So I posted my blog publicly, and I am thrilled to have three followers. I don't know if I will get more, of if you guys will actually read this thing, but I'm excited nonetheless.
For the third time, I have re-written this short story. I first wrote it in my senior year of high school, but I like it a lot. Now I changed it for my fiction workshop, but even if it were unsocilicted, I'd probably work on it anyways. I hope it's better. Critiques please?
The Water Bearer
I was surprised to see only a handful of people standing there when I reached the shore. It had taken me half an hour walk from the El stop, and my watch dimly reminded me that it was 7:15. The event, which was supposed to last all evening, had started at 6:30, yet there celebration hadn’t even started by the time I arrived. I looked out at the scarce amount of people gathered on the beach with disappointment. Tightly huddled together, standing where the sand met the sidewalk and looking very out of place, were three men wearing finely tailored suits. I perceived that the first one was a fat balding man wiping his glasses with a silk cloth; the second looked like a weasel, and kept darting his eyes from the sidewalk to the shoreline, and I could feel his discomfort and desire to leave even from my distance. The third man was the one whom I thought to be the Mayor, and I thought he looked quite healthy for a man that recently recovered from his first heart attack.
It was chilly that summer night—a good sign that the years of hot, blistering weather were soon coming to an end. A cool breeze drifted from the lake, sending goose bumps along my arms. I shivered as I took notice of the other onlookers. There was a young woman wearing a sundress made entirely out of hemp. I assumed that she was either one of the last PETA activists still standing, or part of the large political empire that was NORML. She was beautiful, with her long blonde dreadlocks, and I quickly turned away because I felt my face getting hot, and the blood rushed all throughout my body. There was a cluster of hipster men and women about my age, fidgeting nervously as they were no doubt suffering from the recent worldwide cigarette ban. I chuckled to myself, the thought of nicotine turned my stomach, and I silently congratulated myself because I had never been a smoker. Out of the corner of my eye, I took note of an elderly couple, standing barefoot with their toes sinking into the sand. Their presence made me feel calm, and I commended their bravery.
The beach was supposed to be decontaminated, but the sand was still covered in patches of a moldy, yellow-green, crystallized gunk. I looked down at my shoes, the laces double knotted, and knew that I was safe from any contact with the beach. I was scared that there might have been holes in my shoes, but I had inspected them thoroughly before I left, checking for loose seems or tears and was very relieved when I found none.
The water was a skewed shade of navy blue, which wasn’t much better than the black goop it used to be, but I took joy in any form of color, and the fact that the water could now reflect the hazy sky made me feel prideful for Chicago’s efforts. Tonight was the grand re-opening of Lake Michigan. It was proof that the Midwest was saved from artificially engineered water and weak solar power. Chicago’s economy would start thriving again, and it would become the safe haven from the deadly outer limits that I called America.
My attention turned from the sand and water as the mayor cleared his throat and addressed the crowd. I could not believe that such a small group of people had the courage to attend this piece of history. I worried that by standing here I was at risk of getting radiation from the beach’s purification. By the expression on everyone’s faces, I knew that I was not the only one with this thought on my mind.
“Thank you for attending this wondrous occasion! Chicago’s success with Project Green is truly a magnificent accomplishment,” the Mayor said, hands quivering as he backed as far away from the shore as possible. “We are proud to once again open the beaches of Lake Michigan to all people, near and far! We are the first of the Great Lakes to be cleansed of all harmful pollutants, and Washington has ruled Lake Michigan safe for human contact!”
I applauded the mayor’s speech, but my mind drifted from the rest of the Mayor’s words. Chicago had cleaned up, but I felt that the rest of humanity seemed resistant to harness this change. On paper, the beach may be safe to walk on, but my caution proved that no one actually wanted to touch Mother Earth. I wasn’t even sure if those standing here wanted to embraced nature and wished to restore it to its former, glorious self.
The three officials were in a huddle again, and I watched as the hipsters prepared for the long walk back to the El. The woman in the hemp dress was taking pictures of the beach, and my heart sank when I noticed a Chicago Tribune press-pass dangling from her neck. Suddenly, I knew that we had nothing in common, and I could feel my skin cool down with every click of the camera. The old couple looked content as they watched the sun set behind the murky horizon. They seemed so peaceful, and I longed to feel as safe as they did.
I slowly bent down and untied my shoelaces, and carefully, I removed my Keds. When my feet touched the sand, I winced, expecting to feel some sort of acidic burning sensation. There was nothing of the sort—only the warm, soft, squishy feeling of sand between my toes. I felt like I was in a movie. This was something I had only seen in pictures, but now I was experiencing for the first time. It felt like freedom. I cautiously stepped to the water’s edge, frightened by the small waves that threatened to nip my toes. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, and then walked, with giant steps, into the water.
Suddenly, my feet were in pain, as if thousands of needles were thrust into them simultaneously. The water was so cold it sent a shock throughout my entire body. The feeling overcame all my senses at once. I couldn’t breathe. I was running through the lake, splashing everywhere. I lowered my trembling hands to the surface, drowning my hair, my face, and my neck. Soon, my body was soaked. I captured water in my palms, and raised my hands to my lips. I gasped as I tasted the sweetest liquid on Earth.
A rapid sequence of flashes startled me. I awoke from my trance and turned to see the woman with the press-pass lowering her camera away from her eyes, her jaw dropped in disbelief. All eyes were upon on me. I slowly stepped back onto the crystallized sand, picking up my shoes by their laces, letting them dangle by my side. I said nothing and looked at no one. I walked back to the sidewalk, ignoring each witness.
I paused when I reached the elderly couple. I took hold of the old man’s hand and squeezed. Without a word, I thanked him for his bravery, and I apologized for the mess that my generation made of nature. Our eyes met, and for a second I felt a divine connection. I must have stood there for minutes, for the old man forced his hand out of my grasp. He smiled, nodded, and directed his wife in the opposite direction I was headed.
I walked home, leaving Lake Michigan behind forever. The others had lost their chance to redeem themselves, but I knew that I was the one who had been saved.