Dying in Place


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.


26 thoughts on “Dying in Place

    • Thanks, Susan! Interesting analogy. We hear a lot about people who won’t evacuate here in California, where there have been so many fires in recent years, although I think there are fewer who refuse the call now that they’ve seen how many homes are destroyed. I was thinking more about how hard it is to change, especially when you are old and change means moving to a foreign land, away from everything you’ve known. A type of evacuation in this case, for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Michael, glad you enjoyed it! These microfiction pieces pretty much have to be put together more tightly than even the first pages of a novel, for space reasons alone. What’s your novel about, and are you working on revising and/or getting it published?


  1. My first novel started with a drought, which leads to a group of friends traveling around Scandinavia and visiting Iceland. It has elements of high adventure and European folk magic, with slight traces of black magic. Sadly I do not think I have the energy to hone it for publication.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, I’m so glad to hear it came across like that. I agree, it’s so hard to let go of attachments, and especially scary for someone who’s lived in the same place their whole life and never known anything else.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just got back from visiting my Mom in Southwestern Utah, where the highs are 96 degrees F, and they say this is their “cool down” from the summer heat. Glad to be back in Idaho again where everything is green and the high today will be a mere 88.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh, I have a hard time with high temps these days, having been so spoiled with southern CA mildness. It got “hot” here for a while — which for us means up to the 80s and into the 90s — but now it’s down to more reasonable mid-70s. However, I’m about to leave for Hawaii, where it is both hotter and also raining — sort of the worst of both worlds. (Better than snow, sure, but I’m going on vacation in Hawaii, it’s supposed to be an *improvement*!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am very lucky, in that I get to live in paradise every day. By comparison, Hawaii currently has 84% humidity — I’m sweating just thinking about it! Ah well, I’m sure we’ll have a great time, no matter what the weather. I’m just glad we weren’t planning to spend a lot of time on the beach or doing sports on the water.


  3. Don’t replant an old tree–I’ve heard that so many times and always had trouble accepting it. I’ve always been of the opinion: move to a better place while you still can. But I never put down deep roots, comes from the family I guess. The story may be set in Eneana, but it is also timely. Sometimes I’m glad that I’m oldish already, seeing at what is happening in and to the world. I’d always move, but wonder if there will be a place left where people can move to. The picture of that tree is great, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Different experiences lead to different perspectives, that’s for certain. I lived in the same small town until I left for college, but I was aching to get out and see the world! Now I’ve lived in several places around the country, with the result that most of my oldest friends live far away and I hardly see them. By contrast, my parents still live in the house I grew up in, and all their friends are there in that town, and their church, and everything they know, so they would hate to move away.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Such a nice comment. thank you Sammi! I’m glad the grandmother’s emotions came across that well; she’s in a terrible spot. I was thinking of the photo as doing double duty — both the setting of the drying land, and representing the grandmother herself, bending with the strong winds of change, but only so far.

      Liked by 1 person

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