Author's note: This started as an assignment for one of my college classes. The assignment was, take the story... Show full author's note »
3This was a bad idea. A very, very bad idea. We hadn’t even made it part two flights of stairs when I started regretting leaving my house. This was crazy.
“You coming or what?”
I thought of Mother, who left everyday knowing her daughter was safe at home, with no contact with the outside world.
But then I thought of myself. I was 19, and hadn’t even seen the outside of my apartment building. I didn’t know what fresh air felt like when it blew, I didn’t know what it was like to hear footsteps on the streets or to listen to the across-the-street banter that I had read about in books. No, I needed to do this.
“Yeah, I’m coming.” And with that, I pushed the final thoughts of guilt and doubt to the back of my mind and continued down the stairs.
We finally reached the bottom and stood before a large black metal door that looked to be at least 100 years old. With one solid shove from 602, the door flung open and I was drowning in sunlight. I couldn’t help but gasp and back away.
“What's wrong? You okay?”
But I couldn’t respond. The only time I’d seen sunlight was from the barred window in my room. And even then, I had to close the curtains when Mother came home.
I never actually felt it on my skin…
I outstretched my hand so a single ray could fall onto it. Giddy from its warmth, I slowly began throwing in more of my body, eager to drink in all the sun’s warmth. I saved my face for last, and shielding my eyes, I threw that in too. I could feel the warmth radiating through my body.
“You really like the sun, huh.” 602 was watching me, his green eyes wide.
“I’ve never actually been in it before.” Before he could ask more, I stepped out of the door and into the world.
But I was shocked. Everything down here was… brown. The streets were covered in dirt, the buildings had no sign of life. Even the trees, which I’d ever only seen in pictures, were not green as I had read they were, but brown. Brown and lifeless. Up in my bedroom, everything looked so blue. The sky was within fingertip length.
I reached up my hand, only to feel air. Empty, dirty air.
I turned around to face my building. Surely it would posses signs of life, color, anything.
But it was the same. The bricks were faded grey with chunks missing and over half the windows were either gone or falling out. I couldn’t even pick out my bedroom window.
A tear slid down my cheek.
“You’ve never actually been out here before, have you.” I shook my head. He let out a deep breath. “I’m told it never used to be like this.”
“What happened to it?”
All of Mother’s stories, they were true. The evilness of men. The hatred. The wars It had, however slowly, town the world apart. And we were left with the end result.
“Does it look like this everywhere?”
“Not exactly. Some people still have green. Not a lot though. And some are still trying to fix their buildings, but they’re so old. And kids just vandalize them again anyway.”
“Maybe Mother was right to keep me hidden.”
“No. No she wasn’t. A world like this, needs a little color like you.” I looked at him, and he smiled.
“Show me the rest of it?”
“Of course.” He took my hand and, together, we turned to face the world, however dark it may be. “There is something I want to show you though. I think you’ll like it.”
He wouldn’t tell me where we were going or what it was he wanted to show me, all I knew was that it seemed to take forever to get there. But the scenery on the way there… it was like nothing I’d ever seen before.
Mother would read me stories before I went to bed as a child. I never really took interest in the words, but mainly the pictures. White houses, with huge green yards, a father happily kissing his wife on the cheek as the children played together. I could almost hear their squeals of laughter. Everything seemed so… colorful.
But here… in real life, things were different. Houses were brown, and falling apart, dirt covered areas where grass should have been.
With one family in particular, instead of laughter I head, “Get out of my garden! You have no business here! Those are my rampions!”
“Quiet old witch! I’m not going to let my pregnant wife starve because you’re too greedy to share!”
Without thinking, I ran over to the two neighbors.
“Please! Don’t fight. You need to get along. We all live here. We all need to help make it better!” I help my breath, as 602 ran over to me, ready to defend me.
But there was no need. The old woman stretched out her arm, holding the rampion towards the man.
“She’s… she’s right. We are neighbors. I suppose its ab’t time we start ac’in like ‘em. Here, take tis yerr wife. Feel free to help yerrself. Just don’ eat me outta house’n home.” I thought I saw her old lips crack into a small smile before she turned to head back into her house.
“Thank you. And I … uh. I was wrong. You aint no witch.”
She just waved her hand in the air. He turned to me. “G’day ma’am.”
602 turned to me. “That was… I’ve never… How’d you do that?!” He was literally scratching his head.
“They just need reminded that it’s not just them in the world.” He just shook his head.
About five hours later, or probably more like ten minutes, we finally stopped walking.
“Okay. Now… Close your eyes, and don’t peek. Or I’ll know.”
I obediently covered my eyes, and 602 took my hand, leading me through a series of turns. After my asking several times if I could look yet, 602 finally said yes (after threatening to turn me around and send me home multiple times).
“Okay, but… before you open your eyes, just know its nothing super special. It’s just, nice. And quiet. It’s just somewhere I like to come alone when things get… stressful.” He let out a sigh, and I peeked out through my fingers. He looked sad almost. His green eyes were looking somewhere far away, and his blonde hair kept falling into them, and I found myself longing to push it back, to get a good, full look into those round eyes, that seemed to sparkle with long ago memories.
Then they turned to me, and I squeezed my fingers shut. He let out a breathy laugh. “You can look now.”
One hand at a time, I uncovered my face, and my mouth fell open.
Instead of the dull brown I was used to seeing everywhere else, this was a different kind of brown; a golden brown that seemed to reflect the sunlight. Tiny crystals were shooting the sun’s rays back up at me, sending the warmth directly to my face. I bent over to touch it. It was fine, and gritty, but felt soft on my feet and in between my toes. It wasn’t dirt. It was… sand? I think it was called sand. It sloped downward, as if inviting me out. But something was missing. This didn’t look like the ocean’s I had seen pictures of.
“Isn’t there supposed to be water here?”
“Yes. And there is, it’s just so far out we can’t see it anymore.” He was looking out to the middle, to where the gold of the dry sand met the blue of the sky, without a drop of water in sight. “It used to come up to right here.” He pointed to his knees. “Something with the earth spinning and gravity pulling made the water come up in waves. You could stand here with water at your knees one minute, then at your waist the next.” His eyes snapped open. “Or so I’m told. My parents never saw it either.”
“It’s beautiful.” I whispered, fearing if I spoke any louder I’d break the spell of the moment and all of the water from so long ago would come towards us and drag us away. So I sat down, burying my toes in the sand, and watched 602 drift back into he stories of his childhood.