeks’ worth of MREs, as well as pancake and Kool-Aid mixes, cookies, granola bars, and candy. Her father brought a first aid kit, a water purifier, and a small Bunsen burner. He liked to be prepared. Marisa thought about winter. They hadn’t brought any clothing for cold weather. Even though no one said anything, it was pretty obvious that unless a miracle happened they would die during the long, cold winter.
After lunch they dug and cleared until they had made a trench big enough for water to flow through and slowly fill the old creek bed. It would take a while before they knew whether or not they were successful, and it was already after dark.
“After last night my father is going to have us both put on KP,” Marisa quipped.
“Not when we tell him what we’ve accomplished,” Marc said. He was always philosophical when it came to dealing with other people, angry fathers. Marisa wished she could be so optimistic.
They hurried back to the pueblo, arm in arm so Marc could keep Marisa from stumbling and so they could combine their mini floodlights to help them see better. Just before they arrived at the pueblo, Marc stopped.
“What’s wrong?” Marisa hadn’t seen or heard anything unusual.
“Nothing. I just wanted to let you know that you did a great job today,” and he kissed her. It was brief, over almost before it began, but Marisa liked it. When she didn’t say anything, he kissed her again more slowly, giving her a chance to respond. Then he started walking back [p.185]to the pueblo, practically dragging Marisa behind. She wished he’d give her a little more time to assimilate this new turn in their relationship. Then again, if her father caught them …
It was nearly midnight when they got back to the pueblo and found Marisa’s father and Olga waiting for them at the dying campfire. They were pouring over a diagram of the pueblo traced into the dirt. When her father saw them, he jumped to his feet.
“Where have you been? ¿Hija, por qué te portas as í?” Why was she behaving like this? Behaving like what?
Marc quickly explained about the fields, the creek bed, and what they had done.
“Bien,” her father replied, pacified at Marc’s explanation. He should be, Marisa thought angrily, it was the truth. “Tim and I caught nothing today,” her father said. “I almost had a deer, but Tim scared it away. Tonto!” Her father stomped around the fire, gesturing expressively with his hands while he talked. “Then he said he wanted to try to shoot a rabbit. I say okay. I give him the gun. I find a snake and try to kill it with rocks. I look back, my gun is on the ground and Tim is gone with my bullets. ¡Loco! ¡Idioto! I tried to find him. For three hours I looked. Nothing. Then I come here, and he is sleeping. I wake him up. He says the bullets are gone, buried somewhere. He does not remember where. I could have strangled him. ¡Basta! I can no longer tolerate his behavior.” He paced around a bit more, calming himself before he continued speaking. “Olga found a sealed room behind the complex. Inside we found pottery, tools, some leather goods. We will show it to you tomorrow. It is late and we need to get up early.” Marisa’s father helped Olga to her feet. They both started toward their rooms. He stopped and turned back to Marisa. “Ah, yes, we have more company. A family with eight children. The father is a Mormon bishop, which is good. Maybe God is on our side. But enough talk. It is late. Go to sleep. We will talk more tomorrow.”
Marisa poured herself a cup of Brigham Tea and took a couple of rolls and a cookie out of the cooler, then sat on a block of adobe by the fire, absently staring at the drawing of the pueblo. Her father had never been a man of many words. His philosophy was to say just what is needed and go on to the next item of business. She wondered about the family, where they were from, if they were staying. They must have walked, because she saw no vehicle outside the pueblo. And why was Olga with her father? She hadn’t said two words, and there had been no apparent [p.186]reason for her to stay up with him. They could have discussed the pueblo any time. Marisa didn’t like it. Tomorrow. Her father would answer her questions tomorrow. While she was brooding, Marc came and sat beside her, a cup of Brigham Tea and a sandwich in his hands.
“You came in the Mormon Migration didn’t you?”
“Yes. The prophet said come, so we did. We sold everything we couldn’t carry.”
“You walked? Why didn’t you drive? Surely, with your father’s position …”
“Yes, we walked. Along with most of the others. The border patrol was turning away anyone without the proper papers. My father didn’t bother to get them. He said it would take too long. He didn’t think the government would let him leave anyway. They didn’t want a major exodus, and my father was “too valuable” to be allowed to immigrate. He knew they wouldn’t let him go. They would just come up with excuses, paperwork, anything to keep him from leaving. My father also didn’t want to let them know he was planning on leaving, or they would have stopped him.”
