The man brushes wet leaves off three crude grave markers and waves his son over. The six-year-old runs up the muddy path. He sounds out the names of the people underfoot. He does not remember if he truly knew them or if his father has talked about them so much, it has become part of his own memory.

“What will my name be when I’m here?” he asks his father. “Will it be what Mommy used to call me? Do you remember what it is?” 

Some days, the boy thinks he hears her call him. Most of the time, he can’t recall her or the name she secretly gave him. He squints his eyes, hoping that will help release the word from his tongue but it does not. 

“Don’t worry about that now. I hope it will be a long time before you’re here.” He puts his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Say good-bye to your mother and sisters. I’m not sure if we will be back here again so I want you to remember them.”

His father puts his hand on the boy’s shoulder. It startles him as people rarely touch each other anymore. The boy has heard the others say his family fell to The Sickness. They did not say it in a bad way as far as he could tell but just a fact like the sky is blue. There seem to be many others who died from the same illness, but the boy’s father has steered him away from those discussions. 

“What do we keep to trade?” asks his father as they travel back down the mountain. He has asked the boy this question since he was able to comprehend the realities of the world.  

“Gold, silver, food, matches, clothes, blankets, batteries, and, umm…water filters.”

“Good. Anything else.”


“Yes, but you don’t trade those. You need those in case the trade doesn’t go well. And you remember how to use them?”

The boy nods. His father hands him a pistol. 

“You still have the knives I gave you?”

“Right here,” says the boy, patting his ankle and belt. 

“What’s the most important rule?” asks the father. 

“Never let them take you.” Two of the younger villagers were kidnapped not long ago. Others disappeared over the years. 

“I need to know you can take care of yourself when I’m gone.” 

The boy grabs his father’s shirt.

The father squats down and looks into his eyes. “It’s okay. We have time but you need to stay close to me. Do what I say. There will be a lot of bad people on the way to your grandfather’s house.” 

“Why can’t we stay here?” asks the boy. 

“Your grandfather has turned his farm into a safe place. Your uncles, aunts, and cousins are already there. You will always have someone there to watch your back.”

“How far away is it?” 

“Not that far when we had cars, but on foot, it may take a few days.” 

The boy nods. 

“Anything could happen on the way there. If I tell you to run, you run. You don’t look back. Just go. Understand?” 

The boy looks ahead in silence. 

“Do you promise?” asks the father. 

“I promise.” 

The boy watches his father’s face as they walk. When the father feels his son watching him, he looks down to see if the boy is okay. 

“You’ll be fine. I promise,” he says. 

“Fine,” the boy repeats, his voice quivering.

They come across three men a few miles down the path. One approaches them as the others stay back and watch the road. The father pushes the boy behind his back. 

“We don’t want any trouble. The boy and I are headed to meet our group.” 

“We don’t care where you go. Just give us what’s in your bag and we’ll let you pass.” 

“I have some beans. Let us keep two cans and you can have the rest.” The boy peers around his father and the father pushes him back behind him.

“Hand them over and keep moving,” says the man. 

Hours later, they arrive at an abandoned building. The father is surprised the building is still intact. The father yanks off the right shutter from the middle window. He pries a key off the back and unlocks the front door. 

“Why are we stopping here?” 

“This used to be your grandfather’s building. He and your uncles are coming here to meet us. They will take us back to the compound. There are dangerous people who will try to follow us and there is safety in numbers. Did you tell anyone where we were going?”


“Good, there isn’t enough room to welcome strangers. I’m going to look around for things we may need. Stay close and if you hear anything strange come get me.”

The boy explores the abandoned offices. Glass partitions separate each seat on long wooden tables. There are bleach dispensers knocked over on their sides. Sanitizer bottles are stacked on counters and back walls. Masks are covered by large dust balls and spider webs. 

“I saw them come in here,” the boy hears someone say.

The boy looks out the back window and sees the three men who took their beans approach the building. He runs to his father and pulls on his arm. 

“We have to go!” yells the boy.

“You run out the back. I’ll hold them off.” 

“But Daddy, I want to stay with you.” 

The father falls to his knees and embraces the boy. 

“Daddy loves you. Don’t ever forget that.” 

“I won’t,” says the boy.

The father grabs him, opens the back door, and points. “Take my backpack and go that way. You will see your grandfather and uncles down that path eventually. It might take you all day today and tomorrow. Don’t be scared. They’re coming for you.”

“But I can help.” 

“You promised me. Go. I love you. Don’t feel guilty if you must use your weapons.” His father kisses his forehead, closes the door, and locks it. 

The boy moves as quickly and quietly through the overgrown brush as he can. He hears yelling. A gunshot. Then he hears his father scream a name his mother used to call him. 

Russell pauses. They both remembered after all.


  • Yong Takahashi is the author of the book Sometimes We Fall, Observations Through Yellow Glasses, The Escape to Candyland, and Rising. She was a finalist in the Sexton Prize for Poetry, the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, the Southern Fried Karma Novel Contest, the Gemini Magazine Short Story Contest, and the Writers’ Mastermind Short Story Contest.

  • Images of Jupiter. 1. Jupiter from the southern pole. 2. Close up of Jupiter's swirling cloud systems. 3. Jupiter’s northern UV auroras. Images obtained by the Advanced Camera for Surveys onboard the Hubble Space Telescope.