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Dust

This is a love story.

It's 1000 years in the future. The human male has fought his last biological war and he's long been extinct and forgotten. For centuries now, women have ruled what remains of this harsh, red world. We've stood proudly together in long lasting peace, but for how much longer can our all female race survive? The natural order is against us and the odds on our final destruction keep getting shorter by the day...

Dust

That was frustrating, I couldn't even get past the receptionist at Fertility Tower, everything I said to her she fended off with dubious statements and facts. At the end she grew tired of me, she became rude and threw me out... or as good as.

"I just want to know if I can still have a baby," was all I asked her.

"Because your menstrual cycle has stopped?"

"Yes."

"It's the dust clouds," she informed me. "Lack of sunlight can have that affect."

"How come?"

"Depression. Lack of sunlight causes depression and that can really screw your body up. You'll be OK when summer returns to normal."

When summer returns to normal? I think she should have said if. There's no sign of summer with the dust clouds never clearing and the storms are getting worse by the day. No wonder I'm depressed, most women are, we're all living in fear that our world will soon be ending.

"How old are you?" she asked me.

"Twenty six."

"And how long have you been married?"

"I'm not married."

"Then why are you here?"

"I told you. I just want to know if I can still have a baby."

"Yes you can. In about three fucking years."

There was really no call for that kind of talk. I'm not stupid, I know very well you need to have been married for two years before they will fertilize you and they won't even consider it once you hit thirty. I just wanted reassurance that's all, time is fast running out for me and I so want to find the right woman and have her baby.

I suppose I do feel a little bit better and I appreciate my worries are tiny compared to the calamity that looks like destroying our world. I expect the receptionist is also worried and depressed, the only woman I know who isn't is Sarah, the young girl who works for me at Steff's Place, the little bar I've opened down on Liberation Street.

Nothing ever seems to spoil Sarah's optimistic mood. She believes the dust storms are nature's punishment for all the millennia of abuse humanity has given her. First the male was wiped out, now it's time for the last surviving females to pay the price.

Women are still here when all the rules of biology say that we shouldn't be. We've cheated nature with same sex reproduction, although we've also spent centuries now trying our hardest to show more respect for the environment around us. Sarah's faith says we still haven't sacrificed enough, but nature's retributions will stop when we're at the brink and have finally learnt our lesson. The New Dawn will come and with it summer will thankfully arrive. There will be one last chance for woman to prove herself and live in total harmony with the world.

Sarah is convinced by her faith, I suppose I am too to some extent. If I had no hope left then why am so I concerned about having a baby or not? The New Dawn has to come or my daughter will never be born. I have to believe, there is no other choice, I just wish my faith was as strong as Sarah's.

Oh well, one way or another we will soon know our fate. In the meantime I need to get back to the bar and help Sarah out, make the most of what little trade we're likely to get this evening. I haven't far to go, just a walk through Center Park and I'll be on Liberation Street.

The walk isn't the joy it once was though, the dust storms have ripped the park to pieces, all the green grass has long gone and not one tree has a single leaf left on it. It's so sad, yet the park remains ever popular, it's become a gathering place for those seeking some sign of hope that we'll survive these endless climatic disasters.

When a storm moves in, it's as if the red dust clouds are swooping down to attack us. A wall of fine, sand like particles swirls through the streets and you won't survive long if you're caught outdoors, a few breaths and your lungs will soon be choked up. The next storm will kick off in a few hours, which is another reason I need to get back.

My heart sinks when a few minutes later I walk into my bar, only Sarah is in there, cleaning again in a never ending battle with the dust. My business may be failing, but my sweet black girl always cheers me up. She looks so cute in her little shorts and white vest, with such natural beauty and her endearing personality, she makes for the perfect barmaid.

All my customers love Sarah. I love her too, in the platonic sense. She's my kind of girl, which is just as well seeing as she's my one and only employee.

"Told you so," she says, after I've taken a seat at the bar and given her the few details of what happened at Fertility Tower.

"Hmm," is all I can manage in reply.

I'm feeling tired and I can't be bothered to discuss it with her, she may only be seventeen, but Sarah's so sharp and quick witted that she always seems to get the better of me no matter what we debate. I only ever hold my ground because I can trump her argument every time, simply by being her boss. Hardly a moral victory I know, but she has me so tangled up in words I can get pretty desperate.

Sarah pours me a drink without me needing to ask and I study her closely when she turns her back. She does look lovely this evening and I'm so glad she's here to keep me company, I'd be all lonely and miserable stuck in here on my own.

