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An Ocean of Clouds

Harlen Bertrand

Growing up, I’ve always heard that we were living in the end times. That
one day, something will happen that will punish everyone who deserved to
be punished. At least, that’s what I was told. But, does that mean everyone
will be punished? Or, will some be sparred? What happens to those who
were chosen to be spared? Would they die like the bad people or would
they continue to live?
Or, would being able to live be the punishment?
I think about this a lot. Because, since I was born into this world of misery
and death, does that mean that I’m a bad person? That I was chosen to be
punished? But, why? I didn’t choose to be born.
So…why am I here then?
. . .
The world just outside the thin sheet of metal seemed to be tearing itself
apart. Thunder raged in the cloudy sky as rain banged the sides of the
shack like a drum. Only the sounds of gun

re and the screams of her
friends and neighbors broke through the static-like drone of the rain. Her
brother, David, sat beside her against the metal wall. Tears slowly moving
down her cheeks, clouding her already deteriorating vision. For what
seemed like forever, they both sat in silence. Their minds replaying the same
event that had just happened. Watching their dad get sucked into the
ocean of clouds above them by one of the lights that shined onto the
“Come on my girl. We’re almost there.” The last thing he said to her
before the lights arrived. She couldn’t remember what his voice sounded
like when he said that. Her brother gently caressed her hand as she was lost
in her mind. His skin was warm, unlike hers. He slightly shook her. She didn’t
respond; only looking at the ground in front of her. He peered over the
open window just above them at the di

erent coloured lights that broke
through the rainy sky above. Each ray seemed to pulse to the rhythm of the
otherworld bell sound that reverberated through the sky. He tried to spot
their dad through the thick fog the shrouded the world. “Maybe, it didn’t

really happen. Maybe, he’s still there. Wondering where we are.” He told
himself as he wiped the tears from his eyes trying to clear his vision as best
as he can.
“Why is this happening?” She quietly said. He knelt down beside her again
and gently grabbed her shoulder.
“Z…you okay?” He asked her. She didn’t respond. He gently grabbed her
cheek and turned her head to look at him. As soon as she saw his face
reality had come crashing down on her. Tears had welled up in eyes as she
fell into his chest, sobbing. He gently hugged her, holding back his own
“Daddy…Why?” She kept repeating through her sobs. “Why? Why is this
“Be strong. Your little sister is counting on you to be strong.” He heard his
dad say to him. “Be strong…be strong…” He kept whispering to himself. He
still couldn’t believe it himself as to what just happened. All he saw was
their dads face when he was hit by the light. The look of shock and fear
that enveloped him, something he’s never seen before. Never that much
fear. Never that much shock. Never that much sadness. He kept wondering
what must have gone through his mind. What he thought of as he was
violently pulled from their hands.
“Z…” He wiped his eyes quickly trying to knock that thought from his
mind. “We have to keep going. Mom’s waiting for us.” He didn’t want her to
see that he was crying, but the convulsions in his chest made it obvious to
“Daddy…you…can’t be gone. David, he can’t be gone…I can’t…” Broken
words made their way through her sobs. “I…”
“Shh. That’s enough, okay.” He let go of her and looked at her. ”Come on,
Z. We have to keep moving. Mom’s just around the corner from here.” He
wiped her eyes. “Just don’t think about it. We’ll be

ne. We always are,
right?” He forced a smile and tried to give her a reassuring look, just how
he always did. “Right?” She took a deep breath in and gently nodded her
head. He let go of her and grabbed her hand, helping her up. She stumbled
and winced in pain once she stood up.
“What? What is it?” He said stabilizing her.
“My foot.” He looked down to see her foot slightly turned in. “It hurts.”
Just as he looked down a loud bang came from the shack door. Startled,
they both looked up at the door seeing it shake violently. He grabbed her
hand and quickly ran behind a small workbench that was on the other side
of the shack. She whimpered in pain from the sudden movement.
He apologized when they both knelt down. While another bang came
from the door his eyes darted around the shack; looking for any type of
weapon he could use to defend with. Spotting a shovel nestled underneath
a pile of cloth he jumped up to grab it.
“David, no!” She said reaching for his hoodie. “Don’t!” She whispered. He
didn’t hear her. He grabbed the shovel just as the door broke down. A
gure fell down along with the shabby metal door.
“Stay back!” David yelled as he swung at the

