The horizon was split between the rocks and the clouds. Along the slope to the top of the hill stood five trees silhouetted by the setting sun. The golden rays passed through them but the outlines of them held stark contrast to the bright afternoon. Rested atop the hill was an old wooden chair. It remained there constantly in wait for the old man to use it. It had no other purpose. Each night as the sun began to dip below the rocky outcrop of the jutting land the old man would begin his journey. The villagers below were used to the custom though never fully understood it. They would watch as the dark figure made his way up the hill. It took the man hours to reach but each night he arrived at the top and sat in the chair. The black figure who appeared as a shadow to those below walked with his cane over the dirt and dried remains of once living plants. No matter how hot or cold the man would climb. He passed by and through the trees till he reached the top. Children would often point out the man as they giggled and laughed at his routine. His home which showed the same age as he did on his weathered face sat at the base of the hill apart from the rest of the village. He rarely had visitors and rarely cared to have any. But each evening he left his home and began his travels. Upon reaching the top he would sit down in the chair and open his book. A man once stopped him in the village as he bought his food for the week and asked the man “Why do you do it? Why do you spend so much time and energy walking all the way up that steep hill just to read?” The old man responded “I read to the sun. I read it to sleep so that it will rise in the morning and bring us warmth and our harvests life. But I also read to my wife. I imagine that she is with that sun and as I read she is next to me listening.”
I wrote a bunch of one pagers. Here they are. (Again sorry I write like a toddler, maybe next time I’ll include some finger paintings.)
It calls to me.
To every fiber of my being.
Like my father.
And my father’s father.
Brought to my knees by one sip, one hit.
One is too much. One is never enough.
I’ve seen the consequences.
I’ve felt the consequences.
I hate it. I love it.
It drowns me. It brings me to life.
It’s in my blood. It’s who I am.
No. Sip. Yes. Hit.
Eyelids heavy. Cells on fire.
It will come for me eventually.
The death of me, I’m sure.
A fight for another day.
It was bitter cold and the wreckage of the train was miles back. It was a cargo train but it held a few passengers. Most of them died in the crash and most of the ones that didn’t died in the cold. The glowing light from the flaming mass of metal and wood glowed just below the horizon while the northern lights shined above. The blanket of white covered everything and was undisturbed aside from the few trails of footprints. There was three of them left and they pushed through hills and woods, rocks and ice to get back to camp or some likeness to one. When they first left the wreckage there were eight trails of prints. After the first couple miles one of the trails of prints ended in a frozen mass. The remaining seven trails carried on after the frozen mass was stripped bare of any resources. Several miles after that another frozen mass dropped to the snow. It continued as such until there were only the living three. Beards and lashes hardened with ice and uncovered flesh blue with the onset of frostbite. When they decided to finally rest they held close to the fire that reminded them of the one that had, only a few hours prior been inside the bellows of the train that carried them. This fire gave them far less hope. When they had ensured that the fire was built enough to last through the night they slept. When morning broke two of them stirred and the other remained still. The fire was not enough to stave off the hypothermia that was already set in. Another frozen mass lay in the snow. The other two began to carry on. The snow rested just short of their knees every step they took, deeper in some parts, shallower in others. Movement was slow through the rows of pines and birch trees but they made their way. They weren’t sure exactly how far they had traveled but they knew the general direction they were headed. A noise became more and more apparent they further they went. A sort of shush that started softly at first but as the trees began to clear it grew louder. Then when no trees were in front of them and the noise was deafening they saw it. With rushing waters and spraying mist the river lay before them. Ice caped rocks lined the shores of the water that was too fast for the cold to slow. It lay before them and split their path. A mountain may as well be what separated them from further travels. There were two options as they saw it. Either strip naked and swim across with the hopes that they could wade the current with their clothes and gear held dry above them or spend a day cutting trees and fashion a raft. Neither one was appealing but they had no choice. They opted for the raft. Each one with hatchets in hand began to cut away at the trees and the light faded slowly as they did. Another fire was lit and they rested. Morning broke yet again and they continued their work. Halfway through the cold gray day their work was complete. A raft big enough to hold two men and supplies that was enough for eight. Water splashed and whatever it touched turned to ice as they traversed the river. All they could do was use the current and long sticks to guide them across. It wasn’t pleasant but it worked. They were across in twenty minutes. Quickly they built a fire to thaw themselves and their equipment. Ice melted slowly but it did melt. They again rested for the night. There were no sounds throughout the night save the crackle of the fire. The night was perfect but it was not meant for them. It was meant for the creatures, the tress, the snow, and the stars. Green and purple streaks shined above the reaching branches of the snow covered forest. They were intruders in this world that was ruled by the mountains and governed by the cold. It was up to them to survive this world for everything else in it was against them. They have provisions for three more days. They needed to find more and they needed to survive. Jon had a wife and three children to live for. Peter had a wife and used to have a son. Those they were to survive for shared the same stars but not the same world. They were safe in the warmth miles away. Those at home and each other where what they drove on for. Until the day they reached them and the warmth they were at the mercy of this new unforgiving world. As the night stars began to fade away with the new coming day they rose again. Again they packed their things ate what little they could ration and carried on.
