PROMPT: Write a story or poem containing the following words and phrases:
a dead tree
I have never disobeyed the Elders before. But I know they must be hiding something. There are too many inconsistencies, too many whispered conversations.
I make my way through the tunnels, feeling my hands against the cool earth, occasionally stepping over large, decaying roots of a dead tree, wiping grimy fingers on my face to pull back pieces of hair. I try not to remember how Katy, my sister, disappeared. She was the glue that held my family together, the sweet imp that always broke the rules but somehow always avoided punishment. Even the Elders loved her.
I know the cave must be close. I have been trained as a Tracker; I hunt animals that burrow the earth and bring them back to the Den where they are cooked and eaten greedily by the rest of the Clan. These animals are becoming rarer, so when I do find them, it almost starts a war among the community. Even I have trouble sometimes bringing the game back and not keeping it for myself. Before, I had my family and Katy to think about. Not as much now.
I wish I had just followed her that night. She told me that she had found something wonderful, and that she wanted me to come with her. She told me the Elders were lying, and that she was never coming back. I laughed at her, patted her head, and just figured I would find out what kind of mischief she had gotten herself into when I returned from my daily hunt.
There was something different in her eyes that day, and she just shook her head as if she knew I would never believe her. When I got back from the hunt that day, my parents were frantic, the Elders were arguing, and Katy was gone with many supplies from the different houses missing. It wouldn’t matter if we found her; she would likely be sentenced to death for what she had done.
My family fell apart after that and things were never the same. I don’t know when, but at some point, I decided it was time to find her, regardless of the consequences. The Elders had strictly forbade any search parties for her, and said that she was to be designated as a Disowned. Which meant that we all had to act like she had never existed.
I take a left and feel a small opening that is almost hidden by the curvature in the wall. I’m amazed that Katy could have found this place—she could have been a Tracker too. I push my way through, and it widens into a large open space. I feel against the wall to get a better sense of the magnitude, and there is a small rectangular piece that is protruding from the wall. I try to get better dimensions, when it tilts downward and suddenly light floods the room. I gasp. We have fires at the Den, but nothing like this. The whole cave is illuminated and is filled with items that I have never seen before.
Most people in the Clan have never been taught to read or write, but my family was different. My mother served as the librarian for the rare books that came from the surface—mostly containing how-to books foir hunting, gathering, and how to read and write. The Elders taught us over the years that mankind had angered the gods and banished us to live down below.
As I gaze around me, I am starting to realize that they have omitted a lot from their teachings. There are books upon books. One called Skyscrapers, and shows silver, gleaming buildings that reach far into the blueness of the sky. Sky that I have never seen in my 15 years. There is a book on something called whitewater rafting, which shows people in orange vests flying through torrents of water. I immediately feel jealous. We only have deep pools of water—a resource that is heavily guarded by the Elders.
In the corner, I see a red rectangular container sitting on four black legs. I finger the letters on the surface. It reads Freeman’s barbecue grill, and next to it, an odd looking pair of chairs that recline with stripes of different color- white and green (I’ve never seen colors in this bright light before), that read Thigpen Lawn Chairs, Inc. whatever that means.
Then I see a sheaf of paper sitting on top of one of the stack of books. I take a closer look and realize that it’s a letter to me from Katy. I never realized Katy had paid so much attention to lessons with Mama. I can only write a handful of words, but it is clear she knows more than that.
Dear Leah, I’m sorry I left without you, but I knew you wouldn’t believe me until you discovered the truth by yourself. You always did follow the rules. But I hope you find this place, and then find me. I will be waiting for you. Here is a map of where I am going, and you won’t believe the wonders that the Elders have been keeping from us. They have been stealing from us, and it’s time that we take back what is ours. I miss you terribly already and cannot wait to see you again. Katy.
I unfold a map. Wow. She is a talented artist as well. I realize there is a lot I don’t know about my sister. The map is a path to the Surface. My eyes widen in shock. She made it out there. The Elders have taught us from birth there is nothing up there, just devastation. But the books and items in the cave as well as the words from my sister suggest otherwise. I’m glad I took enough water and food to last me a while. I’m going to need it. I head out of the cave, one step closer to my sister.
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