Right Here, a short prose piece

I’ve recently taken up subscribing to The Daily Post to get my writing juices going.  Planning out my novel is taking awhile because I’m essentially rewriting the whole story and am in dire needs of some world building and organization to straighten things out.  In the mean time, I’ll be writing some… sci-fi, I guess, based off their prompt for today (hope this pingback works):

500 years from now, an archaeologist accidentally stumbles on the ruins of your home, long buried underground. What will she learn about early-21st-century humans by going through (what remains of) your stuff?

I say “sci-fi” hesitantly, because I’m going to try and be realistic.

Right Here

The clouds hung low that morning, their hues of gray mixing with the leftover ash and soot from Mt. Shasta’s eruption five hundred years ago.  Black flakes caked the dry, cracked ground.  Shards of palm fronds, hollow and bitter, lay across the hill, some scattering at the slightest gust of wind.

No one thought it would be this bad—that it’d reach all the way down south.

Nobody.  Nobody.

Wiping off the dust from his gas mask, Jason read the specs on his handheld tracker.  The line on the screen was as flat-faced and level as the hill he was standing on.  He shook his head.  “There’s nothing out here, Faye.  Not even the tracker’s picking up anything.”

But the archaeologist did not stand up from her squatting position above the blackened hill.  She stared at the spot.  Swept her eyes over it.  Once.  Twice.  Just to be sure.

Jason knelt beside her.  Placed a hand on her shoulder.  “It’s okay, Faye.  We tried.”

“I can’t, Jason.” With a blue-gloved hand, Faye stroked the ground with her fingertips, sifting the dust away.  “I just… I just can’t believe it took out everything.  There’s gotta be something here. Cities don’t just… vanish.  None of them do.”

“Well… maybe this one did.”

No.  I refuse to believe it.”

Jason blinked at the spot above her hand.  “Wait, wait.  Stop a sec.”

Faye stopped.  She gazed at the spot again.

A faded spot of orange peeked out from beneath the dirt.

“Jason…” Faye held her breath.  “Is that…”

The two of them swept more ash, soot, dust, and charred remains, trying to contain their excitement so nothing would break.  more and more orange poked from the tiles.

The tracker in Jason’s hand beeped incessantly.  His eyes widened at the reading.  “Faye… this thing say’s we’ve got adobe…” Another pulsating line registered the more she sweep.  “…And a whole lot more.  Cement, wood—this thing might just be intact!”

The tension seeped from Faye’s shoulders.  Her head lolled forward.  “Jesus Christ… I’m light-headed.”

“I’ll call up the guys, then.  You rest.  But… I can’t believe the tracker couldn’t go past all that ash.  Guess I need a new one, but Faye, this is big.  This… this might just be our break. ”

And it was, but not only for them.  The excavation team not only found the white house with adobe tiles on the roof Faye and Jason had been standing on, but a whole line of houses running up the hill.  All with adobe tiles, some with natural lawns, and some with eternally green astroturf, like the kind on football fields.

“So they didn’t have to water the grass,” Faye explained to Jason.  “California was always a drought-ridden state that borrowed water from everywhere else.  But a green lawn was a status symbol.  It showed that you could afford to take care of your home and water and have it look presentable.  But some homeowners just felt they didn’t have the time, like the one we found.”

“And now, we can go inside,” Jason said.  “We…” He licked his lips, a nervous habit.  “We can actually go inside.”

“Yes…  though we shouldn’t stay long.  It could collapse.”

The house was a traditional Spanish style, in that it was small and squished.  One living room, one dining room, one kitchen, two bedrooms, one bathroom.  But the homeowners had eventually added an additional bedroom, bathroom, and back room.

What was heartbreaking for Faye, however, was not that she was walking in the house itself, seeing the window’s covered in dirt and having to wear a helmet light.

It was the objects within.

Photographs.  Pokemon Monopoly.  Chess.  Connect Four.  A completeled polar bear puzzle.  The overcrowded book shelf in the first bedroom.  The Kawai piano in the dining room.  The prom photo of a grinning girl in a red dress and her equally tall date.

Faye picked up the photo in its stand and carried it with her.  She didn’t know why she did.  A clue, maybe.

But then, the pink room gave her answers.  The pink room, with a piano on the side.  And the same red dress in plastic hanging along the cracked closet.  Clothes scattered everywhere along the floor.  A pink flat-iron in its box with an old white Internet router.

Faye hoped there was enough time for them—that this girl who lived here escaped before… before…

“She was young,” Jason muttered, glancing at a high school panorama photo hanging loosely off its tape.

“At least she graduated from high school,” Faye said, noting the anime convention badges along the dresser mirror.  “And she had a good life.  Had an interest in music, judging by the piano and microphone.  But… I hope she made it out in time.”

Jason shook his head.  “Hard to say.  We’d have to run her name through the database and see.”

“Or her siblings.  That must be the reason they expanded the house.  We can check if there’s anything written in the books.”

“Check all of them if we have to.  It’s… It’s just hard to think this was five hundred years ago.  That they… they were still using USB and routers.”

“Life was simpler back then.  You didn’t have to know how a computer worked.”

“Well…” Jason picked up a poster of two wolves, one resting its head on the others shoulder, looking out into the distance in the snow.  “We still don’t have to, technically.  We’ve got voice things now, and occasionally handhelds like this tracker.”

“But coding is compulsory, now.  And the arts aren’t.  Which is…” A lump swelled in Faye’s throat.  “Which is… what really makes me sad.”

Jason looked over his shoulder.  “What?”

“You could have been an artist five hundred years ago.  This city… this city thrived with all kinds of artists.  This room alone proves it—that this girl had good parents looking after her and letting her do what she wanted.  Life had no worries for her.” Tears welled up inside her mask.  “Now it’s gone.”

Faye sniffled.  Jason put down the poster, walked over to Faye, and wrapped his arms around her.  His warmth fought against the cold, dark space of underground, and she wrapped his arms around his back, the photo in its stand pressing against his back.

“No, Faye,” Jason whispered.  “You said so yourself.  It’s not gone.”  He parted from her, gently taking the prom photo from her.  “It’s right here.  And we’re going to bring it back.”

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