It was that locket, that goddamn heart-shaped locket that caused this. We were safe, well, as safe as you can be in this hellish wasteland. We survived the pandemic where millions did not. We survived the post-pan wars that happened, the Chinese invasion, the nuclear disasters, the desert marauders.
We lost our daughter early in the pandemic, before the disease had mostly consumed the bodies of the weak and vulnerable, she was only 4 years old. She was so beautiful and innocent, even at the end when she could not fully understand what was happening to her. After that, we gathered what we could, including the locket that was a gift from my grandmother to our daughter. A locket that my great-grandmother gave to my grandmother in the Auschwitz death camp just before she was pulled away to be murdered.
It was a cold day when the troubles began. We had been living in an old house just north of the desert. A house that had fireplaces for warmth and a cool, dry basement for food storage. The daily routine was safe and predictable, hunt in the morning, work the farm, eat, sleep, repeat. It wasn’t quite living, but we were alive, alive in the hopes that the world may somehow find its way and the hope that we might start a family again.
It was dusk when we spotted them about 2 miles out, one of the wretched post-military gangs looking for supplies and slaves, probably a faction of the desert marauders we had eluded over the years. I knew we could not stay, too much open space between us and them and too little time to hide in the house.
It was a good run here, a really good one, but we had no choice but to flee. Take what we could carry easily and find a new place, perhaps a new community. This is what we did and within 15 minutes, we were on our way. We moved fast into the mountains and briefly stopped to take stock of what we needed to do. It was then, right there and then, that she noticed the locket was missing, the damn locket that had so much meaning and carried so much love, was missing!!
I said, beyond better judgement, that I would work my way back as far as I could and see if I could find it. It was the last link to our daughter, the last link to my family’s legacy.
I followed the path back, moving quietly and slowly and I found it, in a shrub off the path, I found the locket.
I picked it up and started back to her. I had just about got there when a beam of light crossed my path and reflected off the locket that was hanging from my belt. That was when the gun fire erupted in my direction. I ran. I made it to where she was and the gun fire stopped, they must have assumed I was dead or perhaps the reflection was an animal or some inanimate object.
I saw her laying on the ground, blood pooling, a stray bullet had cut her down and she was gone.
The locket, in my attempt to save our memories, instead became a catalyst to kill our present.
As I opened the locket and stared at the pills inside, I wondered will there ever be hope and peace, should I just close my eyes on this life, I do not know. I put the locket around my neck almost like an albatross, a curse, but also a reminder of love and life.