*Post inspired by the Lightning and the Lightning-bug Flicker of Inspiration prompt, "Sea of Yellow."
I had this post written yesterday morning, but I'm late on getting it up because all of yesterday I thought a hacker ruined my blog forever and I was too scared to get on. Every time I did, it told me my site was infected by malware by some third party site. I was PISSED. And sad. But then I realized it didn't say this if I went to it from Internet Explorer or Firefox--just Google Chrome. And a friend of mine said Chrome does that sometimes and I shouldn't worry. So to any of you with Chrome who had to get through a warning message to get here, I'm sorry. And I don't know how to get rid of it.
Last week, I wrote the Red Wheelbarrow for my Flicker of Inspiration post, which was a short fiction piece told from Charlene's POV--a story I made up on a whim. But I recently decided I wanted to keep Charlene and her family's story going, so this segment takes place after that, and I'm hoping to write more continuations in the future. This week was a picture prompt, where we had to write a piece based on this:
And I just now realized, as I went to post it, that we were supposed to stick to 500 words or less. Crap. My bad. But I'm too lazy to change it now. Sorry about the length. :/
The sun is heavy, and so are my eyelids. But I walk anyway, stumbling really, since my feet are heavy, too. My boots absorb the heat like an iron skillet, and I feel the dirt inside them turn moist between my toes. It's been three days since we left, three says since the strangers forced us from the only place we've ever called home. It was the first time I ever made eye contact with a gun, me and the double barrel in a stare down, and Mama went hysterical.
She fell to her knees in that moment I thought was the end, between me and the shotgun, and cried until the woman with ratty hair and crazy eyes shoved her aside. That was when they found our white chickens, and Mama says those white chickens saved my life. And because Mama wouldn't put up a fight, they let us go. Made us leave everything behind.
Just like that.
Mama might be too passive to put up a fight, but in that moment I was desperate. It was the only place Hank and Rose ever knew, and the only place with walls that I ever knew. It was small and lacking, but it was ours. And so were the chickens.
I grasped the barrel of the shotgun with both hands when the woman-beast was distracted, but she kicked me in the stomach, knocking the wind from me. I fell into Mama, and Mama's arms imprisoned me as I screamed at the beasts.
The rabid woman just laughed, as though I was a joke. In two years, maybe one, I wouldn't be. Maybe I'll even be stronger than Mama by then.
We carried nothing with us through the mountains, since the beasts took everything from us. Mama and I took turns carrying Hank, and sometimes my arms tingled until I felt nothing at all. Rose cried a lot, and so did Mama. She tried hiding it, but I know the sound well.
I'm better at hiding it. I don't sniffle like her, or blubber like Rose.
"We're almost there," Mama says, and I almost jump, even though her voice is soft. Hank was asleep at her shoulder, but now he stirs. It's the first any of us have spoken in hours. She's talked about the Sea of Yellow ever since I was little, about the place she and Grandpa fled to many years before, when all Hell broke loose on the civilized world--a world I know nothing about.
I manage to harrumph between breaths, my feet still trudging over rocky terrain. The sun burns my neck and my moist shirt clings to my ribs and back.
"We're almost there?" Hank groggily asks, and I imagine him rubbing his eyes in the way he sometimes does. But I don't turn to look. I'm ahead of them, still giving Mama the silent treatment.
"It'll take your breath away, Char," she says, trying to soften me up. Nothing has ever taken my breath away. I've read stories, Mama's old books, where women's breath gets taken away all the time, mostly by men. But it doesn't make sense.
The brush gets thick then, and as I shove it aside and make a way for Rose, it scratches at my forearms. I push through and my hair gets caught, but I ignore it. Rose grasps the back of my shirt in her fists, whimpering. Probably over the bugs. They were small and non-threatening, but they were everywhere.
Then I see it. A clearing ahead.
I shove through faster, telling Rose to keep up, and once in the clear, I freeze. A meadow, hidden away. Just for us.
Mama's Sea of Yellow.
And something strange happens inside my chest. Almost like a thud, and my breath seems to catch deep in my throat. I understand now, about Mama's claim that it would take my breath away. And the feeling elates me in a way I never experienced.
I close my eyes, and before I can help it, I'm smiling. At the breeze against my face, at the feeling inside me, at the image inside my closed lids. I open them again, just to make sure it wasn't my imagination.
I feel Mama behind me now. She's sniffling again, and Hank is cheering. There's a cabin at the other end of the clearing, probably the very one Grandpa built, but that's not what catches my eye. It's the openness, the freedom, the new start.
The Sea of Yellow.
My eyes follow the dancing wings of a butterfly. It seems drawn to Rose, for it lands right at her feet. She giggles, extending her finger to it, and I shake my head, my mouth still turned in a smile. One minute the insects are her adversary and the next, her kindred spirit.
The flowers are everywhere, coming to my knees. As I remove my boots, Hank jumps from Mama's arms, and my eyes burn. And when I run my swollen, sweaty feet over the grass, I sigh. Refreshing, green blades between my toes, promising reprieve.
I fall to the ground and let them envelop me, and so do Mama, Rose, and Hank, and we all laugh.
We have nothing, except the cabin and each other.
And Mama's Sea of Yellow.