"Momma, w-what is the outside l-like?"
"M'hm! The outside!"
It's really cold. It hasn't started snowing yet, but it's almost the middle of November, it will soon. There were flurries the other day, but you and your sister were asleep and all I could do was stare out the window and wish we weren't stuck behind gray, gray fence, and solemn-faced guards who either
hate hate hate their job
love torturing the people they're protecting.
I wish I could have woken you two up and showed you how pretty the flurries were: snow, caught up in the wind and making mesmerizing circle-like patterns before landing in a scattered heap on the cracked ground below, a thing not worthy for something so pure. I wish the snow would fall and melt and leave something beautiful behind. I wish the ground would absorb something other than the blood spilled by the people starving alongside us for being nothing but
"Nooo, momma! I mean outside of our city!"
"Oh! It's a really big place! You and Claire are so small, you two would get lost easily! I wouldn't let that happen though, I promise."
There used to be other houses. Small, quaint, nice, but lots of space to run in. That was called the suburbs. There were trees that you could sit under when you were tired or just wanted to relax and do just that.
Take your mind off of things, if just for a while. When it would rain, everyone in the neighborhood would sit under the safety of their front porch and watch each droplet silently hit the green grass. They would watch until the rain died down and the after-rain atmosphere would take over and some families would return inside while others would stay out and watch the mist settle and kids run and jump through puddles without a single care in the world.
Ground sits outside of Bethel, waiting to be trampled by frantic, broken soldiers protecting the city that tore them apart in the first place. Large craters like meteors in the barren wasteland, scarred, like those who walk upon it
Like those who live in the city behind it all
Like those who made it that way
But I won't let you know this. You don't have to know this. Just imagine what you want to imagine, color it the way you want it. A coloring book. It's your choice. I won't let you know that the outside is just as bad as the inside of this godforsaken place, and that your best bet is Lael. Inaccessible to us, almost like it doesn't exist.
"W-What about the ocean, momma?"
There is plenty of room to run around and to even swim in. You've been there once. Both you and Claire though you two wouldn't remember. You were both just a few months old when we visited, and all you did was sleep, but maybe you could still try to imagine. I want you to imagine. It's nothing like this horrid place we live in, it's much different.
It is the sanctuary outside of Bethel.
It has been years, but I remember how blue it was when it was this time of year. During snowfall it would not freeze, but snowflakes would linger on the surface long enough to admire them before they melted completely. The sand wasn't the prettiest colorgray, like it is herebut there was something about it that made it stunning in contrast with the blue, blue ocean before it. When you ran in the sand, it would leave footprints until the shore or some other force cleared it away. But not forever. Those could always be replaced. Always.
It is the same ocean, untouched by the horrors inflicted upon the land by the monsters living in Bethel. Though footprints no longer remained, the ocean still continued its daily cycle of rising and falling, brushing the tall grass that now surrounded the large body of water and making it wave to and fro. The snow still falls and disappears as it always has. Storms still kick up waves, send them crashing into the impenetrable walls surrounding our damned city. That is the closest thing we will ever get to seeing it again. Imagining. We do enough of it.
Imagining we are not rats trapped inside a concrete cage.
Imagining we are not starving.
Imagining we are still human.
"You never finished! W-What about the ocean?"
"Sarah, it's beautiful. It's wide and blue and goes on forever! You can swim in it, and look at seashells and fish and leave footprints in the sand! You can build sandcastles, and draw in the sand too! Not like the sand here either. It's almost like mush, but it's soft."
"I w-wanna draw there!"
"You'll be able to someday. What do you wanna draw?"
There is nothing beautiful in this country. Not in Lael, not in the funeral grounds, not in the Medical District, and certainly not in Belral. But the way Sarah waved her hands and lit up as she talked struck some amount of bittersweet beauty. Not the food she constantly talked about and not the horror happening around her. Something entirely different. Something painstakingly beautiful.
"I w-wanna draw lots of things! But my biggest picture w-will be the bestest! I'm gonna draw flowers and the sun and our family and all of our friends! I'm gonna draw the ocean too, and make it just as pretty as you s-said it was, momma. I'm not gonna drawn anyone s-sad or frowny, 'cause no one needs to be s-sad! Everyone in my picture is gonna be happy and s-smiling, and w-when everyone s-sees it, everyone is gonna s-smile and that w-will make everything all better! And no one w-will be s-sad ever again."