Naturally

June 12, 2010
Today is the first day of Cold. If it weren’t for the calendar placed in my hallway, I wouldn’t be able to tell a difference. The word ‘cold’ no longer has a meaning here. Many years ago, a large magnetic field was created around the Earth by the Science Sector, an area of the Ruling Class. It was used to hold the Sun in place around our planet, leaving us with day and night, but never giving us a change in season. I have often read of seasons in a book. It speaks of such variety, of such growth and liveliness. I can only recall when the last of the stone pillars were put up in place of the plastic shrubbery outside of the town hall building. It didn’t seem like a sad day at the time, but looking back, I wonder if the feeling of emptiness inside of me has anything to do with it.
I wonder past the calendar in the hallway down to the room next to mine – the room of Mrs. Anthony, an older woman. She lives in building 6A, where she and I are just a few hundred of the many civilians living in our community houses. Street A, the street our building is located at, contains 15 housing departments. They are all the same.
Mrs. Anthony is seated in the chair facing the window, humming a quiet, lovely melody. She must hear me come in, because she turns her paper thin lips up into a smile at me. Her frail body is no bigger than the chair itself, but you can see the warmth radiating off her skin. I don’t know anyone else like Mrs. Anthony, truthfully. She is like a rare treasure in a pile of useless scraps of metal. I quietly approach her chair and take her hand in mine for a moment.
“Oh John, it is so lovely to see you. I almost thought you would miss the Exchanging period today,” she winks, nodding toward the clock on the wall. She is right; it is almost three thirty. When the clock strikes, I will have to return to my quarters for mandatory prayer.
She has been sick lately. Her body shakes with fear and pain, and I see that her breath is short and choppy. She has been this way for a week now, and I notice that she is only getting worse. The walls around her fuel whatever is plaguing her. I can tell that her surroundings are bringing her deeper into a lost state of mind. But she is still the same Mrs. Anthony I have grown to know so well. She is tired, and brittle, but she entertains my prodding and curiosity. I fear I will lose her soon.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world, Annie,” I say as kindly as I can, trying to erase the ever present monotone drawl in my voice. She grins, letting my hand go and motioning to her window sill. I take my usual seat.
“What would you like to talk about today, John?” She says knowingly, as every day before this has gone.
I have looked to Mrs. Anthony for glimpses of the past since I first spoke to her early one morning during Prayer at Dawn. She spoke of her life before the Ruling Class had begun their transformation of the cities. It had intrigued me from the very start. Since that day I have been slowly drawing bits of information out of her. Some days, her memory is sketchy. She contradicts herself, and says things that make no sense. But I still listen intently, and I absorb every bit of it. She is my link to everything. In her, I will find what I am missing in my soul.
“I was wondering if we could we talk about what came before all of this stone?” I stare resentfully out the small window behind me. Everything is solid, harsh, and rough. I see no contrast; I see no life seeping through the walls of buildings. I see cold, hard edges. I see conformity. She nods knowingly, and I see the agreement in her tired, gray eyes.

“There is a beautiful world of color and life under this stone, John. Once, there were plants and animals and peaks and valleys and fields of flowers. Do you know what flowers are? No, not the plastic type,” she laughs at my close-mindedness. But she must forgive me, I don’t know any better. She continues, and I see the light in her eyes twinkle as it often does, when we discuss something that is close to her heart.
Some years ago, I am told by Mrs. Anthony, the ground was green. She says there was a soft, feathery covering on the dirt; a brilliant color that reflected rays of light. In her Old Country, this is how it always was. It was called grass, and it was alive. But I don’t understand how such a concept can be possible on this barren earth, this cold land. My heart longs to feel what those in the Old Country felt. I want to be alive, just like Mrs. Anthony’s grass is in her stories.
She speaks of the people living in harmony with all of the nature surrounding them. I ask her often if stone is nature, too. She tells me that it is made from the Earth, but it is only one of its many resources. The rest, the foreign sounding ones that I know nothing of, they are her favorite. There once were forests of trees – great towering things with green and brown pieces that even changed colors as the Sun moved around the Earth. She spills out beautiful combinations of words I have never heard, but yet sound so peaceful and…right. Carnations, Redwoods, the waterfalls. I have never seen these things. I never will. But I long for them in my heart.
Mrs. Anthony stops after some time and takes a deep breath. I see how it drains her to speak of the past.
“Does it hurt you to talk of things like this, Mrs. Anthony?”
There is a long pause, one that speaks more to me than any words can.
“Yes, John. I do not agree with life as it is today. And I am one of very few who know the difference. It pains me, John. But what can I do?” I watch her eyes turn dark again. She cringes as a sharp bell rings through the buildings. We are being summoned by the Ruling Class to begin the mandatory two hours of prayer. I resent this bell. It drags me away from the Old Country, and the world I submerge myself in as often as I can. I must depart from Mrs. Anthony with a sad sigh. She squeezes my hand very tightly today, and I am worried.

Her eyes are grave, and she looks up at me. I have never seen her look so scared. She pulls me close and whispers,

“I am almost done here, John. I can’t be certain that I will be here tomorrow, the next day, or even the next few hours. But I need you to take this very important piece of information with you. The world can never be silenced. Nature will always truly prevail in the end. The Ruling Class, they can try to suppress it. They can crush it, but only for a moment. The world is more powerful than any man living on it. And we all rely on the Earth. Never forget that without it, we are nothing.” She smiles weakly, and I see a very far off look in her eyes. The love behind her wrinkled, tired face is radiating so brightly at this very moment.

Tears are welling in my eyes, because I sense an impending urgency in her words. I am afraid of leaving, but I must. The bell chimes again, noting I only have one more minute before being reprimanded. I speak quickly, frantically, desperately.

“Annie, you never gave in. I will never forget any of the talks we have had, not even this one. Be at peace. And do not fear. You will always be safe. “

I ramble on for another few moments, and squeeze her tightly. It all happens like a whirlwind of motion, and I end up back in my quarters, crying.

It is only an hour and a half into mandatory prayer that I hear the commotion down the hallway. I do not have to peer around my door to know what is happening. The Medical Sector workers enter the building quickly, and leave just as discreetly. I feel that I may be the only one to notice the small amount of warmth and light that left the building as the Medical Sector pulled away. I cannot contain the agony in my heart. Now, the life I was hoping to find has been drained from the woman who held it herself. Tonight, I will sleep without a dream of the Old Country.
????
Today, Mrs. Anthony was taken to the Field of Lost. The barren ground is uprooted long enough for the Ruling Class workers to place a casket into the dirt and recover it. These types of ceremonies are not private, so I do not witness it happen. But I know she is there, and I know she is finally at peace.
I know this because there is a speck of something out of place in the Field of Lost when I visit it this afternoon. I notice, right in the middle of the whole area, a dot. It is a shimmery, beautiful green that I have never seen before in my life. I run to it; curious, excited, interested. I reach a plot of land and fall to my knees. There, in the hard cold ground, is a patch of healthy, green blades of what I know with all my hear t to be the grass Mrs. Anthony spoke of only a day before. I run my fingers through it carefully and feel its soft, refreshing touch grasp my hand. I feel Mrs. Anthony there, and I know she is right – because nature, even though forgotten, even though suppressed – always prevails. Even in the very darkest hours of humanity.





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