Below is my beginning of a work that has been in my head for sometime – its unedited, so please forgive all the grammar issues (and for those asking, I already have an editor). It definitely a work in progress… a huge work and a huge progress, but with this one, I actually plan on finishing it. I edited some of the language so it would be more PG (and my family members wont yell at me), however the final product will not have such edits. Please feel free to share your thoughts.
A lush, green world that was, and never would be again, has become a fading memory of the old, told through stories to the young. Like a religious pilgrimage through time, the old ones, the ones who came before the Fall, would tell their diatribe to a younger generation who would hang on every word like sap used to hang on a tree. Grand, decadent buildings no longer were, left only as rotted husks to be venerated as monuments to gods that no longer existed, yet, the memory of their creation still lingered in the memory of a few and the tales of the many. To say humanity was finished, to say that the race known has human had been completed, would be a slap in the face of evolutionary propaganda, and yet, here we are, at the precipice of a status quo that will longer hold water in the face of a hurricane.
The Fall came as night fell on the East Coast of what was then the United States, and it came suddenly. For most, it was like their previous life had been a dream, for a few, the witness of such an even forever shook their own reality, they could not process what had been before nor what was to come. Human reason could not explain the inexplicable, the inherent doom without a warning sound, and therefore the ones who remained had only a fading memory of yesterday, and a certain dread of tomorrow. Even those whose lives were not touched by technological advancement of any kind were effected, and the infection of despair reached every corner of a corner less globe. The old gods had been replaced by what was to be the Cloud, a scion of space, a bender of reality. Not religious in nature, its force was felt by everyone who gazed upon it, and its grasp was like a shackle.
No one truly new what happened, or even what it was, but the weight it placed on the world was heavy. Like an asthma victim trying to catch just one more breath, this world was held in a vice unknown to its inhabitants. The things of the past have now faded, what is to be is the only matter that remains.
It had been over one hundred years since the Cloud appeared in the skies. Governments and society, not having an answer, had fallen. Rising in their place was hovels of humanity, each creating their own culture that had broken fragments from the past, and hardened together by the resilience of existence. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, we don’t even know of today.
“Time, time!” the internal alarm repeats. “Awaken, awaken!” the internal voice cries out.
Dustin sat alone, as he usually did, in the hot afternoon sun in a desert with no shade to be seen. He dreamed of stories that his grandfather used to tell him. Of large cities, glorious buildings, of endless supplies of water, of things completely out of his reach. He reached for his canteen, forgetting it was empty of water, and attempted to take a swig, receiving only a suckling of air. He swore, throwing the metal container in front of him, frustratingly reminding himself that it was his only canteen. Slowly, he rose to his feet to get it, and as he reached out his hand to grasp the now sun heated container, he saw the Cloud in the distance.
Dustin was a young man, vain, only in his attempts to amount to anything more then what he was, a failed farmer, in a land where nothing but dirt and dirtweed grew. His father had settled on this land many years before when Dustin was a baby. Bringing his grandfather and his sister with him, Dustin’s father toiled simply for existence, simply to survive. Knowing what had come before, and knowing that he would never see the things his own father had talked about, Dustin’s father through away all hope and dreams of the past life, and dictated that any talk of those things that had come before where never discussed. Punishment for even mentioning a thought of tall buildings and green grass was a swift slap to the face, or even worse. The only person to be able to get away with such banter was Dustin’s grandfather, and even then, he would only talk of such things after taking one too many sips of moon water, his father’s special drink made from dirtweed.
After his grandfather had died, he would often sit alone, his mind wandering to fantastical places he knew he would, never could, visit. He would dream in silence of a bygone time where metal creatures roamed streets of flattened, smooth rock, a place where shade was easy to find. The only thing he could find where he existed was the damnable sun and its unwavering heat. Before he died, Justin asked his grandfather what became of such glorious things, and his reply, though still and quiet in his final breathes, was firm and full of dread. “We came to the end of a precipice, a place where we, as men, had achieved greatness, and because of our own vanity and lust for knowledge and the power that comes with it, we fell.” Dustin often pondered on the meaning of this as well, but he had no idea what his grandfather meant, and so he continued to steal away and sit in the hot sun.
“Dustin,” his father called, “Dustin!” “Coming,” he responded. His father was always calling him. Do this or do that, this was the way Dustin’s life went. It was only when he was alone did Dustin really feel alive – when he could dream and imagine. Of course, his father thought he went off by himself way too often, and maybe he did, but he did not worry about it too much. He thought his father was too hard on him, pushed him too much. On the other hand, his father thought Dustin was simply too lazy, so he focused on making a man out of him. “One day,” his father thought, “One day he’ll get it, one day he will understand.”
“I need you to go over to the Hollerman’s place, they have a boull I need ya to grab. Take the carts and grab ‘em.” “Yes sir,” Dustin replied, and he went to fetch the carts. Dustin didn’t mind going to the Hollerman’s place, he would get to see Rachel, but he hated boulls. Too big, too bulky, mean as hell. His grandfather had loved to eat the meat of a boull, told him it reminded him of when he was a young man and he would go out with his own parents. After seeing his father slaughter one, with all of the blood and insides all over the place, Dustin did not quite understand the desire to eat such a thing. Yet, he knew his father had already paid for it with the meager amount of crops he could grow, so therefore he set out to grab the beast from the Hollerman’s. On the bright side, they would know he was coming, and Alana Hollerman, Rachel’s mother, would prepare his favorite soup, dustweed and cayroot. Plus, he would get to see Rachel.
As he left, with the carts trailing behind his horse, he turned back to see his father and his home. He was happy to be going to the Hollerman’s, but he dreaded having to come home. He dreamed that one day he would never have to see that vision again.
The Cloud sits in silence, a pillar in the sky. Silence drifts within the heart of its darkness, yet nothing can penetrate its abode. Many look upon the shape, like a wisp upon the water, yet none knew its nature, at least none that had survived.
Rachel looked out towards the Cloud, and she was silently happy. Dustin would come today for the boull, she would get to see him, and knowing how her mother favored him, he would also stay for dinner. Slightly obese as a child, Rachel had developed into a fit young woman, with red hair and a slight tan from the sun, her crystal green eyes would catch any light that caught her dimple laden face. Her father had died three summers before, so it was just her mother and her two older brothers who ran the farmstead. She knew that Mr. Tannes had paid her mother for the boull, but wondered what the exact price he had demanded. She knew that Dustin’s father fancied her mother, most men did that came around from time to time, but Mr. Tannes seemed much more overt then the others. He seemed to be a cruel man, yet she knew that this had to be in part because of the lifestyle in which they lived. Life was hard for all since what was known as the Fall, the day the Cloud came to rest over the land. So she did not totally blame Mr. Tannes for being the ass of a man she thought he was, just mostly. Dustin, she thought, was just like his grandfather. Kind, gentle, and of course handsome, with his rugged blonde hair, made even more so by his many hours of toiling under the sun – she could close her eyes and see him sweating right now, only to turn towards her with his boyish blue eyes. But enough of that, she had to prepare the house for a guest, a guest who she not only could not wait to see, but one she wanted to impress.
Rachel’s mother would tell her stories that he own mother and grandmother had passed on to her. How before the Cloud there was great cities and great nations of people, ruled by laws and morality. A place where everyone seemed to be happier, a place far better them where they found themselves now. She could not imagine it, to be honest. She could only see the look in her father’s eyes as he passed away from the sickness that had claimed so many in the mall area around her. She could only close her eyes and see the dust and the suffocating heat that only let up just enough for them to barely get by. She did often wonder how they got here. What had happened so many years ago? Her grandmother said man cursed himself. “He ate the apple,” she would always say. Rachel had no idea what that meant, she had never seen an apple to begin with, except in a color drawing from a long faded book page. Her mother told a different slightly different story, one she must have learned from her daddy. “One day,” she said, “all men looked to the sky and the rain fell.” “The crops failed, the lakes dried up,” she continued, “and man turned on man, like never before, then came the sleep.” Her mother would tell her nothing more than that, she would not answer any of her questions, and she had many. What is the Cloud, what was the sleep? Her mother would only shake her head and smile, telling her to put it out of her head. So did, or at least tried, but it always seemed to creep back into her thoughts.
