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Season of the Rain
The winters are fine. Snow falls from the sky in thin sheets, covering the small city in a soft white blanket. The youngest children laugh and play in its splendor. They stick their tongues out as the cold flakes cascade towards them and mimic the angels with their arms. The elders meet to talk about the coming season.
They call it the season of the rain.
The city of Icen is surrounded completely by mountains—tall ones. Black dirt coats the inner sides, moist from the last bought of precipitation. Nobody knows how the city even got here, for certain. There’s an old tale that millions of years ago, the Icen people stopped worshipping their gods. They turned to science for their answers, and science willingly provided. One day, the gods grew angry at these new beliefs and willed this science to remain within the people of Icen. They didn’t want science to spread beyond and eventually overcome society. The rumor is that they convened on the first of June before deciding to encase the city of Icen with tall mountains, leaving the people to fend for themselves.
My friends and I don’t believe those myths. We believe that the original natives of Icen came through a secret mountain pass, and that the pass was clogged up somehow after they arrived. We don’t believe in gods or ancient deities that punish people for their sins. We don’t believe in foolish fairy tales.
But summer is the season of the rain. Summer is when the rain comes down from the black sky in torrents, ripping houses from their bases and wreaking havoc on the town. The lights flicker and go out. The mountains loom over the city, smiling, watching the whole process. People flee to the tops of their houses. They snatch picks and scramble up the sides of the mountains in a frenzy. When the rain comes, it does not stop, and everyone knows that.
Did I mention that tomorrow marks the first of June?
It is nighttime now. My friends and I are gathered at my small domain, collecting our prized possessions and storing them in a single cotton bag. We forged the bag from old shirts, threading them into the crude but functional sack. I feel light-headed as I drop a faded sketch of my father into its depths. He got a small scrape a long while ago, and died of the infection. It’s always been a debate on what we’ll eventually die of: hunger, disease, or the rain.
Sometimes I regret living this long.
“As soon as the clouds break, we will head for the east side.” Fairet Darien murmured quietly. He’s the leader of the group, undeniably, and we will follow his directions without question. “I’ll be last, and I’ll carry the pack. Remember, if anything happens to me keep moving. People grow unpredictable when they’re faced with certain situations. Avoid people at any cost.” He turns to me and nods, and I nod back. We’ve been friends since the beginning, and our friendship is greater than either of our lives. But we both acknowledge the seriousness of this mission, and going back for one another could mean failure.
I start to yawn, and the rest of the group takes that as a sign of universal tiredness. We all retreat to our usual spots, covering ourselves with whatever is nearby. I grab an overlarge jacket and wrap myself in it, curling into a ball. There are spats of conversation, and then quiet overcomes.
Suddenly, the unthinkable happens. Suddenly, everything we know and think we know is jeopardized and challenged. Suddenly, there are gods that want us all dead. Suddenly, we hear thunder.
And then the clouds break.
I’m up first, straightening my body and rolling out of the jacket, taking lead of the team. I snatch a compass from the bedside table and find east. I take a quick look back to the others, who are scrambling about, some even muttering prayers to gods they’ve never believed in. The big picture is: We could have prepared for months. We could have prepared for years, even. But we still wouldn’t have been prepared for what was to come.
Outside, the rain is picking up. The streets are already fogging and rippling with the strangely warm liquid. I’m running for the east side as fast as I can, legs burning from the sudden effort. I catch my elbow on the corner of a building and blood is drawn, but adrenaline filters out the pain.
In front of me, the mountains wait menacingly. They are steeper than ever, and water is rushing down the sides. I instantly realize how impossible this whole thing is and how every single little flaw in our elaborate plan will ultimately unravel it.
I’m there. I grope for my pick, somewhere deep in my pocket, and cannot find it. Who cares anymore? I see other people, but they’re not interested in me. I see fathers leaving their families, bolting away and stuffing their arms into the thick mud that makes up the mountains now.
It’s only been five minutes, but the water is already up to my knees. My friends are shouting behind me, screaming obscenities as I stay paralyzed, afraid for the first time in my life. Fairet is beside me now, whispering something in my ear, just loud enough for me to hear above the endless rain. “Look to your right man, look to your right.”
My head whips around and sees the mud caving in, forming a sort of doorway. I swear I tested the entire inner layer of the mountain. I swear that every day as my friends worked I slammed an axe onto those hardened sides and checked for a passageway, cracks, anything. In that exact moment I knew that there must be a force greater than me.
I run at the doorway, grabbing away mud in fistfuls. More arms force past me and around me, aiding with the process. We’re all filthy, soaked with dark soil, and the water has risen to our waists. Chaos surrounds me, and the world itself is encumbered by sound. But I’m focused on my current task, and everything else simply fades away.
There’s an opening, a small one. I don’t even know if it will fit me, but I jam my body in and wiggle until I can breathe again.
The world out here can only be described as marvelous. Trees twist and turn towards the stars, arms reaching out to shade vast cities. Golden-colored lights sparkle against the horizon, giving me strength and hope for the future. I still feel the rain, but it’s an afterthought now. Here, there is no season of the rain. There is only winter, spring, summer, and fall.