Read Skylight (Arcadium, #2) Online
Authors: Sarah Gray
Tags: #adventure, #zombies, #journey, #young adult, #teen, #australia, #ya, #virus, #melbourne
Copyright 2014 Sarah
Gray. All rights reserved.
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Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of
fiction. Names, places, and events are either the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead or undead, events or locales is entirely
For more information
Open your curtains, let
the light in.
Open your window,
breath in the fresh air.
Today, my darling, is a
I SIT NEAR the
edge of our wide wooden balcony, listening to the early morning
birds. They twitter and gossip brightly, darting from branch to
branch, switching from tree to tree. Some chitchat with others,
some just sing on their own. Watching them makes me feel like we’re
not so alone out here. Like maybe we’re not the last people left in
Melbourne, or Australia, or even the world.
says, wiggling her bare toes in the sunlight. It’s her whiney
“Mmm?” My eyes
stay adrift on the sea of trees.
“Do they make
nail polish out of jellybeans?”
I frown at her.
She’s cross-legged on the wooden slats, reading the fine print on a
small glass bottle. A sharp chemical scent wafts away from us.
I hide in the
shade, leaning back against the house wall, legs stretched out.
“Why do you say that?”
jellybean on the label.” Liss leans forward and holds the bottle of
nail polish a few centimetres from my face.
cross-eyed, struggling to focus. “That’s just the colour, like the
name they made up for the colour.”
Liss rolls her
eyes skyward in thought. “Jellybean’s not a colour. It’s a
“Tell that to
the nail polish makers.”
They’re all dead.” Liss rolls onto her stomach and looks up at me.
“Can I paint your nails?”
say no. She’s a terrible painter, never stays within the lines. A
manicure from her always looks like I’ve been in a paintball war.
But she knows that the people who made her nail polish are probably
dead. My nine-year-old sister knows this and it doesn’t seem to
“Well, I was
just thinking my nails were kind of looking boring.” I spread my
hands out on the decking so Liss can reach them. Most of my fingers
are skewed now. I crushed them with my own head when our car hit an
infected and then slammed into a pole outside Arcadium. I have no
feeling in the tip of my left index and forefinger, or my right
thumb. I don’t quite have a full range of motion, my grip is pretty
weak and scar tissue has made a few of my joints stiff, but it’s
getting better, thanks to a certain Chinese hand massage technique.
It doesn’t make me sad to look at them, even though I guess they
look sad themselves. I’m just happy that my fingers are still
attached to my hands, and that my hands are still attached to my
arms and so on.
starts, she takes a few big gulps of water from her favourite cup
and wipes her mouth. She smiles, holding the blue glass up. When
the sunlight glistens off the diamond pattern it looks like some
kind of magical genie bottle. I bet Liss really believes it is
Liss lines up
four nail-polish bottles and paints each of my nails a different
colour. She works with her tongue poking out, like a little puppy
dog. Her hair’s long now and her blonde waves are getting a little
crazy, so I make a mental note to cut it later. A memory blooms out
of nowhere, taking me by surprise: I remember my mother cutting our
hair. Liss would never sit still. I’d usually read a magazine to
stop myself from getting bored and mum would always tell me to sit
up straight and my hair would always end up shorter than planned
because me reading would (she said) make her cut wonky. The memory
pokes me like a pin. Now that we’ve stopped running and settled in
a reasonably safe spot in the hills, all the painful thoughts creep
up on me. Reminders of a life not long ago, but so far gone.
Moments I’ll never get back. I should have paid more attention. I
should have asked my mother how to cut hair. Maybe then Liss
wouldn’t look like a yeti.
out, clattering over the metal sliding door base, and spins his
wheelchair in a circle. It kind of reminds me of someone walking
out and stretching their arms and legs.
“She got you
too, huh?” Henry says when he comes to a stop, grinning and holding
his hand up to show off his colourful nails.
I stifle a
laugh and Liss tells me off for moving.
Henry stares up
at the sky for a while, not saying much of anything. After a while
he says, “Cool change is coming.”
Which is weird
because he’s not much older than Liss, yet he sounds like a
weathered farmer watching over his crops.
“You think?” I
Because of my legs. It’s like how blind people can hear really
well, except instead of walking I’ve got a sixth sense for weather
I glance at
Liss and she giggles.
“It’s coming, I
tell you.” Sweat beads on Henry’s forehead. “That cooool
I just roll my
eyes. “I hope it gets here soon because I am certifiably boiling. I
mean, I don’t know how the birds aren’t dropping out of the trees
in an old person’s wheel chair all day.”
Liss blows on
my nails and a few seconds later Trouble strolls out onto the
balcony. He smiles and nods, stands with his hands on his hips and
breathes in a deep breath of warm forest air. His nails are painted
in pastel jellybean colours too and he wears them with pride.
