Catch me

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
when the world became a ruined wasteland, Humanity fled underground, digging warrens deep beneath the earths surface and simply surviving. Wynona, a native american teenager deep within the catacombs of the underground world looks back on friendship and the last day of her life. - a story I wrote for my creative writing club in college ^_^

Submitted: October 04, 2015

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Submitted: October 04, 2015

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When I dreamed of the sun, I sometimes thought that I saw something much different than the people I knew. There’s no way of knowing after all, what one person thinks compared to another. I will describe it like this. Ahead, far ahead of me is a great ball of fire. The rings and shields of heat glow blue with intensity and there is brightness that expands further than the edges of the universe. This part I know is not true, our sun, resplendent and fearful does not even reach to us on Earth now, but when I close my eyes and try to picture it, this is what I see. I see something as great and beautiful and the creator them self.

I woke to the harsh sound of the sleep cycle sirens, marking the time which we were all supposed to rise, wash, dress for work or school. I moaned and rolled over, burying my nose in the sheets. The familiar smell of earth and stone that clings to all of our things reached me, though I think I hardly noticed. It is something you get used to, or if you have grown up with it, barely strange at all. I think there is something though, something there in the back of my mind which tells me that the surrounding smell and taste of earth is not how it should be. My second teacher, a woman named Mrs Shadda told me that it was possible to inherit memories from our ancestors, and I wonder sometimes if it is my ancestors memories that tell me the scent of the world I live in is wrong, for of course it would be to them.

Ina does not think much of Mrs Shadda’s stories. “The ancestors have passed on, their memories with them” she would say, stirring the large slate blue cooking pot that was burned black at the base with a long handled spoon. She would stare into the pot as she stirred, focusing as always on the task in front of her. I liked my mother for this reason, she always looked at what needed to be done and saw how to do it. Our home was one of many in the same area, and reached to four rooms that lead into each other. The kitchen was the room we lived in when we chose to live together, there was Ate and Ina’s room, Etchemin and Matwau’s room, and my own.

Rising slowly from bed, I sighed at the sharp glare of the unguarded fluorescent light, but resisted the urge to rub my eyes. Etchemin told me that eye medicines were expensive nowadays and that rubbing would wear at the fragile skin around the eye socket. He said that I might get an infection if I managed to rub dirt into it. There was a girl down the way named Anita that had an infection in her eye. It wasn't so severe, I remembered her laugh and shrug when we pointed out the swelling redness, saying it’d clear up in a day or two once her dad got hold of antibiotics. She was still quite little; of course, her dad didn't’t get antibiotics and she lost both her eyes in a month. I took care after that to heed my brothers advice.

I wore the same clothes from yesterday I’d left discarded on a chair, and when I walked into the kitchen, Ina and Etchemin were there already, Etchemin seated at the table rubbing his eyes blearily “Hey!” I laughed “What about infection huh? Quite the young medic, aren't you, who doesn't even follow his own advice!”

“be silent” Ina put a hand on my shoulder and placed breakfast in front of me as I sat down. Looking up from his bowl of tubers, my brother gave me a smile, quite a rare thing since he began work in the tunnels. I chewed my food slowly like I always did, always wishing there was a little bit more, something to take hunger away. Really take it away. Nobody had too much to eat, that month had been scarce for harvest. This was worrying, because it was the time of year when the crops were full and we began storing for winter. I listened to the sound of Ina stirring her wide blue pot, the scrape of wooden spoon against the bottom.

Matwau stumbled in, took his seat, grumbled a word of thanks when I passed him the bowl Ina handed to me. “Wynona, you will be moving the earth today” Ina remarked. I stiffened, knowing this already. She made a point to remind me, nearly every morning, but the mark was hit each time. I do not know why exactly, why it irritated me, but it did its job. My shoulders would curl and my face would become shadowed, I would adopt my brothers pensive pessimism. I would resign the part of me I most wanted to show. “thank you for reminding me” I replied.

Ate was not with us for breakfast. He rarely was, then, it seemed. I did not like to think of him; it’s harsh, but it’s true. I was not even sure that I liked the man, at least not anymore. Finishing my breakfast I got up quickly, making my head spin, and handed back my bowl to Ina. When I stepped out into the warren, it was already filled with the early morning stream of workers, grime and grease so far stained into the creases on their tired faces they had long ago stopped trying to scrub it out. Water was not spared for bathing of course but one could do whatever they wanted with their daily ration. I walked past a girl whose hair shone like polished stone, and wondered who it was she hoped would notice.

