The Closing was not an abrupt event. It crept up on them slowly, predatorily, with claws drawn sharp and malevolence in its eyes. It took their brothers and sisters, their cousins, aunts and uncles, their parents and grandparents. They watched in silence as their good friends turned to empty husks, just like their protective shells before them. The Closing was taking everything from them, and yet still, it raged on.
"Father, is it safe to leave? May I go join in the Song of Worship?"
"Hush child, you know better than to ask me such a question."
Sethos looked down, thoroughly scolded. He knew that his father was not angry with him. He was not the subject of the man's anger. And yet, the words still hurt, stung him almost as harshly as the toxin that was permeating their homes. His father's face softened, and he beckoned the young man closer to him. When he was close enough, his father ran a hand through light, silvery hair in what he hoped to be a comforting gesture.
"I am sorry. I worded that wrongly."
Even though he knew that the fault was not his, the words eased his stinging feelings by a small margin. He supposed that they would never stop doing so, not with the way things had been turning out. Things weren't fairing well in their big blue world, which was once filled with vibrant shades of different colors, cheerful howls, and lively traditional dances, dances for the goddess. All that pretty color and celebration faded away to a stubborn gray, and it got lighter and lighter until finally, it was white.
It was the same bleak white that caused his people to perish by the day, the same white that he despised so much that his cheeks would often burn with the anger of thinking about it. It was the same white that took over his darkened mind, the only color that could wrestle with black until it submitted and became lighter. But it could never take over. It never would, and that was why he stubbornly remained angered with the world above for ravaging their home.
It was purely unintentional, and yet it was so painfully deliberate. They continued to destroy the lives of others to accommodate their own. They took and they took, but they never gave back, and so The People suffered immensely. Sethos simply gave a sigh and leaned into his father's comforting touch, letting his eyes droop heavily as the man's scent (something distinctly salty and sweet, something that smelled like home) overwhelmed his senses in a comforting embrace. He didn't notice the man's ragged, hitched breaths or the single tear that rolled down his elderly face. His father had been to close too The Taint. He didn't have long.
When he awoke, the first thing that Sethos noticed was the sound of a villager's lament, her cries, deep, soulful, and heart wrenching, made him shiver. She begged for forgiveness from The Creators, begged for salvation from the great Akasha'Bellenair. She begged for the goddess to bring her son to the Golden City in one piece. The Taint hadn't left any salvageable ones.
How many of The People would they lose to The Taint? How many would it eat away at? Sethos had seen the grief of his neighbor, her low, deep singing as she busied herself with something, anything to forget the slow deterioration of her home and her daughter's death. He'd seen how his father shook his head in such a sad fashion as he looked out at their big, once calm world almost completely blotted out by their dying homes. It was agonizing, slow, gradual, and it urged his anger on with a patience that he hadn't believed was attainable even by the great Sandreste.
Sethos' father had forbidden him from exiting the solid walls of their resilient home. He and his father ignored how the color of the walls had begun to lighten day by day, taken over by the monstrous white, their once vibrant and lively colors giving in to the struggle with understanding reluctance. White or not, it would still be their home. That was what his father had said, and Sethos trusted him endlessly. Breaking himself out of his depressing thoughts, Sethos focused his gaze on the man's sleeping face.
"Father," the young man said, shaking the man's shoulder. Sethos did his best to ignore that his shoulder had become slender, far more slender than he would ever be comfortable with, for he had become accustomed to the man's shoulder being sturdy and resilient and strong, ready to hold back anything that would do him harm. His father was his brick wall. His father was his world.
"Father!" Sethos repeated, panic settling low in his chest and slithering down to pool in his stomach, like a sphere of utter discontent. There was a pregnant pause. His heart skipped a beat, the world skipped a beat, if only for a moment. The woman's deep cries stopped. All was silent. He could no longer hear the low, rhythmic murmurs of the Daily Worship, or the continuous beat of the Song of Worship. All was silent. All was blank.
Sethos gave a panicked, dry sob, lowering his head back down to his father's chest. The man in question's chest lurched spasmodically, and even though he heard his low, "I am awake, you silly child," the words were meant to be humorous. His father meant to coax a laugh or two out of him, a chuckle, maybe a snigger—anything.
He couldn't stop the sobs from tumbling out of his mouth, or the tears from clouding his eyes with a violent sting. It had taken his mother, it had taken his friends, and now, it came to claim the soul of his father as well.
Sethos had seen it first hand, the way the light would leave their eyes. The Taint killed their homes, and it entered their bodies, their souls, and washed all the color away and left strange, stark-white husks. In a way, Sethos had known that something was happening to his father, but he'd stubbornly refused to acknowledge it, pushing the man further and further until he simply couldn't withstand it anymore.
The moment that he'd been dreading had come. This was it; this was the moment that he looked upon with such resentful anticipation. It had reared its gruesome head and gave an obnoxious, open leer.
When his father rested a reassuring hand on his back, making small, half-hearted circles there, Sethos calmed. He didn't even notice that his breath had begun to hitch and stutter. He didn't notice that his color, too, had begun its slow transition to blankness. He didn't notice that he was the last.
Author's Note: "The Closing" and "The Taint" refers to the rising level of acidity in our oceans ("They" refers to us, the people on land). Because of pollution and general overuse of carbon, our seas are becoming increasingly dangerous for the organisms that reside in it. The concern about these organisms is worrying, but there is still a large following of environmentalists that want to save them and our ocean ecosystems. One such example is the Coral Reefs, which are bleaching because of the rising levels of acid in our oceans. The Coral is no longer able to provide for and protect the tiny organisms that live inside them once they are bleached, and the organisms die with and within the Coral.
This work is, quite obviously, fictional. I wanted to do a take on how it would be for the organisms living inside the coral, displaying them as tiny humans called "The People" with their own language, religion, and customs. Their customs die with them in this writing.
Some terms were used that you may not know:
Akasha'Bellenair (a CASHA bell-in-air) is, quite obviously, a fictional goddess, as is Sandreste (san DREST eh). Akasha'Bellenair is believed to be like archangel of sorts, who guides The People to the Golden City, the equivalent of our heaven. Sandreste is thought to be the Goddess of patience and forgiveness. She forgives The People for their sins and takes on the brunt of them.
The Creators are a group of gods and goddesses who The People believe to have created them. Akasha'Bellenair and Sandreste are lesser gods, sometimes revered as the offspring of some of The Creators.
The Song of Worship is a daily hymn sung by The People to honor said Creators.
Of course there are no tiny people living inside of the dying coral, but I hope that by reading this story, someone will be motivated to get up and do something.
This is a story I wrote for a state competition that was held not to long ago. Mine was sent as one of the best, but it didn't place. Of course, I was disappointed, so I planned to trash it.
Then I thought of how absolutely stupid it would be to trash this. I spent a lot of time and thought into working this the right way; I agonized over every sentence, stayed up correcting my mistakes. Why would I just throw it away? I'm a bit nervous in sharing this, because I don't think anybody would like it. This is a piece of fiction coming from a girl who's just newly thirteen years old, while almost everybody else on this site is probably an accomplished, mature writer. I just wanted to share my work and see if it would fit in anywhere. I hope that you enjoyed the read, and please tell me your thoughts! Any advice would be much appreciated.