Soldiers with carbon-fiber skin opened fire in the crowded market. The explosions came next. Staccato beats of a toy drum in the hands of madmen. Afterward, the skies opened up and sheets of rain poured down, washing away the ash. Survivors crawled out and left candles in front of makeshift memorials. I’m at one now. Alone, with a hundred others, kneeling in front of a soggy cardboard shrine and holding a flickering flame, hoping the candle burns through the night.
Four days later and I’m still looking for you while the carbon skins watch me. Watch all of us while large digital screens flicker through images we don’t care about and teach us how to spell hate. The streets are open again, thrumming with death cars, so I walk, because I can’t bear to face the emptiness of a car or a crowded bus. My moments drip away with each step, a cadence I’ve never heard or felt before. Strings of long dark hair you ran your fingers through last week cling to my face, cold and lifeless. Should the rain last an eternity, I’d still walk through it, looking for you.
I’ve convinced myself you’re calling to me, but water roars down the gutters and drowns out your voice. So I head to the bay where the rain patters against the water’s surface creating dimples just like the one in your cheek where the angel touched you when you were born. A feral cat sits atop the crumbled remains of the Merlion—the mouth, I think—where the symbol of Singapore spat into the bay. Wet matted fur, head tilted back, the cat wails like it’s dying, a sick sound that crashes around my hope and I can’t decide if I hate the cat or love it, so I leave before I throw something at it. Wander through the city streets until I fall asleep under a hanging paper lantern swinging from the rafters outside a temple. In my dreams, I whisper a steady rhythm of prayers and curses to a shadow who eats every word.
Days turn into weeks and still the skies haven’t closed. One morning, I wake up and stop counting the number of wraithlike women like me who are still searching. We don’t speak. We look past each other. Eyes carry the weight of the dead. We step through shattered storefront windows and dig among the soiled cracker packages and ruined sandals in silence. But mostly, we ignore the awkward bits of red metal men from a forgotten sculpture hung up in the sewers, too misshapen to follow the rain down the drain.
This morning, under a grey sky too tired or empty to weep, I found a shoe buried under broken glass in the ruins of a small grocery store. This one is black and white like yours, but it smells like olives and someone has drawn a heart on the side and it’s bled into a giant red orchid. I tell myself that anyway. It makes it easier, these lies I’ve told myself. I take it home and sleep with it, even though it may or may not be yours, because three weeks have passed, the rains have stopped, and a black and white shoe is all that I have.
—Cas Blomberg is a speculative fiction author and poet. First published in 2008, she has since published her novel, Ashborne: The First Chronicle, on Amazon and her short story Bug Out was featured in Perihelion Science Fiction. She lives in Sweden, and while trying to prevent freezing to death in the frozen north, she teaches her children that ‘superhero’ is the name you give to people who try. She writes about strong women and impossible worlds that are becoming not only possible, but all too familiar. She’s an active member of the Stockholm Writers Group. You can visit her at casblomberg.com