Rust that connects us. (A short story about racism, romance, and shocking secrets.)

Feb 25, 2020 | Short stories

This short story was inspired by a fiery and passionate coworker.

Mother captured Amelia’s white hair in her hand and slammed her head onto the desk. Her cheek crushed against the books left unfinished the day before. The woman she called mother, as if it was her first name, was never happy with her academic performance. She could hear a low snarl hiss through her lips as she towered over her.

“You’re a dreamer and nothing more. You sit all day, feet swinging over the ledge of the Cliffs daydreaming about the Sodo’s”

She spat on Amelia, the word Sodo rotting in her mouth, poison coming out. 

“If my elders didn’t look to me to take you in I would have thrown you to the Sodo tribe by now. You are disgusting, brainless, and a disappointment. Tonight this work better be finished and correct.” 

She unraveled her fingers from her hair and stomped away. The sound of sharp heels descended down the hall, striking wood against porcelain. Amelia stood up from the desk and plunged her hand into her pouch making sure the music box her parents left to her was in there. Satisfied at feeling it’s jeweled top against her fingers, she walked out of her room and through the corridor towards the door. A mirror from ceiling to floor caught her reflection passing by. She stopped and turned, chestnut brown eyes stared back. No one here had ever been born with brown eyes. A lonely tear trailed down to her chin, she turned from the mirror. She pushed her feelings down inside and ignored the constant reminder she wasn’t like the others. She stepped outside walking away from the tall glass house. Colorful crystal spikes jutted out of the ground forming a perimeter around their property. Glowing stones glittering under the sun led her path through the gate. She never bothered to latch it behind her. Once outside and in the streets she felt at ease, blending in with her people. She was just another face lost in a sea of ocean blues and mint greens. All aside from her eyes. Every person passing by wore the same mundane expression. Fast paced and on a mission. Silver blonde heads weaved through the crowd. White skin, froth on the top of a latte, hidden under ice blue cloaks and dresses. 

Pulling a transparent hood over her head she quickly advanced through the mass of people heading towards the cliffs. It never ceased to bewilder her, the way they chose to live. The Eelcrest race had always been a formal and rule following group. They lived routine lives and prided themselves in their intelligence. Erecting huge houses and buildings. Each one made out of superior silvers, crystals, and diamonds. They were skillful in science and architecture but fell lackluster in the end. A boring existence, birds in a cage. They were happy this way, creating their own confinement.  Amelia, unlike the others, could never live confined.

Once outside of the town, green hills dotted with colorful wildflowers went to the horizon. She ran, wind twirling her dress, feet gliding over the soft ground, hair stinging her face with speed. She lifted out her arms and spun, a laugh building in her chest. Freedom. Freedom is all she ever wanted and out here she felt a tiny sliver of that. Getting dizzy she fell onto her back in the grass, smiling up into the sun. Lavender and fresh air graced her nostrils and she breathed it deep. It was almost time for the music to begin. She looked over across the great gulf that separated them. A long rusty pipe left from years ago is all that connected the cliffs. What seemed like thousands of feet from the top of the cliff to the bottom of the gulf and thick air in between. The Sodo people and the Eelcrest race have been at war for centuries. In the past they tried to live in peace. They built a beautiful bridge connecting the cliffs but something happened about 13 years ago that caused the treaty to break. Now all that was left from the bridge was a rusty beam. No one talked about the incident and when Amelia asked she was struck across the face. It was dishonorable to ask anything about the Sodo tribe or even bring up the name. 

Sound of rich rhythmic drums began to dance in her ears. She stood up and went to the edge, swinging her legs over, letting them dangle in the air. She moved her pouch off beside her. It held her most precious belonging. The music was deep and hearty. Louder than anything on this side of the world. It enticed her to make her body move without her control. She hummed with the beat, her head moving back and forth. Hair cascading around her body swaying like the bottom of a dress at a ball. The gulf between the cliffs was just far enough across that you couldn’t jump. So much closer than you would think and each day it seemed the edges were calling to each other. 

