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CYPRESS STORM

The trees grew in the valleys, thick and twisted. There used to be thousands of them—millions of them, maybe—but we needed them for our homes. It’s all there was, and we were in need of quick shelter when it came to colonization. They didn’t grow straight, and the boards from them were as twisted as they were. But we’d fit them together like puzzle pieces, and I think our homes are more beautiful because of it. They fit with the rest of the planet.

The elders called them cypress because their roots made knobby knees and they stood on the tops of their root systems like the cypress back home. I’ve seen pictures of the cypress back home, and I can see the similarities. But our trees are all twisty and they don’t live in swamps.

Like I said, they live in the valleys, and it’s easy to get lost in their forests.

I’m bored today. It’s hot and my chores are done. A storm is brewing. I can smell it in the still air. It makes me jumpy and restless. I lace my fingers through the chain-link fence that surrounds our little town. At dusk the electricity is turned on to keep out the predators. A siren sounds about a half hour before, and then in ten-minute increments after that, telling us to get our butts back to town or we’d be locked out. Our eyes are scanned as we come back through the entrance to the enclosure. It records our comings and goings, counting us to keep us safe.

I look at the trees in the valley and they seem restless like me.

With a sigh, I release the fence, and turn to search for my mother. I kick at the dust as I walk, stick my hands in my pockets. There are ways out of the town and back in, even with the electricity on. But you have to be a small kid like me and my friends. We’re all twelve. We were born shortly after we landed here. They call us the First Generation. We know nothing of back home.

This is our home.

I find my mother in the lab studying the life cycles of the predators. My father is a scientist, too. He looks for possible diseases that we would be vulnerable to since it’s not our home planet. They both work in what was once the space ship that carried them here. It’s in the middle of the town and our houses are built around that, and our fence is around that.

Like a wheel.

Our crops are grown down below in the flood plain of a river, where the soil is rich. It’s a hard life and we all pitch in to survive.

There are other towns like ours, built around other ships. In the summer months, when it’s safer, we visit one another.

I tell my mother I’m bored and she asks me if I’ve done all my chores and I say yes. She asks me if I remembered to clean the house, and I’ve forgotten so I turn and stomp out of her lab. I hear the smile in her voice when she tells me she’ll see me at dinner.

Our house isn’t very big, but it’s cozy. My father calls it a cabin. He says he used to go stay in cabins with his parents on vacations. He sometimes gets a sad, wistful face when he talks about it. I feel sorry for all our parents, because this isn’t their home, not really.

I touch the walls made of cypress and wonder if it hurt when we cut them down to make our walls. I’m sorry, I tell the wood…like it could hear me or something. It’s not the first time I’ve talked to it. I talk to the wood of our house a lot. It’s my secret, though.

I polish the walls and the counters and the furniture and the fixtures, and I sweep the dust from all the rooms. I linger over the pictures lined up on my parents’ dresser. I do that a lot, too.

Pictures of the ancestors I will never see.

I talk about that, too, with the wood of our house.

A rumble from outside tells me that the storm I smelled is getting closer, and I rush outside, thinking about how good the rain is going to feel on my skin.

The sky is dark and filled with angry-looking clouds. Already a wind is kicking up. Storms come fast, and I hear the siren telling the people farming in the flood plain to come back. I rush over to the fence and look down at the fields where the people are like small insects scurrying about, forming a line and moving up the trail to our town. It won’t take them long to get here.

A couple of my friends come over and watch with me. We try to see who can recognize the people first as they come over the lip of the valley trail. We wave and shout when we see Freddy, another of our friends, one of the First Generation.

I feel a hand on my shoulder the moment the thunder growls across the sky. It makes me jump, but it’s only my father.

Look down at the cypress forest, he tells me. Keep watching, he says.

Why, I wonder, but he doesn’t answer, so I watch as the lightning gets closer and closer and I feel the first drops of rain splash on my bare arms.

My father’s hand tightens on my shoulder.

My friends run to take cover.

Look! There! My father points toward the trees in the valley.

I follow the direction of his pointing fingerand see it. A bolt of lightening flashes and lands, square into the cypress forest, hitting several trees that begin to shimmer in rainbow colors as they absorb the energy. For an instant all is still. Then, the trees suddenly explode in a shower of glittering sparks.

I gasp, watching the wind gather the sparks and carry them high into the air. Little pinwheels of…something, I don’t know…come floating towards us on the wind.

I reach high, holding out my hands as the pinwheels float down around us, blinking the rain from my eyes.

My father chuckles and squeezes my shoulder.

I bring my hands down, squinting at the pinwheels in my hands that are slick with rain.

It’s how they reseed themselves, my father tells me, answering my unasked question.

I gently touch one. It’s luminous, like a jewel that’s lit from within. It feels alive in my hand. I feel as if I could speak with it and it would answer, but I am shy and do not.

Maybe later.

Come, time to get out of the rain, my father tells me, releasing my shoulder.

I ask him if I can keep one of the pinwheels.

He smiles and nods.

My home.

My trees.

CYNTHIA BRYN WILLIAMS 2012 to contact, click on following link: cb@cbwilliams.us