Title: One Who Walks Away From Omelas
Summary: Original work. Based on Ursula K. LeGuin's "The One Who Walk Away from Omelas"
Comments: This is for my AML 3041 class. It is a creative response, as opposed to a critical analysis, and I'm rather pleased. Critique is heavily encouraged. (Sorry if I'm flooding your f-lists.)
One Who Walks Away From Omelas
She stepped back into the sun, her eyes aching. For a moment, she was plunged into darkness until her eyes adjusted in a flash. Her parents walked ahead, laughing as though they had not just shown her the contents of the broom closet. A few other children ran out from the house behind her, shouting about going to play in the fields. Her blood thrummed in her ears, and she heard herself say no.
How quickly they had pushed the sight and smell to the back of their minds. Somehow, she could not do the same. Her feet burned with the need to escape. Her chest felt clenched, and pressure seemed to burden her back.
Go, and never look back.
As a child she had raced through fields, her bare feet dancing on the grass. Smells were sweet, and the happiness of existence was constant. She was loud in her happiness, exuberant in her happiness, enveloped in her happiness. The bottoms of her feet were rough, brown and green like the ground they raced over.
Her mother laughed as she scrubbed her in the bath tub, the hot water unable to completely eradicate all traces of the earth. Her mother called her “My little sapling, sprung from the earth.” In those moments, she was happy. She imagined herself bursting from the earth, her arms sprouting up toward the sky, and her fingers reaching toward the sun like leaves. She would hold up her pruned fingers in the bathroom light and imagine the translucent green they would be in the sunlight.
The moon beckoned her away. Her feet did not dance over the fields, they were heavy now. She did not know where she was going, where she would wind up. For the first time she felt the rocks in the ground, pressing against the soles of her shoes.
Thanks for Visiting Omelas! Hope to See You Back Real Soon!
No one ever came back to Omelas.
Twelve years is not a long time to exist, but it was how long she had. She still slept with a stuffed animals, she had barely started to notice boys her own age. She still wished for doll houses and she still jumped from the swings as she played.
She hadn’t learned to cry gracefully yet. She wiped snot from the back of her nose, tripping as she walked up the incline of the mountain. She was lost. The world was big, and all she had ever known was Omelas. Who knew what was beyond that small paradise. Bright green, bright blue.
Bright white lies.
Had that child ever seen the fields of Omelas? Had their father thrown them into the river as they laughed, water spraying upward like tiny diamonds in the sun? Had their mother sung to them when they caught the flu?
She hoped that child had not felt the feelings of happiness that came with living in Omelas. She wanted it to be stupid. Blind. Deaf. She wanted it to feel nothing. She wanted it to be an animal. She wanted it to worship nothing, and she hoped it would die young, oblivious to what had been missed.
It was better not to know, because losing the beauty of Omelas was the worst possible feeling. To be locked in the dark after knowing that is crueler than knowing nothing but the darkness.
She hugged her arms close to her as she descended the mountain. Her hands were scraped from climbing. She could no longer see the lights of Omelas.
From the summit, she had seen a town that wasn’t as bright as Omelas. She wondered if she would be welcomed. She was scrawny and her hair fell lank around her face. Her dress was torn and her shoes worn through. Her lip was swollen from where she had cut it, when she tumbled down at the beginning of her descent. She felt more like a potato than a sapling. Covered in earth and hidden from the sun.
She licked her lip, and it was coppery.
You don’t need the sun to grow. Water rises and falls with the moon. All the sun does is evaporate water.
They were used to people coming from over the mountain. No one asked where she came from, she was simply thrust into a gray house with two people who told her it was only temporary. A woman scrubbed her down, and the water was black when she got out.
Eventually she left. It was still too close. The smell of feces, the darkness of that broom closet, loomed over her like a specter. It chased her, dogging her at the heels. The town was too full of people who had left Omelas, but had fooled themselves into thinking they might go back some day. They just needed to adjust to the idea.
She didn’t want to adjust.
Years passed. She built a new life. She met a man. Late into the night, she would talk about Omelas. The brightness, the beauty, the tastes. The price.
“How could you walk away?” he asked, his fingers tracing her collarbone.
“It was too heavy,” she answered, stretching her hand toward the moon, fanning out her fingers like branches. “The price was not worth it. Because no matter how wonderful it was, it was a lie. A terrible, terrible lie.”
The shadow of her outstretched hand looks like water, soaking the sheets straight through.