A Hidden Talent

What’s this? Another blog post.

Well, yes. It’s not an overly interesting one to most of my readers (mine never are), but the other day I asked my sister to send me a story she wrote a few years ago. It was a piece for her GCSE English – and it blew the teachers away.

Fuck, it blew me away. I love it, more than love it. I thought about it a lot and, for a 16 yr old – the quality is amazing. No, scrap that, for any fledgling writer the quality is amazing. I’ve shared it with a few people (with my sister’s permission I hastily add!) and they too thought it was great.

So here it is.

***

Today is April 16th 2058. It’s 6am, and it’s raining. I can hear it hitting the roof of where I stay at night, the large, metal, inhabited area I am yet to call home. I haven’t slept all night. The machines that were used before the devastation crank and whirl noisily every waking moment. The only time I can’t hear it, silence fills the air and screams at me. My father told me it was built by the government before the war in 2013.  He always tells me interesting stories from before I was born. My father is very knowledgeable, from either his own stories, or stories passed down from his father, or stories he’s learnt on his journey across this desolate wasteland. Only a few road signs remain. In our last few days we’ve followed the Oxford Canal to here, one of the few bunkers for a while.

My name is George, by the way. I have brown hair and brown eyes, and I’m not that tall for my age.

The rain has been a relief after the last few days travel. Around us, are just dusty, dirty paths, filled with destroyed buildings, blown apart roads and occasionally an odd flower, pushing its way up and through the grit, to blossom pathetically against the harsh background. Climbing over rubble is one of the most difficult things, as the smell of asphalt and acid rain flows up into your nose, making you woozy until you can clear your mind. Dad isn’t too far behind me; used to the challenge of moving around the earth. We’re never sure of where we’re going; we just follow where our instincts tell us. For miles around is the same scenery, those long weeks, months, years of travelling has numbed to us – Destruction.

During our travels we’ve met the odd few. We hear stories of a large encampment just a few miles away, where people are sane, and trees are beginning to grow once more, and there are plentiful amounts of food. Dad says this was just a fairytale made up years ago, to soothe crying children, to soothe adults that were on the edge of going insane. But I didn’t want to believe that. I believed it did exist. That’s what kept me going, and my enthusiasm made my father keep moving forward, too. Despite his limp from a crippling injury a while back, he’s as able-bodied as I am. That’s why I never worried for him; I knew my father was a fighter, and I was the same. I can hear the rain slowly stopping, turning from intense drum beats to just soft taps, meaning we can finally resume our travels for the camp.

“Excuse me?” came a low, hesitant cry, which seemed to echo off the walls of our metal shelter. I suddenly shot up, and looked towards my father. He nodded at me, and I made myself visible to… her. She was hurt. I quickly imagined the worst and ran over to her, where she half-sat and half-lay, barely holding herself up. Moving as fast as I could to get her out of the vision of any predators in the area seeking an easy meal, I pushed her into the bunker. She tumbled, and fell into the dark room, near to where my father lay. She apologised and sat up, even though the pain was visible in her face, she sat through it.

“My name is Milana,” she said, with a slight accent, which puzzled me at first. Where had I heard an accent like that before? My father introduced himself first.

“Brian. And this here is my son, George. We’ve been travelling together for a while now. Well, not a while, his whole life. Why are you travelling alone?” I could see there were more questions in his eyes, but he held those back for later. Right now we had to get her in walking health, and keep moving. Staying in one space too long attracts the kind of things you only hear about in stories.

She looked between us, “I have no other choice. I’ve always been on my own, since I woke up with no recollection of company.” There was no hint of sadness in her voice. I decided I trusted her, and left it at that.

A few hours later, we found ourselves by a small, stagnant pond. Milana was radiating pain, and every time she winced with each odd footstep, I nearly winced too. The conditions were just right enough to help edible plants grow strongly around the pond, bearing fruit and large leaves. We ate, and stored as much as we could. Milana kept quiet throughout the journeys, while my father and I spoke avidly. Her mystery is what first caught my eye, and it began to swim around my mind as we walked, taking over all of my other thoughts, and making me not notice the change in atmosphere.

The whole area we were surrounded by seemed to differ greatly from everywhere else I’d been. It was… green. There were trees, shrubs, bushes. All growing wildly, and grass slowly taking over the dusty plain. There was a slight breeze, that tickled the backs of our necks and cooled behind our ears. Even the air was different. It smelled fresh. I could sense it, I could feel it. We were getting close to the haven. The fairytale.

And then I saw it. Off in the distance; A large building.

My heart filled to burst. I knew I was correct, I knew my father was wrong. I knew I never filled myself with false hope. I grabbed Milana and pointed her in the direction of it, and whispered excitedly into her ear. My father saw it then, too. Although I’m sure he would never admit it, I saw tears forming in his eyes. Who knew such a simple thing could answer so many prayers?

I don’t know what happened then. I started to run, ignoring the calls from behind me. I didn’t care. I ran and ran, feeling the warm air rush past my face, blowing through the thick mane of hair on top of my head. The small building in the distance grew bigger as I got closer.

