"How do you be brave?" Ancient eyes looked up at me, and I could not answer.
His small question sent me spiraling into this mission. I went to the back porch, laced up my boots, and walked down the road.
Our town lay in a red wasteland, purple when the sun was setting. Films lit up the sides of buildings most nights. Black and white and crackly. We gathered silently in clouds of smoke to watch the old movements play out over and over again. The man in charge had found them in the shed of a dead woman's yard and brought them out when the nights grew warm. A dim form of happiness, but that's what we had.
The ground curled up around me as I lay awake. I was alone with the howling dogs and the dust. My stomach clenched with fear and my eyes plastered open. "How do you be brave?"
I was not a man who spent time with courage. I kept my head down when children disappeared and the man in charge called for volunteers to search the wilderness. Rats kept at my heels and drove me home to my small cabin at the edge of town. I remained there. Alone when the last of my family settled into the ground.
The howling abruptly silenced, and the greyness began to rise. A boy with blue eyes lapped to the edge of my mind. His sister had gone into the red sands earlier that year, chasing a vision as they sometimes do. I had seen her go past my window, struck with speed and beyond-sight. I rushed out, but she had vanished. If I had called to her, said some word, she could have heard and turned back. But silence was my curse. I could not help her.
Two days ago, her brother had rushed away. It was something that affected them, some light or being they saw that no one else could. It had a sound, a persuasion, and the swiftness that carried their feet away was unnatural. But the blue-eyed boy was not carried away. He went into the wilderness to search for his sister.
"How do you be brave?" I stood up, brushed off a salamander curled around my ankle, and silently went on my way.