After the World Froze Over
The old woman slowly closed the leather-bound book, sadness lurking in her eyes. The child could see it and took her hand.
“I’m sorry if that upset you, Grandmother,” he murmured. “I don’t remember it going quite like that.”
“I may have left out some details,” the old woman admitted, smiling faintly. “When you were younger. Our history…isn’t a pleasant one.”
The child took the book and flipped through some of the pages. “This didn’t sound like poetry someone evil would write,” he said.
“He certainly made no effort to change,” the grandmother remarked wryly. “He is considered one of the worst villains in history, my dear. It’s no point trying to understand people like that, or their motivations.”
The child shrugged. “I don’t know,” he mused, doubtful. “Maybe he did want to change, he just didn’t know how.”
“So what happened? After…after he died?”
“Exactly what the Assembly had planned,” the old woman said, regret heavy in her voice. “They killed many after that, and it changed nothing. It didn’t even satisfy the hunger in their hearts. We still don’t know why the sun died. Soon after the war, it abandoned Sviros, and the world froze over. Few survived. Those who did went underground. My mother was one of them.”
“How did we get this?” the child asked, holding up the book.
“My mother found it,” the grandmother told him. “By the stone, soon after he killed himself. She kept it with her until she died, and now I have it. It is the only piece of history we have written.”
“Why did she keep it?”
“She knew him,” said the old woman. The child waited for her to elaborate, but she remained silent.
“Grandmother,” the child said after a long silence. “What’s going to happen to us?”
The old woman’s forehead creased with sorrow. She took the child’s head in her hand, stroking his hair. “I don’t know,” she murmured. “I’m sorry, dear. I really don’t know. We are the last ones here, here in this world of ice and darkness.” She took a deep breath. “But at least we’re together, aren’t we?”
The child nodded but didn’t smile. Noticing his doubt, the old woman turned him to look into her eyes.
“Listen to me,” she said. “There’s something my mother used to tell me, and I want to tell it to you now. Tomorrow is never a mystery. It’s always a promise. It isn’t until it’s yesterday that it turns from unknown to unknowable.”
She smiled, and the child smiled with her. “It’s okay to be worried, or scared,” she assured him. “But we need to try to do our best and enjoy what we have.”
“What if something happens to us? What will happen to Dele, if nobody is here?”
The grandmother looked thoughtful. “We need to remember,” she decided finally. “We need to remember where we come from and what happened here, and if someday we discover we are not the only ones left, we won’t repeat the same mistakes again.”
She took the child’s face in her hands. “You are my hope,” she whispered in the dark. “I want this world to be better for you. I can’t make any promises. But I will do my very best. We will survive.”
The child nodded, then opened the book again and began looking through it. Then he spoke. “Grandmother,” he said. “There’s another page you forgot to read.”
The old woman gently took the book from his hands, frowning. He watched her face as the three words crawled beneath her eyes.
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