Thursday, January 26, 2012

Prologue to a book I'll never write

I woke up to a cold bright light and rolled over underneath my covers. The seasalt air whispered through the crack in my window, beckoning me. I put a pillow over my head and tried to drown out the images of my mother and father smiling at me, waiving goodbye before they climbed on the boat. Tears stung my eyes and I climbed out of bed.

My feet hit the hardwood floor and I threw a grey sweatshirt over my pajamas. I tip toed through the white room, careful not to wake up Jenna who slept a foot away, nightmareless and clutching a parliment issued doll. I resisted the urge to climb in bed and stroke her hair, sob into her shoulder. Instead I walked through my sleeping uncle's house out the front door.

Since the Parliment's rise to power, most people just woke up, went to work, and returned to their quarters before curfew. I don't think it is against the law to go out in the morning as there was no morning curfew, but it was discouraged. I started running barefoot the half mile toward the beach, feeling the wind and essence of ocean permeate my hair and thin pajamas. I sprinted until I could feel the dirt road change to sand under my feet, malleable and soft in the dew. The roar of the waves was just over the hill.

My shins broke through the dry grass and I gasped as I hit the beige open beach. I stopped short on the seaside and brought my hand up to my gaping mouth in horror. My eyes widened and I willed my body to move forward, down the hill, toward the bodies.

Lying on the beach like an oceanic border were dozens of large whale corpses. The hungry hard working plebeian in me smelled the air and knew that the whale meat did not mean an ample dinner tonight. Once on the flat stretch of the beach I knelt, afraid to approach the accident.

The glistening carcasses were five times as big as me each. I had never really seen a live whale up close, and I guess I still hadn't. Their eyes were open, glassy still marbles reflecting the sky. The smell of the beach was replaced by a darker reek of rotting animal flesh, meat, and dried blood. The sand felt cool beneath me as I rocked back and forth, unable to tear my eyes from the thirty two water mammals.

"Issie," a voice says my name over the wind. I turn to see my uncle Alex parting the tall beach grass. He is wearing the sanctioned uniform fishing pants that everyone on the island has and a white shirt. I like my uncle but it's difficult to look at him; he has my mother's grey eyes.

I remain seated and Alex approaches me, a drip of sweat gleaming on his hard worried face.

"What happened to them?" I say. "They're unpunctured, no sign of a fight... There wasn't a storm last night."

"We should get back to the house," Alex says.

I nod, rising to my feet but still staring at the great lumps of smelly meat that were living creatures only hours ago. My uncle gently touches my shoulder and turns me away from the sea, the smell of death clinging to us as we walk away.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I sat on my porch, listening to the rain pound against the roof. Heavy drops splattered melodically from the rooftop out over our lush garden. Streams of shimmering rain rushed down the path. The wooden deck smelled of cedar and summer forgotten loves. My long skirt was pulled up my calves, letting the warm, wet air rush against me. The perspiration dampened my white mismatched socks that I wore with sandals. I rubbed my feet together and leaned against a column of my house.

"Honey!" screamed a voice from inside, shrill and angry.
"Mom!" I yelled back.
"What are you doing?"
"Sitting, watching the garden!"
"I said sitting and watching the garden!"
"What? Go get a job!"
"I have one, Mom. It's the weekend."
"Oh, no I'm sorry. I was talking to this lizard here, not you."
"I was just yelling because I wanted you to hear too. This lizard is a jerk. Don't trust him."

I heard a bunch of pots and pans fall inside. I rolled my eyes and reached behind by back. Sitting on the porch was my harp. I situated myself around it and stretched out my hairy legs. The black sharp hairs poked out from my skin, reaching up toward the gold instrument I cradled. I began strumming the beautiful silken strings, out of tune and completely without rhythm. I brushed my long hair off my face and it stuck up in place on my forehead from the grease. It had been a few weeks since I'd showered. My stench rose from my grimy body, a rich aroma of sweat, grease, and broccoli, comforting me in it's familiar reminder of my physical sense of self.

As my awkward notes rose through the wet air, I sighed, wondering if I had fertilized the lawn this month. The uncomfortable song hung over the garden, dripping with disgust. As the harp song floated through the breeze, the heavy rains permeated the soil, soaking deep into the dark ground. The earth lapped up the water and my music, greedy for life. Plants stirred, lifting their wet heads to watch me play.

I began to sing. My voice was shrill, high, loud, and off key. I let it ring over the evening. The ground rumbled under my song. Leaves and shrubs and flowers waved anxiously at me, begging me to stop. The earth cracked as I hit a high note. I set down my harp carefully. Even after I stopped playing and singing the final note rang out. I stood up and walked off my porch.

Rain soaked my hair, dress, and socks instantly, as I tread the path. My dress clung to my body and my soggy socks squelched against the sandals.

Looking over my shoulder, I yelled, "Mom! I think the garden is ripe for weeding! Mom!"

There was no answer from inside. The pots and pans must have gotten her. I bravely ventured onward into the garden. The moist soil below me trembled with trepidation. I knelt, my skirt sinking into the mud. My knees pushed the soil down and the soil pushed back up toward me.

"Hi," I whispered down into the garden.
"Hello," it said back up to me.

I dug my hands deep into the earth, submerging my arms up to my elbow. Sticking my tongue between my teeth I struggled, searching around underground. My bangs plastered themselves unhelpfully over my eyes. I rooted around in the soil for a while and then grasped something and yanked it out.

I dragged a long, pale, thin human arm out of the mud. It stuck out awkwardly over the plants and waved uncomfortably in the rain. I tried to dig my weight into the ground to gain leverage and I yanked hard on the hand. Sweat seeped through my already soaked dress. The temperature on the back of my neck rose. I grunted in pain and heaved with all my might. The arm came up from the ground, and with it a naked human girl.

The girl crouched, cowering into herself. She hugged her knees to her chest, shivering. Her nose and ears were pointy and sharp. Her breasts were small and saggy. She looked up at me through a muddy face and gasped, clutching her grimy fingers to her neck with bulging eyes.

"Hi," I said politely.

The girl didn't respond. I reached behind her huddled back. Her bony spine protruded from her skin. Her butt was covered with a leafy bulb that was attached to a green thick stem, rolling behind her like a hose. The stem trailed down into the earth. I gave it a hefty tug and pulled up the roots. I held the root of the plant in my hands and the girl screeched in terror.

"Easy," I said. I held on to the slimy stem, uncomfortably looking around in the rain.

My mom and the lizard ran out from the house with pruning shears.

"We're coming!" My mom yelled.
The lizard didn't say anything.

My mom knelt down and cut the stem. Once free from the root, the green bulb easily fell from her muddy butt. The girl hopped up. My mom put her arm around the girl and gently led her in to the house. She had long legs and dainty small feet, making her walk clumsy and confused. I knew she would look really pretty in the vase next to the other girls. I tried to wipe some of the mud off my hands onto my wet dress, but just made it worse. Rain and mud caked my body and my muscles trembled with the stress of strenuous labor. Following my mom back into the warmth of the kitchen, I looked down at the asshole lizard and smiled.