Dystopia Genre

All For a Drop

It was wrong to steal. And Jazel was not a thief.

So it was with little difficulty that he shoved back the random thought that he could easily slip an extra water pod or two into his jacket pockets and not be caught to the recesses of his mind. He was an honest, upright, and faithful citizen to the GenTech Company. Which was the least he could do for all that the company had given him. In the years following the last of earth’s natural freshwater supplies being exhausted, it was GenTech that had stepped up and quite literally saved the world. With their water trees that needed only air to live and ability to produce precious pods filled with clean, drinkable water, they had managed to prevent the nations from rending each other apart. They gave generously from their massive and carefully cultivated forests, providing with seeming ease enough fresh water for every man, woman, and child to not just survive, but thrive. All they asked for was peace; for all to share their wealth and resources just as they had done.

The world willingly complied.

One by one, nations merged with each other. Currency and money became a thing of the past. Crime began to go down. What need was there to take or force from another when all one had to do was ask? Patriotism, nationalism, racism; all those ills of society began to move from daily life to the realms of history books and museums. It was a new era for the world, for mankind; and it was golden.

GenTech continued to be the sole guardians of the water forests. They were the ones who monitored, cared for, nurtured, and distributed the water pods. It seemed like an impossible task and to someone like Jazel, a logistical nightmare. But GenTech had been a profitable company in the years before and thusly showed little difficulty with adjusting to managing the populations of the very world. They ran with a precise science and formula, everything carefully calculated and overseen to ensure that everyone got exactly what they needed; no more and no less.

Every day, people like Jazel loaded pallets onto trucks. And trucks hauled the precious pallets filled with water to the different distribution sites. Every day, the people of the world would arrive at their appointed times with their baskets, bags, buckets, and arms ready to receive their alloted amount. So it was, and so it would continue: the world finally, truly at peace.

For a company that gave so much good for so long, there was no question at all that they would continue to do so in Jazel’s mind. The company would always give just what was needed. All he would ever have to do was ask.

Then Shara became ill.

It started innocently enough, nothing more than a normal childhood illness. His wife kept her home from day care, more to keep the other children from falling ill than anything. Then she stayed home a second day, followed by a third. She lost her color, her appetite, her energy. Jazel stayed home that third day, his wife needing a break from the constant care. Shara remained in bed, clutching her bunny rabbit as she tossed about in fitful sleep. Jazel sang softly to her. Songs that his mother and his mother’s mother used to sing. He soothed back her hair. He painted her nails in her favorite lime green. And he read her her favorite book over and over without compliant or suggestion of her second favorite book.

Then the fever hit.

He took water from his own supply and gave it without question to his daughter once her daily allotment depleted. His wife did also.

They called the doctor who came without delay. He poked and prodded, took measurements and readings, all the while scribbling ferociously in his little book and muttering to himself words and phrases that made no sense. When Jazel asked him what his daughter had and what she needed to recover, the doctor only bobbed his head, flashed an apologetic smile, and said that he had to run some tests. He promised to call as soon as he knew anything and felt certain that all would be well. In the meantime, continue to ensure that Shara got her rest and that she drank her daily water. GenTech would, as always, provide exactly what the family needed, no more and no less.

Jazel never doubted.

The fever grew worse in the night.

Shara’s skin almost glowed red, flushed with heat. Her curls clung to her head, limp and wet. When Jazel dared to touch her, she burned.

That day, he gave her everything he could spare of his water, leaving just enough for himself to take off the sharp edge of thirst.

The following day, his gaze lingered on the pods as he packed them away into their crates. His hand held their weight a little longer. He was thirsty and surrounded by water, but unable to take even a drop. It would be taking from another. It would be wrong. It would be stealing. He would not steal or take from another.

Finally, two days later, the doctor called back. Shara needed water for her fever and medication for the virus which ravaged her body’s ability to regulate its temperature. He had already called in the request for supplies and GenTech would no doubt respond by the end of day. They would provide exactly what Shara needed to ensure the quality of her life, just as they had for every other human on the earth over the years. There was no reason to fear or be worried.

GenTech responded quickly. A currier arrived within a few hours with a small bag and an official notice.

Jazel disregarded the notice. It would be nothing more than words of affirmation of what he already knew. Inside was everything Shara would need. GenTech was generous and gave freely to those who asked. In the bag would be both the medication and all the water she would need. It never crossed his mind to doubt.

