january 1st, 2021
“Don’t talk to me, don’t look at me, and put that damned light out!”
Amaud flailed about in the sand, using one arm to shield his face and the other to fight off his imagined attackers.
“That light,” Tibb said, “is the sun.”
Tibb pulled his brother to his feet and wiped some of the sand from his face.
Mil finished folding up her tent with a groan. “So, I take it the glorious chosen one had too much to drink again?”
“Nonsense,” Amaud said, pushing away from Tibb. “You two woke me up early is all.”
Mil peeked over at the moth’s long shadow, encroaching on the dunes from beyond the horizon.
“Looks about… two hours past noon, now,” she said, packing up the last of her things. Even with such meager supplies, their campsites always ended up feeling so cluttered when it was time to pack up.
Tibb poured out a waterskin onto Amaud’s head. “I’d like to get to the next town before my skin blisters any further, if you don’t mind,” he said. “We’ve still got a long ride to go before we reach the teardrop’s edge.”
Mil looked again to the horizon. In the distance, she thought she could see the faintest hint of green; a sign that the next teardrop was close. She tied her bags to her wooloth’s saddle and climbed into her seat. Below, Tibb was helping Amaud onto his own fluffy mount.
As the trio rode off, Mil and Tibb slowly allowed themselves to fall behind Amaud.
“You can’t do everything for him, you know,” Mil said.
“He’s my brother,” Tibb replied with a thin smile. “I’d do anything for him.”
Mil shrugged. “I guess I just hope he feels the same way.”
Tibb’s smile faded as he gazed forward at his older brother.
“He does, I think,” he finally said. “I’d trust him with my life.”
“We’ll probably have to,” Mil said, “sooner or later.”
Ahead, a woozy Amaud slipped off of his wooloth into the sand and shouted a curse at the creature. Mil and Tibb shared a look, and burst out into laughter.
“Our greatest hope,” Mil said.
“He’s gonna save the world,” Tibb agreed. The younger boy slid down off his own mount and ran ahead to help Amaud back up. Mil watched the two with an ache in her heart.
What would you have been like, she wondered, if you had survived? Would you look up to me like that? She closed her eyes and saw the faintest flash of fire, heard the distant echo of a scream. She shook the memories off and stared straight ahead. Towards the horizon. Towards the moth.