Yesterday’s little drawing experiment didn’t go so well. Or maybe I should say that it did not become the resounding success I hoped it would be. Things take time, though. I’m still going to see what the end product looks like.
But looking through my older drawings while I searched for a blank page to use brought me to something I drew some time ago. It was a kind of header image for a story I had written. So, I thought, instead of writing something silly today, I’ll just post the picture and the story it fits on. Hope you enjoy.
(Interesting note: I didn’t have a scanner handy, so I used JotNot for iOS to scan the image. I think it did a pretty decent job.)
The sun glared down brightly on a nuclear expanse of twigs and dry bones. Distant towers wavered hotly in a haze, their outlines shrouded by the still constant buzz of radioactivity. There was a neverending ringing, carried by invisible wraiths through stagnant air. But without that, there would be only the sound of the earth’s many fingers breaking.
The boy stomped down carefully, one foot after the other, avoiding the pools of thick water, trampling the weeds with his heavy boots lest they scratch at the backs of his hands.
“Don’t go near the sounds,” his mother admonished. “They’re no place for a boy like you.”
The boy knew. He was already too close, but he would go no nearer, for he had arrived. Here, on a small hump of earth, there stood a lone tree with gnarled bark like the skin of the fruit it produced. Spindly branches reached heavenward, praying for deliverance. Even the roots of the plant spiked upward from the ground, fleeing the rot down there.
Quickly, the boy gathered together wrinkled, purple lumps from the lower branches. The fruit stank, and would be no good to eat until it was cooked. Even then, it would make his ears buzz some hours after it was eaten. But so long as the sound was not too loud, his mother said, they would be alright. She had not been wrong yet, and it had been years since the planet’s death.
He was not young anymore, the boy knew. Oh, back before it all, were he the age he was now, they’d still have called him very young, but life grows you up.
Carefully, he placed the sour egg plants in his small bucket and turned to go. His gaze snared, however, above the sulphur- and acid-coloured stretch of plain, to the buzzing gridwork. Eyes, flickering inward, he saw there the bright light that flashed and sprung upward like smoke. And then it was smoke, stacking so high that it fell over and spilled out at its top. It became so heavy and the light grew so dark that the sides of it wrinkled and started to sink in.
And then the world screamed and pieces of grass stung his eyes. He blinked them away.
He was cautious not to trip in the rocks on his way back down. A small bug, coloured like the green water, perched on one of them and twitched an antenna at him.
“Don’t get cut, you hear? Cuts are poisonous, even small ones.”
She was right about that, he knew. Life out here was hard, and lots had died, even after the towers burned. He looked back at that looming haze.
Planes overhead and rumbling of steel roared through all the streets, and loud voices shouted, telling people to go indoors. “You too, get inside!” That had been the strong man who held the door open. The boy had only seen him for a little while, hugging his mother. And then the door closed and there was no room for anything but breathing.
That was the only night when there had been banging noises outside. It had been too warm to sleep, but at last they had all gone quiet.
Suddenly, something grabbed at his boot, and the boy fell, catching his knee on an upturned slab. He threw his hands forward and caught himself up to his elbows in green eddies. With a yelp, he scrambled back into the safety of earth’s brittle bones.
There was a quick burning in his knee, he realized and thought quietly, “I’m done for now.” Then he noticed with an odd relief that his bucket had not spilled. Somehow, it had landed upright and stayed so. He sat up in the crackling brush and studied his knee. There was a small scuff on the surface, but his skin had not broken. “Lucky,” he scolded himself.
The sun was dying behind the towers now, throwing misguided embers high up in the sky where they hit wisps of cloud overhead like streamers of flame. He would have to walk quickly now.
After they came out from behind the door, the strong man was gone, but his mother just kept walking ahead. But when suddenly there were orange ribbons everywhere, burning the stones where they hit, they had to run. The clouds still stood wherever the boy looked. That was when the ringing had started. It wasn’t so loud when they were inside another door.
He was big enough to close the door by himself now, even though it was hard to do with the bucket in his hands. It was slow going down the ladder, too, but he made it without slipping and put the fruit on the counter to wash later. Then, he meticulously washed his hands and the scrape on his knee and picked up a small cross he had set to dry before.
He put it upright in a small mound of earth in the corner. She had taught him well, he knew, and he was older than he had been when she died. He would move on now. It was time.