I am the desert that flourishes...
According to my mother, I wasn't a very exciting child to have around. I didn't get into trouble, I didn't make a lot of noise and I didn't have a lot of friends who would have adventures with me. Most of the time, I would sit watching other children.
I loved to watch them braiding their hair and entwining it with flowers while they played pretend that they were Glade pets. I loved to watch them desperately trying to catch sparrows and butterflies to sit on the flowers as their "Glade friends". As I got older though, I watched them go to the elders and request their colours. In our village, just outside of Veta Lake, the elders were the only ones who could choose our colours for us. I watched as one by one my friends changed to Sun and Twilight, Dawn and Dusk, Spectrum and Blacklight...but none got changed to Glade. One child asked why once. The answer was that Glade children had to be something special in this town. It was too dry and hot here for Glade pets to thrive.
Eventually, the day came for me to stand in front of the elders and have my colour chosen for me. I stood and was told I had to believe strongly that the elders would choose the right colour for me otherwise I wouldn't change colour. I told them I believed.
I drank the potion they had made for me. A strange feeling came over me, like pins and needles on the inside. And then, just as quickly as it had started, it stopped. I opened my eyes, not even really sure when I had closed them.
The elders looked horrified, my friends looked nervous and my mother looked like her world had ended. The noise started quickly, everyone yelling and pointing and shrieking. The elders pushed me from their stage and pointed towards the mirror that was kept nearby for us to admire our new colour.
I looked and almost burst into tears. My skin was pale yellowish-grey, flaky and dusty looking. I knew then that I had not believed hard enough. And I knew too what that would mean. I turned towards where the village bordered the desert, close to tears but, strangely, unable to cry.
And then I ran. I ran as fast as I could while the rest of the village chased me, throwing stones and hurling abuse at me. I knew I was to be banished to the desert for not believing. It was either that or allow them to catch me and stone me to death.
Every time I stumbled I had to pick up speed. My throat was dry and raw from gasping for breath, my vision was blurred but I couldn't cry...I had to keep running...
I practically leaped across the border with the desert, knowing now I was safe. I stood, perhaps ten yards from the village and watched as my friends stopped dead, still yelling but, as they had been taught, refusing to cross into the heated wastelands.
The strange fizzing, prickling feeling had started again. My eyes felt itchy, my skin felt rough and I started coughing and shaking, like I was ill. My friends and the rest of the village were staring at me, watching my body twist and turn. The silence was almost deafening as the fizzing stopped and then I heard nothing but cheering.
Somehow, I had changed. Cacti and tumbleweeds blossomed where I walked, snakes and scorpions swarmed around me and a strange red flower bloomed on my left shoulder. My mother, grinning and dancing off to one side, started yelling out to me about what was happening.
I'm the only girl like me that I know. Legends call me "Zaynab" or "Rotem", both names meaning "Desert Flower". However, I chose my own name. Steppe, meaning "desert". The flowers make me a Glade pet. The desert makes me who I am.
I walk this desert alone, content in the knowledge that no matter how barren and lonely this place seems, beauty can be found everywhere and there is always something living just around the corner.
Purity Potion Plushie