Keep Your Windows Closed
by Ningning Sun
The train slowly moves through the mountains.
I am sitting in the train, appreciating the spectacular views outside my window. Hundreds of meters below me, a vast deciduous forest spreads to the horizon, with the setting sun giving out warm rays that shine on millions of leaves. Red, orange and green color all the trees, making this autumn view extremely stunning compared to that of summer when there was only the uniformity of the hue green.
Sometimes the trees growing alongside the mountain road block my view partially; when I can see the vast forest again, it’s another beautiful picture of the twilight hours. A river winds its way through the forest, glittering. I can feel its transparency even hundreds of meters away.
The train is amazingly quiet. Everyone is spellbound.
When I arrive home from the train station in town, I open my window. The suburb is my favorite. I see windmills rotating far away, and the fields of barley becoming less and less legible in the last rays of sun. The breezes bring fresh air to my house, carrying the soft chanting in the church and the fragrance of wild flowers. Willow trees are swinging in the air, giving out pleasant sounds of nature. Once in a while several school children pass by, chatting, with artless smiles on their faces. When the night falls, I hear a guitarist plucking strings, sending me pieces of faint but beautiful dreams.
* * *
Ten years have passed.
Urbanization has stretched its hand to my neighborhood, swallowing its quietude. I no longer live in my sweet house; it was forcefully dismantled to give way to tall buildings. I now live in a small apartment with only one window, clusters of dehumanizing skyscrapers being the only scene outside.
And of course, a small fraction of the gray sky.
Now the word “sunny” never appears on the weather forecast; the most frequent one nowadays is “smog”. “Acid rain” sometimes appears on the weather forecast instead of “rain”, serving as a higher level of alert to people who usually forget to take an umbrella.
Sometimes I want to open the window — as an old habit — to get some fresh air, as keeping the windows closed make me feel suffocated. But the next moment disappointment would strike me — there’s no fresh air anymore, and even though the air indoors is muggy without circulation, it’s still better than the unbreathable air outside.
I haven’t heard music played or a song sung by someone for a long time. All I can hear is the noise of road construction outside the window, everlasting, indefatigable. There were protests before, but people have gotten tired of doing that now. Acid rain corrodes the road, and every time it’s more severe than the previous one. Road repair and construction have therefore become everyday events.
I walk to work on weekdays, and I always wear my mask that filters out particulate matter. The faces of people on the road is expressionless under the mask, with detectable somberness in their eyes. Everyone is walking so fast as if they are on an invisible fast lane — but there is not a sign that says “fast lane.” They are exactly like well-functioning machines.
People no longer remember what it’s like to breathe in clean air; I am not an exception. But I do remember that happiness, relaxation and appreciation of nature are what associated each inhalation ten years ago.
Looking through the window of the high-speed train, I see floating plastic bags filling the river that was once transparent. Tree stumps stand along it; the once flourishing forest have become colorless and inanimate.
Now happiness is masked by the thick fog, disrupted by the particulate matter; vaporized in the abnormal dryness in summer, washed away by acidic floods.What remain are the most basic components of urban life, people who numbly serve as parts of a machine whose only objective is the vastly important “economic growth”, and posters and slogans everywhere with words written in bright-red capitals:
NEVER SHUT OFF YOUR AIR CLEANER
WEAR A MASK BEFORE YOU GO OUT
ALWAYS KEEP YOUR WINDOWS CLOSED
About the Author
Ningning Sun is a 17-year-old student from Xiamen, China. She loves writing about global warming, climate change and environmental protection, and she believes that through writing one can raise others’ awareness. She also loves writing allegories and philosophical thoughts. She is fond of listening to light music. Her works have been published on Teen Ink and The RavensPerch.