I smell lavender.
It's a rare smell, these days, here at the end of the world. The world in front of me is an endless grey, the same, colourless hue that stretched on, distorting the line where the sky meets land. At my feet, where dust has gathered on old, unused asphalt that might have once meant something in another life, I see purple.
Through ash and smoke, it fills my senses, the sharp, once-familiar scent. After the climate had taken a turn for the worse, reached an unchangeable state, flowers had become a rarity. They had died first, and most things followed soon after.
I kneel down, well-worn trousers on the ground as my calloused hands brush aside the dirt. Gingerly, I pick the flower up by the stem, cradling it carefully in my palms. As the last grains fell away, the vivid colour blew my eyes wide open.
It reminds me of a lifetime, long past.
If I close my eyes, I can almost remember it with the same vividness. A park, somewhere south, near a house made of wood and brick. I walked, hand-in-hand, with someone who smelled of ocean breeze. There was the gossiping of leaves and the choir of birds accompanying us as we walked the length of a lake. Children laughed as they rolled in the dirt, browner and richer than the one in front of me now.
We walked over a bridge, made of the wood of trees that I could never see again, now that they have all been cut down in the name of green paper. A steam flows below our feet, sparkling with diamonds more priceless than the real gems - water, which we had all taken for granted. I was pulled along by my hand, tugged at the wrist and the heartstrings.
We walked by a bush of lavender.
The memory ends there, and I let it rest. Some other day, after scouring the dead world for supplies, I might return to it and continue from where I left off, savouring ever moment like a good book.
Books are entirely useless these days, literacy and words having lost its novelty after we all retreated into our more animalistic selves. After the systems fell, and food ran out, and ash rained from the sky, we found there was very little need for civility when survival was on the line.
And yet - I have an old book that I keep in my pocket. I write on the margins for a generation that will never come to pass. It's frayed at the corners, cover faded until the only way to tell what the book had been called was to have seen it in its prime.
I place the flower within yellowed pages, a page away from the maple leaf I had found the other day. The lavender lays there, a sleeping beauty, unassuming and innocent. I observe for a moment more, now with a detached disinterest, questions forming in my mind - where did it come from, was there more? - Before snapping the book shut. As it disappeared from sight, it took the colour with it, and the world returned to its bleakness.
Still, I had seen it, and I had kept it safe, and the thought brings me a sense of - perhaps not joy, but at least ease.
I walk on, back into a world that was no longer.
I still smell a hint of lavender.
The writer is a student of Grade 12, British School Bucharest, Romania