The Way Home (short story based on The Giver by Lois Lowry)


Jonas struggled to his feet, he looked down at Gabe, bundled up in his arms. Gabe had stopped shivering, and showing any signs that he was awake. The cabin up ahead was decorated with lights that used to work. One more step, Jonas thought as he struggled to move his stiff, unfeeling legs. Jonas caught a glimpse of something dark blooming against his hands, frostbite, he thought as he remembered the countless winters he had in the memories. Gabe stirred against his arms as Jonas entered the cabin surrounded by tall pine trees. 

Jonas looked around the dark cabin, he saw the wooden dining table in the middle of the cabin, with melted, unlit candles on top. A worn-out green couch was placed in front of a large black box, that he remembered was called a television. He laid Gabe gently on the sofa, going towards the room. Jonas saw a huge bed covered with blankets, and as he turned he saw a closet full of different coloured clothes, he grabbed a pair of pants, a shirt, and a sweater, along with a big shirt for Gabe, as there were no children’s clothing in the small cramped space. 

Jonas waked back to see Gabe, moving in his blue blanket, he took Gabe into his arms and brought him to the bathroom. He went through his memories after he realized that he still had some, and with that, he remembered how to get warm water into the bathtub. As he watched the water run, he wondered how his parents and friends were reacting to the new memories he released, had he made the wrong choice? No, he thought, as he remembered the colourless place that he had called his home for almost 11 years, where people could not feel anything. He turned the tap off as he realized that the tub was going to overflow, checking the temperature of the water to be sure that it wasn’t hot, but warm, he got in the tub with Gabe, clothes and all. At first, Jonas couldn’t feel anything, but as he stayed longer in the tub, it felt like huge needles were pressing against his skin, wrong choice, he thought as he hurried out of the water, gasping in pain. 

Taking the now wakeful, crying Gabe he walked to the bedroom and wrapped himself and Gabe, in layers of blankets and clothes he could find. Gradually the cold seeped from his bones, and he was warm, something he felt he hadn’t felt for a lifetime. Jonas thought he never would experience it. When they were warm enough to walk, grudgingly he got up to get food, as he realized that he and Gabe hadn’t eaten for a long time. He opened a set of small doors that lead to a cold, cramped space, inside he found some cheese and a small loaf of bread. He took the cheese, cut it into small slices, and did the same for the bread and layered some cheese on top for Gabe. He took the thin slices of bread, and slowly fed them to Gabe, who chewed them greedily, after a few quick minutes the bread was all gone. He cut some bread and cheese for himself, the bread tasted stale and hard, and the cheese was no better, but it was still food, and he ate the rest of it, leaving some for tomorrow.

Walking back towards the bedroom he remembered the soft, warm bed, and wondered how long he has gone without proper sleep, without the interruptions by the buzzing of planes and the questions of how they would survive. He put Gabe down on the bed and laid beside him. Jonas’s mind was filled with thoughts, but eventually, he drifted off into a deep slumber.

* * *

The next morning, Jonas woke up to Gabe stiffly pushing Jonas’s arm with his own. Jonas looked down at the laughing, cheerful Gabe. Sighing groggily, he got up and headed towards the closet, he picked out some more clothes and layered them on top of his own, to the point it was almost hard to walk. Jonas did the same with Gabe, and went to the set of doors that held food, and packed most in a bag that he had also found in the same bedroom. Jonas took the last of the food from the small space and set it out on the desk, it was can, that read MEAN BEANS, he struggled to open it, but eventually, the tin lid came off. It revealed dark brown beans that didn’t look very old, he wondered how long-ago people lived here. Jonas mashed half of the beans and fed them to Gabe, who made a face, it must not taste very fresh, but it was all they had. He scooped out the rest of the beans and ate silently, they were cold against tongue, and it tasted metallic compared to the bread and cheese they had yesterday.

