The first thing Jack noticed when he awoke was the smell of smoke. The second thing was the daylight streaming through the window. The daylight scared him more. His mouth felt furry, but there would be nothing to drink until he got to the water standpoint, and over-sleeping had cost him a place near the front of the queue.
Carrying his two-litre bottle, his allowance for the day, he joined the back of the line, estimating a three hour wait till his turn came. Clive from three doors down staggered up behind him. “Can you smell the smoke? They reckon the fires are only about 12 miles away now.”
“It’s not the fires that scare me. It’s the people. I heard they closed another two canning factories – not enough water to power them.” Jack nodded towards the line of people snaking round the corner. “If it doesn’t rain soon, they’ll be fighting each other for food and water long before the fires get to us.”
Suddenly two shots rang out from near the front, followed by a high-pitched screaming. It didn’t take long for the news to travel back through the line. “The armed guards shot some kid who was trying to steal water. Drinking straight from the tap – brazen as anything. Serves him right. You can’t just go stealing water.”
“He didn’t understand.” The woman stumbled, almost dropping the child in her arms. “He was thirsty and he just didn’t understand.” She fell to the ground, cradling the limp body, sobbing. “He’s two years old and they shot him for having a drink.”