His mind was thick and slowed by the all-encompassing qualities of a rare deep sleep, and even as his conscious mind reached back for the safety of slumber once again, he knew wakefulness was at hand. Damn. Someone had gently placed their hands on his chest and was rocking him. It was Elizabeth; he knew this before his eyes ever opened. There was something about her, perhaps a scent that David's subconscious recognized, which made her presence obvious to him. Her words softly called out to him to pull him from sleep, "Father. Father."
Soft, yet also brimming with urgency.
David opened his eyes, realized they were full of tears, and dragged the back of his hand over them. He blinked them clear and looked up at Elizabeth, who crouched above him with her hands reaching out to help him to his feet, which David accepted. His back and tailbone creaked in protest from being forced to sleep on the ground, and the rest of his body popped loudly when he stretched. He groaned, "I'm getting too old for this."
A look of concern crossed Elizabeth's face. She assessed her father's prematurely aging body with a scowl and said, "Don't say that. I'd prefer to see you grow to a ripe old age."
David internally cursed his willful mouth. Sometimes he forgot just how young Elizabeth was, and just how alone they all were in this dark new world. He smiled and tousled her long, blonde ringlets and apologized, "And I would like to live long enough to see your children grow to old age as well."
Elizabeth's look of concern was replaced with one of complacency; her eyes softened a bit in the grimy black filth of the atmosphere. Of his two children, Elizabeth had always been the sensitive one: quiet and patient, willing to let the more adventurous Jaqueline take charge of the situation. And my, how Jaqueline could take charge!
David allowed his eyes to look into the past for a moment too long, and Elizabeth caught it. She tenderly touched his shoulder and tilted her head slightly, "I miss her too. Miss them both."
How could this being standing before him possess such an ancient soul? He remembered the night she was born, her first tooth, and her fifth birthday party, when she had hugged him in front of all her friends and told him she loved him. Memories of his family that every father holds sacred. Seemed like just yesterday.
Images from a different life.
"It was a long time ago," he relied huskily, "what was so important that you had to wake me?"
Elizabeth nodded to the wall behind him, where his rifle was propped, "Bring your gun."