“How could they have stopped him if he was determined?”
“Oh, the government has ways. Many people have disappeared because they didn’t do what the government wanted. Or their families disappeared.”
“So you sneaked over the border?”
Marisa nodded, not wanting to talk about it. She especially didn’t want to talk about her brother, who’d died at the border. She rubbed her hand back and forth across the bottom of her mug to soothe herself.
“Then how come he’s working with the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service if he’s not here legally?”
“He is legal now. The BLM pulled a few strings and made us all citizens.”
“I thought it took years to get naturalized.”
“Usually. But they wanted my father to head this project.”
Marc finished off his sandwich and asked, “Isn’t it a little unusual for a Mexican to be an expert on the Anasazi?”
“No more than for a German to be an expert on Olmecan culture.”
Marc got up, rinsed out his mug, and put it back where it belonged. He then walked over to Marisa and stopped. “Umm, Marisa, you didn’t mind that I kissed you, did you?”
Marisa blushed. “No. I didn’t mind.”
[p.187]“Good.” He leaned down and kissed her again before walking to his room. “Goodnight.”
Marisa sat by the fire for a while longer, thinking about the day’s events, about Marc and his apparent interest in her. Mostly about Marc. She knew she should go to sleep, but she was afraid of having another nightmare. Maybe she could talk to Marc? He’d understand. And he’d told her to let him know if she needed to talk. No. It was late, and she didn’t want to disturb him. Besides if her father woke up and saw them … And she couldn’t go to her father. Maybe if she stayed up until she couldn’t keep her eyes open she would not dream. It didn’t work. At least this time, she didn’t scream.
Marisa was still a little groggy the next morning over breakfast. But she was acclimatizing to her new life. The bitter herb tea didn’t taste so bad today. Neither did the ash cakes, although they still tasted like soot.
While they were speaking Marc commented that he had turned on the portable radio last night, just to see if anyone was out there. “I got some station in Spanish. So at least we know the blast was local. I couldn’t get a clear reception, so I don’t know if any rescue parties are being planned, but at least the air is clearing. In a few days we might be able to get something local.”
When everyone heard the news they were ecstatic. It was the best news they had heard since the blast. Maybe with some careful planning and a clear radio station to guide them, they might be able to walk out of the canyon before it got too cold.
“This is all good, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Dr. Ovando cautioned. “If rescue teams come it may take months for them to find us once they are sent out. We need to proceed as if nothing has changed.” They all agreed not to dwell on the radio until they got a clearer station and more concrete information. The dishes were cheerfully cleaned and put away, then Olga and her father led Marisa and Marc to the sealed room. Tim chose to skip the work, and food, and stay in his room. He said if he lived to dinner, he’d help skin whatever they caught. Otherwise it wasn’t worth getting up.
The room they went to was at the back of the pueblo. They climbed up to the second level, walked back to the cliffs, then climbed down through a circular hole in the roof into one of the rooms thought to be a council chamber. Along the wall that supposedly ran flush with the cliff face was an opening large enough to climb through. Her father took [p.188]the Coleman lantern, now being saved for special occasions. The room was not very large, and the air was still musty, though the room had been open all night. Stacks of pottery were neatly arranged along one wall; piles of skins that looked brittle and ready to fall apart decorated another; arrowheads of obsidian and flint were grouped in another area along with what looked like spears and plows; mummified cornhusks dotted the floor, much of the corn rodent-eaten. There were several other tools that Marisa couldn’t identify placed here and there, as well as some woven shoes and decorative clothing that would probably crumble to dust the minute they touched them.
“How did you find it, Papá?” Marisa queried.
He gave her a stern look. “Olga found it.” She had forgotten that her father told her last night that it was Olga’s discovery. “She noticed this room was different from the others along the cliff wall. She and I cleared the opening last night while we waited for you.” He added the last part to make Marisa feel guilty.
“This is great!” Marc enthused. “Is any of it usable?”
Olga answered him in her careful English. “Most of the pottery is. And most of the tools. The corn is useless. The cloth and skins are either rotten or too fragile to use-at least, what we have seen. The woven materials we shall merely use as a pattern. I don’t want to try touching it, it’s too fragile. The rest … we shall see.”
“That is what we would like you to help us with today. We need to categorize all that is here. Then we will know what we have and what we can use,” her father added.