When he had finished, he took Gabe in his arms and a pair of long, thin boards that looked like it would be used for travelling in snow. Jonas put the boots on beside the foreign objects, and after a long time figured that attaching them to the shoes would help him go faster. The boots fastened surprisingly well to the long, thin boards, almost as if that was its purpose. He stiffly wrestled against the pull of the boards, and painfully slowly walked outside. Jonas looked around at the landscape surrounding him, he really looked, now that it was not something that was killing them. The sun reflected off the long pointy, icicles that hung from the trees like gold, translucent spikes, Gabe was also wide-eyed, staring at the objects. Reaching out he broke off two of them gave a small one to Gabe and took the bigger for himself. Jonas let himself imagine he was still a kid, although he was physical, mentally he had learned and grown a lot throughout this long, treacherous journey, as it gave him time to think. He stuck his tongue out and felt the cold, smoothness of the icicle, looking down he could see Gabe doing the same, but with wonder filling his eyes. Laughing, Jonas picked up the bag filled with food and put one foot in front of the other, gliding shakily across the smooth surface of the snow.

* * *

They had been walking, for what Jonas thought was three weeks, throughout most of the nights too. The landscape had flattened slightly, and the temperature was warm. Three weeks ago, in the cabin, Jonas had thought of going back to the city, now that he had given the memories, but he realized that he wanted Gabe to grow up in a place that wasn’t like his home, where they might possibly find a way to get another Receiver of Memories. Jonas wanted him to have the childhood he couldn’t, to be able to play in the woods, and not be blamed, and use words that might not fit the sentence, and to be allowed to different and unique. Overhead he saw large buildings, taller than the trees, and children running all around, sitting on object that swung them back and forth. Jonas couldn’t believe his eyes. There was a whole other village here! Cautiously he walked towards the communities the children stopped playing and pointed at them, saying, “Mommy! Mommy look! There are people!”.

Now, laying on the soft, warm bed the villagers provided him along with food, a house and some clothes, he thought that finally, maybe he could give Gabe the life he hadn’t gotten, filled with love, emotions, colour. Everything he didn’t have until the Giver came into his life.

Chapter 1

Gabe was excited about his 12th birthday tomorrow, it seems so was his brother, Jonas. Before when he was younger he got toys, and baskets of candy, as Gabe had wanted, but this year he wanted something different. Gabe wanted to know where he was born and what his life was before Jonas brought them both here. When his brother was his age, he had realized that something was wrong with the community and fled, taking Gabe with him, and eventually after weeks of walking with little food, in the freezing weather, Jonas had found the village that Gabe had grown up in. Gabe knew that there were lots of things missing from the epic story his brother told him, it didn't make sense, his brother was not the type to flee, he was brave, and he would have helped instead of ran. He wanted Jonas to explain to him the whole story and not lie to him, even if it was the best for him.

"Come on this is the last one, you got this!" His friend Dorian yelled, he looked up just in time to see a baseball hurtling at him, at terrifying speeds. Gabe rose his bat and swung with all his strength. He had missed the ball entirely, hitting the air, and hearing a whoosh, instead of the satisfying crack of the ball against the bat. "Noooooo!" Dorian dramatically fell his knees as if he was wounded. The winning team just looked down at him and walked away talking to each other nonchalantly, Gabe caught someone saying, "Told you they would lose, especially with that one." Gabe didn't need to see to know that they were talking about him. Everyone knew that he was the worst baseball player around. However, they also knew that he was the fastest runner in the village, and could beat anyone, easily. This was the one advantage he had, that this year, might help him win the annual sports event. It was a tradition where, every willing child, competed in group, and individual sports, which this year were baseball, short distance running, soccer, ball throw, log run, and fencing. The ones who got into the top five were the ones who won at least 4 of the games. Gabe had been on the winning team for soccer and had the longest ball throw, but he did not win the long run, where you had to carry a log while running for 3 kilometres. The children never get massive logs, like the adults, but Gabe could not run 3 kilometres with extra weight, no matter how good he was at running.

