Photo © Joy Pixley
My grandchildren have never seen these fields flush with green, the hills cloaked in wildflowers, the harvest tables groaning with grain.
Each summer is hotter, drier, deadlier. I don’t know which god we angered, that year that everything changed. We’ve prayed to them all by now.
My son wants to take us south, following rumors of cool rivers and fresh rains. I regurgitate the same argument. Of the wastelands between here and there. Of the heathen chaos beyond the Empire’s borders. Of the persecution our people face there, in territory teeming with our escaped servants.
The truth is that I cannot leave. My roots delve too deeply to be transplanted. They dig deeper as conditions worsen, seeking the sweetness I once knew here, the comfort of traditions now fraying and impotent.
My son’s words draw me on, and I lean toward him, but I cannot bend much farther without falling.
My parents died here, and my husband, my sisters, my other children. It parched my soul, watching them go first. Their spirits grasp my roots, pulling me closer in.
Now I fear I’ll see the Empire die too. I pray, to any god who’ll listen, to take my spirit first.
Word count: 200. Written for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge. Thanks to Susan for hosting! Click on the link to see other stories inspired by this photo, or to submit your own.
In real life, this photo is of an ocotillo that lives (apparently quite hardily) in Joshua Tree National Park in California. When it gets rain, it blooms beautifully, but my friend Stacey and I were there in November, when the desert was not as horribly hot as it is the rest of the year, but definitely quite dry.
In Eneana, this story depicts another perspective on the fall of the Azza’at Empire, and how its people were affected by a sudden change in climate, exacerbating existing political and economic problems. The Empire disintegrated before they learned that the drought was not caused by either them or their gods, but by a magical accident/geologic event that altered ocean currents in this part of the world. But then, who knows? Maybe the gods were behind that, too.