gure without thinking,

landing a blow. The

gure quickly rolled out of his second attack and

crawled backwards holding up its hands.
“Whoa! Whoa! Stop!” The

gure yelled. “Hey! Stop! I’m friendly!” David
readied himself for another swing but hesitated when he heard that voice.
“David?” The

gure said still holding up its hands. “Stop, it’s me.” The
was wearing a dark jacket with a respirator and had greying hair.
“Jesus, boy, there you are. Been looking for you.” Ben said lowering his
“Damn…Ben. I thought you were one of them.” He dropped the shovel
and took a deep breath in. “Didn’t recognize you with the mask on.” He said
coughing from the air.

ne.” Ben grimaced holding his arm from where David hit him.
“Sorry. I hope I didn’t you too hard, old man.” He grabbed Ben’s arm and
helped him up from the ground giving him a quick hug.
“Where’s Ray and Zoe?” Ben said holding David by the shoulders.
“Ben?” Zoe said peering from behind the workbench.
“Oh, kiddo, there you are.” He let go of David who picked up the shovel
from the ground. “Been worried sick about you two.” Ben said lifting Zoe up
from the ground. She stumbled as she got up.
“What happened? Are you okay?” He said holding her arms.
“My foot. It hurts.”
“I think she sprained it when we ran.” David said grabbing her other arm.
“Can you walk?” Ben asked.
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Ben, where’s our mom? Did you see her?” David asked him.

“She sent me to look for you two and Ray. She’s looking after everyone
else on the boat already.” He looked around the small shack. “Where’s Ray?
And where are your masks?” They both didn’t respond to his question, but
the looks on both of the kids faces told him something was wrong. They
both had glossy eyes and looked like they hadn’t slept in weeks. Zoe’s
overalls were torn at the knees and her short, brown hair was soaked and
matted to her face. David’s short, brown hair was standing up and his
hoodie had a dark stain splattered on his chest. Ben just stared at the kids.
He didn’t know what to do; What to think. He just knew that he had to save
them; for their mother’s sake at least.
“Aw, I’m sorry kids.” He knelt down, just below their height. David looked
away from him, wiping his nose and coughing. “But, don’t worry okay?”
“Ben, can you take us to our mom? Please?” Zoe asked looking down at
her feet.
“Of course.” He said wiping her cheek. “But

rst, we need to

nd you two

some masks.”
“Ben…just please take us home…” David said. He didn’t want to argue
with them. He knew they were heartbroken; just from their faces he could
see it. He could feel the pain in his heart to slightly, but it wasn’t the time for
it now.
“Ok. Zoe, honey, can you walk?”
“I can, but it hurts.” She responded wiping her eyes.
“Okay.” Ben said. He patted David on the shoulder. “Hey, hey. Come on,
boy.” He gently said to him. “We have to get you two home.” With a simple
nod, still looking away from Ben, David picked up the shovel from the
ground while Ben picked up Zoe on his back.
The intense rain that fell from the lit clouds above stung their faces as
they walked out into the misty air. Ben let out a small cough from the fog
that made its way through his worn-out respirator. While they all walked in
silence, Zoe kept glancing up the sky. Looking at all the rays of light that
broke through the sea of clouds. She tried to spot something. Anything
ying above. But her blurry vision made it near impossible to see anything
other than the intense blues, reds, and yellows that fell from the grey blobs
in the sky.
David kept wiping his eyes, trying to get the stinging out from the mist.
His eyes were darting around trying to spot any movement in the mist with
his shovel at the ready. The gun

re and screams they both heard before
had quieted down. In the grey veil surrounding them, he could see the
icker of
res burning in the distance. He strained his hearing, trying to
hear something other than the splashing of the ocean on the Marina pier
they walked on.
“Ben, what’s happening?” Zoe asked, breaking the silence.
“I don’t know, kiddo.” He responded. “But, don’t worry, alright? We’ll be
ne.” She kept eyeing the sky, watching the rays of light dance to the
rhythm of the bell that seemed to be coming from the sky itself. Looking
back, she saw that the lights seemed to be concentrated only over the
Marina. In the distance, where they just left, she spotted two shadows that
looked like they were moving.
“Ben, what’s that?” She said shaking his shoulder. Looking back, he saw
two bright

