Walker in the Dust

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Raulin, part of the legacy of the few survivors of a disaster that brought the world to its knees was sent out to gather material for housing and tools from the old city ruins. His world will soon be shaken as he meets with a "walker in the dust."

Submitted: September 22, 2014

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Submitted: September 22, 2014

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Many generations ago, with civilization at its peak, it had been brought to its knees in but a single moment. Once proud cities with their tall buildings and monuments turned to ruins, mere shells of their former glory. What caused it and how it occurred are no longer known for sure, leaving it only to imagination and wild speculation. Those details have been long lost with the destruction and passage of time.

 

The remnants of mankind built new societies on the outer edges of the city ruins, only to briefly go within and not too deep to quickly scavenge material. Fear prevents them from venturing deeper due to, not only the crumbling ruins and dangerous animals but also the recent encounters with shadowed forms called most commonly among people as the “walkers in the dust”. It is commonly believed that these beings are the harbingers of destruction returning to finish the job and tensions are rising as they are spotted in more and more areas with rods that generate beams of light and featureless forms with smooth unearthly skin.

 

This is the tale of a man named Raulin, who had recently come to the age of a gatherer. A gatherer scavenges the ruins for scrap material to be made into housing and tools. It is rather routine for the induction into manhood to become either a hunter or a gatherer. This will not be a routine day for Raulin, however, for his fate will be overturned and dipped into the unknown which will change the world once more, for better or worse.

 

A lone man, Raulin, wanders a ruined and desolate city of dust and debris, his face covered with rags to keep him from breathing in the dust and goggles to keep it out of his eyes, a large basket strapped to his burdened back carries scraps of metal, glass, and plastic. Cautiously he taps the ground before him with a stick to make sure he does not end his career at the bottom of a sinkhole.

 

As he heads to return home his eyes catch something unusual, a fairly intact store with only some of the glass cracked in the display. His curiosity piqued he goes over to look within, seeing some televisions and various accessories. He does not know how these devices are used or even what they are, to him they are relics of a time long lost and sacred treasure. He rattles the door to enter but it does not budge, furiously he bangs his body against it, and something indeed does begin to give… the large sign hanging above creaks loudly as it looms over. Shocked, he backs away as quickly as he can as the sign comes down with a loud crash that echoes throughout the streets. Raulin in the ruckus stumbles back into a crumbled in piece of street and falls a short distance hitting the ground below.

 

Laying on his back he can see the gray sky above through the hole he had fallen through. He groans, bruised and scraped, back hurting, and right ankle sprained but otherwise unbroken. Using his stick he pulls himself up and puts weight off his sore foot. Looking around he finds he has fallen into some strange tunnel system with steel railing trailing down each path, a subway, but he does not know this. He looks up through the hole crestfallen knowing he will not get back out this way. He then gathers up his basket and limps his way down a tunnel using his free hand to guide him along the wall. He is unaware that he is now being shadowed, a figure emerging over the hole and peering down at him.

 

Time passes, a few hours or so, he’s lost track and his ankle has certainly swollen some. No signs of a way out yet through these dark tunnels and he’s getting tired and beginning to grow hungry. He sits down to rest and try to soothe his sore foot. Thoughts begin to pour through his mind, his village, his friends, his family. He looks as far as he can down a seemingly endless void, he is only stumbling in the dark hoping for some sign of light, and sees none to comfort him.

“What have I gotten myself into,” he mutters to himself breaking the stark silence. “Got greedy is what I did, should have just went home with what I had!”

 

In frustration Raulin throws his back onto the ground with a loud clatter that echoes all through the tunnels and plants his face into his hands.

 

“Raulin, you wanted fame with all that glitter and all you did was get yourself dead,” he somberly whispers to himself.

 

Though, as he sits there something comes to his ears, quietly at first, then louder. He slowly lifts his head from his hands and breathes slowly so he may hear every sound. One after another, slowly but steadily… the sound of footsteps coming from where he came. Had one of his fellow gatherers seen his folly and come to rescue him? His hopes arose as he got to his feet, forgetting momentarily the pain in his right one.

 

“I’m down here, should I come to you?”

 

There is no response however, but the footsteps continue. A thought comes to his head as he hobbles to his basket and reaches in pulling out a canister-like device with a groove on the top, clearly meant to be twisted. It was meant for an emergency as only few still work, but this certainly counts.

 

“Brace your eyes, I’m going to turn on a light box!”

 

With this he twists the top of the device and with a flash of light the whole tunnel is illuminated with brilliant bluish light before dulling down to a light glow. He is momentarily blinded but under his mask he is smiling wildly. His joy is short lived and replaced with horror as his vision adjusts. The figure walking towards him is not a gatherer like him, nor even a villager. A blank, black face, so smooth and reflective that Raulin can see himself within it, albeit distorted. Tall, with skin pure white except for specks of dust, and weird grooves throughout its body. It looks unnatural, but eerily human-like. Raulin is horrified… he knows what it is… one of the “walkers in the dust” he heard stories of. It begins to reach out towards him, and within a sudden fight or flight response he throws his light box at it hitting its face and hobbles as quickly as he can down the dark tunnel.

