They went higher, far and above the clouds, up towards the never-ending sky. The townspeople watched with a happy kind of sadness.
Ansel knew he would see them again. They promised and he believed. He dropped to his knees, plucked a bit of the prickly grass, and threw it into the wind.
Up in a far corner of the sea green sky, a cloud parted and the emblem of Colaris pulsed with its gold and red glow.
Ansel stretched his arms up and waved until the emblem disappeared. He climbed back into the truck bed and stared at his belongings. In his bag he found the water bottle and drank enough to wet his throat. He pushed the rest of his gear against the truck cab, sat down, and settled in.
Did Sabra rescue her father?
Well, the story doesn’t answer that question.
I think she did.
What makes you think that?
Because when they left the graveyard, she said she would.
She said that, but sometimes what we want to happen doesn’t always happen.
I know, but what about the trucks? Remember? She told Ansel about the trucks. He just doesn’t remember right now. “Even though it was rusty, it would never fall asleep.” Kind of like a riddle.
Yes, it did seem like the trucks were important to her.
So, I know he’ll be alive.
You think so?
Yeah. The dulcess probably just turned him into a truck. And a not dead truck. Just rusty.
Like she did for Fin.
Right! The tree. Only Fin really died. That was sad.
Yes, it was.
I’m glad Ansel gets to take care of him. Guardian of the Moth Caves. That’s so cool!
Yes, but we don’t know if Ansel survives the battle.
Oh, he will. He has to or … it just won’t be right.
Now remember, Evan, not everything turns out the way we want it to in stories, and …
So, Ansel is gonna die?
I don’t know. We’ll have to keep reading the story.
I don’t want Ansel to die. That will really make me mad.
Let’s finish the story first. Maybe we’ll get some answers.
Seriously. I’ll be mad.
Let’s wait and see. Only one page to go. Okay. Where were we? …. The metal against his skin was hot and he itched from the rust. Sabra had warned him: the rust flakes would dig in and cut like shards of glass if he tried to brush them off. It was the cruel design of the Council.
The townspeople left in a steady drift-away to fend for themselves. Soon Ansel was alone. He reached for his gear bag and pulled out the blanket. The first stars of the evening caught his eye and he began to count, as Sabra had taught him. “Start at the middle of the sky, then move to the left, then right, then start over. When you find the stars of the Drinking Gourd, pour your sadness inside, and then keep counting.”
One. Two. Three. “Soon you’ll be asleep and in the palm of His hand.”
How many stars are in the sky, Mom? A hundred million quadzillion?
As many as there are grains of sand on the beach, Son.
Whoa. That’s a lot.
The trucks rattled, and the wind moaned through broken windows and the holes of corroded pipe. Ansel wrapped the blanket around his face, but the chill still tore through.
He counted, and he filled the Gourd.
And it was very dark.
End of Book One. There. What do you think?
I think he’s gonna stay alive, Mom.
I hope so. Shall we read Book Two?
On Writing: I found this photo on Pinterest and added it to my Photo Writing Prompts board. My first thoughts were “What was the meeting about? And why did they leave the trucks? Or were they taken — up and away?” I let my thoughts simmer on the board until tonight, when I got the urge to flash-write from a photo prompt — a ready-set-go type of writing that I use to practice.
I thought about a sci-fi story or paranormal disturbance. It turned into a mom reading a story to her son. I don’t know how that happened, but that’s what makes fiction writing such an enjoyable activity for me. I liked the mother-son thing, and suddenly they were reading one of my stories. I included characters and themes from my last photo fiction story, The Graveyard. Rust Never Sleeps is the result. I had fun with the story treatment. Hope you did, too.
And thanks, Rust-Oleum and Neil Young, for the title. I couldn’t resist.