This story is based on the writing prompt from Muse on Monday – June 27.
Tremors from Eden
I still remember the first time I leaned against the wall and heard music. It was not complete: just like the trash I scavenged which was stripped of nutrients and value, the melody was undetectable and only the refuse of a thumping beat crossed over to my side. But I could fill in the missing notes and for an hour or two, it was like I was inside.
I don’t know how long I had been wandering alone in the desert after the two girls with me disappeared. But when I came across the concrete wall blocking my path, I just stopped. I don’t know how far the wall extended in either direction but I never tried to find out. I scavenged enough garbage to make a shelter and only went out when hunger forced me to find things to eat.
The days were cold, and I piled rocks on the edge of the tarp to keep the wind out before crawling inside to huddle by the wall with my ear pressed to it. It took only a second before the heartbeat of the city inside came to me. The dropping whoosh of vehicles moving by on the other side was the most regular. I could picture the road—smooth and well-maintained with no holes or cracks for the wheels to bump on. These were not like the cars I had known before, tired machines that clanked and growled like an old man. These purred and I could picture them gliding over the road like spring breeze.
Sometimes I even heard people talking on the far side as they walked past less than an arm-length from where I sat. The wall filtered out the words, but the tone was light and gentle, moving up and down like waves on a lake. Then, like punctuation, the tone would jump high and ripple back down in laughter. It was a city of ease and I never once heard a shout or harsh tone.
There were other sounds that formed the pulse of the city: whines and whistles and vibrations from far away. They filled in the background of the city, giving it depth and breadth.
Then came the day when I heard the voice.
I woke up suddenly. From the stillness of the city, I could tell it was night.
“Hey! Joshua, are you there?”
The voice was coming from above, but I knew it was on my side of the wall, if only because I could understand the words.
“Who are you?” I asked. They were the first words I had spoken since the two girls had disappeared. I coughed and repeated it.
“You can talk, that’s good!” the voice said. It was a girl’s voice and seemed close above my shelter. “Sorry for calling you Joshua. That’s just what we’ve been calling you. What is your name?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Who are you?”
“My name’s Netra,” the girl said. “If you don’t have another name, I’ll just keep calling you Joshua, if that’s okay. Our class was using thermal imaging and we spotted you on the other side of the wall. We’ve been watching you for some time, trying to learn about your life. We knew you were human and you moved around sometimes, but mostly you just stayed still. A few times we thought you might be dead but your body heat never cooled. We finally decided to put a ladder up against the wall and come talk to you. The rest of the class is just on the other side. They’d love to talk to you. By now, we all feel like we know you.”
I didn’t know how to respond to this, so I stayed silent. A minute passed before Netra spoke again.
“Do you want to come inside?”
“How?” I answered at last. The other side of the wall was a million miles away but it was hard to convey this to Netra, who had crossed it with a single step, it seemed.
There was low talking, as if Netra was talking to someone else. “I’m on a small platform,” she said and her voice began lowering until it was just outside my shelter. “Some of my friends are at the top of the wall and lowered me down. If you come out, we can go back up together.”
I believed her as much as I could, but that was enough to let me rip the tarp away and stand up. Sure enough, a platform had materialized next to me, ropes creaking softly and Netra’s well-made shoes tapping on a sturdy metal base.
She helped me onboard and then we were rising up, the cold air moving past me. We moved into a bubble of low voices and the platform stopped. There was a gasp and the voices stopped.
“Oh, Joshua,” Netra said and her tone was mixed with shock and pity. “We had no idea.” I felt tentative fingers touch my eyes and the deep scars on my face. “Don’t worry about anything. We’ll get you clothes, food, and a place to live. My father is a doctor. He’ll get you healthy. Maybe he can even do something for your eyes.”
I let the other wrap me in a blanket and I felt them guide me to a ladder and help me down as if I were made of glass. I had just stepped off onto cool grass when I heard the vibrations of music, overlaid now with a faint melody.
I felt someone take my arm. “This way,” Netra said. “It’s not far to my house.”
I resisted the pull and pointed. “Can we go this way first?” I asked. “To the music?”