This week, we return back to Amanda McWhorter’s story for the enticing conclusion of her dystopian tale. The enigmatic nature of the first half of the piece comes to a close as we discover what the clues meant and fill in the colors of the world that had begun to form around these characters. In a world where people are executed before a crowd and characters have numbers rather than names, we wonder why things are as derelict and what can be done in this universe to change the unbalance of order.
2359 was scared. That much was obvious. It’s been so long for them all, they had forgotten what They look like. Void stepped forward. Her kinked hair styled artfully at the top of her head, a white dress spilled down her short body. It was in sharp contrast to her espresso skin. She wore a kind smile on her face and stood at the mouth of the newly-opened closet. The closet that appeared not to be a closet at all.
2359’s thin body pressed to the back of the door and tears were in her green eyes. Void’s arms were raised. When 2359 reached for the knob, Void spoke.
“Can you understand me?”
2359 turned with caution and examined the other woman. She nodded.
“The child has done well. Though, he is not a child as I’m sure you noticed.”
Void took 2359’s silence as a sign that she was welcome. She stepped forward, lifting her dress at the edge, and sitting down on the floor. The pale woman watched her, but mostly she took in the pigment of her skin. A color she’d never seen before.
“It’s okay to come closer. We can’t be overheard here, I promise you.” Void’s voice was smooth. Soft on 2359’s ears, she relaxed. She took a step forward.
“Do you remember how to speak as well?”
2359 nodded to her. Void gave her another easy smile.
“I’m known as Void. I already know you’re 2359. Would you like to know why I’m here?”
2359 took another step closer and spoke, her voice shaky and unsure, “Y-y-yes.”
“To save you. All of you.”
The pale woman tilted her head in confusion, her dark long hair falling across her eyes.
Void tried again, “To open all the congregations. To return things to the way they used to be.”
2359 tilted her head to the side and squinted. The frustration began to show in her fidgety fingers and bouncing feet.
“No more white walls. Blue skies,” Void kept the light smile on her face.
2359 stepped back, recoiling at her words. She watched Void with wariness. Void kept her expression the same, hoping that the other woman would see her reasoning.
“Skies,” 2359 repeated. A small smile crossed her face. “Mother.” She looked out towards the dark passage where Void had emerged.
“Wait,” Void said.
2359 turned her gaze back to the woman who still sat calm on the floor, watching her with the same kind brown eyes.
“I need your help.” Clearing her throat lightly she rephrased it in a way she knew 2359 would understand. “The screens. Executions.”
As expected, 2359 lost her warm glow. She was back to the door and was almost in the corridor before Void gained her feet.
“2359,” she called.
The woman was conflicted. She wanted to leave. But, curiosity shined on her face. It was a struggle.
“You wear black. Your mother wore black. Her mother before her. Don’t you wonder why? Why you stopped learning? Speaking? Working? Where the babies went?” Void was pleading now. Tears clung to her thick eyelashes as she took another step forward.
“The congregations need you. They need our help. There isn’t much time left. No more executions. No more screens. Blue skies.”
“No blue sky for me?” 2359’s mouth was tight. She knew the answer, but she had hopeful eyes as she watched Void.
Void wiped at moistened cheeks as she took another step forward lifting her arm to close the half-open door. She shook her head.
“No. No blue skies for 2359.”
2359 was huddled in the corner. Her eyes were lost, focused on something farther away than the wall. Her cheeks were red. Hard breaths shook her chest as she lost herself in her thoughts. Void took one step back, and then another.
Void watched her stare forward.
She cast a look at the darkened corridor and without a second thought, she stepped close to 2359 and grabbed her hand, squeezing tight.
“Yes. Blue sky for 2359.”
The dark woman leads you through the last doorway. Fear is eating at your middle, but there is also something else inside fighting against it. Mother always mentioned Blue Sky. She would cry when she talked about it.
Another corner is turned. Your hand is given a squeeze. It is strange, but nice. Void gives you another smile and she pulls you quicker behind her.
You see it. Large. Larger than you would have ever thought possible above you. The woman gives your hand another squeeze but you don’t feel it as you watch the fluffy white streaks in the sky move. A large collection of fire hangs high nestled in the blue. It beats against your skin, soaking into it and letting you feel warmth. The clouds move and the ball of light brightens, then burns. You look away as your eyes begin to ache.
Behind you is the doorway. The complex is wide and long. It takes up the whole field. Dark brown dust is beneath your feet. It is a large box. There are no cracks for the light to come through.
You look back toward the blue expanse. Blue Sky. Without a thought, you lower yourself to the ground. The black frock covering your skin is dirtying, but your focus is on that sky. You avoid looking at the light and focus on the wisps and the blue.
Void kneels beside you, her eyes bouncing around the hill. She seems scared, but she smiles the same nice smile to you.
The wisps merge and tilt as they scatter across the Blue Sky. A smile, the same as the dark woman’s, comes across your face.
You understand now.
The screens and executions. They keep you from this: the clean air, the white wisps, the ball of light, and the Blue Sky.
Void grabs your hand again.
You nod. She helps you up and you head back to the opening in the white structure. The halls are still as dark as they were the first time you passed through them, but this time they do not make you feel afraid. Something blossomed inside of you while you took in the world outside.
The world that you belonged to. That is what the tortured woman meant. She wanted you to know that these rooms, these walls, they are not the world. It is a world, but not the right one. The right world is covered in blue, not white. She leads you through the opening and back inside the closet.
Everything is as you left it, and yet, it is different. The walls seem whiter. The air is colder, heavier.
You turn back to her. She is giving that same kind smile.
“Yes. White wall. Yes.”
She starts to cry again, but she still smiles. It is a sad smile.
“Thank you, 2359.” After twisting at her sleeve, she leans in and grasps you tight to her, squeezing. You do not know what to do so your arms hang at your sides.
“Read it again after I’m gone,” she whispers as she lets me go. Brown fingers hold up the note and you nod taking it.
Void walks away, not looking back. You open the note and repeat the phrase aloud. The wall slides and shudders until there is nothing but a small closet around you again. Looking down at the paper, you run your fingers along the words again. Then, the paper is in your mouth.
Everyone is sitting down to their meals. Eating in silence, gazes avoiding each other. You walk to the center of the room, smile still high on your cheeks.
“Blue Sky!” you shout.
Every eye is on you now and you nod to them all, the sea of black frocks and white skin.
“Blue Sky, outside. Remember?”
Your voice is cracking. Tears are in your eyes, but you keep talking.
“Blue Sky. Our home.”
The white wall opens. Men dressed in white march in, grabbing at your shoulders, arms, and legs.
“No home,” you scream, “Remember Blue Sky,” you flail against the arms holding you. “Remember!”
Your mouth is covered but you keep your eyes on the crowd. They have to remember.
You are dragged backwards.
The wall slams shut.
McWhorter’s use of delay is one of the most powerful aspects of this story. We start in an uncertain world where something is happening that, not only do we not understand, but the character doesn’t understand. It is scaffolding that morphs into a fully formed world by the end of the piece, picking up details and explanations along the way. Her use of description is both evocative and telling. A real treat for the WPN readers.
Check back with us next week for some more fun and compelling content.