The Unraveling World
A Tale of Survival after the Event
There weren't always dragons in the Valley.
Nor were there fanged serpents in the rivers. Nor packs of wolf-lizards on the plains, nor thunderbirds in the air. The forests weren’t always populated by vampire trees and razor squirrels. The towns and villages weren’t always heavily fortified, the people weren’t always constantly afraid. And the fields weren’t always so barren.
Jim was old enough to remember the Before Times, the era of large, bustling cities, mechanical conveniences and transport, near-magical amusements, and access to abundant food. Those memories of a distant past made Jim sad when he had the time to think about them. Since the Event, the most he could think about was survival.
“I may get a crop this season after all”, he thought, surveying the damage to his fields of corn and beans. The locust swarms weren’t nearly as bad as they had been in years past. Some years they would consume everything in their path, animal or vegetable. One of the advantages to having dragons in the Valley was that the locusts were a tasty delicacy for them, able to eat entire clouds of the pests with a single flying pass of their open maws. Of course, the disadvantage of having the dragons so close was their occasional tendency to burn the fields; it was unknown whether they did this because of need, or because of spite. Thankfully, they seemed disinclined to feed on people or livestock.
Unfortunately, that was not the case with the wolf-lizards, which roamed the fields, plains, and old roads, hunting anything that moved to sustain their voracious appetite. While mostly avoiding the villages and camps, large groups of people in general, lone travelers were more than fair game. They took joy in playing with their food before killing it.
Jim couldn’t recall anything like that in the Before Times; sometimes you had to deal with a coyote or feral dogs, maybe a puma or bear, though those were very rare occurrences. The land was rich, the harvests plentiful, the people mostly pleasant and peaceful. He remembered going to town in his father’s truck to get supplies, all the things he could have asked for. His father had many friends there, seeming to rather go to see them than do the chores he was tasked to do. Jim couldn’t blame him, as they always had a fun time, away from the rather dull farm life.
He was lucky, however, to be familiar with the dull farm life, as he had the skills to survive the aftermath of the Event; most weren’t. He reckoned billions of people died in the first year. Many more probably wished they had. Although Jim lacked the farm equipment of his father’s, he still had a fundamental understanding of how to farm; what he lacked in combines, he somewhat made up with horses, domesticated worm-oxen, and good old-fashioned elbow grease. Once he had a family that helped out, two younger brothers, a sister, a wife and two daughters, but, one by one they left him, either by pestilence, by ravager attack, and, in the case of his brothers, to set off for what they thought were greener pastures. He never heard from them again. His sister died from the Rot; the plague caused her to decay while still living. If Jim hadn't put her down, she would have devolved into a Ghoul.
Jim had watched his wife get consumed by a locust swarm as she tried to gather up as much food as she could to take to the shelter. There was nothing he could do as she seemingly dissolved away; not even her clothes were left. His daughter Jonie was captured by ravagers, who most likely sold her into slavery. Or worse. His oldest daughter Bea found a good man from Oakville; she left to become his wife, and he rarely hears from her. At least she seemed to be happy with Jorge at his forge.
Over time Jim became accustomed to his solitude, sometimes going months without seeing another human soul. That did not mean he didn’t encounter others, though; the rat-folk would on many occasions try to sneak some food from the pastures, or more brazenly, attempt to break into the house for better fare. Jim was used to this possibility, and knew these loathsome creatures were easily frightened, and posed no harm other than annoyance. At least the dragons didn’t bother him much.
As Jim was inspecting the quality of his corn, he saw what appeared to be a man on a horse riding in his direction, a regular trot through the grass fields. He was wearing a leather helmet and spiked forearm bracers, and his uniform of blue and yellow leather and plate mail indicated he was a member of the Field Militia, a group sent out by the Governor to try to maintain a semblance of law and order outside the settlements. When he got close, he dismounted and raised his hand in greeting.
“Glad to see you’re still breathing”, he said smiling.
“Mr. Scott Gladstone, it’s been quite a spell. What brings you all the way out here?” Jim smiled as he shook Scott’s hand, leading him to the house.
“I’m kinda surprised no one else has been ‘round here. I guess you ain’t heard.”
Jim sighed and hung his head. “Now what?”
Scott sat down and stared at Jim, trying to compose himself. “Oakville’s gone…”
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Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Original narrative & well developed characters
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme