I walk around in my boots, my legs scruff the dirt. I stuff my hands in my pockets as the cold air blows my skin.
“Its been almost 23 years since that day.” I whisper to myself.
“Yeah.” Mark says as he walks up behind me. We walk silently in the world that is not as it once was.
There is dirt for miles, yet no plants have grown. There are a few trees but that's all there is…a few. We would grow them back but…all the seeds we put in the ground never seem to grow. They just die off. We have lots of storage for food since we knew this day would come.
There are not as much houses as there used to be, we have to build them all back. The very tall buildings have been destroyed and well…in some ways thats a good thing and a bad thing. Now that the buildings are gone, I can see the stars. But business is basically down so everyone is poor.
Mark and I live in a barn that happened to survive… we’ve fixed it up and made it our new home. Mark is the only thing that reminds me I am still alive, he reminds me that I need to be strong. Mark is my remaining family.
Mark grabs my hand, “what are you thinking about?” he asks carefully.
And I meet his eyes and sigh…
“Life then and life now.” then I look back down and something green catches my eye. There is not a lot of green things on Earth anymore so when you see something green you look.
I gasp and push Mark back so that he won’t crush it. I breathe deeply as I kneel to the floor.
“What?” Mark asks. And I look up at him with a smile.
“Its a plant!” I say with a huge smile.
“Are you serious?” he asks as he kneels down to see this sight.
I nod slowly as I examine it…something about it seems familiar. And then I gasp again, this time in shock with a little bit of sorrow.
“Mark, this isn’t just any plant.” I dig my hands in the rich soil as I cover the plant stem with dirt. “This is… This is the plant my mother and I planted together…”
Tears slowly fill my eyes and it drops on the plant slowly rolling down its leaves. “The Evergreen.” I whisper.
Then suddenly I remember. And hope fills my heart once more.
“Hello and good morning, I am Liam Fortwort. Please, if you are in the Northern area we strongly advise you to get to the safe point! It will save your lives! There is only one train, it is the last train to the safe point, you must get there as soon as possible! The bomb will explode in less than 24–”
The Television crashes to the floor and it blows our precious plates to the floor. I rush to the floor struggling for my little seed. Its the last one.
“Velvet! Come Baby! We need to leave now!” Mama grabs my hand and she drags me out the door. I had never seen her so scared. We pushed against the wind looking for someone…
“Mama what about Mark?! We have to find Mark!” I scream, she lets go of my arm and runs back into the house and I hear her faint call for Mark. I grip the grass trying not to blow away like a leaf. And I stare at the sky…the sky is red. Red with clouds. I open my hand looking at the little seed vowing to never let it go; it gave me hope.
Mama comes back holding Mark under her armpit as he cries, she picks me up and puts me up on her shoulder, but before she does I catch a glimpse of her eyes. Her fear is replaced with determination…to live. But I don’t think it was for herself.
Mama ran that day, she ran as fast as she could pushing against the wind telling us to close our eyes. But I kept mine open and I watched the wind blow people off cliffs, I watched some kill themselves with fear and I watched some determined to stay alive but still died. I wondered if that would be us.
Finally I decided to close my eyes, deciding if I were to die, I wanted to die in my mothers arms, knowing she did everything to protect us. But before I knew it we were at the station thousands of people were standing around and I remember my mothers deep breaths pushing through the crowd. I remember hitting my head on peoples elbows and one even grabbed my hair trying to pull me back. I remember the relief I felt when they let go. And lastly I remember my mother’s screaming–
“Please! Take my children! Please, I don’t care about me! I don’t care if there is no space! They need to survive please! SOMEONE TAKE MY CHILDREN” she yelled hysterically.
Suddenly she picks up Mark and places him in the train, Mark reaches out for my mother but an officer holds him back. I hold on to my mothers cloth not expecting her to pick me up next…but she does.
“Ma- no! NO!” I scream as she puts me in the train with Mark.
“Mark, take care of her. Velvet, take care of him. Take care of each other” she said with tears falling down her face. I try to reach over and climb out to my mother but she grabs my hand that contains the little seed but the train starts to move and the little seed in my hand drops to the floor as my mother lets go.
“You’ll be fine.” she mouths. “I’ll always be with you! STAY WITH EACH OTHER” she screams out as the train finally rides away. I yell out for my mother as her figure remains there far off, thousands of people are crying, thousands of people will die… and that included my mother.
The train traveled for miles and once I could no longer see my mother I slumped down, defeated. Mark held my hand and that's when I realized he was all that was left.
I was 10.
