We held our breaths as we stood in the field.
A moment of agonizing silence, and then:
The explosion ripped through slate skies. The Marh’uil megalith shuddered. Above, its master engine, the Chromatic Eye, teetered. The grey and grim world around us flickered; color seeped through, flickered out again.
“Its shield is down! Now!”
I put my palm to the scanner of the Ark, our God-shattering light. A shining beam arched upward and into the distance. The Megalith shuddered in a larger explosion, then began a slow descent toward the horizon, black smoke trailing from its fragmented edges.
I collapsed into Alec’s arms. Our cheeks pressed together, his tears becoming my tears; his joy, mine.
Was it really over?
I trembled. What had we done? Could we keep our dying city together in this new world?
Cold fear lurched through my stomach.
Dozens of us stood on fields of brown grass beneath grey skies. And then color bled through, a sharp blue in the sky as the Chromatic Eye began to fail. Those around me cheered and cried. I stood still, terrified and transfixed.
Above the monolith, the Chromatic Eye cracked. Its pulsing, translucent sides buckled.
The air shuddered, and a burst of color flooded the world. The fields rippled from scorched brown to lush, green waves. The sky became a swirl of blues and soft pink. The power the Eye must have held to conceal this from us!
Wind caressed my face, tinged with acrid remnants of the past, but also with a new and unfamiliar sweetness. Arleth, older than most of us by twenty years, called the new scent ‘rose’ blossom. She lifted her dark face to the sky and smiled.
The monolith continued its slow descent, as though reluctant to relinquish its power.
Golden sun pierced through dissipating clouds, illuminating what remained of the glass and steel of the city. Ours, at last.
Beneath our feet, the ground trembled. The megalith, sky-borne for decades, finally collided with the earth. The black cloud of shattering metal and plasma, tinted with miasmatic green streaks, loomed above the spires of the city.
“I hope there’s nothing left of it,” Arleth said. She and other dissidents, which included many of the Marh’uil, stood upon rich, brown earth under a deep-green patch of trees.
Alec nodded. “We’re…”
He trailed off.
“Free,” I said, the word awkward on my tongue now that it had meaning.
I belonged to myself.
Hope struggled with anxiety; I feared the fragmented world we’d just inherited.
Another, smaller explosion. The Eye blew into resplendent shards. The sky was briefly aglow, as if studded with diamonds. And then the sun’s warm light hit my face.
It was over. But for our dead, and the destroyed minds of our elders who had first welcomed the Marh’uil and devoured the sweet promises of the Chromatic Eye, the world looked much the same as in my mist-laden childhood memories.
Together, we had done this. And if we had done something like this together, what was to stop us from doing more? From becoming more? In the city, the dead were still heaped piled by the hundreds, by the thousands. We had much to do.
Years of subsisting on the rats that came out at night to feed on the dead, of cold, bleak existence; of struggling to live and to resist and to dare to thrive. Years of hell ended now in smoke. This was but the first step.
I turned to Alec. “Our work isn’t done.”
“No,” he said, taking my face in his hands. “We’ve just started.”
I shook. “They could come back. Something could come back. Something could…”
“If they do,” he said, “We’ll destroy them again.” Alec brushed his lips against mine. His warmth coursed through me. Absent now was the dread that this embrace might be our last. He was right.
They might one day return. But we drove them off once and would do it again. We had no food, no direction, no plans. The world was terrifying, but we’d make it work. Because it was ours.
I looked at my palm, which had sent the light of the Ark into the megalith. I nodded. It had been the right thing.
The sound of crashing metal faded, leaving only the breeze and our own chatting, laughter, and relief. From the city, singing.
The world was ours. And what next?
If we could keep it.
Mathew L Reyes is a copy editor based in Minnesota. When not working as an editing gremlin, he’s jogging, writing, and killing his darlings at the advice of his writing group.