The teenager carried the man for many blocks, past broken displays and sidewalks covered with Hott-TottsTogs, past burnt down Hundred-Dollar stores and peeling posters of succulent ChickieNobs. The feral pigs - the pigoons - called to each other, circled them, cutting them off from escaping the pleeblands.
The pair was left with no choice but to enter a rundown hotel and find their way to the top floor. In the first room unspoiled by human remains, the teenager lowered the man onto the bed and barricaded the door.
'What year are we in?' the man asked with a whimper. The bandages wrapped around his eyes were stained red, like a child's idea of where two eyes should be on a face. His skin was hot to the touch. The teenager doubted the faucets in the bathroom would give him the water they needed.
'2114,' the teenager said because that's what he had seen on the hotel room's door.
The teenager scanned the pleebland's skyline, a hand lifted against the sinking sun. Shocking pink butterflies played against the sunset, flying over the deserted buildings. Wings so large and translucent, when they moved it was as if time had slowed down. He tried to calculate how long it would take them to reach the woods beyond the shacks, and how they would deal with the liobams and wolvogs they were sure to encounter there. Perhaps even Painballers.
The man on the bed fell into a troubled sleep and then, an hour later, suddenly woke with a start: 'what is it? What can you see?'
'It's evening now,' the teenager said reassuringly. He'd stood by the window the whole time, keeping an eye out for any signs of life in the pleebland-other than the pigoons. 'A strange scene is taking place across the way from us, on a building not too far. A group of people have gathered on the building's roof. Other survivors.'
'What are they doing?' the man on the bed asked. He shivered slightly though he was tucked under the bed's HighHugFiber duvet.
The teenager looked at the empty roofs, the knocked-over lounge chairs and flowerpots, the swampy paddle pools. It was like the stage set for a reality show, except no participants would walk in and play.
'They have flowers in their hair... they are setting a long table, with candles inside glass jars and white plates. Now, one by one, they have begun to form a circle. They are holding hands and singing-'
The only sound the teenager could actually hear was squealing down one of the alleys. The pleeblands were otherwise silent.
'I wish I could hear the song,' the man said.
'They are now breaking their circle for a young couple to join them,' the teenager continued, surprised at how the lying came easy. 'Oh, wait - they've lit a bonfire at the centre of their circle!'
The man tried to push himself up on the bed. The teenager went to him and gently pressed him down.
'Tell me what they are doing now,' he asked once he'd calmed down, holding the teenager's wrist.
'The couple have jumped over the fire and embraced each other. The group are now cheering and clapping. It's the end of the ceremony - whatever it was. The couple have placed garlands on each other's heads and they are now sitting down to eat.'
The teenager regretted mentioning food as soon as it was out of his mouth.
They'd promised each other they wouldn't mention it, ever. They now lived with constant stomach cramps, down to the last packs of powder soups the teenager carried for them in a backpack.
He lay down beside the man for warmth once the sun finally set. The man whispered: 'don't you want to join them?'
The teenager looked at him but said nothing. The hard lines around the man's mouth soon relaxed and he was once again asleep. The teenager resisted sleep, replaying in his mind the story of the wedding on the roof, one of his mother's favourite tales. Those were the people, his mother always told him, who would survive the Waterless Flood.
That's what they call it, she'd say. The Waterless Flood, the end of times.
YOU ARE READING
Orion is a speculative story divided into four parts, based on Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy. It's the first MaddAddam fanfic on Wattpad but hopefully not the last. The story was originally created for Future Library's Dear 2114 writing contes...