Inside was one small vial of mysterious green liquid.

He frowned at it. The vial was so small. Barely a mouthful for even a child as Shara. Surely she would need more medicine than that. And where was the water?

He picked up the notice and quickly read the words. It fell from his fingers.

There would be no water.

There would be no medicine.

The vial contained not life, but death.

Surely there had to be a mistake. It had to be a simple mix up. The company would not condemn a child like Shara to death. This had to have been meant for someone else. Someone else who was old and already so near death after a full life. It could not be meant for his little daughter.

Jazel called the company. He was granted an appointment for that evening. Everything would be fine as soon as he could speak to them. He would explain what had happened and he would return home with the proper supplies; medication and water. He promised his wife and his daughter, kissing Shara’s fevered brow. She was so hot she no longer sweat at all. She only burned.

He was greeted promptly by name upon his arrival to the large glass building. While he waited, he was offered a glass of water while he waited. Jazel accepted with many thanks. He had drank nothing that day, giving all to Shara. He took nothing for himself but enough to wet his lips.

The rest he slipped into a small water tight bag and slid it into his pocket. Shara needed it more than he.

The company man who greeted him was polite and cordial. He listened well and nodded sympathetically at all the right moments. Yet when the time came and Jazel asked for the correct supplies, the man shook his head. There had been no mistake. They had sent exactly what they had meant to. After looking at the results of the test, an expert panel of doctors had concluded that Shara was too far gone and too sickly to survive and recover enough to achieve any means of acceptable quality of life. Giving her medication and water would only take from another who would benefit more from it. And that would not be fair to that person. Surely Jazel could understand. While it was sad to see one so young have to leave this earth so soon, it would be for the best. And after her burial, he and his wife could apply to have another child. They were young enough yet that the man stated he felt confident they would be granted permission to conceive again.

Jazel left empty handed but for his one small bag with water.

That night, every single drop was given to Shara.

The morning light brought the dismal realization that no help would be coming.

Jazel’s mouth felt like pure cotton and his head felt made of stuffing. He needed water but there was none left in the house. Everything had been given to Shara. And their daily supply would not be given until that evening.

He went in to kiss his daughter’s forehead and could hardly believe what he felt. Her skin was cool. The fever had broken. Though weak, her eyes were clear and was she able to smile and ask for her favorite book.

He returned to the company building. Surely things would be different now. The doctors had misread the tests. They had been wrong. Shara would be well. All she needed was some extra water. No more than a pod or two for a few days. GenTech surely had enough to spare. They had given him an extra glass only yesterday had they not?

He was turned away. The company man refused to listen; refused to even see him. The answer would be the same. There was no water to spare. They would receive their daily allotment at its appointed time, no more and no less. It was advised that he return home and bid his daughter farewell. It was also advised that he remember just what happened to water thieves of old. They were executed on sight.

He went to his work, watched, and waited. Supervisors walked the rows. They counted the boxes. Machines weighed the pallets. Everything was checked and double checked to ensure not a single ounce was missing. He had never paid attention before to how closely everything was monitored and guarded. Not a single movement was lost to the watchful eyes of those who guarded the water pods.

Jazel picked up a water pod and it slipped from his hand, falling to the floor. It hit with a slosh. Supervisors rushed over in a swarm, everyone on alert.

It was then that he noticed the gun. He caught the quickest flash of it under the jacket of one of the supervisors as he leaned down and over to pick up the unbroken pod. Jazel only recognized it because of the old movies he had watched. He had thought they had been all destroyed years ago. At least that was what the teachers had said.

Before he could say or think anything, another was asking him if he was alright. Was he ill? Did he need to go home and rest?

No, Jazel assured them. He had been merely lost in thought. His wife’s birthday was approaching and he was struggling to figure out what to give her as a gift. It would not happen again.

The answer seemed to satisfy. The pod had not broken so no harm was done. After admonishments to be more mindful and a few gift suggestions, the supervisors left back to their original posts and watches.

How was he supposed to get the water he needed for Shara? With supervisors that watched this closely and guns to kill, it looked hopeless.

Perhaps the company man had been right. Perhaps the kindest thing he could do would be to go home, hold his daughter tight, and give her the vial. Who was he to argue with doctors; with the company? If they said Shara would have no quality of life after her illness, would they not know best of all? Had GenTech not saved the world? Were they not versed in making decisions such as this?

