|A Place to Call Home
Author: Cassix PM
My brother once told me of how airplanes used their trails of smoke to guide them home from a long journey. Now that he's gone, it's only a matter of time before I too must use my trail of destruction to guide me back home... But where exactly is my home?Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Words: 4,474 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 04-13-12 - id: 3013270
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Hello there! This is one of my first original written stories, but it's been in my head for a little less than a year. It was originally going to be presented as a video or a comic, but I already have enough projects to work with. I settled for a written story instead since it'll help me develop as a writer rather than a graphic artist. I hope you enjoy it nonetheless. Reviews are very much appreciated!
Goodbye; a word of parting when the time comes for people to separate. The word sounds so familiar, so delicately laced with a sense of possession no person could describe on their own. It holds a possession that can – without discomfort or regret – be tossed away and set free. When you say "goodbye," somewhere in the back of your mind, you fill in the unspoken promise written in between each letter.
"Please, come back home soon."
However, there is a little bit of a problem here. A goodbye may be meant as a harmless blessing, a word of good fortune, but let's face a little bit of reality. Are they really going to come back? Do they have a place called "home" they can return to? You may never know because you are the one stuck firmly planted in the very soil you stand on. There is nothing in the world you can do but wait.
This is where I am, and where I forever will be.
"Hey, brother," I whisper, the autumn air catching my voice with the crisp breeze forthcoming," Do you see that?" My hand aims at the clear sky above us. The dark blues and purples of the sky glisten ever so softly with speckles of "pixie-light." My brothers and sisters tell me they are called stars, but for the last eleven years and counting I've called them pixie-lights. I have heard stories around the village about how there are spirits in the sky that sleep in the day and come out to watch over us at night. Those spirits were called pixies, and whenever a person passed on to the afterlife, they were added to the passive armada in the sky. They were tribal stories, but I've always loved them.
"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be looking at Cyrus…" My big brother chuckles as he follows my gesture. I blink and stare at the pixie-lights before I gather my thoughts again.
"I'm talking about that! That plume of smoke in the sky. Or is that a cloud…?" My brother chuckles again, this time sitting up and making himself comfortable beside me.
"No, that is a trail of an airplane. Sometimes they make words or pictures in the sky, but most of the time they just follow where the plane goes." Big Brother – Ivan as he's named – lets out a huge yawn and stretches his arms in an attempt to relax his muscles after our long day at work in our family's fields. I frown, because I see something horribly wrong with what he said…
"But isn't that bad for smoke to follow them? It'll give away their position to other planes! What if they're attacked?" Rather than laughing at me, my brother ruffles my hair and stares up at the plane as the tail of smoke smears across the sky. A soft hum can be heard as well, probably the plane itself.
"That's not necessarily a bad thing, Cyrus… You see, all airplanes travel great distances to get to where they are destined to go. They carry with them a responsibility that can't be held firmly in one spot. However, just because they travel doesn't mean they don't have a home to come back to. You don't say goodbye to an airplane forever because it always comes back." I stare at him, my eyes riddled in puzzlement at his explanation. I must be easy to read, because he continues without much hesitation," No matter how far away a plane travels, their trail of smoke is what reminds them that they too have a place to call home. Once all is settled, they can always follow the trail they've left for themselves back to where they came from. Back to where their loved ones are."
"Oh, that makes sense…" My head slowly nods an agreement, then my eyes run up the plume of smoke until the plane comes into sight. I stare at it for a moment, then smile to myself," Those airplanes remind me of us. We're a lot like them…" And I'm right.
Our family is like a bunch of jigsaw puzzles dumped into a pile and fitted together in mix-matched combinations. I have many siblings that span from across the world. My big brother Ivan is the oldest of us all, standing proudly at seventeen years old. Following up behind him at age thirteen is my meaner older sister Mattilda. She goes by Mattie, and if referred to as anything else she'd tan your hide faster than you can laugh at her for saying so. My brother Will, same age as Mattie, is the only person in the world that can keep her in place. Mattie has a habit of being the bossy, bratty child, but Will is the only one that fights back with her. I'm not sure if she respects or despises him, but either way they're really close… Continuing down the line would be my sisters Sarina and Fae. They are twins from Sweden, and they are very close. At age ten, their imaginations reach worlds that even our foster parents can't even deem rational enough to be thought of by the human mind. They are both really sweet and understand each other very well, yet they are both very individual girls. They like to take care of our other younger siblings; Yuna and Zack at age eight, Corbin at age seven, and then baby Garin at age six. Because our family is so large, we aren't the most fortunate children. However, our parents make up for this loss with their undying love and compassion for us. Our family is very close and humble, and even though we come from all around the world from different families and hardships, we still have one place we can call home. A home full of love, friends, a caring family, and everything we could possibly ever need…
But the world has the cruelest ways of showing us that we really don't get to keep what we have.
