In the After

In the After by Demitria Lunetta Page A

Book: In the After by Demitria Lunetta Read Free Book Online
Authors: Demitria Lunetta
Tags: Fiction, Horror, post apocalyptic
and not at all in the winter.
    I scrub Baby’s scalp with my fingers while she holds the shampoo bottle. She squeezes it to make bubbles in the water.
    Okay, now hold your nose and dunk your head .
    She takes a deep breath, puffs out her cheeks, and holds her nose. She slowly lowers her head into the lake, her eyes open wide. She wants to see what is under the water.
    Close your eyes , I quickly sign. You’ll get soap in them .
    She snaps her eyes shut just as her head disappears. I see her outline under the water, her hands in her hair trying to rinse out the shampoo. When her head breaks the surface, she grins.
    Feel better? I ask.
    I like taking baths in the lake . Her blond hair shines in the moonlight.
    Baby, would you like to learn how to float?
    She nods eagerly. I put my hand on her back. Lie flat .
    On what?
    On the water, like it’s a bed. Take a deep breath first .
    Baby gulps in some air and moves back into my hand. I push up slightly and Baby’s feet rise. She instinctively holds her arms out on the water’s surface. When I feel she is stable, I let go, holding my hand above her face so she can see my gestures.
    See . . . you’re floating by yourself .
    Baby smiles, afraid to move.
    Keep breathing and you won’t sink , I promise.
    I wash my hair while Baby drifts. It’s nice to feel clean. The cold water is refreshing, especially after the heat of day. We are stuck inside without air-conditioning and it’s so hard to sleep when it’s hot.
    Baby jerks upright suddenly.
    What?
    I felt something, against my leg . She looks down into the water, searching.
    It was probably a fish .
    What if They live under the water? She starts to head back to shore.
    They don’t. They don’t like the lake .
    What if there is a new kind, like the ones in the ship. What if They like being in the water? She looks around wildly, unsure of where to head to safety.
    They couldn’t live down there . I try to calm her.
    Mermaids do . She is already to our pile of belongings, putting her dirty clothes on over her wet body. I follow her over.
    Mermaids are just a story , I tell her.
    She looks up at me, tearful. No they’re not. Mermaids are from Before. Like horses. You said horses could live in the sea .
    Seahorses aren’t horses that live in the sea . . . I start to explain but stop myself. It doesn’t really matter if she has the Before straight in her head. She can believe in mermaids and horses that live in the sea if she wants.
    You’re right , I tell her. But mermaids and seahorses have a special way of breathing under the water. The monsters don’t .
    Baby looks out over the lake, searching for creatures or maybe for mermaids.
    I rummage in my bag and hand her a bundle. You can leave those smelly old clothes . I pilfered the house while she was asleep.
    Baby takes the clothes and examines them. We have to wear dark, neutral colors so we won’t stick out at night, but I found a practical brown dress, something that will keep her cool in the summer heat and still be good to run in if we need to escape. Baby holds it out in front of her, smoothing down the fabric. She pulls it on over her head.
    It’s a little too big, but Baby doesn’t seem to care. She twirls around, making the bottom of the dress billow out into a bell shape.
    Thank you, Amy .
    You’re welcome . I also took clothes for myself, some dark jeans and a black T-shirt. I got the shirt from a stuffy, messy room plastered with rock posters, a dusty guitar in the corner.
    Before I get dressed, I motion Baby over and hand her a pair of scissors. I want you to cut my hair short , I tell her.
    How short? Baby wants to know. We usually trim each other’s hair every few months.
    Short short , I tell her.
    Why? Her own blond hair is sort of thin; it never gets tangled.
    Because it’s too hot . I just don’t want to be bothered with it. I haven’t combed it in a week and

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