I surveyed the wire fence before me, visibly brown with rust. It stretched out several feet on either side, and to my knowledge, it encased the factory complex completely. Peering through the fence’s stiff, wiry loops, I could see a stretch of green grass so brilliant it hurt my eyes, and the factory buildings fading into fog beyond. A sulfuric odor reached my nostrils. Wrinkling my nose, I tilted my head slightly upwards toward the smoke stacks looming in the distance. Dark grey clouds billowed into the sky: the grey, grey sky that should be blue.
I furrowed my brow as I glanced at the sign pinned onto the fence on my left. “Private Property: No Trespassing”, it said. My stomach sank as I realized the immensity of the task before me. If I wanted blue skies ever again, I’d have to infiltrate this factory and shut it down, thus ending what I thought were smoke emissions into the atmosphere. To do that, I’d have to climb over this fence. If I did climb over and aim Dad’s pistol at the workers, the police would come and imprison me, or something even worse might happen.
“Why did I choose the furry boots today?” I muttered underneath my breath. I didn’t have to add that they were a pair I didn’t even remember buying. They were grey as ash, a color I’d never be interested in wearing to school. I wore them today because I wasn’t in the mood to be picky about my fashion choices, what with the polluted sky and all.
I swallowed hard, and backed a few steps away from the fence. I got a running start, leaped, and grabbed the wires with my fingers. My heart thudded faster as my feet came to a rest on the wires below, and I clung there for a full second, ready to jump off and run at the nearest sign of someone coming.
But no one was around, so I tightened the pistol strap around my torso, and began to climb.
I’ll admit, this trespass onto private property wasn’t completely my idea. In fact, the movie I was watching last night inspired me to do it.
It was an old black-and-white action movie that took place during World War II. I tossed popcorn into my mouth while sitting on the threadbare couch, staring at the ancient rabbit-eared television proudly displaying the historically inaccurate film. Behind me, I could hear Dad talking on the phone. His voice was too low for me to hear over the noise of the movie, but I figured it had to do with his job. After all, he was one of the top medical researchers in the country.
Dad’s voice suddenly broke through the movie’s sounds. I glanced down at the couch for the remote, wanting to turn up the volume so I couldn’t hear him. It was nowhere to be seen.
“Yeah, Dad?” I replied with a mouthful of buttery mush as my hand dove into the cracks between the seats of the couch in a desperate search. But I ran out of time when Dad spoke in that soft but assertive voice of his.
“I’m heading off to the research facility again,” he told me. “It’s… important this time. We might have a breakthrough in our study.”
“At nine o’clock at night? Really? Don’t they understand you need sleep?”
“Cassie, it’s important.” Dad got the tone in his voice that meant he wasn’t any more enthused about it than I was. “I probably won’t be back until tomorrow night. Be a good girl and take yourself to school, okay? And don’t go near that factory again.”
“Okay, Dad. I won’t,” I responded in the most innocent of voices. At least, I thought it was innocent enough.
I heard Dad sigh deeply, a trademark of his usual behavior, and head for the door. “Love you, Cassie.”
“Love you too, Dad.”
The door slammed behind him. As soon as I heard the hum of the car engine fade away outside, I found the remote and turned up the volume on the movie. I tried not to snicker at my luck.
“What am I going to do for twenty-four hours alone?” I said aloud.
That’s when a certain scene in the movie caught my eye.
The sky was grey in the movie, obviously, since it was in black and white, but it still reminded me of the private factory plant down the road, which I could swear was the cause of the now constantly grey skies. But that wasn’t all. The movie depicted the main character infiltrating the Nazis’ base to save his friends from their clutches. He climbed over the wire fence and sneaked past the guards, until he got to the prison cell and freed his friends. Then he and his friends accidentally set off an alarm, punched out some Nazis, stole their guns, and got out in one piece.
Sure, it didn’t make any sense. But the wire fence in the film reminded me of the wire fence surrounding the factory down the road. Because of this connection, not to mention the grey sky, the movie made me clench my fists in determination as I got an idea.
I could infiltrate the factory down the road. I could stop the smoke stacks from producing so much smoke. I could make the sky blue again.
Immediately I powered off the TV and ran upstairs to prepare. I grabbed a pair of fresh clothes and a pair of furry grey boots. I pulled out a pair of black biking gloves and my dad’s pistol and strap from his room. I assembled all these things in a corner of my room where I could easily find them again tomorrow.
I could hardly sleep from excitement.
Flipping one leg over the fence and latching on a wire on the other side was a little tricky. But I managed to do it pretty quickly, my heart threatening to fall out of my mouth the entire time. It was strange that no one seemed to be around. I let out a breath and told myself that it was beginner’s luck. There were bound to be people inside the factory building itself who might see me.
I climbed a little lower down and then jumped, landing on my feet in the soft green grass on the other side of the fence. I immediately began to run towards the factory. Even when I felt bark and dirt underneath my boots, I didn’t stop.
Finally, I found myself running up to a tall grey wooden fence. My mind almost gave up at this point until I saw a gate set in the fence. It was slightly ajar, too. I smiled in relief. After taking one more minute to catch my breath, I sidestepped along the fence toward the gate and slipped inside, wondering the entire time why there were two fences guarding this private property and not just one.
No one was in the yard. Now was my chance to view my surroundings. I looked up and tilted my head a bit to the left. The smoke stacks were even more monumental up close. The smell of sulfur burning was also stronger. My eyes stung from what I thought was dust in the air. I turned my head straight ahead while still looking up. The main building of the factory loomed before me. Right in front of me was a double door entrance.