* * *

Gabe now stood on the starting line of the race. He tried not to fidget anxiously, as he waited for the go. Gabe hated this part of the race, where they made the runners wait anxious, to run, and see the end. He released a deep breath, "Ready!” He got in position, "Set! GO!" The word echoed through him, as his feet lifted off the ground. Gabe loved the feeling of running, but he especially loved the looks on the faces of his competitors, as he raced past. Gabe could feel his legs moving fast, they lowered to the ground, finding better grip. The line up ahead was coming closer to him. Everyone else was a few paces behind him, Gabe realized as looked around right as he passed the finish line. He skidded to a halt, nearly colliding into the judge. He spotted Jonas standing in a mob of people cheering, Gabe walked to the crowd, and Jonas walked up to him, "Great job Gabe!" He said as if he was surprised. 

* * *

Gabe and Jonas walked home slowly as the sun set below the horizon, painting the sky with reds, yellows, and pinks. "I have a surprise for you tomorrow,” Jonas said cryptically, “What is it?!” Gabe asked, Jonas answered with an answer that left him wondering, “You’ll see tomorrow”. 

Chapter 2

The man had gloves, and a white mask on his face, he picked Gabe up “Hi, Gabriel, that’s what your name’s going to be! Now let’s see if you can stand yet,” his voice was sweet, almost childlike. The man placed him on a mat, and immediately he fell, his legs crumpling underneath him, like rubber. The man looked concerned “If you keep this up they might release you,” he said sadly. The man wrote something on a clipboard and turned the lights off, his shoes thudding across the ground.

Gabe woke up to the hollow sound of someone knocking on the cedar door of his room. He remembered his dream, he had had them for as far as he could remember. Gabe wasn’t sure what the glimpses were about, but he knew that it related to his past, and where he was born. Suddenly, Gabe remembered that it was his birthday. He rushed out of bed and ran to the living room where he found Jonas. A banner made said, ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY,’ Jonas had told him that back in their city, they didn’t have this stuff, the one thing he said about the city he was born in. Jonas smiled at him as Gabe set out a plate, “Your friends said that they would come at 2”. After begging Jonas to teach Gabe how to read time, he finally understood what the three digits meant. “Jonas, can I ask you something?” Gabe asked Jonas nodded hesitantly. “What’s release?”, Jonas’s face paled, “What do you mean?” He asked as if his face didn’t show he understood. “I know you understand what it means,” Gabe said trying to get the answer out of him, “Where did you hear this?” Jonas asked, trying to avoid the question, something he always did before he made his mind, not to give in. “I had a dream, but it seemed more real, and judging by your reaction, you know it too, so what is it?” Gabe tried not to raise his voice in frustration, but he was sure it showed on his face. Jonas’s face hardened, “It’s nothing you need to know about,” Gabe was frustrated with the cage that Jonas had put around him. He deserved to know the truth, but every other time he had asked, Jonas shut down, and didn’t reveal anything. “Yes, it is, you know where you were born, so why can’t I?” Gabe asked his voice rapidly rising, he knew he had a bad temper, but this time he couldn’t control it, and he knew he should before things go wrong. “That is exactly why, if I did, you would make a rash decision, and possibly go back to that city, that you will not want to go to,” Jonas’s voice was calm. Anyone who didn’t know him wouldn’t think he was mad, but this was his way of trying to calm down the situation when he was especially angry. "Your, friends are outside waiting for you, and you can stay out until 2, but you have to come back for your party. You can go hang out with your friends now if you want, or you can just sit here trying to argue with me," that wasn't a question, it was a command. "Fine, I will!" Gabe sighed and walked out the door. 

Precisely as Jonas had said, his friends were outside tossing a baseball back and forth. “Hey, I’ll catch up with you later, I just need to check something,” Gabe said, “Sure, meet us at the lake, by rope swing!” They called as they raced to the lake. Gabe waved at them, and turned towards the path that led to the library, he was going to find out where he was from, and when he did, he would find his parents; his real family.

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