They had all gathered in the centre of the building, their meagre possessions bundled up into bags and piled onto carts. She tried to smile confidently at them as she passed, although inside she didn’t feel confident at all.
Quin was waiting near the doorway, watching the rain sizzle and melt in the road outside. Occasionally it splashed the doorframe, eating it away in tiny little bites, as it did the entire building.
“Tell me something, Enni” he said quietly as she approached. “You said this move was too dangerous when I suggested it last week. Why the change of heart?”
She looked around, making sure nobody else was in earshot. “This building won’t last through the next big storm,” she whispered. “The Weatherman had to abandon his tower last night, he only just got out with his equipment. Last thing he registered was a big front heading our way. He says we have a clear day and then that’s it. At least a week of rain. If we don’t move now, we’ll all die.”
Quin’s face betrayed nothing. “Didn’t realise it was so serious. Do you really think we can make it in a day?”
She watched the rain fall in the road. It was lighter now, the shower had almost passed. “We don’t have a choice,” she replied.
They turned to face their people. They were a ragtag bunch, desperate, bedraggled, and in many cases wounded. Those who could walk were all towering on built-up shoes to protect them from the acid now lying in puddles on the street; those who couldn’t were on the big-wheeled carts along with the food and the Weatherman’s forecasting gear, or carried in arms if they were small enough. There was a little girl near the front, not more than five years old, her wispy blonde hair dragged forward to try and hide her disfigured face. In the last storm she had been left sleeping too close to the walls and the rain had come through where she lay. She had woken the entire community with her screams. She survived, barely, but the acid had burned most of the left side of her body.
Enni knelt down in front of the little girl, racking her brain for the girl’s name. She could never remember names. “I need a mascot at the front with me. Somebody beautiful and brave, like you, to keep me strong. How about it?”
The little girl- Nemi, that was her name- nodded shyly and held her arms out. Enni picked her up carefully before addressing the crowd.
“The storm is moving south. We’re moving north. We’re heading for the big building Morden reported. It’s big enough to keep us safe at least another month, and we will get there within a day. I will lead, and Quinn will take the rear. Walk carefully, but walk quick.” She paused and looked at Nemi. “Do you want to give the order, Nemi?”
The little girl nodded, smiled and raised her good arm. “Move out!”
Enni glanced back at Quinn as they left the building, the soles of their shoes sizzling and the big wheels of the carts creaking. She saw no concern in his eyes. They would make it to Morden’s house. They had to.
Author’s Note- I originally had the idea years ago to write a novel with this concept. My mother was going to be my scientific advisor- she was a very clever woman. Sadly that part will no longer happen but, one day, the novel might yet be written.