When Roses Cannot Cry

Submitted into Contest #60 in response to: Write a post-apocalyptic story triggered by climate change.... view prompt


Science Fiction Drama

We stepped over the debris and shattered glass, looking at the homes and buildings that were now strewn chunks of wood on the ash-encrusted ground. I inhaled the dingy air and wrapped a scarf around his nose and mouth, bending down to meet his eye.

“Everything’s going to be okay, Elliott.” I squeezed his shoulders and planted a kiss on his forehead.

He looked at me through his wavy overgrown hair with wide fearful eyes. “I don’t like it here, Rose,” he said, lips quivering.

Hearing that was a stab in the soul. Who brought their five-year-old brother to a place like this? A place where we stepped on the ashes of people we once knew, a place where it was hazy and smoke lingered in the air, reminding us of what turned the hustle and bustle of the place we called home into a ghost town?

“I don’t either. But…” I trailed off and turned my head away, so he couldn’t see my hopeless expression and down-turned eyebrows. “It’s something I need to do. Something we need to do.” No matter how much I fought against myself coming back here, I couldn’t win that battle. Something kept pulling me here, telling me to come see, to come remember, to come feel.

I didn’t even know what feeling felt like. When youre hit by pain so strong and overwhelming that it stops you from feeling and conveying emotions, feeling is impossible. But, if it was going to rescue me from the emotional torture I go through every day, I was going to follow it and Elliott was coming with me. The thought of leaving him alone made my stomach twist and turn like thie balloons the amusemt part workers made for kids. Never ever would I do something as vile as being away from him. Not when I’d already lost everyone I knew.

I opened one of the water bottles I’d stored in the tattered backpack that was hanging on my back and gave him a sip. When his thirst was quenched, I took a slow drink, letting the water cool my dry water-deprived throat. Satisfied, I returned it and picked up Elliott, his head resting against my shoulder.

I exhaled and walked on. Burnt homes laid scattered on the ground, bed posts strewn over the ghastly landscape. All this because of a fire. I remembered a few old neighbors had said the change in the climate was getting intense and that civilians needed to stop being so reckless and start caring for the environment. Everyone ignored them, because they were the old geezers and exaggerated everything. There wasn’t a blame game towards each other – cars, exhaust, greenhouses gases were the ones to blame. But they were run by humans, right? We should’ve listened. We should’ve cared. They all died in the fire, trying to escape but ended up getting swallowed by the flames, screaming and then silence.

I moved away after with Elliott. We couldn’t take it here anymore. Why did we survive and not them? Why did this have to happen? Why? What if it never did and life was still normal? We were going to drown ourselves in sorrow and what-ifs, so we ran off miles from here to a new area with sturdy homes and happy families. Elliott and I found a small unused hut in the woods and lived there for 5 months, before that nagging urge came and attacked me, ordering me to pack and come back.

I walked towards a heap of wood. Something glinted from under it. I kicked aside a rock and worms crawled out and found shelter under another. Holding onto Elliott, I crouched and picked it up. My heart shifted.

Rebecca’s rhinestone bracelet.

I thought back to her. We met at the water park six years ago when we were twelve. I was standing next to the pool among the crowds of families covering every inch of ground, holding my then pregnant mom's towel when she walked up to me and asked if I wanted to go swimming with her.

I clutched the bracelet.

She had dropped it in the deep end and couldn't go low enough so she asked me. Under the cool water, it glittered and the sun's rays glinted and bounced off of it. I'd gotten kicked by the wriggling feet of the kids playing tag underneath the cool water. I made my way to the bottom, gently picking it up, and giving it back to her. She had thrown her wet arms around me and made it known that she was grateful. It was like a level up because from retrieving her bracelet, that was when our blooming friendship began.

I bent to put it back down then stopped. No. I placed it inside my coat pocket.

I stared at the dreary sky, a mixture of gray and orange, and kept walking with no apparent destination. I could’ve turned back any second, but I still pressed on. Next to me, a lizard darted inside a hole in the ground. Never before had I wanted to be anything other than myself but seeing all these creatures have a safe space to run to made me want to join them and free myself from this mess. I faced forward again. and another thing caught my eye. Something red was lying a few inches from the lizard hole. I walked up to it and swallowed a massive gulp of saliva.

Anthony and Alex’s blanket.

When they moved to WhitePark High School, Rebecca and I were the firsts to befriend the twins. It was a simple gesture - something to make them feel comfortable in a new environment, but they went on and became a crucial part of our friend group.

They had a blanket they kept from when they were kids. I remembered how they pursed their lips and rubbed their necks when they were showing it to us. Rebecca and I didn't judge; we liked it. And from that second forward, we became inseparable and stuck to each other like glue, going to Tony and Alex's house and having sleepovers, all four of us covering ourselves in that red blanket gave us enough warmth we didn't need to turn on the heater - even in the crisp and frosty winter days.

Now, it was matted and torn up, burn holes covering the lot of it. I rolled it up to a manageable size and wrapped it around my waist. They were gone now. The twins who were always so entertaining with their stories and made us all clutch our bellies and cry in laughter. But…I was the one who got to make it out alive. It could’ve been anyone else, but no. What did I have to offer? Wouldn't the twins and Rebecca have been more worthy to keep in this world?

