It was raining the day civilization decayed away into nothingness. People knew it was coming, they said. The signs were obvious. And, as the last of the ivory towers of humanity fell into nothingness, tears were wept. Each one for the memory of a loved one lost in the attempt to fight against the inevitable destruction. And each one disappeared, lost in the rain, lost in the flood of tears. Everyone wept. Everyone mourned. And civilization died.
Although human civilization died, humanity didn’t. Humanity lived on, without the ivory towers, without the technology that for so long held them upon gilded chariots. No longer could humanity live without suffering, without strife. No longer could the spoiled species be raised upon the torrential waters of life. No longer was humanity invincible. All the survivors realized that, and so, recreated their communities, not for the common social aspects but for protection, for survival. Humanity needed what little they had left to avoid the old threats, disease, predators, weather, and the new.
And so, in the ruins of some city on the coast, a solitary outpost stood, for protection, for safety. For hope. This is where our story begins, among this lone settlement, in a strange new environment. Earth had changed. The time of man had fallen, their era had ended. Yet, as moss on a rolling stone, it still stood, small yet existent. And so man stayed, against the elements, against the old, against the new. Life had changed, yet so had man.
The wheat swayed gently in the wind, among the scattered skeletons of cars and trucks. In a city once famous for its gusts, now it moved almost unheeded, the windows that blocked it so now smashed and torn, the buildings slowly crumbling, the wind swayed the wheat. The wheat, a sign of a nearby human settlement, was growing in the remains of a large parking lot, much closer to the outpost than the far rural grounds. Without the roars of cars and the din of business, the city had changed. Birds’ chirps echoed through the halls and cubicle farms, grass grew between the cracks in the pavement. Among the obvious sounds of nature was a true rarity; somewhere among the ruins of the City of Angels, a human, a young woman, ran through the wheat, laughing, enjoying nature. Her still soft brunette hair swayed with the wheat, and her legs, not the once slim legs of a middle class teenager, had grown into legs that work, that help the community. She was wearing torn rags of denim and cotton, and across her back was strapped a small caliber rifle, for hunting and for protection. Her boots were taken from a dead soldier’s skeleton, carefully inspected for vermin and disease, washed, and refitted for her. Upon her golden brown hair was a hat, also taken from the soldier, that helped keep the sun out of her eyes, not to mention, through an amateur embroidery, denoted what community she was from. She was happy, not for material goods, nor social status, both of which she had long forsaken, but for the wheat. The golden fields of wheat had grown amazingly, and now her community was guaranteed food, if only for a year. Long ago, the community could scavenge for food among the ruins of supermarkets and restaurants, but that food had rotted and festered, and grown poisonous. So instead of supermarkets and restaurants, the community turned to hardware stores and farming supply stations, planted agriculture, and prayed for food. And, sure enough, on a warm August evening the plants grew, and the humans woke up to golden fields of wheat, towering stalks of corn, among squash, potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, apples, peaches, cherries, and apricots. For protein, the survivors hunted the local deer, as well as some birds, and wildlife from the nearby zoo which had escaped and thrived in the abandoned metropolis.
