The Children’s Hour

josh and beckie

It was a scene of utter devastation, yet it didn’t bother the children a bit. Playtime was playtime. Together the two children walked off into the wasteland surrounding our camp. They were in search of adventure and adventure they would have. In their eyes, the desolate scrubland that was their playground was transformed into whatever they wanted it to be. Today the prairie of the old west, tomorrow perhaps some jungle paradise, the day after… who knows?

It was tough on all of us but especially tough for the children. There was just the two of them in our camp, Josh and Beckie, fortunately they were of similar ages and got on well together. They spent their mornings doing chores, helping with the day to day running of the camp. After lunch they would have lessons with whichever of the adults who were available. Their lessons were simple, things such as reading, writing, and arithmetic. Sometimes there would be a smattering of science, not that it currently mattered anymore. Then, when lessons were over, from mid-afternoon until the evening meal it was playtime.

Playtime involved one of the adults being on watch. Today the task had fallen to me. I watched them rush off into the scrubland. They had strict instructions never to go out of sight of the camp but, being children, rarely remembered the admonishment. It was my task, at least for today, to watch over them and make sure they didn’t come to any harm. The dangers were slight but very real. There was many a scavenger, both man and beast, wandering in these parts and though not dangerous to the camp as a whole they represented a risk to the children. In our post-apocalyptic world children were a rare commodity, something to be cherished and protected. Many had not survived the early days of the fall of civilisation, those that had were considered precious beyond belief.

We were still hopeful. We were slowly heading towards a settlement we’d heard about. One where it was rumoured that still had the luxuries of electricity and running water. A place that offered a new beginning to those willing to work towards a new future. Somewhere that the children could get a proper education and be safe from predators.

As I watched Josh and Beckie play, I was hopeful for the future, for their future. Perhaps they could be part of a civilisation that would respect its place in the natural world and not ruin everything through its greed and shortsightedness as our generation and the one before us had. They were having fun running and chasing through the ruined landscape with not a care in the world. They accepted everything as it was without question. Everything, that was, except the need to come in from playtime when dinner was announced.

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Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink January 10th writing prompt competition.

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