Fifteen years later - After the Prologue The rain crashed hard against our black coats and rolled off our dark umbrellas. Rain, it was the perfect stereotypical weather for a funeral.
I tried hard to hear the priest over the rain and over the thoughts that pressed me to the ground- “we remember Vanessa with not a hole in our heart, but a light in our soul, she was a great woman and needn’t see us mourn for her, no, she was too humble for that.” I scoffed at the lies he was telling. Mom wasn’t humble, she was selfless, there’s an antagonizing difference. “We needn’t mourn for long, as I said already, she would not have wanted it.” Needn’t? No one has used that word since the beginning of Zemira…
Zemira, we were lucky enough to have our funeral in Zemira rather than the cold hard Northern OutSrill where I live and work my butt off trying to pay off so my little sister could have food. It wasn’t fair, but mom would have wanted me to help Issi, so of course I would, I didn’t care too much for her annoying attitude but it she still cared for me.
I would continue to care for her, until the end.
My mom however? That promise I can’t make. June twenty ninth she died of the hated Leven HYZ, I’ve been crying ever since I found out. I know she doesn’t want me to cry, to feel sad, but I still do. People don’t understand- if you love someone and someone tells you they wouldn’t be happy if you are overreacting that they are gone, it doesn’t tape that hole in you back together. Those are just words, just weak adhesive, and although I’ve spent my life around words, I don’t like them if they’re not helpful. I’m doing anything but listening to the unhelpful words of the priest as he talks about something that isn’t even living, claiming it a legacy...I don’t get how, Mom never did anything for the world, she helped our family, which was enough, but to consider her a legacy was overstretching- I like it, it’s nice, but it’s not true, and it just makes people more sad that the Virus had to go around and screw everything up.
I just don’t get it.
We walked home, out of Zemira with mist in our eyes, slowly, mournfully.
From there, my life just sort of fell apart.
Two days after the funeral, it’s still raining, as if the gods are crying for Mom, even though she’s up there with them, living eternal happiness...or the gods could be trying to mimic everyone else- crying tears for them, either way, it didn’t help with Issi’s rapid nightmares or the fact that I had to go out in the rain to look for food in our pasture.
It’s rained so much my eyes are swelled from the conspicuous moisture, or maybe future tears, or tears I’ve held for so long. There is no difference as they fall down my cheeks in flooding rivers.
My brother is calling my sister and I down for dinner. “Elsie!” He calls. Elsie, a nickname given to me from my real name- Estelle, or sometimes Mom would call me Ethereal.
I’ve never really known the Virus, never really hated it until now...now when it struck with a pain so great it caused lumps in my throat and my head to buzz, exactly like it does before tears fall- then they fall.
I climb down the stairs, sticking a smile on my face, “Hey Cam,” I say as I pass him.
He smiles, brown hair falling loosely in front of his green eyes; those eyes held so much power and love, Dad wouldn’t stand looking into him, they were moms eyes. I had blue eyes like dad, but my hair matched Mom’s- golden. “Hey Es?” Camber said. “Can you get dad?”
I nodded and walked down the dimly lit hallway. Which held many haunting doors on each side. I walked to the end, where my fathers room was, and I knocked on the door. The only reply was a choked up: ‘Next week.’ I sighed. I didn’t want to argue with my father, and I knew he would only come out for meals once a week, I walked away, the floor creaking beneath me. “He said he’ll eat next week.” I said, sighing. I helped Camber set up the plates for him, Issi and I. As I sat down on old wooden chairs and looked longingly at the brown table where the food would be, I reviewed what we would have. We had old wrinkled green beans, and small bits of chicken, which we owned and slaughtered. I didn’t complain, but I hated this old food, and wanted to have more good food, I knew Camber had too much to deal with though, so I didn’t complain, I just sat there and quietly nibbled on a green bean with the juice sucked out of it.
Dinner ended with an evident silence in the room, everyone was still hungry, I could tell, but we didn’t say anything.
After a longing silence that loomed over us eerily, Issi popped up with a budding question which I quit liked “Can we have dessert?” Her eyes sparkled
Camber gave me a weary glance, then he got up. “Sure, but we don’t have a lot of sweets Issi, what do you want?”
“Cake!” the six year old, brown haired, blue eyed girl clapped her hands excitedly, saying words that seemed songlike.
Camber sucked in a breath. “Is,” That was another nickname for Issi, which was a nickname for Isabel. “I don’t think we have the ingredients to make cake, or any cake in general…how about…” Camber hesitated, looking through the fridge, which didn’t have any cold substance in it. He racked through the shelves and smiled as he pulled out what was left of a thin bar. “Neclac chocolate?”
Issi bounced up and down in her seat, yelling: ‘Yes! Yes!’ excitedly. I laughed a little, a hint of happiness rising through my somber throat. It hurt to laugh, but I wanted to feel happiness again, and Issi was great at making people feel happiness.
“Okay Is, calm down, I’m getting it.” Camber laughed. He looked at me. “Do you want any chocolate Elsie?” He asked, snapping the thick brown chocolate in pieces, the sound was satisfying, yet somehow sickening, sounding like the crunching of bones, under a strangers feet. I shivered uneasily.
“I’m good, give some to Is, some to yourself, and save the rest.” I smiled, ripping my lips in an unnatural position, unnatural, but I knew I had to do it, so I did.
