Chapter 3

A spot of rust on the Shotgun. A hole in the ground—down to hard clay. A pool of rust on her mother's weather-beaten jacket. Hacked-apart roots grope toward her, peacefully sleeping.

A gnarled hand on her shoulder. A gnawing pit in her stomach. Was it hunger or grief? Her father's cough, cough, cough in the background.

An endless stream of broken vehicles. Rusted skeletons in their cockpits. They sing a low song through toothy grins. A nameless tune—the sound that follows flickering lights. Is one of them Lucia ?

She holds his swinging hand as they trudge down the road. The rough callouses like spots of rust. The cough, cough, cough of the cart bouncing behind them. The hole in her shoes is growing. He drops her hand to cover his mouth.

What color were her mother's eyes? She frets at her forgetfulness. The parade of skeletons stretches ahead. Behind, her father puts his hands on his knees. He struggles to breathe. Were they brown?

Her father's hands on his shoulders, crossed over his chest. Who closed his eyes? Who dug the hole?

A stray Shotgun shell in her pocket. She runs her thumbnail along the ridges. A totem against forgetfulness.

Her hands ache with spots of rust as she pulls the cart, alone.

Amanda Holliday wakes with a shuddering gasp. The Last City hums a nameless tune around her. The Traveler hangs above, as pale as death.