I still remember when my grandfather first told me of snow. It was during one of the firestorms when the whole family was gathered, and grandfather would tell stories to ease our minds. He’d often do that, tell us tales of life before the Wipeout. It was all fairy tales, of course. I doubt that any of them were ever real as the reality I live in seems so utterly different.
Still, the stories helped. And even though I didn’t always believe grandfather, when he spoke of things like plants and animals, living on the surface, or things like rain and snow, I pretended that it was once real. I would close my eyes and imagine myself being there, standing on the surface and letting water fall from the sky, cooling my flushed cheeks.
“It was pure white,” grandfather would say, “the whitest of whites you ever saw - unlike boiled eggs or cotton undies, which were yellow compared to it - and it would sting your fingers with its cold when you touched it. But, oh, did we have fun with it! Making sculptures out of it or squeezing it in balls and throwing them at each other!”
“Didn’t that hurt?” I would ask. Grandfather would look at me and smile.
“It was so soft, like taking pieces of clouds and holding them in your hands. It was made from water, you see, cooled so much that it became a solid. It only hurt if you got hit in the face!”
And we’d all laugh as grandfather would demonstrate one of these balls of snow splatting on his cheek.
Many were the nights when I found myself lying awake on the floor, listening to my siblings toss and turn, thinking how it would be to live in one of those stories. Listening to the fans whirring, pumping recycled cool air into the rooms, I imagined how it would be to feel the breeze on my face, on a cool summer’s eve. Feeling the hard, uneven stone, under my foam bed, I imagined how it would be to lay on the soft grass on the surface and watch the clouds pass. Glancing at the wine-red blisters on my otherwise pale-skinned forearms, I imagined how it would be to stroll under the sun and not be burned to death by it.
Often it would help me fall asleep. I guess fairy tales and make-belief were the best ways to cope with the world’s harsh realities. I pitied those who didn’t have an imagination for it - those who didn’t have a way of coping with it. Those who’ve left the safety of the bellowgrounds and walked the surface.
Those people never came back. Sometimes we’d find their corpses, burned to a pile of charcoal not far from the exits. Most times we’d find nothing, as all were burned. The blisters on my arms were stark reminders that grandfather’s tales were nothing more than that. There was no water up there, no trees, no birds. No snow. Only barren rocks and dust, overseen by a giant yellow horror in the sky. The sun.
I found it hard to believe that the sun was once responsible for sparking life on Earth - or so they said. The scientific records, what remained of them, anyway, said that Earth was an especially lucky planet, as it was positioned in something called ‘the Goldilocks zone’. Not too hot and not too cold.
I found that as hard to believe as the existence of snow. If you went up to the surface during the daytime, you couldn't even see the sun. You’d die from the heat before you reached the final hatch, or suffocate from the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere, as most of it was burned by the firestorms. The only time you could get out and not perish immediately was during the small hours of predawn, when the land had time to cool and the sun hadn’t risen yet to warm it up again. Still, even then, you’d need a suit to breathe and keep you from boiling. Those who went out were the scientists and the suiciders.
I went out once, during the night. I’m not a scientist. In a moment of desperation and panic, I felt so cooped up in the bellowgrounds that I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t take it, I had to see if grandfather’s stories held even a little truth. As soon as I opened the final hatch - and not even stepped outside, just opened the door - the exposed parts of my skin blistered. I’ll never forget how the air was almost impossible to breathe, forcing me to cough, burning in my lungs. My eyes watered, everything burned as if someone was holding a welding torch at my face. Luckily, my brother noticed my recklessness and pulled me down below.
I saw nothing while up there. It was completely dark, a shroud of hot greyness covering everything. I hoped to see something green or feel a cool breeze blowing on my face or hear a bird chirping somewhere. There was none of that. Only a hot, suffocating emptiness.
But just before my brother pulled me back inside, I noticed something directly up above me. A tiny dot of light flickered as if a distant light bulb just turned on. It was a cool blue color and it shone in such a clean and beautiful way that it made me forget my pain. I later found out that it was a star. I’ll never forget that moment.
