Crimp had watched the red sky go dim over the years. He didn’t notice it when he was a small child, but as time went on, he grew suspicious of why each day his shadow seemed to slowly disappear. He wondered why no one ever spoke of the shadows that would disappear, or of the sky which had once been brilliant but had now changed to a sickly shade of red. He had glimpses of the old sky- a bright burst of crimson with clouds that tumbled over the mountains like sand that blew over the rocks on a windy day.
The bright light in the sky with the smoking tail was not what Crimp noticed first. While other’s looked to the sky and saw the glaring radiance, Crimp was amazed by the sudden appearance of a darkened etch on the ground that seemed to follow his feet. A sight he had not seen in many years made him let out a sudden gasp- his shadow.
“My shadow, my shadow!” He shrieked out. None of his kin seemed to share his excitement in the matter. Crimp looked over at Wrench- who was looking upward in a gapping awe. Crimp followed Wrenches line of sight upward.
All of Crimps attention and ecstasy died when he saw the light in the sky that has caused his shadow to appear. His face matched Wrenches as the light fell downward beyond the Forbidden Waste, disappearing over jagged peaks somewhere into the distance.
Crimp looked around him. Everyone in the family had watched and saw what Wrench and him saw. Crimps father, Boost dropped the cloth that he held in his rough white hands and swayed back and forth while muttering words underneath his breath. Gear held Little Nut closely to her side as the small child screamed at the sight of the light. Old Ma’am held her paper thin hands in the air and chanted loudly, a large grin overtaking her frail white face.
“A sign!” Old Ma’am called out, her voice crackling with laughter. “A star has fallen from the sky! It is a sign! A sign!” She fell to the sand beneath her feet and started to rise fall rapidly, bowing down to the light that disappeared.
Boost ran over to Old Ma’am and joined her in her rigorous prayer. They had always been the ones who believed that a sign would show. Old Ma’am had ingrained it in the family’s minds like an infection. “One day, our time in the red sands will come to an end, and we shall venture through the Forbidden Waste!” She had said.
Crimp had always found Old Ma’am’s prayers and incantations hard to believe. Her mind had diminished over the years, and anything that she said should not be taken with certainty. Of course, that did not stop Boost from being loyal to her. He was always the most loyal.
Gear had now joined the two in their flailing of arms, forcing Little Nut to fall to the ground as she cried.
Crimp caught the milky eye of Old Ma’am. She thrust her arms out toward him like she was about to catch a rock. Her drooping breasts shook. “Come, Crimp and Wrench!” Old Ma’am cried to them. “We must pray to the red sun that has brought us this gift!”
Wrench moved toward Old Ma’am, looking at Crimp with a quiet uncertainty. Crimp left the dazed wonder of his head that had watched the light and shoved Wrench forward toward the rest of the family. “Then we will pray, Old Ma’am.” Crimp said. “And let the red sun gift us with our shadows!”
And soon, all six members of the family prayed.
Hours later, they all laid upon the moonlit sand, sleeping from the exhaustion of their ritual. They would leave for the star when the red sun rose, Old Ma’am had said, and they would find the star and make it theirs.
Dawn crept over the red sands with ease. The hazing red sun dipped into their eyes, calling the signal for a new day. Old Ma’am awoke first, gathering the few supplies they had in the first place. A few canteens, cloths, a metal walking stick that twisted and gnarled like it had been thrown around in an avalanche.
Old Ma’am poked each member of the family with the metal, saying their names in turn. “We must go now,” she whispered. “There will be others hunting for the light, it was foolish for us to leave the red sun waiting.” She poked Crimp from his slumber like a poacher to a dead animal.
Crimp turned over, sand caked against his face. Old Ma’am stood over him, her wrinkled hands latched to the twisted metal like a leach. Crimp had never seen Old Ma’am go anywhere without the shining piece of metal. Since he had been born, its presence had followed the family like a pet.
“How do you know others will be looking for it?” Crimp said as he stretched his arms up and brushed his dusted face.
Old Ma’am let out a snickering laugh. “Do you think we are the only ones who wish to hunt down the light and take in the gift of the Red Sun? For all we know others could have found it all ready.” She whirled around and walked away.
Crimp turned to Wrench who sat in sand next to him. “I am worried about going into the Forbidden Waste,” Crimp said quietly. “Boost has told us the stories of that place. Giant metal beasts that walk along the sand, with eyes a bright and shining blue.” Crimp had only seen the color blue in the eyes of Old Ma’am. Her glazed eyes had the distinct hue each time they darted around, as if in conquest for an unseen foe. Crimp had never liked the color of blue because of that.