Where I live, our village sits in the crevices of various mountains with a long stretch of valley that leads to the more populated cities beyond our reach. Because we are so secluded, the government officials found us to be a rather useless village and have requested many times over to have our village demolished and have us all relocated somewhere else, preferably in one of the more modernized industrial cities further down the valley. From what I've heard from my parents, this request has gone on for many, many years to no avail. As a sort of punishment, officials from the city beyond the valley were sent to our village to investigate it for some sort of value. They managed to find valuable radioactive materials in the mountains that cradle us so they set up several nuclear plants around us to provide energy and resources to the city. This saved us from being demolished, but this blessing has also doubled over as a curse. The nuclear plants keep outsiders from attacking us and pilfering what little valuables we have left in this industrial era, but at the same time we are trapped within the village to tend to all the plants. Our crops must be specially grown and our livestock have to be raised with utmost care to avoid any sort of radioactivity. I remember my mother describing our village as "the bird trapped in a cage of a ticking bomb."
I didn't understand at the time what she meant. How could our village ever represent some sort of bird? The only birds I've seen are the ones flying way up in the sky over our village, not even taking a second glance in our direction. We also have robotic creatures that help us maintain the village and nuclear plants. They are modeled off of animals to give some appeal, but I personally find them creepy… If you listen to them, their innards give off a hollow tick tock, tick tock sound. They are special robots created from the nuclear material of the plants and the crafty magic of our mysterious neighbor in the mountains nicknamed the Clockwork Keeper. No one's ever seen the Keeper, but occasionally he'll send us Clockworks to help tend to our village. Their hearts are made out of clocks, and combined with the radioactive material, they function just like any old person on the street. I hate coming across one of them though, because the ticking is so loud it gives me a headache…
Tick tock… tick tock…tick tock… tick…
Just like that, the bird trapped in a cage of a ticking time bomb was set free. I wasn't part of the bird though. I was the lone survivor. I was the baby bird forgotten in the nest while the rest of the family up and left.
I was the one to say goodbye.
"He…Hello?" I tried to whisper, but even that sounded like a deadly cry in the silence of the destroyed village. I had left the village for the valley earlier that day to tend to our livestock secured in the area outside of the danger zone. This area is several miles away from the village, and I usually have to get there by motorbike. I spent all day there until I heard the mountains groan and the ground protest to something catastrophic happening in its wake. Fearing the worst, I came back as fast as I could to see what went wrong, but alas I was too late. What lies before me now is the remains of my friends, my family…
My home. Home. Ivan! Sarina, Fae! Mom and Dad! Several minutes too late, the pain and realization kicks in that my family was here in the village. They were struck by the explosion of the nuclear plants, and there's no way they survived such a devastating turn of events.
No, I refuse to believe it. Moving before I can process what's going on, I run for my house that sits at the base of the mountains on a pseudo-cliff. As I run, I can feel the air vibrating, as if it were alive with creatures microscopic to the naked eye. A chill runs up my spine, my head whipping back and forth expecting to see tall buildings standing proudly against the mountains. The only thing my eyes were met with was the dark and menacing shadow of said mountains, as if they were casting their condolences toward my fallen village.
I tripped up the stairs carved from the ground all the way up to where my house stood. Sweating and panting heavily, I raise my head up and fixate my eyes on what should be the door to my home. My sanctuary. My destination beyond my trail of smoke I left as I embarked on my long and weary journey.
There was no door to welcome me home. There was no frame, no walls save for a few broken remains that endured the calamity. My home was in shambles, beyond that even. There was no recovering what was left standing, as there was barely anything left at all. I stepped into the hollow that was once my living room. I'm home, I thought to my family, who would be waiting on the couch for me either playing chess or otherwise. My eyes, resisting temptation to lose it all, scanned every invisible line of the furniture now blown to smithereens. The air stunk of chemicals, smoke, and death, making it harder not to cry. I inhaled sharply and made my way to the center of the ruins. Dust clouds lapped at my boots with every heavy tread, twigs snapping and pieces of old floorboards creaking under my weight. As I looked around, I noticed how open our house looked now, how free and big it looked. My heart sunk a little bit, because it reminded me of just how closely knit my family was. Our house was always warm, always so cozy and pleasant that the mere thought of those old times made my eyelids heavy, as if I were lying in my bed sharing stories with my siblings…
A chill from the coming winds reminded me of how open I truly was. The remaining walls did little to shield my body from the cold. I hugged my shivering body and pulled inward as my world finally came crashing down on me. I felt so lost… Where am I? This isn't home anymore. Who am I? My parents are dead again, along with my siblings. Am I just another child tossed away into the street…?