Her brothers, Jacob and Phillip, had already prepared the boull for its departure to the Tannes’ homestead, and they had already cleaned up for Dustin’s arrival. They did not particularly like or dislike him, but they knew their mother did like him, so the attempted to treat him as well as they could, with a little abuse on the side. Dustin never seemed to care too much, so she did want to encourage them more by saying anything. Her mother’s stew of dirtweed and cayroot, Dustin’s favorite, was almost complete, so she knew he would be arriving soon. “Someday,” she thought, “He would come whisk her away, and take her to a better place.” She knew this was not really possible, the better place part anyways, but she still dreamed. As she looked out the dirt plated window, she could see him coming down the trail and her heart leaped, and a smile crept to her face. She quickly put her working apron away, checked her hair in the mirror and walked outside to the porch.
Dustin saw Rachel standing on the porch, and he smiled. No matter how much bullshit he had to put up with from his father, and no matter how much he hated having to transport a boull from anywhere to anywhere, seeing Rachel’s green eyes made it all worth it. He wondered if one day they would be together. “Of course,” he said to himself under his breath, “he was the only suitable man her age around.” Yet, it did not stop him from fearing some older fool would steal her away. As he got closer to the house, he heard a crack in the distance, and a slight rumble under his feet. He thought to himself, “That’s odd… I wonder….” As he thought, the ground beneath him seemed to heave up and down, and then back up again. His two carts were thrown to gods know where, and he found himself falling from the sky towards the hard dirt. As he was falling, he could have sworn he heard Rachel scream for help. Suddenly the ground was upon him, and darkness invaded his mind.
Lightning crashes, thunder rolls, the Cloud is a fire in the sky of day. The Children of the Rain have roused from their slumber, and have awoken to the fields of their harvest.
The entire earth shook, as lightning left the Cloud and penetrated the ground, to what felt like the core itself. Shackles of metal sprang forth from its belly and took hold like roots of a tree. Like sirens from a rocky island in the see, a song rose up from the heart of the Cloud, and then, the sound of silence.
“Its @#$#@# itself!” Exclaimed Fiona. “The @#$damned thing @#$#@# itself, and we have no idea why.” Shaking her head, she turned away from the monitor to see Kale looking up at her in astonishment. “I aint never seen nothing like it,” he said, “It’s like the whole sky just came down.” Fiona was too excited, or was it scared, to correct Kale’s English. She had been trying for what seemed like an eternity to get him to talk right, and even though it was a lost cause, she tried, if only because she cared about him. Fiona was new at the analyst station in New Britain, only on the job for two weeks, and though she had been assured nothing would happen, nothing ever happens, she just knew something would. As she peered back at her monitor, she realized her greatest fear had happened, something HAD happened, and it had happened on her watch.
New Britain was not in the old Britain, it wasn’t even in the old Europe. Fiona’s dad had told her that long ago, before he was even born, this place was called New England. Once the Cloud came and brought the Fall, or was it the Fall bringing the Cloud, she didn’t know, those who had survived had decided to rename themselves. Partly to rid themselves of their past, in case there was something there that had caused the catastrophe, but mainly because the old way no longer existed. Yet, even in this, they had used what they knew, and dubbed themselves the New Britain. Apparently, at some point in history, this place was known for its liberal way of thinking, its grand societal ideas. Now, it felt like a hub for illiterate inbreeds who only cared about themselves and had no passion for anything beyond where they were. Fiona only new how to read the old speak because her father’s parents had been teachers of some sort, at a large facility where young people came to learn about their world. In many ways, she felt like she was continuing that tradition with Kale, even though it never seemed to catch root in his mind.
