homeward bound

Reads: 108  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
the second installment in the borders of civilization series - a story of three personas. jaina is a young girl about to complete her communities formal evaluation and enter into professional adulthood, raz is a raider lost in a world of violence and hamlee is a man just looking to protect his own. follow these three as two societies collide.

Submitted: September 27, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 27, 2016

A A A

A A A


The Borders of Civilization – Homeward Bound

 

Jaina rushes through the forest, green shapes zipping by in a periphery of sheer madness as a wind of her own design tears at the structure of her hair, she is alive. Her feet pound the ground in an unrelenting gait, stepping off the balls. She is flying, she is flying and there is no longer ground underfoot to trample, she endures a breif moment of panic as she floats freely through open air. The girl stares down as a flat plane of dirt rises up to meet her, her hands planting as the rest of her body transitions into a rolling tumble, the thud of impact throwing air from her lungs. She is up and moving before there is time enough to breath. Her vision grows hazy, a slight tingle through her left thigh, she descends to a halt. Taking in a deep breath, the air about her is magnificent, a cold crisp to it, and oh so many scents. Little black bugs buzz around her as she expands her vision to take in all of the woodland opening up before her. Furry brown tails flopping about, scurrying amongst holes and crevice, she is amazed by the sheer degree of life, everything scurrying about around her.

 

Once Jaina has recovered from her tumble she is off and running again, ecstatic joy flowing through her as she maneuvers amongst erratic lattices of rock, tree and logs. In training for her final evaluation, Jaina has chosen the ultimate obstacle course, traversal of raw forest. Innumberable challenges, presented all at once and with no single obvious route, the trees provide an unforgiving medium, popping up in an endless flow of stout lumber. One must fully attenuate to the current situation, there is no exception to this rule. Jaina understands that at such speeds, relaxation can transition into unconciousness in an instant. She’d been running at peak for several minutes without pause, and as she slows now the breath pours out of her. Moving at a crawl, the girl scans the trees for wildlife and short order nutrtion, a thick red berry catches her eye, she stops right under the tree which bares it to inspect the abundance of fruit. Mulberries floating above her, dangling black and red all about her head, she reaches up to yank several from their old home in provision of another. Just slightly tart, the juicy clusters burst as she presses down with her tongue, while nature may not be kind, she is just in her distributions of berries.

 

By now Jaina has discovered thousands of food bearing trees in her little neck of the woods, a vast swath of wilderness which she travels amongst freely, sometimes for weeks at a time with nothing more than a tent wrap and minimalist set of tools. Today is an exploration day, with her tarp setup elsewhere in the forest, she makes play amongst the timbers.

 

As a child Jaina had come out here often, that’s when she had learned in earhest how to be an animal, how to find joy in every moment until ceaseless eternity. Of course the animals were afraid of her at first, they knew not what to think of this crazy human, bounding about on all fours, prancing to a jig they had thought their own. But slowly and surely, over time a mutual understanding had grown, a bond of compasionate love connecting her to the varied forms of the forest. Many creatures had even taken to her scent, seeking her out when they sensed her return. The oddball human played games just as them, this man did not look to pelt their bodies and break them down, she chased after nuts and played games.

 

Growing familiar with them over the years, Jaina had devised games to play with the animals, and some even followed the rules. Flitting about the trees in games of chase and scavenge, one in parituclar she had grown fond of, more than not enjoying the sport with the racoons and larger mammals, was what she called Seed Spotting! Simple enough, the insitgator of a session would first affirm their opponents attention before, staring up too a specific seed hanging visible in the trees, they would both lock on and head off. The two creatures scurry frantically towards their mutual target, making use of motive prowess over anything else, who could pluck that peice first. The sport would often devolve however, into simple primal games of chase, nothing other than sharing in the joy of mutual movement.

 

Jaina loved the forest, she loved every scent, sight and sound. Provided she’d just stay long enough, the timbers could always bring her peace. It troubled her sometimes though, when she looked at the others of her community and saw nothing more than a grudging boredom, and somehow even, the hints of anger or frustation in the corners of their eyes. While they lived amongst the natural world, they were not enamoured with it’s beauty as she. It was almost as if they did not see themselves as animals anylonger, having forgotten their roots. They had settled for the quiet murmerings of village life, in stead of the deep wild silence, intoxicants used to replace fluid motion, endless travel. In reality, the animals she knew had much the same goals as us, and yet, behind every action was a wellspring of joy, they lived for the hunt, striking small victories at every turn, never a subject to defeat. While in the actions of most humans she knew, she registered nothing beyond the drudges of neccesity. So she always tried to bring a little bit of the forest back with her, perhaps by sharing those energies the people she loved would one day seek them out on their own.