“Hello and good morning I am Liam Fortwort. In for Channel 9 news at 12, as many as you know– there is a bomb currently active in the Northern area. As of now, authorities have yet to deactivate it. We have yet to lose hope but if you are in the Northern area, we strictly advise you to stay calm. We will get through this–”
“Mama, I was watching that!” I whined.
“Velvet, didn’t I tell you to stop watching the news.” Mama says as she ties her apron around her waist reaching for her chopping board.
“But mama why?” I grab the potatoes.
“The news is…depressing.”
“But you watch it…” I respond. She raises her eyebrows.
“Yes because I’m an adult sweetheart, you are only 8. Once you become an adult reality is depressing, if I can hide your little pure heart from that for now then I’ll do that” she says with a bright smile. I naturally smile back even though I don’t really understand.
“When’s Papa coming home?”
“I don’t know baby–”
“Why doesn’t he come home?”
“He’s trying to save the world Velvet. But he’ll be back before you even know it!”
“Do you really think he’ll save the world from the bomb Mama?” I ask with curiosity. And to that she froze visibly and walked away, then she appeared back with a little bag.
“Come on, lets go plant these seeds!”
“Do you think Mark will wanna come with us? I want to plant them together!”
“Hm, well go ask him then.” she said pinching my cheek.
I smiled as I followed her outside. The sky was orange, it was a bit windy and the trees withered a bit. I held my moms hand and looked away.
I was 8.
“Hello and good morning, I am Liam Fortwort. In for Channel 9 news at 12, we have recently been told that there is a ticking bomb that has yet to be shut off. Authorities are letting all families know that there is no need to worry. We have a Police officer here to let us know about the situation, he tells us that things are going well in the operation to disarm the–”
“Mama, these seeds aren’t growing!” I say with a stomp. “They’ve gone rotten.”
“Give it time sweetie these seeds need time to grow.”
“We’ve given them a whole buncha time!”
“Calm down, Velvet.” she says with a strict tone. “Come sit right here, I need to tell you something.” I ran up to her and sat on the floor facing her.
“Now Velvet, you need to turn around.” she said with a giggle. I turned around and faced our empty yard…
“Here take this seed,” she said quietly as she placed it in my palm. “These seeds take quite a time to grow Velvet. When we plant them in the ground, the dirt holds them and protects them, giving it all the nutrients it needs to fully grow.”
“How come that doesn’t happen for the rest of the seeds we plant.” I ask with curiosity.
“Because, this one is special! These seeds know when to grow and when to not grow. If they were to grow right now, they could die.”
“Yes, they could wither away. These seeds will grow when the time is right, therefore, it is your duty to be patient and water them. Do you understand?”
“Yes mama…” I mutter. “But what are they called?”
“These seeds are called the Evergreen.” she says as she reaches behind her, she pulls out a picture of the tree and I stare in awe.
“Wow thats really pretty!”
“Yup! When I was your age, my mama told me when you see an Evergreen tree it is a new beginning!”
“Because Velvet, those seeds could have been in the ground for years, yet they chose to grow in that moment. When the time is right, when these seeds finally grow they will never wither! Even the cold cannot kill them. They are Evergreen!”
“Evergreen…” I whisper as I stare down at the seed in my hand and the picture.
“I want you to keep that seed, it will remind you of the seeds in the ground awaiting to grow. Just be patient.”
“Okay!” I say with a smile and I rush inside placing the seed in a glass plate. Then I rush back outside when I see Pa’ in his car.
“Pa!” I yell as I rush into his arms.
“Hi Velvet! You’ve grown so much in just a few days.” he says with a huge smile as he attempts to pick me up. “Come Velvet,” he says.
“Did you get me something!?” I ask with excitement.
“Not something– someone.” he smiled with a grin. “Come on Mark, you don’t have to be afraid.”
“Mark?” I whisper in confusion but all that goes away when a scruffy boy with torn up shoes and messed up hair comes out from the back seat. He looks like he has been crying for days.
“Velvet, this is Mark. He’s seven years old. Mark this is Velvet, she is 6.” he said pushing us together. Mark looked away and I stepped back.
“He’s gonna be living here for awhile. I want you both to be nice to each other, okay?” he says looking around. “Now where is my beautiful wife!”
He runs quickly into the house and I hear my moms loud giggles. Mark and I stand there looking at each other… then he rolls his eyes and walks away.
“Our house is this way.” I say slowly. He turns around and follows me…
“I knew that.” he mutters with a little smile.
I remember looking at the sky that day, it was blue with a hint of pink streaks in it.
I remember thinking it was beautiful.
I was 6.