She hadn’t intended to sleep again, not after the way she had woken up last time, but sleep took her regardless. When she did open her eyes, light was filtering through the window, bringing vision back to her broken world.
Tanner was gone, but Dean was still curled tight beside her, and much as she didn’t want to disturb him she had to see reality for herself. Easing herself from the bed, she carefully put her feet on the floor, avoiding as best she could the broken bits that might poke her feet. Once she was certain she wouldn’t slip in the dust, she worked her way over to the window and looked out. What she saw was beyond even what her mind could imagine.
The air was heavy with black smoke and red dust. Though she could not see where the fire was, it was clear something large was still burning. Being on only the third floor, her field of view was quite narrow, and what she could see was mostly the cars and buses, thrown off their tracks and laying crumpled or tossed in the streets, leaning against buildings, or piled on top of one another.
Tanner had been right about the air, as she could make out some movement below. The window was too dirty to make out detail, but it was a person, at least. She didn’t have much optimism for this plan of his to get out of the city. Even if they were on the planet, that didn’t mean there was anywhere else for them to go, but she reminded herself it was still better than staying here, so she began to search around for a bag or tote or anything she could carry things in.
She opened the closet door with not unwarranted caution, as things began to fall out as she did so. Trying to think of what would be the most useful things to have, she grabbed her warmest sweatshirt, a light jacket, another pair of pants, and a handful of underwear. She didn’t think about how she’d clean anything, that was the furthest from her mind. She put the clothes on the bed until she could find something to put them in, then took the one book she was certain she could not bear to live without.
It was more difficult to make it down the hallway, the light didn’t hit this area as well, but she got a tote bag and a backpack she had forgotten about out of the hall closet, conveniently having fallen off the shelf. That’s when she realized that no one was in the living room, either.
“Tanner?” He wouldn’t have left her, surely. But there was no answer to her repeated calls, and her mind started taunting her with thoughts of being alone, truly alone. She wondered where he could have gone, or why he wouldn’t have taken her, or whether that blow he took to the head had been worse than he thought and-
She shook her head firmly, refusing to let herself go down that line of thinking, at least voluntarily. She picked her way into the living room where there was more light and found a dead body on the floor. A cry of surprise escaped her lips before she could stop it and she turned away quickly, trying to catch her breath that had suddenly gotten away from her.
After a moment, she turned back again and made herself look. If there was a dead body in her living room she was damn well going to find out who it was and why. Taking a few steps closer, she saw it was the girl she had invited to stay after the fire. The floor under her head now had a dark stain, and Ella realized she must have been killed in the crash.
Her hands trembled and she felt a little sick, but she couldn’t just leave her there, so she got a clean sheet and laid it over her, then closed her eyes and took a deep breath before rolling the body over so she could wrap her fully. There would be no carrying her out to be buried, but she would give her what little dignity she could here.