Since I read about Frank Angle’s IF Challenge, I have been waiting in excited anticipation to join. The objective is to write a post with the theme “If” in a short story, a poem, or another creative expression. For more details on this challenge, see the bottom of this post.
I chose to write a short story, though it’s not so short. It’s about one event with two single moment choices and the consequences of both. If you have some time, take a look and let me know what you think.
If She Ran
Is Mankind Doomed to Repeat the Sins of the Past?
Following “The Event” billions of the world’s populations perished. To give humankind a chance to survive, governments cooperated and populations gathered together in one place. There were several cities established, the capital being “New City.” To bring order from the chaos, the cities were divided into zones and people were organized into social divisions, called sects. Over time, a hierarchy was established and power was sought after.
Born to thatch roofs and mud walls, Rosa had a sense something terrible was about to happen. Something that would change her life forever. Earlier that morning her older brother, Erik, tried to make her laugh, but she couldn’t even smile.
Any other day, she enjoyed her mother gently brushing her golden hair. Her mother often told Rosa that her hair felt soft like the silky strings inside the corn husks that grew in their fields. On this day, her hair being brushed set Rosa’s nerves on edge. Her mother tried again to cheer her daughter by telling her bygone stories of Rosa’s beloved father. This especially didn’t cheer Rosa.
When Rosa’s father died, her uncle moved in. From that moment, joy drained from her life. The way he looked at Rosa’s mother made Rosa uncomfortable. Even the way he said her mother’s name, Camelia, caused Rosa to shudder. In her uncle’s presence, her mother barely raised her eyes from the ground and spoke only a little. The uncle’s cruelty and quick temper found its target with a strong hand against Erik, who took his abuse without a word. Only at night when Rosa and her mother snuggled in bed, and Erik slept nearby on a mat on the floor, did Camelia whisper in Rosa’s ear.
“It will be alright.”
However, Rosa wasn’t sure who her mother was trying to convince. She feared life would never be alright again.
On that fateful day, Rosa stood watching from the open front window of her house. Dust clouds billowed behind a car as it entered their zone and traveled up the dirt road. Rosa had seen only a few cars in her young life. Only the ones from the books her mother secretly taught her and Erik from. As the vehicle approached, her neighbors scattered in fear. Mesmerized, Rosa stood frozen. To her surprise, the wheels turned and the car moved directly toward her house.
As the dust settled, a man opened the side door. His long legs gingerly touching the ground. He is an Elite, you can tell not only by the type and color of clothing he wears but also by his bearing. He stands as if his back is made of bamboo poles.
Looking directly into Rosa’s sky blue eyes, she felt afraid though not sure why. However, she was unable to break his gaze and look away from his coal black eyes that matched his raven hair. The deep scar on the man’s right cheek wasn’t the reason she felt fear, though in the seconds that passed between them she wondered how he got it.
It’s his eyes. There is something to fear in those eyes.
In only a couple of long strides, he arrived at their front door.
Erik un-expectantly put his arm around Rosa’s shoulder. She jumped at his sudden touch. Turning her face towards him, Rosa saw her fear mirrored in his eyes. A side nod of his head indicated that she should go outside. Hastily putting on her sandals, Rosa brushed past the scar man as he entered through the door. He looked at her faded green clothing, worn by those of the Growers Sect, and her muddy feet with disdain.
Why is he here? What does he want?
Rosa crept around to the back of the house. Squatting down below an open window, she overheard bits of the conversation that transpired between the scar man and her uncle. The man’s deep voice spoke in quick staccato as he offered her uncle a stack of money.
But for what?
She had a sickening feeling. Knowing that Rosa lurked outside the window, her brother leaned out and captured her gaze. Looking up at Erik, he spoke with his eyes only.
Now Rosa has two choices …
Frozen with un-named terror, Rosa didn’t move. In those moments of indecision, a man much larger than herself appeared from around the corner of the house. He grabbed her from behind and effortlessly wrapped his beefy arms around her waist, pinning her arms to her sides. Even though she kicked and screamed, pounding his chest with the back of her head, he laughed. He picked her up as if she were a feather and carried her to the front of the house where the car sat waiting. She felt like a tiny bird caught in the jaws of a tiger. As they rounded the corner of the house, she could hear her mother screaming from somewhere in the distance. Understanding dawned on Rosa. She was being taken away.
The man with the scar calmly sat in the car staring forward. In her periphery, Rosa saw Erik yelling and swinging at a second beefy man. He stood much larger than her skinny brother. The second beefy man easily delivered a hard punch to Erik’s face. He fell to the dirt and hit his head on a rock. Rosa screamed as the second beefy man turned away laughing. Lying still, blood soaked the ground. Her brother made no more sound.
Her uncle leaned against the doorframe. The smile on his face looked villainous. His eyes were wide as he counted the money scar man had given him. Rosa’s mother fought to get out of the door to her children. The uncle stuffed the money into his pocket and turned to hit Camelia hard in the face. The last sight Rosa saw, of her family and her home, was her mother hitting the ground.
