“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.
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.
Awesomeness Awaits at Yeah Write!
Linkin’ up an oldie to the moonshine for #yw191!