Foremost Facade

facadeWrite a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt: Facade
Via Daily Post: Facade

 

The wall had always been there. She’d grown alongside it; her height increasing each year, the stones chipping and weathering in turn. The realization that the top of the structure didn’t reach the moon had been the last wonder of her childhood to be dashed to bits. Now it was merely a canvas for aspiring artists in her eyes. It was a right of passage to create a mural on the wall that didn’t get painted over, and this is what she found herself striving for.  

Alice was soft spoken, shy and unassuming, but she had aspirations to be more. Although she lacked a special skill to contribute to the community, she knew the beauty trapped within her mind would make up for her deficit. She was no savant, and she had to hone her abilities. So she began the habit of trekking along the wall each day, leading her far from the settlement. She had been lucky to discover a slight curve in the wall that offered some seclusion so that she could practice painting.

Sliding the pack off her shoulder, Alice set it on a flat rock jutting out from the small hill opposite the wall. She pulled out a blanket and spread it in the makeshift valley between her pack and the stony barricade. Carefully laying out her homemade brushes, she arranged them from finest to broadest tip, checking the integrity of the hairs as she did so. After careful inspection of her supplies, she turned to the wall and let out a long sigh.

Her last attempt at a masterpiece had been a failure. The bright colors of her mind’s eye and intricate strokes had been clumsily relayed through her small hand. The image hadn’t taken full form yet, and she wasn’t even sure what it was that she was creating. It was her fifth attempt at the unknown image that haunted her thoughts. Her growing frustration was evident as she clenched her teeth and glared at the sloppy recreation. 

Grabbing a small stone, she chucked it at the wall, hoping inwardly to break the barrier between her brain and physical abilities. She winced at the loud crack that emanated from the collision, watching the stone drop to the ground and roll to the side, finally coming to rest. Her confidence within did not feel refreshed. Alice lifted her hand to squeeze the bridge of her nose and let out a huff. 

“Hello?”

Alice let her hand drop and opened her eyes, vision darting from side to side. The source of the voice wasn’t apparent. She whipped her head to look over her shoulder, searching for the culprit. The yellow, knee high grass waved gently in the breeze. Alice raised up to the balls of her feet, as though an additional inch would improve her vantage point. She spun in a circle, surveying her surroundings. 

“Is somebody there?”

Alice jumped at the sound of the voice. It was clear as a bell, so someone had to be close by. She was sure no one from the village knew of her secluded studio. The hair on the back of her neck raised at the prospect of an encounter with a stranger. Licking her lips, she dropped her voice as low as she could and responded, “Where are you?”

A knock sounded from the wall, followed by the voice, “I’m here.”

Alice stared at the stone face, brow furrowed in confusion. It had never occurred to her that someone could get to the opposite side. She looked up towards the top of the immense structure, sure to see someone meeting her curious gaze, but was only met by the sky above her head. Looking into the endless blue, she pondered why someone would be beyond the wall.

Alice belonged to one of three settlements in the zone, and all of the citizens abided by regulations that had been set by the leaders long ago. It was common knowledge that success didn’t belong to an individual, but to everyone that benefitted from the action. People were free to act as they pleased, as long as it wasn’t a danger to anyone. But there was one cardinal rule that was hammered into each person from the day they were born: never go beyond the wall. 

Of course, as a child, there had been a lot of questions: Why couldn’t they go beyond the wall? What was on the other side? Who built the wall? And for a child, the answers had been quelled with explanations of monsters and promises of suffering. 

As Alice matured, the truths of the wall were revealed to her, just as they were to all when the appropriate age was reached. Strangely enough, the stories didn’t differ much from childhood. The wall protected the last refuge of humanity. After the fallout, Alice’s ancestors and other survivors had emerged from the bunkers to begin anew, erecting the wall and protecting themselves from the horrors of the ravaged wasteland beyond. Alice had seen the pictures of what lay on the opposite side of the stony fortification three years ago, and her desire for exploration evaporated. 

Alice shouldn’t be talking to someone who would dare to break the rule, but her curiosity urged her to feed it answers, “Why did you go over the wall?”

For a few minutes, there was silence. Alice began to wonder if she had imagined the voice. Perhaps the wind had caught the lip of the stone and tricked her brain into thinking it more than a howl. But as she tried to debunk the sound, the voice finally replied.

“I was just about to ask you the same question…”

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