A New Hope
By Daria Jeman Junsan
SMK Lopeng Tengah
I coughed again.
Looking back at the speck of a city behind me, I wondered whether this was really a good idea. Going out into the wild wastelands by yourself was practically suicide. Even with help the chances were slim. Very few go out in the first place and almost all of them never return.
I frowned and looked back to face the sun. I had to admire the orange glow that filtered through the haze swirling around in the sky. The winds were the only other sound accompanying my footsteps as I walked on footprints cast in glass and ash.
I was glad I had at least dressed and packed properly before getting out here. The goggles and scarves were at least keeping most of the debris off of me. I’d even packed extra for my idiot brother.
He had gone out yesterday seeking some kind of ‘paradise’. As if there was anywhere better than back in the city where there was edible food, clean water and air filters. I really wish I had an air filter with me now.
Of course, the council insisted that I stay and forget about my brother because he wouldn’t survive out there.
As if I could do that.
My brother, as stupid as he is, is all I have and I can’t leave him hanging. Even if he left me behind.
Plus, I’m willing to bet he can stay alive, he’s the smartest person I know. Well maybe not quite so smart if he’s out here looking for a fable. But he is a complete nerd.
I should be able to find him soon. He may have gone out a day earlier but he’s not exactly fit. He spends all day at his desk.
Me, on the other hand, I am fit. One of the fastest athletes back home. I glanced back again. I couldn’t even see it anymore.
Gulping, I started trekking faster. The sooner this was done, the sooner we could go home.
I looked around at my surroundings, looking for some form of shelter. I couldn’t eat nor could I sleep in the wind.
I couldn’t even drink! It had been hours since I’d left and my mouth felt like sandpaper.
But unfortunately, this place was flat and barren apart from all the rubbish littering the landscape.
But then I gasped and broke into a sprint when I saw a figure in the distance, even though I could not make out who it was in all that haze.
“Adam!” I yelled as I crashed into the figure hugging him with all my might.
“Get off me, lady!” I froze cold as I realized that this was, in fact, not my brother. Oops.
I quickly let go. “Sorry, I thought you were my brother.”
He looked at me and though I couldn’t see through his mask I just knew he was looking at me like I was nuts.
“Your brother? There’s really two idiots running around out here?”
I squinted at him. “Yes there is. My brother. And you.”
He snorted. “So what are you?”
I grinned though it was covered by my scarf. “On holiday.”
“What’s a holiday?”
“I read in a book once that it’s when somebody goes to visit a new place for a while.”
“A book? Oh, we have another city nerd.”
“Hey, I’m not a nerd! If you’re looking for one I’d go to my brother,” I huffed. It’s not like I wouldn’t read sometimes. Maybe quite often but whatever. Wait. “What do you mean ‘another city nerd’?”
“Huh? What do you- oh, Oh! That guy must’ve been your brother, right? A guy my height, no protection for the face, wandering around here alone with tons of maps? Yesterday?”
Relief flooded through me, he was alright!
“Well, hate to break it to you but he’s dead.” My heart skipped a beat.
“W-what?” I whispered. He was dead?
“Hah, just kidding!”
I punched him. Hard.
“You jerk! What kind of sick joke is that?!”
He shrugged. “Wasteland humour. Your bro’s up ahead. Not far.”
“Thanks,” I said through my teeth. I began running, I wasn’t going to let him slip through my fingers.
“Good luck!” I heard from behind me. I ignored it.
Soon enough, I saw another figure. This time, I didn’t start charging until I was sure it was Adam.
And when I was sure that it was actually him, I whacked the back of his head.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again!” I yelled at him.
“Leah? What’re you doing here?!”
“Looking for you, stupid! Now let’s go. We’ll probably get home before sunset tomorrow.”
I grabbed his hand and started walking back but he didn’t budge. “What gives?”
“I’m not coming, Leah.”
I threw his hand down and placed mine on my hips. “Really.”
“Look, there’s something here, something big and I have to find it.”
I just stared at him.
“Please,” he said.
“Put these stupid goggles on first.”
We walked for days, and days, and days. By the end of it I was ready to rip my hair out of boredom.
But finally, finally we reached whatever it was we were reaching for. How did I know? Because Adam yelled, “We’re here!”
“Better be,” I grumbled.
And when we reached the top of the hill, what I saw on the other side made me sink to my knees in awe.
A beautiful, beautiful cluster of green could be seen not too far away. More trees than we ever had back in the greenhouse.
On the ground before me were swaths of grass and the air here, it was so… clean. Like nothing I had ever smelt before.
“What is all this?”
My brother turned and smiled at me. “The last rainforest.”
“The last, huh?”
At this he frowned. “Yes, our ancestors were greedy and lazy. They destroyed everything!” Then he smiled. “But now, we have a place to really call home.”
I smiled and ripped my goggles and scarf off and relished in the ability to breathe freely.
This short story by Daria Jeman Junsan from SMK Lopeng Tengah is the second place winner in the Malaysian Red Crescent (MRC) Miri Chapter’s Short Story Writing Competition held recently as part of its Environmental Awareness Programme involving secondary schools in Miri.
Participants were given three environmental themes to choose from and within the chosen theme to create a story that had a strong environmental message.
The three themes were: Living on Renewables, The Last Rainforest and Flash Floods in the City.
Six secondary schools in Miri participated this year. They were Riam Road Secondary School, SMK St. Joseph, SMK Taman Tunku, SMK Marudi, SMK Lopeng Tengah and SMK St. Columba.
Nora Guan from Riam Road Secondary School won first place with her story ‘Hanging by a Branch’ while Eunice Siew Chia Kar Man from Riam Road Secondary School placed third for her story ‘The Last Man Standing’.
Belle’s Bookshop sponsored the prizes in vouchers worth RM1,000 in total and have been supporting this MRC initiative from the beginning.