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Violet Hill

Violet Hill. That’s what they called this sanctuary. It used to be a bank. Ever since the war, it’s been like this. Cold. Hungry. It’s all I can remember. I try to remember back, back before the war, but I come up with nothing. It’s always been cold and dark and empty.
The bank’s walls rise up, and it’s carpeted richly. I shiver and pull my raggedy coat around me. I bet in its heyday, this bank was warm. It better have been warmer than it is now. Otherwise it’s a poor excuse for a bank.
There are thousands of other people there. Their cries of lament echo on the walls and ceilings, until I can hardly stand it. Two boys chase each other around, oblivious to the fact that they could die at any minute. Several are sick. They sit in an abandoned corner, separated from us by a thin veil. I sit by myself, glad I’m not sick. I’d die a miserable death, and probably die alone.
I can’t take it anymore. I get up and walk outside. It’s even colder out here. I think about going back in. Then I see a figure. I walk up to him. He’s old, with saggy skin. His hair is a rats nest and is falling off. He carries a makeshift cane, a stick. He looks at me with piercing blue eyes.
“This was her.” He said fondly, pointing the cane. “This was my life.”
“You worked here?” I asked.
He nodded. “I worked my a** off for the bank. What did they do? Shut it down and turn it into an evac center. Gave us all a chance to sit here though, sit and rot.”
“What did you do?”
“I was the man who mopped the floors.” I tried not to laugh. He sounded so proud about such a stupid job. “We were the ghosts. You could never find us again. We didn’t exist.”
“Who?”
“Maria, Juan, Jasmine, Samira, Liza. We were the abandoned crowd. Immigrants,” He added at my confused look. “You’re lucky kid. We did the jobs you didn’t want to do and we were grateful for it. If it wasn’t for those jobs, I wouldn’t be able to feed my family.”
“Who was your family?”
“Francisco. He was my son. Insisted that Frisco was cooler than Francisco. He said it was a girl’s name.” The man smiled. “Then there was Maria. She was my wife. She always told me that there was another way. Another time. Then Maya. She was adopted. We found her on the streets.”
“What happened to them?” I whispered.
“Plague. Just like that, my family was gone.” He sounded sadder than any person I’ve ever seen.
I knew what it felt like. I’d lost my brother. My dad had abandoned us and my mom was at the café. She was one of the first ones hit.
It was hot and sticky. I fanned out my shirt, hoping for a breeze.
“Stop acting hot!” My brother commanded.
“I’m not joining the Navy.” I whined. It was my brother’s dream, to fight for his country aboard a ship. He was convinced he’d survive some kind of Pearl Harbor attack. I always laughed at his fantasies.
My brother opened his mouth, probably to utter some sharp retort when the bombs hit. They rained down, harder than rain. “Run,” my brother yelled and we ran. We finally hid behind some scrap metal as the Earth shook around us and all hell was unleashed.
We kept traveling after that. My brother was convinced that somewhere, there would be a Navy ship, waiting for us. We’d ride on it, and the whole world would become better again. One day, we were close to a closed town. My brother had heard that there was a recruiting office in town.
“Stay here.” He told me as ash swirled around our heads. He never came back.
The man was staring at me sadly. “Lost someone?”
I nodded. “I didn’t see him die though.”
“Who?”
“My brother.” I managed to choke out.
He nodded silently. We both stared out into the vast plain of ash and death.
“Why?” I asked all of a sudden.
“Why what?”
“Why did God do this? Aren’t we worth something? Aren’t we worth saving?” Silent tears coursed down my cheeks.
“God didn’t do this.” The man said softly. “We did. We deserve everything.”
“What if we’re innocent?”
“We’re all guilty. We helped build those bombs, one way or another. I don’t care if I go to hell, as long as I’m someplace with Maria, Frisco, and Maya. If I’m with them, then I’m happy. If I’m not, then I’ll find a way to be with them.”
“Do you believe in heaven? A place where we all go when we die?”
The man sighed. “I believe in God. There must be something more than this. There has to be. I don’t care if he loves us or not, I just care if we’re not alone.”
I nod. Still, we stare out at the bleak landscape. Covered in ashes and dirt, who stands a chance? The strong. A voice whispers. I glance at the man next to me. Ash is all over is dirty, gray jacket, and it covers his hair. But there’s something about him, something that makes you know he’s a fighter, and he’s not going down easily.
“I hope there is.” He looks at me. “Something else I mean. There has to be.”
“Maybe we won’t find it here. But seriously, I don’t think I have that much time to look for Him.” We both start laughing. It’s not real laughter, but it’s an improvement. I haven’t laughed in so long, it’s like I forgot how to laugh.
“One day,” He said knowingly, “One day this darkness will be lifted, and we’ll be living sky blue lives. The world will be green again and we’ll be happy. But not like that happy, we’ll be happy because we’re happy, and everything is right and nothing is wrong.”
“I miss blue.” I sighed.
“So do I. Grey’s not that exciting. With blue, you could do so much! Grey’s boring.”
I smile ruefully. “I wonder what life will be like.” I wonder. “I hope I can see the sky again. It’d be amazing!”
“I want chocolate.”
“I want fast food.”

“I want my life back.”

“So do I.”

Again, with the silences. But it wasn’t awkward, or sad. We just stood there. Silence. Silence is golden, even when there’s not much too hear.

“Life has changed.” He whispered hoarsely.

“It has. It has.” I said even more quietly. “Is this what the Jews felt? Or the Native Americans? Seeing their homes torn away by their own kind? Friend against friend? Enemy against enemy? Is this what life is destined to be?”

“It’s a valid question.” Was all the old man would say.

“I am old.” He said after a while. “I am old and tired. I will never see the sky shine, hear the birds sing, or sit down under a tree and look up at the sky. I will never see those things. But you will. You have to. You are our future.”

I look at him. “I’m only 14.”

“I knew a 14 year-old once. He was scared often, wondering if he would live to see the next day. He shined with so much promise. He could change the world he could.”

“What happened to him?”

“He was vaporized when the bombs hit. He died before all this,” he waved his hands around, “all this happened.”

“He’s lucky.” I muttered. “He died without knowing what a terrible world it would be.”

“He died in peace.” The old man made a cross. “He is in her arms now.”

The old man suddenly turns and grabs my shoulders. For a second I’m scared, convinced he’s gone crazy. “You must live. That is what the future is. Not this.” He waves his hand around. “You’ll see the sky again. You’ll hear the birds. You’ll feel the sun. You’ll lie down in a meadow. You’ll marvel at the world and how fast it heals. But don’t let this died. Keep this alive, so humans know the mistakes we have made and will try to stop it before it happens. Make sure it doesn’t happen again. We’ve made too many mistakes for others to be committed.”

I nod. He smiles, then leaves. I am left staring at the letters on the building. I read what they spell out. Violet Hill.





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SilencewillfallThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 30, 2011 at 4:10 pm
This is beautiful.  Really excellent piece.
 
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