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The New World
Author's note: I had a couple creepy dreams that inspired this, plus the encouragement of my PATH Comp/Lit II teachers!!!
Standing in front of the largest window in the house, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There was no baseball game scheduled for tonight, so why would there be fireworks? My 5-year old mind didn’t have an answer for that, but my Mama did. She ran into the room, sobbing her eyes out, and I was worried about her. She grabbed my hand and started pulling me along on her desperate dash around the house.
“Where’s Daddy, Honey?” My shoulders do a sort of shrug, but she’s rushing so much that I don’t think she sees it.
We rush down to the hall, towards the secret, emergency room hidden smartly right next to another door. Smartly? Is that a word? I try to remember being taught the word, thinking back to my grammar lessons with Mama and Daddy. I knew there was an intelligently, and I started to whisper it, stumbling right in the middle, “Intelli-i-gent…” I stop as I’m pulled through the door.
I haven’t been down here much, except to learn what to do if Allah tries to rule the world. I didn’t understand the Islamic religion, but I got the picture that this guy got struck by a flash of lightning, and suddenly believed he had God inside of him, telling him what to do. Most said he was crazy, but we were also afraid. Shortly afterward, people said he started acting like some old guy called “Hitler”. I don’t know what the suffix “ler” means, but “hit” doesn’t sound all that nice. He started making speeches about how all not of his religion would die, and since God was inside of him, he would make sure that happened.
My family’s Christian, whatever that means exactly, so we don’t believe him, but that doesn’t mean we don’t believe he’s going to try to do what he says he’s gonna.
When Mama yanks my arm a little too hard, I stop thinking of “Allah” and start thinking about what’s gonna happen now. Finally, we’re out of the passageway, and in the little room. My young mind picks up all the little details, like how there’s a huge bed in the corner, a huge container of water, a ton of food, and a little bit of a toilet-like thing showing through the crack of a big cover-thingy. It’s like the cover-thing is hiding the toilet, and them I realize that’s exactly what it’s doing. There’s a tub next to it, and I wonder what that’s for.
But my mind stops thinking when I hear a screech. It’s my daddy! He’s in here! He just set down a big box of stuff, so it looks like he was bringing even more stuff into this room, which seems impossible that anything could have gotten in here, since the passage into “here” is so narrow. Then, I realize he came through another door, a huge one. It’s like he opened up the wall itself, since the whole right wall seemed angled, with a crack between the would-be corner and where the wall ended.
I peek through the opening, first tiptoeing over there so they don’t notice me and stop their affectionate embrace. Oh, now I guess you’re wondering why I sound so intelligent. Well, these days, we don’t start school when we’re six, like I hear happened a long time ago. We can start as early as one, but then our parents have to teach us until we’re three. Then we start round one. We don’t have to do a round a year, like I learned happened before. We advance in classes as fast as we advance in our minds. Practically everyone’s geniuses now-a-days. And now the whole “growing-up” years are messed up too. You become a “teen” when you’re 8, whatever that means; and you become an adult when you’re thirteen. Mama tells me I already have “seventh-grade” intelligence, which means I’m even smarter than most of my peers.
Well, as I peer through the crack, I find what looks to be a huge slide, plus some stairs on the sides. I wonder if this is going to be my play-place. Even though I have a seventh-grade mind, I still have a 5-year-old’s body and energy. Hmmm . . . I guess that’s where all this big stuff came from.
Mama suddenly stiffens, as if she had remembered something, and glances around. When her look falls upon me, she looks apologetic. She holds her hand out, an offering. I take it and join my parents in the center of the room for a group hug. I’ve lived with and loved them for five whole years, and now I’m scared to let go. I don’t want to lose Mama and Daddy. I start crying, and together they pick me up, holding me up to their eye level and hugging me close.
When we part, I’m about to pass-out, I’m so tired. I guess after all that crying and worrying, my body’s about ready to rest. I accept that, letting my body have its way, and can feel the sensation of being carried to the huge bed, and being laid in the center.
