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The Lasting

Hailey Capobianco, Literary Contributor

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The wind hits Jensen’s face with a sting, his hands grip at the rough vines and his feet scrape against the chipped bark of the trees. The sky is an awful yellow today, a burnt lemon color; the pollution from the city has caused the sky to vary in extreme colors. Jensen lands on the makeshift deck his father built; it looms over the forest floor at almost 200ft high. He pulls back the deer hide hung as a door, and enters into the house. It’s built around a large tree attaching to many others around it. The floor made of branches and woven sticks and leaves.

“Mum, what are you cooking?” He asks as a potent smell wafts through his nose. He sneezes before walking over towards her. The fire she has built is on a pile of rocks. She has placed a larger rock in the center with three squiret on it. Squirets are the most common pests in the forest, three headed blue birds with orange tails; and they have a citrus flavor.

“They flew in the port (hole in the wall) this morning, so I had Jared catch them for lunch.” She says, her voice melodic and low, she sits cross-legged next to the pit and reaches out with two sticks tied together and flips them, the feathers flutter off and turn an ashy green in the fire.       “Ah, well I won’t need one tonight; I am going to scout tonight.” Jensen walks over and looks out the port. Across the trail another family is building a home, lower than theirs.

“Would you bring a squiret to our new neighbors? They’ve come from Freigh.” At the sound of this place, Jensen turns and gives his mother a frown.   “You know, mother, they aren’t friendly in Freigh. I’ve traveled over their groundings, and they’re always rioting and killing people.” He makes reference to another Lasting colony on the boarder of what used to be Mexico and America.   “Not everyone has the chance to settle in Yamak at first,” she says and tosses a squiret at him. He catches it and sighs.  “If I don’t come back, they’ve decided I looked better than the squiret.” His attitude causes her to shoot him a scowl. He jumps out the port and slides down the curved branch to the tree they’re building on.

“Hello,” he announces, and they look up at him, their native colors gleaming around their eyes, a dark red painted over their bodies. Yamak’s color is black. The youngest boy points his spear at Jensen.  “I just thought we’d bring you some squiret. My mother is known to get the metallic taste out of the meat.” He tries a smile, and the old woman reaches out for the bird. He hands it down to her and she ravages it immediately. Her children start jumping and shouting, reaching for the bird. Jensen watches in horror as they so viciously tear at the bird; he slowly backs up and jumps up grabbing a branch before flinging his body over it.

Yamak is known for the highest trees and the least amount of pollution from the city because of it being right outside the city’s glass that the pollution they filter out goes right over them and into Greit. (A grounding known for mutated Lastings.) Haremin is right behind Greit, and they’re one of the scariest groundings around, cannibals, sacrifices, and living mutants.

Jensen springs past his home and further towards the glass around the city. As the branches clear from his view and the city comes into sight, he feels his heart skip a beat. Ever since he was allowed past Yamak, he’d loved coming to the edge and looking into the city.  Of course he’d always have to bring gumberries, a type of sweet berry found up high in the Yamakan tree, to bribe the guards not to kill him and let him look into the city.

“Henderson!” Jensen calls out for the guard. Henderson is a large product of the city, a brutal blonde man with orange eyes; his arms reach up into the tree and Jensen lays the berries in his palm. One of Jensen’s hands equals the size of Henderson’s thumb.  Henderson pops them in his mouth and smiles, his teeth dyed purple from the popping of the berries. He stomps away and patrols around the great circumference of the city’s glass dome.

Jensen lays his loin cloth smooth across the branch and lies on his stomach to watch the wonderful flow of the city’s rhythm. This city’s sky is a brilliant blue today; the clouds a fluffy white instead of the mucky brown he sees all day. They have tall glass structures that people go in and out of. They’ve got whimsical boxes that move above the ground after people get in them. The people wear a lot of cloth on their bodies, covering every inch. They wear color on their faces only, and only the women. All of this puzzles and amazes Jensen.

He waits until it’s almost too dark to see, the sky inside the city is a brilliant pink and the sky around it a horrid charcoal. He stands up and wraps himself before going home. He takes his time. When he slides through the port, his father is the one sitting up in the main room; he’s got a fire burning for light next to him. “Where were you?” He asks. His father is a larger man, his hair reaches his shoulders and his arms are thick from building tree homes and flinging himself around.

“Does it concern you?” Jensen’s father sighs and walks toward the pit and grabs some of the meat leftover.

“I am your father,” he says, monotone and unconcerned. Jensen walks over to the sleeping area and turns away from his father as he lays on the soft hide. They sleep on a stretched animal hide tied to branches.

“Tell your mother I went out when she wakes,” Jensen’s father mumbles before putting out the fire and exiting the home.

Jensen looks up at his brother’s hide and then over to his mother. Her hair is thrown over the edge in a tangled, overworked clump, and her boney shoulder sticks through it. He sighs, seeing how thin she has gotten since his father started leaving.