Wrench smiled, his worn yellow teeth spreading across his face. “Don’t worry, brother,” Wrench patted Crimp on the back softly. “Old Ma’am sees through the red sands and speaks with the Red Sun! Our days in the desert will soon come to an end- Old Ma’am says that the Red Sun says so.”
The validity of the Red Sun had always nudged in Crimps mind. Yes, he saw the circle of fire that hung in the sky over them; but he did not see how such a thing could possibly speak to Old Ma’am. And of all of the people in the family, why Old Ma’am? She could barely see. The wondering never ceased inside of Crimp.
“You should not question and fear, Crimp.” Crimp followed the sound of the voice. Boost stood above him, his muscular physique set like a statue. “Fear is the way of the heat, and the heat of the red sands does not forgive those who question its power.” Boost put out his hand toward Crimp, who was still on the ground. Crimp took it and lifted himself.
“I don’t question, Father.” Crimp glanced over at the small body of Little Nut, who giggled with glee as Gear poked her small button nose. “But I fear. I fear for Little Nut. Going through the red sands could kill us all, and if that doesn’t kill us, then what about the others who walk the sands?”
“The red sands only take the weak,” Boost said. “We have prevailed since before you were born, and we will continue to prevail.”
“A child is not weak?”
“A child is only as weak at its family is.” Boost patted Crimp on the shoulder. “Today we will not be weak, so that Little Nut is not.”
The cracking voice of Old Ma’am sounded from atop a dune. “We must leave, or we will not reach the light in time.”
Little Nut waddled up the sand toward Old Ma’am, Gear close behind, their white skin sticking out of the redness like a sore thumb. Crimp watched the small child solemnly. Little Nut had been a curse and a grace to the family- a token of the red suns fortune of fertility, yet a bad omen of another mouth to feed.
Boost and Wrench treaded up the sand toward Old Ma’am as well, crawling like a four legged creature. Wrench turned back and saw Crimp, who continued to stand watching. “Come brother!” He yelled.
Brought back from his daze, Crimp followed them upward.
Atop the dune, the landscape of the red desert laid out like a sea of blood, its formidable vastness encompassed with a hazy sun that never truly hit the ground. Each dune spread out, tangential lines making up small crevasses between one another.
Old Ma’am pointed toward a rocky slope in the distance. “We will take shelter upon the rocks, we should reach them before nightfall.”
Crimp followed her line of sight and gazed toward the rocks. With Old Ma’am, it will take longer than nightfall to reach them. he thought. Old Ma’am was strong for her age, but Crimp could not see her succeeding in crossing the desert.
“And what of others?” Gear said, holding tightly to Little Nut.
“We must sneak,” Old Ma’am said. “After we leave these sands, we must stay below them and do our best not to climb over them.”
Crimp thought again on the time it would take. It will surely take longer if we do not climb over them. “How will we reach the rocks before nightfall of we are going to walk in the valley of the sands instead of over them?”
Old Ma’am and Boost looked at him steadily, their eyes unfazed. “Would you rather have your entrails ripped from your body?” Old Ma’am’s face twisted as she spoke. “Well?” she snapped.
“N-no…” Crimp stuttered. “I just…”
Old Ma’am turned to Boost. “Have you taught this boy nothing? He questions my words like a mind questions how many grains of sand are in the desert!” Her mouth dribbled as if to form more words, but stopped.
Boost protracted from Old Ma’am. “Must we argue?” His voice resonated with a sense of being controlled by the old woman.
Without a word, Old Ma’am slid down the slope, waves of sand poised downward to her.
The eyes of Boost darted toward Crimp, looking morbidly at the features of his sons face. Boost walked out onto the slope in pursuit of Old Ma’am. The family followed.
Born into the heat of the red waste, the family had grown accustomed to its penetrating slaps. Even Little Nut, whose small head dripped with sweat, payed no heed to the baking sun. It is best to ignore what cannot be changed. Crimp had been told when he was younger. He had complained many times in the past, withered in agony even. But Little Nut never complained, she only laughed or was silent.
They walked briskly across the sands, questing for the light that fell from the sky. To the surprise of Crimp, Old Ma’am was consistently in the front, wheezing and panting as her metal rod made click-click-click sounds as she walked.
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