And he was no thief. If he failed, he would be killed before he ever reached Shara with the water. What would it gain her? Nothing but a father to mourn before her own death. And where would that leave his wife? But childless and without a husband. Was it not better to grieve only one instead of two?

His daughter. His only daughter. He could not shake the images of her from his mind. He could not silence her laughter that echoed in the shadows of his memory. She was but a child; so young, too young.

He had to try.

He signaled to a supervisors. He was feeling faint, he explained. He had drank all his rations from the day before due to excessive working out in the yard, and now he was incredibility thirsty. Could some of his rations from later be given early now? In the state he was in, it was not hard to convince the supervisor that he did indeed some some water.

A small glass was provided to him. It would be noted and what he was given this evening would reflect the deduction he took now.

Jazel nodded his understanding and took the smallest of sips. It was hard, but he forced himself. Shara needed the water more than he.

He waited until the supervisors were turned away, then dropped to tie his shoe. In his palm were two water pods. He slipped them into the sides of his shoes, pulling pant legs down and over.

He repeated the process twice more. Each time he felt certain the pounding of his heart would give him away. Surely the supervisors would be able to hear it from their posts? He could hear nothing but. With each drop, however, he managed to slid the pods away. The last time, he pocketed the glass of water, dropping it into a small bag.

At day’s end, he went to file out with the rest of the workers. Jazel fought to keep his head up and gaze forward as he walked out of the door. If he didn’t look like he had anything to hide, then perhaps he just might make it through without notice.

Sunlight hit his face as he passed under the double doors.

He heard his name called along with the directions to stop.

Slowly, he did as directed, hoping his face looked suitability confused and not guilty.

Did he have any water pods on him? The sensors had detected water when he passed under.

The water from earlier. Jazel reached into his pocket and pulled out the small glass. He had but taken a sip. Not wishing to drink more than he needed, for water was precious, he had pocketed the remainder. It must have slipped his mind.

It was hard to tell if the supervisor believed him or not. He did not know if the sensor above the door told them how much water was on him. If it told quantity, all was lost.

The supervisor checked a read out on his tablet. He tapped the screen a few times. Asked to hold the water. Made a few more notes. Then handed the water back. Next time, he should declare such things before leaving. It threw the senors and caused more work.

Jazel apologized profusely. It would not happen again. It was one of those days. Tomorrow would be better.

Yes, the supervisor agreed, tomorrow would be.

Jazel left unable to believe that he had managed to do it. He had actually walked out with six extra pods of water for his daughter. That night, when added to the regular ration, there was finally plenty of water for all in his home to drink and be filled.

Jazel repeated the process over the next few days. Each time, he was successful. And every day, Shara grew stronger.

It came to its end.

Jazel had slipped ten pods away in specially concealed pouches he had brought for the day. It was to be his last day taking this risk. Shara was almost fully recovered. He had his water in hand and declared it before leaving that night. He passed the supervisor and his heart did not pound at all. The sensor he knew, read only that water existed, not how much.

He saw the company man walking towards him, two supervisors flanking, and knew he had been found out. Jazel didn’t even bother trying to defend himself. Instead, he asked just one question. If he was found guilty and killed as the law demanded, would his daughter be able to get his water rations?

The company man nodded.

Slowly, Jazel leaned down and pulled out the water pods, sitting them gently on the ground before him.

That night, a young water tree was delivered to his home.

*Winning Short Story on Reedsy
Science Fiction

Child of Night

The day the world ended was the day Joseph’s life began.

The red light winked to life, bathing his room and entryway in its soft glow. Joseph blinked several times, his eyes struggling to adjust to the intrusion of even this, the most gentle of lights. While many of the Night Children complained about the red light, Joseph found himself at odds. For the red light signaled more than just the Day Children’s arrival with their offerings of food and drink. It signaled the promise of Amina.

Joseph stood, smoothing his shirt. Today; he was going to tell her today. He pressed his lips and swallowed hard. He could think of no reason why he should be nervous. Amina wouldn’t laugh or call him silly. Surely, she felt the same way.

The heavy metal door swung open, gliding across the concert floor. Just as softly, in stepped Amina, her skirt flowing about her legs in what Joseph liked to image the swells of water at the ocean’s edge looked like. She smiled at him and warmth rushed through his inner most core to the very tips of his fingers and toes.

