my entries in the 15 for 15 contest, June 2012
|Our world was dying. The sun turned red and spit fire that turned the dawn star into green flames, but we could not see it, for our sky had turned to ash and lightning. Those who yet lived huddled together and prayed for bread and safety. But neither was easily found on the dying world.
That’s when he came. I was just a little child coughing in broken rubble of a building that had touched the sky before the fires came. But I saw him. His eyes were clear. His feet were clean. And he remembered how to laugh. Until he came, I had forgotten what it was to know joy.
He saw me, shrinking and coughing, my eyes reddened and sore. And he knelt beside me and bathed my face and asked me if I would like to go somewhere safe, where the fires were tame and the sun was golden and there were trees, not just the memory of ash.
And I wanted it. With all my power I wanted it, but I was afraid of the cost. Even a miserable life is precious. I didn’t know that someone would give a gift for nothing in return, and I feared for my body or my life.
With practiced hands, he pulled metal rods out of the sac on his back and built a door, standing upright in the middle of nothing.
“All you have to do is walk through.”
I touched the door, and it was cooler than the ash that made up our world. I licked the metal of the lintel, and it tasted of rust and glass. I walked around it, but there was nothing but a door, and I thought he was mocking me.
He smiled at me, but the smile was sad in his clean face. “If I’m wrong, you’ve lost nothing. But if I’m right—I promise, you will find fresh air, clean water, food, shelter, friends.”
And so I went through the door.
Immediately I was in a glass tunnel. Outside, I could see only ash and lightning, but beneath my feet the way was clear and clean. Behind me, the door disappeared. I walked slowly at first, coughing and rubbing my eyes to clear the tears away. But soon I noticed that the path was brighter. Beyond the glass, the air was clearer. I could see the green of growing things. I stripped off my ash laden clothes and raced, now eager to find the end of the path and rush through the gate. Without my personal ash, I could smell rain moistened dirt and grass and could hear the wild call of birds.
I wasn’t the first he found, nor was I the last. But I am the last of those who remember our dying world. We have grown and loved and borne children in our new world, where the sun is bright gold, and the trees still grow, and fires are our tame servants. He never came back. Our only reminder of him has been the door on our side of the tunnel.
But last night, I saw him again in my dreams. He told me many things, and when I awoke, I knew I would have to leave.
And so I went to the door to the tunnel between worlds, and with practiced movements that I’d never done before, I took it down and placed it in a sac and carried it away with me. Now, I will wander the world, for as long as it lives.
Someday, thousands of years from now, when my children’s grandchildren’s descendents are careless and kill this new world of ours, I will be ready to open the tunnel again.