So the young woman was happy, for survival was ensured, or at least the avoidance of starvation. She laughed and danced and cheered. For a moment, her concentration on survival lapsed and she ran into the road, causing her to stop immediately, and grab the gun on her back. She cocked it, and, as quickly as her strength could muster, brought the butt of the gun to her shoulder, and the scope to her eye. She slowly backed up into the wheat field, and, as soon as she was hidden, relaxed, and fell to the ground, exhausted from the sheer terror that gripped her moments earlier. Several hundred feet away, on top of the ruins of an old parking structure, the community elder watched her, and laughed. “Children will be children.” He said, his old raspy voice with a tone of wisdom. The elder was a fairly old man, especially for after the fall, but was in great health for his age. Wrinkles accentuated his age, making the fifty seven year old man look like he was in his late 80s. He wore the furs of a feral canine, large, thick and grey, and carried a cane to help him walk. Compared to the more common assault rifles carried by the rest of the community, the elder had a sniper, with a much better scope to observe his people, as his hands shook and he could no longer hit the targets that he used to hit in his prime. He wore no hat, preferring his long, grey hair to be tied in a ponytail. His tanned skin shined in the sun, and his boots stomped on the dilapidated concrete. “Well, we should fetch her now, shouldn’t we?” With a smack of his cane, the rest of the community left their hiding places and went to go find the lost girl among the wheat. Although large for a community, it was only about twenty people, the elder, the girl, the businessman, the hunter, the farmer, the farmer’s wife, the athlete, the writer, the officer and three of his former subordinates, the storeowner, the grocer, the chef, the doctor, the doctor’s wife, and the introvert. Seventeen of the members have always lived in the community; the introvert arrived a couple weeks before the planting, but he seemed useful, helping out planting food he had no guaranteed holding of, showing his skills at repairing a car that they occasionally used for scavenging. So the community took in the traveling misanthrope and he established his ground in the community. Despite his shy appearance, the introvert had great charisma, and the elder began to use him for other things than manual labor, as a speech writer, and his own personal agent at persuasion. The girl had taken an interest in the introvert, as he was the only one of a similar age to hers that she had seen since the fall.
He was the first to find the girl, sobbing quietly to herself among the squash. “Hey, girl. What’s with the tears? Come on, they’ve been looking for you.” The misanthrope said is a calm, soothing tone. Like a warm salve, his voice eased the girl’s pain and she looked up. “Yeah, I figured. Guess the old man saw my fuck up?” She replied. The introvert smiled, and lent a helping hand. Compared to the others of the community, he carried much different equipment. Almost always, he carried a backpack with various supplies he needed on his own, as well as his personal effects. Instead of an assault rifle, he carried two weapons that he had always had; one was a rifle of high caliber, the other a double barreled shotgun that had most of its barrel sawed off. The rifle had only iron sights, and was rather old. It had seen many deaths, and been the cause of most of them. Despite its age, the introvert kept it in pristine condition, often spending the cold dark evening cleaning it inside and out. It was kept on his back with a slowly deteriorating leather strap. The shotgun, however, was strapped to his leg by a pistol sling. Both weapons, he was proficient at, and both he could use to kill any creature, feral and civilized alike.
The girl returned the smile, and grabbed his hand, pulling herself up. “So, Greg, the old man got a plan for tonight, or are you free?” She said, holding his hand tightly and turning to him. The loner, Greg, pulled his hand away and frowned. “Well, we might need more supplies. Even with the extra food, ammo is low, fuel is low. Shit is low.” Unceremoniously, he leaned away from her and spit. “The hunter and I are thinking of going south for a bit, scavenge for supplies in suburbia, or maybe even the farmlands.” He let out a long and low whistle, and looked into the breeze. “Life is… interesting. If you ask me, after all that has happened, I’m amazed that communities still existed. When I was traveling alone, I’d often come up on the remains of a community, burnt bodies, starved animals. Skeletons and corpses, smell of rot.” He sighed heavily. “But, well, the one thing I never saw was the kind of organization of this community. You all work together, and, even without the hunter, you can adapt to your situation well enough that, hell, even if we died, you’d still live.” She gulped at that comment. Death had been such a large part of her life. She lost friends, family, peers. Her life, it seemed, had graduated from high school and gone on to the apocalypse. “With no organization, so many communities die, whether it was from infighting or starvation or feral, but this one... It’s thriving. Hell, this may just be the last bastion of human civilization on the world, and, hell, at least it is one damn good example of it.” She stared off towards the ground, upset, hurt, afraid of what was to come.