Daddy did most of the talking, including how he and Mama had been worried from the start of the story of a man being hit by a bolt of lightning that something like this might happen. The tub by the toilet was for washing clothes, which we had a ton of water for. We also had a bunch of food, soap, medicine, and other stuff like that. I was told that we might have to stay in this room for a long time, either as long as it took for the crisis to be over, or, and this was said very sadly, until the bad people working for Allah found us. “But,” said Daddy, “on a happier note, your Mama and I have a surprise for you. You’re going to have a little brother or sister soon.” I just sat there in silence. I had figured that if I was going to have a younger sibling, he or she would have come a long time ago. I felt extreme happiness, but there was a shadow against the light. He or she would be born during these hard times, which meant that he/she, too, would go through these troubling conditions with us. The provisions wouldn’t last forever, so neither would we. It was a dreary thing to have to think about, but necessary all the same. I should have known this would end badly. Most of our days were spend hanging around. There were books for me, probably more books than I would ever be able to read in my lifetime. There were supplies for Mama to paint, and do other artsy stuff. Sometimes I joined her, but mostly I read. I started a journal, documenting every insignificant little detail about our current lives. This I enjoyed greatly, I always had. I had realized long ago that my passion was in writing. Though now-a-days kids have more maturity than people two times my age, most simply didn’t like to write. I could write about anything and everything, but my favorite was fantasy. I could dream up the most intricate and delicate worlds, with fairies and elves, and all manner of magical folk, anything to get away from the truth of the times – we were doomed. Either we would be captured by Allah’s men, or we would die. Well, I guess we’d die either way, but if we were captured, we would be able to die in old age or something like that. Sometimes in my story-travels, I would be flying with dragons, amazed by their bravery and chivalry. The she-dragons were elegant and purposeful, and all were wise beyond belief. I wish I was wise. Then I would know what to do, to stay here or to give ourselves up, or something besides sitting around and waiting, since that’s all we were doing – waiting. Waiting to be found; waiting to run out of food or water; waiting for the baby to be born; waiting for our lives to continue, though how that could happen, I couldn’t possibly imagine, and that was saying something. Well, one day, and I think it was a Wednesday, I was painting with Mama. We were both trying to remember what the sun on our bare skin felt like, so we were painting very bright, vibrant portraits. Mama’s was of the beach at full noon – the people lounging under huge, colorful umbrellas, the waves, and the glorious sun, so big that she could only capture a sliver of it, yet it was enough to light up the whole picture. I tried to make mine similar to hers, but, somehow or another, I ended up drawing a bunch of flowers. There was like ten gigantic sunflowers directly in the center, plus a bunch of smaller ones around them, each brighter and more colorful than the last. I was having a really good time, just relaxing and letting the troubles of today melt away. I could tell Mama was doing the same thing. She was wearing one of her old smiles, so cheerful; you couldn’t help but smile in return. She looked calm and in control, she was in her special place. She had told me once that when she painted, she imagined she was in a special place, and that she felt like she was just painting what was around her. I didn’t quite get it, but she said it was her way to imagine herself out of our current situation. She looked so… something. I didn’t know how to explain it… just kind-of… at peace. I wished I could feel the same thing every once and a while… I couldn’t think of any possible way for life to continue as it was before. No one would be the same, happy people we used to know. No one would be innocent from the evil that lurks just barely in the shadows. No one would be free, free to live the way they want, think the way they want, worship the way they want, to simply be they person they want to be. I could never be the old me. I used to be so happy, now I am quiet and down-trodden. I’m not free. Mama told me that if the baby is a girl, her name will be Vanessa. If he’s a bouncing baby boy, his name will be Luke. I hope it will be a girl; I'm never sure how to act around boys, even though I wish I did. Even though I'm only 5, I've had this guy-friend for years, and I'm not sure where that will lead. I've listened to a ton of really old songs about how best friends would eventually end up together and all that. I wonder if that will be the case with Will and me. He's simply perfect, and is so nice! He never pushed me, or ignored me, or anything. He never pushed me, or ignored me, or anything. I wonder if we'll ever kiss, well, I guess that'll have to wait until we're older. I can't believe people weren't supposed to date until they were 16 forever ago! Then you've already been an adult for ages! Well, I guess we'll see.