Camber nodded and walked back to the little dark brown oak wooden table, setting a tiny little bit of the crumbling chocolate bar in front of wide eyed, hyperactive Issi. “Can you tell me the story again?” She asked, beaming, picking up her chocolate and stuffing the sweet substance into her mouth and chewing without a slight hint of grace
Camber smiled softly. “Sure. It’s a classic you know,” He winked at Issi, then at me. Then he started with a sense I could not describe, determination- perhaps. “The story of the Neclac chocolate.” Camber mimed opening a book, and Issi let out a bubbly laugh. He flipped through fake pages and found his spot in the story he was pretending to own. “The Neclac chocolate comes from the Neclac trees in the Neér Forest.” He started. “It is said that a long time ago, in the years of America,” The name of the country before it was split up, we haven’t heard that name in years. I recognized. Issi gasped, smiling. “A young boy, no older than the adulting age of eighteen, wandered into this forest alone. His hope was to find a way to bring food back to his starving family. His small size was taken into consideration and the risks of getting lost in the woods were blasting through the roofs on deafening loudspeakers. The young boy promised himself he wouldn’t get lost, and promised his family he would return with mounds of sweet food, poultry, herbs, even if he wasn’t the best hunter in the land. The boy had set out. Strangely- stupidly,” Camber added, looking up from the fake book to Issi. “He was just walking, not paying attention to where he was going. Then, a pack of wolves showed up.” He looked up, acting scared. Remarkably, Issi gasped. “The wolves were somehow able to communicate with the boy, though the specific way how is not known. They told him directions to the foods they found most helpful in the forest, fresh meat. The boy, being arrogant and laid back, didn’t listen fully to the directions, only pretended. When the grey wolves passed, the boy kept walking.” Camber raised an eyebrow at Issi, basically telling her that wasn’t a good idea that the boy didn’t listen. “When there was a crossroad, the boy simply picked one direction, the wolves instructions didn’t make its way into the processing- the inference section of the boys head. When the path lead him to a group of weary pixies, they warned him about what was ahead- a dragon, legendary, with wings as hot as the sun. The boy was terrified. ‘Well how do I get away from it?’ He asked” Camber’s impression of the boy was high pitched and funny. “‘You must seek the glowing Neclac tree, the tree can save you,’ One of the fairies said. ‘A tree?’ Responded the boy. ‘How will a tree help?’ “just seek it.’ Another fairy answered. ‘You will see.’ The boy furrowed his brow in deeper confusion. ‘How will I know?’ ‘You will feel it.’ a third fairy answered. The boy kept walking, now going the opposite direction, trying to find the tree that supposedly could help him. He kept walking until a glowing tree nearly blinded the boy. He had to shield his eyes. ‘Is this it?’ He yelled, the tree only grew brighter, and no answer came from the fairies. Take some of my chocolate. A strange, wicked eerie voice inside him said. It will grant you everlasting happiness and you will be found when you are lost. It was strapped into his mind like a seatbelt, thus,the boy took a seed from the tree and ate it.”
“They say the creaminess is supposed to symbolize the trees care, and the small but evident, snaking bitterness is to symbolize the young boy’s selfishness and rich arrogance.” I finished with deficiency, smirking.
“Wow!” Issi looked at Camber and I wide eyed, dazed. She didn’t speak for a whole minute, then yelled: “Again again!” Excitement was shrill and punctuated in her small little voice.
“No Is, I think it’s time for you to go to bed,” Camber said lightly, tapping her on the shoulder- a gesture to get her out of the chair and up to bed.
“Awww,” She complained, groaning, she dragged herself to her room, and Camber and I followed with a sweet smile. “Elsie?” I looked at Issi. “Can you read me another fairy tale?” She requested. Her eyes were bulging big as she pleaded, her lips blown up in a pout.
I looked at Camber, who shrugged and winked at me before turning away on his heel and walking back to the kitchen to clean up. “Sure.” I said, turning back to her. “Which story?”
Issi ran in her room and ran out almost as fast as a bolt of lightning. “This one!” She said excitedly, posture straight and smile luminous. I squinted at the book in her hand.
“Legends of America…” I read carefully off the cover. On the cover was our beautiful Zemira- only it was America, not Zemira. “Seems interesting huh Issi?”
My younger sister just nodded and smiled, “Come on come on come on read it!” Her words were a buzzing slurr of excitement in my head, echoing through my ears.
“Okay okay I will, get in your room and under the blankets though.” Issi ran into her room and slipped herself under the wool blanket. I only smiled and sat down on an empty chair used for reading bedtime stories. I opened the book.
“Zemira was once named America, and in it’s long life it went through many wars, readjustments, and troubles.” I was finally done with the first sentence. How long I could last of this I did not know. “Over the last two thousand five hundred ninety seven years,” I took a breath. “American changed. In three thousand eight hundred and seventy two, the first dictator was chosen, Roland Rewartis. Now in the year four thousand five hundred ninety seven-”
“Stop.” Issi was sitting up. Her daring six year old eyes were lazy, but her clenched jaw told otherwise. “That’s boring as poop.” She frowned at me. “Read another one.” She demanded, voice cold- as cold as a six year old’s could be.
“I agree with you Is, which one do you want me to read?”
My sister found another book of the shelf and snuggled in her blankets, waiting for me to read. I smiled at her, it was strange to link Issi- happy, beaming, luminous girl to tragedy. But it is still possible, and I still admire her.
The words dripped out of my mouth like sweet milk, I flipped the pages with smiles as I read. When finished, I closed the story, and looked at my brown haired, hazel eyed, perfect sister. She looked so peaceful in her sleep.
I got up, and planted a kiss on her forehead before walking to my own room. “Good night Isabel,” I wished and closed the door softly behind me.