People packed the church tonight for the town council. Marissa’s gaze briefly fell on her younger siblings. One, two, three, four, five. Good, she hadn’t lost any of them to the crowd. Her parents squeezed into one bench, but she hesitated to sit.
These meetings had continued one night a week for months, and the heavy uncertainty froze her in place, or it could just be the cold. Despite the battery-operated heaters, breaths plumed visibly in front of the townspeople, but she noticed one group missing.
The young men.
Where were the ones she grew up with? Jimmy, Lane, and Barron were here last week. Had they too left for District 40? Were they really all gone?
“Marissa, sit down.” Her mother jerked her hand, and she plopped into the seat like a fat raindrop.
Elder McGee rose from his chair at the pulpit and whistled the crowd into a semblance of order.
Mother kept her hand in Marissa’s. The skin felt like old leather, soft and weathered. The years since the apocalypse hadn’t made things easy on any of them. Now with the marrying aged men gone what would become of herself, the town?
McGee parted his lips as he allowed his gaze to fall upon each townsperson. Despite his age, he commanded attention. “Our town is in dire trouble. Look around you. Our last young men have left for the cities and the New Atlantic. Everyone will have to work harder and pitch in. Since winter approaches, we’ll have to ration our food.”
His words dried the spit upon her tongue. Ration our food, no young men, and winter was coming. The worse cold hadn’t even hit them yet. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as she thought of her family. There were eight of them in that two-roomed house. How would they live?
“We’ll do as we’ve always done. Neighbors helping neighbors. A new curfew is in place. Be in your homes by sundown. Head on now, ya hear.” With a nod he dismissed them.
Months ago, they would’ve revolted, at least questioned him. Now, they rose from the benches, heads bowed, and left with mere grumbles.
Marissa wanted to scream, shout, tear the room apart. Instead, she stood knowing why the men left, knowing why she too would have to leave her home.