Rain again, pouring from the dull, dark sky and into the shogun's capital. A hot, relentless rain that fills the summer air with shouts as people hurry about their business.
It smells, Hatsuharu thinks, like sweat and desperation. He is sitting beneath the awning of his small shop in the city's southern quarter, watching as the downpour churns the street until all the world is rain and mud.
He puts one hand beneath the folds of his robe to scratch idly at his stomach, wondering if he ought to put the thought to paper with one of his special brushes. Better not—business has been slow of late, and an illustrated epigram of weather like this will only make it worse.
When the crack of thunder ripped us from sleep, our eyes scanned the darkness for one thing—the green light over our doorway. Ten breaths exhaled at once, as if we were a single organism. Lightning had not ignited a fire—at least not yet.
“Who’s in the watchtower tonight?” Bristlecone whispered from the top bunk, her voice sinking through the humid air.
Dad, I thought to my father. The smoke is too thick. I can’t breathe. I looked up at him, and he looked down at me. His soft amber eyes glistened with tears and sorrow.
I know, Dad thought to me as he laid his snout on mine. My body glowed with the knowledge that he would protect me.
Every night we wait for the drones overhead to spill our allotted water rations. I’ve never gotten used to the whirring sound—and that smell, nearly sour, the way it coats the air. Turns it artificial. For most of who’s left, it’s all they’ve known.
The kids are already racing outside with their mouths open, waiting for the pour. I remember as a boy, before the machines, playing in puddles that lasted all night, floods rushing the ground till morning. It rained for days, dragging cars away, the water reflecting our nervous faces back at us when we looked over the porch.
Mama didn’t weep when the world Dried Up. When the smoke choked the sun. When the sky turned orange. When the birds died mid-flight. Mama didn’t weep when the world Dried Up.
But she’s weeping now.
Her parched eyes can’t spare the tears as she howls curses to the sky, her bloody fingers clawing at the roots around my legs.
I met you in London last July, on the hottest day ever recorded, during the last two weeks of my research fellowship at the Cambridge University archives. The vaults and reading rooms were quiet and cool, so like all the other fellows, I stayed until the very last minute they were open. Nowhere else in the city had such dependable air conditioning.
Rayla discovered the jacket in the back of a Salvation Army sale. Its camo green had faded to a dingy brown. Good enough for 50 cents. She tried it on, shoving her gloved hands into the pockets.
She touched someone’s fingers.
We are one and we are many. We are shrubby willow and cotton-grass; we are moss and heather. All we need is this peaceful state of being. Enjoy the sun, listen to the birds, drink the mist. But there’s a new voice among us, and she won’t let us rest.
Night and day, she whispers about a man in town.
Ainsley Miller flips the vanity mirror open in her pristine, bulbous vehicle. She’s been parked out front of a nondescript apartment in a rundown Westside neighborhood, trying to psych herself up for what’s to come. A thin mist coats her windshield, each raindrop a sphere of flaring purple sunset in the distance.
It’s just a job, she tells herself, staring out at the world, the tension so thick it buzzes throughout the entire dusty suburban beach town.
Harmony wouldn't have trusted herself to maneuver her Lectra-Van up to the camp toilet without autopilot, but it was as though the van saw the toilet and, realizing that the driver was stopping for the night, wiggled in on its own. The hatch dropped and unsealed the sphincter gasket, and just like that, they were connected to the camp’s plumbing.