First Chapter of Children of The Garden
It was a Sunday when I found her, as the sky blew up in intricate colors of red and yellow. I stopped in my tracks as the blaze grew louder and the smoke grew higher and higher. People ran around us, passing, not even knowing we were right in front of them. I wasn’t much higher than a baby grand piano and you were just a minute taller.
We had been through this plenty of times, so much so that you didn’t even look phased. You just stared at the colors up in the sky while my eyes fascinated on you. You with your long, blonde hair and your face looking up so curiously at the sky, even though we had seen this scenario plenty of times already, watched it on TV, learned about it in class, you kept looking as if nothing had and nothing ever would phase you. You wore a bright white dress that laid just below your knees with white embroidered flowers along the seams, with long, loose, white sleeves and blue running shoes. Interesting ensemble, but you don’t really question fashion when bombs are being dropped.
I could feel the wind blow through my shaggy, light brown hair. I watched as the wind picked up your wild hair and made you turn around in my direction. After you brushed your hair to the side, our eyes caught each other and held on. You didn’t say anything, so I nervously waved with one hand holding onto the strap of my small, brown, messenger bag. Your expression turned serious and you ran towards me.
As the commotion grew louder and louder, we started walking and filling that gap between us. Standing with just a few inches to go, I finally said, “My name’s Charlie,” and reached out my hand like a little kid. Why did I do that? There was no turning back now. My hand was already stretched out and it would be weird if I brought it back to my side.
You looked back at me with your grayish eyes and replied in a calm voice, “My name is Elise. Nice to meet you.” You shook my hand and giggled a bit.
A loud screech rocketed across the sky and there were more screams that followed. We searched above and saw the jets racing past us to whoever was ahead. I could feel Elise’s grip grow tightly on my hand. “Let’s go Charlie, looks like the bombs are getting closer.”
I nodded, still in shock of the beautiful girl in front of me, and off we went into the commotion. We ran with the marathon of people to the right and the left of us. Panic filled the once newly paved streets and screams could be heard from every direction. As I looked at my surroundings, children were being held tight by their mothers, cars were parked in every direction and young couples held hands and ran together to find shelter. There were plenty of shelter places built by now. Our population was too big and singular place coverings just would not fit us all. Every few blocks there was another one. And once they were full, there would be a small, red stripe that would go across the steel doors when they closed.
I looked back, even though we were taught never to look back, I was just too curious. Black smoke seemed to be inching closer and people were falling on their knees, from prayer and from tripping over others in the hurd. Elise tugged my arm and I was back to looking in front.
“Just keep looking forward Charlie. We’ll find an empty shelter in no time.”
I hadn’t been paying attention. As we ran, the steel doors of the shelters were closing or were already closed. I just followed her by hand. I don’t know why I let her, but for some reason, she felt warm and safe. The booms grew harsher, but we kept on going until we finally found an open shelter. Down the hatch we were into our cave. I’d rather call it a cave cause that’s what it felt like. I couldn’t really see them, but I could hear other people who had gotten there earlier were huddled together as far in the corners as they could, with hands over their heads. And then there we were, holding hands as the commotion led on as if the echoes upstairs, that could be heard through everything, were normal. As we were managing to grasp our breath, Elise let go of my hand.
It was quiet and I didn’t want it to last long, “How long do you think this one will last for?” I asked, still out of breath.
She shrugged her small shoulders, “This one seems closer than the others have been. Maybe a little longer, hour tops.” She said this with as much assurance as she could give.
A bearded man came rushing in and shut the door and sealed it, no longer being able to hear the scream in HD.
“It’s getting close out there!” He shouted.
Nobody replied to him as everyone was still in a state of panic. Elise looked at the man and didn’t seem to take his word to heart.
She turned her face my way, “What grade are you in?” She asked me.
Fireworks were going off upstairs and screams could be heard through the center of the Earth. One of the people in the tunnel started screaming in unidentified words and another kept telling them to hush.
“Were you on your way to school?” She asked, continuing the small talk.
“Not really…” I thought about what to say, before I just went with the truth, “I was actually looking for my mother.”
“Where’s your mom Charlie?” Elise asked as she put her hands on top of her head.
I pushed my brown bangs and followed suit along with everyone else. We all started crouching low on the ground, just like the people on TV and YouTube told us to do. I answered, “I don’t really know. I was on my way to find her, but then the sirens went off.”
