A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art
by Dahlia Marcia
There was a little house in the middle of nowhere. It was two stories high and made of lovely red bricks with white shutters. Surrounding the house were fields of golden wheat and wild flowers. In front of the house was a packed dirt road that went on and on until it disappeared into the horizon.
A girl lives in this house. Her name is Holly. Holly loves her house. She also loves the glowing sun, and the wind that sways the wheat in the fields. But Holly loves her house more when her brother Andrew comes home. Holly has never left her house. She stares out the window, wondering what a cool breeze feels like, what the birds sound like, if moonlight feels the same as sunlight, and how dirt feels against bare feet.
Holly knows what flowers smell like, but she longs to pull them out of the ground herself, not wait until Andrew comes and brings them inside for her.
Andrew brings life and joy to the house. He tells wonderful stories about the world outside. Holly loves hearing about foreign places: the desert, the ocean, big cities, anything other than her quaint little world.
Andrew always brings books. Holly devours them, wondering if castles and dragons and princes are real or imaginary. Andrew told her that some things are real, but some are fake.
Holly loves the weather. It brings such a change to her view of the outside. Instead of sparkling sun and blue skies, the world dances with wild winds; it rumbles and quakes with rainstorms. It whorls about when snowflakes fall.
Most days, the sun shines. But Holly awaits every Thursday with peaking excitement because on Thursday the weather strikes. Holly loves it best when it snows. The snow stirs a deep longing in her soul.
She yearns to know what snow feels like, if it’s cold like Andrew says. Holly wants to taste it, inhale its scent. She longs to jump into the big drifts that form up against her house.
Only on Thursday is the weather special. Every other day it is bright, sunny and “nice.”
Andrew has taught her songs to sing and how to dance. He brings fabric for her to make into dresses, quilts, curtains, tablecloths, anything she wants. When Andrew comes back, he always brings enough food to sustain Holly until he comes again.
Andrew longs to bring Holly to the city, but he had a hard job there and wouldn’t be able to look after her and do his job. Andrew also could not bear to tell Holly what she sees through the window is not what the world actually looks like.
They did live in a cottage on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere, but when Andrew brought flowers they were not from the fields outside. He had bought them in the city. The fields had shriveled up long ago.
Andrew knew the weather change on Thursday was Holly’s favorite thing to look at. Andrew wishes to take her outside to see the weather change every five minutes, every hour, every day, every season. But Holly would never ever be allowed outside. This house had been made for her, and Holly would grow old in this house. She would live and then die here. It was her sanctuary, but it would also serve as her tomb.
Andrew hated that. Andrew wanted to show her the beach and the desert. He wanted her to walk over a bridge, and swim in a lake, and dance in the rain. But it was never meant to be.
Their father had thought the world a corrupt, awful place. The delusional man decided that he would make sure Holly would never be corrupted, that she never be exposed to the impurities of life. He built her the pretty little brick house in a remote place, where no one would ever venture.
The man didn’t mind that everything around them was dead. He put glass screens behind each and every window to create the weather. They would experience “natural” weather changes. But he hated how the seasons always had the same weather, so he threw reality to the wind and made his own desired weather.
Before her father died, Holly had only to ask for a type of weather and the next day her father would program the windows to show her fake world in that way. When his father died, Andrew did not know how to change the glass screens, so the windows were forever stuck on random Thursday weather.
None of the windows opened, but Holly never asked to open them because she didn’t know that windows were supposed to open. Their father had also programmed an invisible barrier, like an electric fence, to kept Holly from ever walking through the front door. Instead of shocking her though, the invisible fence became solid as a wall. Holly could press her hand to the invisible barrier. The barrier felt as solid as the walls of her house, but she wondered how that could be when her father and Andrew breezed through it as though the barrier didn’t exist. So Holly always had to wait five feet from the door as her father came and went. Holly didn’t mind the being kept from the door until she was twelve years old. When she was twelve, her father took Andrew with him when he left. Before Andrew always stayed with her, but now Andrew was nineteen and her father made him get a job. For the first time, Holly hated that she was not allowed to follow her father and brother out the door. She cried as they left and banged her fists on the barrier until they were bruised. No matter how hard she tried, Holly never managed to get any closer than those five feet from the door.