Closely woven together, colorful villages lined the edge of the cliffs going back as far as the eye could see. Fires as tall as people leapt up from pits all around the villages. Amelia leaned forward mouth open as the Sodo people began to come out. Chocolate gypsies dancing to the hypnotic music, jumping and screaming wildly. Burnt oranges, stewed tomato reds, and custard yellows clung to their bodies in intricate layers. Ribbons swinging wild in their hair. Scarves tied around waists, flying around their hips. Gold earrings, feathered necklaces, and boned bracelets decorated their limbs. Dark skin kissed by honey, high cheeks, bee stung lips, deep cocoa eyes. Smells of exotic spices moved across the cliffs to Amelia’s side. They stung her nose, she leaned forward more and stuck her tongue out. She longed to taste the savory dishes she would see cooking in the fires. Food of all kinds of colors and flavors. Beautiful pottery lined the fire pits holding curious seasonings. 

A tall and young Sodo man snuck away from the party and walked towards the edge of the cliff. He stood staring across at Amelia, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. She leaned back pulling her feet in. His eyes appeared a dazzling blue but that couldn’t be. It was impossible. 

He leaned over, legs bending beneath him. His raven black hair trailing across his face. He put his mouth against the end of the rusty pipe and a deep Earthy sound met Amelia’s ears. 

“How long are you going to stare before saying hello?” Amelia screeched and stood up. If they caught her talking to him she would be killed. She turned around and jogged a little way off looking over her shoulder. He still sat there unmoving, bent over, face against the pipe.

“I promise I won’t tell if you don’t. Talk to me.” He leaned up and smiled at her. Yes, she was sure this time his eyes were blue. 

She fearfully tip toed back over to the pipe, looking behind her. None of the Eelcrest clan came out here. There were a few guards who made rounds but they never came this close to the edge. There was never a need, the bridge was destroyed. The only way across was to build a new bridge and that would never happen. 

Amelia leaned over, white hair falling in front of her eyes. Her mouth met the end of the pipe and a soft angelic sound met his ears. 

“Why do you have blue eyes?” 

“I have no idea. No one here knows. They just accept me as I am.” 

Amelia sat back on her bottom, legs crossed. She peered out across the gulf as thoughts swam around her head. One is more sad than the others. Why could her own people not accept her as she was?

Grabbing the end of the rusty pipe with her hand she leaned back down. 

“I have brown eyes.”

He let out a laugh and fell down grabbing his belly. She could barely hear him. He had gotten too far away from the pipe. 

“How do the only two freaks from either side end up talking?” She made out barley as he continued howling. A smile broke across her face. She leaned over and grabbed her pouch pulling out the music box. She had tried for years to open it but never succeeded. Her parents had died when she was just 3 years old and it was all she had left of them. She guessed it had to be enchanted and only a certain key could unlock it. Knowing freedom was inside, if only she could find the key.

“I’m adopted and I have 12 evil siblings. My family loathes me because I come out here instead of studying. I know Mother wishes she didn’t have to take care of me. I am the bane of her existence. No one here accepts me for who I am.” 

It came out like vomit. She had never spoken it out loud. People here never expressed their feelings. It was an unspoken rule. 

“Well I am adopted as well if that is any comfort to you. Over here people are kind and compassionate. I was raised by an amazing family. My own passed when I was just 3.”

Amelia’s mouth fell open and she quickly leaned over to the pipe. 

“So did mine!”

“That is so uncanny. It must be fate that we met. My name is Zeke. What is yours?”

“My name is Amelia.” 

Zeke looked out across the cliff and noticed a box beside her. It was burgundy with gold jewels carefully placed in a pattern across the top. 

“Hey, where did you get that? It looks familiar somehow.” 

“My parents left it to me. It’s the only thing I have. I believe it’s a music box but I can’t open it. It takes a special key that I have been searching for.” 

“Can you describe the keyhole to me?” 