 

When Jaina did finally return to her village after the weeks long excursion, she came home to her family’s little cottage. It still sat humble as ever alongside the other dwellings of her village. She passes up the formalities of an evening meal and heads straight for her wooden bedspread. Flopping down into the embrace of her sheets, here in darkness she slowly drifts. Her mind creeping it’s way towards eternity, the days occurences pass through her. Soon she is passing through memories of a much deeper past, one she will not remember upon waking. A restful sleep comes to her, and she dreams of a deep universal love for all forms, floating within a vast pool of conciousness, one which had existed long before her, and she suspects, will be there long after. Eventually only warmth remains.

 

 

 

 

Awaking to a loud thud, Jaina rouses herself wearily out of a slumber. Scanning the room, she discovers that her brother Aluteus has fallen out of bed again, he snores peacefully there on the floor, laying in a precarious perch, entirely dependant upon neither bed nor floor. She slumps back down on the matress, this only to rouse herself anew scant seconds later. Bringing a foot out from underneath the covers, she plants it firmly onto a cold, wooden surface, then the other. Looking over to her brother, she notices his new equilibrium has remained unbroken, snoring loudly. Jaina steps carfully around his flaccid corpse as she maneuvers towards the door, it’s hinges creak as she inches it open. Looking back into the room she admires his placid face, “Oh how I wish I could manage your laziness at time”, she wispers this before slamming the door. “Rise and shine plumpkin”. She knows it to be a useless gesture, a particularly loud explosion couldn’t rouse that boy, but it’s still fun!

 

Searching about in the kitchen, she’s the only one of the house yet roused. Jaina prepares a meal for herself from the food in the pantry before moving to the cold seller beneath the kitchen floor. There she gathers food enough for her families morning meal. Eggs, deer meat, ingredients for bread, she pictures their smiling faces waking up to the fruit of her work, this makes her happy. The eggs and meat sizzle violently in the pan as she chomps away at the last bits of her own snack. The bread is still baking when she leaves for the day, making her way down through the meadows and into town.

 

Weaving in and about the communities little houses and public use spaces, she smiles at the world her parents and extended kin had managed to create.

 

The last few days had been hectic for Jaina, she was in the midst of completing the final stage of her communities formal evaluation, and in doing so there had been quite a few challenges put up for her to face. This was her ‘term of torture’ so to speak, a period in which the sum of her studies since the age of five would be tested. Skills covering a selection of topics that ranged from wilderness survival, tasks such as wild flora identification and associated characteristics, to mathematical comptetencies and responces under physical aggravation. The past few days had been spent racking her brains against a smattering of tests which had tried her abstract mental skills, communication, mathematics, deductive reasoning and creative problem solving. Through much of these trials, it felt as if her frontal lobe might spontaneously combust. But in the end, she enjoyed it.

 

 

She was fifteen now, and while she had not yet decided what it was she’d dedicate her life too, she was anxious to finish her communities evaluations and get started, what ever the future might hold! Soon she would be posed her final challenge, one many of her peers had failed. Her physicality had been tested all throughout the eight days evaluation, minor challenges scattered amongst the others to keep her mind and body fresh. But this final test would really push her to the limit, a ten kilometer navigation over roughened terrain. She’d traveled the course several times before, but as of yet had not managed to complete it.

 

 

The air whizs by Jaina as she leaps the third vault in a row, placing her feet atop the grains of the thick horizontal log before bounding away. The course had been far easier than she’d remembered, however it had been several months since she’d traversed it last, she’d grown a great deal in that time. When she heads up the hill towards the next structure, almost awestruck she stares up at the massive obelisk before her, that wasn’t there last time. “Was it even the same route?” Slightly pensive, she makes her approach.

 

Standing under the massive form, she looks up to examine it’s surface. The wall looming before her is lined with rungs of pegs, large gaps spaced in between. Without further hesitation, Jaina quickly maps a route and leaps for the first cylinder. Arms outstretched she grasps onto the wooden surface, she kicks her legs for purchase against the wall. Pulling down on the peg, it retracts. It slips out of her hand and she falls to the ground. She stares up dumbly at the false hold. This will take some thinking.

 

Standing a ways back from the wall shes hashes out a plan. Gathering rocks from the gravel path, before long she has a small pile before her, reaching down Jaina hefts a chunk of sediment and throws it towards one of the pegs in the first row. A sharp crack as the rock rebounds off the wooden surface. Solid. She reaches down to secure another one and repeats the process. Soon the girl has mapped a series of solid pegs that, fingers crossed, should lead her safely up the wall. There are a few however, near the top of the obstacle, which she was unable to hit. No time to worry, she commences.

 

Leaping into the air, Jaina grabs hold of a peg and thrusts herself upwards with a deadly force. A rung on the wall slides up next to her and she grabs a hold. One after another the pegs are zipping by below her, she follows the path she’d marked to the letter. That’s why, when her hands come to lock onto the next rung, she’s surprised to feel it swaying with her motion, vertigo, “Don’t look down”. She doesn’t understand, but there’s no time to think, action, she has to act. As the vector of her direction shifts she scrambles franitcally for a grip. A solid slam as a foot slams against a peg before sliding off as she continues to fall. As soon as she sees it her hands fling up and for the span of a single breathless moment, she dangles.

 

When Jaina has sufficiently recovered from the shock of the experience she reaches a single wary arm out, and coming to a swing, leaps to what she hopes is the solid peg she’d intended. It holds. Conserving some of her momentum, she leaps to the next rung. Hanging now only two rows from the top, she is still unsure of the implements before her. Reaching down into a compartment of her cargo pants, Jaina produces a rock, and selecting a peg, lets loose. Bang, it’s solid. She grapples up to the new perch. The final row lays before her, she retrieves another rock. In tossing this one up it’s target flexes under the impact. Jaina takes a hold of the last rock in her possesion. When she throws this one up however it misses. She has two pegs directly above her to choose from, they’re spaced just far enough apart that she can only reach for one. In a leap of faith, she rises up to grapple onto the wooden peg and it flexes with the motion.

 

As the girl tumbles down the wall a peg zips by and she throws her hands around it as her body jerks to a stop. Tired but undistraught, she climbs her way back up, and reaching the final rung, this time she grabs hold of a solid wooden cylinder. She pulls her body up and over the top of the monolithic obstacle. A panoramic view of the surrounding forest lies beneath her and she takes in the sight. Bending down to grab a hold of the thick knotted rope below her, she inches her way down the opposite end of the obstacle. A deep sigh of reilief, she’s alomst done.

 

In comparison to what she’d already accomplished, the rest of the course is a breeze. Rounding, the final bend in the path her instructor is there to greet her. “Congraduations”, they hug.

 

After completing the course Jaina heads back to the village, her body is drenched in sweat and her muscles are aching, but she feels alive, she is unstoppable, the world is her own.

 

***********************************************************************************

Once back in the village, Jaina she bumbles. With her test now complete, she’s all set to wonder. As she walks through the village, she considers the commute, the design of her family, the community as a group. Crisscrossing pathes, a natural flow, subterranian villas, none in a row. Single leveled, two stories and three, walled estates and yards left free. Atop each house there rests a garden. Apple tree and pear, strawberries to grape, the plants grow high while their produce runs draped. She loves it here, wouldn’t change a thing, the mildest neighbors, a beautiful zing.

***********************************************************************************

 

Jaina admires the cozy feel of the communities as she walks through the meandering paths weaving in and around the private bubbled estates. Between the short ringed concrete walls, which most refer to as bubbles, some of the multileveled houses are linked with enclosed pedestrian walkways, Jaina pans her vision to take in three such houses, all connected to the same overhead route. She passes under the shade of this bridge. Jaina is walking by one of the village recreation centers when she runs into a friend, a fellow class mate, one she had grown close to over the past few years. "Hya Sorbyd!", Jaina offers with a smile. "Jaina! Hello! Kiel estas?", the boy is smiling profusely, the two join in a loving embrace. "Worderful! I’ve just finished the final evaluation! Freedom at long last!”, “But friend, how are you?", Jaina asks. Sorbyd's smile broadens, "Good, yes good. There would be no point in my asking, you’ve done well, I already know”, he continues, “The elders say I shall challenge my own evaluation in just several cycles time. Amendment... Pensive!”. “Yes! You musn’t worry though, it isn’t such as scary as they are chalked up", Sorbyd offers a nervous laugh, “Easy words with yours fading into oblivion behind you!”, he smiles. “Truly my friend, nothing to fear”, speaking again Jaina adds, “Say, Sorbyd. Aluteus and I are taking a trek to the wilderness, several days time it will be. If you’d excersize the possiblity, an additional member would surely be welcomed”. Sorbyd raises a hand to touch his face, looking down in thought, after a span of several long moments he looks up again. “Yes, I think that would be fine, my activity’s been slumping as late, this would be good”. “Great!”, “We will meet at the outer bridge at morrows dawn”, Jaina is beaming. “Well I must keep headed to the abstraction center, a session in extra material wisdom awaits! Until morrow!”. Jaina is still smiling as they break apart. Sorbyd rushes down the path as Jaina continues on her way.

 

 

The next day Jaina and Aluteus come to the bridge only to find Sorbyd there waiting for them, “Hidy friends”, the boy offers with a broad smile. By mid day the three have traveled deep into the wilderness, having taken no stops as the siblings had grown accustomed. Stumbling happily through the forest with Jaina’s friend in tow, the temperature of the day is pleasant, the rays of the sun warming their exposed skin as the canopy sees fit. With a lite mist floating in the air from yesterdays rain, the atmopshere has taken on truly mystical qualities, sparkles of moisture drifting about, Jaina’s senses are tingling. It wasn't until they had reached their preordained camp, arranging tents and cookware for the night, that they both realized Sorbyd shouldn't be this far behind. Evening was still hours away however, they didn’t feel any worry when they set back out again in search.

