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Above me, the gray air swirled with little specks of dust that reflected the light like silver moons. I watched as they floated seemingly arbitrarily above, catching random strands of gray light and transforming it into mirror like silver. I breathed softly into the air and watched as my breath turned into white clouds and sailed into the air like foggy ghosts. My breath mixed with the swirls above me blowing dust and scattering fragments askew like planets being knocked out of their orbits.
The dim sunlight slid in through the shabby roof like smoke, piercing my heart with longing. I missed the sunlight: real true sunshine the color of melted butter that warmed me from the inside out. I missed the rain too; crystal drops of water that shattered on earth and washed everything away; the sorrow, the pain, the misery, cleansing the polluted sky.
I sighed and turned over on my jagged bed of cardboard and wrapped my shabby jacket tighter around my malnourished figure. My head ached and I tensed my jaw in response. I was used to these pains: the intense migraines and constant dull throb of my empty, shriveled stomach.
The light began to diminish. There really was no night and day any more. Instead, there was a constant dull blanket of gray that encased everything and felt like iron bars. The gray sky locked the sun away in its depressing prison. The only change from night to day was the sky grew from ashen to a leaden black. Eventually, the sky turned completely dark and not even the suggestion of a star could make its way through the dense wall of clouds. Then pitch blackness ensued.
The world was one big monochromatic painting of all the shades of gray and black.
I watched the light from the edges of my vision and noticed inky black begin to swirl and mix with the gray air. Images of my former life swelled up inside me and I forcefully choked them down, tucking them away inside the deepest corners of my mind. This was how I coped with life. I turned away from yesterday and started walking towards tomorrow. If I looked back, I wouldn’t be able to go on. It was a survival instinct.
Of course, I’d thought about giving up hope, releasing my soul and hoping I’d be able to reach the sun again. But something dragged me down, chained my soul to this prison. My heart became hard, callous, and as leaden as the sky above. However, something deep inside, some flicker of light amidst the black abyss of my heart kept me here. I imagined it was called hope although I thought all of “that,” had dried up and evaporated like my beautiful shining sun. It had vanished right?
Tomorrow I’d wake up from a restless sleep and go about as usual. Working hard just to find enough food and water to barely survive. Scrounging around with a few people that had camped out near me. I was especially fond of one little girl who lived in the crumbling building that used to be an insurance company. She was about eight but she was probably the toughest little girl I knew. Although she was as small, she had an attitude that made up for her size. Her mom died a few years ago from cancer and ever since, her brother had been taking care of her, traveling on foot and trying to scrape a life from this chaos.
I smiled at the thought of Robin, her bright cat eyes mostly hazel but flecked with all of the colors I missed: the dark browns of rich soil, auburns and reds the color of wheat and autumn leaves, golds the color of sunshine and honey. Just looking at her reminded me of life before the war. She was a spot of sunshine amidst this shadowy life.
Quickly my smile faded as images of my mother in her bright cooking apron, dusted with flour and sugar, trying to figure out how to use the oven, appeared in my head. My dad smiled to me in his camouflage uniform as he walked towards the airplane that was to transport him to his fate. A bright blast of white-yellow heat erupting from the earth burst from my behind my tightly closed lids. I remembered seeing a picture of one of the bombs on the news: I had watched as it wiped out lives of thousands maybe millions of people as if they were ants.
I clenched my fists and thought of nothing but the surrounding darkness. I knew man shouldn’t have had this much power. No one should have. Because of their power hungry arrogance my entire life was destroyed. My sunshine was smothered in clouds kicked up from nuclear weapons. Of course, I always knew that darkness overpowered light. Night always came to extinguish the day. Shadows grew longer until they engulfed the whole ground beneath your feet. A candle flame will always burn out. Just like now, with earth in eternal darkness, eternal winter, eternal slumber, I knew that darkness always reigns. People’s lives are snuffed out and smothered. My soul has been blanketed with sorrow. The blackness of our heart always burns the light. It’s like trying to tame a tiger: it might cooperate for a while but eventually it will feel that tug of its feral instincts, its “dark side.”
I sighed as a tear fell down my cheek, leaving a wet trail down my hollow face. I tasted salt on my tongue and felt my senses shock at the severity of the taste. My tear brought me back from my depressing thoughts and I strained my eyes in the darkness that began to envelope me.
Suddenly, I saw Robin clearly in my head: such a young life with so many struggles ahead of her. Suddenly I wondered what would happen if I gave up and left her and her brother alone. She’d have no future on this earth, she probably wouldn’t even survive. If there was no hope, we’d have nothing to live for. I felt that strange flicker, like the tongue of a flame that jumped at the inside of my soul. What else would there be to live for if not tomorrow, even if it was someone else’s tomorrow?
I knew deep down that the night would sink and the gray daytime would appear. Tomorrow, I’d awake and find food for Robin, her brother, and me. Maybe, after thousands of tomorrows, the dead brown earth would turn a little greener. Maybe the clouds would begin to dissolve and reveal pure sunshine.
The flicker inside me grew warmer and I smiled as I watched the silver air above me slowly fade to obsidian. The glowing specks of dust might have been smothered in darkness but they still shone silver, as if they produced light from deep inside. I watched the seemingly bioluminescent flecks float around and I smiled. Burrowed deep, past my depressing shell of darkness, I knew that the sun would shine through the toxic clouds of dust someday. The flickering inside me flared and turned into a furnace, warming me from the inside out. But until then, I was my own source of sunshine.