Works in Progress
This page features new literary works by Westminster students, faculty, staff, and alumni. How many stories, essays, and poems are posted and how frequently the postings will change depends entirely on the quantity and quality of submissions. So send your work (in the form of a Microsoft Word document) to one of the editors and let us see if it seems right for The Virtual Martlet.
Every spring, students in Michael Cervas’s Science Fiction Today elective try their hands at writing a sci-fi or fantasy short story. Often they use the stories of Ursula K. Le Guin as models, especially her thought experiments such as “Maze” which tells the story of a laboratory rat from the rat’s point of view. Madeleine Percival ‘15 does something similar in this short story about an ant who leaves her colony out of curiosity only to be shocked back when one of her colleagues meets a tragic end.
I’m still not quite sure what happened that day. No one talks about it. In fact, no one really seems phased by it at all. I, however, cannot move past it. The only thing I do know for certain is that it put me in my place and here I will remain.
I had never ventured outside much. I had worked in the colony’s nursery for my entire life until that one day. I cannot recall why I had wanted a change so much, why I couldn’t stand to work in the nursery. All I can remember is that I needed a break from it. I wanted to do something new. This was a foreign concept to the other residents in the colony. Most people around here tend to practice the same profession for life, and they consider change to be an evil concept. They kept saying, “Working in the nursery is a very respectable and important job, why would you ever want to change?” Change is considered an evil topic in our community because it is associated with disorder, which is highly disliked around here. I should have listened to the other workers and stayed where I was. But curiosity got in the way of my tendency to be practical. I wanted to travel outside the colony with the hunters. The hunters are highly regarded around here because their job is so dangerous. Every time a group ventures out at least one hunter goes missing. But their job is essential: they provide food to the colony. My curiosity about the outdoors grew into an obsession. Once this obsession began affecting my work, it was decided that I would be allowed to accompany the hunters on their next excursion.
The training was hours long and very tedious. There were three rules that I had to memorize in order to pass the test. Rule 1: Follow the trail. Rule 2: Always move forward. Rule 3: Do not stop moving. These were not very hard to remember, and they seemed to be no more than common sense. After passing the test, I was led to the passage that would take me outside and put in a line of hunters. We waited here for a very long time. Such a long time that by the time I was able to peer outside, I could already see others coming back, carrying various catches, some so big two hunters carried them side by side. The light outside was blinding, nothing like I had ever experienced before. It shocked me so much I almost broke the second rule and retreated.
I had never left the colony before and I had not anticipated how dense the “The Blades”would be. The Blades is what the hunters called the huge forest of green stalks, some three times the height of an average person, that surrounded the colony. It would be easy to get lost if you strayed from the trail. Luckily, I had no trouble following the trail and was running along as fast as I could just trying to keep up. That was when I noticed the trail ended abruptly, it had been blocked by something, a tree perhaps, I am still not quite sure. In the colony they call them “big trees” but I am not convinced. It was huge, bigger than any tree I had ever seen before, but it didn’t smell like a tree to me. In fact, it didn’t smell natural at all. That didn’t seem to stop anyone, and our group simply moved around it. By this time I was starting to regret my decision to leave the colony. This feeling was exacerbated when I found that there was another big tree right up ahead, identical to the other tree. Both of the trees had a single thick root that stretched out and created a mountain before going back into the ground. I couldn’t see to the top of the tree, but it looked to reach far into the sky. I was extremely confused by this sight, but no one else seemed bothered, so I decided not to think about it and keep moving with the pack. The rest of the hunters skirted around this tree and kept going. We moved along the root of the tree and soon ended up crossing a clearing. We quickly moved along the edge of the clearing, all of us except one daring person, Antoinette. Antoinette had seen a berry in the middle of the clearing, so she broke out of the line to retrieve it. We all kept moving, ignoring this bold action until we heard screaming. Everyone stopped and turned to the sound. It was Antoinette, she was writhing in pain and had flipped over so she was lying on her back, her limbs twitching in the air. Everyone was horrified, and a few hunters even ran toward her. I looked up to see if something had fallen on her and saw the tree had folded over and one of its branches was extended so it hovered in the sky just over her writhing body. Something very bright was tangled in the fleshy branch. It was a circular lens bordered in a brown material of some kind. I thought maybe it was the sun. It emitted light directly onto Antoinette’s body and was tearing her apart. I looked down at her dead black skeleton. A few of her legs had fallen off and a thin wisp of grey air was rising from her body. It smelled of death, this we could all smell, and we knew we would have to leave her behind. The line began moving again, but in the direction of the colony. Though this was a brief event and one that to this day remains confusing and uncertain, I will never forget it. The moment I re-entered the colony I ran to the nursery chamber and picked up right where I left off, where I remain to this day. Never again will I venture into the light.
Madeleine Percival ‘15