I don't know anymore. I just don't know. Nothing makes sense. Nothing is as it should be. No one is here to help me anymore, to walk me through life like my family did. Everything is ruined and everything hurts. My thoughts continued to run circles through my head as I cried, causing my whole body to shake and give way to the destruction. Soon a headache made way, then exhaustion as the salty tears subsided. Finally after my shaky breaths evened out, hunger settled in. How long have I been laying here?
Reluctantly, I stood up and forced myself to look for something to salvage in the village. To my nonexistent surprise, there was absolutely nothing but debris and dirt. I sighed and dug into the pouch of herbs I saved for the livestock out in the valley. I didn't know too much about these plants other than the fact that they were edible to animals. Would they be okay for humans as well? I don't care at this point, so I shove the whole handful into my mouth. Instantly I felt a burning sensation rise in the back of my throat as I digested the plants.
Water. I need water, but where do I get it? Searching desperately for a source, I scale my way down the shortcut to the village and head to the well just past where the market used to be. I didn't notice this before, but without the buildings as guidance, things were harder to find. The distance between my house and the well seems to have lengthened, because it felt like forever before I found myself cranking the lever to raise the bucket of cool liquid life. I pulled the bucket up and over the stone wall of the well and sat down on the ground with it in my lap. Before I raised it to my lips, I took out a tube with a clear liquid inside of it. The tube was made of glass with a bronze frame encasing it protectively. Inside the tube, the clear liquid sat thick and cool against the glass. In my village, we used this device to test the content of the water, whether or not the nuclear chemicals affected it and if it was safe to drink. I let the tube sit in the water for a few minutes before pulling it out and inspecting the color. If the liquid remained clear, it was safe to drink. However, if the color changed to a deep purple, the water was contaminated. Unfortunately for me, there were traces of lavender in the tube, but I was almost too desperate to care. I hesitated, but I gulped down as much water as I could to satiate the overwhelming sensation in my throat. Once the bucket was half of what it used to be, I sat back against the well's wall and sighed. I felt another burning sensation this time, but it wasn't in my throat. It was in my nose, then slowly escalated to my eyes. Tears sprung immediately from the pain and I couldn't help but let out an agonizing scream. My hands reached to scratch the bone clenching itch in my face, but it didn't work. Digging my nails into my cheeks didn't help either, as it only made it hurt more. Something's not right… Not right at all.
"The water…" I hissed behind clenched teeth, my eyes burning and my nose now bleeding at this point. I started to breath heavier and with a more prominent wheeze with every inhale. Everything started to hurt at this point and that's when I knew I had to move. I needed help. I don't know how long I'll be able to last but I know that if I don't find someone – anyone – I could… I…
I don't want to die!
"HELP!" I cried, though it sounded more like a cracked sob. I clawed at my face, my fingers creeping closer and closer to my eyes until they too were soaked in tears. It took everything in my body not to gouge my eyes out, the itch was so tempting, but my will to live outlasted. I ran as far as I could from the hellish waterhole out into the cleared out village. Nothing in the world could describe the pain I felt as the wind lashed at my eyes, "C'mon… just a little longer, I'm sure someone will help me… C'mon…" I urged myself on, at this point crawling around on the ground to get away from the invisible demons behind me. The farther from the water I was, the better off I knew I'd be. Slowly and painfully, my hands drag me further and further into the middle of the desolate wasteland of my village. My eyes are blurred over with tears, my face numb with itching pain. After a little longer, I stop and roll over onto my back, coughing and sputtering. I'm scared to swallow in case it'll bring my death closer than I want it to come. Instead I just stare at the clouds in the sky.
They remain unchanged, as if such a disaster couldn't possibly bring them out of their happy world above the hell on earth. I frowned and closed my eyes, unable to look at such a bright and happy sky. It sickened me, to say the least. Ever since the conversation I had with my brother, the sky held a sort of special place in my heart. It usually made me happy and free. I could get lost in the sky for hours… But for now, it hurt too much to—
What? I sat up and looked around. My eyes were still blurry, but I scanned my surroundings as best as I could. Even with my best efforts, said surroundings remained the same. Maybe it was all in my he—
Okay, now there's something seriously wrong. What is that? An owl? I hissed as I used all the strength I could muster to pull me up on my feet, then I listened again for the hooting again. When it sounds, I rush toward it. It's calling to me, I can tell. For whatever reason, I'm not sure, but I know if I don't follow it that it'll be a long time before some other form of help came to save me from clawing my face off.
