Oscar raises his eyes with one hand held at his brow to shield them. Written high on the weather-beaten panels of the fence are the words, ‘keep going’. Underneath the drips of paint creeping down from each letter, an arrow points north along the street. It asks those yearning for safety to wade into the broken asphalt, overgrown weeds, and sun-bleached bones of those didn’t survive the flood, or the monsters left behind once the water went away.
When Oscar closes his eyes, the girl’s face is as clear as a picture on the wall. Dark, wavy hair. Sad blue eyes. She holds a thin blanket tight to her chest. She only ever says one thing.
You have to keep going.
By going, she means follow the arrows. Continue north. It makes sense, as far as Oscar chooses to think on it. The water couldn’t have reached everywhere, especially higher elevations. That doesn’t mean he knows what to expect when he gets there.
A tremor rises through the soles of Oscar’s boots. He unhooks his thumbs from the straps of his backpack, spins away from the fence, and crouches down.
Oscar’s eyes dart left and right. He focuses on the beaten and rusted carcass of a sedan across the street. Keeping himself low, he scurries up behind the car, and slips into the open trunk. With the lid raised enough to allow a sliver of dull sunlight, he waits. The tremors grow, shaking the stale air of his sanctuary, until soon they are accompanied by snapping tree branches, and dust clouds kicked up by the commotion.
A column drops from the sky, crushing the heaving asphalt next to the car. Draped in grey, wrinkled skin, three jagged claws splay out of the front, and one longer sticks out from the back. The impact lifts the wreckage off the ground for a split second. Oscar sprawls inside, and the trunk lid cracks the top of his head as it falls.
A shadow speeds across Oscar’s hiding spot as the opposite leg trails forward and hammers into the ground far past the street. High above, the shape of the body blurs as it passes along the halo edge of the sun. Oscar calls them Stilts, or Tall Boys. Harmless mostly. Unless they step on you.
Greater distance is achieved with each successive stride, until the creature is neither seen, nor heard. Oscar eases the trunk up and sneaks a glance over the edge. As confident as he can be that the coast is clear, he swings a leg out and stands. Watching along the street behind him, Oscar points in the direction of the arrow on the fence and runs.
Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash