Nestled perfectly in the grass atop a massive hillside, I gaze at the starlit sky. The sound of crickets chirping is the only thing to be heard over a mile away, and the full moon shines its light like a summer day. An owl hoots in the distance as I look past the stars to the newly built wall. It cuts through the forest in a loop, making its way back to where it starts. Tomorrow, this part of the woodland would be blocked off too, leaving the city surrounded by stone.
Suddenly, a twig cracks, and a bush rustles to reveal a young girl, hands on her hips. "Neha, it isn't safe for you here." She pushes masses of curls out of her eyes, waiting for a response.
"It isn't safe for you here either. Stop telling me what to do Jade." Jade steps forward to join me on the grass. She pulls out a pack of jellybeans, giving a handful to me. I smile, wondering how long it will be until I see her again. Her eyes follow mine and we clasp hands tightly, staring at the wall.
"I can escape every day through a hole, or climb over-or maybe you-" I cut Jade off, motioning for her to stop talking.
"It's dangerous for you to be out. They'll kill you-or maybe do something worse." I sigh, pretending to be over this, but really holding back tears. "I can't lose you." I say those last words softly, as if speaking to myself. Eerie silence follows. Jade embraces me in a tight hug, but I pull away fast. I've had enough of this. Standing up, I walk toward home, my city, not stopping to say bye to Jade, still standing on the hill, open-mouthed and angry. I have enough to worry about, like being caught on the other side of the wall, the side I shouldn't be on. Though the guilt is seeping into my heart, I gaze at the stars and try to forget. Sometimes, you don't have to be the hero. Sometimes, you just have to let someone else save you.
Three Months Later
The door to my room opens slowly. My mother brings in a lemon cake, my favorite, and lays it on my nightstand. "This is for you, if you plan on not going outside the whole day." She smiles lovingly, and leaves the room. I put my book down and open the big picture windows to let in some breeze. Our flat is right by the construction site, which is next to the wall. Today it seems to loom over me, trying to consume whatever hope I have left.
"Make sure you don't forget your keys! Or your sunscreen!" Mother yells out the door in case she thinks I have forgotten anything. If I am going to go anywhere at all, it will be the city.
I tiptoed outside onto the cool grass. Droplets of dew drop off of the oak tree which sits in my front yard. The forest has been blocked off for years, but something is calling to me, for me. You can choose your own path. A walk will do me good to clear up my head.
As I make my way to the heart of the city, I see Ankitha on her bike, carrying a sign. She waves to me and begins to come over, but stops suddenly. Ankitha looks at the wall, looks at me, and runs away. Who have I become? What-have I become?
I haven’t come to the plaza in years. It is the closest I can get to the forest-the closest anyone can get to the forest. The wall on this side has made its way around the plaza, protecting it from something it doesn’t need to be protected from. You can choose who you want to be. Before the wall was built, everyone in town used to gather in safe houses at night, telling the same tale of the spirits which haunted the city.
Those are lies. Everyone lies.
You can choose. I shouldn’t have come here. It is a bad time. Soon, I found myself approaching the wall that separates us. Touching the metal, I feel her presence, grit, hate, and love. This is a door. Do it…
This is my calling. Slowly, I open the door, people staring as I close it behind me, leaving the only home I’ve ever known. “Click-a-click!” The door locks.
I run alongside the wall. My fingers brush against hard metal, the breaths of citizens holding onto fear-false fears. “We’ll let you in if you come back.”But I won’t come back until I want to. I ran along the wall until I saw a flicker of pink. Miles and miles of running to chase possibilities, and here it was. Father’s shouts could be heard from back in the plaza. I am torn between him and us. “I’m doing this for us father.” My fingers leave the wall’s clutches to follow my hope.
Trees surround me. Millions of oak trees with their billowing leaves floating in the sun. I remember them like nothing before, the beauty of the untouchable. Birds sit in the trees, singing a whimsical tune as I run to follow the pink shimmer. Tears spring up at the back of my eyes. “Come back to me.” Suddenly, the pink shimmer disappears from my view. My legs can’t possibly keep up. I feel my throat itching for me to yell or scream, but I let out a sob. More keep coming, until I’m engulfed in a river of tears. What have I done?
Dust begins to swirl around me, and I close my eyes, struggling to control my heart. I can’t breathe. Faster and faster it spins, revealing a pack of jelly beans. Wiping at my eyes, I pick up the box, smiling.
Look up Neha.
In front of me stands a girl with masses of curly hair, her hands planted on her hips. She floats above the wall, grinning from ear to ear.
“J-J-Jade?” I can barely make out the words. “It was you, wasn’t it? The voices-” Jade motions for me to stop talking.
Go home. One day we will be able to meet again.