I look away to
hide my sad smile. Trouble would have made such a good dad. It’s
just sad to think his wife and baby daughter are both dead. But
then again, who isn’t dead these days?
I ask Henry.
even get the chance to reply.
Kean lingers in the doorway for a moment, a whisper of a secret
smile on his lips that’s just for me. He looks out into the trees
and sighs. “It’s so stuffy inside. There’s nothing to do but hang
out on the balcony I guess.”
Kean rolls his
eyes. “Unless you’d like to go out there and play with all the
creepies that want to eat you.”
good.” Henry slumps back in his wheelchair.
Liss’ face is
so close to my nails I wonder how she hasn’t passed out from the
you’re doing?” Kean asks.
look up; she’s so absorbed, and just manages to mumble,
Henry holds up
his hands, and a moment later so does Trouble. Kean looks at them,
and back at Liss. “Well, I’d better make an appointment then. Any
space this afternoon?”
Liss looks up,
happiness lighting her face. “I’ll see what I can do.”
We spend the
rest of the day on the balcony, beneath our cove of shivering trees
and sparkling sunlight, just lazing about as the afternoon blends
into the evening. Our new home is set on the side of a hill. The
backyard is a slope of forest and our balcony is elevated and
secure. It’s a two-story property, way out of our league. The
bottom level is made of coarse redbrick, and features a double
garage, a small oblong of an older white kitchen, a tiny spare
bedroom and the open plan dining/living room that leads onto the
balcony. The top floor is forest-green weatherboard with three
bedrooms all in a row, a bathroom at the end of the open landing
and a wooden spiral staircase connecting the two. The doors and
trimmings are garishly brown and boring, and the road is about
twenty metres from our front door. It’s an unsuspecting house that
blends into its surroundings, tucked away behind a few tall
conifers. It’s not modern, but it’s as secure as anything. The
front ground level windows are boarded up with some workbenches we
sacrificed from the garage, and the front door already had a mesh
security door on the outside, which makes it pretty darn
Remnants of the
owners remain; the plates and cups are country blue, the cutlery is
Kmart, half-used bottles of Herbal Essence shampoo sit in the
bathroom next to a pile of beige towels and floral patterned
curtains hang on the windows. There’s a swing attached to an
overhanging tree limb on the balcony. And toys; we have a garage
full of Tonka Trucks and Polly Pockets and teddy bears.
Kean and Henry
sleep in the bunks in the boy’s room. We guess by the size of the
clothes in the sets of drawers that the kids might have been a year
or two younger than Henry. Kean has the Batman duvet cover and
Henry has the Spiderman one.
Trouble has the
smaller girl’s room. Without all the toys it’s pretty plain, with
creamy-coloured walls, peach carpet and glow-in-the-dark stars
stuck to the ceiling. The standout feature is the single bed with
big painted rainbows at the head and foot. But Trouble doesn’t seem
Liss and I have
the front room, otherwise known as the parent’s room. The walls are
covered in peach floral wallpaper; the bed is king-sized with a
plain blue duvet cover. A white dressing table cleared of its
jewellery and makeup sits against the far wall and wispy lace
curtains cover the window.
It took three
days to move out the personal belongings that were to strange too
keep; all the school reports, family photos, the drawings stuck on
the fridge, the underwear and clothes that don’t fit us, the used
toothbrushes. They sit in boxes in the dark garage.
After a few
scavenging hunts we filled the kitchen with food and water, found
new sets of clothing for everyone, and grew a nice collection of
board games. But we don’t take much more than that. It feels wrong
taking stranger’s belongings just to decorate our house, because
then it becomes a graveyard of relics of dead people.
The cool change
comes late in the evening, just as it’s starting to get dark, and
soon the night sky erupts in beautiful chaos. Liss and Trouble run
around opening the first floor windows (not the ground floor ones
though, we don’t have a death wish) and a fresh storm breeze
billows through the hallway, pushing out the day’s heat. Liss
squeals and pulls a terrified face at every bang of thunder, but
giggles when the sound dies down.
I swear I could
listen to her laugh all day.
has prepared some chocolate dip in a fondue pot (thanks to the
previous owners), one of those things with the bowl on top and a
candle underneath to keep the goo warm. We don’t have anything to
mix with the chocolate though, to make it stay liquidy, so it keeps
forming a crust on top and we have to spoon it out in clumps
because it’s too hard to dip things in, but who cares. We make
Over time Kean
has become the head chef of our house. I guess it’s his way of
protecting his family. And really, he’s the best cook. If it were
up to me we’d be having chocolate bars and tinned food straight
from the cans every night. But not Kean. He’s a food artist.