The latest instalment in the Colour Series.
“How am I supposed to live on this single stupid planet for the rest of my life?”
My own voice, roaring so loudly that it seemed to shake the very foundations of my home, replayed in my head. The force of the question made my stomach twist—but it was more than a question. More than a yell. More than defiance.
It was the monster I’d been fearing for years.
I fought the tears stinging my eyes as I stuffed anything within reach into my travelling sack. I’d always thought that my room was so small with its cramped bamboo walls and tiny cot, but as I gathered my few belongings, it suddenly hit me that it was all I’d ever needed. Maybe…
I shook my head, blocking out the memory of the argument that had brought me here. Somewhere, buried deep beneath the layers of anger, indignation, and guilt, I knew that if I stopped to think about what I was doing, Mom and Pop would convince me to stay.
“I’m not staying,” I whispered to myself.
Instead of my parents, I thought about the encounter that had changed everything. It had started with a stranger, a man who had told me there was a way off of this boring world. Maybe he’d seen that I was desperate, or maybe it had just been chance, but either way, I had always dreamed of going to the stars. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Suddenly, an unbidden memory forced its way into my mind’s eye: my mother’s tearful gaze as she reached out to me in response to my harsh words.
“I’m not staying,” I said through my teeth, willing the vision away. It faded, but more took its place. Mom comforting me during the storm season when the waves would roar and the sky would crack with thunder. Pop telling me he was proud when I brought in a big haul of fish.
The tears flooded my eyes so I didn’t even know what I was packing anymore. A sob forced itself from my throat and I quickly swiped a hand over my eyes in anger. “I’m not staying!” I yelled to my small room, to my overprotective parents, to my stupid old planet.
I sniffed. My eyes cleared. There was no more time for packing; I needed to leave.
Just as I turned to face the hanging beads that served as the door to my room, Pop parted the curtain in the middle and made the beads clack together. That sound had always set my teeth on edge, but dear old Pop had refused to put in a door or even let me build one myself, claiming that he didn’t want his family to be closed off from one another.
It gave me some sort of twisted satisfaction that right now, I was doing what my old man had been fearing all this time. Those stupid beads hadn’t helped anything.
“Let me go,” I said, ignoring his gaze as I pushed past him easily.
Even then, his voice was steady. Why was he never angry? Why was he so annoyingly passive all the time?
“I already said everything I needed to.” I continued on through the house, not even breaking stride as I heard Mom crying in another room. My heart softened a little, but I reminded myself that I’d lived with them for nearly eighty seasons. It was time to make a decision for myself for once.
“Then let me say one more thing before you go, inaw.”
My feet froze before I could tell them not to. It was a low blow, using the childhood endearment that I hadn’t heard since I’d become a man over twenty seasons ago.
“We would at least wish to know where you are going,” Pop continued, “so we can look up to the sky and see you, even if you are far away.”
“I don’t know.” I tightened my grip on my bag and readjusted it over my shoulder. “I’m just going away. Not like you’d know where to look, anyway,” I muttered, finding the strength to move again. I kept my eyes glued to the scuffed bamboo floor so I wouldn’t be tempted to get one last look at my parents.
“Then may your net always be full and your hut always sturdy. May the waters never lap at your feet unless you tell them to.”
Tears instantly flooded my eyes. I’d never felt that specific sensation before, and it took all I had in me not to stop and turn to look into my father’s eyes. The blessing he’d spoken was one usually given to a man when he left home to marry or go on a pilgrimage, but to bless me when I was leaving like this?
I tried to swallow down the lump in my throat. “Take care of yourselves,” I muttered before I walked out the door. Raising my head high, I let the tears flow down my cheeks, as the only one to see them was the ocean.
I’d heard that some other planets didn’t even have oceans. What would it sound like without the constant rhythm of the waves? What would it feel like without the ever-present salty breeze?
I squeezed the strap of my bag tighter. I’d just have to find out.
As I headed towards the dock, something caught my eye. I paused to stare up at the huge, sprawling tree that had been there my whole life. My earliest memories were of climbing into the low branches and cheering because I thought I’d accomplished something amazing. The leaves were bright, vibrant green, and the sunlight filtered almost straight through their thin membranes.
Without a thought, I held out my arm and let the green light wash over my palm. When I was younger, it used to make me giggle. There were days when this tree had been comfort, other days when it had been joy, and some days, even, when it had been shelter. It was like the only constant on a world that was ever-changing with the flow of the water.
Would other planets have trees like this one?
I placed my hand against the cool, smooth bark. “You were always good to me. Thank you.” I looked up through the branches and added, quietly, “Watch over them. I’ll be back one day, but…”
Would I? I knew nothing about how I was actually getting off the planet or whether I’d be able to come back. I’d simply jumped at the chance without asking any questions.
The leaves of the tree gently rustled against each other in the wind. Maybe I should wait. Maybe I should find out more before leaving…
But then I imagined waking up tomorrow, getting out on the boat, and living the same old dreary life.
“Bye.” I pulled my hand away and turned my back to the tree, but the light shining through the leaves stayed in the front of my mind.
Somehow, I doubted any other planet had that shade of green.