Several minutes later, the girl joined the rest while the loner stayed outside to keep watch. The sun was setting on the ruins of the city, and the community was preparing for the most dangerous part of their lives: night. The elder surveyed everything from the ruins of an old office building, while all the other community members blockaded windows and doors and searched for other ways that anything, insects, animals, humans, could get in. One of the loner’s initiation trials was to stand watch during the whole set up, outside of the safety of the walls of the community, listening to the howls and screams coming from the city, watching the darting shadows and smelling the slight odor of rot. Although the community had now accepted him, he still practiced this ritual. It was time for him to think, to calm down, and, on some days, to smoke. He would talk quietly to himself, and straighten out what he could in his life. Soon, the rugged voice of the hunter rang out, “Greg, door’s closing, get your ass inside.” And so would end Greg’s contemplating, and, with his rifle in hand, he would go into the warmth of society and the safety of the walls, yet, still, as the doors closed, he’d stare outside longing for something more in his life.
Greg had lived for several years after the fall alone, traveling from California, to Canada, Mexico, the East Coast, and back. Searching for anyone, anything. In this time of solitude, he had learned to stand up for himself, talk to himself, be his own companion. Before the fall, Greg was antisocial, and the apocalypse had not changed anything. He still did not deal with affection well, had his fears of crowds, and often worked much better alone. People weren’t his forte, and generally he tended to avoid them. His discovery of the community, his friendship with the hunter, the elder becoming his surrogate father, the girl falling in love with him, was purely coincidental, if not borderline accidental. Both him and the hunter preferred the quiet solitude of their work, while his was more of a look for meaning, the hunter was, of course, a hunter. Both of their work required a certain amount of quiet, stealth, lack of verbal communication, yet a continual silent, unseen contact. This is what allowed them to become friends. The Elder, who once had a son but had lost contact with him before the fall and assumed him dead, saw qualities of his son in Greg, and so grew close. As for the girl, he was the only available mate, and, regardless of that fact, she had grown quite accustomed to his silent form of affection. Despite his lack of care, and façade of apathy, she continued to try and grow closer to him; Greg wanted more than coincidence and accident. Alone, he once lived, and, despite the advantages of being in the community, he still felt that he could continue to live alone.
His gaze locked towards the setting sun, the steel gates of the community closed, and, once again, he had been separated from the nature he so loved. The hunter walked up next to him, and put a heavy hand on his shoulder. “So, yeah. It’s final, we’re leaving by tomorrow. Gasoline, ammo, maybe more sources of food. Elder approved, I’m assuming you told the girl.” The hunter brought a cigarette to his mouth and lit it calmly. “It’ll be... fun. I guess. You’ll like it. I just will be waiting to go back to the community.” He took a long drag, and handed it off to Greg, who took a drag for himself. “Well, we’ll get back, with whatever the fuck we’re getting. Alive, well, who knows.” Greg laughed a cold laugh, a soldier on the front, waiting for death to come. “Kill some feral along the way. Eh?” The hunter frowned. “You know, even if they aren’t necessarily friendly humans, you can at least treat them like they once were. Decent amount of respect.” The hunter slapped Greg’s back.
Dinner was uneventful, albeit celebratory. The arrival of the vegetables and fruits led to a much more extravagant dinner compared to the usual coyote or deer, and everyone was thankful for a successful planting. And, that night, as everyone was preparing quarters, welcoming the warm blankets of sleep, the hunter and the misanthrope packed. Rifles, ammo, food rations, tents, sleeping bags, clothes. It was a solemn occasion, a farewell to the rest of the camp. By morning they would be heading down the old, crumbling freeway. The radio only played static.
Outside, in the cold morning air of the Californian desert, a distant roar of an engine was heard. Greg and his companion was on their way to wherever they were heading. A gas station was slowly lit up by the rising sun, and three corpses laid still on the hard asphalt. Inside, two cadavers began to stir from a deep slumber. These were the feral, the lost humans. Their minds were broken, their thoughts cluttered, their bodies ravaged by time. They no longer saw friend nor foe, they tore at their flesh and their companion’s flesh. They attacked all that moved and some that didn’t. The madness was obvious in their eyes, but their behavior was the most obvious betrayal of their hateful nature. The sound of the engine echoed in their empty heads, and they knew but one thing: Food. They rose, screaming at the thought of humans, and bursted through the doors. They beat at the bodies outside, and tore at whatever they could. The car zoomed closer and closer to the station. The feral waited viciously.
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