[Fiction] Climbing, Climbing

When I applied for university to study a degree in English Literature, I was asked to submit two pieces of fiction. This was one of them. Orginally written 24/08/2010.

The sudden cold downpour kicks up a fine mist from the hot streets, the steam heavy with the stench of tar and waste. Grey water pours from above, pummelling into the tarmac road, determined to make a dent and prove their existence to the world. Instead, they create puddles of almost opaque black water, swirling rapidly as they are disturbed by other falling water droplets. The soiled water gets washed down the sewage lines, the same way many wish they could do with their bad feelings. Under the sheet of falling rain, the world looks black and white, the harsh edges subdued to various shades of soft grey. The smallest of sounds can be heard under the storms- maybe a child laughing, or the music a couple slowly dances to. Either way, it’s a sign of life under a dark canopy, but it gets slowly muted out by the rain that falls heavier and heavier, until people realise that, to get dry again, they’ll have to stop smiling and duck their heads down under a pretence of ignorance.

A young looking girl watches the world go by. She’s completely drenched and shivering slightly, but her face is blank, aside from her brown eyes that reflect sadness. She’s leaning against one of the many wide, heavy poles that are placed strategically across the city, to hold up the false sky. 

It’s still raining. 

A man in uniform shouts across the road for her to get the hell out of the way, because everyone knows you’re not supposed to go anywhere near the poles, let alone actually lean on them. When she ignores him, the man starts to make his way towards her, and the girl knows it’s time to act. If she gets caught, it’s not likely that she’ll get another chance. She whips off her backpack and pulls out a couple of thick ropes intertwined together and weighed down by a few weights. Swinging it around the pole, the girl uses it to levy herself up, inching her arms forward, then her legs, holding on with only the ropes and the rubber soles of her boots. By the time the man in uniform has reached her, she’s already 4 feet above his head. Still, it doesn’t stop him from jumping in desperation, uncaring of his dignity, panicking because no one is supposed to do this, so what is he supposed to do about it?

The girl squints down a little, laughing at the man, and grins widely at the bystanders who have stopped to watch, half fascinated, half horrified. Higher and higher she goes, until she’s past the level of most buildings, the windows of which are starting to fill with faces gawping in anger or surprise. Perhaps both. But she doesn’t have time to think about that. 

The rain, which had been reducing to a drizzle before, picks up again. The authorities have probably been informed by now. Water starts to fall in buckets, telling the girl that people are starting to cheer her on, however secretly. By the time it starts to hailstone, turning into a snow storm, the girl is grinning and laughing, uncaring of her aching muscles and frozen skin; because she knows that it means there are people supporting her right there and then. Finally, she reaches the top of the pole, and examines the fabric-like material which makes the sky. Remembering the time when she was younger and broke into the library archives, the girl thinks about the myth she had read, about when skies used to be blue, and no one knew how to control the weather yet. Perhaps it’s not a myth after all, she murmurs to herself, and pulls out a penknife to rip through the heavy material.

At once, to her surprise, the dark, coarse fabric splits like silk and the mixture of snow and hail falters, spluttering in horror. 

Slowly, the girl pushes her head out of the opening, starting to feel fear for the first time. A splash of vivid colours, so bright she wondered if she had been dreaming all along, hits her eyes and she all but squints, trying to make out where she is. 

It’s certainly not empty space, like she expected, but neither is it exactly solid ground. Pulling the rest of her body through, the girl gasps as the higher level of oxygen begins to take effect, and stumbles to the ground, laying on her back and staring at-

It wasn’t a myth. The sky has always been blue.

Under her fingers, she clenches a fistful of soft green, wondering if this was the grass that used to feed the animals, before food pills were introduced.

It’s so bright up here, dizzyingly so, that her eyelids appear a warm orange even when they’re closed. Despite all the books and vague illustrations the girl’s seen, even in the rare film, she’s never quite understood the concept of colour, besides grey and black and sometimes a greenish beige when food pills went out of date. But this, this is different, and so overwhelmingly wonderful that her closed eyes begins to softly cry. And her body is so warm and safe, and she can feel happiness without getting punished by endless rain. It slowly dawns on her that she wants to sleep now. Her muscles don’t even hurt anymore (or maybe they do, but she just can’t feel it anymore). The new colours she’s encountered dance in front of her, reds and greens and soft blues and purples, pinks and violets and something else she can’t even begin to describe. Her smile widens when the sun softly embraces her in warmth, and her breathing slows, perhaps getting used to the changed oxygen levels. There’s something else, too, a soft crooning that maybe she hears, or maybe she can feel it, but either way it’s soothing and gentle and her heart, for the first and perhaps only time of her life, feels at peace. And finally she thinks that maybe, it’s okay. 

God, I wish I had done this sooner.

Best wishes,



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