The jeep shuddered and bounced over rocks and sand, filling the air with choking red dust. The cars ahead of her shimmered in the hot sun, sweat beading across her brow and her shirt cling closely to her skin. Sharon knew every dent and scratch in those cars, knew the way they moved along the unpaved roads better than the way she walked. She knew that old man Greg’s car behind her was moody when it picked up speed, howling as if it were living its last days.
Sharon was one of two people in her town who could fix these cars, who kept them working long after their expiration date. She looked over at her cousin Josef. The premature wrinkles crevassing his face seemed even deeper set after the grim business in Shale. From the rear view mirror Sharon saw Josef’s wife and son sitting silent and miserable. Tears clung to the lashes of Bridget, circling eyes veined with red.
The buzzing of Death sounded from above them and the cars faltered, wheels jerking to the side and speed slowing dramatically. The red dust swirled angrily around them, pointing to them like those huge neon signs found in the cities saying we are here, easy pickings. Everyone in the car held their breath but only the sounds of engines rumbling and heart beats thundering remained.
‘Drones,’ spat Josef, hatred in every word of a peaceful man who spent his days healing cars.
Earlier that morning they had gone to Shale for their usual monthly trade. But all that was left was a scar where hundreds of people used to live. They had done nothing wrong except be the target of the whims of foreigners with a god-complex for taking lives. Five years of war and fear lingered in every breath, every movement and every thought. All that was left now was to linger and to grieve.
Sharon looked out at the landscape surrounding them. The sun was a red pinprick in the sky casting its light on a barren landscape. Sand twisted in front of her, some of it flat, some of it rising like the distant sea into a still wave which will never break. Rocks and shrubbery provided adornments in an otherwise vast view.
In the distance was a tiny column of sand floating upward and marking the presence of life in the desert. It could be another caravan like hers fearful to move from their nest but having no other choice if they wanted to survive.
Or it could be the red eyed robots. They were remote controlled, ruled by soldiers from another land as if they were playing an old video game. The robots marched without stopping, leaving nothing but death in their wake. They were almost as bad as the drones. At least you could see death coming with a soldier. Their black armour clanked and echoed as steam emitted the heat generated from overused wires and microchips. They were a nightmare that could be seen and only destroyed by an industrious few. But drones could not be seen or heard until they were right above you and you’d never know if they would strike until it was already too late.
‘How long until we’re home?’ James asked in a small voice.
‘Not long, an hour maybe,’ replied Josef.
Sharon sighed and shifted in her seat, ‘We’ll have a cool drink when we get back hom-