Fend for the Risen – A Short Story by Olivia Yoakum

Fend for the Risen
A Short Story by Olivia Yoakum, Class of 2021

“How did it feel?”

“How did what feel, Martha?” Grandma Shira asked.

“The grass, the ground…?” Martha inquired quietly.

“You know no one’s supposed to talk abou-,”

“Look it doesn’t matter and you’re my grandmother, we are supposed to be close right? You’re supposed to help me with problems in life and I’m supposed to hug you tight and intently listen?”

“I suppose,” Shira said with hesitation lingering in her voice, “ You want to know the truth?”

Martha nodded her head so slowly that she felt as if she wasn’t prepared or even supposed to hear the answer, but curiosity yearned inside of her.

Grandma Shira sighed heavily and placed Martha’s hand softly on her left palm and encased it tightly with her right. Not knowing what to expect, Martha, being the most timid child there has ever been, only slightly, held her breath.“It was marvelous,” This alone was a better answer than Martha could have hoped for and she smiled widely, the first time in weeks.

         Shira continued to enthuse Martha,”The ground was as hard as this floor right here but there was something different about it,” Grandma Shira narrowed her eyes and shifted them towards the window not as if she was trying to remember the feeling but more fathoming as to how to properly represent it in words.

“When standing on the ground you felt as if a plants’ roots had sprouted from the skin off the bottom of your feet,” Grandma Shira closed her eyes, trying to experience it again. Martha observed this, and did the same. “The sun would warm the ground and a heated, soothing feeling would radiate through your limbs, warming your entire body from top to bottom.” Grandma Shira opened her eyes and saw Martha, deeply enthralled with a slight smile, and her eyes closed. Within a few seconds Martha opened them back up.

“How’s that for an answer?” Grandma Shira smiled, patting Martha’s hand and carefully placing it back on her lap.

“Perfect.” Martha respond, looking deeply pleased and fully contented.

“Ready for your nap? You have had quite a weekend.”

“Yep.” Martha enthusiastically replied, but still she longed for more. She knew that this was the only place she could get the answers she wanted.

She laid in bed for what felt like hours before she could convince her body to allow her to sleep. For she was too focused on everything that had happened in these past few days but more importantly, how she had no clue what was going to happen next.

“You know your dads are smart for doing this,” Dave shouted to the back of the chopper, breaking the deafening silence that had been entertained by Martha’s lack of social skills since the moment they went into the air. Martha was holding so tightly to her straps that secured her into her seat, was also too concerned about the overall safety of her little brother to really respond or even acknowledge Dave’s comment.

So he attempted to gain her attention once more: “The risen in New York have it good, you’ll see. They weren’t completely submerged like other coasts. They have lots of sunlight and tall buildings keeping them away from harm and ensuring the weather is always nice and sunny!” Dave slightly chuckled and turned around quickly to Martha and Paul-y, “How ya’ guys doing’ back there?”Martha, staring out of the window into the beautiful blue sky, felt transported momentarily but when she saw Dave’s face smiling back at her she quickly realized she would have to snap back into reality.

“We’re good. Thank you, Dave.” She politely said back with a forced, upbeat flare in her voice and an ever-so-slight smile. “Aren’t we Pauly?” Martha looked to her younger brother to encourage at least a slight hint of manners and etiquette he has been able to obtain from their fathers, but Pauly replied with a mere, “Mm-hm,” barely looking up from his toy dogs wearing dresses and fireman hats.

Dave turned back to face the windshield and elated happily, “Alrighty then! We are almost there anyways!”

After what seemed like the longest 20 hours of her life, even though she slept for ten and read for two, Martha and her brother had finally reached New York City. Dave safely lands the chopper on top of a random government landing pad and predictably, Matha finds, Dave lands the plane while audibly saying aloud “Thunk!” and a loud chuckle. He amuses himself, Martha thought.

Dave then twists around to them and, suddenly becoming serious, says,”Now remember: you guys are not supposed to be here.” Pauly and Martha looked at him and though they had been prepared by their dads for the occasion, they were still slightly on edge. “I know that your dads have explained this to you but I want to reiterate the reason why you are here and what to do,” Dave paused and in that moment seemed very put-together.” The water in San Francisco has become too chemicalized and hazardous for children and though all the other kids have been sent to the child refugee camps in Kansas, I couldn’t let my best friend’s kids go to that place.” he smiled widely and Martha smiled minutely back. “Now look, New York has the technology to fix their water but ultimately SF does not so my proposition to your dad’s’ was to send you to your grandparents. The only way I was able to do this was through my job with government transportation so when they ask you why you are here, with me, in a government building, you say…?”

Martha felt she should respond because God knows Pauly will know how to react, “We’re your kids…?” Martha felt like this was a long shot.

“Yep, Martha, very good.” Dave reached out for a high five but Martha didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. Dave drew his hand back ”Okay so I know you guys have met your Papa’s parents in SF but these are your Dad’s parents and they are different but… very sweet people.”

