Turning Over Anew

“I hear it used to rain here.”

My muscles tense at the sound of his voice but I manage to remain as still as can be. He sits down next to me. I keep my head forward, avoiding his eyes. I’m on break. We’re all allowed a break. I feel his gaze on me but I keep my head toward the mountains.

“Did you hear me, Lisa?” he asks.

I turn away from the dry, brown landscape that surrounds us and look at his face. It’s weathered and wrinkly, like all of us. His is different though. While the rest of us wear a layer of fear beneath our eyes, his are coated with hate. He doesn’t even try to hide it.

“What’s rain?” I ask.

He smiles and I can’t help but cringe. I pull my legs to my chest as he turns back to the dead mountain and waves his hand across the grey, low-hanging sky.

“All of this used to be blues and greens, Lisa. Can you believe that?”

I shake my head but remain quiet. I’d heard the rumors of how the world used to be. Billions of people in bustling cities. Forests filled with lush greenery and blue skies that went on as far as the eye could see.

Crazy, right?

I can’t even imagine it. Everywhere you look now, there is only brown. He rambles on and doesn’t seem to notice that my mind is elsewhere. Instead, I estimate the minutes I have left before I must return to camp. I’ll be punished if I’m late but he doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. I surely can’t interrupt him to tell him I need to go. His anger comes on quickly. The smallest thing can set him off.

“Lisa, are you listening?”

I snap back to the present and look over at him.

“Sorry, boss,” I whisper. “I was trying to figure out if I needed to get back. My break should be over by now.”

He narrows his eyes at me but a smile creeps across his face. It isn’t any less cringe-worthy but it means I’m safe for now.

“You’re a good worker, Lisa,” he says, patting me on the back. I force myself to stay still; to not jerk away from his touch.

“You’re right though,” he continues. “We should probably get back. Lots of work to do today!”

He stands and offers his hand. I take it, as I’m supposed to, and follow him two paces behind, as I’m supposed to. I glance back over my shoulder and let my mind wander again. I imagine a world of color; a world filled with anything but the browns and beiges that consume our world. I entertain the thought of escape and have to keep myself from laughing aloud.

It’s ludicrous, I know! Escape. Girls don’t escape from here. We just die.

Something catches my eye among the dirt and I stop. Not thinking, I bend down and pick up the object. It’s a leaf. A green leaf. It’s small but it doesn’t matter. It’s right there, in my hand.

“Keep up, Lisa,” he yells at me. My eyes widen as I realize I’ve fallen behind. I scurry to catch up, clutching the small piece of life in my hand. He glares back at me and I lower my head in apology. He seems to accept but we’ll find out later. I follow closely and open my hand to stare.

Where did it come from? It must have blown in from somewhere else. The wind had been a fright the past week. They wouldn’t allow us to leave the camp for days. We had always been told there was nothing beyond the mountain. Nothing but death and destruction. Was it all a lie?

As we near the camp, I glance one more time over my shoulder and, for once, the idea of escape doesn’t seem so ludicrous. It seems necessary. I slide the leaf into the pocket of my dress as a smile plays on my lips.

I always knew I wouldn’t live a full life here. Although, what I had in mind didn’t involve traversing a mountain. It was much more… finite.

This changes everything, I think, patting the pocket softly. This could be a new start. This tiny leaf gives me hope for something I’ve never had.

Life.

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Awesomeness Awaits at Yeah Write!

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Linkin’ up an oldie to the moonshine for #yw191!

46 Comments on “Turning Over Anew

  1. Oooo, I love this post-apocalyptic perspective. I am intrigued by what you left out: Where are they? What happened? What kind of work are they doing? It sets a spooky, mysterious mood.

  2. The idea of finding hope and inspiration in something so easily overlooked as a leaf made a great jumping off point for this story and you ran with it. I enjoyed this a lot.

  3. The leaf as the source of life, hope and new beginnings was well played. Something so trite in such a bleak, harsh world- who knew it could be so enticing? You built up to it perfectly.

  4. You have created such a strong, believable, yet frightening landscape AND intriguing characters. I would definitely love to learn what happens next!

  5. Well done on describing the really uncomfortable relationship between Lisa and her boss. I get the feeling he’s the type to ask for/ offer favours. The hope she finds in the colour of the leaf is a great contrast to everything that goes before. As other’s have said, I’m intrigued and want to know more.

  6. At first I was thinking Post apocalyptic dystopia. Now I’m wondering if it’s not a post conflict oppression of a limited population, using the end of the world as a way to keep them in check… Whatever the case, congrats on the crisp world and intriguing characters. Congrats!

  7. I loved all the hints you gave about this dystopian world and women’s roles in it. The green leaf was very powerful in the ending.

  8. I really enjoyed the style of this, in terms of how you kept it so understated – there’s dystopian tension and oppression, but it’s kept simmering in the background. Not only does that create an eerie atmosphere but it’s perfectly in character since the narrator wouldn’t feel the need to explain anything in detail because this situation is all she’s known, Very effective.

  9. That ending resonated for me like a bell! Yes! It’s all about Life. Lisa’s seems like a cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and one of those sister wives tv shows: the fact that women don’t escape and the power the boss has over her. Well planned, Arden!

  10. Cool piece, is t a post apocalyptic society?

    Or it could be a communist society, her thoughts and voice sound very similar to real testimonies I’ve heard from people woo have survived extreme communist regimes.

    Well done!

    • I’m loving all these theories! To be honest, I don’t know yet. When I first started, I was thinking post-apocalyptic but now I’m leaning toward that’s just what everyone thinks. But it’s not quite true 😉 I’m excited to dig out the details! Thanks for reading!

  11. Yes! Life! This is so good, Arden. You’ve drawn the characters so clearly and introduce color through a single leaf. Brilliant.

  12. What a smart title! I love the world you’ve created, the dried up lifelessness that is undone by one small, chance observation, and the notion that introduces that maybe there is something more out there. Brilliant! I hope there’ll be more about an attempt at escaping 😉

  13. Pingback: yeah write #176 weekly writing challenge kickoff: back to normal, supergrid winners, gargleblaster prompt, badges | yeah writeyeah write

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