ashes followed by the shadows disappearing
“Zoe, jump in my arms.” He said not taking his eyes o

of the shadows,
nudging David in the arm. David looked back and saw more shadows
seemingly appear out of the grey void in front of them. Behind the growing
number of shadows the group could see two faint blue lights ascend into
the air.
“David, run.” Ben said picking up Zoe in his arms. The shadows started to
grow more opaque as they started to get closer to them. “RUN!” He yelled.
Holding Zoe in his arms, Ben ran alongside David as fast as he could
without hurting Zoe. As they ran, a loud screeching came from behind
them. Glancing back, David saw the shadows had grown more in numbers.
He saw that they ran though the few rays of light that made it to the
ground unscathed. As though they didn’t even know they were there.
Rounding a corner, past a small shop, David ran past Zoe and Ben. Out of
the broken shop window a shadow fell out in front of David. Tripping over
the shadow, David fell down dropping his shovel.
“David!” Ben yelled. Another shadow crept out from the dark shop. David
turned over the looked up at the menacing

gure above him. Silhouetted
against the bright lights above him, he couldn’t make out any features of
this creature other than a faint, orange glow from its eyes.
“Sin-…” It seemed to say in a garbled mess. Ben came up behind it and
shoved the

gure to the ground with his shoulder.
“Get up, boy!” Ben said. Quickly crawling backwards, trying to make
sense of where his arms and legs are, David tried to scramble to his feet.

Just as he got up the shadow that Ben shoved over started to get up to its
feet. It made its garbled sound as it seemed to get up with an almost
ow of movement. David quickly picked up his shovel and swung
it at the
gure, cutting into its side. It dropped to its knees as he ran away
trying to catch up to Zoe and Ben.
Zoe was huddled up to Ben, trying her best to stay in his arms and trying
to stop her already pulsating ankle from moving any more. She kept her
eyes closed as she death gripped Ben’s jacket collar. She kept trying to
convince herself that this isn’t happening. That all this wasn’t real and that
she was only having bad dream. But as she clutched her eyes shut and
gripped Ben’s shoulders a sudden thought came into her mind.
For a brief moment she saw her dad. She suddenly remembered what
had just happened before she and David made it into that shack.
“Come on my girl, we’re almost there.” She heard his voice clearly near
her ear. As though Ben had just whispered his calming voice to her. “We will
always take care of you, okay?” He continued.
“We…David…” She silently repeated to herself. She glanced behind Ben
back at David. He had just started to run away from the shadow on its
knees. For a brief moment, it sat still as David ran away from it. But after a
moment it got up again. Disregarding the shovel stuck in its side. Glancing
back at the

gure David wasn’t see where he was going.
“David.” Zoe repeated once again. A strange feeling started to stir in her
chest. Something she hasn’t felt before. For that brief second he looked
away, he ran into another shadow that had seemed to appear out of thin air
in front of him.
“David!” Zoe yelled this time. Ben glanced back to David at the sound of
Zoe yelling. He started to wrestle with the shadow trying to break out of
its grip.
“Hey! Get o

him!” Zoe yelled without even realizing that she did.
“Zoe! Zoe, stop!” Ben called out to her as she broke free from his arms.
“Sin!” The shadow growled as it started to overpower David. In
desperation, David started trying to punch it in the stomach. Trying to bite
at its arms. Trying to break free. But the grip that this shadow had on his
arms was far too great.
“Get o
!” Zoe yelled as she neared the

