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#BookbedFictory 021: ‘To Be’

by Eko
This year’s Fictory is for a cause. We donate P100 to a chosen beneficiary for every fic submitted this July. Participate here if you can. Enjoy this one!

Prompt: You’ve only got two choices to survive: go up or go down.

As soon as I emerged into the world, I was told the only way to survive is to either go up or down. It was engraved in my core. 

My parents disappeared when I was young; most adults did. The remaining ones were taxed with our care. They told us of the world that used to be – bigger and greener, where they were free to roam and hunt for food, to meet and mate, to play and immerse in pleasure. They were zealously in pursuit of that fantasy. Eventually, they too vanished. 

Since then, those like me were left to fend for ourselves. We stayed down and lived in a small camp. Food was scarce and we were wary of the rain but at least, we wouldn’t die from thirst. 

Our world is a nightmarish, kill-or-be-killed, gray pit. With my petite stature, I was more inclined towards being killed so I never risked leaving. 

Not everyone is like me, though. Some have sought to ascend but going up means going through the mysterious middle so contenders would have to be swift and reckless. Indigo, the fastest among us, made his first and last attempt when the sun was a golden blaze and clouds didn’t plague the sky. My eyes stalked him until the sunbeams blinded me and shielded his trail. In a flash, Indigo’s figure was tumbling down. We rushed and witnessed him gasping – half his body scorched. He died when the night cast its shadow and the river glistened with the moonlight. 

The air absorbed dampness from the soil and the sun had brought about a drought in the following days. Soon after, food had become even scanter. Many have died from famine and many were dying from thirst. The chances of survival down here had also become emaciated. 

Cornered, it seemed to us that the middle may be our only salvation. But none of us knew exactly what mystery the middle cradles; those who have gone on a quest never returned. Some speculated it was because they had found paradise but there were also rumors of formidable threats dwelling there. 

The sky had been a transient bruise healing and recurring over and over yet we still weren’t able to come across a decision. With each fleeting moment, our numbers and hopes were shrinking. 

One day, a gash of wind shuffled the leaves and branches, beckoning an oncoming distress. Dark clouds cloaked the sun; others saw this as an opportunity to go up and so they did. Those who were terrified, including myself, remained on the ground to fortify our camp against the looming storm. 

One by one, heavy drops of rain fell and one by one, those who tried to go up did too. 

We thought it would be best if we rode this storm out but soon, drops became puddles became flood, threatening to swallow us whole. We could no longer stay down. Disregarding which way to go, we braved the storm. I was oblivious to how many we were when we left the camp but I discovered there’s now only a few with me. The others may have gone to an opposite direction; some may have been dragged down by the rain and drowned in the flood. 

The rain turned to drizzle before it completely stopped. We found ourselves in the middle. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had never seen a blanket of green this large; the sun was shining timidly behind trees and the wind softly brushed the grass. It was exquisite, out-of-this-world – indeed, a paradise! We roamed, played, ate, and indulged and did so again until the sun was a pale ocher and the roseate skies were tinged light purple. 

We were ecstatic and had let the walls of caution crumble down. 

Booming thuds and roaring clamors suddenly echoed. I didn’t know their origins but I was sure these weren’t thunder. Piercing screams of one of our own hauled us back to reality. 

A giant monster was holding Scarlet. My body felt frozen despite the warm breeze and I was caged in horror as I watched it take her. 

I saw more of them running towards us so I flew as fast as I could, narrowly brushing up against blades of grass. Being small meant I was quicker than these gigantic creatures. One of them was chasing and trying to capture me; I tried to lose it. I found a leaf to hide in; my green figure helped me blend within my surroundings. 

I turned to check whether I had eluded the monster and saw that it was now after the others. I was too distracted from relief to notice the two enormous eyes staring from behind me. Before I could try to escape, colossal digits had caught me. 

My captor ran back to its cohorts while gently clasping my body. I saw Scarlet and a few others on the ground and I was glad that they were alive. However, something was missing. I realized what it was and not long after, I knew I was going to end up like them. 

Before settling me down on the ground, the monster ever so delicately plucked my wings as if they were petals. 

I looked upon the leaves and branches waving down, their background navy and void of moonlit seeds. ☁️


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