This schedule continued for a long time, so long I couldn’t count the days. I tried in the beginning, since I like counting, but I gave up after a hundred. I figured Daddy could just tell me the date from the calendars he packed. It was almost too much, I couldn’t stand just sitting around all day – it was killing me! “Mama, can I go outside? I’m going to explode; I have to do something so bad!” “Sweetie, you know what I’m going to say even before I say it. Why did you even ask? If anyone sees us, and I mean anyone, they could tell A’s men where we are, and then we’ll be captured. You don’t want to have to do what he says, do you? I know that’s not you, you’re too strong-willed. I know you want to play and have fun like a normal 5-year-old, but given the current circumstances, it’s just not possible. You know I would give anything in the world to grant you a normal childhood, but I can’t. The best we can do is hope and pray. Don’t lose your faith.” “I’m not Mama, I swear, but what is Heavenly Father doing up there in Heaven if he isn’t helping us, I thought we were important; if so, then why must we go through all of this?” “It’s His way to test us, Vanessa. You know that. God loves us so much; he gave the whole world to us. He will help us even more than he already has. Think about it. How could we have lasted this long without Heavenly Father’s help? We couldn’t have. We wouldn’t have had the money to get the supplies we need. We would be dead. We could be captured already. Your dad and I could not have been given the most perfect gift of having you as a daughter. Never give up, Vanessa, never.” At this, she went back to her painting. After a moment of thought, I also went back to what I had been doing, reading. I figured she was right, but there was also something there as well. Something hidden between the lines; something that wasn't being told to me. Could Mama have lost her faith, and now she didn't want me to do the same. Oh, it's so confusing! The pattern continued, making every day blend together, and I started getting worried. I could see how much we were using up our supplies, how much trouble we were in. Unless we miraculously got more of the things we needed, we wouldn’t last much longer. For the first time, I prayed that Allah would find us soon, so we wouldn’t run out of food and water before he found us. None of us wanted to die, of course not, so we were all worried, not to mention the fact that soon Mama would have the baby. Now she’s hoping for a boy. I wonder why. Maybe to have another strong man in the house. I have no idea, If only I wouldn’t be kept in the dark. The dark is foreboding. The dark is scary. I don’t like the dark. “Mama, you know how I asked you if the decline was a slide?” She gave an exaggerated nod. “Well, can I use it for that reason? I’ll go mad if I don’t DO something!” She seemed to think about it for a little while, finally smiling and nodding once again. Hmm . . . I never realized that before. When her mind’s in different places, she tends not to talk, using her body to talk for her instead. That’s funny, since I do the same thing. I guess we have more alike than just our long, silky black hair. I did a little smile, and then worked my way over to the wall-door. I grabbed the little prier, and then opened the door. Daddy specifically made it difficult to open so no one would find the opening. I didn’t know what good that would be, but I guess every little bit helps, right? Well, I opened it and ran up the flight of stairs. Once at the top, carefully to avoid bumping my head, I sat at the top of the “slide”. Smiling and laughing a nervous little chuckle, I pushed off, enjoying the feeling of the momentum pulling my hair behind me. It was a wonderful feeling, full of freedom. Just as I reached the bottom, I heard a noise I hadn’t expected. A solid thump, but from upstairs. That could only mean one thing: we were found.
The next thing I knew, the wall-door was closing, fast, and I almost screamed. But then I heard Daddy, “You’ve got to be quiet, OK? That’s your only chance. Do not make a single sound, do you hear me?” He didn’t wait for me to answer, instead closing the door all the way.
I listened closely, waiting for more, but all was silent. There wasn’t even a gap I could peer through, nothing to put my ear next to to be able to hope that I might hear what my parents were saying. My fingers trailed the wall frantically, searching for a seam, anything to be able to open the door and join my parents.
I continued this feverish hunt for what felt like an eternity. They’ve got to let me out! Suddenly, there was more banging upstairs, and soon, angry words floated down to me. A man, cursing, who obviously had a beard; I could tell the difference in his voice when it came through all that bushy hair. I could hear him stomping all around, muttering under his breath.
I stood stock-still, unable to move. Were we found? Was this the end?
“Everything looks cleared out of here, but it’s too neat to have been done by scavengers, they must be hiding somewhere!” I felt as though my heart stopped – we were certainly going to be found. Knowing that we were hiding, they wouldn’t give up. But should we? Should we give ourselves up? What are we supposed to do?
I never got the time to answer my own question, hearing an exclamation of pure delight. They’ve found us! “I’ve found the opening here, the idiots thought they were so smart!”
My heart sinks, any hope I had left is gone. Who knew what was ahead? It could be anything, it could be everything; everything save for freedom. No more freedom.
Acton, Ma, Massachusetts
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