He lay in the ditch, faced down in the mud, half covered to conceal himself as they passed. Nearly drowning in the mud until it was safe. When he saw them coming from the fog he counted seven or eight of them. There may have been more but it was not worth waiting to count. He had his rifle and rounds but they had more. This was not the day he was going to die, not like this. The cold wet earth that engrossed him was a cold and bitter hug but it kept him safe. They were not more than ten feet away from his near lifeless body. By the grace of dawn and fog they could not see him no matter how hard their eyes strained. Dawn turned to light and while they were long since gone he waited still until his arms planted themselves and pried his battered body from the bog. Eventually his body rose, cold, and soaked but alive. The blood soaking from underneath his sleeve was not nearly close to his primary concern. Though deep as the knife wound was he would live. Needle and thread were not a part of his equipment that was stashed in the rotten tree but he knew maggots were abundant. The open pit was filled with them that kept themselves fat on those that did not survive like he. They were useful in preventing infection. He could keep it wound tight until he could seal the wound. The man that had inflicted the wound had bled far more for far longer. That man kept the maggots fat. That man’s blood is why he was hunted their prey had escaped them. There was no way of knowing exactly how many of them there were but there were enough to leave open pits filled of those who refused to join. In this new age there was strength in numbers and brutality. Survival governed behavior and interactions. While numbers may provide strength they bring with them the attention from other groups. Other groups who desire what others may have. There was no value in gold or any form of currency, the only value in goods was in the ones that aided in survival. A gun was silver but bullets gold. Water was good but gasoline better. Though the buildings were largely destroyed and the plumbing gone, the creeks and rivers still ran clean. Gasoline however, was finite and scarce. The gas stations were long since pillaged. He could have been long gone with the use of a vehicle with just a little gas but they were luxuries he was too poor a soul to have. At the moment he rose from the bog he had on him: one 7.62 Remington bolt action rifle, 10 bullets to match, one folding pocket knife with a blood rusted blade, one photograph encased in a plastic bag, one half empty yellow lighter, and 12 stale cigarettes. However, his pack that lay stash held more. With safe passage through the trees he ran to it. Within minutes he was there. After recovering it from the tree and brushing off the rotten bark and crawling bugs he continued through the trees. He heard no noise from aside from the birds and wind rattled leaves. Over rocks and roots he made his way to the base of the hills. There he would rest until the light faded. It had been hours since his eyes last closed for sleep but he still needed shelter. He gathered wood and branches until he could assemble a shield to protect him and the dim light of his small fire from the elements and those that may discover him. Once complete he allowed himself a meager meal and much needed sleep. Day breaks and the dew covered ground is just as empty as it was the day before. He knew he had to get back to them but they were still far away. His group needed him and he needed them. They were his family since the day his was killed at the start of the war. Casualties of war was a common story and everyone alive knew many. Whether it was by bullets or bombs everyone knew a victim. Some, like he, lost more than others. It was the same old story of a man losing his wife and children. Two to be exact. Three years ago when the bombs first fell, city blocks were leveled and buildings fell. Those inside were crushed and trapped. He watched from his car as the building that held his life fell and he was helpless to prevent it. The car was packed and filled with supplies and the route was drawn on the map. There was room in the car for all of them but only he would occupy it. The news reported over 500,000 dead. That was only the first attack. Many more would follow.
Light flash, thunder crack. A bottle broken with a single crack. A swig amidst the deafening rain. Green glass illuminated with every flash. Chasing a rye with a stale warm beer while the moisture of the air rose above. A humid night filled with flies quickly dies as the pressure drops and the wind picks up. I sit and drink as the world wakes up. Angry and bitter it screams and shouts.