 

Jaina and Aluteus had a habit of treking out into the forest every few cycles, picking a mapped point from which to rough it for a period of days. Last time around a friend of Aluteus’ had tagged along, Joffray. Having ventured out to this portion of the wild many times before, and having experienced nothing more dangerous than a bee sting during those trips, the two weren’t worried when an hours hike still yielded no sign of the boy.

 

When they did eventually stumble across Sorbyd, he was splayed against the trunk of a tall elm, the aftermaths of a midday snack ravaged across his chest. Before Jaina can protest, Aluteus is fixing a twig into the snoring boys mouth, poking it about the gaping hole. Floating around in there, the stick occassionally taps against teeth and gum as Aluteus fights to hold it steady. Tensing for a moment, he brings his forearm forward in a quick jab directed to the back of the boys throat, this just as a loud snore escapes. A gasp fills the air as the boy comes to, his jaw clamping down on the foreign instrument of mischief. A hearty laugh fills the air as Jaina’s eyes lock onto the stunned pair that lay before her, "How was your nap?", she chuckles.

 

 

 

Back at camp night has fallen, the three are busy preparing their meal when the darkened forest delivers a loud shriek, traveling to the ears of each camper. Out of instinct, Aluteus reaches for his dagger, with Jaina merely glancing at her short bow. After several moments have passed, "The night! She is wild!”, forced bravado in Aluteous voice. Sorbyd seems terror stricken, sitting clutched by the fire, Jaina notices the expression on his face. “You need not worry, the beings of the forest are harmless unprovoked”, she pauses, “Even if they do prefer their more menacing personas after dark”. Something in the interaction seems to ease the boy, and as they all turn back to the fire an easy camaraderie returns to the group.

 

The three adolescents sit up watching the fire until late in the night, discussing all manners of the human experience, to the warmth of food in their bellies they relax together into an easy bliss. The conversations go on until a pitch black point in the early morn when, Aluteus, the first to succumb to the general grogginess afflicting them all, collects his coat. Curling up against a log, soon he has begun to snore, leaving Jaina and her friend to carry on the torch of camp fire conversation.

 

The night is unnaturally still around them as the two talk on in low voices. “I had heard he was overtaken by animals”, “Lost in the forest on a venture”, “No, no”, Sorbyd says quietly, “He came to my father before leaving, he told him how he was headed for Sanghardt, our sister city to the north”. “Why would he go there?”, Jaina inquires. “Jude wanted something different, he figured there was nothing left for him here, the tests of the elders were no challenge to him, he’d already learned his profession. All he wanted was to venture out into the world, as the old explorers once did, discovering it for themselves”. “I don’t understand, why would people think otherwise, he must have told the elders?”. “He did, he did, I’m sure of it. But given their ways of self destination... and we all know they’re a crusty lot to deal with, you can understand why they might not want word spread. Jude is a revered man, others would follow, adopt his path as their own. He knew this, and I assume that’s why he told my father, he wanted somebody to know the truth, if the elders wouldn’t do it justice”.

 

They talked on like this for a good while, discussing the beauties and faults of the world as if nothing could, or ever would, matter again. Nothing could ever come close to the weight of their current dialogues. In the morning, when the three had awoke, they wandered about the land for a good while, simply enjoying the sights and sounds of things. Feeling the grit of bark beneath their hands, the all encompassing embrace of a river as it washes over you. The world they lived in was marvelous, Sorbyd was astounded, why had he never done this before? They bumbled around the forest like that for several days.

 

When the three started back to camp on their fourth day, night had already fallen. Jaina and Aluteus planned to trek out further and then head back the following day, however as they all began to consider their plans as a group, the sibblings realized their travel mate was exhausted. So they decided to head back into town come morning. Returning to camp, they quickly fell into the same positions from the night before and everyone was snoring within minutes of taking their meal.

 

That night Jaina dreamt wild dreams. Visions of beast of great size and stature, creatures of a reptilian descent, magnificent animals that flew through the air on outstretched wings of flame. In her dream, people tried to harm these beasts, throwing metal towards them at impossibly fast speeds. She loved these creatures, and it hurt her to think that a human might try and harm one simply out of a jealousy to it’s power and appearance. One of these beasts flew in a vengeful fury, tearing through the sky on a dastardly errand. With the roof tops of a small town visible below, the creature expressed the rage of a thousand ancestors at the empty lives of it’s unborn kin. Breathing fire upon the wilderness outpost, the creature tears into the sky to leave the inhabitants in ruin. As she comes to, breathing in the first chill air of the high mountain dawn, Jaina realizes something, that town, was her own.