“Hello, Amina.” He was smiling like a fool and knew it. Today, he didn’t care.

“Hello, Joseph.” She nodded her head in greeting, sitting down her offering on the table. The smell of fresh bread and strawberry jam wafted up; his favorite. “I hope your day has been well thus far.”

“It has.” He swallowed again, rubbing his hands on his pants. “I finished the book you loaned me.”

“Oh?…And what did you think?”

“I think the people of Earth were unusual creatures.”

“They…were a fanciful people,” she agreed, pushing a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

Joseph watched entranced by her movements, the line of her neck. “Amina-“

“Today is the big day, Joseph.”

He frowned. “Today?”

“Today,” she echoed. She took a slow, steadying breathe. “You can already see it happening Outside.”

Outside; the one place he had never been. He knew about it. He knew because of his books, his lessons, and from Day Children like Amina. But never had his feet crossed the threshold between his home and there. Night Children were not able tread in that place; not yet. Outside belonged to those such as Amina. The care of Outside was theirs to tend until the Day of the Sleeping Sun.


How it could be today? Yes, he knew it would come during his lifetime. It was why he had been born; why he was a Night Child. The Day of the Sleeping Sun was the day the Night Children would be able to walk openly in the Outside. But for the Day Children, for Amina, it would mean… He shook his head, cutting off the thought.

“Outside is yours now,” Amina said.

Joseph could only look at her. How could she even think that, say that? Did she really think that was what his thoughts would turn towards? That he could be so shallow, so narrow minded?

She turned to him and he couldn’t help but note how her arms wrapped around herself. “You get to leave the Underground today. It is a good day.”

“Not for the Day Children,” he said.

“We always knew this would come. It’s how it’s always been on this world since time began. Day Children keeping the Outside during the Long Day and the Night Children keeping all well during the Long Night. You know this. All the preparations have been made and all stands ready. Once you go Outside, you’ll see. I even brought goggles for you. The sun is still too bright yet…but in a couple hours.” She smiled, but Joesph thought he saw a strain at the edges. “You’ll see.”

“I love you,” he blurted.

Amina’s smile reversed into a pronounced frown. “What? No, Joseph. You can’t.”

“But I do.”

“You have been Awake for barely two weeks. That is hardly enough time to know what love is.”

He blinked. His mouth opened to protest;  to seek understanding, to reaffirm his devotion. All these things he wanted to say and more, but nothing came. The words were gone, unreachable and foreign; just like Outside.

“Joseph, come now. Eat your meal. There isn’t much time.” Amina motioned to the food. “You’re needed to help us to our Rest. Others have already begun.”

“You gave me your books.”

“I let you borrow my books.”

“You remember my favorite foods.”

“It’s the common meal.”

“But you do love me?”

“Joesph,” Amina shook her head, “Day Children and Night Children cannot be together. I cannot survive the darkness of the Night. Just as you cannot the survive the light of the Day. We live in two different worlds.”

He looked down at the floor.”We don’t know that. No one knows that.”

“You’ve avoided the history lessons?” It wasn’t so much a question as a statement.

He rubbed his hands along his legs.

Amina looked at him, head tilted to the left. She shook her head, tsking softly behind her teeth. “We left the old Earth thousands of years ago. Those few who survived landed here. Turned Espera into our new home. Then they learned about the Long Day and the Long Night. How the moon and the sun exchange places, creating such extremes that the only chance to survive here was to become two different types of people.”

“Day Children and Night Children.”

She nodded. “And we trade places just like the sun and moon, always passing and never joining.”

“I love you.”

Amina sighed and looked away. “Eat your meal.” She placed a pair of goggles on the table. “I’ll wait Outside for you.”

She turned to go.

“No!” The thought of her going to into Rest was unacceptable. He could not let her go. He could not be parted from her. He would not. His hands grabbed at her shoulders, fingers digging into her flesh like hooks and pulling her back. He thought she cried out, but he could not hear it over the hammering of his own panic. He threw her bodily as far away from the door as possible. “You’ll stay here! I’ll take care of you and you’ll be just fine. You’ll be the one to see!” Though he knew he spoke the words, they sounded distant, like another’s voice.


He scrambled to the table, grasped the goggles, and flung himself out into Outside.

The light burned.