After my incident, I decided to take grandfather’s stories more seriously. I even visited Legacy, the special room where we keep all the records from the past and all the things we know about the world. Or, the things we once knew, at least.
Kids like me, we didn’t know of life as it was before. We were born bellowgrounds, under the artificial lights of the dying generators and all we knew of the world was the four walls we could see. And what the elders told us. But the latter became less important, the more clear it became that the Earth would remain inhospitable to humans far longer than anticipated.
Schools were reduced to instruction camps for the basics; how to operate the recycling machines, how to keep the electricity going, how to grow food, and purify the underground water. Education of events that led to this had been replaced with talk of abandoning everything and just freezing up a part of the population, cutting power to the rest, and waking them up in a thousand years when the conditions would settle.
“Why would we freeze some, but not all?” I asked grandfather once.
“Because there aren’t enough machines for everyone, pumpkin’.”
“Couldn’t we make more? How to decide who can use them and who is left behind?”
“It is for the greater good, sweetie. Old coots like me must give way to the young and healthy, to ensure the survival of the human race.”
“But grandpa, aren’t we responsible for what happened to the Earth? For the firestorms, the burning up of all the oxygen with our factories? Perhaps we’re not the best species to live on this planet. Perhaps we should die before we destroy the underground as we did the surface.”
Grandfather didn’t have an answer to that. Every time I brought it up, he would look at me with a sorrowful expression, as if he had failed. Perhaps he agreed with me but didn’t want to say it. Didn’t want an eleven-year-old girl to bear the blame of a whole species.
But I bear it, don’t I? It is the legacy that I was given. One I didn’t choose, but one that the actions of my parents and all the people before them had set up for me. I often wish I could go back and tell them, warn them. Show them what happens if they continue living the way they did. I wish I could do something about it, to prevent grandfather’s stories from becoming fairytales, and keep them a reality that they once were. I want to feel the snow freezing my fingers.
But I realize I can’t do anything. It is already too late, the Wipeout had already happened. Humanity had already been forced to live bellowgrounds, the surface too polluted and the climate becoming too extreme. Some things can only be changed before the need for change becomes desperate. Once the line is crossed, it's too late to cry and wish you’d done something about it. I can see that feeling in my grandfather’s eyes. His generation was the one that could do something to prevent the Wipeout but didn’t.
I can’t even imagine how he must feel. But I have to live with the consequences nonetheless. I just hope that one night when I fall asleep, I wake up in one of his stories the next day. I know it is foolish, but it is all I have.
And who knows, maybe if I dream hard enough, I can make that dream happen. That one star I saw gives me hope. The star-lit sky is out there, but it is covered with clouds, so I couldn’t see it whole. It means that the solution exists, we just cannot see it.
We need to remove the clouds first.
We need to keep faith that better days are coming. I may not be smart enough to come up with a solution that hundreds of top scientists couldn’t discover in over fifty years now, but what I can do is dream grandfather’s stories. Those inspire me. Perhaps I can inspire others too.
Perhaps all we need to find a solution is to imagine some snow in our hands. Dream up the world we want to live in.
The star-lit sky is out there. The Earth might be trying to kill us now, but it is only because we’ve been killing it for over a hundred years now. She needs time to heal. Like we do.
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Love this! Kids like me, we didn’t know of life as it was before. Great sentence!
"What can I say, nobody ever spoke of paradise. They all told only of hell." Thank you, Grace :) I'm glad you enjoyed it!
Your first and last lines are incredible! I loved the story as well. Great job!
Thank you, Jamie :)
Hey, Harken would you be kind to watch the first video it's on Harry potter. https://youtu.be/KxfnREWgN14 Sorry for asking your time, This my first time to edit video
Hey, what an unusual request. I liked it, I think you managed to connect the flow of music and lyrics very well to the scenes. I'm curious about something, though. I once tried uploading some videos I made to YouTube (similar to yours, scenes from movies backed by music), but I got denied the upload due to copyright. I read somewhere that you can write to the copyright holders and ask them for a written permission to use their content in a video, but am not sure how this works. How did you do it?
That's not the problem of the copyright you have to apply some description about real owners or give credits they would have no objection.
Thank you for watching