“Do not, I repeat, do not do it again,” my mother chastised.
I had yet again provoked her with my disobedience. And though my actions were intentional, it wasn’t because I relished in my mother’s ire. It was simply because she had never given me a reason to stop. After all, I was curious—often wondering why not. Why was I forbidden from the surface? What danger did the beyond present that warranted punishment? What happened—a century before my birth—that forced us to live underground?
“Do you hear me?” my mother asked. Her anger had abated but she remained exasperated—a vexed disposition I could undo with a false promise.
“Yes,” I said. “I won’t do it again.”
My mother handed me a pair of yellow garden gloves. “You are to weed the garden. And if I hear any complain of truancy, you’ll be weeding the garden for the rest of your life.”
It was pointless to argue and more so futile to ask about the surface. My mother refused to disclose a single detail. Our subterranean society had kept the secrets of our past locked away, and only a chosen few were allowed to unearth the truth. So perhaps, my mother herself didn’t know what was in the above. Perhaps, she was merely repeating what her mother had said to her.
With the large garden gloves—appeasing my mother once more—I headed to the garden. From our small dome-shaped abode, I exited into a narrow tunnel that led to a fork in the path. Having memorised the passages—impossible to navigate if one is a foreigner with no guide—I took a right at the junction, then descended toward another split, where I turned left toward a seemingly never-ending hollow. When I finally came upon the end, there was a thick metal door. Turning the heavy handle, I entered yet another dome.
The dome, of 360 feet tall and wide, was called the garden. My mother was the chief caretaker of the only green space in our realm—the only place where one could gaze upon a palette of bright shades other than stale brown. It homed a variety of flora, sprouting from a carpet of deep green grass that spread across the floor and up the concave wall. It was paradise. It was also the meeting site for my expedition team—oh, if only my mother knew.
“Got caught again, I see,” my fellow weed-puller greeted.
“There’s always a next time,” I replied. “Did you learn anything new?”
Zee was the son of a chosen—his father frequented the above. Whenever his father returned, there would be new samples, ovules for the garden, and a journal full of notes.
“Nothing except that it remains inhabitable,” Zee said.
We had known that the world beyond was inhabitable for the past five years—the reports proved that we could ascend and start a new life. Alas, our people chose to remain. It was a strange decision—in spite of a reason to create a better life, there was no intention to move. Those un-chosen were still prohibited from venturing to the above—the claims of danger lodged into the minds of our people despite the lack of records to prove them true.
“I’ll try again tomorrow,” I stated. “Want to come along?”
“No,” Zee replied. He usually sat out of a mission if he had a valid excuse. But that day, he didn’t have one. He simply said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
“What? Why?” Not him too, I thought. Zee had been with me from the start. He was always excited to try and try again. So why the sudden change of heart?
“Just,” Zee said.
“Just?” I asked in disbelief. Zee was the third member on our team to abandon our cause. What reason could he have for giving up a better future—to live in a place full of possibilities, free from this mundanity? “Just is not a good reason,” I said. “Aren’t you tired of this aimless life?”
“I’m tired of trying,” Zee said. “Maybe, one day, we’ll be chosen. Then we’ll see the above without getting in trouble.”
“You want to keep waiting? What if you’re never chosen?”
“Then I guess I’ll just make do.” Zee shrugged.
“What is that suppose to mean? You’re willing to live here for the rest of your life? We already know what lies above us. We know it is worth the risk,” I reasoned.
Zee shook his head. “You can keep trying but I’m done.” He didn’t wait for me to respond, stalking toward a colossal tree of which its very seed came from the land we were banned from even glimpsing.
“Zee,” I called out. “You can’t just give up.”
Zee turned a deaf ear. Alike the two before him, he had relented. But at what cost? Was our search for purpose a meaningless pursuit? Was it justified to let go—to never gaze upon the hues of the sunrise and the awe-inspiring oceans? Would I lose hope too?
No, I will try again tomorrow as I said I would. If I had to spend my days weeding the garden, I would. If I was the only one left believing, then so be it. I had no plans of outgrowing my faith because the above held a promise the present could never offer—the above held a future.
12 Genre Months © 2019 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)