"No customers then?" I ask her.

"Only one, she just went to the cloakroom."

"Gina I suppose?"

"No, some tart who thinks she's something special."

"Not a regular then?"

"I've never seen her before, but she's a right stuck up bitch."

"Sarah! You can't talk about the..."

I don't get chance to finish rebuking Sarah for her attitude, the 'bitch' in question has appeared in the bar and my jaw drops when I see who she is.

"Denise!"

"Steffanie!" she replies. "What are you doing here?"

"It's my bar. I own it," I tell her.

"Really? I had no idea."

"It's called Steff's Place," Sarah comments, laying the sarcasm on thick.

"The storms keep blowing the sign down," I remind her.

"I put the sign back this morning," she replies. "It quite clearly says Steff's Place."

Denise laughs, while Sarah shrugs her shoulders and turns away. She obviously hasn't clicked with Denise and she's spotted straight away that there's a history between me and this new customer she so resents. It's a big history in fact, Denise was my last long term lover. I thought she was the one, until she dumped me without warning for some other blonde she took a shine too.

There's an awkward moment between my former lover and I, which feels even worse when I stand up to belatedly greet her with an embrace. Kisses are exchanged, but only pecks very cautiously delivered on the cheek.

"How's Mandy?" I ask her, when we've settled at the bar.

"Mandy? I soon got rid of that little..."

"Then why...?"

I can't finish what I wanted to say. Old wounds have already opened up, scars on my heart that never properly healed. I want to know if Denise finished with Mandy so quickly, then why didn't she come back to me? We had something so good happening between us. Why did she throw it all away for a girl she didn't even care for very much?

But Denise's fling is done with now, and although we finished months ago, perhaps her wandering into my bar was more than mere chance, perhaps it was fate. We could start again, we'd be even stronger this time, we...

"I've got a new girl now." Denise announces. "This one is really something special."

"Oh. I..." and my tiny piece of rekindled hope has just flickered and died. I know I'm being stupid. Denise and I are long finished and that's that, but I can't help how I still feel about the way our relationship ended.

"Hey. Do you want to meet her?" she asks me. "She's really hot."

"I..."

"Oh why don't you fuck off," Sarah blurts out at Denise. "Can't you see you're upsetting her?"

"Who do the fuck do you think you are?" Denise retorts with.

A war of verbal abuse has broken out, with my sorry, sad ass stuck in the middle.

"I'm Sarah. I love Steffanie, I care about her and you don't. You're just a fucking, dirty, selfish bitch."

Denise bursts out laughing, I don't know if it's with amusement or shock. But she can't be as shocked as I am by the passion Sarah is showing in defending me. She said she loves me, how sweet is that?

"Lighten up girl," Denise tells her. "Who cares about anything these days?"

"Steffanie does. She cares about lots of things. She wants a baby."

"No way," says Denise. "Don't you know the world is about to fuckin' end?"

"No it isn't," screams Sarah. "No it fucking isn't."

~

Just how grim can this so called summer get? The next storm's arrival is imminent and rumor has it that this could be a really big one. This might be the beginning of the end for us all, if the damage is too great there'll be no way back, no way of avoiding a slow lingering death from starvation. I think I'd sooner be blown to pieces like the park, a fate many women have already suffered.

What a horrible choice, and even my personal life is a total disaster. I buy a bar and within a few weeks of opening I'm being wiped out by clouds of dust blowing all my customers away and the storm brewing outside is nothing compared to the storm that just happened in here.

Sarah's sobbing in the cloakroom and Denise has gone, but not without firing a final barrage of filthy insults before she made her departure. Sarah was right yet again, my ex is a bitch, what she said about me and Sarah proved it.

At least for the moment I'm still the boss of my own little empire, so I'd better make sure my loyal worker is OK. When I knock on the cloakroom door I get a very different response to the tearful one I received a short while earlier. My cheery black girl has recovered her composure.

"I'll be out in a minute," she tells me, sounding her usual self.

"If you don't leave soon, you'll be stuck here by the storm."

"I'm staying here with you," she shouts through the door. "You need me."

"Oh. OK." I say to her. "But I er... I can't afford to..."

"I don't want paying," she says.

I don't know what to say to all that. Do I need her? I certainly don't need her to work because there's nothing much for her to do. No one will come in here now and if the storm is a long one we'll have to make up a camp bed and spend the night on the floor. I could do with Sarah's support though, that's always welcome.

