“Red sky at morning, shepherd’s warning” her Grandpa used to say. The western skyline was surely red before sunrise and not from the dawning of a new day. The wildlife had been unusually quiet yesterday, few birds serenading days end as she had finished the last of her evening chores. A smell of smoke hung in the air.
There was movement shadowed in the scrub as the first wisps of morning ruptured. She wasn’t alarmed, the kangaroos had been coming in closer to the house the last few weeks as their food and water sources dried up.
“I know how you feel fellas” she sighed. The food she grew for herself was scarce, her rainwater tank down to the last rung. She was counting down the days with dread, not wanting to return to civilisation but nature’s weather cycle might just force her. 3 rungs, 2 rungs and now 1.
Her dog appeared, standing solid beside her watching the moving shadows.
“Its OK Biddy, just some roos needing a drink”. Her voice sounded unfamiliar. It had been days since she had spoken out loud, months since she had spoken to another human.
It was the only way she could stop the nightmares, feel free from his clutches. She tried to move towns, change her name. Everywhere she turned she could still see HIM. She had been exhausted, wired every hour of every day.
Only one other person knew of her Grandpa’s cabin. It had been a decades since her Grandpa had left it to her in his will, longer since she had been to stay. Her father had called in occasionally to check it, but they had never mentioned it in front of the man that had kept her his emotional prisoner for 9 years.
Biddy’s urgent barking startled her from her memories.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” came a call from the shadows, “we mean no harm.”
No one knew about this place. Unless…no…there is no way HE could know.
“We had to run from the fire. We had no other place to run. Do you have a phone? Water? We have been walking all night, the children are tired and thirsty.”
She could not move nor speak.
“Hello? Can you hear us? Can we come closer?”
A small child suddenly breaks ranks and races towards her. There was yelling from the people in the shadows as the child ran into the light, traces of dried tears staining their ashen face, their clothes soot black.
She was knocked backward as arms wrapped around her knees, holding her tightly as the child sobbed.
“We thought the world had ended and we were the only ones left” cried the child “everything is burnt, everything.”
“And I thought I could do this alone” she whispered as she wrapped her arms around this child. “Yet, I cannot let you go.”
“Well, well, well this is a moment of serendipity then isn’t it?” declared a long-forgotten voice in the shadows.
This was a short story entry to the monthly Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction competition.
The story had to be less than 500 words with the following guidelines:
- Your story must include a COUNTDOWN of some kind.
- Your story must include a character who SHARES A SECRET.
- Your story must include the word SERENDIPITY