The remaining cities flooded with people, and then they burned them to the ground. Relief groups popped up now and again, but they were habitually shot on sight. I was never alone, though. I had my doll with the salt-and-pepper hair, its porcelain skin scorched and bleached by the sun. I clung to the last tattered shreds of my childhood and did not cry. Momma always told me to be strong.
That October, by my calendar, I was walking along a dirt road when I stumbled upon a flash of pink in the bushes. It was a child’s slipper encased in soot, the clamoring buckles undone forevermore. In my mind, it stood as a solemn representation of yet another shattered childhood, another short-circuited imagination. I cradled it and cried for the first time since my parents died. When my tears dried up and my sniffles died away, I took the shoe and left the doll in its place. Maybe another child could put it to good use.
My childhood was over.