ghting pair. “David! No!” Then
time slowed to a crawl for her as she locked her gaze with his. She saw the
same look in his eyes. The same look that their dad had when he was hit by
the lights above.
“I’m sorry, sis.” She heard him say. It was the same style of voice she had
just heard a second ago in Ben’s arms. As though he spoke softly into her
With a banshee like squeal, the shadow jumped along with David over the
edge of the Marina walkway. She jumped with outstretched arms trying to
stop them from going over. But, as if fate had stopped her, she was a
second late. He screamed as they both fell into the raging ocean that
splashed against the walkway that they ran on.
“NO!” She heard a voice cry out. It sounded like the voice came from Ben
but yet she recognized her own voice.
“NO! Dammit!” Ben yelled as he caught up to Zoe, now laying on her
stomach looking down into the raging waters beneath them. “David!” He
yelled once more. He couldn’t hear himself yell over Zoe screaming at the
waters. She was screaming at the top of her lungs, as though she was
trying to part the raging waters below.
“David!” He called out again. He, along with the shadow that dragged him
into the acidic waters, disappeared into the white waves that splashed
furiously. As though he had vanished just as the shadow that took him
seemed to manifest itself out of thin air. He kept searching the waters for
him, but the shadows that were already chasing them had started to catch
up to them from the grey void.
She kept looking down at the waters, frozen as to what had just
happened. She kept hearing his scream in her ears. But, it sounded like her
screams. It can’t be though. She wasn’t screaming. She suddenly felt Ben
trying to lift her up from the ground.
“Zoe, we have to go!” He yelled as he struggled to quickly pick her up
from the wet ground. The shadows that were chasing them had started to
get closer. It looked like there were more of them now. “Zoe! Get up!” He
aggressively yelled as he yanked her from the ground.
She didn’t realize that she was resisting his pull. She watched as the spot
where David had fallen in became smaller. Ben struggled with Zoe as she
squirmed in his arms, trying to break free from his grip.
“We will always take care of you, okay?” Her dad said in her ear once
more. She was still screaming, but the mist that surrounded them had dried
out her voice quickly and soon her screams became silent, airy squeals.

She kept squirming in Ben’s arms when he suddenly stopped after a
moment of running. As if her body was out of her control, she immediately
jumped out of Ben’s grasp and ran as fast as she could back to the spot
where David had disappeared. The pain in her ankle came back to her once
again. As soon as she put pressure on her foot she fell to the ground hitting
her head on the ground.
Through the high pitched ringing in her ears she slowly had started to
come back to reality from the adrenaline fueled dream she was in. Her
vision was blurred even more than it was when they left the shack. She was
staring at the open ocean beside the Marina. In the unfocused grey void
that hid the rest of the Marina from her she saw slight

ashes of orange
lights on the water. Bobbing along with the waves that traveled in the white
waters, they sparkled like the lights in the sky. Only now, she noticed that
the lights that shined from the clouds above were now gone. Only the
white streaks of the sky of the hidden sun shined now.
“No…” She heard Ben say. Low rumblings of engines accompanied the
ickering lights on the water. “NO! NO!” She heard Ben yell. She got up
from the ground only a little as she wiped her eyes, trying to clear them.
nishes of large boats past by them as they faded o

into the grey
unknown that surrounded them. Many of them had large, orange
spewing from their decks. Billowing clouds of dark smoke rose into the air
as they disappeared into the void. She felt the side of her head where she
hit the ground and felt something moist and sticky in her already wet hair.
Looking back at the shadows that were chasing them, she saw that the
shadows stood still. Almost like ominous statues that was hidden slightly
by the void around them. She could feel their gaze trans

xed on both her

and Ben.
As the destroyed boats faded o

in the distance, the strange quietness
of the world around them had become apparent. The same world that
seemed to be tearing itself apart just a few moments ago now stood silent.
The rain that fell from the sky was gone, the raging ocean beside them was
now calm as can be and the bell that echoed in the air was now gone.
Her gaze was trans

xed on the shadows that stared at them. Through the
peaceful quietness around them she could still hear David’s screams echo
quietly in her ears. It sounded like the shadows were making the noise; yet
it sounded like his cries still came from the calm waters below them to.
“Zoe…” Ben quietly called to her as he slowly inched his way towards
her. Trying not to make any sudden movements as to try not to make the
shadows move again. He gently picked up Zoe from the ground not taking
his eyes o

the ominous statues that watched them and slowly backed
away from them. They both could feel their evil stare on them as she slowly
backed into an alleyway beside them