Joseph’s eyes watered and he shut them tight against the searing pain. Working through touch alone, he fumbled with the goggles, trying to put them on. Sounds and smells assaulted his  senses in an cacophony of stimulus. It was too much. It was too big. It was too overwhelming. If this was Outside, he wanted nothing to do with it. He turned to find a way back into his home.

“Joseph?” A familiar voice cut through the noise.


“Here. Let me.”

Joseph felt Henry, a Night Child like himself, grab hold of the goggles and adjust them.

“There. You can open your eyes now.”

Joseph swallowed hard. He didn’t want to feel the pain again. But he couldn’t just stand here with his eyes closed either. Henry had not lied to him before. If Henry said it was okay and safe, then there must be some truth to it. Slowly, Joseph opened his eyes.

“Welcome to the Outside.”

Even with the dark lenses, it was still almost too bright for Joseph’s eyes. He blinked several times.

Slowly, his vision cleared. He saw Outside. It was huge.

His brain began matching images with names that he had learned in his lessons; rocks, grass, buildings, birds, clouds, and sun.

“Don’t look directly up,” Henry advised, “unless you wish to be well and truly blind. These goggles apparently aren’t light proof. Just enough to give our eyes protection while the transition takes place. From what I hear, this started some weeks ago. Today is the last of it, though. Darkness will overtake, and us Night Children will walk the Outside for the next hundred years or so.” He laughed, nodding his head. “Yes, indeed. All of this will be ours.”

“The Day Children?”

Henry shrugged, “Do their thing in their Rest like we did in ours, I guess. Come on,” he nodded away across an open expanse towards a squat building on the other side. “That’s where the Day Children will be staying and they need our help to tuck them in.”

It looked a long way and there was so little between here and there. “It won’t fall on us?”

“What won’t fall?”

Joseph pointed upward to the sky.

“Oh. No. The sky stays up there just like our ceilings. Had one of them tell me just to pretend it was a big, painted ceiling. It’s worked well enough so far.” Henry shrugged again and started off without a glance back.

Having no choice that he could see which did not involve him being alone, Joseph followed. He kept looking back to the door of his room, but Amina never showed. What had she said once? That it locked from Outside to prevent the Night Children from accidently entering the Day and being burned by the sun? Unless he or another opened the door, there was no way she would get out.

Amina could have her Rest there. He would take care of her. Bring her food and drink and more, just like she had done for him. She would not die. She would be fine and they could be together. He would love her and she would realize that not only did he speak truth to her, but that she loved him back. Joseph nodded to himself. Yes. That was how things would go and how they would be. Everything would be just fine.

All around, he saw Day Children converging on the building that he and Henry were headed towards. Some of them he knew, others not. Day Children of all ages, all moving to escape the Long Night through an artificial sleep known as cryosleep. For the next several hours, Joseph aided the Day Children, following the instructions in his books. Each one thanked him as they closed their eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Through it all, his thoughts kept returning to Amina.

“Why can’t you stay awake during the Night?” he asked of one man.

“Why couldn’t you stay awake during the Day?” the man replied with a laugh, settling himself into the sleep pod.

“The sun would burn us. Make us to go blind. Our bodies cannot live under the Day.” Joesph attached the sticky pads to the man which would monitor his vitals. Lights on a nearby panel started to pulse, affirming everything was set in place.

“Exactly. And we cannot survive the lack of Day.” He clasped his hand on Joseph’s forearm, an blotch of inky darkness to the near translucence of his own skin. “So, thank you. Mine and all my fellow brothers’ and sisters’ lives are in your hands until the Day dawns again.” He smiled at Joseph, rested his hands across his chest, and closed his eyes.

The Day Children could not survive the lack of Day. Those words haunted him as did Amina’s stricken face. But it didn’t make sense. The Night would not burn her. It would not do any physical harm to her at all. Had she not spent hours with him in his home with only the faint red light to give her enough to see by? Never had she spoken of ill effects or shown any. There would be food and water for her. He had seen the crops on his way over here and heard a river in the distance.

With those things, she would surely be fine.

She would come to see that.

She would become the first Day Child to show that they could survive and stay awake during the Long Night.  It would be a new era for this world. An era where he and Amina would be together.

That first night, she cried. She was scared. “Please, Joseph,” she whimpered, “I know you don’t think you’re doing wrong. But you’re killing me. Please. I need to enter the Rest.”

He merely shook his head. “Trust me, Amina. All will be well.”

The next day he brought her her books to read.

