The wall rose up toward the sky, a towering entity glaring back at them from even the furthest camp they could build. It stretched out for miles and miles left to right, and only the tip of a mountain far in the distance could peek out from the top. It was a slate black that did not reflect back the sun, only sucked it in like a ravenous child greedy for all it could take.
Annie sat at the edge of a cart, watching it neither shrink nor grow in size the closer or farther they went. Around her, castaways and nomads alike attempted to build some semblance of a village with what scraps they could find left behind by careless merchants. Always moving, but the wall stood still and solemn.
"Don’t let your anger get the better of you," an elderly woman with trembling hands told her, twisting thin bits of metal into makeshift jewelry to adorn their people with. "You’ll only be consumed by it in the end."
Annie only nodded in response, and turned her eyes away when the woman’s beady eyes tightened with some unnamed emotion.
Annie wasn’t good with emotions.
Down a small hill, there was a single stream that provided them water. A shed off the side homed a kindly gentleman that purified the putrid river of the pollution the inside of the wall poured out. Cracked jars lined his shelves, all colors shining in the sun, and he graciously handed them out on the hottest days, free of any charge. He often called her by to assist him, pressing his palms together and bowing his head in an odd way and requesting her aid.
"Some glasses, please, Miss Leonhart. We’ve seem to run out," he’d say, brown skin stained a fine red at his cheeks and olive eyes avoiding her gaze.
The children, she knew, were always so careless with the jars they had and it was only inevitable this would happen. She wouldn’t dare blame them. Nothing in this world, as the elderly lady with the trembling hands would say, deserved any scorn.
Pushing back the wrinkled sleeves of her shirt, she made her way into a clearing where the dirt was grittier than not. She shut her eyes and rose her hands and imagined anything at all except what she was doing. Something burned her fingers, then seared, then cooled, and when she opened her eyes a new container had shaped in her hands.
"Amazing," he would whisper, and Annie would always feel a new flutter in her chest. Perhaps not for the boy, but for the compliment instead.
Few of their people had abilities beyond their understanding, and even fewer could put them to any use. How the gentleman by the stream could purify the water, Annie liked to believe was magic. But he always denied it, lips pulled up at the edges nervously.
Annie wasn’t one to pry, and so the subject died away quickly.
"Do you hate the wall?" he asked one day, watching her smooth away what imperfections she could find around a new container. "Do you hate what it’s made of us?"
She paused, turning the container in her hands and holding it up for the sun to bleed through. It shone like a crystal, with no facets to throw off rainbows on the ground. She, with a hard gaze and sharp frown, turned her attention to him and retorted, “Do you hate the water? Do you hate the poison it’s become?”
The gentleman loomed tall, like the wall. Imposingly, so. He looked down at her the way she assumed the wall would, only with a shade of empathy behind his eyes that cut her deep — the way her crystals would, shattered on the ground by children. She drew away from him and commanded he keep his distance whenever he came too close, and yet she never failed to appear by the stream where he worked to offer her help.
One would argue it was because she felt it was only right, serving her duty in protecting and sustaining their people. But Annie was much more complex than that, full of facets the way her crystals weren’t. A warped truth where they were simple mysteries.
"I was born here," Annie said suddenly, following his hands as they collected more water within a stone bowl, rivulets of sweat trickling down from his rich dark hair. "I’ve never known anything else."
He glanced up at her, the rippling green of his eyes reflecting back in the sun. And suddenly, everything made sense.
How she’d gone this long never realizing, she’d never know. But it became clear then, how very much alike everyone in their broken village looked. How many pale-skinned, yellow-haired people there were here.
How different he was from the rest of them.
"I don’t hate the wall," he replied, standing to his full height and making his way back to his shed of a home. "I just hate what it’s made of us."
Us was a relative term, Annie knew. She was not a part of this us anymore than he was, and yet he lumped them both into the same group and only smiled graciously that he did.
Annie wasn’t sure whether she knew just yet what he meant. She sat atop a cart as they migrated slowly toward and farther from the wall, measuring it up like an opponent in a battle. She only wondered once or twice where his real home is.
When she asked, he only said, “Wherever you are.”
And whether he meant you as in her or you as in their people, she wasn’t sure. But the flutter in her chest spread like a fire all throughout her veins.
When she kissed him, mouth still dripping from his water, she did not glance at the wall to check if it will steal this from her, too.
The wall is a ravenous child, and Annie knows this war well.
I’m very certain this isn’t what you had in mind. I went off on such a tangent. Fun to write, though ^-^
Sorry, this is so late. Had a bit of writer’s block for a while there. I’m barely getting out of it.