To catch up on parts one through five of Testimony of the Living, check out tmn.truman.edu.
I usually divide my life into two phases: the beginning of it and the rest of it. I think the transition happened during my junior year of high school, as I began to realize that Finder’s Point was never going to be the right home for me. It all began on a rainy day as I rode through town on the school bus. Autumn sat next to me, scribbling in her notebook, and I watched the raindrops roll across the window next to me.
It seemed like a typical day, but everything felt slightly off. Nothing seemed real; the town looked plastic through the glass. Cars looked like toys, the leaves on the trees looked synthetic. Even the quiet of the school bus, which was never very lively, felt manufactured.
I considered the feeling to be a side effect of starting off this school year fully aware and having admitted that I lived in a town that was caught between life and death. I assumed it was simply something I was more likely to dwell on now than I had been before. After all, I had watched the rain put a pall over the town my whole life. It never quite felt like Finder’s Point took a full breath unless it wasn’t raining. Rain broke the pattern; it forced shadows to do unusual things, like go outside.
Suddenly a flash of lightning cut up the sky and pulled a few comments from the silent students. Finally I realized what it was that felt different: the sky. It was a deep, slate gray color with dark, angry clouds. This was not the average rainy day in Finder’s Point. This was a storm.
Even more so than the normal rain, it felt as if the falling water and furious bursts of light and sound were pushing down against the town. The town was not merely taking shallow breaths today; it was gasping for air.
I nudged Autumn, wondering if she had even heard the thunder as she stared intently at the paper in her lap, pencil running back and forth across the page.
“Two seconds,” she muttered.
I waited patiently. The pencil stopped. She looked at me for the first time since she’d sat down. “What?”
I said, “It’s storming. The sky is punishing us, or attacking us, or something.”
I watched her eyes dart over to look out the window behind me, then back to my face. She looked down at her paper. Looked back up at me.
“Here,” she said, handing me the notebook. There was a moment of hesitation as my fingers took hold of it and I thought she might change her mind, but she let go.
I looked down to find a short poem in a rushed version of Autumn’s looping script. Above the lines, a raindrop was drawn where the title belonged.
Bullets fall from the sky killing
shadows, with no need for sunlight,
who are unaware of the battlefield
they are tethered to, who are
unaware that they are casualties
of a war that is not over.
As I finished reading the poem, I realized my hands were shaking slightly. The imagery was disturbing, but it felt true. Our town was constantly drowning, but nobody talked about it. Maybe the fight for the town hadn’t actually been won by the shadows in some striking defeat. Maybe it wasn’t a growing lifelessness that would eventually kill every breathing thing within it. Maybe it was simply a fight that the shadows had gotten tired of fighting. Maybe their state came not from having the life sucked out of their lungs, but by settling for shallower breaths.
Maybe it was merely a result of giving up.
It made my parents’ story seem so much more believable. I had never known what happened to bring them here. But maybe after a year of being adventurous teenagers who had thrown out the plan their parents had made for them, maybe they were just tired. Maybe they came here to settle down and ended up settling into a life that was dreary and monotonous and inescapable.
When we got off the bus, the rain felt different. Instead of feeling refreshing, the raindrops were like tiny needles pricking at my skin. I had long ago decided not to be a casualty, but I had just now been made aware of the ongoing attack. It was as if that knowledge had made me a soldier in the battle instead of a naive child watching from behind the scenes.
I remembered how Autumn preferred to stay out of the rain.
I remembered my mother suggesting I find a new hobby.
I realized that, perhaps, both of them had been seeing this for a very long time. It made me wonder if my mother was as far gone as I had always assumed she was. Perhaps the very thing I had taken as an example of her ability to build up real resolve was, in fact, one of the most insightful things she ever told me.
After that day, I didn’t spend much time in the rain.