She refused to look at him.

Joseph comforted himself with the knowledge that this was all only passing. She would not avoid him like this forever. It was her fear that made her hostile and harsh against him. Once she saw that she would be fine, she would look and speak with him again.

In the meantime, he explored Outside. It was proving to be a place of wonder. Every day, Joseph and the other Night Children expanded and learned more and more about the world they had inherited from the Day Children and what was required of them to sustain that life. Joseph found that he particularly enjoyed working in the fields among the plants. Three quarters of the fields were thriving, their plants growing strong and well in the darkness which continued to grow as the moon finalized its replacement of the sun.

It was the remaining quarter that had him concerned. The plants there were starting to wilt and die. No matter how much he tended to them, how much water he gave them, how he moved and arranged them, they continued to grow increasingly weak and sick.

How like Amina who now never left the bed and barely touched the food he brought her.

Joseph knelt at the base of one of the sick plants. His fingers ran through the rich dirt. “I don’t understand. Why are you dying?”

“Lack of sun,” Henry’s voice answered him from behind.

Joseph turned and looked up.

Henry knelt beside him. “This plant? It’s a Day plant. Needs the sun to live. No sun, no life. Simple, see?”

“No. Why does it need the sun?”

The other man shrugged. “Just what the books say. Don’t bother wasting your time trying to get them to live.”

“There’s nothing that can be done?”

“Not that I know of. Seems to be the way of this divided world. Day or Night. Sun or moon. If you’re born under one, you can’t live under the other. Shame though.” Henry ran his hands over the delicate stalks. “Would have liked to really see this one. Pictures of it are so pretty.”

Like Amina was pretty.

Like Amina was dying.

Joseph swallowed, head bowed. He loved Amina. He couldn’t just let her leave and go to her Rest. He’d never see her, hear her, share with her again. He didn’t know if he could stand that. But by keeping her, he was killing her.

Either way, he lost her. The only question was how he was going to lose her.

“I have to go,” he said, standing.

“Sure. See you at dinner?”

Joseph nodded. His steps took him without having to look to his old home.

Amina was lying on the bed, curled into a tight ball. The food from yesterday still untouched. The books he had left her still right where he had left them. Not even a rumple of the sheet was different from when he had last come.

“Amina?” he asked.

If she heard him, she gave no acknowledgment.

“Amina!” he rushed across the space, nearly tripping over a chair in his haste. He threw himself beside her, hands seeking her skin, her pulse. “Amina!”

Her eyes blinked open, red rimmed from crying.

“Amina…I am….I love you.”

Her eyes looked at him for a moment, before sliding away to focus on some distant point beyond his shoulder.


Silence answered him.

“I’m sorry. I…I can’t lose you. I can’t…I don’t know what to do,” he confessed. His head dropped limp, brushing his cheek against hers. Her breathe was faint, soft. He could hardly feel it.

He thought of the Day Child man. He thought of the Day plant. He thought of Amina.

He thought of himself. Alone and unloved in this strange Outside.

Was it better to be alone and unloved because Amina was safe in her Rest or because she had died in this room for lack of the sun?

Joseph sat there as the seconds slipped by one by one; unmarked and unheeded.

He heard himself say eventually, much to his own surprise, “I will take you to your Rest, Amina.”

She looked at him. Her lips pressed together and parted as if she wanted to speak. In the end, she only gave a small nod.

He picked her up, marveling at how light she was in his arms; no more than a heavy blanket. The journey to the Rest Hall as it was now named was swift and one in which he would later only remember her eyes, bright with unnamed emotions he couldn’t understand.

He found an empty pod for her and gently deposited her within. Joseph was quick to attach everything she would need for her Rest, hands moving almost of their own accord.

It was time.

All that was left was to touch the final button. The pod would close and Amina would enter her Rest which take her all the way through the long Night only to awaken again as Day dawned, years after his death, once more.

“I am sorry, Amina. I love you. Believe me, I do.” He leaned in to kiss her cheek.

As he moved to pull away, she whispered, “I know. Thank you.”

Joseph almost faltered in his resolve. He almost undid the wires. Almost picked her back up to take her back to the room. Almost.

Instead, Joseph pressed the button, watched the pod close, and bore witness as Amina, the last Day Child, drifted into dreamless slumber. He didn’t know what would become of himself in the time to come, but he would face the future and figure it out a day at a time.