“Is that you?” The girl wouldn’t have said that had she knew what would happen to that dot of light in the uniform darkness. “Hello!” She called for her friend, panic eating away plain jest as the only thing could make out was her hand immediately before her and the puffs of fog and her own breath.
She was cold.
The dot drew closer, and she saw its regular skeletons to decide that it was a lantern. A fellow villager, perhaps, for she knew the pink blossoms erupting from those black branches were not things her friend would ever want on a lantern. Too…elaborate. Too cheery.
She decided to pick her way past the grass with its unevenness hidden by greenery, dodged sticks and trunks felled by the recent storm, to meet the lantern. When she looked up from her feet it was gone. Did the wind extinguish it? Perhaps she scared it away, again.
Oh well, she skipped around to find new dot, saw its pretty patterns and repeated her ritual, “Hello!”
“Did you find any survivors yet?”
“No…the mud came down too fast, they didn’t stand a chance,” The two men surveyed the basin filled with fresh earth where the township was, their straw coats heavy but the damages of nature heavier.
“Did you hear that?” One of them whipped their light about, the song of the night stirred by the faintest brush of sticks.
“I…” The moon ditched them that night, the clouds too thick and dull. “I don’t hear anything.”
Then they heard it, unmistakably, and a smile cracked the previous scare, a croak, “Ha, that’s just a frog.”
“Hello!” Their light went to sleep.