“Yes. Pedro and I will work with the skins and leather. We want you and Marisa to catalog the pottery and tools. As we will probably be using them, list only what is still in good condition. The potsherds you can ignore. For now. If we ever leave here, the shards can be studied. Put the usable items in the center of the room, the rest can stay where they are. Much of it will go to museums—assuming we are found.” Olga addressed Marc. She didn’t even look at Marisa. This was the most Olga had said in Marisa’s presence since they’d come on this trip. Marisa had assumed it was because she didn’t speak well, but she spoke English better than Marisa’s father. And when had Olga started calling her father Pedro? Marisa walked over to where Marc was inspecting the pottery. When Olga’s back was turned Marisa made a face at Marc, imitating Olga’s mannerisms. Marc turned his head and tried not to laugh. Marisa’s father coughed. She looked up and found him glaring at her. [p.189]She didn’t want to apologize. She didn’t like Olga or her attitude. Instead she shrugged her shoulders, sat on the ground, and began to sort through the pottery. She knew her father would be angry, but she didn’t care.
The four of them worked several hours, sometimes talking about trivial things, sometimes working in silence. When Olga and her father did talk, it was about the pueblo and the condition of the materials in the room and what it would mean to their chances of survival. Marisa enjoyed the work more than she thought she would. The pottery fascinated her. Some of it was decorated in a braided pattern, and all of it was utilitarian. It was thick and sturdy enough to be serviceable. Other pieces were decorated with bright colors and intricate designs. They even found a few ceramic effigies, male and female, that they carefully set near the wall where they wouldn’t be disturbed. They also found one wall covered in a bright mosaic of colored tiles and some turquoise jewelry that they hoped to look at more carefully at a later date. The tools were still in good condition. When Marc and Marisa began to search through them, they found that the Anasazi had also left chunks of rock and tools for making spears and knives.
When they had done as much as they could, they crawled out of the room, bringing a few knives and some pottery with them. The leather was too old and brittle.
Over lunch they met Mel and Bonnie Hammond and their family. The Hammonds were from Idaho and had been on vacation in Goblin Valley. The oldest daughter was just a little younger than Marisa. They were a happy, talkative group, and lunch was a lot of fun. They had all cleaned up the area and were preparing to go to their separate jobs when Bonnie noticed a large group of over a dozen people walking toward them. In the lead were Martin and Janet Smith. As they got closer they hailed Marisa’s father.
“Brother Ovando!” Marisa backed away from the rest of the group and watched from a distance as the Smith Company encircled the Hammonds, her father, and Olga.
“Señor Smith. I thought we had said all that was necessary the last time you were here.”
“Ah, Brother Ovando. Even the worst sinners deserve another chance, so why not you?” Martin Smith smiled. It was an oily smile that made Marisa cringe inside. “Come. Surely you won’t turn away weary travelers. Won’t you offer us a drink?”
[p.190]“I can make some Brigham Tea if you’d like,” Olga quickly offered, putting the kettle on the fire. She collected a stack of Anasazi pottery to serve as mugs.
“Sister Svenson, you are most kind.” Martin Smith glared at Marisa’s father.
Mel and Bonnie Hammond introduced themselves, trying to break the tension. “Where are you from, Mr. and Mrs. Smith?”
“We are messengers from God. He has revealed to us that the Second Coming is at hand. The earth has been cleansed, and Jesus Christ is returning to reclaim his people. We have been chosen by him to prepare Zion.” Martin Smith sat down on a log, as if he were addressing lesser mortals.
“But the scriptures say Zion was to have been built in the tops of the mountains,” Mel reasoned.
“Yes, but the world has become corrupt, an unworthy vessel, a den of iniquity. God has revealed to us that he will build Zion in the majesty of Zion National Park.”
“But this is Canyonlands,” Marc muttered under his breath. “Zion is on the other end of the state. You need a geography lesson.” Marisa looked at him and tried not to laugh.
“Are you claiming to be a prophet?” Mel asked.
“The earth has been cleansed. The mountains have been brought down and the valleys, or the canyons, will be raised up. I have been chosen to usher in the Millennium.” Martin leered beatifically at those around him.
Marisa looked curiously at the rest of the company. No one but Martin Smith had said a word. They reminded her of turkeys standing in a rainstorm looking up with their mouths open.
“The scriptures clearly state that before the second coming of the Lord the sun will be darkened and the moon turned to blood. That hasn’t happened yet,” Dr. Ovando pointed out.
