Thursday, January 11, 2007


Originally posted on 9/21-23/06
I'm rewriting this one under the title "Barren" in hopes of publication. If any of you have suggestions for sci-fi or fiction mags and zines, please let me know. -C

A Barren Place (Breathe In)

"It's very important that you place rubble around the base of the plants," the man explained. "The leaves don't like to touch the soil itself. And can you blame them? These are very special plants, the only ones I can get to survive in the wasteland. They're smart enough to use as little of the soil as possible."

"What do you call them?" I asked.

"They're the only plants here. I just call them The Plants."

I crossed my arms and tried to silence my belly. I'd been hungry for years. The Earth was sick and couldn't care for us. "How much do you sell these for?"

"Well, certainly not cash! Legal tender, my ass. There's no legal anything anymore. What do you have to trade?"

"I have buttons and needles," I answered meekly. "And an extra canteen."

"Needles. What fabric is left to mend?"

At which point he glanced up at the dark red sky. "It will rain again soon. We need to protect the Plants and get inside. What were you, by the way?"

"I was a chef."

"I was a banker."

But none of that meant anything here.

"Help me get ready for the rains, and then come inside. I may have work for you here."

And so it was I came to live with Jonathan and Fatimah. My main job was finding ways to purify the poisonous water. We had water to drink, irrigate, and bathe on occassion. We lived in luxury. It seemed Jonathan was merely lucky, I was his charity case, and Fatimah's role was obvious enough. One of the only old professions still in demand.

For seven years, we watched the sky boil. We watched for her to wake up, or to finish dying. Between improving our shelter, nursing the Plants, and avoiding dehydration or sickness, there was nothing to do but watch. And wait. Wait for anything.

A Barren Place (Breathe Out)

I woke one morning when the ground groaned and rumbled. The Earth came out of her coma and her heartbeat knocked us from our sleep. She began to breathe; and the crimson sky pulsed around us with a noise like blood rushing through our ears.

Fatimah crossed herself, which struck me as funny.

We stepped out from our shelter and peered through the clouds, searching for the tell-tale glow letting us know where the sun was, and roughly what "time" it was. We'd missed breakfast. Considering that there were approximately three edible things in the landscape, we didn't miss it too much.

"It's time to go," said Jonathan. "We'll follow the river."

"What river?"

He pointed up.

"She flows East," he said. "If there were animals, I'd have run where they ran. But they were gone long before I thought of running, and every rhythm of life left this place. I'm going to follow the only sign she's given me for seven years. I'm going to follow her blood to her heart. We harvest and pack now."

"I'm not going East."

"There's no sense staying here. The sameness is going to drive me mad."

"There's no sense going East. I've been that way."

"Don't worry. We'll be well North of Vegas."

"The new canyons will stretch that far, easily. It's impassable."

But before Jonathan could protest, the Earth exhaled, and the river changed direction. Her lungs rattled and tore tributaries through the sky. Each time she inhaled, new patterns bore their way into the clouds and the rolling shadows of the landscape.

The Earth had been reincarnated. But not us. We were leftovers. Anachronisms. Bankers and chefs and whores.

"I'm going West," I said. "She'll breathe me out."

"This is no accident! We get to survive! I'm moving East."

But after we'd split up the Plants and mumbled goodbyes, the winds came faster and faster from the East. Even Jonathan couldn't deny that the Earth was pushing us away.

So we mumbled different goodbyes and went West. And when she breathes in again, we hope to start over.



Tisha! said...

Well-written Jane! Have you contacted any of the women mags like Glamour, Cosmopolitan and such?

JaneDoughnut said...

I read the so rarely, I didn't even think that they might be good markets for something this dark. Maybe this will be a good excuse to pick up some chick magazines. ;)