I leave her to carry on with whatever it is she's doing in the cloakroom, take a walk outside to close and fasten up the window shutters, then turn to look down Liberation Street towards the horizon. From east to west there's the fearsome sight of a red tempest fast heading our way. I check the shutters again, they're our first line of defense. If only I hadn't been so tight and bought something stronger.

I wander back inside to my seat at the bar, as I do so, Sarah emerges from the cloakroom looking lovelier than ever. She's made her face up, let down her long mane of black hair, and most strikingly of all, changed into a short summer dress that I've never seen her wearing before.

She glides across the room like a dancer, her every movement full of grace and natural rhythm. She's revealing an awful lot of leg in that dress, the loosely woven fabric is revealing an awful lot of the rest of her as well. Sarah has the most wonderful body and I can't take my eyes off her.

"Wow. You look amazing," I tell her.

"Thank you," she says. "I thought I'd dress up for you."

"For me?" I reply, already confused by her again.

She doesn't answer, instead she stops walking and stays where she is, turns a little to stand facing me. She can see I'm staring at her body, transfixed by her beauty, so I feel have I to say something more.

"Sorry, but your dress, it's... it's very revealing."

"I know," she says. "I don't mind you looking at my body. I want you to."

"You do?"

"Of course I do, but you never seem to notice me."

"That's not true," I tell her.

"Yes it is, you don't take me seriously."

She's lost me now, and she still doesn't offer a proper explanation. Instead she blows me a kiss, beams a lovely big smile, then resumes her cleaning behind the bar. I try not to think any more of what she just said and did. I put it all down to her outgoing character.

"It's my birthday soon," she says, without looking up from her work.

"Is it?" I reply, making out I'd forgotten.

"I was born at five past midnight. So I'll be eighteen in exactly four days and four hours."

"Why so specific?"

"Because it closes the gap, doesn't it?" she says.

"What gap?"

"The age gap between us."

"Well, sort of." I reply.

"Eighteen and twenty six. That's OK isn't it?"

"What's OK? What are you talking about, Sarah?"

"Why are you being so slow? I'm talking about us, Steffanie."

I wasn't being slow, I was pretending the obvious attempt at seduction with the sexy dress and everything wasn't really happening. I was hoping a smart girl like Sarah would realize I'm too old for her.

"What I said to that bitch Denise, I meant it you know."

"What exactly?" I reply, but I can guess what's coming.

"I love you. I've been in love with you for ages."

"Oh, Sarah."

"I think about you all the time," she tells me. "When I'm on my own, in bed I mean. I have to do things to myself and I imagine it's you touching me."

"Stop it, Sarah."

"Why? I know you like me and I'm yours if you want me."

"I do like you, but you're barely eighteen and that's a big difference from my age."

"No it isn't."

"It is, my darling, because you'll change so much in the next few years."

"I might not have a few years," she replies.

"Don't lose faith, Sarah. Not now, not you."

We're having to talk louder to be heard over the storm fast taking hold. We're both trying to ignore it, in my case that's mainly due to my increasing worries about our safety in here. The front door is as solid as a rock, but if the shutters go then I've little doubt that the window they're protecting would soon be blown in.

At least now I know why Sarah has chosen this time to reveal her love for me. Even she is beginning to fear the worst, if the end does come soon then it won't be before she's given me her best shot with the sexy dress and loving words. What a sweetheart she is, I can't help but be moved by her.

The lights in the bar flicker for a second, Sarah looks up at them and then her attention is drawn towards the window. The shutters have started rattling and they've never done that before.

"This is the strongest one yet," she says, finally acknowledging the storm's arrival.

"Yes," is all I say in response.

She moves towards me, rests her arms on the bar and her big brown eyes stare straight into mine. She looks so happy, despite not getting very far with me and everything else that's going wrong in the world.

"Did you really love Denise?" she asks me. "She's horrible."

"I don't know. I thought I did."

"But not now?"

"No, not now." I tell her. "Not anymore."

"Good. Then you're free to love me and I'll take care of you. I'll marry you and they can use my cells to give you a baby."

"Oh, Sarah. That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me."

"I love you so much," she says. "And you could love me... if you let yourself."

I don't think she's going to give up in her pursuit of my affections, the only thing that can prevent her is the ever growing strength of the storm outside. The shutters are rattling much louder and the lights are flickering almost constantly now.

