Alice in Wasteland


Alice took a deep breath, let the arid air fill her lungs. The quiet chnk of the weathered front door behind her was wholly unsatisfying; she had long since abandoned the normal teen practice of slamming out of the house. She’d grown tired of the sound of her father’s voice, nails on a chalkboard, yelling at her for making the peeling cream paint flake with the impact.  

She shook her head, expelled the thought from her mind. Took another deep breath. Pressed her bare foot into the cracked red earth, all segmented and coarse like the skin of her mother’s face.

Her mother.

Deep-set grey eyes, hands gnarled and bony, dry and scaly, too many years washing up in lukewarm grey water heated on the stove. Her mouth a thin line, fixed permanently after too many bank notices, eviction warnings.  

Alice needed an escape. She needed time to think. Time away from those who left her in not only a drought of water, but a drought of contentment. She needed rain. She needed the sky to split in two and unleash a torrential downpour that spread thick across the parched, fractured terrain like butter and flushed the red dust from the horse's’ eyelashes.

She also needed to remember there had to be meaning to all of this. Meaning to every overheard argument about the increasing price of cattle feed, exclaimed in hushed tones over the sound of the 7 o’clock news. Meaning to watching the property she’d grown up on wither and wilt under the harsh hands of the searing sun. She used to swear she could hear the ginormous fig tree she’d climbed daily as a kid whispering to her, I’m melting, I’m melting. Her mother had furrowed her wispy grey brows when Clara mentioned this, told her she’d been watching too much Wizard of Oz.

The memory was a thousand tiny needles in her chest. She dragged her subconscious, kicking and screaming, from the then and chained it to the now. Now was changeable, tangible. Now she could make a difference, get on a train and travel far from the dusty wasteland her home had become. To the city, where skyscrapers grasped at the heavens as if begging to be acknowledged by some sort of higher power. A metropolitan bliss filled with nameless faces, busy people with busy lives, young adults with brightly coloured hair and overstuffed sketchbooks, searching for a deeper sense of self.

Alice looked at the horizon, the same horizon she had marveled at since she was a child. Baked red earth meets supple blue sky, a sky of possibilities and wonders, a sky that refused to produce rain. In observing the spherical curve of it all, it was easy to pretend that she was in a snow globe. Her feet were stuck to the land with crafters glue; if someone were to shake her little glass dome, she’d remain unmoved, where she always had been.

But maybe, she wouldn’t.

Maybe, one day, she’d get out.