2021.09.26 00:00 thatreallyshortchick The Grass Isn't Always Green on the Other Side (Part 1)
In a dark and depressing world where all of the Earth's vegetation gets wiped out, many unanswered questions begin to surface.
Johnny twirled the tubing around in his fingers, distractedly staring off into the distance. The tubing in question ran into a backpack created to perfectly fit a tiny oxygen tank that inhabited it. Every time Johnny’s mother placed the backpack on him, she double and triple checked that everything was in proper working order before sending him off to go play outside. He never complained about the additional wait time before going outside, though, because he knew it was just his mother’s way of making sure he would be okay. After seeing what happened to Otis’ mother, he always made sure to tell her how much he loved her.Afraid of the possibility that the same thing that happened to Otis’ mom would happen to her as well, he made sure to never take her for granted. The hinges of the swing he sat on were slightly squeaky, in much need of some oil, but Johnny’s family couldn’t really afford that luxury. They had done alright so far, considering the state of the world, and Johnny was grateful for all of his toys, even if they were slightly run down.
He heard the crunching of gravel behind him, so he quickly untangled the tubing from his grasp, fully expecting his mother to get onto him once again about how important it was to not mess up our oxygen tanks. Instead of his mother, however, another boy that appeared to be his age sat down on the swing beside him. He smiled at Johnny, and Johnny eagerly smiled back. He hadn’t seen a new child or had a friend since Otis.
“Hi!” said Johnny, clearly ecstatic. My name is Johnny. What’s your name?”
The kid smiled back and simply responded, “Miles.”
“Nice to meet you, Miles.”
With a newfound excitement within him, Johnny began to swing his feet back and forth, slightly swaying himself. He was just about to ask Miles about all sorts of kid stuff (Did he have any toys? Would he like to play with Johnny’s toys? Did he have any siblings or friends?), until he asked Johnny a question that left him completely dumbfounded.
“Where’s all your grass, Johnny?”
Johnny’s brows furrowed up in confusion before he responded, “What do you mean? We don’t have any grass.”
“Well, yeah I can see that,” replied Miles. “What did you do with it?”
“No one has grass...”
“Why?” asked Miles, and Johnny could see he was genuinely confused.
“My mom said the sickness got it,” explained Johnny. “Your mom didn’t tell you?” The idea of someone not knowing why the grass disappeared shocked Johnny. It had been over a year since the plants had begun to die. How could someone not know for that long?
“What sickness?” asked Miles. Before Johnny could answer, a woman came barreling towards them, shouting Mile’s name. As she got closer, Johnny realized she actually had the same dark brown hair and eyes as Miles
“Miles! You scared me, honey!” she exclaimed, wrapping Miles up in her arms. “You can’t go running off like that!”
“Mom, where is all their grass?” Miles simply asked her. She paused for a moment, mouth slightly open as if she intended to respond to the question but had no idea what to say. A moment later she closed her mouth, leaving the question unanswered, and she told Miles to say goodbye before towing him off in the direction she came from. This whole experience had completely confused Johnny, but he put it to the back of his mind and focused on swinging some more, trying to get as much play time in as he could before his mom called him inside for dinner.
As she tucked him into bed that night, Johnny told her about the new friend he had made and the abrupt way their confusing conversation had ended.
“He asked me where our grass was, Mama,” said Johnny while chuckling like it was some silly joke. Johnny’s mom laughed along with him, explaining that Miles was probably just playing a joke on him. SHe stopped laughing whenever Johnny told her about the woman appearing.
“They sound like strange people, hun,” said Johnny’s mom while absentmindedly smoothing his blankets and sheets with a hand. Johnny nodded at her, realizing they were, in fact, very strange. After a moment of silence where Johnny’s mom had a distracted look on her face, she finally opened her mouth and ordered Johnny, “I don’t want you hanging out with that boy again.”
This greatly confused Johnny, almost as much as the whole experience with these strange people had. Johnny had heard his mom countless times tell his father how much she wishes Johnny had friends to play with, how much she hated what had happened to Otis and his family. He didn’t understand why she wanted to take away a new friend he had finally acquired after so long, even if they were a little weird, but knew he couldn’t disobey his mother. Thoughts of Otis’ mom always popped into his head every time he thought about disobeying his mothers orders. He gave a simple nod at her waiting for his response. Before giving him his goodnight kiss and heading off to bed, his mom once again checked the tubing placed in Johnny’s nostrils, just to make sure it was in proper working order.