“Ah, you have read the scriptures, Brother Ovando,” Martin Smith sneered. “But there you are also mistaken. We were near the top of the canyon when the blast came. The sun was indeed darkened. Have you looked in the sky? The moon is red, bathed in the blood of a million souls.”
“Not all are dead, Mr. Smith,” Dr. Ovando said. “Marc was listening to the radio last night and heard a broadcast.
“Ah, Brother Ovando, you are mistaken. The words young Marc [p.191]heard last night were merely leftover transmissions still retained in the atmosphere. You will see. In a few days the atmosphere will clear and you will hear nothing. Then perhaps you will believe us. But then it may be too late. For God is choosing his messengers from those who survived and only a fortunate few who heed his call will be saved. Those who do not will be cast out forever. Doomed to outer darkness.”
Marisa, seated next to Marc on top of the first floor of adobe rooms, put her hands over her face and tried not to laugh. She peeped through her fingers at Marc, who had such a mischievous twinkle in his eyes that she could barely restrain herself from laughing out loud.
“My brothers and sisters, you must not let your mind dictate the path your soul will follow. The carnal mind will lead your soul to hell. You must follow your heart. The Lord has cleansed the Earth by fire, as he foretold. ‘For the day cometh that shall burn as an oven.’ That day is here. We are a special people, hand picked to usher in the millennium. You and your pueblo are a part of the eternal scheme of things. Repent of your sins and follow us. God will forgive you if you truly bare your souls and follow him. Join us in this divine calling.”
Mel had brought out his Book of Mormon and his Bible as if he wanted to continue the debate, but he remained silent. Marisa thought she understood. The Smiths weren’t listening to anything and had worn out their welcome.
“It has been foretold that the earth shall burn with a fire and all the wicked shall perish. The elements of the earth shall melt in the heat of his displeasure. I have been to the surface. I have seen the desolation. The sand has become glass in the cleansing fire. The Earth is being prepared to become a giant Urim and Thummim, a divine crystal ball to show us the way. I have seen the future in the crystal sands. We must preach the word today, for tomorrow will be too late. We must prepare our hearts now to accept him as our God,” he paused dramatically. “We ask you to heed the call of your Savior and join us in this divine calling.” Marisa kept quiet, knowing if she spoke she would only make him angry.
The entire Smith company looked around expectantly, as if waiting for the others to fall on their knees and bow to them or something.
No one moved or spoke for several minutes. Finally Martin Smith shook his head sadly. “My friends, my heart is heavy with sorrow for you. You have been taught the word of God and have failed to heed his calling. If you do not join us, you will spend eternity in the bowels of misery knowing that you can never pass through the pearly gates into [p.192]heaven. I appeal to you one last time, out of the goodness of my heart. Repent of your sins. Give up your pride. Join us in welcoming the Savior.”
“We have listened enough, Señor Smith. We do not wish to follow you. We would like you to leave,” Dr. Ovando said, rising to his feet.
Martin Smith stood very still for a moment, then he seemed to erupt like a volcano. “Very well, Brother Ovando. You have made your choice. You have condemned yourself and your people to eternal damnation. Be warned: You have not heard the last of us. We will return, whether in this life or the next. And when we all appear before the judgment seat of God to be judged, we will testify against you and say, ‘I told you so.’ Then you will be hard-pressed to have a reason why you did not follow us, why you should be exalted when you condemned the messengers of God.” With a mighty flourish Martin Smith dusted off the dirt from his shoes as a sign of condemnation, turned, and led his company west out of the canyon.
When the Smith company could no longer be seen, the group, with the exception of the younger Hammond kids who had long since retired to their rooms to play, gathered to discuss what had occurred.
“I don’t know if you saw their faces when they left,” Steve, the eldest Hammond boy, laughed, “but they looked like lobsters. I’m sure they wanted to move into the pueblo. They were really pissed.” Mel gave his son a look of reprimand. “Well, they were.”
“Tim’s gone,” Marisa’s father interjected. “I checked his room, and he’s gone.”
“Well, the Smiths forgave him his sins. I can’t really blame him for following them, considering the state he’s been in,” Bonnie said.
“He’s complained so much and done so little, I’m glad he’s gone,” Steve added.
Marc and Marisa sat quietly. They were glad Tim was gone but didn’t want to say anything. They were rid of him. They should leave it at that.
“I hope he’s happier with them,” Bonnie commented. Even though Tim did nothing but complain, she felt sorry for him.
