Stephanie rummaged through the fallen wooden panels with shame. People in the windows above looked at her like she was a rat. She could hear them whispering about her. They probably knew the people that lived here when it collapsed. She managed to heave a large piece that plumed up dust. It mixed with the sweat on her face and dripped into her scars to settle. A wheeze escaped her lungs and the white dust flew into her eyes. Each blink was drier, there were no tears left to flush out the dust.

You might find bones but that didn’t stop scavengers when mom and dad died. It’s been a long time. Nobodies picked Orths out yet, maybe there’s something good.

She heard the tear of her glove and looked down to see a bent metal bar with the tatters of the glove around it. She pulled at the metal bar with her other hand, and saw a small bony hand tugging it close, about the size of her brother’s hand. She wiggled off the glove and left it. This wasn’t worth it. She dusted herself off and walked away leaving the little bony hand protruding from the rubble. She envied that boy, killed quickly in a collapse without having to make the choice to do it himself. No problems, no starvation, no pain. She wandered to the pub hoping that fate would come down on her just as hard and just as unexpected. If she spent enough time in a place like that it wasn’t unlikely that the roof might slump down killing everyone inside.

Shouting was better than whispers. She welcomed the mud, grime, and the scum who drank and fought here. It smelled like a wet dog and alcohol. She belonged here, she was just as pitiful. She slunk onto the bloated wooden stool and ordered a drink handing over a few marbles her brother gave her.

“Find anything good today?” a voice asked.

“Have I ever found anything good?” she responded. The person nodded with a grunt and walked away. The voices whirled around her, none of them mattered. Life was hard and she didn’t care anymore, whatever this world dealt her she couldn’t handle it. The smell of vomit alerted her to a man who had thrown up on her leg and was walking away. She thought about how a long time ago she might have gotten angry but she couldn’t anymore. It wasn’t physically possible. Her brain was a void.

She left the vomit and had a sip of the stale bitter water she was given when a hand slapped it down. “You know that there’s disease in that?” an elderly man with large eyes and a thick moustache said.

“Who cares? We’re all going to get it eventually.” Stephanie said as she tried raising the cup to her mouth. The man kept his hand firm. It was a warm and confident grip that kept hers planted on the cold soaked wooden counter. She let him pull her fingers away from the cup and hold her hand.

“Look. See that box floating in the river? That’s for the people they wanted to live. Not us. But I’ve found a way to stay disease free. I know their game, they want to kill us. I won’t let that happen.” The man said. It was calm and caring, his eyes showed dedication. She realized that he had led her away from the bar and out onto the dock. Litter was floating in the muddy water. She stared at a wrapper of some old-world candy that was being carried by the water.

“Who are you?” she asked after realizing that 30 seconds had gone by.

“I’m Gabriel. I know how to save the world. Walk with me and I’ll tell you.” He led her out of the bar and down the street. Stephanie couldn’t focus on what he was saying. Her mind was blank. They walked for 15 minutes before she started to gain any semblance of mental coherence. He was shouting and people were gathered around listening. They were standing on some crates with a large warm fire in front of them. She may have helped start it, she couldn’t exactly remember. He was talking fast, and his words were urgent and sure.

He kept a tight grip around her wrist and continued “So the government made this plague to wipe us out because we are the true chosen people of god. They are devils come to take the world for themselves. They control the water to control the people. I am their opposite, I control the fire. I have dreams. Dreams from god, he has told me that I have been fooled by them. They made me a firefighter to distract me, but god told me that I’m not supposed to stop fires. I’m supposed to start them.” He looked at each person around them and then to her.

“That sounds crazy” she stammered.

“Then why have I never contracted the disease if I wasn’t god’s chosen hand? Look around, how many people here don’t have scars from the disease?” She looked around intensely at each face, everybody was scarred. Their faces mangled by deformity, some oozing blood. It was normal, but up here on this box it seemed different. Like this man could do something about it. He was so sure, and she was so unsure. Many of the crowd was nodding their heads, waiting for him to continue. The fire was warm and homely.

“I found a book from god in the rubble of a building. I paid a man to read it to me. It said that god wanted a man named Isaac to be sacrificed in a fire. What is your name girl?” he asked Stephanie.

“Stephanie Archford.” She replied.

“Her name has one I, one S, two A’s, and one C. Isaac. We must sacrifice her in the flame and god shall save us. She is the lamb offering.” She couldn’t argue she had hoped that destiny would come to her and it did. It made sense.

She felt hope, joy, and glee fill her body. She smiled, the world wasn’t dead. It was alive, bright yellow and vibrant, full of shades and colors, twisting images and warmth. Her life, her feelings, and this cold void it was all because she didn’t realize her purpose. This was her purpose, and then it was over.