The second beefy man suddenly appeared in front of Rosa. She kicked out and made contact with his stomach. He easily shooed her legs away. He then shoved something small and round into Rosa’s mouth and held her nose and mouth until she swallowed. Opening the back of the car, it looked as though a mouth yawned wide. Thrown inside, the mouth slammed closed. Everything went dark. Even though Rosa screamed and kicked, the car began to move. She stopped struggling. Unsure of what the man made her swallow, Rosa’s muscles began to relax. Her mind ceased to function as though she were sinking into oblivion.
Rosa’s second choice …
Rosa’s brother leaned out of the window and spoke without with his eyes only.
Without hesitation, she snapped from the fog that held her mind captive. Instinct took over. She turned and ran. Rosa climbed the chain link fence that surrounded their zone. She made her way down the other side, jumping from the halfway point. Sprinting straight into the thick forest beyond, the smell of the woods welcomed her like an old friend. She had played imaginary games in this forest with her brother and her friends when she wasn’t working in the fields. Rosa knew every tree, bush, hill, and gully of this place. She ran without thinking, she didn’t need to, this was her world.
Hearing a loud commotion behind her, she felt her pursuers on her heels. Running in a zigzag motion, around trees, over vines and obstacles on the ground, trying not to leave too many footprints, she climbed a tree from time to time. As the trees were closely knit together, and Rosa was nimble, she jumped from one to the other. She would then jump down, run some more, climb a tree, and repeat. Locating her favorite and thickest tree in the forest, Rosa climbed to the tallest branch and surveyed the land below her. Not seeing or hearing any pursuers close by, she sat still to catch her breath. Taking the rope from around her waist, she tied herself to a thinner offshoot of the main trunk, to hold her in the tree as night approached. Settling in, Rosa hoped her pursuers would give up and go away by morning. Leaning her head back against the tree trunk, her mind wandered.
What’s happening to mother and Erik?
In the meantime, Erik took the moments of distraction when Rosa ran to grab his mother’s wrist. Camelia gasped as she snapped back to the reality of the situation. Amid the commotion, Erik pulled her toward the door. Once outside, they both ran. Catching sight of their elderly neighbors, Mi-Ran and Kyong, beckoning them to come, Erik and Camelia burst through their back door. The couple ushered them urgently toward a shallow trench-like hole they had dug inside their mud house years before. The hole for hiding valuables and extra food, even themselves if need be. Erik and Camelia lay horizontal and the neighbors covered the hole with a large piece of wood, placing a mat and the furniture they had temporarily scooted away on top. There were holes in the board so they could breathe. They kept still, listening to the commotion outside. Erik and his mother prayed that Rosa got away. After what seemed an eternity, they heard the scar man’s car leaving, loudly warning that he would return. Rosa would be his!
Hearing the uncle calling out, “Camelia!” kept Erik and his mother hiding in their neighbor’s hole until just before sundown. There are moments between the setting of the sun and complete darkness that were still safe to cross the fence. Every night, after the sun fully set, the fence was electrified. At the right moment, Kyong pushed away the furniture. He lifted the mat and then the piece of wood. Erik and his mother quickly emerged. Camelia hugged Mi-Ran tightly. Her neighbors handed them two cloth bags with supplies, both tied with thin rope. They bid one another a hurried farewell. Erik and Camelia, now fugitives, sprinted to the fence where Erik helped his mother up and over. Bent at the waist, to make themselves small and undetected, they ran into the forest.
Erik also grew up playing in these woods. He knew how to track. Also, familiar with Rosa’s favorite tree, they made their way in hopes she would be there. After dark, they arrived at the tree. Relief washed over him when he looked up and saw, by the light of the moon, Rosa descending toward them. She had seen and heard them coming. As soon as she reached the ground, she fell into her mother’s arms. Erik encircled them both in his own embrace. Taking only a short time to greet each other, allowing a tiny bit of fear roll away, the three of them turned and made their way deeper into the forest.
Rosa had chosen to run. If she had not, life would have ended much differently. However, there came a cost with this choice too. From here on out, their lives would be lived on the fringes of society. The scar man would return to their zone. He made it clear he wanted Rosa and he was a powerful man. As an Elite, he always got what he wanted. This little family would never be able to return to their home. They no longer belonged to a government recognized sect. They were now Outcasts.
Despite the gravity of the situation in which they found themselves, they were glad for one thing. They would be together.
Ever think about how many times we use the word “If” in a day? Although some more than others, we use “if” in a variety of ways. Well, it took an exchange with Marc (@Sorryless) initiate this idea – the If Challenge.
- Write a post featuring If as the theme.
- Publish the post after I post mine.
- Link to my If Challenge post (NOT this page).
- An If post can be in any form: a short story, a poem, an artistic impression, a commentary, and more. You choose the format.
- At the end of your post, mention the If Challenge and encourage your readers to read more If Challenge posts that will be linked in the comments on my post. NOTE: Link to my post, NOT this page.
- If you choose, you may display the If Challenge badge.
- I will probably post my If post on Tuesday 6 February 2018 at 9:00 pm (Eastern US).
If you would like to read other contributions go to: https://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/on-if/