Grandpa John said nothing. Instead, he turned his back on the city and sat down with his back against the railing, letting his cane drop across his lap. He put the binoculars on the ground.
The wind was cold and blew like winter against my face. I blinked and wiped tears from my eyes that made the city clearer. We were so high up. I could see where all the towers were, and where they weren’t no more, just dust piles and metal ribs snapped like bone.
“It’s scary, Grandpa. I don’t want this to be our new home.”
Marcus was just down the way, looking out at the city. “Any sign?” he said.
“I’m cold,” I said.
“Here,” said Grandpa John, wrapping an arm around me and pulling me in close. “No, Lia. This is not our new home.”
“Oh good,” I said, shivering against his side.
“John?” Marcus walked past to the other side. His boots left prints in the dust and kicked some up. Even all the way up here.
“Look left, towards the harbor.”
I stretched my legs and painted patterns in the dust with my heels.
Marcus returned and sat down next to us. “Guess that’s that then.”
“I’m hungry,” I said.
“In your bag, hon,” said Grandpa John.
I rummaged around and found some crackers. While I sat there eating, I got one of my new books and went through it. There were photos in it of people standing in crowds in stadiums; walking with protest signs down roads that were gone now; waiting for cars to stop so they could walk to the other side of the road – the people inside talking and eating and drinking. “What’s this, Grandpa?”
“They were for letting people know when they could walk, and for stopping cars. Traffic lights.”
“How was there enough food for everyone?”
“There wasn’t,” said Marcus. “Not really.”
“People got what they needed,” said Grandpa John. He turned the page of the book. “It wasn’t all dust and drought. These lands,” he pointed to photos in the book that were so bright they stung. “We could grow what we needed.”
“It’s so green.”
“Sometimes I think it a blessing that you’re of the new generation. You can’t know what you’ve lost. Little Lia, I’m so sorry. Sorry for all this and sorry that you’ll never know. It’s not right, this world, for children.”
My Grandpa looked sad. His cheek was wet and salty when I kissed them. “Don’t be sad.”
He smiled and stood, using his cane to push himself up. Pointing to the left, he said “Look,” shaking his head. “What goddamned world are you inheriting?” He only ever swore when he was really angry.
“Hey, John. Don’t scare her.”
“We traipse over half the country just to find…” he raised his cane, and I think, if not for Marcus, he would have smashed it against the rail. But Marcus was there to put his arm on Grandpa John’s shoulder, as I backed off towards the staircase.
“We keep searching. That’s all we can do,” said Marcus. “Or we join them.”
“NO!” Grandpa John turned, yanking his arm from Marcus’s grip, and came towards me.
Marcus picked me up and I put my arms around him, burying my head in his neck. He stood there, watching Grandpa John limp to the open stairwell.
My heart was beating and I was trying not to cry, which was always hard with the sun shining bright, and with the wind blowing. I needed my bandana and glasses, but they were in my bag. I hadn’t worn them for 2 days, ever since we got into this building and started to walk up the steps.
I could feel Marcus give me a squeeze and I didn’t feel as bad. Instead I stared at the yellow buildings that were left, all the windows empty, and the ones really far down had holes in their roofs where something had fallen through. Nothing moved and the only sound was the wind and the click of Grandpa’s cane. In the distance, the barrens trembled like water.
To the left, smoke rose in straight lines but disappeared, as though they were ghosts, but I could just make out fire on the ground. There was a whole area with brown tents that were really, really small, and a wall that was also really small, but I think if we were down there it would have been really big. Maybe as big as a building. I couldn’t be sure, but I think there were people moving around down there.