Thirty-five years. Thirty-five years since Yellowstone exploded. Thirty-five years since there was any such thing as a sunny day. Ludwig had been twelve years old back then so he could still remember what had been lost.
His body was wracked by coughing and he spat dusty mucous into the obligatory handkerchief he carried. His reminiscing was broken and so Ludwig dragged himself away from the grey picture at the window. A flood of coughing and heaving washed over him as he turned around to the sea of doomed souls crammed into the hospital. He had to do what he could. What was never enough.
For the next nine hours, he emptied lungs flooded with mucous, fixed breathing apparatus, and tried to provide whatever comfort he could for dozens of people in their final moments. All the while Ludwig was acutely aware that the mucous he was coughing up was becoming tinged more and more with red.
Eventually he had to go outside. The dust was everywhere. It did not matter if one was inside or out, the dust was there. He no longer bothered with a protective mask. Ludwig had been caring for people with volcanic lung diseases for over twenty-five years. He well knew just what was in store for him now.
He looked to the sky reflexively: there was no god there, only ash. Ludwig began to laugh, and cough, but mostly he was laughing. The grey canopy had been breached. For the first time in thirty-five years, sunlight found a way down to the Earth’s surface. It warmed Ludwig’s face, and his heart, and twinkled in his glossy eyes.