Amelia held the box up to her eyes as she tried to lean into the pipe. It was an awkward position. 

“It has a gold inlay around the hole. It looks like a jigsaw key would fit it if it had very tiny teeth. It is incredibly small.”

Zeke reached into his waistband and untied a chord. He slipped a shiny object off of it and held it up. It was a brilliant key made of diamonds. He bent back over.

“I believe this will fit it. I’m coming over.”

Amelia’s eyes grew the size of moons and she yelled back, “NO! There is no way over.” The rusty pipe that connected them crossed her mind in a flash. 

“You cannot walk on it. If you slip, you’re dead. That key is not going to fit. It would not make sense.”

“I have a feeling and I am always right about my feelings. Step back I’m coming over.”

Zeke stood up on sturdy legs tying back his ink black hair. He pulled up the flowy material on his pants and grabbed porcupine needles out of his waistband. He bent over and shoved the needles through holding the cloth back. He slipped his leather shoes off laying them beside the pipe then climbed onto it. 

Amelia turned around and looked into the horizon on all sides. The hills were lonely and without a single Eelcrest guard. Still a feeling of fear crept up her spine. 

She turned back around as Zeke carefully placed each foot in front of the other holding his arms out to balance. A gentle breeze began to pick up pulling strands of hair out from behind his head. The ends of his cloak twirling in circles around his hips. Amelia held her breath tensing her body. Screaming across the gulf.

“Please don’t fall!” 

She stepped back, an odd thought pooling in her mind. She was taught her whole life to hate these people. She was raised that they were capable of terrible acts. Rape, murder, and mind control. In school she had to sit through a grueling history class. Pictures of savages entered her head. A chaotic race capable of unspeakable evil. Here one of them was before her, balancing on a pipe heading straight for her side of the world. Her own life balanced on the same rusty pipe. Would he kill her when he reached the other side? Would they be caught if he made it? What would her people do to them? 

“Stop.” She screeched across the gulf, but he was already halfway there. 

He stopped and looked up, maintaining his balance. 

“Calm down frostbite and live a little.”

Her brow crinkled around her eyes. Did he really just call me frostbite? 

“Have we seriously resorted to name call—“

Before she could finish, his foot slipped and he tumbled down barely missing the pipe with his hand. He held on tightly as his legs dangled below, grabbing the pipe with his other hand. He looked down between his legs. Fog filled the gulf. The distance from the top to the bottom was a mystery but he knew in his heart it was far. He swung hard throwing one of his legs over the bar and pulling himself up. Using all his core and upper strength. Regaining his balance and stepping up on the pipe back on his feet, arms stretched out for balance.

Amelia fell down into the grass letting out a long breath, shaking her head. This was insane. 

Zeke carefully now made it to the other side and stepped off into the vibrant greenery. He bent down to her eye level. Two pools of honey stared back at him. Her facial structure was taught and firm just like his. The only difference was the color pallete. Two vivid blue glaciers were looking at her as if he knew everything. She turned away intimidated, handing him the box. 

He unhooked the key from the black chord around his waist and slid it into the keyhole. She heard a soft click and swung her head around. Her hair falling around her shoulders as she leaned towards him, in shock. She reached out placing her hand on the lid and they opened it slowly together. A silver spindle began to roll as a melody met their ears. It sounded enchanting and foreign. A piece of paper folded several times lay in a small compartment behind the spindle. Zeke lifted it out and handed it to Amelia. 

She unfolded it, warm tears rolled down her face. Her hands trembled. Soft letters artfully lay across the page. Her mother’s handwriting was beautiful. 