There's the sound of debris hitting buildings, and judging from the crashing noise we just heard, some of those buildings are beginning to disintegrate. The threat to our safety is growing and there's nothing much we can do about it.

"I'm scared, Steffanie."

"It's OK, we're safe in here," I tell her, but I'm not in the least bit certain.

I have to be strong and comfort her, she's young, she's frightened and she needs someone to hold and protect her. I get up from my seat, wave my hand as a signal for her to come out from behind the bar. If the shutter does go, that's not the best place for her to be standing.

She follows my instruction and together we build a nest of cushions and blankets in the strongest corner of the room. We settle down next to each other, holding each other to calm our mutual fear. Now, not even the threat from the storm can prevent the feelings our close proximity brings forth in me.

Yes, I do love Sarah and I could fall deeply in love with her if I did what she said and let myself. Why shouldn't it work if we both want it to? Does the fact she's only eighteen really matter that much? She's intelligent and I like her bright personality. I'm attracted to her, she turns me on and she's adamant that she wants me. How much more could I possibly demand?

Her loving black face looks up at me, she says something but I can't hear her. The storm has become a thunderous roar and the whole building is shaking, there's an enormous crash from the cloakroom, which must be the roof caving in. Thank heaven we didn't take sanctuary in there.

"Be brave," I call out to her, holding her tighter.

The lights are flickering faster, only fewer and fewer are now coming back on. The shutters are making the most awful noise, I'm sure they're going to give at any moment and the storm will surely burst in and claim us. Sarah doesn't say it, she screams it over the terrifying din.

"Tell me NOW, Steffanie. Tell me you love me before it's too late."

I don't respond just to please her. I respond because at this very last moment it's true.

"I love you, Sarah." I yell out. "I love you, I love you."

"Then KISS ME," she screams back.

~

It's so gloomy and quiet in the bar, the only sound I can hear is the sound of my young love softly breathing. The shutters are still in place, to my amazement they held firm all night and repelled the full fury of the storm. The electrics have completely failed though, all we have left to see by is the feeble glow of the emergency light.

Under the blankets, Sarah is safe in my arms after a night spent together in what felt like the heavens at war. It was our first and last chance to make love, or so we both thought. Yet we're alive, we're more alive than you could possibly imagine after a night of such fevered passions. Sarah stirs and opens her eyes, she smiles and her face is enchanting.

"Wow," she says. "What a night."

"I can hardly believe we survived," I reply.

"Wish me Happy Birthday then," she tells me, as cheerful as ever.

"It's not your birthday yet."

"I know, but it sure feels like it."

"Happy Birthday, my sweet."

Sarah gives me that loving look again, so I have to kiss her. I have to discover if those soft luscious lips of hers feel as wonderful on mine as I remember. We kiss slowly and long, tasting and exploring each other's mouths. When our lips part she pulls me to her, demanding another passionate kiss.

"You're greedy," I playfully whisper.

"I know," she replies, with a giggle.

I will kiss her again, but first I must look at her, push the blankets aside and let my eyes behold what is surely the most beautiful vision in the world, the beauty of a naked young woman offering herself in love.

Is that why nature spared us? Is that why at the final moment she chose to pull back from her rage, not able to bring herself to completely destroy her most glorious creation? I soon have my answer, a thin ray of light beams through the gap in the shutters and shines across Sarah's body.

"Look, Sarah. Look."

"Oh my God," she cries out, and we both leap to our feet.

We run naked to the door and Sarah flings it wide open. Light floods in, light so bright we have to shield our eyes for a few moments. We can't look up yet, but we can hold hands and move slowly outside to see stone and not red dust at our feet.

When we can finally look up, when our eyes are prepared for the magnificent splendor above us... we raise our heads and see nothing but blue. We see the clear blue sky of summer above us. We see the New Dawn of what must be the most welcome summer day since time began. We are forgiven. We are saved.

We lower our heads back down and look around at all the debris and destruction on the street, the buildings left barely standing. We see sadness and death, but beyond that we see hope, we see our last chance and we know in our hearts that every woman left alive is going to take it.

And for me there's another chance on offer to take, and that's to share my life with Sarah. I'm going to take that chance as well. Before I do though, she needs to hear me repeat some words I've already spoken.

Things were different the first time I spoke those words, then it was darkness and fear. Now it's the first light of summer and a whole new beginning lies before us. It's our beginning, and for her sake I need to confirm I still want it.

"I love you, Sarah." I tell her. "I love you, I love you."

steffanie xxx

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