June 14, 2005

Beneath Our Feet

Now presenting a story I wrote in 8th grade...

“You broke the president’s window?”
“Mom, it’s not like I meant to or-”
“Well I hope you didn’t mean to! Do you know what this means? I will have to work an extra shift to afford that window!”
“Don’t Mom me. Ever since your father disappeared you have been acting up like-”
“Mom! Just listen! Dad would!” Mitchell ran down the hall to his room, pushing himself off of the walls. He reached his room and slammed his door, sliding down against it. The room had bright fluorescent lighting and a cool breeze was simulated through the room, rustling the papers, and open school books on his desk. He took a deep breath in and slowly got up from the floor, letting it out.
A soft knock sounded at his door.
“Can I come in?” His mother’s voice was hoarse, as if she had been crying.
“Sure.” Mitchell replied. His mother opened the door. Her face was streaked with tears, and her eyes were puffy and pink. She sniffed, and walked in, wiping the corner of her eye on her apron. She gave him a weak smile.
“I’m sorry Mom.” He said. “I shouldn’t have been playing baseball near the president’s house. I can fix it, I am sure I can get some money somewhere.” His mother let out a sigh and sniffed again.
“Thanks, that would really help. I mean, the landlord is threatening to kick us out, and I am already so-” She stopped, looked at Mitchell then shook her head. “I’m sorry too, I shouldn’t have said that you have been acting up. I mean, considering the circumstances, you have been a great help.” She noticed that Mitchell was shaking, trying to keep from crying. “Come ‘ere.” She said, reaching out to give him a hug. Mitchell went to his mother. “It’ll be okay. You hear me?” She told him, rocking him back and forth in her hug. “It’ll be okay.”

