The girl absentmindedly toed at the dust on her boots. Whatever color they were meant to be was lost to time beyond memory.
She understood the concept of color but in her experience there was only ever a slight variation to the one hue. For decades, the sky had been a dingy yellow filter over the sun. Everything, even when she and the other squatters described them otherwise, was a sulfuric tawny gray. Only the northern horizon, a seething red line slashed across the edge of the world, interrupted an otherwise infinite canvas of that sallow, poisonous yellow.
Inaudibly, the ground shook with the rumbling threat of the distant volcano that had not said its whole part. She retained a memory from years ago, when the first rumblings began. It was not her own memory, for she was born beneath the ash. It was one described to her, which she kept safe after its original owner succumbed to his cough. A blue sky filled with birds. Flocks of them had lifted from their perches in alarm, and had not been seen since. She made the memory her own.
In the time before, some had promised that the cockroaches would survive anything, but they did not have the benefit of gas masks. The squatters ventured out from the ruins only after securing the bulky, ancient air filters across their faces. The food and water they hunted was not gathered with pails or weapons, but with crow bars and carts. But the enormous warehouses were nearly empty. The circle warned that the squatters would have to become raiders soon.
Caldera traced patterns in the ash on the ground, smoothing her footsteps away and scuffing swirling designs as best she could with all the grace she could manage in her heavy boots.
From your perspective, you might observe that she was drawing round, friendly clouds or angels. But Caldera had never known either in her life. The sky above her was always dark, always filled with the ever-present ash and dust. Even her precious memory of blue and silver could not hold back its weight. Angels needed a sky from which to descend with their golden instruments and snowy wings, but this was no sky.
It was the rough underbelly of a coffin lid.
This was a short piece I originally wrote in 2006. I have dusted it off and touched it up a bit before sharing it here.