nally losing sight of the shadows.
Holding his breath, he listened for their footsteps to see if they were
following them. The seconds slowly went by as he took a deep breath.
Setting Zoe down against the dirty wall beside them he peered around the
corner once again. The shadows that were following them just meer
moments before were now gone. Darting his eyes around he couldn’t see
anything other than the grey mist. His shoulders slowly relaxed as he made
sure there was nothing else in the alley with them.
”Come on, Z. We have to keep moving. Mom’s just around the corner
from here.” David said as he wiped her eyes. “Just don’t think about it. We’ll
ne. We always are, right?” She remembered the reassuring smile he
gave her when he wiped the tears from her cheeks. He always had a way of
calming her down whenever she would get scared or worried. That’s what
she liked about him. Sure, being a big brother, he can sometimes be a jerk.
Like how would always try to scare her or how he would always
ick some
food at her when they would eat with mom and dad. And, how he would
always blame ghosts whenever she would call him out. But, he had his
moments. Tickling her until tears came from her eyes. Telling her terrible
jokes. He always had a way of making her laugh even when she didn’t want
to. And, the times when mom and dad would be out scavenging with the
others from Orion he would always give her a hug and make her feel alright
whenever she needed it. In a world that seemed to make it it’s mission to
make everything miserable, he was her one thing that she could always
make it seem not so…well, miserable.
“Zoe…honey. I’m s-…” Ben struggled to say. He sat on his knees in front
of her on the damp, dirty ground. He was looking down. “I’m sorry.” He said
in a broken voice. “I…I’m so sorry.” He kept repeating. She stared at him
with a blank expression. She wondered why he was crying. She never saw
Ben ever cry. She watched as he sat on his knees and looked down at the
ground, silently sobbing. She put her hand on his and kept it there. After a
moment, he took his hand away from her grip and undid the mask he was
wearing and wiped his eyes. He looked up to her and put his mask over her

and did it up on the back of her brown hair.
“Listen to me. We’re going to have to leave Orion, okay?” He said as he
nished doing up the mask. “It’s not safe here anymore.” She didn’t
respond. Only blinking her eyes, trying to refocus them again. But, the
world around her had blurred too much for her to see clearly. She looked
away from him, down the alleyway. “Zoe. Talk to me.” He said.
At the end of the alley stood one of the shadows that had been chasing
them. Only, with the lights gone from the sky and the heavy rain stopped,
gure stood in perfect clarity. Ben looked in the direction she was
looking in and saw the

gure. It was a man.

He was wearing a torn T-shirt and ripped jeans with gas mask. The eyes
of the gas mask were gone, exposing the orange eyes of the man.
Underneath the torn clothes on his skin were large black blotches. Some
had streams of black liquid that left dark lines as they traveled down the
man’s body.
“Sinners…” The man growled as it started to walk towards Zoe and
Ben. With a slight hesitation, Ben got up from the ground and quickly
looked around for a weapon. Spotting a chunk of broken concrete on the
ground, he picked it up and readied himself.
“You will not touch her.” Ben said staring down the approaching man.
Zoe still sat on the ground, looking up at the pair as they both charged at
each other. However, just as Ben launched himself towards the man they
both slowed to a stop. Mid swing of the concrete, Ben froze in place just as
the concrete touched the man’s cheek. As if frozen in time the two men
slowed to a stop. She started to get that funny feeling in her chest once
more. The same one that she felt when she saw David last. With a
perplexed look, she observed the frozen pair as the world around her
turned to a golden tint. She looked back down the alleyway and at the
surrounding walls. They all had the same colour to them. Suddenly, her
hands became warm as the feeling in her chest intensi

“We will always take care of you, okay?” Her dad said one last time in
her ear. Ben and the attacker, along with the golden world around her,
suddenly became engulfed in an intense gold light.
She then heard a dull knocking from a door.
“Zoe! Time to get up!” She heard Ben’s voice call out. She slowly
opened her eyes. The sun beam from the morning sky was hitting her right
in the eyes. She blinked once more and moved her head. Her room was
blurry, just as it always was. The small supply closet she claimed as a room
was dark this morning. Only the small stream of light that was hitting her
was the only source of light.
“Come on! You’re going to be late for work, young lady!” Ben called
again. She slumped her head back into her pillow and sighed. She reached
over to the desk beside her bed and picked up her glasses and put them on
as she yawned.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m up!” She lazily called out.
“Zoe, come on! Get up!” He called out again knocking on her door.
“Yes! I’m up, I’m up!” She yelled louder. That seemed to stop him. She
sat up in her bed and scratched her head while she spit hair out of her
mouth. She sat with her eyes closed, trying desperately to wake up.
“Jeez. It’s no wonder I’m tired all the time. Could never get any sleep
around here anymore.” She mumbled to herself as she swung her legs out
from her blanket.

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