The Seeds of New Earth (The Silent Earth, Book 2)By: Mark R. Healy
It wasn’t long until I reached the gentle swell of Somerset Drive and saw the reassuring glow of home, the hazy yellow light scattering from the windows and out into the street. In the front yard, where once a neatly manicured lawn might have resided, now stood tall strands of wheat, shifting in the breeze and made golden by the splash of light from inside. As was my ritual, I allowed my fingers to skim across the soft tips as I followed the narrow pathway that led up to the door, the heads of the wheat bending under my palms and then springing back into place in my wake.
I turned the handle of the door and stepped lightly inside, and Arsha looked up from where she stood bent over a steaming pot in the kitchen. A look of relief passed across her face and she favoured me with a little smirk.
“Finally,” she said, pausing with a metal sieve in her hand as curls of steam drifted around her face. “What happened, you get lost?”
I closed the door behind me and shrugged the backpack onto one shoulder, grinning. I considered telling her about the incident in the city: the strange noises, the pursuit, the unknown watcher. I hadn’t mentioned anything about it before on those previous occasions I’d sensed it following me, not wanting to worry her unnecessarily. For all I knew, there was nothing out there but figments of my imagination, illusions that had been conjured up for no good reason. She sensed my hesitation and her brow furrowed as she watched me moving over to the old blue sofa by the wall.
“Nah,” I said affably, dropping down onto a lumpy cushion and sliding the backpack between my legs. “You know me. I just get carried away looking around.”
She continued to stare at me for a moment longer, assessing my response, then gave a little amused shake of her head.
“Yeah, you’ve been known to do that, Brant.”
She seemed satisfied with that vague explanation, so I left it at that. There would be time later to tell her about whatever it was that was stalking me should it manifest into something more substantial than ghosts and shadows.
“I made a good find, anyway,” I went on, unzipping the backpack and reaching inside.
“Oh?” She placed the sieve down and moved around from behind the kitchen counter to get a clearer look. The steam had coated her face in a sheen of moisture that glimmered in the candlelight, appearing almost like human sweat. She brushed at it with her wrists, avoiding contact with her grubby fingers, and swept it back into her auburn hair which she’d tied behind her head in a ponytail.
Amusingly, she gave off the appearance of an old-fashioned housewife preparing dinner for her husband, an image that couldn’t be further from the truth. Someone with Arsha’s drive and ambition would never settle for such an ordinary existence. She was far better suited to tireless research in a lab somewhere, or climbing the corporate ladder, making great discoveries and efficiently organising high-level methods and procedures. It was hard to even picture her falling in love with a man and attempting to build a life with him. There had never seemed to be room in her thoughts for romance, even before the world had imploded.
These domestic chores made her seem like a fish out of water, like a brilliant scientist cleaning toilets for a living.
“What are you grinning about?” she said.
“Uh, nothing. Here, have a look.” I gently pulled out a grey disc about the diameter of a dinner plate, its rounded shape bulging outward in the centre and tapering at the edges. It was coated in a scuffed rubbery exterior and was heavier than it looked, almost as weighty as a comparably sized lump of concrete. I lifted it and held it out to Arsha.
“Another solar cell,” she said appreciatively, clasping it between her wrists so as not to smear mashed soybean across it. “That’s definitely a good find.” After a moment she glanced down doubtfully at me. “Where’s your flashlight? You weren’t wandering around in the dark again, were you?”
I pulled the flashlight out and began to unscrew the battery compartment. “These batteries are shot. I hardly get anything out of them anymore.”
“That’s no excuse, Brant,” she admonished. “You shouldn’t be creeping around at night. You’re going to hurt yourself out there with nothing to light your way.”
I shrugged, taking the cell as she handed it back to me. “I know my way around. I can look after myself.”
She scowled and stalked back over to the kitchen, returning to her task of forcing soybeans through the sieve and into a bowl.
Arsha and I were like siblings, I thought as I watched her, sharing a close platonic bond that did not trespass into the realms of deeper affection. We were like any brother and sister living together: frequent to argue, not always seeing eye to eye, but deep down caring and respectful of each other.
She was also like a bossy older sister in most ways, chiding me when I stepped outside her expectations. I went along with it for the most part, not wanting to create unnecessary friction.
“I know you can look after yourself,” she said. “I’d just hate to see something happen to you when tomorrow…” She trailed off and dropped the sieve down into the bowl. “Well, you know what’s at stake tomorrow.”