From the author: A man sifts through the world’s ruined remains in search of the perfect gift for his wedding anniversary.
YEAR ONE: PAPER
It was hard to find paper after the apocalypse. It burns so easily, you see. So when he discovered the single spiral-bound notebook in the abandoned factory, he tucked it into his pack before the other scavengers could see. He hid it for three months until their anniversary arrived, and when she opened it and saw its uncharred pages, she cried.
YEAR TWO: COTTON
She used to iron her blouses each day as she watched the morning news. Though she never complained about the stained sleeves or lost buttons that came with their new life, he searched every boarded-up department store until he found something in her size. It wasn't until she buttoned it up that he realized how thin she'd become.
YEAR THREE: LEATHER
The city was no longer a haven, and on the road, they'd both have to fight. It was fitting, then, to give her gloves. They'd keep her hands from bleeding when they sparred. She sewed some broken bits of metal onto them and soon was a better scrapper than he was.
YEAR FOUR: LINEN
He'd thought it'd been difficult to find paper. Linen was practically impossible. In the end, he'd settled for a scratchy, burlap sack that smelled of mold and a promise to replace it with something nicer as soon as he was able.
YEAR FIVE: WOOD
He returned with two wooden boards slung across his back and an apology for the still-missing linen. When the boards were nailed into a cross and her initials carved, he wedged it into the cold earth and whispered his love… till next year.
This story originally appeared in Grievous Angel.