All the buckets were empty. The big ones, the small ones, wood ones, metal ones, broken and rusted ones: none held a drop. Alec reached his slender hand into each. One by one, nothing but a dry bottom met fingertips. He picked one up, looked inside, and tossed it over his shoulder with a sigh.

The distant clouds formed a black fist attempting to crush the setting sun. The red rays being squeezed out poured across crumbling skyscrapers. Alec stared out at them, his eyes silently saying, “Hurray!”

A kicked bucket rattled as he lurched back to the door. Something caught the corner of his eye when he touched the handle. He stopped and squinted. His eyes widened.

“Thank you!” he gasped.

He sped across the roof, empty buckets tumbling away as he went. At the far corner, he stopped and dropped to his knees. Hidden in the corner, its edges broken into plastic points, sat a small container.

Alec put his hand in. Warm water washed over his fingers. He slowly swirled them back and forth.

“Thank you,” he repeated, looking up at the sky.

He put his other hand in and cupped as much as he could. He carefully raised his full palms to his lips…

“Buddy,” a deep voice said from behind.

He stopped. Droplets dripped back down. He looked back over his shoulder, smiling. A huge, bearded man stood by the door.

“Water, Daddy!” Alec laughed.

His father gave a proud laugh back.

“And more is coming.”

They looked over at the clouds.

“Now, we search,” his father said, still staring off.

Alec looked up, stunned.


The huge man looked down and nodded.

“I search, too?” Alex said between excited, almost panting breaths. His hands involuntarily separated and the water they held splashed everywhere.

“It is your time,” his father started. “You are old enough.”

Alec jumped up. He broke into an un-rhythmic dance, pumping his arms and stomping his feet in little jumps to chants of, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

His father watched with loving amusement. The bearded face then turned hard. He looked down at the young man seriously.


Alec stopped.


He gave his full attention.

“We go search,” the mammoth man began, putting his hand on his son’s shoulder and stooping to look into his eyes evenly.

“Are you ready?”

Alec looked back into his eyes and answered in barely a whisper, “Yes.”

“You know what is out there?”

Alec looked away at the expanse of broken-down buildings and answered again in the same tone, “Yes.”

A big hand touched his cheek, covering it, and gently moved his eyes to his father’s.

“Are you sure? There’s only us.”

Alec closed his own and nodded.

“Good,” his father said, “catch me and prove it!”

He shoved his son suddenly and ran to the door laughing. Alec, taken off guard, opened his eyes, surprised. A high-pitched war cry rose. He sprang ahead in pursuit, laughing just as loud.


This is an excerpt from Craig Langley’s new novella, There’s Only Us, coming soon from Terror House Press.