Three soldiers, privates on maneuvers with the National Guard, had been with the Smith company out of necessity. But when they found the pueblo, they chose to stay. Karl, the most talkative of the three, was tall and thin with a receding hairline. When there was a lull in the conversation, he introduced himself. “I’m glad we finally found someone [p.193]sane. They were really starting to get on our nerves. They found us a few days ago. They took our Scotch and told us to repent. Man, we were hungry enough we didn’t care at first.”
“So,” Bonnie asked, “how did you escape the blast?”
“We were tired of marching and formations, so me, Jeff, and Bob climbed down into a hole for a few drinks. We had a break before starting the next phase of training. Bob had some Scotch. We figured we deserved a little fun. Besides, nobody’d care if we were gone until roll call that night, and we’d have been back by then.”
Jeff, a middle-sized blond in his twenties, looked a little nervous as Karl spoke. “Are you sure we should be telling them all this?
“Why not?” said the third of the party, a portly man who looked about the same age as the other two. “What are they going to do? Report us?”
“The main thing is that we’re away from those kooky Smiths,” Karl said. Addressing the party, he continued, “They had us up at dawn, prayin’ and doin’ meditations. They said they were c1eansin’ our wicked souls. Then we spent the rest of the time walkin’ around lookin’ for other people. The Smith Company wouldn’t ever stay in one place more’n a day. Their mission was to find as many people as they could and go somewhere to start their new Zion.”
“I told you they wanted the pueblo,” Steve chimed in.
“Every time we encountered someone, Martin and Janet would begin their spiel about all of us being saved to prepare for Christ. And anyone who didn’t listen would be damned. We’re just glad you guys are here so we don’t have to take any more of their crap. Man, they were worse than any preacher,” Karl continued.
Marisa’s father and Olga explained to the three men about the pueblo and how they were trying to revive the lifestyle of the Anasazi so they could survive here. The newcomers said they didn’t mind working if it was for a good reason.
Groups for gathering water and wood, hunting game, and collecting edible plants for dinner were put together. Each group then left to find what was needed. Marisa went to gather firewood. She was glad she didn’t have to kill and gut any animal, even a snake. The thought made her sick.
After dinner the last packages of cookies were passed around as daily chores were discussed and assignments handed out. Marc, Marisa, Mel and Bonnie Hammond, and their boys were assigned to the grain [p.194]field. The two youngest boys wouldn’t be able to help much, but with all the work that needed to be done, they were better off with their parents in the fields. Their group was to restore, tend, and eventually harvest what grain and squash they could. That was fine with Marisa. She loved gardening. Each year she had helped her mother with the family garden.
Just as they were getting ready to go to bed, Dr. Ovando came storming into the courtyard, cursing in Spanish.
“¡Estupido! ¡Tonto! ¡Brujo! ¿Quiere rnatamos todos? ¿Qué está pensando, éste typo?”
“¿Papa, qué pasa? What happened? Who is trying to kill us?”
“Tim? I don’t understand?”
By this time Marc, Olga, the Hammonds and the three soldiers had come out to see what was going on.
“The radio. It is broken, useless. I went to listen to the radio, see if I could get any news, and it was broken. Parts torn out and strewn across the ground outside the Van. I could kill Tim!”
“¡Papá!” Marisa said sternly. She knew her father couldn’t kill anyone, no matter how angry he got, but the others didn’t.
“I know, hija, I know. I would not kill him.”
“She’s right,” Mel interjected. “What good would it do to go after him now? The radio can’t be fixed. Besides, maybe it wasn’t Tim.”
“Not Tim? Only one who would take bullets to not kill animals when we are starving would destroy a radio when we need to know what is going on outside. ¡Loco! ¡Bastardo!”
“Lo siento, hija. Perdónarne,” he apologized.
Dr. Ovando stomped around the courtyard, occasionally picking up rocks to throw into the darkness outside. Olga tried to calm him, but he wouldn’t listen. Marisa quietly told everyone that he would be fine. He needed to vent his frustration. By morning he would be over his fury. Silently she hoped Tim didn’t return or she wasn’t sure what her father might do to him.
“There’s nothing we can do,” Mel told the others. “We need to sleep and continue with our work. If a rescue party comes, it comes. If not we need to prepare for winter and survival. Mel stopped speaking and smiled suddenly. “Wait a minute! We have a shortwave radio in the RV. [p.195]It ran out of gas a few miles from here. We should be able to listen to any transmissions from there. Why don’t Marc and 1 go out there now and see if the battery’s still working?”