The bird's call ended up dragging me back up to my house, or what remained of it anyway. It sat up high on the branches of a tree that stood naked and charred. It was miraculous that it was still standing, but the scene sent chills down my back. The owl in the tree stared down at me with unnatural beady eyes. I looked around to see if it was just a trick my mind was playing on me, but no it was staring straight at me. I felt uncomfortable. It was as if the bird was scanning my very being, as if it were deeming me worthy of help or to leave me alone to die. Without a second thought, it dove off the branch and flew effortlessly over my head. I chased after it despite being tired of moving. I was ready to collapse and just sleep until everything stops hurting, but I forced myself to keep moving. I have to. I want to get out of here before the radiation gets any worse. If it can get any worse.
Unable to run anymore, my pace slows down to a forced speed walk, weaving through trees and over rocks until I reach an old shack secluded on a cliff on the side of the mountain. Puzzled, I drag myself up the cliff and lean against the walls of the small building. At this point I'm panting and doing all I can not to pass out, but being dehydrated and hungry didn't help at all. The owl sat on a rock a couple feet away from me, staring into my eyes intently. I glared back at it.
"Are you enjoying watching me suffer, bird?" I spat in its direction, but it flew up passively through the shattered window of the shack. Sighing, I swung my arm up and twisted the knob of the door until I too stumbled in. I sensed a disturbance in the darkness of the hut, as if something, someone, was already there waiting for me. I froze in place and tried to glare into the darkness with my weary eyes, but the pain caused them to slowly fade out of focus. Having forced myself enough today, I passed out there on the ground. I don't care if anyone finds me anymore. No one came to my rescue in the village, why would I expect someone in the mountains to come help as well? It was all pointless. My breathing slowly calmed and came in sporadic intervals until the only thing I could hear anymore was my pulse in my ears…
"Perfect," a foreign voice hissed in a hollow tone. Lingering between the world of the waking and the dreaming, I listened as the owner of said voice crept closer to my tired body. It hesitated a moment, staring in silence at what lay before them. Fear overtook my mind, but what could I do about it? Everything hurt too much to move, so why fight in the first place?
"Careful, Darius, I think he's hurt," a feminine voice chimed, followed by a soft clicking of stone to metal. Oh great, they're not alone.
"No matter, I'll have him back up to speed in no time," the first voice - Darius was it? - said, supposedly swatting away at the female, "I'm just grateful there was a survivor in that wretched village below us. That explosion almost sent us flying."
"True… I do hope he will be okay. He's so young…" I felt sharp, cold metal touch the side of my cheek. It tingled a little bit, and it was then that I realized it had cut me, blood slowly trickling from the cut, "I can only imagine how horrible coming home to nothing was like for the boy."
"Ha! Your sympathy amuses me, Lilium," Darius scoffed. I assumed he picked me up, because I felt nothing but air below me and the sensation that I was levitating, "How can you care so much for a pitiful human when we, too, were abandoned by the one person that cared for us as well? Hmm? We're just as dead as this child and you know that. Even then, I doubt he'll last long enough to fulfill what we have in mind."
"I wouldn't count him out so soon, Darius," a much deeper voice sounded, making me flinch a little, "See, look. He's still moving. With proper care he could be just the item we need to complete this mission."
"Yes, well…" Darius shifted his weight and I felt myself resting on clouds… No, they weren't clouds. I was now resting on a pile of ragged, old pillows and blankets, "Let us wait until morning before forcing this child out into the village again. From the looks of his face and the condition of his skin, the radiation would have had him dead in a second if my little friend didn't fetch him in time." I continued to listen to their conversation until I felt a wet rag cover my face. I twitched a little under the rag but otherwise remained still. With a careful touch, one of the foreign creatures – in which I deducted to be Clockworks from the faint sounds of their ticking hearts – gently rubbed the cloth over my claw marks on my face. I could tell they were trying desperately not to harm me, because behind the cloth I could feel the metal claws prodding at my cheek. It was a little funny in a sense as I imagined a giant robot trying to clean my face of blood and grime. My amusement must have shown, for I heard the feminine voice chuckle a throaty, metallic sound.
"My, Velveteen, you must a gentleness to you if you can make a pained child smile," she said. My healer shuffled a little, I'm not sure what he did, then went back to tending to me. I could hear Darius grumble in some form of disgust and say something. After that the door shut and the rest of the Clockworks sighed.
"Let the boy rest now, Velveteen," the deep voice commanded, "He is clean and he seems to have calmed a little. Once Darius returns with safe water, we can tend to him again." I sighed softly as the cloth left my face. The cool air from outside blew through the cracks in the wooden shack, calming the scars on my face. I was grateful for my rescue, I felt much better now than I did a while ago. If only I could tell them so…
For now, the breeze calls me to a much needed rest. I can tell the days forthcoming will be very hard to endure.