When I came to, the first thing I saw was a brilliant yellow sky dappled with fleeing birds. They were racing away in flocks that didn’t normally fly together. Wedge-tailed eagles soared alongside sparrows, while snowy cockatoos streaked through the air beside pitch-black crows. There were so many of them; more than I could identify, but all of them were leaving in a hurry.
It took me a moment to recall where I was.
And then it hit me like a speeding bullet.
How long had I been out? I sprang to my feet, ignoring the skull-shattering pain that raced through my head and the dull throb in my left hip. I could feel blood soaking into my shirt from somewhere. But that didn’t matter right now – only one thing did. I continued to pick my way up the mountain path, anxious to move quicker but not trusting my body enough to run.
My vision started to swim.
I slowed down, still limping from the pain. The landslide had deposited mounds of dislodged rocks and boulders across the road. I scrambled over them as quickly and carefully as I dared. That’s what had done it. I remembered the landslide followed by a sharp crack to the back of my skull. And then there was darkness. Gingerly, I felt the back of my head; my hair was wet and slimy with blood.
But there was no time to check the damage. There was no time to worry about fractures and concussions; if I didn’t keep moving then I may as well have been killed by the river of stone that had washed away the road.
I kept climbing towards higher ground, desperate to reach the peak before it was too late. A low rumbling was coming from deep within the mountain, shaking the ground around me. Pebbles bounced down the steep slope. Even the larger rocks appeared buoyant as they rolled passed, tearing through trees as though they were nothing more than clouds.
The air began to shimmer with a yellow much too vibrant for the sky. I pushed on, refusing to give in to the panic festering in my stomach. When I reached the peak, I looked around at the vacant strip of dirt, pressed firm by the weight which had been there earlier in the day.
My heart dropped like an anchor.
I was too late.
I counted the impressions in the soil. There had been three of them; three vessels which had come to the rescue, three invitations to escape, three lost chances to survive. Turning away, I climbed up the tallest tree that I could find and looked down at the world around me.
It had finally come.
That sapphire wave, infested with an ever-growing tide of debris, curled over the landscape, consuming the hills and forests. The ranges transformed into endless swells of water. Even the air tasted salty. Everything had been swept away, from the farmyards with their machinery to the skyscrapers and their parked cars.
I sat on the top of my mountain, watching as three hot-air balloons bobbed away into the distance, their passengers peering over the edge to watch the world end. I started to smile and wave. Just like I had when I was little. I knew that I looked completely ridiculous, but I just wanted something sweet and simple and normal to greet me before-