I’m feeling rather on top of this thing this week. Now, this one is a weird one-off type of thing. I can’t explain it and I have no idea if it wants to be a longer story to just stay here. We’ll see.
January 15, 2014
The buildings crashed down around us, a cacophony of explosions, falling debris and the screams of the human race. Feet trambled the ground and arms shoved anything and everything. It was an exodus that had only ever been seen in fiction. Some hid. Some ran. Some tried to welcome them. All of them failed. There wasn’t any interest in preserving our kind.
I escaped to our cabin deep in the woods with my older brother. We left the truck behind a full day’s walk to try and hide our trail. He wouldn’t let me stumble or fall behind and in his eyes I saw the reason. Behind his eyes there was a primal, gutteral fear; the fear of extinction. It felt it too and it filled us enough to reach the meager safety of an old, familiar home.
The walls were covered with old family vacations, birthday parties and reunions. Every sing person in those photographs were probably dead, or missing. They screamed pain and heartbreak in their smiles at us, but whispered encouragement and hope that perhaps we could be like bigfoot and survive. I certainly hadn’t given up hope that we could be a part of the miracle few to live on.
My brother could hunt and I was good at fishing and we could both fumble our way through campfire cooking. We had most of what we needed stocked up for a few months and enough of our father’s hunting books to go further, though our cellphones ceased to work and there was no news to be found on the radio. In our little cabin we were cut off from the world and the world was cut off from us. I prayed.
The first sign of survivors came from the river where I fished. They came by boat and oars and huddled together with wide eyes. We shared a meal of fish and they shared their story of flight. Neither of us shared any eye contact, being too personal to connect with a stranger.
Half their party were lost. Some to injury, some to illness but most of them were snatched in the woods, on trails, roads and abandoned buildings before they took to the little boat. Where they were taken, no one could say, but bodies were never found. They made grave markers anyway.
We invited them to stay but they were like deer with the scent of a predator in their noses. They were off before the sunset, drifting down river to whatever fate had for them. The woods were silent again but they no longer felt like a warm blanket. They were filled with dangers and ghosts.
From then on, we did all of our hunting and gathering together. In the land of modernity, we had never managed to keep touch, but now we were insperable, like childhood. In time, we moved in sync and words became useless. Instead we wrote. Together we knew it was important to leave behind some record that we lived. They hadn’t stamped us out completely. Each word was a silent rebellion, screaming to be read.
Fall. Winter. Spring. We scratched out a living, two woodland creatures haunted by our own luck and lonely in our separation. What few survivors we had seen had ceased to exist months ago and the only sounds we had were our own voices and we tired of them quickly. We knew, somewhere in our souls that we would live and die together and alone. Separate.
Summer brought new challenges. My brother took ill and never quite recovered. I watched him whither from an athletic man to a starving skeleton. I left him in the cabin to hunt on my own, hoping the rest would heal him and bring him back to me. Each time I returned, I dreaded peering in; too afraid his soul would be gone from there. Each time he turned pale, drawn, and fading eyes to welcome me back. But I knew time was working against us.
Then he was gone one day. I came back to find our frayed couch empty of his long, pale form and a note fluttering in the summer breeze. I searched the woods for days before exhaustion took me and the inevitability that he was well and truly gone and that his time was done here. So, like the boat survivors, I built my own grave marker for him and huddled in the now very empty, souless cabin, my grief consuming me. He might have thought that dying without me would spare me some great pain, but the loneliness would take me faster than sorrow.
Hunting was easier, providing for only myself but I shied away from humanity whenever I heard it, running from the sound of voices and drifting off into the shadows. But I could only hide for so long before what was left found me, curled by the fire place, scribbling away in a meager show of respect for a now dead brother.
They burst into my home, took it by force, though I had nothing for them to take. I listened as they played headgames with my desperation. They told me beautiful tales of human colonies, of resistance and hope. I clung to it with split finger nails and cracked lips. Tiny spaces in my soul filled because there was nothing else it wanted more than to be filled, even with far distance hope-filled propoganda.
They gave me a charge: to be a safe haven for those whose goal was our own; to be a way station in this wilderness. I held on to that charge like a drowning victim to a life jacket. It drove me with a purpose I hadn’t seen since our fist days of flight. I readied the cabin for visitors, worked on filling my shelves and set up spaces for sleeping. I chopped logs and made markers of hunting trails and the best places to fish. I found ways to bring life into the cabin so that life might leave it and fight for it.
Several small groups came through from summer to fall. Each one was haggard, blood stained and battle tested. They kept me safe and I kept them alive. They were passing ships and I, the safe harbour. Wamrth and comfort renewed my faith in our survival as a species as I listened to their horror stories of fighting, bodies and little lines drawn in the sand.
In the fall, I heard them. They were hunting, searching for my heartbeat. I ventured out and hunted less and less on my own and before long, my visitors became few and far between. With each pass, they came closer to my little home and the little light of the rebellion out in the woody dark. They kept their search and came closer and closer until one night I could feel them on me. It was a terrified hum in my heart, reverberating through my fingers and toes.
I was alone, frantic to find my pen and paper. I had one shot, one chance to write my letter and ensure that I wouldn’t be wiped from the records. I scribbled what I hoped were words smeared with tears and sealed it, stuffed it in a shoe box full of other scribbles and tucked it under the floorboards. My only hope was that someone would find them and remember.
And then, they came.