“Wait,” Martha hesitated. Dave looked at her ready for her inquiry,”Why shouldn’t we be here again? Like how is us being here wrong? I mean doesn’t the government have enough-”

“They do.” Dave interrupted, “They have enough resources they just don’t want other people using them because they could easily overuse them and then where would we be?” Martha looked confused and noticing this, Dave continued, “We have eliminated every use of gasoline in our country. Which you guys know is what caused the Risen Line in the first place…” They both nodded. “Well, by doing this we don’t have the privilege of making new planes that are electric because the making of them would emit even more gases and cause the Risen Line to go up even higher. So these planes are only supposed to be used for government emergency purposes, but…” he continued. “I’ve always been a rule breaker.” He said with a wide smile. Martha felt comforted hearing the whole truth on more time.

“You guys ready?”, he asked eagerly.

Both Martha and Pauly had given their entire attention to Dave but still, they were unsure what to expect. Martha mustered up all the fake confidence she possibly could, and gave Dave a reassuring nod.

“Okay then, let’s go.” said Dave. He gave his wide smile once more, giving Martha just a little bit more hope that everything will turn out fine.

Dave, Pauly and Martha entered a large military warehouse, memorabilia hung from the walls and framed photos of various planes and vehicles sat below them.  They passed by countless military with Martha, clinging to Dave’s arm. He hastily guided them through the crowds. Everyone they saw smiled politely, most likely because they truly believed Martha and Pauly were his kids, but Martha found it nice regardless, during such a stressful day to see such happy and welcoming people. They then were about to quickly cross paths with an older man, when Dave suddenly stopped.

“Commander.” Dave directed towards the man.

“Sergeant Jeffords. Who’s kids are these?” he inquired, with a pleasant smile.

“My own, sargent.” Dave said, clearly and convincingly.

“They seem wonderful.” His smile grew from ear to ear. He waved at Pauly but Pauly, being in Dave’s arms, embarrassingly turned away and buried his head deep into Dave’s shoulder. The sargent seemed unphased.”Well I have some business to attend to, “ he sighed. “Have a wonderful evening.”

“Thank you, Commander.” Dave relaxed considerably as the Commander made his way back into the depths of the crowd.

They reached the dock at the end of the warehouse and Martha set her eyes on New York City, for the very first time. She felt as if all the stories were correct, they hadn’t renovated the bodegas and storefronts below the rise line but they did have glorious, tall building that seemed as though they could touch the sky. It was sleek and glass, for the most part. Firescapes attached themselves to the outside of the building, she didn’t have the will to believe they were real until now! She could peer into windows and buildings and saw people shuffling around at work, some were home and relaxing. It felt magical. She leaned over to see if she could see down to the streets, but no luck. At least I tried, she thought to herself.

“Come on, Martha!” Dave’s arm reached out for her to get onto the electric boat. SHe jumped on and as they traveled down the streets of New York, floating smoothly and they quickly zoomed past building after building. Martha felt amazed until Pauly got upset when Dave finally gave up on driving the boat as well as holding Pauly.

“Martha Aaa.” Pauly whined.

“Okay, okay. Come here.” Martha said, reluctantly. Pauly jumped onto her lap. Now it will be a while till we get there so feel free to nap.” Dave said caringly.

“Okay.” said Martha. She could tell by the color of the sky that the sun was going to set within the hour.  

Martha awoke with a tap from Dave on her shoulder, Pauly was asleep in her arms.

“We’re here. You guys ready to meet your grandparents?” Dave said excitedly.

Martha and Pauly, still half-asleep, nodded and slowly rose to their feet. They stepped onto the dock in front of the apartment and Dave proceeded to knock on the door. He lifted Pauly into his arms and Martha stood close next to him.

The door opened quickly and Martha’s grandparents appeared.

Grandma Shira was of average height with curly gray hair and a kind smile. Her eyes had deep wrinkles on the sides  and she wore a lovely blue blouse with black flared pants.

“Hi kids!” She smiled and hugged Martha immediately then, just after, pulled Pauly from Dave’s arms.

“You two look so tired!” Grandpa Moshe observed, just as Martha let out a deep yawn. He was very tall with short white hair and high-set cheekbones.

“They are! They’ve had a long couple days,” Dave agreed. “Oh here’s their stuff,” he said as he quickly grabbed the kids’ bags.

“Sleep tight kids, it’s been fun.” Dave said as he waved and walked to the dock.

“Thank you.” Martha said, loud enough for him to hear, turn around and smile, but quiet enough as to not draw attention to herself.

After Martha’s conversation with her grandmother she slept for what felt like days. She woke before everyone else and spent her time looking out the living room window just admiring the beautiful views- one’s she get nowhere else.

She wondered what life was like before the rise.  She wondered what the ground feel like beneath her feet. She wanted to feel that warmth. She wanted to feel grounded. For once in her life she wanted to be absolutely sure of something, she wanted to know what life should’ve been like.

She looked out over the “streets” of New York and she just knew, this wasn’t what life is supposed to be like. COnstantly struggling for resources,inhibited freedom, and isolation. The world is torn apart and as a child she knew she was intuitive from the very smart. She knew that by the way the adults acted, she had come into this world at a most detrimental, and life-changing era.

Martha was surely just so curious as to what the meaning of life was, how people become so different, and other philosophical topics one begins to question at the age of ten. However, though people t her age aren’t supposed to talk about it and are supposed to focus on the future ahead, Martha couldn’t help but look back and wonder, “Why. Why are we like this? Why now?”

She rested her arms on the top of the couch and watching the waves rise and fall, she laid her head softly on her arms and imagined a life with warmth beneath her feet.