Blood Oil

lovely picture
Illustration by João Queiroz.

I walk through the tall grass, it whispers against my legs. My bare feet press against the soft soil and I hear Mother Earth calling out to me, crying for help. Along the horizon, I see the oil pipeline cutting across the forest, swaths of trees chopped down in its wake. A scar cutting across Mother Earth, drawing the blood from within her to the surface. Blood flowing forth, a torrent of blood. Crude oil. Blood oil. They keep cutting her. They don’t bother to put on a band-aid. They don’t care. They just want her blood. Fossil fuel vampires.

My head throbs painfully. A blob of black liquid collects up the hill. It flows from the pipeline. It flows down the hill. Blood. Flowing right toward me. I blink. Then I run. The wind carries me forward, pushes me on, until I see a shaky outline, the worn shingles of my roof. The frame still slants from last summer’s hurricane, but it’s home. My mama must’ve seen me running for my life, because she throws open the wooden front door with the peeling green paint. I dash in and flop onto the flowered couch with the worn cushions. My heart beats rapidly in my chest, and I feel like I can faintly hear Mother Earth’s heart beating rapidly far below me. Thump thump. Thump thump. Thump thump.

I hear Mama clomping down the stairs and look up from my bowl of cereal. When she rounds the landing,I see her dressed in a crisp, forest green, dress suit. A patch on her suit reads “Green New Deal.”

“Mama! Your suit looks beautiful! Where did you get it?”

“From my new job.”

“Oooh, what is it?”

“We finally got funds from the government to build renewable energy in our community and clean up the mess from the old oil pipeline. And I was selected as one of the coordinators for our community!” Her smile spreads wide and her eyes sparkle for the first time in what feels like forever.

Papa and I walk towards the creek, the slender fishing poles slung across our backs shining in the sunlight. Papa’s muscular, tired frame is outlined by the brutal rays of sun. The worms thrash about in the can I carry. I can feel their little bodies press up against the metal sides of the can, trying to break free.

I see the creek shimmering in the sunlight, and I dash towards it.

“C’mon, Papa!” I smile back at him.

But when I reach the creek, my body goes stiff with shock. It isn’t the water in the creek that was shimmering in the sunlight. It is the oil. The thick black ooze flows with the creek, rivulets of darkness, as far as the eye can see. Its oily black tendrils spread over the width of the creek, curling around the roots of trees. A fish leaps out of the water, its once pink-and-white body now covered in black.

My heart squeezes. My heart feels pain for the Earth, like my heart has oil being squeezed out of it. My heart feels pain for the creek, like my own blood is mingled with oil.

Papa walks up behind me and gasps. “Oh no!” He falls to his knees and covers his mouth with his hands, staring in horror. I fall to my knees beside him and bury my head in his stained white shirt. We hold each other as our tears fall, our river of tears making its way down to the creek, joining the flow of water and oil. All we can do is hope that our tears will wash away some of the oil. That one fish in there could breathe in the water from our tears instead of that oil.

When the final school bell of the day rings, my friend Alicia and I run outside with the rest of the students. The blue sky is bright and clear. The sun glints off of the solar panels that workers are now installing on the roof of our middle school. We watch for a moment in awe as the solar panels are lifted and secured into place by strong people in green vests.

We walk down to the Green New Community Farm, where vast fields are lush with green plants of all kinds. We each grab a small wicker basket and walk over to the strawberry patch. We pluck the juicy berries off their stems, laughing to the sun’s sweet melody. When nobody’s looking, I take a bite, the telltale juice running down my chin and filling my mouth with heaven.

We run up to the table where they’re handing out bags of produce to a line of people with ragged clothes and weary eyes. A man at the front with wrinkled skin takes a bag of produce with shaking hands as he leans on his walker. I hand him my small basket of strawberries. He takes one, closes his eyes, and slowly and methodically takes a bite.

“Oh sweet heaven! How I have missed fresh strawberries! Thank you, girl.” He places the basket of strawberries in his walker. Leaning on his walker, he slowly walks away, all the while saying, “Mm mm mm. Sweet heaven.”