Clarke is a quiet kid and takes longer than most to begin speaking. At age 3, she has already learned to use crayons before saying even her first word. Abby knows there’s no reason for concern, but she still catches a worried look in Jake’s eyes from time to time. Still, he trusts his wife and never pushes Clarke.
Every day when he comes back from work, he sits by her side and watches her draw. He takes a piece of paper and one of her crayons and draws with her. He’s an engineer, not an artist. He draws what he knows: parts and tools, his bread-and-butter. Jake finds himself working out problems by his daughter's side, solving puzzles and designing innovations for the Ark. Clarke copies her father and learns to draw straight lines, right angles and perfect circles. In time, she learns that light and shadows add depth and define objects.
Nights and days in the ark are as artificial as its walls. Sunlight hits without warming, barely luminescent, and the rhythm of the hours is marked by timers that copy the beat of a world no habitant of the Ark ever knew.
Clarke walks in the dim light of nighttime counting the steps between windows on the halls of the ark. When she stops at any of them, she pays no attention to what’s outside, the vastness of space. Clarke lifts her hand and moves it this way and that, experimenting with shadow and moonlight… she imagines the feeling of warmth that all the stories describe, imagines bathed in silver light the foliage of the trees she learned about in biology lessons. Clarke doesn’t know the weight of a leaf or the taste of rain.
Even in her cell, Clarke is prideful and stubborn. She accepts no visits from her mother and when eventually Abby manages to use her influence to see her daughter, Clarke doesn’t say a word. But when Abby leaves, Clarke picks up the charcoal sticks and pencils she left as a gift. There are no colors but she never needed any.
At night, under the dim moonlight, her cell is transformed into a forrest full of silver fruits and still waterfalls. Clarke draws what she never touched without dreaming of ever being there. She surrounds herself in lines and shapes, lights and shadows pretending to be nature on the cold metal of the ark. She’s about to run out of drawing room when they come for her.
The excitement of being on the ground barely outlasts the landing. One after another danger and threats come after them and Clarke couldn’t take the time to appreciate the sun’s warmth before she had to close the dropship’s gate to burn their enemies alive. Survival demands complete dedication, and Clarke takes no midnight strolls to see if she guessed right on the shape and hues of the moonlit trees. There is no charcoal on the ground, and even if there was, the wounded and bleeding would always take precedence. There’s no competition for this state of constant vigilance. Finn’s gifted pencils were left in the bomb shelter, buried underground through doors Clarke closed forever when she stabbed her lover to death. She never imagined mercy could look like this.
Life on the ground seems destined to be ruled by war. In days marked by the urgency of danger, a moment of peace in the eye of the storm takes Clarke by surprise.
She’s not sure when she allowed herself to fall asleep in the woods by their small fire. Drowsy, with eyes half closed and lids still weighted down by exhaustion, Clarke sees Lexa leaning by a tree, focused on sharpening a knife. At regular intervals, she lifts her eyes from her work and directs the same intense attention to their surroundings, ever vigilant. The fatigue she’s been dragging for weeks now and an unexpected feeling of safety prevent Clarke from waking up completely. She looks at the play of light and shadows across the commander’s face, courtesy of the fire in a moonless night. She can't tell if the warm tones of Lexa's face come from her eyes or the flames.
Clarke falls asleep and dreams of nightime walks in an Ark without walls nor ceiling, surrounded by colorful flowers in the company of everyone she lost and everyone she fears to lose.
There’s no pride, no peace, no wonder at all the night Clarke looks on as an entire town is swallowed by the burning light only fire can bring. Tondc burns and Clarke is beyond even horror. If her thoughts weren’t silent, she’d appreciate the irony of this sudden void within, so much wider and inifintely more ravenous than the vastness of space where she spent her infant years.
Tondc and its people burn, together with the warriors and leaders of the visiting clans. The screams full of pain and fear promise hours spent nursing and healing those she decided to sacrifice in the first place. In the moments immediately after the massacre, she can’t take the first step towards the destruction for fear her trembling legs won’t hold her weight.
By her side, the commander stands equally motionless. The reflections of fire and moonlight chase eachother on her features, but there’s no light that can reveal her thoughts.
Under the cover of the leafy woods in the outskirts of Tondc, there’s no darkness deep enough to hide them, and Clarke knows they’ll never leave this night they chose to step in.