“Your father and I are saddened to be writing this for we know if you are reading it, we are dead. I pray it never comes to this but if it does I need you to know the truth. Eelcrest and Sodo elders are revoking their peace treaty. If anyone from either side is caught together they will be killed without trial. King of the Sodo people, Larkin was murdered a week before writing this. They blamed an Eelcrest guard for grinding up a deadly root into his drink. Sadly to say there was much evidence pointing to this being true. Many witnesses from the Eelcrest clan stepped forward on the Kings behalf. They were thrown over dead man’s cliff and killed for their betrayal. From hearing this it leaves me to believe that Eelcrest had planned to kill the king and take over the Sodo tribe. There are rumors that they had planned to enslave them to help aid in building a kingdom that would reach the heavens. The Eelcrest people are selfish believing their Gods. They want the whole world to themselves. I was born into the Eelcrest clan but I do not claim their blood. I was reborn into the Sodo tribe by my husband. Your father. We are slipping away into the forbidden woods south of the cliffs. We will build a home for you there. We will live in secrecy until our Sodo people win this war. If we are caught I want you to know you have my love forever. I will be with you in heart. You have our fire, it burns through you. You are a dreamer, a pioneer, a lover. Discover new lands and fight for peace. Above all else know I am proud of you. I wish I could watch you grow up. Remember one very important thing, there is a real God above and he will have vengeance on anyone who touches a hair on your head. Keep true to who you are and never lose yourself. To my precious twins. My gorgeous frost and my handsome midnight. – Mom.” 

Amelia let the letter fall into her lap, hands going to her eyes. She cried bitterly. Zeke reached out his arms and folded them around her tiny frame. They wept together, an inseparable bond as twins bound to meet. Loneliness did not exist in that moment. She felt more alive than ever before. Her history now coming together with her present. This stranger she had just met had shared a womb with her. They were family.

Zeke pulled back and looked down at her. 

“What are we going to do now?” 

“Leave this place and search for other tribes. Maybe we can build alliances, fight against the Eelcrest people, defeating them and bringing peace forever.”

Zeke shook his head and leaned into her again. Emotions overthrew them for what seemed like forever. They could barely grasp what they had just learned. 

Amelia felt a cold hand grab her arm ripping her up from the ground. She was spun around, peering up at a tall guard. Years of confinement, abuse, and bitterness welled up in her chest. She spat in the guards face and tried to break away but he was too strong. The sound of bones crushing violated her ears and she swung around to see Zeke’s arms being smashed under the blow of special batons. Weapons designed to be heavy, precise, and deadly. His body was being held down by two guards and they ripped his broken limbs behind him, tying them at the wrists. They picked him up and shoved him forward walking him back towards town. 

“Stop. Let us go.” Amelia yelled struggling against the stone faced man holding her. 

“We will go now, nasty Sodo lover.” 

“He is my brother and I will not separate from him!” 

The guards turned around at this and stared at her. The guard holding her nodded his head at another guard and pulled out his baton. He swung it at her head, black rushed in from every side. Her body went limp and he picked her up, carrying her into town as Zeke trudged along. He was helpless, outnumbered with his arms shattered behind him. 

When Amelia woke up she was leaning against Zeke’s back. She was sitting on rock, black and glittery. This was dead man’s cliff. A sharp foundation that projected out of Earth. This is where Eelcrest Elders came to kill betrayers. It had been many years since anyone was flung over this cliff. Amelia leaned over to the side and looked down. Fog as far as her eyes could see not giving any hints to the distance below. 

Zeke was awake and alert. 

“We will get through this together.” He leaned the back of his head against hers for comfort. 

“Actually you won’t.” Mother stepped forward on the shimmering stone. Her bizarre ice blue dress trailing behind her, hands clasped in front of her. She had an expressionless face. 

6 guards ascended behind her. There was no getting out of this. 

“I knew this day would come. With your father’s dirty blood running through you, you were bound to meet your brother. All those years spent staring out across the cliff. I couldn’t stop you. I just knew when the time came I could offer you redemption.”

She bent down grabbing Amelia’s hand, pulling her up on her feet. A stream of blood trickled down her head flowing across her white porcelain skin. 

“As you know, the penalty for being caught with a Sodo tribe member is death without trial. Your my child and I feel partly responsible for you. So after speaking with the Elders we have come up with a way to spare your life.”