“That’s a great idea!” Marc said. “Maybe we could contact someone and let them know we’re here.”
“Can I come too, Dad?” Steve asked.
“Sure. Why don’t the rest of you go to bed, we may be gone a while.”
After the three men left, Marisa went to tell her father about the RV. Bonnie put the younger children to bed. No one else wanted to miss out on any news when the men returned, so they sat around the campfire and waited. Olga had some hot Brigham Tea sitting next to the fire for the men, since they would be cold when they returned. They expected a long wait, but the men were back in just over an hour.
“Well?” Marisa asked, impatient to learn what happened and why they were back so quickly.
“The RV’s gone,” Mel said.
“Are you sure you went to the right spot?” Bonnie asked.
“Yeah. The Gameboy we made Michael leave behind was still on the ground nearby. It looked like someone dragged off the RV, but I don’t know how.”
“I bet it was the Smiths,” Steve said.
“We don’t know that. It could have been anyone.”
“Not just anyone could have drug off an RV,” Jeff replied.
“Yeah, and the Smiths would probably use it as their personal throne room,” Bob said acidly.
“So, we still have no radio. No way of getting any word from outside,” Dr. Ovando said dejectedly, summing up the obvious.
“Look, we have rifles and we can track them by the tire tracks. Why don’t we go after the Smiths and get the RV back?” Bob suggested, a vengeful gleam in his eye.
“No. It’s not worth it. We have much to do here. Let them go. What good will it do them to haul a dead RV around?” Marisa’s father said quietly.
“Dr. Ovando’s right. There’s nothing we can do. The RV is gone, as are the Smiths. Even if we did find the RV, the radio would probably be broken as well. They have no desire to learn that life goes on outside the canyons.”
“I suggest we all go to bed. We have a lot of work to do tomorrow,” Marisa’s father said quietly.
[p.196]Marisa knew he was right. They had to put the loss of the radio and the RV behind them and move on. The Smiths were better forgotten.
A pattern developed over the next few days. Breakfast and dinner were foraged from nearby plants and game, supplemented by ash cakes and Brigham Tea. While the different groups were out during the day, lunch was provided from what provisions they had left from before the blast. Marisa and her group spent the day in the fields, redigging trenches, weeding out sage and grass, and coaxing what grain remained to grow. Olga and the four Hammond girls practiced making pottery and weaving when they weren’t out collecting sego lily, cattails, wild onion, Brigham Tea, sage, and other useful plants. They frequently came to the grainfield to get silt and clay from the creekbed or to give Marisa’s group plants to cultivate in the fields. The girls also did the laundry under the supervision of Olga. They’d make a game of the washing, splashing and playing. Olga didn’t like it, but as they were getting the work done, she couldn’t complain. They also practiced weaving grass and straw. They first tried some shoes patterned after the ones found in the hidden room. They were uncomfortable, but come winter, they would be better than frostbite.
Marisa and Olga avoided each other as much as possible, which was fine with Marisa. The soldiers went out each day to hunt for snake, rabbit, and deer. They said they felt more comfortable doing that, since they didn’t have much knowledge of gardening or pottery making. Once they came back with a sheep, boasting about their increasing prowess as marksmen, until the poor animal was found to have a broken leg. Her father worked on the pueblo itself, fixing up the rooms and making sure they were sturdy enough to live in. He refortified the parts of the pueblo that were crumbling and taught himself how to make a credible adobe and clay plaster. He also cut timber and collected grass and mud to make roofs so more of the structure could be lived in. Everyone helped collect firewood and prepare meals. Marisa and Marc spent little time together outside of working in the field. She didn’t know if he was still interested. She hoped so.
From time to time supplies would disappear. Each time they carefully searched the pueblo and found nothing. It was thought that either Tim or someone from the Smith company was sneaking in and taking food, pottery, and knives. They never took much, and they never came at the same time of day. Provisions were moved to different [p.197]locations, but things still disappeared. As much as they tried, they couldn’t catch anyone.
One night Karl had had enough. “Why don’t you let me, Jeff, and Bob go after the Smiths? We can make them give us back our stuff.”
“No, it is not worth it,” Marisa’s father tried to explain to them, but they remained adamant.
Mel stood up and walked over to where they were arguing. “Supposing you did manage to find the Smith company—which wouldn’t be easy. What would you do? They’ve probably eaten the food, and the pottery and tools are easily replaced. Would you shoot them for that?”