 

 

 

 

Cresting the top of a stubby hillock, a man observes a sunswept meadow as it sprawls down before him. Populating it's many bumps, plains and valleys are the likes of a great many children, frolliking all amongst the flora. With a winged insect catching his attention his eyes fixed, he watches the vibrant colours of it's delicate wings as they flash and flutter about the air. He reaches a quick hand out to crush it. Gazing back towards center field, the children are gleefully at play, running about as if in active rest. One child catches his eye in particular, a coy looking young boy who is busily spelling out orders to the bees and the trees, another, a female this time, she runs briskly with a ball clutched firmly to her chest, a smiling group hot in her wake. The man relaxes, but only a little.

 

As he takes a step into the meadow a single head turns to catch his figure, he stops. A second child acknowledges his presence and that of the bulky rough hewn men standing close behind. As the juveniles take notice of large darkly clad strangers, some in the group react with fear. The enterage which had formerly been persuing the girl has stopped, she takes several more steps before dropping the prized game piece and fleeing herself in a different direction. With the group disending into chaos, bodies tripping and crashing into one another, the scene grows frantic, many of the valley population fleeing to the protection of the surrounding forest. Taking a single dismayed step forward, the man did not expect this, he did not expect any of this. The action returns a shrill scream, followed by another.

 

The man had not been aware of the light stupor he now found himself. The state of awe is wiped away clean by the rejection he sees reflected in these children, instincts burned into him by tribulations of a violent past, pushing him into the form he knows best. He takes another step into the valley, this time more sure, another. Raising a heavy instrument with his right arm, individual steps evolve into a steady gallop.

 

 

A grimy slop bucket is passed around the group, into this each man discards remains left unwanted from his meal. The contents of the container will be used to feed the pack’s retinue of serf and followers, Raz drops in a portion of a cracked femur before following it with a thick hork of mucus from the back of his throat. “What you figure happened to th’ rest of them willigans, Rine?”, a short stubby man seated across the flames responds with a grunt without looking up from his meal. “Oi! Rine! I speaking you feller!”. “Eh?”, “What’s uh’ matter Raz?”, “Well I figures, thems ca-not be yau far into thems forest by neese”. Loud, slurping noises, the man engulfed once again in food. “Oi! Rine!”. “What is it Razillin!”. “I’m just, kind-ly wondrin yous think we should head out for them, for’ they get to far gone intee woods”. Another man speaks up, seated several bodies adjacent to the stubby man, “Razills be gettin a point eare”, “This place ain’t stock much, we’ll need a be gettin moore”. Nods from around the fire, “Dranov, say, you be interogatins thei some, what yee yields this”. The attention of the group is directed to a sullen figure that sits off to the side of the fire, downcast, the man has no meal before him, his dark face made only barely visible by the faint flicker of firelight that spatters the hood pulled down overtop. As this man looks up to the group, a greyed face is exposed. “Dlahehh....”, a raspy scratch of air emerges from the man’s lunges. “They have gone north, you will arrange a forward pack tonight and the rest of us will set out at night fall of the following day”, “Razillin, this is your chance to redeem yourself”.

 

 

Raz had selected from the pack two others to accompany him in the search, several hours into the woods and they had already run across what looked to be a fresh trail. Leading them through a smattering of the roughest terrain, they'd followed this broken path with dilligence, giving little heed to anything other than tracking until one of the men had slipped through the forest floor. After much trial and tribulation, Raz and his second, Gorb, had managed to fish Nate's mangled corpse from the man hole. After that Raz suggested the two take seperate routes that would lead them both in opposite directions around the direct trail. If either located the site, he would report the location to the other. In releaving Nate of his gear, they headed off.

 

It hadn't taken him long, only a day of hard treking and he already sensed other humans afoot. That night he'd seen lights and heard voices not far from his camp. Having just begun arranging stock for the night, rose coloured lights had appeared no more than three hundred yards out from the site. He'd immediately dropped down. Watching closely he could make out several forms amongst the darkness.

 

There were at least three of them, and as far as he could tell from the voices it was all men. They were searching for something, he watched the men mulling about the open area outside the forests canopy, crouching amongst prickly ash, he remained there for atleast an hour. When they had left, heading in the direction opposite Raz’ camp, he'd reached over quickly to knash a bite from the possom laying cooked by the ashes of the day fire, and in collecting his longblade, moved into pursuit.

 

The forms of the group hadn't been lit up long before they’d merged with the other greys of the bush. He’d tried to follow as best he could, as Raz continued however, without their light or voices as guide, he soon realized he was chasing shadows. Soon he was jogging through the underbrush, giving little heed to the sound he was making or the low hanging branches as they smacked across his face. He'd come this far already, he wasn't going to miss out.

 

Scrumbling through the brush, the spiny leaves of low growing shrubs rub against the skin of his exposed calves, Raz had worn his raider cargo shorts for the trip, a ragged pair of pants he’d kept sinse the packs first pillage, he was regretting the choice. From his waist down, the man's clothes are soaked. The sharp sting of a cut on his right leg rouses a yelp and he trips over a log, “Dammit!”. Raz freezes on the ground for the span of several moments before getting up, when he's confident enough the proclomation had gone unheard, he trundles on. A breeze of crisp night air flows through the man's shaggy hair as he makes an attempt to sniff out his charges. He laughs silently, no use. There is nothing except for thorned weed stalks and buzzing mosquitos, he is alone.

