I started this mostly as a pretty basic post-apocalypse story, survivors living among the ruins of civilization type story. I kind of like the direction it’s taking, though, so maybe at some point I’ll work some more on this concept. A little over 800 words.
Aldo found a newspaper in the rubble of an old refueling station, amongst a pile of shattered glass. He carefully scooped the shards of glass into his bag. The glittering shards were tiny, but Casimirio was smart and knew better how to use this stuff than he would. He glanced at the meaningless squiggly black marks on the newspaper. The image plastered across the front of the paper was faded but still recognizable: a blurry dark smudge in a clear blue sky, blue and green lights lancing from the bottom, carving up some collection of skyscrapers. In his short lifetime Aldo had never seen buildings that tall still intact. The Smudge he knew all too well. Aldo hesitated before tucking the newspaper into his bag. He didn’t want the extra weight, but he knew Casimiro would want to see it.
Aldo raced home, picking his way through the remnants of the old city. He avoided the highways, because everyone knew the Smudge still patrolled the highways. They would pick off survivors trying to move from one city to the next. Their ships looked no more distinct in real life than they did in the photo, blurry and constantly shifting in and out of existence. Their weapons, however, were as real and solid as the billions of people they had slaughtered.
Aldo climbed through the open window of Casimiro’s home. The building itself was nothing more than a shell of concrete and exposed girders and looked, from the outside, no different than the rest of the ruins. An old sign declaring the building’s former use as a Mel’s Diner still hung above the door. Inside, however, the home was paradise. Casimiro and his small contingent of orphans had scavenged enough carpet to cover the entire floor, even if it was a patchwork of hundreds of different colors and textures. Furniture had been brought from all over the city, ranging from waiting room chairs to a Victorian couch pilfered from museums. Some still featured scorches from fires. Dozens of crates full of canned foods lined the walls. Casimiro had found a brand-new mattress a few years ago and slept near the bar. In what had been the diner’s kitchen the children had set up cots. It wasn’t as comfy as the rooms Aldo saw in the old catalogues, but compared to what most people had now they lived in a mansion.
Not that there were many people left to compare to. But, still.
Casimiro say on his mattress, chatting with one of the older boys, Ernesto. They looked up from a map of the city as Aldo approached. Casimiro broke into one of his infectious grins.
“Aldo,” he called. “Come, sit. Ernesto and I were just looking for a way to reach the suburbs, over to the south here across the river.”
Aldo sat and began to empty his bag. “I was just over that way. I found this glass at an old fuel station.” He poured the glass onto a flat piece of fabric, careful not to lose any.
Casimiro frowned. “Here, show me.” He pushed the map over to the boy. Aldo tapped near the southern edge of the city.
“By the hotel?” Ernesto asked.
Aldo shrugged. He pulled out the newspaper and handed it over. Casimirio sucked in his breath and took the paper with shaking hands.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Aldo said. “It’s not in Portuguese.”
“This is English,” Casimiro whispered. “This is…New York City, I think, back during the invasion. See, the Statue of Liberty.”
Aside from Casimiro, who’d been in his thirties when the Smudge attacked Earth, none of the boys was old enough to remember the invasion. Ernesto had only been about five, Aldo barely a toddler. Casimiro had found them and the others among the devastated refugee camps outside of the city almost a decade ago. While everyone else fled to the countryside to be massacred, Casimiro led the orphans back into the city, where the Smudge had lost interest. He’d kept them alive and raised them – for the most part alone – ever since. The boys certainly knew nothing of New York City or the Statue of Liberty.
“What are those little grey marks?” Ernesto asked.
“Those are airplanes,” Casimiro said. “Fighter jets, trying to fight the Smudge.”
“Nobody fights the smudge,” Aldo said.
“We didn’t know that back then,” said Casimiro. He caressed the paper, then looked up sharply. “You said you got this at the fuel station south?”
“We’ve been over that station a billion times,” Ernesto said.
“Yes. Someone’s here, or passed through here.” Casimiro ran his hands through the pile of glass. “And this isn’t glass.”
“What does it all mean?” Aldo asked. He felt completely lost.
“This,” Casimiro held up the newspaper, “is a message. And this…” he picked up one of the shards of glass and drew it across the newspaper. The shard had no trouble slicing through the image of the Smudge. “…this is a weapon.”