art by M.S. Corley
Pictures in Crayon
by Elizabeth Shack
At recess the Arks dot the sky like unwinking stars. Ally and her friends aren't supposed to talk about it, eyes wide above the breathing masks that muffle their voices, but they do. Where they'll go, what they'll bring. Every kid Ally knows has a suitcase packed, just in case they win. Hers has photos from the zoo and a birthday card her little brother Rafe drew in red crayon. He called the scribble Mars.
The only time they don't talk is after the monthly drawing, when no one can bear it. Some kids, somewhere, were chosen, but it's not anyone they know. At recess no one looks up. Those nights, Rafe crawls into her bed. He doesn't understand--at four he's barely old enough to enter the lottery--but he knows something's wrong. Their parents are crying, and Ally will keep him safe.
Ally lies awake with her arms around her little brother. In the morning she repacks his suitcase for next month and tells him stories about Mars.