 

After a good ‘nother hour of steady hiking, Raz is contemplating turning back to camp, he'll set out anew in the morning, he tells himself. His body has just frozen up with the grip of indesicion when he notices a faint light floating ahead of him. Pursuing this lead, hushed voices make their way to his ears, and at that he's invigorated. Raz draws his knife as he makes his way into a small clearing. Hanging a good twelve feet from the forest floor, is an intricate network of tenting. Suspended in mid air, Raz’ eyes are drawn to the unique structure, following along the neat lines of taught cord as they lead out from underneath and above to support these tarp fabrications. Fastened to the trunks of thick trees scattered about the clearing, these people have constructed an honest to god tent fort! From the largest of these dwellings, a faint blue light emanates from the center, soft laughter reaches Raz's ears as he approaches.

 

As he gets closer, he realizes noises are emanating from the heart of this thing, involuntarily, a low moan rises from his throat, he continues his approach. Examining the tarp structure as he walks slowly towards it, Raz's eyes move over the sleek edges of it's hexagonal form, leaves of the trees and bushes in the periphery outlined with a stark clarity known only to the hunter of prey unbenounced.

 

As Raz plants a booted foot upon the ground, a stick snaps unneath it, he doesn't stop, his ears prick up further. And still, the voices go on uninterrupted, carrying over the midnight breeze, a dark smile crosses his lips as he travels the remaining distance between him and the camp.

 

Coming up underneath the largest of the suspended tents, Raz travels his fingers across the fine polymer material that is it’s flooring, the sound this makes is soft, material giving lightly under his touch. A sharp tingling runs up through his hand as he brings it across, and yet, the voices rise unhushed from within, oh he's excited.

 

Carefully raising his knife above his head, Raz slides it against the taught material, pressing ever harder until a tear begins to form at the apex of the blade. The material gives way and soon it has opened up wide around the metal, accepting it unflinchingly into it's innards. Raz is practically beaming, sharp tingling sensations run across his body as he moves the blade slowly, carefully down the materials length, soundless. He waits for the inevitable gasps of horror and surprise, imagining the expressions of shock and terror as the occupants realize whats happening, but none are forthcoming. A soft giggle hits his ears instead, he doesn't understand.

 

Slowly, he retracts the knife and draws a pistol. Reaching his hands up and into the open cavity beyond the slash, Raz spreads the material wide enough that his entire head can pear inside. Raising himself up off the forest floor and onto the balls of his feet, Raz pokes his head inside.

 

A soft light illuminates the space around him, and scanning it's corners, he realizes the tent is empty, he doesn’t move. It is empty all ‘cept for one thing, a small LED aparatus hooked to a cord as it dangles from the roof. His eyes drawn to the center of the suspended dwelling, he notices the small device as it rests above the tarp base, emitted from it are the sounds of hushed rustling, the chuckle of a small child. He snarles.

 

Jerking his head out from the tenting, Raz rushes on to the next of the structures, the former gayity now torn from his demeanor. Before he can take more than two steps however, he hears movement at the edge of the clearing. He looks up to see a muzzle flare as his vision is replaced by red. He falls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Hamlee lowers his rifle, twenty other men do so in succession, his eyes stay fixed on the intruder's body, laying where it had fallen. Only as a gentle hand comes to caress one of his shoulders does the man allow them to drop. “My darling it's over. The children are safe”. He remains silent.

 

The group had traveled into these woods mere days prior, packing up at the first sign of trouble. Hamlee had known that one day a threat would visit them, so had other families. Aside from small valuables and minor pieces of kit, everything necessary for the journey had been arrayed in advance. The only reason they had a chance now was because of dishonesty, dishonesty and deceit, the exact same flaws which led this man to their camp in the first place, and why he now lay in a murk of his own blood soaked mud.

 

When he and his wife had first relocated, Hamlee had disobeyed the barrings of the village elders, smuggling weapons of the old order along with them. Those tools were insurance on the lives of his wife and future progreny, they were his survival policy. Thinking back to years past, Hamlee considers the time when they were all first fixing to come together in this place. There had been many months of discussion via the www, and then in person. In the world of their heritage, they had all come to know each other first, defining a set of rules by which their new culture would live. Those were the days, he had felt wild again sitting in his boots, something he’d not experienced since the first night he and his wife had met.

 

The society of sister cities was put together by thousands of groups that hailed from thousands of disparate localities around this mother earth. They had arranged polls and ‘Pre-Instantiation Dynamics Assessments’, fancy words for a coordinated camping trip. There were to be hundreds of such districts assembled across the globe, embarking out upon a new fork for humanity.

