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 The Cornfields Were Burning

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Mesh'la Runi

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Posts : 74
Join date : 2010-07-23
Age : 28
Location : Orlando, FL

PostSubject: The Cornfields Were Burning   Sat Jul 24, 2010 4:04 am

The cornfields were burning. That was the first thing I noticed when I came above ground. Not the fact that the windows in the barn had shattered or the cabin's wooden planks were splintered and smoldering. Not the fact that there wasn't a single sound of wildlife to be heard, which was strange in these parts.

The cornfields were burning.

My family had moved to Waterloo, Nebraska when I was five, after my father's real estate agency in Boston went bankrupt. With no prospects and no clue how to keep his children fed, my father shipped us off to the middle of nowhere. He called it an adventure, but even I knew better. On the outskirts of town, we took over a little cabin nestled deep into the endless fields of maize. It was beautiful to be honest, like something one would see stamped onto a 5,000 piece puzzle and mass produced to show the rest of the country how people like us lived.

It didn't stay beautiful for long. Admittedly, we did our best in the beginning. My mother drove several miles out of the way to wait tables at a diner of questionable repute, only to drive all the way back every night in time to cook and clean at home. I could have sworn that she'd been born with dark circles under her eyes with the way she wore them. She never looked defeated though; her weariness made her proud, like what she was doing was for some noble cause other than just to keep herself afloat. But that was okay with me. She was the one who taught me never to let my roots keep me stagnant. Being stuck on an isolated farmland didn't mean we shouldn't always keep moving.

And so I did. My greatest escape was to run far into the expanses of the cornfields until I had completely lost sight of all civilization. During my younger years, this was easily accomplished, as I was shorter than the corn stalks by several feet and the further in I went, the more densely packed it became. I used to find a soft spot of dirt, plop down in my cotton dress, and lie back until I was staring at the clouds. It was soothing, listening only to the wind-borne whispers in the tassels and the distant sound of lowing cattle. Often, I would close my eyes and imagine another world, several hundred years past, but in the same patch of earth. Had my ancestors roamed this land? Or had they never traveled as far West as I? Surely there were other Native tribes in this area, whose names were long-forgotten to most. My own mother, whose broad, flat nose and naturally tanned skin clearly presented typical features of the indigenous American, could barely remember the word Wampanoag, let alone pronounce or spell it. Then again, she'd never been one for writing, as that usually required long periods of sitting still. Most unnatural for her.

Day in and day out, I would help with my chores: tend to the animals, clean the barn, learn the machinery that made our business possible. As I grew older, I was given more and more responsibility with managing commercial transactions, driving into town for supplies, and so on. Schooling was on a strictly home basis, but my father ensured that I got an education. He followed all of Nebraska's home schooling guidelines to perfection until he realized it was time for me to decide on my life's path.

I was nineteen the day my mother sent me to the storm cellar for a jar of fruit preserves, just a few days from submitting my college application letters. Although we usually kept a decent stock in the house, we always kept more than enough for emergencies in our little "bunker," so we'd often dip into the supply just a tad when rations ran out on the ground level. This day was fairly standard procedure for me. I'd finished scrubbing down the fancy husker machines we'd purchased just a few months earlier, and almost immediately been given yet another mundane task. Doing my best to hide the sulk in my steps, I trudged to the cellar like an obedient daughter and closed the door behind me, descending the ladder to the dusty depths below.

Tugging on the tattered string attached to the solitary lightbulb, I illuminated the room in a brilliant instant and scanned the rows of shelving for the intended item. Moments later I had the target in my sights and stepped over to the appropriate shelf. As I reached out my hand, a muted rumble grew closer and closer overhead. I paused, listening, bewildered at what could be going on. Suddenly, dozens of hooves clopped madly past the storm door, herd animals crying out in what I knew to be a very panicked sound. They were fleeing from something, stampeding to get away. How they had broken free of their enclosures I wasn't sure, but I was more curious about what had transformed their lazy grazing into terrified flight.

Swiveling around, I put a hand back onto the ladder when I felt the walls of the cellar shudder again, but it was much more violently than the first time. This was no stampede.

A sound I can only describe as the most deafening roar imaginable filled my ears, assailed by eardrums until I dropped to my knees and covered the sides of my head with palms pressed tight to my skin. Glass windows exploded into piles of sand, wooden supports turned to dust. The main supports, certainly the strongest part of any building, bent and creaked under the impact. A raging inferno of heat and force shoved its way mercilessly through my house as easily as a spirit might pass through any physical object, obliterating nearly everything in its path. All of this I was blind to.

And as suddenly as it began, it was over, the silence nearly as deafening as the chaos it had followed. Heart hammering in my chest, I made for the ladder once more, fear running through my veins. I reached the top and hesitated, then pushed up on the door.

The cornfields were burning.
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