“You did not bust Grezshmer’s window!” Mitchell’s friend Derek yelled across the class room. The class fell silent. Mitchell could feel his face burning, as he sunk deep into his chair, nodding his head to get it all over with. “Ha!” Derek laughed, “That my friend is the best thing you have ever done!” Mitchell looked at him.
“What? How can you say that breaking a million, maybe billion dollar window is good.” replied Mitchell’s best friend. Mitchell knew that he thought he was helping but it only made him feel worse. Derek rolled his eyes, as their teacher Mrs. Daniels walked in.
“Boys! In your seats, now! Everyone pass in your homework,” She then smirked at Mitchell and added, “for those who weren’t too busy smashing our leader’s windows to do it.”
He slid deeper into his chair, remembering that he had left his geography homework on his desk. His face turned redder, and all he could hear were the girls giggling behind him. He heard one of the girls mention where he lived, and that his family wouldn’t be able to pay the damages. They laughed louder and louder. His eyes darted from student to student searching for his friends. They were all laughing together on the other side of the room. “What are they talking about? Is it me?” Mitchell thought to himself. All the laughing seemed to be getting even louder. All of his insides felt jumbled up. He felt like he was going to be sick. Jumping up he ran out of the room to the nurse’s office. The hall seemed never ending, and he pressed on faster. Finally he reached the chrome door that bore the words “Nurse’s Room” in metallic red letters. He opened the door and walked in. A lady in white looked over at him.
“May I help you?” she asked in a light airy voice. Mitchell clutched his stomach and asked if he could go home. She showed him the phone, and returned to her desk. It, like everything else in the room was a shiny, stainless steal. He dialed his mother’s work number.
“This is the second time this month. Are you sure everything is okay at school?”
“Mom, yes everything is fine, I just want to go home.” He could hear his mother sigh on the other end of the line.
“I really have too much to do here. Maybe you could stay in the nurse’s office or something.”
“Never mind, I’ll be fine.”
He put down the receiver and stared at it for a moment.
“What did she say?” Mitchell turned around.
“Uh, she said that,” he paused and the nurse looked at him questioningly through her silver glasses, “that I could walk home.” The nurse didn’t seem satisfied with his slow answer, but wrote a note to his teacher anyway and told him to get his stuff and go home. Mitchell took the note guiltily, and walked back to class. “Mom is going to kill me!” he thought, “But at least I am getting out of here.”
After packing his things and giving the note to Mrs. Daniels he was on his way. He walked along wide, perfectly black streets, and crisp grey sidewalks. The sun was gleaming exuberantly. Parked tin cars glowed with its reflection. It seemed a shame, to Mitchell, to be inside all day. He walked more, past towering office buildings, and cramped shops. Walking until he found a park. It was the only park for hours around and it had everything. Everything you could never find anywhere else, like grass, trees, bushes, flowers, and even curious little things that his dad used to call squirrels. Mitchell ran off the sidewalk onto the grass, hurling his backpack as far as he could. He felt free. Free from all of the kids at school, from his teacher, from his Mom, and best of all from rules. Here nobody depended on him to make dinner, or fix things. He ran on the grass for as long as his lungs let him, and fell to the ground. Watching the clouds he could remember all of the time he had come here as a child with his Mom and Dad, but one memory seemed to catch his mind even more, the last time he and his dad were here.
It was a cool fall day. The trees were changing colors, and all the animals were hiding. His Dad was telling him about his next exploration mission or “adventure as he called it.
“There is more Mitch. More than all the houses, and buildings here. It used to be different. There used to be rivers, lakes, mountains.”
“What?” he asked.
“It was different then, everything was.” All he could remember next was some stuff about the ground, not enough to make sense though. He still didn’t know what a lake or a mountain was. He closed his eyes and remembered when his Mom told him the news about his father.
“They were on an expedition, as you know, and well, your father got lost, and is most likely dead.” Mitchell remembered how young his mother looked then. Her face was different, not as aged, and hurt looking as it was now.
He sat up. His head now throbbed with the pain of the memories. He stood up to retrieve his backpack when he saw something. It was coming from the forest. Blackish smoke curled up out of the trees. Mitchell had never seen anything like it before. He ran for his backpack and then advanced slowly toward the trees. The smoke was thin and wispy. It seemed to be emerging from the ground. Mitchell walked closer until he found the source, a small hole in the ground. His face wrenched into a frown. “All that for a hole in the ground?” he thought to himself, but then he got closer. Reaching out his hand he tried to touch it, but it had no feel. He couldn’t understand. Bending down he touched the dirt and spread it from the hole. More smoke came out. Mitchell kneeled down further, to move more dirt away, only to let out more smoke. Alarmed Mitchell glanced around himself. When he was sure no one was around he plunged both hands into the hole, wildly spraying dirt every which way. The spiral of smoke soon became a column. He wasn’t at all aware what the black smoke was, or where it was coming from. He continued digging, deeper and deeper, with more and more power. The sweat began gather on his brow. Then he reached something hard. It was some sort of plate. The large circular plate had several holes drilled into it and was rusted, and aged. Mitchell thrust his fingers into the drilled out holes in the metal in an attempt to lift it, but it would not budge. Mitchell stood up. The adrenaline surged through his body as he looked for something to use as a leaver. He soon found a large piece of wood, and pried the metal plate up.
After moving the plate aside he looked down into the hole. The smoke burned his eyes, but that couldn’t stop him. He placed the large pole-like piece of wood into the hole, to climb down. As he reached out to grab the wooden pole he took a deep breath. Leaning all his weight onto the pole he lowered himself down. About halfway down he heard a snap. The pole was breaking. His heart started racing, but calmly he continued to lower himself down. He heard another snap, followed by several cracks. He knew the wood was going to break and he shut his eyes. At this the wood pole snapped in half dropping Mitchell the rest of the way to the ground.
The ground was soft and mushy. Nothing like any ground Mitchell had ever seen before. The air was cold and stale, and completely rid of moisture. Mitchell stood up and looked over himself. No injuries, but his clothes and hands were stained from the dirt and smoke. “How will I ever get back home?” he thought to himself. He violently brushed off his clothes, and hair. Then something caught his eye. A group of dead trees. On a piece of wood near it was a crudely carved sign reading “Skeleton Forest”. Mitchell heard a noise. His heart stopped, as he stood, stunned with fear. He could hear better now. It was two people talking. He crouched down and crawled to some bushes so that he could see the people. One, a girl wearing raggedy clothes was swinging on a homemade swing, while the other who was also wearing old clothing was watching her. They spoke and laughed, just like the girls in Mitchell’s own school class, and they were speaking English as well. Mitchell leaned forward a little to get a better look when a twig snapped under his weight completely rattling the bush. The girls looked over at the bush.
“What was that?” The girl on the ground asked. The girl on the swing didn’t reply, but instead got off the swing.
“Come with me and see.” She said, not really giving the other girl much choice. Together both girls walked slowly over to the bush. “Okay, on the count of three, one, two, three!” With that the two girls bolted through the bush nearly missing Mitchell. Mitchell was absolutely horrified. The girls looked at him, each other, and laughed.
“Who are you?” replied the first girl. Mitchell felt like he had forgotten how to talk. All he wanted to know was where on Earth he was, and fast!
“I-I-I-I am M-m-mit-ch-ch-ell F-f-f-orest-e-e-er. W-w-h-ho are y-y-you?” Mitchell stuttered. The girls giggled and the replied.
“I am Brooklyn Mots, and this is my friend May Harro.” She looked at the shaking boy and then asked, “Are you from around here?” The other girl thought this was very funny and started laughing cheerily to herself.
“Uh, I don’t think so.” Replied Mitchell regaining control of himself. “Where is here anyway, if you don’t mind my asking.”
“Here? Here?” replied the laughing girl. Brooklyn rolled her eyes at her friend and answered him.
“This is New York.” Mitchell wrinkled his brow with puzzlement. He had never heard of anything like New York in his life. Brooklyn looked at him for a minute. “So I’d guess you’re not from around here,” she paused and asked “so where are you from?” Mitchell still confused looked up at the hole that he had come through, and back at the girls.
“I guess I am from up there.” He said pointing the hole out to the girls. By now May had stopped laughing and was serious.
“You’re not from up there!” she blurted, “No one ever comes down here, from up there! I mean you’re not supposed to, you’re supposed to-” Brooklyn cut her off.
“You mean to tell us that you came from that place?” She looked serious as she pointed to the hole. “Only, two, maybe three people have ever come to see us from up there.” Just then a loud clunking noise rattled through the forest and brush where they were standing. The girls turned as Brooklyn said, “It’s time for us to go,” she hesitated then asked “would you like to come with us?” Mitchell just nodded. The three walked, the girls leading the way, and Mitchell trailing behind, so much was on his mind.

