12:27 PM

Stephen

**NOTE** the story is divided up on where the point of view switches. hence the title. guess whose point of view it is.

The smell of smoke and burning flesh woke me. Instantly on guard, I opened my eyes and took in my bearings. Red, orange, grey, black. I closed my eyes again, hoping that it was a dream, but I knew that the smells were not a product of my imagination. Warily, I opened my eyes and looked around. I’d chosen to sleep in the trees on the outskirts of town that night; I’d gotten into a fight with my parents. It may well have saved my life.
I could see clear to the other side of town…what was left of it. Our wood buildings had burned easily, with its inhabitants burning just as well. A few small flames poked up from the mess here and there, consuming whatever flammable things that had survived the initial inferno. Something moved, and instantly I tensed, ready to run. What if it was the person (or thing?) that had destroyed my home? What if…what if…
As my imagination ran unchecked, the object of my speculations raised its head towards me. A chill ran through me as I realized that it was my little sister. She was badly burned, but still alive, perhaps the only survivor other than myself.
“Stephen!” She cried out. Immediately, I hopped down from the trees (why hadn’t they burned?) and ran to where my ten-year-old sister lay, careful to avoid any small flames. “Stephen!” She cried. “There were all these flames, and suddenly our house was falling. I tried to call ma and pa, but...but they…they…” she trailed off. I knelt next to her. “They didn’t wake up.” She whispered. “And there was this girl, she…she was just standing there, wearing this crown, watching. And in her hand was…” She struggled to speak. “In her hand was…”
My sister gasped her last breath in front of me.
At first, all I could hear was the crackling of the remaining flames. I stared at my sister, uncomprehending. A dull roar slowly began to drown out everything else. Slowly, I stood up and looked around. Blackened wood lay strewn everywhere, sometimes concealing the burned dead bodies of the families that had once lived in the small town that now lay in ruins. My mind wouldn’t accept it. I was the sole survivor. The last one.
I had to get to the East town. Who knows, whoever or whatever had destroyed my town would try to take on the larger, more populated East town. I spotted my bonehandle knife among the wreckage and managed to remove it without getting burned. Its handle was a little blackened, but that was fine. I started to leave, but stopped and turned around.
My little sister stared at me unseeingly. She was badly burned, burned to the bone in some places. I could not find our parents among the fallen timber. I’d have to bury her alone.
As gently as I could, I extracted her body from the debris and carried her with me as I walked southwest towards my destination.

Animals slowly began to appear as I entered the forest. Birds, snakes, small rodents, wolves… The predatory birds, the snakes, and the wolves made no move to attack the rodents. When I was here, they coexisted in peace. Far off in the distance to my right, a great mountain rose up, the heart of the island. The towering rock was my guide as I lost sight of the carnage behind me.
I’d almost forgotten what I was going to do with my sister when I came upon a small clearing in the trees. Free of roots, the little clearing was only about as long as I was tall, and half as wide as it was long. Perfect for burying a body.
My companions left me, and I began to dig. Only the wolf stayed to aid me. My stomach complained from a lack of breakfast or lunch, but I stubbornly kept going. Golden sunlight filtered down through the trees, dappling the ground as I labored to dig a trench for my sister. For what seemed to be the longest time, I worked to create a proper burial for her.
Finally, when the sun was close to setting, I lay my sister in the trench I’d dug, murmured a few prayers, and began to push dirt into the trench. My companion had long since left to hunt, but to my surprise, came back with a rabbit. Once we’d buried the body, I sat down, exhausted. I was too tired to even eat. Gradually, I slipped away, into a dream world where the town was still perfect, that of yesterday.


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