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2013 High School Writers’ Competition, Honorable Mention Two

Our Unsymmetrical House, by Kimberly Smith

I’ll admit, running away wasn’t my brightest idea. It was stupid, rash, and delusional. At
home, I was safe. I had a clear, sure path for my future, and that was the problem. At school,
they used history as an excuse not to teach us science. They taught us how to read and write and
do simple arithmetic, but we never learned anything new. No one else seemed to mind. After
all, knowledge was what caused that disaster right? When humans got too much power, they
destroyed everything they had worked so hard to build. That’s what they told us.

When I heard about the ruins outside the city limits, I immediately wanted to go there.
My mother told me there wasn’t anything there worth seeing. It was all rubble and rotting
memories. I think that is what intrigued me. At home, everything was pristine. All the houses
were crisp and clean, just like their residents, picture perfect families, with just the right amount
of everything, just enough money, just enough food, just enough knowledge. There was never
too little or too much of anything. Everything was just right. That fairytale girl from that ancient story, well she would have loved my city. I was convinced that the empty, old towns would be different. They would be dirty and unorganized and real. I was hesitant to tell anyone about my dream of visiting the ruins, but by the end of my eighth year in school, I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt trapped, I just had to leave.

Then, one day I found myself walking home with my friend, and neighbor Grant, a
gangly, awkward boy. He never really knew quite what to do in any given situation, so as you
can imagine, when I approached him with my crazy idea, he was lost. Mostly, he just gawked at
me, his mouth agape, and his pale blue eyes wide. Just before I gave up on him entirely, he did
something I would never have expected. He spoke.

“Sofia, you’re absolutely crazy!”

I laughed. “I know.” And I did know. I knew that it was the craziest thing I had ever
suggested, but I didn’t care.

Grant’s eyebrows started to scrunch, and his gaze focused on the ground. Mouth shut, he
returned to his previous state of Grant-ness.

“So?” I asked “Will you come with me?”

“I don’t know Sofia. It sounds dangerous… and illegal.”

“That’s the point isn’t it?” I stepped in front of him. He stopped in his tracks but didn’t
look up. “Aren’t you tired of this Grant? Don’t you want to know what the world is really like?
You can’t want to stay in this terrarium forever. Like a bug under a microscope?”

When Grant looked up at me, he wore an expression I had never seen him with before,
slightly angry, yet at the same time, hopeful.

That look started it all. Instead of turning right onto our street, we turned left. We walked
miles, and by the time we reached city limits, it was dark. No one was around to see us scale the
wire fence and leap out into the unknown, but that didn’t mean it didn’t happen. In fact, it was
the most definite moment in my entire life. The fall, though it lasted only seconds, defined the
rest of my life. It felt everlasting. That moment was at the same time, thick like oil and light as
air. When we hit the ground, we stood up, brushed ourselves off and didn’t look back. We were
caged animals, finally freed.

That isn’t to say we didn’t miss home. There wasn’t a day where I didn’t miss my family,
and there wasn’t a night where I didn’t long to be back in my soft bed. It was hard, but it was
worth it.

The next six weeks mainly consisted of walking and sleeping. We were both scared and
in no way prepared to take on the wide world outside the city. In those first weeks, Grant, while
growing more confident, grew more skeletal and sickly looking than he was before. Looking
back, I also must have lost quite a bit of weight. I remember waking up each morning and having to tighten the belt around my long, beige skirt. Despite our hunger and fatigue, we were in the best of spirits. We laughed and joked and dreamed. We planned out everything we would do when we reached the ruins. Grant told stories every night around our fire, while I added details to a map I was making. I was convinced (though I didn’t tell Grant this) that someday, we would return and bring the people of our city with us. A little part of my brain told me I was wrong, but I didn’t listen.

I remember that morning. I woke up to the most beautiful sunrise, like none I had ever
seen. I woke Grant and we gathered our things, stuffing them hopelessly into our book bags
(again, we weren’t the slightest bit prepared) and we started walking early. In the distance I saw
something miraculous. It was a house, a beautiful, unsymmetrical house. The blue paint was
peeling, and there was creeping ivy crawling up the side. It was simply beautiful. I didn’t know
that it would be the house I would love for the rest of my life, that it contained the knowledge I
sought, or that in the cellar, I would find a collection of preserved animals in jars. Nor did I
know that Grant would find a music player and hundreds of music records, the remains of a long dead intellectual. I didn’t know that in a few years I would sit in the main room and listen to him play piano while I held our daughter in my arms. All I knew was that the sunrise was beautiful and I was there with my best friend. All I knew was that I was finally home.

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