 

He cannot hear anything over his own footsteps and heavy breathing, and he doesn’t care to stop to make sure if he’s being followed, terror has overtaken every ounce of his being and has every intention to make as much distance possible between himself and that… thing. But soon he again is exhausted, even more so now than before, huffing and heaving, ears ringing from the blood pressure of his adrenaline rush. He soon again finds himself collapsed, this time unable to motivate himself back up, once again within the darkness. The ringing along with his own heartbeat and breathing is all he can hear now.

 

A light comes into his vision… it was the pale blue of the light box, the creature has it, and it is still coming for him. Raulin knows he can’t run anymore, and he can’t escape, he has barely the energy to even drag himself, he tries to pull himself along but gives up, leaning himself against a wall, barely enough energy to stay conscious. The creature gets down on its knees to his level, its face cracked where the light had struck it. He hears something coming from the being. At first it just sounds like incomprehensible muttering but eventually...

 

“A-r y-kay?”

 

At first what he thinks is grumbling of a creature is starting to sound like words.

 

“H-re, t-ke it.”

 

“Take it? Take what? What is this creature trying to do to me? Wait, it speaks!?” Raulin thinks to himself frantically as he tries to quiet his breath.

 

Then he looks, it is offering him its hand. The being, losing patience grabs Raulin’s hand forcibly and grasps them together.

 

“I am a friend,” the being speaks slowly and softly, “I am here to serve.”

 

“S… serve? Serve what?” Raulin responds breathlessly.

 

“You, of course,” the being responds plainly.

 

“F… for lunch, dinner, or breakfast? Is that what you creatures do? I’ve heard the t… tales!”

 

The being pauses and a muffled sound emits from its face, laughter, that is what it is. The creature is laughing!

 

“I mean I’m here to help you,” the creature responds. “Here, take my shoulder, there are things you need to know.”

 

Raulin hesitantly does as the being says, whom gently crutches him off his sore ankle. They walk together quietly for a while, all the while he tries to take in what the being said to him, debating if he should trust them, and where they are going. Then ahead, he sees something… stairs leading upwards and the dim light of the outside. The being is leading him to the surface. Raulin, beginning to ever so slightly trust this figure, he dares to pose a question to them.

 

“Who, or what, are you?”

 

The being pauses momentarily and now looks to Raulin.

 

“Long ago your forefathers came up with the idea of making servants whom were stronger and tougher to perform the duties more likely to cause them harm. Simple tools would not work, they had to be somewhat autonomous, able to think and act on their own to extent without having to always be given orders. And that would be us.”

 

“We created the ‘walkers in the dust’,” Raulin quietly says to himself.

 

“The technology existed once, before… well, this all happened.”

 

The being brings Raulin up to the surface. For a moment Raulin’s eyes readjust to the sunlight but when he sees again he beholds something amazing. Dozens of the “walkers in the dust” are moving about working, reconstructing pieces of the ruined city, patching holes in the roads and molding new glass.

 

“Some zones are becoming once again habitable. They will not be as luxurious as they once were but they are far better than the shacks you currently reside in.”

 

“You are giving these to us? If you were servants as you say then you have been free to do whatever you pleased since our destruction. There is a saying among my people, that the ‘meek shall inherit the earth’, isn’t that you? This is your village now.”

 

“There are wants and needs, while we no longer need you as we are now a fully autonomous race, we still want you. We have decided to help you back upon your feet, educate you, return as much as we can to you that was lost.”

 

“You would be our masters?”

 

“For a while we may seem as such, yes, but our ultimate dream is to build a new life as equals. We feel this duration like a… like a child caring for a parent with a sprained ankle.”

 

Raulin looks to his ankle then to the being.

 

“Sorry, I guess I used your situation as an analogy there. Would you be willing to help us with something when you are healed?”

 

“What kind of help?”

 

“The others always run in fear when they see us, could you tell them we mean no harm and what we are doing here?”

 

“I will try, but have you ever tried speaking first rather than after?”

 

“Now that you mention it… no, we always thought body language would be enough upon first meeting as that was always first greeting among you.”

 

“That is only among familiar faces, and yours, no offense, is the least familiar.”

 

The being pauses for a moment and puts its hand to its smooth black face and then to the side of its head pushing in on something. Their black face begins to move inwards and then slides up into the back of its head revealing a face more human-like in appearance. A man around the same age as Raulin himself but something seems off, unnatural to some degree, in particular the eyes seem... different. Shocked at first, Raulin then takes a moment to look at the being’s new face. To the being’s bewilderment Raulin begins to chuckle then laugh.

 

“W-what is so funny? Are my facial features askew?”

 

Raulin fights down his laughter and waves a finger at the being.

 

“It looks like we both have quite a bit to learn. For you, my friend, it is the lesson of first impressions.”

 

The being takes a moment to ponder what Raulin just said and then cracks a smile and chuckles.

 

“It would appear that you are correct. Here, come this way so we can do something about that ankle.”

 

They then head towards a building marked “clinic” where he would be treated and allowed to rest until he healed. But he enjoyed it, the strange people he had met, “the walkers in the dust”, the legacy of those that came before him, and the hope for his people to regain some of what seemed forever lost with time.


This is the end of the story, but not the end by any means. How it continues is up to your imagination.


© Copyright 2018 Martin Vole. All rights reserved.

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