My heart started banging against my ribs again, as if it were trying to escape its surroundings just as much as I wanted to escape mine. My breathing was shallower as well. I ignored both signs of fear and headed for the doors. I pulled on one of the handles with all my might. The door popped right open. Smiling, I walked right on through.
That’s when the alarm went off.
My stomach did a cartwheel as I quickly contemplated my surroundings. I was in a long hallway which extended for about thirty feet until it made a turn left. Doors lined both walls. Over the wail of the alarm, I heard angry voices coming from where the hallway turned left. Rapid footsteps accompanied them.
What would they think of me intruding on private property with a pistol strapped to my back? They’d probably assume the worst. What would happen to me then?
Trying to fight back tears at my impending doom, I ran for the nearest door and barged through it. I hoped it would be a place I could hide.
My hopes were instantly crushed as I realized I had made a huge mistake.
This was an office room, with fluorescent lights crackling above, and people talking in it.
I froze in place as soon as I had made my entrance. I stared at the men who now stared back at me.
There were four in all. One of them was clearly the man in charge, judging from the armchair he sat in, the desk he rested his elbows on, and his clearly expensive new suit. The other three men were in bright grey worker’s uniforms, covered in what I could only imagine was soot and possibly worse. They had stood in front of the desk, probably wondering about the alarm, and had turned around when I burst in.
One of them started running toward me.
“No!” I screamed as the man cornered me and grabbed me and… hugged me?
“Cassie!” he exclaimed in my ear. “What on earth are you doing here?!”
I looked at his face, flecks of soot indistinguishable from his familiar stubble. Realization hit me. I hugged him tighter and began to cry.
“Dad!” I sobbed. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Don’t let them send me to jail!”
I heard the alarm stop, but I didn’t care. Dad was here, and he was probably furious. My emotions were so mixed up now. I cried like a baby in his arms.
“It’s okay, sweetie,” he murmured into my shoulder. “I’m not angry. No one is.”
I stopped crying, and considered what he just said. “What? I’m not going to jail? You won’t ground me for a month?” I stared at him, and my eyes grew wider as I realized something else.
Why was Dad here in a worker’s uniform? Wasn’t he supposed to be at his office in the medical research facility? If he told me not to come here, then why was he here?
“Wait a minute!” I shouted, pushing Dad backwards. “You liar! You didn’t have anything important to do at the research facility! You don’t even have that job anymore, do you?!”
Dad’s face twisted into a guilty expression. “I’m sorry I lied to you, Cassie,” he apologized quietly.
I wasn’t listening. “They fired you, and you didn’t have the heart to tell me! Now you’re working at this stupid factory and making the sky grey forever! How could you?! How could you?!”
This last comment made Dad snort in the way he always did when he thought I had no idea what I was talking about. He now seemed to have a mix of anger and pity on his face.
Dad placed a hand on my shoulder to stop my rant. He glared at me and said firmly, “Cassie, I want you to stop and listen to me. I can explain myself. Take a seat.” He gestured towards the seats that lay empty behind us, their previous occupants still looking frozen in place and dumbfounded.
I sniffed and did as he said. The other men actually made room for me. Dad sat in one of the other seats across from me.
“Let me explain, please,” he told his co-workers and the man in the suit. They nodded, then silently left the room one by one.
Dad turned back to me. “Now, Cassie…” He paused, probably wondering what to say to me, until he noticed my boots. “Are those the furry boots you picked out for your birthday last year?”
I looked down at the boots myself. I suddenly remembered the time when we went shopping for my birthday, and I picked out a pair of boots like these.
“No,” I replied. “These aren’t the boots I picked. I picked a pair exactly like these, only they were blue. I don’t remember getting these grey ones at all.”
Dad sighed. “They’re the exact same boots, Cassie. They’re grey for the same reason that my blue uniform looks grey right now… and the same reason the sky is always grey now.”
I looked up at him. Blue things turning grey? How was that possible?
“So it’s not the factory turning the sky grey?” I asked feebly.
Dad shook his head. “No, honey. It’s not the factory. The boots, my uniform, and the sky are all still blue as can be. It’s just that you can’t see blue anymore.” He sighed again. “You see, you’re developing a color blindness in which you can’t see the color blue. It’s a rare condition that I was researching at my old job-- so rare, in fact, that a lot of controversy exists in the medical community on whether it’s even real.
“I knew it had to be. I knew you were developing it. So I asked my superiors whether I could research it to find a cure. They thought I was delusional, so they fired me.”
My heart sank as I realized that his words made sense. I hadn’t seen a spot of blue in weeks now. To think that Dad actually lost his job to try to cure me made me feel sick.
“I’m sorry for lying to you,” I confessed.
Dad stood up and looked down at me. “I’m sorry for lying to you too. I should have just told you. Then none of this would ever have happened.”
I stood up and took his hand. “Can we go home now?”
Dad nodded. “Yes. Let’s go home.”
We left the factory under a grey sky. Maybe I couldn’t ever see the color blue again. But now I saw who my father was for the first time.
Copyright 2017 by C.A. Nathaniel and Ichthus Family Productions
On a completely unrelated note, if you didn't see our previous post, WE ANNOUNCED A RELEASE DATE FOR TREASURE SEEKERS!!! Check out that post here.