“Mama, what were trees like?” asked Fatima.
“Remember the pictures I showed you in the book cave?” asked Mama.
“Yeah, you used to be able to play outside!”
“Yes,” said Mama. Back then God’s world was beautiful. Who knew the moment of no return was so close at hand, that the glaciers would melt and the coasts and everything for miles inland would be washed into the expanding sea, that fresh water would become so scarce and the Earth’s weather so extreme?
Mama said, “At least you have the mud cave to play in.”
“But it’s so small,” complained Fatima. “And I’m tired of dirt. What did it feel like, being able to walk above ground and breathe the air? I think I’d be scared with so much space all around me.”
“You’d get used to it sweetie,” said Mama. “Earth was beautiful. There were blue skies, oceans teeming with life, mountains covered with trees and even snow. Remember I told you about snow? The valley looked so pretty blanketed in snow. It was so peaceful. Once in a while there was a rain storm and every branch of every tree became coated with a thin layer of ice. All that glistening and sparkling ice was gorgeous in the moonlight! But it wasn’t fun to drive in.”
“I’ll never drive a car,” said Fatima. “We don’t need cars down here. There’s no place to go. I can walk across my whole world in ten minutes.”’
“The pollution from all those cars is one thing that hurt the Earth’s atmosphere,” said Mama. “We’re lucky the filters down here work well enough to give us clean air to breathe and the underground spring provides clean water for us to drink! The trees used to do some of that, too. And then in the fall their leaves turned all different shades of yellow, orange, and red before dropping to the ground. The valley was glorious then.”
“I saw pictures of autumn in that book,” said Fatima.
Mama continued, “And we loved going to the beach in summer. There was sand along the coast in some places and we could play in the waves. The currents weren’t so strong then and the water wasn’t so polluted. We’d even go camping across the valley and sleep outside, under the stars. Can you imagine that?”
“I’ve only seen pictures of the moon and stars. Good thing somebody stored away lots of books down here. It’s almost like we’re living on a different planet now -- Planet Dirt. It’d feel weird not to be surrounded by dirt walls all the time. But it’d be awesome to go sledding in the valley and make snow angels and sand castles and stuff! Do you think anything up there is still alive? We’re lucky to be alive, huh? Do you think the earth will heal by the time I’m a grown-up? Will I ever see what’s up there, beyond the outer tunnels? Can we go back to the valley someday? Can we?”
“Only God knows,” said Mama. “They say there’s not much to see beyond the outer dome right now. Maybe when you’re bigger you can help out in the garden up there. -- It’s close to the surface.”
“I’d like that,” said Fatima. She paused and then continued, “…Did anyone ever run away from down here?”
“Oh no honey, that would be way too dangerous. The scientists are monitoring the conditions above ground. They’ll tell us when it’s safe to go back up to the valley. But it might still be a long time. It’s been almost forty years already, but the elders say it’s not as bad as it was in the beginning. If we could go above ground, we’d have to start all over again. It wouldn’t be easy. Not that living underground is easy.” Mama pulled Fatima close and gave her a big hug. “God saved a bunch of us for a reason.”
“Let’s pray,” said Fatima. Mama and Fatima prayed often, “…to you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears…”*
And Mama said, “Don’t ever lose hope sweetie. God has plans for you.”
* Hail Holy Queen
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