"Oh, and how they bloomed! As far as you could see in any direction, just flowers of every color. You would have loved it. The smell so strong you could taste it...you would have loved it...yes..."

Looking around, I couldn't picture it. And that made me sad. In her final days, it's all she would talk about. The flowers, the sweet, earthy smell on the wind. I'd like to think that in the days before the fever took her, she dreamed of them. But they were gone. Long gone. It was always like this. Mama said that she was only a few months pregnant with me when it started. She would always say those were the "longest months of my god damn life, Emily."

"The Great Death" they called it. One moment the world was green. The water was blue. The animals flourished. People lived their lives, going to work, had families. But the earth turned. "It went sour" Mama said. The plants started to die. The water changed, either drying up entirely or becoming poisonous. The animals wasted away, carrying the smell of death on the air. The way she told it, people were dying by the millions before the month had finished. Starving to death, dying from the water or lack of it. Riots, wars, neighbors killing neighbors for half of a moldy loaf of bread. And when the first winter came, most that survived the beginning died too.

Some survived, like me and Mama, in small groups. Scavenging, small farms growing whatever we could grow, and gathering the little that Earth still had left to give. But it's hard, and getting harder still. Remy has been around the longest, one of the first that started our group said that when it started, it was easy enough to find supplies in abandoned stores, homes, and the like. But it's been 15 years. 15 hard years. The stores are all but empty, and even if you find something it's probably long expired. Last week Meera was so excited that she found a can of spaghetti and meatballs, but Lord, the smell when she opened that can stuck in my nose for days. Medicine, food, bottled water, all drying up, which means scavenging further, and bringing back less.

"Where'd you get the pen?"

I turned around, nearly snapping the pen in half from the start. Old Joe was standing there, cane in hand. I never understood how a man with a lame foot and old as dirt could be so quiet.

"Remy found it for me up near Bends. He brought back some art supplies too, said maybe I could draw him a nice steak dinner."

Old Ben laughed, half a whisper and half a cackle. He came over, sitting down on an old plastic chair, limping but never making a sound. "What're you writing? Finally continuing 'Of Maidens and Wolves'?"

I cringed. I wrote that story some 3 years back. Teenage girls falling in love with werewolves, drama, all of it. A lot of the adults couldn't stand it, but Old Ben has been a fanatic since the beginning. Always asking when the next chapter was coming, and when I killed off Lorne I thought he'd keel over.

"No, maybe soon though. I was writing about Mama. All that she talked about. How things are, blah blah blah."

Disappointment flickered across his face. The man loved his sappy romances. But the dismay quickly turned to a softer but sorrowful frown.

"I'm sorry child. It shouldn't have been that way. She was a fighter though. Always was. I remember she damn near scalped Remy that time he flipped when you fell asleep on watch. Pretty sure his ears are still ringing" he laughed.

"I know, I just miss her. I miss how she would talk about the world. Before, I mean. She had the best way of making me feel like I was there." I said.

"Her and the flowers. She really did have a way with words. She almost named you Lily but I think even she saw how on the nose that was. I guess Emily sounds similar?" he said, giving a slight shrug.

"I guess it does" I chucked. I looked down at my journal on my lap. It was an old thing, the leather covers wrinkled and torn a bit on the spine. But the pages were clean, and barely any were missing. I had found it about three months ago, along with some old comics that I shared amongst the kids. Good journals were hard enough to find, a good pen harder still. At least this one would last a while.

"I've been writing about Mama. All the things she talked about, life before everything. Trying to make the best of things in the now. But Ben, what happened?" I looked over at him, my fingers tracing the leather in my hand.

He looked back, and for a second he smiled. Or at least I thought he did. It was gone in an instant, leaving behind a sad, longing look in his eyes. "Emily, it doesn't do us any good talking about it anymore. I've told you the stories, and so has everyone else. It just makes it harder."

"I know, I'm sorry. It's just...I don't understand. Why is it like this?" I flicked the book open, flicking the pages through my fingers. "The flowers, the dog she had as a kid, everything, where did it all go?"

"They died," he said, flat and matter of factly. "It all died. The flowers, the animals, hell, it seems as if even the wind doesn't feel the same anymore. It all turned on us, the world, I mean. And we were the ones that caused it."