Jeff was convinced. “He’s got a point, guys. It’s not worth it.” With everyone against them, the other two capitulated.
On Sunday they rested. Church services were performed in the open courtyard. The soldiers weren’t interested, so they stayed in their rooms or went for a walk. The rest of the day was spent visiting and relaxing, getting to know each other and talking about their families before the blast.
It had been one week since the blast, and they were starting to adjust to their new lives, to cope with the new challenges. The Smith company hadn’t returned, except for the occasional stealing. Nor had any other people wandered by. After a relaxing dinner they all sat around the fire and sang songs. No one had felt much like singing at first, but one by one they joined in. After two hours had passed and it was time for bed, all were in better spirits. That night, for the first time, Marisa didn’t have a nightmare.
Monday things continued to get easier. The fields were clear of all but the wild grain and more was being planted, Marisa wasn’t sure what they’d do when it started to snow. It would be too cold for much. And they wouldn’t have time to stock up on food and clothing. Especially if the Smith company kept stealing what little they had.
Tuesday they finished early in the fields. They weeded and watered and then decided to take a break. Some went off to explore the area some more. Marisa went back to her room. She got out her writing tablet and sat by her window. She knew there was a lot that needed to be done, and she could always help Olga and the girls, but she wanted a break.
She had been told throughout her life how important it was to keep a journal, but she’d never had anything to say. Marisa felt it was time to start. If they died of radiation poisoning or starvation this winter, at least whoever found them would know who they were and what they [p.198]had tried to do. Her father would forgive her not helping out somewhere else if he knew what she was doing. She wrote until almost sunset, then, after watching the sunset, she felt guilty and went to help Olga and the others prepare dinner.
They were all returning from their various duties the next evening when the helicopter came. At first Marisa thought it was another, smaller blast, but then the noise clarified and she could see a black speck in the fading light, coming east down the canyon. Everyone raced out into the open, hoping to attract the attention of the pilot. When it was almost on top of them they could see it was one of the new military Wolves with a large “search and rescue” painted on the sides and bottom. The helicopter landed, and the blades slowed to a stop. Everyone eagerly raced forward as soon as the whirling dust had settled and two men dressed in khaki flight suits stepped out. They barely cleared the cockpit when they were besieged by people, all trying to talk at once. Marisa’s father and Mel took charge, getting everyone to go back to the courtyard where they could all sit down and hear what the two men had to say.
It was just as they had assumed. An N-Cycle test in New Mexico had gone awry and “leaked” into the atmosphere. But its effects weren’t as bad as suspected. The bomb had devastated a 300-mile radius and caused damage for another 200 miles. Those who were on the lee side of the mountains and in deep valleys and canyons were untouched. In Utah the cities of St. George and Cedar City and Kimball were gone. Mesquite in Nevada was gone, as were others in Arizona and New Mexico. Marisa bowed her head in brief mourning for those who had died. Then a thought struck her and she began to giggle. Her father looked at her sternly. “¡Cállate, loca!”
Marisa couldn’t be quiet. “I’m sorry, Papá. I was thinking about the Smiths. I wonder how they will feel now to know the truth?” The rest of the group looked at her for a moment and started to laugh too. They really shouldn’t be laughing at the Smiths, but they had been so pompous, and now it was all for nothing. The two men from the helicopter looked on in confusion. Quickly Mel explained who the Smiths were and why they were laughing.
“Oh, yes. We picked them and their group up yesterday. They were pulling an RV. Why, I don’t know. There were nearly two dozen of them, and the RV wasn’t that big. They called themselves the Smith Company. They weren’t very happy to see us. One couple, the Smiths, I guess, looked really put out.
[p.199] “They were mumbling something about the wrath of God and starting up a colony on the salt flats,” the co-pilot said, cracking a smile. “I wish I’d have known before I picked them up.”
The men talked about what had been going on since the blast and the relief efforts that had gotten underway once it was determined there was no radiation. The Mormon church, the federal government, and the Red Cross had organized a joint relief effort that would ensure homes and jobs for the survivors and the eventual revitalization of the affected area.
The pilots listened with admiration and surprise at how well the group had coped. They said an LCAC, a large military hovercraft, would be by the next day around mid-morning to pick them up and take them to Salt Lake City.
“We’ve got a survival kit with some basic provisions if you’d like it,” the pilot offered.
