September 22, 2033
I hiked a few miles down the coast tonight, keeping a keen eye out should the fires flare up once again.
I’d gone about as far as I could go, – saw what I had come to see and was about to turn around and head back when a solitary figure emerged from a stand of fog-shrouded eucalyptus trees and crossed road in front of me.
It was a man, a much older man, dirty and disheveled, half-dead really, trudging ahead, his stride hampered by the ash and mud clumped to his shoes. As he shuffled forth I called out to him, but he didn’t answer.
I called out again.
He stopped momentarily and looked my way. His face was expressionless, his eyes locked in a thousand yard stare.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
He never answered and his expression never changed. A moment passed and he turned away and resumed his solemn march north.
Soon, others followed. In groups of three, four and five they emerged from the trees and fog. Men, women and children, of all ages, shapes and sizes followed solemnly in the wake of the old man. Some held out crosses, but most shuffled forward with their heads bowed to the ground, mumbling pleas and prayers as they passed by me.
Where they had come from I hadn’t a clue, but they passed by without acknowledging my presence. A parade of thirty in all and each wore a look similar to the other, the look of surrender, the look of defeat. These folks had given up. They had no fight left in them. They looked like they were waiting to die.
When the last of the broken slipped across the road and disappeared back into the coastal fog, I dropped my head and sighed.
It’s only going to get worse from here.