It rained, and rained, and rained. An endless cacophony of sound bared itself to every corner of the house, every dark cupboard and splintered recess. A girl sat by the window, comfortably settled on her bed. Readers, parchment, quills, novels, and jumbled heaps of clothing were strewn about her. She was bent over a journal, her lips silently forming the words as she wrote. A book lay open before her.

"Why did the Federal Republic of the Western Secessioned States war with one another after their split from the former United States in 2020?"

A sudden flash of lightning threw her face into sharp relief. The fair skin looked a pale blue, deeper than it really was. The cheekbones were high, the nose narrow and curved. Rich brown locks of hair covered her shoulders and the back of her calico gown.

Silently she moved on to the next question.

"Explain the cultural change in North America and the surrounding region after the atom bombings of such cities as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and London."

A great roar of thunder exploded frighteningly loud and mercifully far away. More lightning stabbed down, and she counted the seconds.one.three.thunder erupted again, and the rain fell and fell and fell..

She pictured the faded headlines: Key Cities around the World Destroyed.. Moscow, Berlin, Tokyo, Edinburgh.. Her grandmother had told her of the time when women wore men's clothes and girls exposed their ankles. Her grandmother had told her of the time when she exchanged her sandals for slippers and T-shirts for ball gowns.

"T-shirts?"

"Yes, love. They were cotton. They were a blessing in the summer heat."

"From the Americas."

"I lived in the Americas, dearest."