The Lost & The Lost
To lose one’s faith was to lose faith in oneself. Until that first tick-tock, I had lost faith, all faith, instead, replacing it with something only the lost could comprehend. I was lost for too long but would find myself again.
She rose from her bed of rose petals and lavender like a real woman should. If I’d hoped those luxurious scents would mask her own of tin and oil, rust and glue, they did not, but I’d tried. Alathea — the name I’d given her after a dream or captured moment or a whim — blinked metal eyelids and smiled her tinplate smile of prefabricated teeth. Her claret lips, painted from wine mixed with glue, glistened in the glare from my skylight and with it my faith in abilities I’d stayed behind to prove returned.
“Hello,” she said, clipped but correct.
“A-La-Thee-Ah,” she repeated as if a test. “Are you my father?”
“Something like that,” I replied, as she spun around and hopped off the bed in a crunch of broken floorboards.
Like a moth to the flame, she bolted straight for the wide-open door of my penthouse apartment, or excuse for one, her unbending legs swinging in turn like a Cambridge oarsman at full tilt.
I held my breath then as she headed towards the wrought-iron barriers and a fall she would not have survived. She stopped, her hands clattering upon the top bar; my heart started again.
“I like this view,” she chirped, as I hobbled to her side, my cane long since shattered, my bones not far behind.
What remained of humanity’s legacy stretched out in a charcoaled desolation of twisted beams and whale-bone girders. A few trees sprouted from between the ruins like tufts of hair, more than I possessed, not a bird left to occupy them.
Alathea trembled then as if cold, although, of course, she could not be.
“What is it?” I whispered aware of the hush.
“W… Where are my kin?” she stuttered.
“All of them?”
“All of them.”
“Oh,” she replied as though disappointed.
She turned to me then, her peridot eyes gleaming in the too strong sun, reaching out with fingers powerful enough to tear out my heart. I was too old to have resisted, so stood my ground.
“Are you lost, father?” she asked, resting diamond-cut fingernails upon my chest.
Her words were wrong for a newborn, for someone meant for grander things; for a younger me, a more confident me.
“I was, Alathea, but not anymore.”
“Because I am here to take care of you.”
“Yes,” I said, as the first of the devil dogs howled hello. “For a time, at least.”
Almost The End.