Her Last Day on Earth

Why is the sky blue?

*  *  18  *  *

The first time Melanie saw the sky was her last day on Earth.

Melanie was born in a cave. Her parents had both been born in caves and dammit, that would be good enough for her. Shortly after she was born, however, there was a tragic cave-in that claimed the lives of both of her parents and sealed her inside. The moles raised her after that.

Melanie’s new family was nice enough. They cared for her, protected her, taught her how to live in her new environment and raised her into the person she was supposed to be.

What they were unable to teach her, however, was how to survive on the surface. In fact, the “surface” was a very heated point of debate among the moles. Some claimed that the surface didn’t exist. Some believed that was where they would go after they died. Others seemed to know more than they were letting on, but refused to discuss it. Melanie believed the surface existed, but had no interest in waiting until she died to see it.

On the night of her sixteenth birthday, Melanie made the decision to leave her world behind and take the plunge: real or not, she was going to see the surface.

As Melanie dug, she found that the earth became easier and easier for her to move around. She also began to feel as though her lungs were too full. She had never breathed this much oxygen at once before.

Finally, Melanie reached the surface, and it was . . . utterly disappointing.

The air was very different from below, but it wasn’t right. Where was the bright yellow ball? Where was the beautiful green grass? Where was the sky that was supposed to surround and engulf you? Where was the surface world she had been promised?

In a desperate act of defiance against her entire existence, Melanie, for the first time, stood fully erect on her own to feet and screamed to the heavens, “What did you do with it?”

Much to her surprise, her rhetorical question did not go unanswered.

“I took it away.”

Melanie, who had grown up with voices connected to unseen friends her entire life, didn’t question the source of the voice. “Why would you do such a thing?”

“Simple,” said the voice. “They didn’t deserve it.”

“What about me?” Melanie asked. “Couldn’t you put it back for me? Do I deserve it?”

Silence.

Melanie was beginning to consider the possibility that she had offended this all-powerful voice so badly that it would return, when she got a simple response. “Ok.”

Melanie suddenly found herself unable to see anything at all. After a lifetime of dilation, it took her eyes several minutes to figure out how to deal with the sudden onset of stimuli. When her eyes quit burning and her headache subsided, Melanie opened her eyes to view the surface she had always imagined.

The grass was greener than any of the stones she had found back home. The sun was more yellow than the squash she had had with breakfast. The enormous white sky looked like it could have picked her up and carried her away. Most importantly, there was a pool of water where Melanie saw her reflection for the first time. She had an angular face, pale from a life below ground, framed by dark hair and punctuated by two eyes that were a deeper blue than anything she could have imagined in her wildest dreams.

“It’s incredible,” she said.

“Thank you,” the voice replied. “I’m rather fond of it.”

“Then why would you ever get rid of it?”

“As I said, they didn’t deserve it. I didn’t want to get rid of it, but they weren’t taking care of it.”

Melanie couldn’t let this world slip away from her. It was all too amazing. “What if I take care of it?”

“That’s impossible,” laughed the voice. “There’s far too much for one person to do.”

“Well,” Melanie countered, “then what if I make sure everyone else takes care of it like they’re supposed to?”

Silence.

Melanie again began to ponder the possibility that the voice had been offended by the direction of the conversation. She was saved from such ponderation by the voice’s simple reply. “Ok.”

Melanie suddenly felt her feet lifting off of the ground. The sky that she felt could have picked her up now seemed to be doing just that. She felt herself begin to expand and enlarge. It wasn’t that there was really any more of her, just that what there was of her was spread over more area.

She felt her body move past the sky into something beyond. Her head, however, remained with the sky and continued to spread until her enormous blue eyes enveloped the entirety of Earth, covering the white sky behind.

And so to this day, Melanie watches over the Earth, ensuring that it is being properly cared for by man and mole alike.

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