When Andrew found Holly sobbing, waiting for them to come home, he promised Holly that he would always come back, always. As the years went by, Holly did mind Andrew leaving, so long as he came back.
After that horrible day, Holly decided to try to get her father to let her leave. Every birthday after she was thirteen, Holly begged her father to let her leave. On her seventeeth birthday she stopped asking because her father almost had a heart attack from the stress of thinking of her in the outside world. Andrew continued to ask though. He asked every day, finding new ways to ask his father how to reprogram the barrier that kept Holly five feet from the door. Her father never once gave in. Holly had given up hope of leaving by the time she was nineteen, but she learned to be content with just Andrew and the stories and knick-knacks he brought home to her whenever he came back home from work. Holy especially loved to hear the stories of her brother and his best friend Pierce having adventures of their own. Those adventures were not epic as the ones in her books, but she liked to think of her brother in the city, enjoying himself with his friend when he wasn’t at home.
When Holly was twenty, her father died. It was then that Andrew lost hope of every bringing her to see the places he told her about in his stories. The day their father died, Andrew cursed himself for not being smart enough to reprogram the door, and let Holly go outside. Holly told Andrew she didn’t mind being inside as long as he kept bringing her new stories and books about the world outside.
Now that Holly was old enough to take care of herself, Andrew came back around once a month. Holly knew that he had to work to support her, so she didn’t mind. And when he came back, Andrew stayed for at least a week before leaving again.
When Holly was 23, Andrew had not come back for three whole months. She waited, lingering by the door every day in hopes that Andrew would waltz through. After the third month came, Holly took to sitting on the floor in front of the door, waiting. She still had a little food, but it wouldn’t last much longer.
Holly started to do everything in front of the door: Eat, sleep, sew, read. Holly watched the window occasionally, but always came back to the door. As the third month came and went, Holly knew Andrew wasn’t coming back. After four days without food, Holly knew that she would die of starvation.
For the first time, Holly truly wished, with her whole being, that she could go outside, not to see the world, but to know what had happened to Andrew. As Holly breathed her last breath, she hoped that Andrew was alive and well, and if he ever came back that he wouldn’t blame himself for her death.
Andrew burst through the door to find Holly unmoving and cold on the ground. Another man stood behind him. He was Andrew’s best friend, Pierce. Andrew slid to his knees and cradled Holly in his arms. He cursed his father for leaving him alone and for imprisoning Holly. He cursed his father for being the cause of Holly’s death.
Andrew had been in an accident. The hospital had kept him unconscious for a month and a half. He had been lost in fever for the next two weeks. Then he had to spend the next two months working to recover as fast as possible. He was only allowed to leave four months after the accident because Pierce said he would keep an eye on Andrew. After being released from the hospital, Andrew raced home only to find Holly silent and still on the floor.
Pierce had heard of Holly, but he was not prepared to see the motionless beauty in front of him. Her light cocoa skin was ashen, her hair, which Andrew had told him was a glossy chestnut, was now dull as it tumbled over her shoulders and onto the floor. Pierce knew that the reason Andrew worked so hard was for her. He watched as Andrew crumble away in front of him.
Andrew realized he had come too late to save her, and his heart felt as if it had been ripped from his chest. He cursed his father for letting Holly see the door, see her freedom, but wave it in front of her, just five feet away. He cursed his father for never allowing her to reach her freedom, to reach the door. Andrew only wished that in her next life, Holly would be free to go anywhere, or be anything she wanted. Holly would not have to bear the walls of her gilded cage anymore.
Dahlia Marcia is a high school student in Boulder, CO.
An excerpt and announcement of this story’s place in the contest was also published here, on Hypertext Mag, the site that hosts this contest and sister site of Hypernova Lit.