(This is an original piece written for IndiesUnlimited.com‘s Weekly Flash Fiction Contest. The prompt was Shadow.)
A coolness settles on the top layer of my pale skin. I feel blood pulsing throughout my body, but it’s not enough to warm. The sun sears, but I only ever get the leftovers from radiation. It is an unforgiving and ambiguous coolness-the depressive chill of a shadow, where warmth is near but never enough.
Mama and Papa, with the Shadow’s other founding fathers and mothers escaped to the caves of the Jagged Rock before I was born. A spring with a stone roof became the water hole, and they chiseled homes in surrounding orange rock. Population grew and grew. People die but never leave.
Papa says the Shadow is all there is; “We’re lone survivors of an abominable world.” Papa says, “Don’t ever climb to the Light, you hear?”
Papa is strong, burly, wise. He loves me with a belt, but he loves me. He loved my brother with a belt too, but Dror didn’t understand. Mama called Dror her little sparrow.
Dror climbed the Jagged Rock eleven months ago. He never came back, of course. Papa says he died, likely shriveled up in the fiery sun. Papa says no one survives the Light; the Shadow is our only home. Papa says no funerals for suicides making Mama cry.
“We’re meant for more than this chill, Maura,” Dror once said.
I don’t want to die-if I do I want a funeral-so I’ll stick with Papa. But I don’t want this chill anymore, and for that, I think about climbing.