That night, Johnny dreamed of a world with the greenest grass he had ever seen. A world with not only grass, but flowers, incredibly tall trees, and an abundance of food and oxygen. A world where Otis was still there, and they both got to play with Miles. A world where you didn’t have to constantly wear an oxygen tank outside and also inside for all the people who couldn’t afford the special oxygen vents in their homes. A world where there had never been a virus that wiped out all of Earth’s plant life.
I woke up this morning to 22 missed calls and 30 messages, all from my husband. Whenever Miles asked if his dad had called, I wasn’t feigning the disappointment on my face whenever I lied and told him he hadn’t called. I just wasn’t disappointed for the same reason Miles was. I was disappointed that he refused to leave us alone. Miles had no idea what horrible things his father had done, and having only just found out the full extent of it myself about a month ago, I had no intention of telling him just yet, if ever. I just kept hoping if we stayed gone long enough, his dad would give up and stop calling.
I know as long as he’s calling, that means we are still on their radar. “They” being the company my husband works for. The evil bastards know that I know their secret, and I would be stupid to think they wouldn’t try a range of things to keep me quiet if I appeared to be a threat. I just hope that the longer we stay away without anything bad happening, maybe that will prove to them that I have no intentions of spreading their secret. I just had to get out of the suffocating house, which is kind of ironic with how huge the house is, but it was stifling knowing the possibility that my son and I were just pawns in their game that could be killed at any moment. It was even worse knowing husband knew all of that and still put us into that mess. The huge house we lived in was a “special perk” from my husband’s company. In all reality, it was a present for my husband agreeing to join their team and keep all of the secrets hush hush. They trusted him, and they wanted it to seem like he could trust them, too. Buying things doesn’t really prove anything to me like it does my husband, though. I still knew my family was disposable.
I didn’t know what my husband was a part of at first. Honestly, I was actually happy for him before I knew the truth. The world was at a standstill after the virus took over, completely wiping out all of the Earth’s plant life, therefore destroying our ability to grow crows and preventing us from getting oxygen. Whenever he had come home from work one day, he had surprised us by saying he got a promotion. With the way our world currently is, it was a breath of fresh air. He even said we were being given a beautiful house, which is the one I’ve already mentioned, on one of the company’s many properties. THe promise to move out of our run down one story house and into a beautiful mansion fitted with state of the art technology that would constantly pump oxygen through the vents of our house...it was a literal breath of fresh air. It was a blessing, or so I thought. I didn’t realize it was really a nightmare in disguise.
How this nightmare in disguise started was whenever the company my husband originally worked for got bought out by a “wealthy investor,” which is all that the previous owners told him and his coworkers before packing up everything and booking it out of town, and seemingly off the face of the planet. My husband never met this wealthy investor, as far as I know, but they seemed to see promise in him. It apparently was in all the wrong ways, but it seemed like the answer to all of our problems, and possibly the world’s problems as well.
I wasn’t told anything specific about the house other than the one-word explanations my husband had been dropping: big, mansion, beautiful, spacious, modern, etc. You can imagine my surprise upon seeing acres and acres of crops, orchards of, at least from what I was told, three different fruits, berry bushes, ginormous pine trees giving off their wonderful aroma, and grass so green that it looked like it was out of a gardening magazine. I mean, I almost dropped to my knees in pure joy, and I felt tears coming. It had been so long since I had seen even a single blade of grass, and now I was surrounded by what felt like a magical forest. And we were promised that it was all for us. My husband explained that this is one of the few farms that were used to grow the world’s current food supply. He told me they had found a way to sustain plant life, and he would be becoming a part of that team to perfect that cure to be used all around the world. Hearing that empty promise made me feel more hope than I probably had in my entire life.
Now, after everything I’ve found out, I feel like the last year of my marriage has been a total lie, and I feel like I’ve played a role in failing humanity instead of saving it.
Johnny’s Mom’s POV
*And now, an announcement from our friends at CureCrusaders.*
I cringed as the company jingle rang out from the television speakers. It never sounded right to me, always sounding like an all-too-cheery pop song, one that left you with a headache.
*Here at CureCrusaders, we pride ourselves in giving all of the world the best and latest in state of the art technology, from our compact, yet powerful, oxygen tanks to our perfectly chilled, low energy refrigeration devices.*
I glanced at our CureCrusader’s fridge with its squeaky hinges, busted interior light, and thermostat with a mind of its own, and then at the scratched-up oxygen tanks beside mine and my husband’s sides. Hell, Johnny’s tubing for his indoor tank would barely stay in his nose half the time with how ill-fitting it was. But any time we would try to get upgrades for anything, they would always tell us we will be added to the waiting list. We had been on the waiting list for a year with no results. And I mean, what were we expecting, honestly? The fridge and tanks they had originally given us were used before we had even gotten them, even though they tried to lie and say they weren’t. But the Lionel’s who lived in the beautiful brick home around the corner, paid for entirely by Dr. Lionel’s career choice, always had new equipment and appliances whenever they needed it. Even if it just simply had a scratch on it, they could get a new replacement within days. They make sure to brag about it very often at all the school events, just to rub it in the less wealthy families’ faces. Their children always looked so healthy, while my Johnny was getting thinner every day because of the supposed shortage of rations. It just didn’t add up, and it most definitely wasn’t fair.
