The outside world was unknown to her, but she could see a glimpse of it through the window in his room. In the near distance, she saw trees—a few blackened trunks with some bare branches. There were two mountains in her view too, that loomed above the trees.
That was all she could see. Marlowe didn’t know what time it was, and she didn’t really care. She was supposed to be doing her chores, but she wouldn’t start until Malachi told her to. She wanted to take some time to think about their situation.
She had been born in the Labyrinth and had never left. The world, she was told, was toxic with radiation. They had to stay inside.
But Marlowe wanted to explore outside, despite the danger. She wanted to know what snow felt like, to smell the woods, to run in the grass. She only knew these things as words and nothing more.
Malachi had called her to get to work. Marlowe turned away from the window with a view of the mountains that she wanted to climb. Meters that monitored the air outside told them when it would be safe to go out into the world, but that notice had never been given in her lifetime.
Malachi, her older brother, had known the world. He had been outside before it was unsafe. Every night, Marlowe pestered him with questions about it. She couldn’t tell if his stories about the world were real or fiction, but she liked them anyway.
Marlowe’s biggest job was to water the plants in the greenhouse, keeping their fruits and vegetables alive. All their food was grown indoors, in the Labyrinth. She worked with Christy, the head gardener.
As she watered, she thought about being on top of one of those tall mountains that she had seen through the window. What was it like to be up that high? She thought about the views.
She never said such musings out loud to anybody. She would be laughed at, that she knew.
She gave the plants a look. She was sick of eating salad.
Malachi came rushing into the greenhouse.
“The meter says it’s safe to go outside!” Malachi said. He was breathing hard but smiling.
“Don’t make stuff up, Malachi,” Marlowe snapped as she moved on to the next plant.
“No, really! The Council said we could venture out today! You should put your name on the list.”
She looked up. The list was a list of names of those who would be chosen to be first to go outside.
“What about you?” She didn’t want to leave her brother behind.
“I’ll go with you, if you want me to.”
Did she want him to go? Yes, she did. They would experience the world together.
“Okay, let’s go put our names on the list.” She put her watering can down and they left the greenhouse, stepping out into a hallway and walking to an open area where the list was pinned up on a wall near the doorway to the world. They added their names. Marlowe smiled at their names, side by side.
Later, the whole community was called to a meeting. They had to decide who on the list would get to go outside. Only six of the more than forty who had signed up would be chosen.
Marlowe could barely sit still through all the talking about choosing the select ones. She just wanted to hear her name called. When it was called out, she almost missed it. Her brother’s name, on the other hand, was not called. She looked at him. “Go on,” he mouthed at her.
She went to the front of the crowd, standing among five others. Then the chosen six walked out of the room to cheers from the community members, to line up at the door to the world. When the door was opened, Marlowe shielded her eyes from the intense sunlight. She stepped out onto the gritty black sand. She closed her eyes and breathed in the world’s air. It smelled fresh. She couldn’t help but smile. She was free of the Labyrinth.
She started walking forward. She would climb one of the mountains.
About the Creator
I am Fiona Howell, an Irish musician and a writer hailing from New Hampshire, US. I have two books out on Amazon: The Locked Box and Blackwood. I have three poems published in anthologies by the Peterborough Poetry Project.