It was then that a voice spun out of the crowd behind me. “Hey! Good morning Pocahontas!”

“Think of something original why don’t you” I replied without turning. I had no need to, I knew the voice well. Tobias Locke bounded ahead of me, his expression reminding me of the china dogs with bobbing grinning heads that bounced on tiny springs.

“Winona, what have the spirits communed for us today?” I walked past him, and he jogged to keep pace with me “Another day of digging? Or maybe you and I…” he gestured back and forth with his fingers, a disgusting smile on his face “could uh… pow wow, huh?” This was greeted with boorish laughter from his collection of friends some way behind us, but not so far away, apparently, that they could not hear us.

I smiled simply, looking up at him “a pow wow is a traditional ceremony involving feasting and dancing, or more simply a conference or meeting for discussion. Now that you have been deprived of your ignorance, Tobias, I wonder what it is you will fall back on?” He grinned, faltered, the workings of his mind clearly visible as he tried to figure out whether or not I was mocking him. “next time Pocahontas” he said finally, a fist in the air “next time” he ran back to his friends.

“Apparently, further ignorance” I muttered as I continued the path to work

I am thankful to say, that not all of my coworkers were quite as unconsciously awful. In the shuffling of feet and crowding of pressed warmth amidst hundreds of tunnel workers, when we were collecting our due cards and equipment, I felt a pair of eyes upon me and looked up into the face of Marjani. She smiled at me between the crowds only a meter or so away. I saw that she had a helmet today, bright plastic yellow with a light fixed to the front. The yellow reminded me of elementary school when we were told to draw what we thought heaven would look like. Unsure and feeling that fresh sting of misplaced self, I’d thought of the world above. “What are thinking of drawing?” asked the teachers assistant, a girl maybe fourteen or thirteen years old, whose skin was dark as the earth under which all of humanity sheltered, and whose eyes were like open windows. Marjani wore the same thin dark sweater, and now alarmingly had a collection of thin lines that appeared around her eyes when she smiled. I smiled back, took my own due card. It would tell me when and where to work.

The noise from the drills was deafening. You would grit you teeth, and your teeth would vibrate unpleasantly. When the first sack of earth is lifted onto your shoulders by two of the larger men, your back bends and your knees falter for the briefest of moments. If you are younger than sixteen then your knees might give in altogether, or at the very least, you won't be able to carry the weight forward. Yet a single tear or spill of soil would deliver swift and brutal blows to the backs of your legs or temples. This wasn't legal, of course, but most of the men from the mines came from starving homes and relied on you doing your job to get silver in their pockets. Many had small children, and couldn't be blamed. Others simply needed to find a way to deal with the daily terror of caving, where the light would not reach, where the screams would not be heard. Needless to say, the tunnels were dangerous work. To supply shelter for the growing population, the warrens always needed widening, the roots of life expanding outwards and downwards, but with every mile we drilled and shoveled to make homes for ourselves the larger the risk of the collapsing.

It had happened plenty of times before. New supports were built, new speeches of assurance were written by government officials, funeral services were held and the bodies were never attempted to be recovered, but the danger always remained. Breathing deeply through the nose I heaved the plain cloth sack in long line of women through the winding uphill road that would soon become subsection 742. We weaved and and curved with the tunnels with the weights twice our own upon our backs, like a long trail of ants. When you reached the climb lift you emptied the sack into the huge metal basin that would close midday and launch upwards, far, far above into the remains of our world and pour dirt out onto the barren surface. I always found that part the hardest, turning the bag around and finding the strength to lift it higher still, then the sudden release as all the weight poured away into the chamber and you were left with limp fabric which you would throw across your shoulder, and then begin the long walk back down. It was the turning and walking, the repeat, the listless repetition which numbed your brain and got you wishing for something more, anything more than this. Maybe, it could have been just me that thought these things. But I doubt it.

