Genesis
By: Adele Evershed

Evie had been scuffing along the road avoiding the sinkholes and dead limbs, but a single brown feather made her look up as it fell out of the sluiced sky. It dropped down gracefully as big as a paddle and settled on the ground in front of her. "At last," she said to Luc. "You think you've been waiting a long time for this" Luc's mirthless laugh sounded more like a tire with a slow puncture. He continued, "As Bob Marley once sang, this is my 'redemption song' baby. I might even get my feathers back; stranger things have already happened." Evie didn't bother to ask him who Bob Marley was; she was used to him quoting people he had known at some point during his long life. She bundled Luc into her backpack and pulled the toggles tight, but even so, she could hear the low rumbles of his mithering at being so roughly treated.

Mithering was a word her Nan used every time Evie moaned. She would snap, "What's the point of your endless mithering it's not going to change anything." Her Nan had refused to get the vaccine even though she was in the priority category, and she had begged her daughter, Evie's birth-mother, not to get it either. But from what Nan had said about Evie's mother, she wasn't the type to take advice. "She might have waited if she'd known she was pregnant with you," her Nan had once told Evie, and then she added, "But then again, she was always a knucklehead." Her Nan had looked after Evie ever since her mother died, hiding her away until the cough started. Finally, when her Nan unlocked the basement door for the last time, she said, "Go now and find your own kind. There must be more. You cannot help how you were born but be as kind as you can." Evie was twelve then and had grown up on a diet of small live animals that her Nan had trapped in the woods behind their house. The final thing her Nan did for her was to make sure she was satiated before she passed away. Evie had never experienced anything like it. She felt her instincts turn as if she was wearing her insides on the outside; her wings pulsed, and she was aware of a longing lodged in her throat.

Now Evie was sixteen, and apart from Luc's help, she had been fending for herself. That unnamed longing was more like a permanent emptiness; when she was flying through the clouds, she yearned to be walking, and when Evie was moving on her two legs, she wanted to be on the wing. She picked up the feather and swallowed a jellied candy called 'Good Tidings'—each sweet was a different shape, a green tree, or a holly leaf or a star, and they were sticky in her mouth. For a short time, as Evie chewed, the curse of her longing weakened slightly. Evie had never had a Christmas, so she could not taste the gravity of her unknowing as she sucked the sweets slowly.

Evie had found a glass apple ornament full of red glitter with a green leaf fashioned into a loop in the same abandoned shop she had found the sweets, and she had found Luc. When she picked him up, he had winked at her causing her to shriek and drop him onto the dusty floor. She was going to leave him there, but then he called to her, "I'm here to help all girls and boys, and soon I'll replace your favorite toys." Evie had never had any toys, but she knew she needed help, so she picked him up. Luc had explained all about Christmas and found an artificial tree for Evie to hang the apple on.

It was Luc that had led her to the first anti-vax survivor's camp by calling out directions, "Forward, forward, left and right, keep on going till you see the light." And she had kept moving until she saw a speck glowing in the dark. Evie had hidden herself in the long grass and kept watch for days, her grey face camouflaged by the dust stirred up by the constant warm wind. So, when she saw the cart trundling towards the wooden gate, she screwed up her jitters into a tight ball. The man driving the cart was the first human she had seen since her Nan. He was wearing a face covering, so she hoped this would make it easier. Luc said, "You will not surely die, eat, and your eyes will be opened to the greatness of your gift. Nobody will know what you do in the shadows. It's not like you keep a diary or anything." The horse sensing her presence had bucked and tried to bolt, but she had been too quick. After Evie pulled the cart towards her cave, she had slung the stunned man in the back; to her mind, he was just another foodstuff alongside the sacks of potatoes and carrots he'd been bringing back to the camp. Luc started singing as Evie unloaded her haul,

"Don't need wine, don't need bread,
Give me bodies and bloodshed,
Never liked apples or cared for pears,
Never knew peace or said my prayers."

The survivors that ventured out of the camp had been satiating Evie ever since.

Now Evie sat on a fallen gatepost and threaded the glass apple onto her fingers. Luc hissed to be let out, but Evie whispered fiercely, "Shut up already. I'm doing what you wanted. I'm about to make a new friend." A thin shadowy shape was emerging out of the expanse above. Evie spread her wings in greeting; shaking the ornament, she made the fiery flakes dance and held it out to the pale stranger. "Hi, I'm Evie," she said as she looked into eyes that had the same milky quality as her own, "Luc said you would come, and I have waited a long time to meet you."

"Luc?" the stranger's voice was soft from lack of use. "Yes, he helps me find food. Would you like to meet him?" Evie asked. The stranger nodded, so Evie wrestled Luc out of her bag. He had wound himself into a knot, but as soon as Evie let him out, he untangled himself. The stranger drew back when Luc said, "Well, hello there." The stranger said incredulously, "He's a snake. How can he talk, and how can he possibly help you find food?" Evie was a bit put out by the stranger's reaction, so she snapped," He's a serpent, not a snake, and he will help you too if you just let him. He has the knowledge to remake the world."The stranger looked deep into the glass globe and saw the earth on fire as a legion of creatures that looked like him flew out of the flames.

"I call myself Dam," said the stranger quietly. "And I have been alone for as long as I have been able to fly." "Dam?" said Evie. "I have never heard such a name before." Luc whispered in her ear, "A very clever man once said, 'What's in a name?' Of course, he also said, "Hell is empty, and all the devils are here,' but that remains to be seen".

"It is a shortening of my birth name," Dam said. "I started to use it when I started to feast. It seemed better somehow than the name my birth mother gave me." Luc laughed and said, "Yes, probably more in keeping with your real nature than Adam. I've changed my name a couple of times as well. In fact, Luc is a shortening of one of my given names. Welcome to Paradise regained". But, of course, Evie and Dam didn't know what Luc was talking about.

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