I kept walking, careful not to wake a now sleeping Elliott. Sleep was something I didn’t even know if I could do anymore. Everyday, I stayed up and watched Elliott and thought about what happened and what it would’ve been like if Mom and Dad were alive. If Rebecca was alive. If Anthony and Alex were alive. If anyone was alive, because in the lifeless town that I once felt at home in, it seemed like they were all dead. Not seemed. They all were. Except me and Elliott.

I walked forward. A foul rotten smell hit my nose and I almost retched upon figuring out what it was. My stomach was trying to remove its contents but I forced it back down. I thought coroners would’ve taken all the bodies away at least. But it was another person whose innocent life was taken from them. I covered my nose and maneuvered my feet away from the rubbish, walking to the most familiar place out of all this. Home.

I stared at what used to be my house. It was half the size, only the now decrepit soot-covered bottom portion of it left. My burnt bed was thrown in pieces across the dust. Lying sad and neglected, there was the stove where Mom used to whip up bizarre recipes for us to try, the mangled computer Dad used to work on at home, and all these memories making their unwelcomed way into my head. I crouched down and tucked a spatula and a broken mouse into my pocket, thinking back to that day.

Evacuating was too late; we had just woken up in the middle of the night to screams that would've made your skin crawl and fingers tingle. I remembered people yelling at everyone to leave immediately. I remembered the frightened screaming of the people as they stepped over bodies with their hands covering their noses, the frozen and shell-shocked parents watching their kids die in front of them and deciding that life was useless without their offspring and then allowing themselves to be swallowed by the flames. I remembered many fathers who helped other families escape their homes and ending up sacrificing themselves in the process of being a good Samaritan. I remembered the little toddlers’ feet burning on the scorching hot ground and then the scream crying and loss of consciousness before they too, left this horrid world.

I had grabbed Elliott and a few of my neighbors' kids, the thick black smoke that was acting like an evil force killing them before we reached safety. Exhausted and panic-stricken, Elliott and I had taken cover underneath a rock a few miles from the location. Mom, Dad, my closest friends, the people I used to wave at when I watered the lawn plants. Gone.

I had tried to cry, still do, but to no avail. I couldn’t feel. I could only hold Elliot as he cried – cried for the loss of his parents, cried for the things he had to see, cried for the trauma that would never leave his side no matter how old he got.

Imagine going through that at five. Elliott was the strongest kid I had ever known. Had it been me, I would've stayed there. I would've sat and waited to be held and comforted, even if that meant succumbing to the smoke and flames. Granted, I was the one doing that for Elliott, but knowing him, I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd acted in an instant and made it out of there by himself.

I sat down on a small piece of wood that was lying on a tiny round patch of grass that had survived, sensing something coming up my throat. I didn’t even need to retch. I sat Elliot down. I pulled out the items I had retrieved and laid them down in front of me. Mom, Dad, Rebecca, Anthony and Alex deserved a proper burial. Everyone deserved a proper burial. But I only had these things. I took a long rock that was lying next to me and dug a hole in the grass big enough to fit the items. I could’ve kept them with me but the one thing I had grabbed along with Elliott was a photo album and it had everyone that mattered the most to me in there.

I gently placed the items into the hole. I looked at them for a few minutes before I slowly covered them up with dirt until only an uneven mound of earth remained. The wind howled and I covered my eyes from the blowing ash. An ugly ball formed in my throat and I tried to swallow it down. My lips began to quiver and what felt like a dam behind my eyes opened. I fell on my knees and wept, extremely close to hyperventilating, leaning against Elliott who was wrapping his arms around my trembling body.

Maybe this was the urge. The pull to come back here. I needed to heal. I couldn't be in the state that I was in anymore - for me or Elliott. Perhaps, sending them off properly was the silver lining in all this, the bridge between emptiness and moving on, and I'd been trying desperately to take a step ahead but was stuck in the same crushing spot of darkness. But then I felt and there I was, one step forward.

September 18, 2020 23:46

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19:29 Sep 21, 2020

This is awesome. I had the hardest time with this weeks prompt but you made it look easy. Love the well developed relationship between rose and Elliot. And I love the bit with the bracelet. I didn’t see any grammatical errors either. Good job 👍🏼


Aveena Bordeaux
20:09 Sep 21, 2020

Thank you for reading and the kind feedback Sarah!


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Vameerah Darren
23:43 Oct 14, 2020

I love how you portray this post apocalyptical world, the details of everything around them, from the landscape, to the screams, it sent shivers down my spine, I absolutely loved it !


Aveena Bordeaux
00:18 Oct 15, 2020

Thanks a lot for reading!


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04:57 Sep 25, 2020

Hey, Joy 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


Aveena Bordeaux
21:01 Sep 25, 2020

You did a good job editing. I enjoyed it a lot!


13:33 Sep 27, 2020

Thank you


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Zea Bowman
22:18 Sep 19, 2020

Great story!!! I loved that Rose is strong for Elliot, and the bond that they have. Another great job. :)


Aveena Bordeaux
23:46 Sep 19, 2020

Thanks so much for reading!


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