Mel politely refused for the group. “No, thanks. We still have some of our original supplies, and we’d like to “live off the land” for our last evening here. But thanks anyway.”
After the helicopter left there was a lot of hugging and crying. Olga brought out some Kool-Aid and the men cleaned and prepared a couple of snakes they had killed. That night they sang and danced and talked. Everyone stayed up late, not needing to rise with the sun and work. They discussed their plans for the future and promised not to lose touch.
Marc pulled Marisa aside later in the evening. They found a quiet spot and sat side by side and talked for a while.
Marc put his arm around her, “Why don’t you come study archaeology at BYU?”
“I would love to, but I don’t have any money. I don’t even have transcripts. Everything I had was at Southern Utah University.” She had thought about BYU when she was applying for college but chose to stay closer to home so she could be with her family. Now she wouldn’t be able to go anywhere. No school would accept her without high school transcripts and her placement tests.
“You can get a scholarship. My father’s dean of the department. If he and your father write letters of recommendation, you’re a cinch to get in.”
“I’d love to go.” She hadn’t thought about school since the blast. It would be great if she could get her degree and work with her father and Marc.
[p.200]“We could spend more time together, if you’d like,” he said hesitantly.
“I’d like that.” Marisa smiled shyly at Marc and blushed. Marc squeezed her shoulders and changed the subject.
They talked a bit longer, then Marisa went to look for her father to tell him her plans. He and Olga had disappeared and she didn’t find them that evening.
The large hovercraft arrived as promised mid-morning. There were already a few people inside, looking much the worse for their experience. Two of them wore military fatigues like Karl, Jeff, and Bob. Marisa sat down next to her father and Olga and looked out the window as the hovercraft lifted above the rocks. She would miss this place. And its beauty. It had come to mean a lot to her. She would return often, she promised herself.
Marisa hadn’t had a chance to talk to her father all morning, so she quickly told him her plans to attend school, and Marc’s offer of help.
Her father looked relieved. “Bien, hija. BYU is a good place. You will be happy there.” He smiled smugly. “And Marc will take care of you.” He paused for several seconds, looking at his hands. “I also have news. Olga and I talked last night. We are going to go back to the pueblo to live.” Marisa sat for a moment, stunned. She would love to be able to help out with the pueblo, maybe in the summer when she wasn’t in school. But did Olga have to go with him?
She smiled. “Sounds great.” She turned away and looked out the window to watch Quetzal Canyon slowly shrink into a small crack in the colorful canyons, which in turn shrank into the vast wasteland left by the bomb. She knew everything had been destroyed, but the reality of nothingness stabbed her like a knife. There was nothing but dirt and sand to the edge of the mountains, where strings of foliage could still be seen repelling the mountain cliffs. Some areas looked as hard as glass, as though the heat had fused the sand. The colorful hills of her former home looked washed out and barren. Everything on ground level was gone. Only the canyons and a flash of green here and there, on the lee of the hills or deep valleys where the blast had overlooked a spot, remained untouched. It was hard to believe that life continued on elsewhere as if nothing had happened. Other people were still going to work or school, watching cable and laughing with friends. The past week seemed like a moment plucked out of time or a bad dream.
Marisa closed her eyes and rested her head on the back of the seat [p.201]in front of her. The shock of going back into society where the blast was only a horrible news story would be greater than adjusting to a simpler life. Marc, sitting in the seat in front of her, turned around and gave her a reassuring smile, letting her know that he understood. Marisa smiled back, then looked out the window as the Rocky Mountains rose majestically in front of her. They were far enough away from the center of the blast that the pine trees were still green and snow clung to dark crevasses and mountain peaks. As they flew over the Wasatch Mountains and descended into Utah Valley, Marisa could see the cities spread out before her. Buses and shuttles dotted the highways like little ants. A monorail, like a silver snake, wove its way above the streets. Marisa leaned her head against Marc’s seat again. This would not be easy. She had just started to accept her new life. Now she had to move back into the “real world.” A world without her mother and sister. A world where life remained the same, but she could never go home. Marc whispered a few words of encouragement and gently squeezed her hand. She smiled her thanks, not feeling like talking. Tonight she would see if Marc would drive her up into the mountains so she could see the sunset properly. Watching the sunset always helped her think clearly. It helped put things into perspective. Marisa looked out the window again. The atmosphere was still thick with debris and microscopic dust from the blast. A string of clouds accented the horizon. It would be another glorious sunset.