When Jayden's father dies, Jayden is left in the world alone... or is he?
Beneath a tumultuous ochre sky laid crumbled grey rock barely supporting the shattered remnants of vibrant glass. The grandiose structure stood part destroyed and allowing the invasive sun to kiss the room that had once been immersed in a sombre half-light. Impressive metal gates and battered aspen doors remained locked loosely but gaping fissures in the old walls gave passage to visitors. Half rotten wooden benches laid either pushed against the damaged walls or in pieces across the floor.
Jayden’s footsteps echoed amongst the broken pews; glass crunched lightly beneath each step.
At the core of the building, the spire still stood erect. Huge, still complete, stained glass windows arced at the very end of the half church. Debris and burnt orange dust settled on top of dark grey stone slabs, Jayden’s feet kicking small clouds up as he slowly made his way through the church.
The air was mainly still and deeply dry. Lingering in small pockets of air, intense odours crept into Jayden’s nostrils. The smell lingered in his memory. The place smelt of death.
His large body slumped slightly as he walked, his shoulders hunched over and his arms wrapped up and around a limp body. His hands were huge and tremulous, his fingers curled in around the edges of the lifeless mass.
Jayden was clothed in torn, earthy coloured rags and second-hand jumpers. Congealed into the fibres of his left sleeve were stains that were so dark they almost were no longer crimson. His trainers were caked in thick, desert-dry dust; his laces were pieces of brown string.
Jayden’s eyes glimmered in a deep and fierce cerulean. Flaking, dry skin framed his striking eyes. The parts of his body showing looked like patchwork – crisp and toned tan, pink skin and pale peeling flesh where he had become dried out and burnt raw in the sun.
In the centre of the room stood a wide marble block. As Jayden approached it, his dead father in his arms, his voice cracked and let out an involuntary, alien sound.
With his father placed on the large Altar, hand laying limp over the edge, Jayden fell to his knees and collapsed against the side of the bright, broken marble block. Parched and starving, tears wouldn’t even form in his eye ducts although they were screaming to come. With nowhere to go and no one to go to, Jayden was lost.
Slowly, Jayden unzipped his coat to reach into his inner pocket, his sore, bloody hand searing with pain as the bare flesh on the back of it brushed the silky lining of his tattered jacket. From within he withdrew a silver ‘Jack Daniels’ hip flask and with trembling movements he gradually lifted the flask to his pleading mouth where his tongue begged for a dousing. Few droplets emerged but when they did they felt like a heavenly monsoon had bombarded his mouth in an armada of glorious moisture.
Refreshed by the small dose of liquid, Jayden reached up to hold his father’s hand. He could feel his callous fingers, dryer and flakier than his own. In the centre of his palm, Jayden felt slight indentations, marks in his skin. As he looked around to see what he had felt, his expression changed. He had seen the mark many times before. It was the mark of those that had survived Red December. Jayden was too young when it happened, he didn’t bear the mark. But for the first time Jayden saw something new in the symbol.
The scarring on his fathers hands was in the sign of a cross, with the vertical axis stretching further to the south. Above the cross was a circular mark with four lines streaming down over the cross, as if to denote the sun’s light. Now as Jayden looked up in the husk of the colossal building he saw the cross again, with the model of a man nailed to it, a circle above his head.
Jayden had never left the Endlands; he had been told this was the least affected place. No one ever seemed to know exactly what had happened at Red December but they had told him stories of how the world was before it happened - great bodies of water spreading out for thousands and thousands of miles on end, massive cities full of people further to the north.
Jayden got to his feet and feebly tried to brush dust off his clothes. He turned to see his father, his frail body lying haphazardly across the altar. Jayden spent a moment positioning his father’s body more respectfully, kissed him on the forehead, told him that he loved him and said goodbye.