 

Each village had their own rules and regulation, guidelines to instill specific cultural values. The village his wife and him had settled, was dubbed ‘Arcande’. It was meant to be a magic place. With high hopes as an advanced culture based upon rigorous scientific principles, Arcande would be the best of both worlds. Offering an intensive tri-pronged approach to academia, scientific theory, unguided problem solving and technological engineering, her descendants would be educated in the highest sense of modernity, while living in the heart of the wild.

 

Arcande was the most thoroughly planned and funded of the districts in their distributed global society. A handful of wealthy patrons had been her initiatory benefactors, these men would come to be known as ‘the elders’ by it’s residents. These men however, made clear from the start that this was their prototype. While most of the other districts were dominated by small family and clan dynamics, Arcande was theprototype at the heart of the entire global effort, the brain child of rich scientists and famed intellectuals. Those elders had laid down an initial set of rules for the community as abstract, and one of the biggies was, no guns.

 

Coming from a military family, and yet with no prior history in any such organizations himself, Hamlee understood well the use of force, and what the proliferation of weapons meant in his country. Unwilling to leave his current, and future family at mercy to circumstance, the man had smuggled six articles of contraband into his new home soon after their arrival. Four of these peices were rifles, two pistols. Slowly stocking operational supplies during trips to the outside world, he would keep these forbidden instruments hidden.

 

When the band of marauders had first attacked the outlying cottages of their district, the people were in total awe at the prospect, most had not had the misfortune to witness human brutality close and personal, it was a rude awakening that cut many short. The raiders had come unexpected, moving in parties of five to twelve members, pillaging the outlying homes, slowly they moved closer to the core. The village wide comm had alerted it’s human inhabitants of the danger when the first of these cottages was ransacked and Hamlee had made his mind up to leave when homesteads on opposite ends of the village were starting to wink out as well.

 

Several families, Hamlee’s included, had decided to play the threat with caution, while others prepared for violence, they prepared for flight. While Arcande was strict in it’s disallowal of metal weapons of modern make, they had no qualms or policy in regards to such tools of a bladed or fletched variety, as such most of her residents kept some of one form or another. As these weapons made their appearances, so did Hamlee’s forbidden tools.

 

At first, the elders were livid at the site, but as it had turned out, a great many more had done the same. Bearing their efficient weapons, the men of these families called for others to join them in their leave, “There is no sense in risking lives for what we can rebuild, leave your homes to the violence, not your kin”. Of course as men of pride, they could not listen to this reason, their rationalities would have them put up defenses and fight. Their labours would not be leached, they would face the horde head on.

 

Men who have known violence, and not healed it’s wounds, they are driven by it’s call. So Hamlee and the group that had risen around him took to the woods, they had known a day like this might come, and in sadness at the choice of their brethren, they would not return.

 

Back in the wilderness, Hamlee’s men tend to the duties of their camp as he himself ponders the circumstance in which they now find themselves. “What ails you in the present my love?”. The wind courses through the trees, leaves fluttering violently as cook pots simmer, the sounds of hushed voices rising to the couples ears, she persists. “I am worried. Sharla seems to me shocked at the witness of last nights occurrence”, Hamlee raises his head in order to scan the sky, she follows his gaze. “I wish to console him. He remains hard to me, I implore you to speak with him”.

 

 

The group has been trekking for three days now, Hamlee draws in a breath of the crisp air. Ever since the lone raider had discovered their encampment they have been operating just above the level of fear. The day following, a second man wandered into their camp. This time however, they were caught unaware. Having routed their patrol grid, a thickset man had broken into one of their shelters. There he had seized a women after bludgeoning her husband. After this they had abandoned the location, setting out in earnest to their northern sister city, Sanghardt. Hamlee had had hopes that men from the village would change their mind, and that they might join them before the madness began. The villagers had all heard word of the hordes that wandered the mainland, pillaging all who might lay eyes upon them. Hamlee had an idea of the horrors that awaited their township.

 

The trek had been hard, stopping for no longer than two hours at a time during the past span of days. But all was well, this evening they would rest a full night and the long march would begin anew the following morning. As far as he knew, this group was all that remained of their humble culture, Hamlee was determined, no more would die afore the journeys end. That night Hamlee dreamnt no dreams, he would remember only blackness upon waking. The embrace of deep, deep, void.

 

 

 

Before the sun had yet risen, the man is awoken by the thunder of hooves trampling through underbrush. Throwing himself up, he is torn away from his covers and out into the night. Men shouting, the loud thumps of horses approaching, the noise seems to be coming from all directions. Amidst this he arms his rifle and moves to the edge of the camp, crouching before a row of trees, Hamlee waits. As the commotion grows around him, men scatter about in a frenzy, another of the fathers jog past him and climbs a tree off to Hamlee’s right, bearing the faint green of his rifle scope towards the exterior forest. As the riders draw close Hamlee scans the forest, pulling in deep breaths between glances. While the woods he can see are still, the whole of his body is taught, he must force his breath into a steady rhythm while holding his body firm. He stands steady, the grip on the rifles stock tightening, heavy thumps growing louder.