When Mary and John, his parents, first started a family, they were a happy couple, raising their children and traveling above other groundings together. Then John started staying out later without them, leaving early in the morning and not telling anyone what he was doing. Mary never had the courage to ask him about it, but Jared and Jensen saw the worst of their mother’s breakdowns.

The sun rises and Jensen looks up around his brother and sees the sky is a bright purple today. Jared looks down and his hair flows down around his face and a wide smile perks up.    “Jensen, can we go out today?” He asks. Jensen returns his smile and nods.   “If mom is feeling well,” he says. Jared jumps down and starts toward the pit. Mary is sitting up next to it with some jackepy cooking. Jackepies are large, rodent type animals with four eyes and no mouth. Their meat gives for a nice meal as long as you pair it with the liquid from the skull.  Jackepy is Jared’s favorite breakfast meat.

“Want me to grab some berries for jam, Ma?” Jensen asks and she nods, “If you would, hun,” she says. He climbs up the tree and wraps his legs around the highest branch and picks as many berries as his hands can safely fill. He slides down and places the berries next to the pit.

“Jared, your markings are fading and smeared.” Jensen announces as he looks at his brother, the black around his eyes has been rubbed across his cheek and the markings on his chest have been scratched through.    “I can’t ever do them right,” he says, and Jensen walks over to the paint and brings it over to his brother. He gently brushes his thumb around his eyes and watches the fresh black cover the old. Jared closes his eyes and let’s his brother redo his markings.   “All better.” Jensen says and taps his brother’s shoulder. Jared runs back to his mother and begins helping her with breakfast.

“How about I grab us a deer for dinner, Ma?” Jensen asks. She laughs and nods.  “That’d be a miracle, Jen,” she says, and he laughs.   “Just watch,” he says as he pulls his weight out the port and through the tree tops. The deer in the forest have six legs, a side effect of the city’s waste.

Jensen moves quietly over homes and other travelers looking down for a sign of wildlife. Although even if he saw anything, he had forgotten his spear, so he’d have to let it go.  He finds his way over to the city where he sits and watches for a moment before Henderson makes his way around to him. “Berry?” He asks in an expectant tone.   “Of course,” Jensen says and holds out his hands, full of berries. He drops the berries in the giant’s palm and watches Henderson smile before walking away.

Jensen gets comfortable and watches the life move within the glass dome. The dome reaches so high that he can’t see the top or the end. Today he watches the neighborhood area instead of the city. A lot of the houses are bigger than the trees in their yards; the kids are running around fully clothed. The house right below him is the biggest, a giant white home with two large trees on both sides. A giant water hole is decorated in the front yard, and a young girl lies next to it. Her legs are pulled up and she holds what seems to be a booklet of papers; a lot of those are lying around in the dumps behind the groundings.

She has dark hair, and it shimmers a reddish color. He watches her until she gets up and folds her papers together and shoves it into a bag. She is about to turn when she looks over into the forest and catches his eye. He holds her stare until she turns, frightened. Jensen likes how clean her face is, no paint or birth marks. She has a thin face with no mutations; she reminds him of his mother. She walked off and toward one of the floating boxes, and gets inside.

Jensen stands and leaps across on trees to follow the box until he can’t see it anymore. He sits until the sun falls and he must go back, then he suddenly remembers his promise of deer. How is he to get a deer so far from any of their known beddings? Jensen flies through the treetops watching the ground through the branches; his eyes have adjusted to the darkness and he may have an hour until it’s pitch black.

A rustle causes him to freeze; he looks for the sound, but he can’t see anything moving. The rustle comes again, and he turns. He’s face to face with a lepro, one of the city’s failed protection mutations. Before Henderson, scientists tried to create animals to patrol and kill anything that came at the city, but then the lepros went rogue. The lepros went into the forest, were further mutated by the pollution and became living disasters. They would run into groundings and tear apart the inhabitants, leaving their torn bodies in trees and other groundings. They aren’t common and Jensen had never seen them, only heard stories.

Now he stares into the lepro’s eyes, a resilient yellow, and he takes in a silent breath. He can hear its low breathing and see its body heaving from its size. Jensen knows he has to act quickly; lepros are ruthless and there are no survivors once someone is caught. The beast snarls and shows its teeth. Jensen realizes his arm is hung over a good-sized branch and conceives a plan. Jensen is strong enough to rip off the branch and jump higher in the tree before the beast can register his change in position, then brings the branch down onto the lepro’s back.

Jensen breaks off the branch and leaps up into the branch above.  The beast is smarter than he anticipated and leaps along with him. He tries to get higher, but it keeps pace and chases him around the tree. He springs to the next tree and turns to see it leaping over. He holds the branch out at the center of its chest at just the right moment, and the force from the beast impales it on the branch—right through the animal’s chest. The lepro cries out and falls over 100 feet to the ground, sending a flock of birds into the sky.

“Gotcha!” He sighs and leans back against the tree in relief before sliding down to retrieve his kill.
 

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