End of Rain — Zoe Kaplan

I made my home on a patch of damp farmland. I was young and so was she, her trees mere saplings next to the neighboring forests. I tilled her soil and trimmed her branches, and in return, she provided me with fruits and grains, more than I could eat.

It rained often in those days. I would lie on the grass and let the water seep into us both as we talked for hours at a time. We were sustained like that for years, growing into each other like vines.

Then, the rains began to dry up. The newly harsh sun burned my scalp and made her roots retreat back underground. My crops died for want of water. The fact that her earthworms had become tiny snakes seemingly overnight didn’t help.

I continued to tell myself that the rains would come, that we could help one another again. Because there always had been rain, there would be again. But as more and more time stretched between storms, I found myself beginning to give up.

I remember so clearly that last storm, although of course, we didn’t know it would be the end. All of a sudden the skies broke open and we remembered who we were to each other. We clung to one another as the rain thundered down on our backs and swore that these hardships wouldn’t shake our friendship. But then the skies dried up again, and there was nothing left of that feeling but memory.

There was no harvest that year. Her energy had gone into cacti and succulents to hold the water when it came, and there was none left for me. I did not get angry until I saw the lizards eating my food stores. Then I screamed and threw them from my house, back into her wounded arms. When the well dried up, I kicked it in, and then cried into her dirt, wasting water in a pointless attempt to bring her back to how she had been.

It was hard not to hate her.

Still, some part of me knew she was blameless. She had not willed the rain away. She was changing into a new kind of ecosystem, one that could survive in this rainless world. I was trapped as a hungry, thirsty, needy human. There was nothing she could give me, and there was nothing I could do to help her.

So one crisp day, when the winds blew to the northeast, I packed up what remained of my things to go. I told her I would visit, but neither she nor I truly believed my words. She was not my home anymore. I left, and I did not look back.

I wandered for less time than I feared I would. It was not long until I found a patch of land with a stream running through it, a stream that was nearly choked off by blackberry bramble. I cleared and tended her banks until she was healthy again, and then she gave me fruits as sweet as any I’d had in my old home.

Still, nostalgia pressed at me. And so last year, when I saw the clouds gathering back where I’d come from, I journeyed back to see how my old friend was. There she lay, as dry as the dead, and yet I could see she was healthy. Geckos sunned themselves on her stones and tumbleweeds played like kittens among tufts of bluish grass. I was glad to see her like that, though a small part of me still stung to see how completely unnecessary I was.

And then, like a miracle, the rains came. It was no downpour, nor an earth-shaking storm, but cold, steady drizzle that stung my arms and made her wince and melt into the ground. The geckos hid themselves and the tumbleweeds stopped their motion, weighed down with water. Everything that used to sustain us now caused pain. So I pulled my coat tighter around me and left again, this time for good.

I won’t be going back.