kaThe layer of grime hadn’t been disturbed in a long time. All those bodies might have been pale before – the millions of them – but now, blanketed in dust, they’re frozen ghosts stacked like firewood.

So many human faces, fingers, arms, legs, gaping mouths and open eyes all blended into a motionless woodpile draped by that thin, chalky film.

There is no life in this room. No sound. Air does not move. There’s no color other than gray.

And that’s when it twitches. Not all of it, but in that endless mass, near the center, one tiny shift.

Not much more than something settling. It could just be a vibration. Then another.

The pile was not dead. Not completely. Something… someone survives.

A scratching noise. Squirming, moving, shaking the dust.

A petrified infant, loosened from mother’s arms, began rolling aside as one of the millions, down underneath, was desperate to get out.

If she’d been on top, the climb would be easier. No luck. Kaya had never had luck. She needed some now. She craved just inches, scant inches, to be able to move.

But to wake buried by family, by friends, all lifeless. All crushing and keeping her trapped, pushing her down, smothering her on the bottom layers.

Dust gets dislodged and filters through the gaps. She can’t keep it out of her eyes. Her first breath is filled with what’s falling off the cold skin of her people. And at last, a long, wailing scream.

Kaya coughs. The grit is funneling down, into her mouth, seeping toward her lungs. She can barely move. Claustrophobia does not begin to describe burial in a tomb of every last human body.

There is no answer for her. So another scream. Not even an echo joins her misery.

Coming soon to a bookstore near you…