She had to tell the Marshall, but what to tell him? Fiona knew that everyone had felt the tremor, she didn’t need a spike on a flat monitor to prove it happened. Anyone looking outside would have seen the cloud descend to God know where, again, unless the Marshall was sitting in a bunker with plugs in his ears, he would already know what is going on, at least as much as she did. Yes, protocol said, demanded, that she report, but report what? Slowly, she slid from her chair and turned toward the hallway leading to the Marshall’s office. “This should be interesting,” she thought.
The office the Marshall kept was pretty bare, save for a faded picture of his mother that sat on a desk, and his chair. He knew many of the people in his care thought him to be rich because he had what they called a “realpaint” of a person, and though it bothered him a little, he had learned to use the persona in his favor. Miles Fabian was born seventeen years after the Fall. He was the youngest of eight children, his mother being forty-six when she bore him, and he was their third child after the Cloud had appeared in the morning sky. His parents had been wealthy before that day, and because his father’s wealth came from being “self-made,” and not just money, his father was able to keep his wits, and influence, about him better than most. Because of this, though technically poor now and simply a survivor like the rest, he held the respect of those around him. Miles’ father was a founder of New Britain, and along with the rest of those who were considered founders, ensured that their children would carry on the legacy they had created by dynastic means. This did not mean Miles Fabian was a stuck up tyrant, on the contrary, he loved the people he felt like he served, but he also knew that persona was everything, and for the sake of keeping the rule of law and order, he didn’t attempt dissuade any notions of his potential wrath.
He stared out his window. He hadn’t felt a tremor like that in years, decades, and even then it wasn’t this bad. Beyond the worry of the tremor, the Cloud, the ever present form of atmosphere that could always be seen in the distance towards the western horizon, was gone. He knew that soon enough, whoever was on watch duty would be coming up to tell him that something had happened. “No #$@!,” he said to himself, “If you didn’t feel that you probably didn’t have breath in you.” Miles always worried about what was next, but he had always found a way to keep everything locked away in his head, letting those around him figure out whatever it was that needed figuring out. Today, he realized as he turned around, no one would be able to figure this out, and they would come to him for answers, answers he didn’t have. Or did he? He had almost seen the Fall, missing out by only seventeen years or so. He had brothers and a sister who actually remembered it, using their sticks of color to draw crude and scary pictures. Those drawings never made any sense, mainly because his parents, who for whatever reason had kept them around, told him they were just pictures his sibling had made when they were younger, and didn’t mean anything. Two things weighed on him, first, the fact that his parents had kept the pictures, the second was the fact his siblings only vaguely remembered actually making the colored drawings. It didn’t matter of course, all but one of his siblings was dead, and Martha had been born after the Fall. She had lost her mind at any rate, so again, what did he really know?
As he looked up, he saw Fiona standing there, appearing extremely nervous. “Yes,” he thought, “It would be Fiona who was on duty, the poor girl.” He liked Fiona, she was, well, almost like a granddaughter. If her grandparents and parents would not have been so snooty, they too would have been “founders,” but as it was, those looking and trying to survive could have cared less about having proper diction, they needed to know how to live, and that was that. He knew he should ease her mind, tell her that he had seen whatever it was he had seen, but a part of him wanted to make sure she could handle her new found position and have the balls to report what she could, even knowing that she didn’t really know anything. He was saved, or rather she was, by Kale, the idiot who only had anything in life because of his parent’s position, again, awarded because of their own parents. “Sir, it fu—,” Kale began. “Yes, I know, I saw… and I assume so did everyone else within walking distance to a window, and yes, I felt it too, as I’m sure everyone else did as well,” Said the Miles. Fiona replied, “Do you know what it is, um, sir?” “No, but I have an idea, you should probably call the council together, I’d better say something.” Fiona answered the Marshall’s request, “Yes sir, right away.”
As Fiona and Kale turned to leave, for a moment he thought back to one picture that his brother had drawn that really stood out. A band of smoke sitting on a desert floor with an open door leading to a stairway. The stairway was full of something, something not quite coherent. As a shiver of cold ran down his spine, he tried unsuccessfully to rid his brain of the path his mind was taking him.