Two Guards walked around them and aggressively stood Zeke up walking him as close to the edge as possible. The guards turned him to face everyone, back against the ledge. 

Mother grabbed a long spear from the guard to her right. It was long, pointy, black. Silver inlays wove around it in a spiral. 

“Take this and push your brother off the edge. Prove us your loyalty and you will be spared. I will never treat you poorly again. You can finally be accepted as you have always yearned for.”

Amelia glanced down at the spear and then back at Zeke. Their eyes locked. It wasn’t just acceptance Amelia longed for. It was freedom.

“Do it, Amelia. I know you have a good heart and you want to save me but it’s over. If you don’t kill me they will.” 

He sounded so sincere and this angered Amelia. She reached for the spear and threw it over the cliff. It whistled as she heard it descend into the depths below. 

“The Sodo people are good! They are richly beautiful and artistically capable. Humble to the core. One Sodo man is kinder than all of the Eelcrest people together. He is so eager to be flung over the side of this cliff to spare me, while you are the ones who are so eager to murder what you don’t understand. I will not kill my brother and neither will any of you.”

Mother was angered by her speech and reached for her neck but Amelia stepped back quickly. She backed up to the edge lining her body beside Zeke’s. She reached over carefully, untied his wrists and grabbed his hand. She knew his arms hurt but she wanted his body to be unbound. 

Mother stood back as the emotion of disgust passed over her face. 

“Then you both can die together.” 

Amelia grabbed Zeke’s hand knowing he couldn’t reach for hers. 

“We do not die today, we fly.”

She looked over at Zeke, his eyes flowing with tears. She couldn’t fight back her own and quickly wiped them away. She wanted to experience this final moment with him. See, taste, hear and feel the wind beneath their wings. Zeke took one foot and leaned it out over the edge. She did the same. They would push off together. They would not give them the satisfaction of killing them. 

“Today we will be with mom and dad.” Zeke choked out. 

“Today we will be free. We will experience true peace. Where colors mix.” Amelia smiled. 

“Mint greens and ocean blues. Stewed reds and burnt oranges.” Zeke forced out a quiet laugh. 

“Frost and Midnight.” 

With that the pushed off from the cliff, the weight of their bodies pulling them in different directions. The freedom Amelia had so yearned for greeted her in the cold breeze. She fell down into the gulf that separated their clans, Zeke close by. Twins. A symbol of love left behind by their parents. Before their bodies shattered against the bottom, one final thought crossed both their minds. They prayed to God that no one would ever be thrown over the cliffs again because of their skin color, tribe, or origin. 

My father looked up at us from where he was sitting on a log, pulling his reading glasses off. He put the storybook he had just finished reading to us onto his lap. I noticed no more pages were left. I was deeply troubled by the fact the story had ended so sadly. 

My siblings and I were sitting around the fire, I looked into their faces. Teary blue and brown eyes stared back. Things were different now. Peace had prevailed in the lands. New tribes discovered and the Eelcrest people had been brought down to earth. Bridges sprung up all over for miles across the cliffs. 

My father leaned in and smiled. 

“We must never let Amelia and Zeke’s death be in vain little one. We must strive to live together, free. Their deaths brought great change, happiness for us.”

It was heartbreaking and left me feeling uneasy. However, it was an uneasiness that was welcome. I knew being uncomfortable was a way of growing. Their story had to be told without giving them a happy ending. For some people a “happily ever after” wasn’t possible, but those people helped set a course for ours. I could see the beauty in it. I could hear the delicate truth in the tragedy.

My father stood up and gathered all of us inside. It was getting late. As I walked into the house my lime green eyes looked up into the sky. 

“Thank you,” I whispered.

Illustrations and story Copyrighted to Megan Alder February 24th, 2020.

If you are interested in my children’s book the link is down below. Thank you for supporting new Authors and Artists!

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  1. Timmy Thomas

    Megan this is wonderful! It doesn’t suprise me that you have another great talent. Love mom

  2. wifeofsewell

    Awesome story Megan. This was very good.


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