They hadn’t been walking for four minutes when they reached the city. Mitchell’s jaw dropped just at the sight of the place. Once towering skyscrapers were now heaps of glass and metal infested with dead moss and rotten corpses of rodents. Smoke, like he had seen in the park, was coming out of scrap metal huts. Mud caked children, in clothes similar to Brooklyn and May’s, played in the cracked asphalt of an old road. They were slender, some looking sickly, and deprived of sun. As he and the girls walked among them to go to Brooklyn’s house they stared. None of them had seen anything as rosy, or tan as Mitchell before. On the way to the house Mitchell saw only more debris and pale children.
“Where are all the adults?” Mitchell asked.
“The men are out looking for food, and the women spend all day trying to stretch what we have.” May answered flatly.
“That’s why it’s so nice to get away form here.” Brooklyn added, “That little place back there, that’s our escape.”
“From what?”
“From everything. I can’t stand watching all these kids starve. It’s just not right.” Brooklyn let out a huge breath, “It’s not like it has always been this way. I mean we did have plenty of food. We had plenty of everything at first.” She finished right when they reached the doorway of one rather rusty little hut. She lifted up a flap to let them all in. Once more Mitchell couldn’t believe his eyes. This was nothing like his home. The inside of the house had a metallic smell, and everything was cold. Rough furniture lined the room. Ripped pieces of cloth filled holes in the wall. It was dark and dry, just like the rest of the town.
A graying petite woman walked into the room from a flap on the back wall. Her face was pale and bony, and her eyes looked tired. “I thought I heard someone in here.” she said in a hoarse voice. She let out a raspy cough and continued, “Hello Brooklyn, May,” she turned her drooping eyes on Mitchell, “and I don’t know you.”
“Mother, this is Mitchell Forester.” Brooklyn’s mother nodded her head.
“It’s good to meet you Mitchell.” she said smiling weakly.
“Mother,” Brooklyn moved closer to her and helped her into what looked like a chair, “Mitchell is from up above.” Her mother’s eyes got large and round, as she looked at him.
“Brooklyn, dear, will you go in my room and get, from the chest, the leather book. Thank you dear.” Brooklyn returned to the room with the leather bound book. She handed it to her mother. Her mother turned the book around in her hands, and ran her finger along the imprinted designs on the cover. “Last year,” she began, “some men from your upper ground came to us,” Mitchell interrupted her.
“Excuse me ma’am, but what did you just call where I came from?” The girls looked shocked, but the mother replied to him calmly.
“Several years ago, just before I was born it was declared by the leaders of the time that all the lands would unite to form one. To do this they built a thick layer of ground over all the land, the mountains the forests, only supported by big, strong walls.” The girls both nodded, as if agreeing with her and Mitchell just sat waiting for more.
“Then why are you down here, and not up with us?” Mitchell asked. The woman continued with her story.
“We had no choice. Only the people who were well, strong and friends of the government were invited to the new surface land. We were left here, and remain here still. So few people know about us, and the ones who did find us are often in danger back in your land.” Mitchell was listening with real intent now. “Mountains, she had said something about mountains,” Mitchell thought, “just like his father before he had disappeared.” The woman continued, “Almost all of the men who have come down here to explore have been killed.”
“How do you know?” Mitchell asked.
“All but one of them was killed, your father, Dan Forester. He escaped from the president and came back to give us the news. When he left to go back he was captured.”
“And killed.” Mitchell finished for her. She coughed and looked down at the book she was holding.
“This,” she said, “was your fathers. I am sure he would want you to have it.” Brooklyn took it from her mother’s hands and handed it to Mitchell. He flipped through the yellowed pages of the book.
“His journal.” he said.
“Yes.” The woman replied. “Now Brooklyn, you go get your sister, your father will be home any time now and we will eat.” Brooklyn helped the woman back into her room, and the three of them went outside.
“Why is she so sick?” Mitchell asked, once outside.
“She never eats. There isn’t enough food, and hardly any water anywhere.” They walked a little longer and she looked at the ground. “She is going to die soon. All of us are. We can’t live like this. My baby brother already died.” A tear hit the ground, and she sniffed. “If only we could get help.” Mitchell stopped walking.
“I’ve got it!” he said. May looked back at him immediately, and Brooklyn wiped her eyes. “I can help. We could build a ladder up to the hole, and we could all climb out. You would all get better, your mom could get help and everyone would live.” Mitchell was excited and breathless. May smiled and clapped her hands.
“That is a great idea! Isn’t it Brooklyn?”
“No.” Mitchell, and May stopped smiling, “it will never work. The president will notice and we will all be killed. There’s no point in even trying.”
“Oh come on Brooklyn! It’s worth a shot.” pleaded May. Brooklyn was silent.
“Okay.” she finally said. “Let’s go.”
“But don’t we have to get-” Mitchell started.
“No, let’s just go.”