 

There is a flurry of motion out in the distance, past several rows of trees a dark shape moves, the noise almost unbearable, the stacado of his own heart pumping blood through his ears. A vast dark figure breaks through a thick of bushes, leaves and twigs tear about as it barrels forward. A pang of fear shocks Hamlee and he is slow to raise his rifle, he is forced to roll clear of the charging figure.

 

Swiveling, as his feet hit the ground, Hamlee turns to see the black mass descending through the camp, the slender form of his wife standing there helpless before the solid oncoming force. Raising a single arm into the air the rider brandishes a long blade. In one swift motion the blade is swung towards the subtle silhouette of Hamlee’s companion, the combined speed from the gallop jerking her off the ground momentarily, before she tears back down towards it.

 

Hamlee is stricken, full of rage he pumps the scatter shot fixed to the rifle bore, behind the burst of flame a horse brays and the rider pulls back into a contortion of agony. As Hamlee’s vision adjusts he sees the rider slumped over his horse as it charges on riderless, falling headlong into the camp. Hamlee is running towards his fallen companion before he can think as rifle fire erupts behind him. In reaching her, he throws his rifle to the ground and bends down to comfort her, there is no sense in the action, a gaping wound runs deep through the fore of her body, the severed rungs of rib cage laying bare to the air. Heavy foot falls erupt behind him and he jerks towards his rifle. Swinging around, he sees a beast of a man, sprinting, moving in short fast steps as unfastened leather garments flap erratically about his waist. A short staff is presented by the raider to Hamlee, and this he swings in a deft motion towards the kneeling man. Bashing against Hamlee’s face with a wet slap, he falls into unbeing.

 

 

Dull sensations, darkness. The sounds of people moving about reaches Hamlee’s ears, his legs are numb and in his face there is no feeling. As he moves, pain arches down through his body, he groans. The sound of lightly patting feet, moving towards him as a feminine voice rings softly, “Hamlee, you’re awake, no need to worry, your children are safe.”, a pause, “The raiders were dealt with, everyone is alright”. Hamlee squirms with discomfort, raising himself slightly as he groans. “Sir, you are quite injured, the less you move is the better. The state of the show sir, as soon as the injured have been tended and made mobile, we will persist”. He relaxes slightly. Just as he is lowering himself back down to the firm matress, a terrible pang of flashing pain rips through Hamlee’s skull, the sight of the rider returning to the forefront of his mind, raising it’s blade in a flash before his eyes until all he knows is the sound of his own scream.

 

 

A cool breeze tousles the man’s hair, the winds weight carrying a subtle scent of lavender and honey suckle. Soft orange light reaches his eyes and gentle foot steps pat around beside him. A laugh hits his ears and his heart feels a little warmer at that, he remains still. His son’s voice, Hamlee turns sharply towards the sound. “Daddy, you’re awake”, a pause, “It’s beautiful out here”, there is joy in his voice. Saying nothing, he only reaches out his hand and the boy takes it. A weight comes to rest on his head and both begin to weep. The stretcher swaying with the motion of the procession, Hamlee feels a small hand come to rest upon the soft of his belly. A starling sings out as the column marches past.

 

As they journey on, forest turns to meadows and small cottages begin to dot the landscape. By the second day of their journey amongst this new terrain, Hamlee has begun to walk again under his own command, and with this he removes the bandage from over his eyes. His legs are stiff from the heavy use and then subsequent lack of it, to add to this his brain is sending mixed signals which serve to destablize his movements further. Hamlee is awash with the scenery all around him, the sun has been shining down upon the group, uninterupted, for the past three days. The man is proud of his sons behaviour, the other men tell him how he has held himself with a steadfast dedication to the team, learning new jobs under his own volition where the group now found itself short. He feels hopeful.

 

Soon the scant paths have turned to cobbled road and the group finds itself immersed in tended pasture land, stone and mud brick houses at every turn. People regularly come out to greet them as they walk through these small communities, their buildings all bunched up against the road. The people are friendly and they carry gifts, asking where the group is from. “Ain’t them mighty big tools for Arcande folk to be haulin’”, an old man teases, referring to their slung rifles. Approaching Sanghardt, the roads become thicker as others join it, white marbled guard towers rising up in the adjacent fields on either side of their route. In the distance, they can see similarly coloured spires as they rest just above the horizon, sprawling residential hubs spilling out from the bulk of the city center. Hamlee takes a deep breath before planting his next step.


© Copyright 2017 JohnParkX. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

More Science Fiction Short Stories

Booksie 2017-2018 Short Story Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by JohnParkX

homeward bound

Short Story / Science Fiction

Popular Tags