Seven Year Monsoon
Margot had missed the sun.
She leaned her forehead miserably against one of the few above-ground windows, staring into the tumult of writhing grey plants: ever growing to be ever crushed under the torrential downpours here on Venus. A fern below caught her attention. It had long tendrils and thin leaves that delicately unfurled; growing beneath the shelter of the large leaf of another tree, color and health slowly suffused its form. The young girl sat upright, watching closely.
“You can do it…” she murmured as bright green began to creep up the fledgling plant’s stems.
The leaf sheltering the seedling from the storm was finally overcome by the liquid pooling on its surface and dumped its heavy cascade directly onto the fern. It was pulverized immediately, flattened and floppy looking. It lay still for only a moment until it was swallowed by other new growth; creeping patterns of inky ash-colored flora tentacling out of the thick wall of jungle.
Margot sighed and let her head drop forward again with a resounding thunk. The eternal storm clouds on the horizon hung heavy with black intensity as they roiled and tumbled and grew. Even though the natural light coming in the windows here was blue and cold, she still felt it better than the bright sun lamps gracing the hab-units on the lower levels. She remained the palest fourth grader in her class.
Now, directly after the worst day of her young life, she came to this window. She raced here to experience even a trace of weak light from the yellow star; for she had missed The Event. Tears welling in her eyes, Margot pressed herself against the glass even though she knew the sun wouldn’t shine on Venus for another seven years. She had already spent two hours that afternoon crying: wailing for her parents to take her back to Earth so she could please, pretty please, see the sun again, so she could see her old friends, so she could play outside for once.
Earlier today her classmates had locked her in the closet for the duration of The Event: when the skies cleared and the sun came out on Venus for just two hours every seven years. As so often happens in youth it was childlike envy that made their decision, the cruel mob rule that defeats understanding. They were jealous of her, jealous of “Margot from Earth” who had been raised in the life-giving light at the center of their solar system. The girl who had moved here, not been born into the underground like them. The girl who had already played outdoors more than they would over the span of their entire lives.
She pounded on the door. She cried and shrieked as loud as her nine-year-old lungs would allow, yet to no avail; until a sudden sense of clarity overcame her. Everyone was outside. It would do no good to scream, she would not see the sun today. She would not see the sun for nearly another of her short lifetimes: seven long years. The clarity was then replaced with panic. It wasn’t claustrophobia— she had felt claustrophobic since they had moved to Venus five years ago. She had learned to cope with that anxiety, though it seemed the walls inched closer daily.
This feeling was different. She couldn’t breathe. She realized it wasn’t just the familiar ache of being smothered by concrete corridors and dull steel beams; the air inside the closet was actually running out. There was no ventilation grate in the small space, only in the room outside! She forced herself to take slow breaths, pushing her face up to the small crack at the bottom of the door. She stayed like that for what seemed like days.
Soon black blossoming clouds covered the sun, the huge droplets began anew, and the surface of the planet returned to untamable normalcy. The other students returned inside the invincible fortification that protected them from the endless rain. Now that they had experienced the sun for themselves, it was with much guilt and trepidation they returned to the closet and let Margot out. She simply walked past them; passed pale and ethereal through the knot of silent 4th graders, not meeting their stares with her own red eyes. At her family’s hab-unit she pressed her face up to the air vent and breathed as deep as she could until mother and father returned home from work.
She had cried to her parents and begged them to return to Earth, but they could give her no clear answer. It was silent at supper and after pecking halfheartedly at her food she asked to be excused. Now here she sat at the familiar classroom window, scrutinizing the immeasurable deluge, just feet away from the closet she had been entombed within this very morning.
Right now she no longer cared about the rain, its depressing constancy. She no longer bemoaned the sun being perpetually hidden, or the fact she wasn’t on Earth any longer. She no longer maintained rage nor confusion towards her fellow classmates. What tore her heart apart at this moment was the air. The stale, musty air that even the massive dehydrators and filters of the Ventilation & Reclamation Unit deep at the heart of their colony couldn’t wring all the stagnation from. If only she could breathe the outside air again; no matter how humid or dry, hot or cold.
It was an overpowering feeling of desperation. She needed to get outside. She needed to fill her lungs with air she hadn’t breathed a hundred times before. In fact she thought as she rose from her place on the long, panoramic windowsill. I need to breathe fresh air right now. Margot picked up her school chair and hurled it with all her might at the heavy piece of slanted glass.
The storm windows in the great bunkerlike cities of Venus were created using a similar concept as a Prince Rupert’s Drop. The thick glass outside was rated to withstand thousands of tons of pressure and weight and easily kept the fierce storms that battered the colony at bay. The sacrifice for such outer strength was that, from the inside, the domed windows were much more fragile.
The metal chair bounced off, but small bunches of cracks formed where two legs had hit. The matching spiderwebs only reminded her she was stuck, helpless as an ensnared fly; wrapped in the dim light of the darkening evening and bound to the halitosis of the narrowing hallways surrounding her. Again and again she dashed the chair against the window until all at once, it gave way. Glittering fist-sized knots of crystalline glass and long ropes of clear water crashed inwards intermixed as onyx storm clouds clashed with azure lightning above.
The classroom door leading to the rest of the complex sealed at that moment to stop the rising water’s advance. Alarms sounded as the room filled quickly with water. In a matter of seconds, the flood carried her up and over the windowsill. Outside in the elements she slid faster and faster down the steep side of the slick monolithic building. Margot filled her chest with fresh air and released with that sweet breath with a smile: the first in the five years since she had arrived on Venus.
She slipped into the churning void that crashed endlessly against the walls of the bleak city, lost forever to tossing oceans of unceasing rainwater— a delicate fern pulverized by new growth and uncaring torrents.