And then it hit me.

I fell hard against the dust, dirt, rubble and soft grass. My head exploded in pain, and tears immediately began to well in my eyes, obscuring my vision, keeping the attacker’s face distorted. I felt myself being lifted, my head lolling back as the pain was too much to do anything. Blood trickled across my forehead, warm and sticky, matting my hair into wet clumps. Every reaction was off, my sight seemed to be slower than what was actually happening, and my movements were slow and heavy.

Then the smell awakened my senses. That smell. Her smell.

The sweet, yet earthy smell of Milana brought my attention back to my surroundings, yet she was different. She stood upright now, and wasn’t near my father, she was near them. The ones that attacked me, half-dragging me into the building. My heart began to sink as quickly as it had risen, disappointment and anger bubbling in my chest.

They dropped me on a pile of leaves. Twigs snapped as I fell, scratching me all over, making me curl up inside myself and numb myself to the pain. Yet I braced myself for any more pain. I pulled myself up, preparing to open my eyes.

“Hello,” they said, too close to my face, feeling their breath tickle my nose. “What you doing in this area? Trying to spy on us, huh? The Neferet sent you, didn’t they?”

Murmurs began around me, and I instantly didn’t like this place that was meant to be my haven. I opened my eyes. I saw my Dad lying next to me, his eyes also closed, but his breathing slow and regulated, opposite to my own. I looked for Milana and found her leaning over me also, close to the male that was breathing in my face and searching for some answer.  I avoided his gaze, but wished I didn’t.  I saw her, being dragged by her hair, by a much larger male. She was pleading him to stop. Everyone around me ignored this, as if it was something casual, something that happened every day. I cowered inside myself. My mind folding up into the tiniest fold it could be. I flicked my eyes back into the towering shadow’s. He searched deeply into my eyes, and decided he got the answer he wanted.

“You’re not one of them. You’re just another traveller. There’s houses for your kind.” And that was it. No explanation of what happened, or an apology. I went to open my mouth to say something, yet I was cut off.

“Go.” He said.

He turned around and walked off, Milana following him closely and quickly. I called out to her, and she stopped. She turned and slowly walked back towards me. Her face was completely different compared to the first time I met her. I now see what was missing the whole time – the truth.

“Yes?” she asked. I squinted at her, analyzing her actions. She didn’t have the feminine flow to her body stance now. She just had an odd, rigid look to her, making her feel like a complete stranger to me once more. I didn’t feel like speaking how we had only moments earlier that day. I held no expression, a reflection to her own. I would play it cool as I asked the questions that began to eat at my mind, and heart.

“What are we to do now?”

“Stay here,” she said, catching me off guard. I thought I had found someone loving enough to stick by me and my father.

I turned to my father, looking in his face for help. Why would he stay here? This isn’t where we were meant to be. This wasn’t the place in the stories. That’s when she came back, sensing my hesitation, compared to her quick reaction to staying here.

“I’m sorry!” she choked out, “I have no other choice… It’s either do or die.”

“Why? I’ve been safe, my Dad’s been safe. You’d be safe with me.”

“It doesn’t work like that…” she began to mumble. “You’re either here or there. I can’t wander aimlessly anymore. I want safety, and they want you here now. That’s just the way it goes.”

“This isn’t the right place, Milana. You don’t stay in a place out of fear.”

“I… don’t know. I can’t do it anymore. They will care for me… The way you care for your father so much. You’re brave, George. I want that for me.”

My cool face slid off then, and I was stuck between two. Even after a short time, I knew I’d found a lifelong friend, no matter how the friendship came about.

I couldn’t stay here, my heart felt like it was being held in a vice at the thought of being trapped in a place so far from perfection. I would rather roam the radiated, empty wasteland for years than this.

I composed myself to say my goodbyes.

“No.” I braced myself. Made myself out to be brave like she described me, “I can’t. My father needs me, and I need him. We can’t have each other here. It’s just more war. I’m sick of destruction and pointless murder. I might see you around, Milana, if you ever find yourself wandering again.” I glanced into my father’s eyes, and quietly added, “I’m sorry…” as I heard her sob and quickly run away.

Alone now, I felt sadness overcome me. I walked as slowly as I could, where my father half-sat and half-lay, in a very familiar way, waiting for me. I helped him up and we began our journey once more. The journey to the land we dreamt of, the land of plenty, the land of freedom.

The two of us, together.

Stopping by a pool, I felt the loneliness overcome me more so. Staring down at my reflection I saw the isolation and longing for love making my face weary. My brown eyes were droopy, and the soft brown fur that covered my body, was matted in places from the dried blood. My nose was dried and cut, with each breath stinging the open wound. I looked at my father and saw a similar feeling in his face. Two lonely rabbits, in a lonely, ruined world.

And so ends April 16th. One of the most memorable days so far.

***

Hannah can be found here:

http://doehannah.tumblr.com/

And she’s soon to be a published writer. Watch this space.

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