When I turned the second time with the cloth sack thrown across my shoulder I noticed that Marjani was only four places in the line behind me, her back bent over and eyes focused on the ground beneath her as she waited, sweating. She noticed me pass and made an effort to smile, again, and I attempted some sympathy with my eyes, but not enough to allow me to linger. She was 25 the last two months, but work seemed to give another twenty years to the curve of her back and thickness of her arms. I worried about her a little, almost as if I were the older, but Marjani was the sensible one between us. Her touch, and she would touch you with words, was gentle. When she was the teacher's assistant in school she was a singularity among us, modest and quiet but not, as Tobias friends might have said, ‘as a woman should be’. She was like the thunder we had read of in books, soft, deep as canyons, sending vibrations through the air which sent shivers down your spine, and either made you feel invincible, or afraid. Tobias’s friends might say what they liked; when she drew herself up to full height and her smile vanished so she could look you in the eye and you felt the vibrations, sure and low, it was clear which of us was more the woman.

It sometimes it seemed like I was the only person who thought so. I know that her ration was smaller, but then, you can see in the way that people do not see her when they walk past that people still believe that things like that don’t happen. After all, they would rather not believe, if it meant more food for everyone else, they might turn a blind eye to anything. Humans can be like that sometimes.

On my way back down I was stopped by one of the observing officers, by which I mean, I might add; he stuck out an arm in front of me as I passed taking the air out of my lungs. The workers slowly moved around us and those behind me in the line shuffled around to reconnect the chain. “Is there a problem officer?” I asked, carefully looking straight ahead. It was insolent enough but I’d been in a bad mood since breakfast.

“There’s been a shortage of shovels with the expansion to the front, more are needed at the drills. Your being re-assigned.” A feeling like cold water trickled down my spine, I felt a sudden headache, almost as though I was going to be sick. I might complain about the hauling sacks of earth to the lift, but I feared tunnel mining work more than anything else. I pitied the poor hands that held the drills and pickaxes, and I’d been right afraid when I saw Marjani wearing that plastic yellow helmet that she might have been assigned to the front. I was even more horrified when she stepped forward from her place in the line when the officer announced he’d be taking two persons with him.

“What do you think you're doing?” I hissed once we were walking in step behind him.

“Relax, Wynona, I just wanted a break from carrying those things up that ridiculous hill” she replied softly “and I know how you are. Someone's gotta catch you if you can't take the pressure.”

“Nobody can withstand the amount of pressure of 400 million tons worth of dirt.” I muttered.

She smiled, away from me and then with a glance towards my eyes. I didn't feel like humoring her that day, and kept my lips pressed firmly together. When we reached the end of the tunnel where the drills were the loudest and the great wall of dirt stretched out beneath us as it was slowly eaten away, the officer pointed us to a kind of side room where they stored the digging tools. For a moment I felt a little alleviated in getting to pick my own tool; something that wouldn't break my arm that I really knew how to use. Marjani went ahead of me, looking back with that soft swing of the shoulder, still smiling, breaking out a small grin of my own. It was this moment I remembered the most clearly. Then, the whole world began to shake.

My vision blurred with the vibrations that seemed almost to come from inside my own skull and I lost sight of Marjani, I reached out, barely being able to control my arms, not seeing anything but blurred shapes for only a fraction of second before earth came down upon me like a breaking wave drowning a ship. I screamed out for air, for help, but any sound I made was lost in an instant. It was the horror of falling, the feeling of missing a step, but continued on for much longer, giving you time to think ‘why had you missed the step?’ What had you done wrong, had you not done everything right? There were no more blur’s, only the earth which soon began to fill my mouth. Amazingly, somehow I managed to think, think long enough to try to run, but I could not run or even move more than a few inches and I knew that even that soon would be taken away from me. I screamed, or I think I did, but I heard nothing. ‘Close your mouth you fool’ I thought, but I could not. I could do nothing but scream.


 

“Marjani, why is your skin so soft?”

“because I spare a little of my water ration every day and mix it with a little root syrup, and then I soak my hands in it”

“they smell nice”

“that’s because the root syrup comes from the world above. It’s not all broken as terrible as they say Wynona”

“It isn't’t?”

“No.”

“Can we go there one day?”

“Of course we can my princess. We’ll go together. And Wynona I-”

“I know Marjani, you’ll always catch me.”

“that's right.”

 


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