*We’re here to tell you about our wonderful latest product...the OxyVents!*
I groaned so loud that my husband turned to me with a worried expression. I gave him a soft smile and mumbled something about how often this commercial comes on, but he didn’t seem to hear it as he had already returned his sight back to the pages of the book in his lap.
*With the amazing OxyVents, any home can have constant oxygen running through it! With OxyVents, there’s no need for lugging around an oxygen tank with you everywhere you go, and no need for that pesky, always tangled tubing making you waste valuable moments of your life!*
They cut to a generic infomercial type scene where someone, seemingly the father, misses his daughter blowing out her birthday candles because he is too busy untangling his oxygen tubing. Another scene shows a woman struggling to finish a movie because she keeps having to pause it to untangle her tubing. I chuckled at these scenes, finding it ironic that only moments ago in the commercial they had been praising their oxygen tanks as being the best of the best, only to spend half the commercial showing insanely specific and ridiculous scenarios about how annoying their “pesky” tubing could be. I glanced at my husband, but he didn’t seem to notice my chuckling, either.
*For only six payments of---*
I pressed the off button on the remote and let out a sight as I rose from my seat at the couch. It was time to make dinner with that little bit we had from this month’s rations. It wouldn’t be a very big dinner, though. They wouldn’t be sending us any more food until next week.
“Have you gotten ahold of her yet?”
I shake my head, chewing on the inside of my mouth until a coppery flavor is introduced to my tastebuds.
“You know what will happen if you don’t, right?”
I nod again, waving the other doctor away from my personal space, wanting time to breathe without the constant possibility of my family’s imminent death being brought up. I pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one up, taking a long drag that left a horrible taste in my mouth when mixed with the blood. I only managed to take a few more puffs before a woman began running towards me, ranting about the plants being exposed to cancerous fumes. I threw it down on the concrete, stood up from my seat on the bench, and furiously stomped on it, attempting to take out all of my anger on this poor, half burnt cigarette. It didn’t work, though, but it did help cause a scene that all of my coworkers were now viewing with looks of disdain or embarrassment. The woman, a rather plump thing that was huffing and puffing after her short run, had stopped just before me, clearly upset that I was “hurting” her precious plants.
“Oh, get over it!” I yell. “If you all are honestly so afraid that this single cigarette is going to hurt your ‘three *large* meals’ a day ‘diet’ plan, then you people are more selfish than I thought!”
I stomp away after my outburst, pulling out my phone to once again call Debra.
Johnny’s mom didn’t know that he was out of bed, and she also didn’t know that he was behind her while she was on the phone with Otis’ dad. It had been a week since Otis’ funeral, and Johnny missed his friend every day. His mom tried to cheer him up the best that she could, but sometimes the best she could do was hold him until the tears stopped coming.
“I’m sorry to ask this, but...were you the one that found her?” asked Johnny’s mom. There was a brief pause followed by his mom saying a few “mhms” and “uh-huhs.”
“I’m so sorry, Gary,” she said. “Is there anything that we can do for you?” More “mhms” followed before she said, “Let me know what the plans are. I know this might sound selfish, but you guys were like family to us...and I need time to think of what to tell Johnny.”
Johnny’s brow furrowed at this, worried that something bad had happened. His hands instinctively went to his oxygen tubing, twirling it nervously around in his hands.
“This week has been very hard for all of us…” She sounded like she was on the verge of crying. “I can’t believe my best friend is gone.”
Now Johnny knew something was wrong, and he felt a pit form in his stomach. He debated approaching his mom to comfort her, but he was afraid he would get in trouble for being out of bed so late.
“We can’t lose you, too, Gary,” choked out Johnny’s mom, finally letting the tears flow.
Johnny couldn’t stand hearing his mom cry, so he left his hiding spot in the darkness and went to hug her. She assumed he had just randomly woken up, which was kind of the truth, but she didn’t know he had heard the whole conversation. She explained to Otis’ dad that Johnny was upset again before they said their goodbyes, and then she hung up the phone.
Johnny began to cry, too, at the thought of whatever could have happened to Otis’ mom. He knew she had most likely died, too, though. What else could you expect in a world like theirs?
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