They all walked to the spot where May and Brooklyn found Mitchell. They all looked up at the hole. “We need something to climb to get up there.” Mitchell said.
“I know where some fallen trees are.” Brooklyn answered. They found the trees and arranged them perfectly. Mitchell looked up at the hole and held onto the tree ladder.
“Here I go.” He climbed up and pulled himself through the hole. The fresh air of the evening rushed to fill his lungs. The cool breeze ruffled his muddy hair. He looked back down the hole. “It’s okay, come on up.” Brooklyn hesitantly reached for the ladder and climbed up. Mitchell took her hand and helped her out at the top. She looked around. She took in the fresh air for the first time in her life, and touched the living trees of the small grove they were in. Tears filled her eyes.
“It’s beautiful,” she said looking all around her. Mitchell smiled and looked down to call for May. As she reached the top Mitchell helped her up. She too looked around, taking in all the sights. Mitchell stood up.
“So how do you like it?” Neither of the girls answered. Suddenly Brooklyn started walking out of the trees. She ran to the middle of the field and stopped. The sun had not yet set and was still gleaming over the horizon. She started shaking, and fell to the ground. Mitchell ran to help her but it was too late. Her skin was burning red, and sweat and puss were oozing from it. She was shaking madly. The sun melted her skin from her body. Her screams pierced the sky, and echoed off of the buildings. Fear flooded May, as she fainted. Mitchell tried to pull Brooklyn back to the shade but it was no use. Every time he touched her skin it fell off into his hand. He franticly tried again and again, but every time she lost more skin. She stopped moving, and he fell to her side. “Brooklyn!” he called shaking her, “Brooklyn! Listen to me.” Her raw bones and tendons just lay still. “Brooklyn.” He set her shoulders back on the ground. He looked back at May and ran back to her. “May!” he said. She woke up rubbing her head.
“Brooklyn, where is Brooklyn.” Mitchell helped her up. She saw the body. “Brooklyn!” she screamed running out to her. Mitchell grabbed her arm.
“No! Don’t go out there!” Tears streamed down May’s face. “You have got to go back to your home. You have to.” May looked at Brooklyn’s body and then at Mitchell. “Hurry!” She climbed down the ladder.
Mitchell looked at Brooklyn’s body. He sighed as he pulled the lifeless body to the hole and dropped it down. Sweating he pushed the metal lid back onto the hole and covered it with dirt. He never wanted to remember this. Picking up his backpack he ran home.

“Mitchell, I can’t believe you ran away from school! I was worried sick about you! Go to your room!” Mitchell’s mother hollered. He ran to his room and flung himself down on his bed and cried.

© All characters in the story are made up by me...they are MINE! Ya hear?

No comments: