Warnings: Apocalyptic scenario and disturbing implications thereof
A/N: Written for originalfic_las for the prompt: “If you are going through hell, keep going” – Winston Churchill
Summary: Shawna tries to steer her family the right way.
Shawna hunched down in the crackled vinyl seat, her eyes peering between the metal slats her mother had bolted across the windows. The engine strained with the extra necessary weight of their armor outside and supplies in the car, and chugged them slowly down the debris-choked highway.
Her father eased down a gear to plow through the sand that had drifted across the road, the white sunlight reflecting off of it unmercifully and piercing every crack in their armor. Her father shielded his eyes behind their dark glasses, and her mother blindfolded herself to preserve what was left of her scorched sight.
“Shawna, we need your eyes,” her father murmured, swinging his head this way and that to try to find a route through the tangle on the road, barely able to make out the shapes in the glare. Shawna scrambled out of her seat and stoop up, peering out of the little turret Dad had made out of the sunroof. Outside, drift of sand striped the road like a tiger stripes, camouflaging the predator ahead.
Shawna blinked as something came into view on the horizon. Buildings. She said nothing, and directed her father to drive straight, calling out for him to drive around the worst of the abandoned cars and heaps of sand that nearly blocked the road. The buildings, drawing closer now, were too perfect. Like the lures some creatures used to attract the unwary; the sweet scent from pitcher plants promised food and delivered death.
The little town loomed closer now as the car eased past. Square and neat, windows unboarded, outlines of children and parents burned into the siding. Flash shadows. Ash littered the dead flowerbeds in an obscene parody of good black earth. Shawna looked across the road in the opposite direction, and saw the distant glassy glint of a crater. They’d been fooled in the past; there was no water there. Her guts twisted, knowing that the purloined radiation tags they’d gotten from a hospital must be turning colors, like leaves in the fall.
“Sweetie? Do you see anything?” her mother asked.
If she said “buildings,” Mom and Dad would stop, hoping to find food or fuel. Regardless of the danger, regardless of the colors. They could barely see the warnings anymore; that was Shawna’s job. This was not the place. Someplace had to have water, rain, people, but they’d never find it if they let themselves get sucked in.
“Not here. Keep going,” she whispered. “Just keep going.”
Sand spun under the tires as Shawna’s family pressed ever westward, the tiger-stripes fading under the shadows of the looming mountains.