Another smudge of flash fiction to keep you warm on a very chilly day. Temperatures are in the 20s and 30s here in Houston this morning, and to keep my fingers from freezing to the keyboard I'm moving them as fast as possible. Hope you enjoy the result!

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fiery-landscape.jpg

Dear Dad,

I haven't written in a long while, I know. It's been, what, three years? Maybe more? Last time, it was to tell you that I was fine, and that I was enjoying living here. That was a long time ago.

I was wondering about how you were doing. I was thinking about you, and I hope that means something. Three years is a lot of missed time, and a lot to make up for in one letter. I'll do my best.

You already know about the fires. When we were first hit, I was sort of annoyed about it all more than anything. It wasn't like I didn't realize how serious it all was, I just wasn't all that worried at the time. What, in my entire life up to then, had ever really been a serious problem? Was there ever anything that was so bad it wouldn't go away after a few nights of TV and video games? Or books. I remember reading all of the Harry Potter books that were out, after 9/11. I was, what, seven years old then? Seems like forever.

But you can see why I haven't written. It's been busy. Crazy, really. So much happening.

During that first strike, I was with a group of people who took shelter in an old cathedral in Strasbourg. It was cold there, for a while, until the fires were everywhere. Then it was so hot I thought I'd melt to the floor. 

We were lucky, though. One of the first rescue teams came through in that area, for some reason. They came to the cathedral and gave all of us a suit. The skins. It fit kind of snug, I thought, and was uncomfortable. But it kept the heat and the cold away, and it let me breath. That's something. That's everything. And eventually, I hardly noticed it. Day and night, it's just there, part of me now. A second skin.

We left the cathedral, and with the skins we did OK. Food and water were a problem. We went without for really long time, scraping by on whatever we could find that wasn't burnt to a crisp or contaminated. The skins will filter out a lot of toxins and radiation and bacteria, but they aren't perfect. People still got sick. A lot of the older people died pretty quick. Kids ... 

I don't like to think about the kids.

We followed the rescue team for weeks. They tried to talk to us, but none of us could ever make much sense of the language. We got by with hand gestures and signs. They had just as tough of a time understanding us, really, and in the end I think we developed a nice sort of "third language" that had nothing to do with words. 

They're a good bunch, the rescuers. Good people. The other survivors and I have talked about where they may have come from, and we all have theories. They look like us, so wherever they're from it must be very similar to here. They live in the skins, just like us. They need food and water and air, just like us. But they're different. You could tell right away. It's in the way they interact with each other, with us, with the world itself. They know what they're doing, like they've done it a hundred times before. And I think they have. I don't think we're the first world to be hit by the fires.

But that's all history. The reason I'm writing now is that I think I'm about to step into the future. The rescuers have become very excited lately. They're gesturing a lot, making sure we know that something is happening. They're trying to tell us that we're moving on, but no one has been able to work out where we're going. I think it's to the next world. They keep drawing something in the dirt and ash that looks like a portal. I think we're about to become rescuers ourselves. 

It's been three years, dad. I've missed you. I think you're gone. I'm pretty sure of it. But maybe you're alive, somewhere in America, with your own group of rescuers. Maybe you're wearing a skin. Maybe you're getting by. Maybe I'll see you in the next world. I hope so. 

All my love,

Danny


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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