Oh, dear. Am I really doing this? This is my first ever prompt-contest thingy. I hope I don't embarrass myself. I have that tendency, you know.
Prompt: "Maybe this world is another planet's Hell."
Summary: Ceara, Brazil, 1700. The Great Drought, hell on earth. / The Review Game, October 2012 prompt, Writing Challenge Contest.
My baby sister died last night, and there isn't enough moisture in my body to cry by.
Mama found a way to, though. She wailed the rest of the night while Papa and I sat outside beneath the stars and in the sweltering heat. I thought I saw him wipe his eyes once, but then he grumbled about how dry and painful they were being, as he took another puff from his cigarette.
Inside the farmhouse, we listened to feminine cries, my mama's terrible sobs and dry heaving. Only a mama knows where to find tears in her body when it hasn't rained in six months.
The dog, Louro, was lying in a heap where the crops had failed, panting with its flopping tongue held out. I'd sooner think this invincible dog would have rolled over dead before little Helena did, and that thought made a terrible pang of pain hit my chest. But it must have hurt Papa worse because when Louro whined, he threw a broken piece of hammer at it. Louro jumped to its feet and shuffled away, its head ducked down low.
Papa cursed and choked back something that sounded like tears.
I wasn't able to get Mama out of the farmhouse bedroom the next morning. Papa didn't even try to.
The knob was locked and the broken window had been held fast by the wooden end of an old broom. No one said anything when I knocked or called out softly underneath the crack of the door.
Papa's eyes were a bright red color, and he looked much older. His thin hair was covered by an abandoned straw hat he found in the main room, his face and skin weather-beaten and worn down by the sun. His hands were calloused and too bony, and he held another cigarette between his yellowed teeth and cracked lips.
I found him in the morning with a too-small shovel, normally used to dig up crops. But he wasn't digging up crops - there weren't any to begin with - and instead was in the middle of puncturing the hard, dry soil behind the house. He had managed to make a shallow hole, but it wasn't enough yet.
"Papa, are you sure we can do this? This isn't our house or land," I told him tentatively, overlooking his work.
He grunted. "It's been abandoned, Vitor. I told you that when we got here."
"But what if the family that lives here is just visiting the town?" I winced at the thought of strange people coming home to find us here, or worse, to find baby Helena buried in their yard.
"Stop talking, moleque. You don't know anything." He released an impatient exhale and stopped digging to wipe his brow from the sweat that accumulated there. "Damn heat. Damn drought. Go do something else, Vitor, go get lost."
I didn't leave right away. Instead, I took one last look at the figure lying on the ground near the hovel, covered by a terrible ratty blanket. She was so tiny and so still. She used to have Mama's eyes - big and black and knowing.
Papa looked at me now, his mouth twisted round his cigarette. "You didn't hear me, boy? I said go!"
I turned and followed the wooden fence's length back to the front of the old farmhouse. The paint was chipping off and the roof was missing several brown tiles. The windows were all cracked and coated with a thick film of dust. Papa was right. No one has lived here for a long time.
There was nothing to do but to sit down by the front door, where I could overlook wild, ugly shrubbery growing thick and dry down the slope of the house. I had forgotten where the road was, but I knew it was right underneath the sun. At least, that what it had felt like coming here.
To my left, there was a well that was falling apart, but still had its bucket tied to the arch. There's was just dregs of water left, and that's how we had found it yesterday evening when we found the house and decided to stay the night.
Since there was so little water, Mama gave it to little Helena, who needed it the most. The water must have gone bad, really bad. It made her very sick. Her tiny face had been a blotchy green color last night as Mama was desperately trying to help. Mama had told me to leave the room because of all the sick Helena was spewing, and a few minutes later, I heard Mama scream and wail that I thought both of them had gotten sick.
Papa had gotten pale when he left the room, but he wouldn't tell me what was wrong. I was scared and trembly, because I thought something terrible had happened to Mama and baby Helena, and it did.
Baby Helena had died and Mama lost her little daughter.
Back in Ceará, the pastor used to tell us not to dwell on bad things and Hell. That was before we had to leave our town in search of someplace better off from the drought. Papa also says so. But right then, I couldn't help but think that maybe God was mad at us. Maybe He got so upset that he put a little bit of Hell here to teach us a lesson.
By the time Mama got out of the room, she was so white and her eyes looked puffy and empty. She was shaking and she looked dead.
She shuffled towards me and then stopped. Something terrible twisted in my chest. I had never seen Mama look that way before in all my life. A fear hit me then that she was going to die next, and leave Papa and I all alone.
Before I could feel it, two fat tear drops fell from my eyes and Mama was holding my face in her cold hands, pulling me very close. I had never felt so scared.
And I thought, only a mama knows where to find tears in her body when it hasn't rained in six months.
- moleque in Portuguese is kind of like "kid, boy, child." But in a condescending way. I guess.
Haha, I'm nervous. I hope I win. I've never won anything before, except my third grade spelling bee. Loser problems.