We were all crouched down as everything seemed to be on top of us now and a wisp of hysteric cries were going off in our bunker.
“Did you lose her?”
“Yeah, I actually lost her about a couple months ago. My dad told me she went on a long trip and I just decided maybe she just needed to be found.”
Elise nodded her head, hands still on top of head, as if she knew, “I had an uncle who was lost once. My aunt eventually found him, but then he got lost again and no one’s seen him in a year.”
“And where are your parents?” I asked with honest curiosity.
It became quiet outside, so Elise put her hands back on her side. She stood up very proud-like and said, “I was running away.”
I put my hands on my ears, “Where were you running to?”
“To an island.”
“How were you going to get there?”
She started to look annoyed, “With my legs and a boat.”
“Where would you get the money for a boat?”
“I’m 11, I have emergency birthday money!”
“And what would you do when you got to Jamaica?”
“Why do you ask so many questions?”
“Guess I just like to get to know people.”
Elise smirked at this, “Well you can’t eat the whole cake in one day.”
I chuckled at this. She had a way of talking like she knew the world without falter, yet we were the same age, “What?”
She shook her head, “It’s something my dad would say.”
The commotion started to die down and we put down our hands.
We sat on the cold bunker floor. The walls were makeshift with the ground, along with the ceiling. There was one light fixture that wouldn’t stop moving back and forth, creeking with every movement.
“The whole crouching and hands thing seems so silly. If we’re going to die, nothing will stop it right?” Elise blurted out in a matter-of-fact voice.
I blinked and answered, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” I hadn’t given it much thought, it was just something we were trained to do.
Elise looked me up and down, “You know, you look pretty sharp for our age. Most boys just wear a shirt and gym shorts.”
I looked down at my blue jeans paired with my brown bomber jacket and black v neck.
“Yeah, my mom would always dress me like this and I guess it just became my style.”
She nodded her head in approval, “Sounds like you have a good mom. I’m sure she’ll be excited once you find her.”
We made some more small talk, what our favorite colors were, mine red, her’s blue. We talked about our favorite animals, mine alien’s, and her octopuses.
“Aliens aren’t animals.” She told me.
“How do you know if they are if we’ve never seen them? Besides, aliens can probably morph into any animal and that makes them superior.”
“True, you may be onto something.”
Then a voice from a lady piped up and asked if it was okay to go outside. We stopped our conversation as we looked around to see that the few people who ran in with us were coming towards the front entrance. Elise and I turned our attention towards the entrance door. We hadn’t noticed the noise from above had grown completely dull.. It felt quiet, just a little too quiet than what we were used to after these raids.
“Open it up girl!” The old man in rags that came in last should. He had a musky silver beard and peered straight at Elise.
She didn’t say anything, but walked over to the door. The rest of the people, a middle aged woman with long brown, a young man with glasses, an older woman with dark dark skin and dark hair to match, and a young man in green camo, who held the hand of a young woman with red hair all took a sigh of relief which seemed to come out in unison. They watched in both hope and dread as Elise went to open the door.
This is what life was like. It seems that days of sun and no worries were long behind us. Life without war was hard to imagine as we all had gotten used to the bombs and the fires and the running into shelters and then finding that everything was rotten when we got back up to the surface.
When Elise was about to touch the handle of the door, she stopped. A loud scream took to the surface and we all looked up. We could pick up a faint buzz sound. Elise froze in shock. This hadn’t happened before. Usually it’ll stop, we wait a minute or two, we go outside and it’s over. This time though, this time it sounded different.
“GET DOWN!” Yelled the young man in camo.
Elise jumped all the way down to the last step and we all ducked and covered ourselves with our hands in unison, forgetting all logic. The next moment was done in a mere few seconds, though time took to slowing down for me. A volcanic burst swarmed through the surface and the walls of our shelter shook the crib. The ceiling collapsed in front of the entrance and a piece of it fell on top of the camo man’s shoulder. Everyone got up from their crouch and screamed. The young man cried in agony. The young woman’s eyes were in fright. Everyone held themselves. Everyone except for Elise. She stood up and looked up at the dark ceiling and not a single syllable came out of her. I remember looking around and realizing that life was about to change, but not clearly that I was going to change. I looked down at my hands and I wrapped them around myself, not knowing what to think or feel. The light that dangled from the ceiling swayed back and forth, creaking ever so loudly.
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