I created this piece of art just for fun, the model image is by Caroline Julia Moore (I have her permission). I even wrote a short story to go with it, it’s been far too long.
Through some of the smoke haze that was beginning to clear, she could see the shattered remnants of the buildings in the distance. The setting sun overlaying a strange colour to the scene before her, the dusk settled in, and night would soon be here. Suddenly a rush of wings, as birds took flight, startled her, bringing her out of her reverie. The night was coming and with it the strange once humans who now stalked these cities. The various afflictions they suffered making them human no longer, reminding her of horror stories told to her as a child, but they were mere stories and could not compare to the horror of this reality. All thoughts of humanity had been ripped and torn out of these beings, radiation distorting their features, their limbs, disease and famine destroying at a cellular level, their only instinct is survival at any cost. They would eat anything that moved and shed no tear for their loss. This was what most of mankind had been reduced to, there were a few that survived in small sheltered areas that the radiation and chemical fires did not touch.
She was a survivor, one of the untouched, she was part of a small rebel force, they ventured into the cities and towns, scavenged what they could and then burnt them down, hoping to put an end to the suffering of these walking corpses in a vain attempt to save themselves. The forest and trees were coming back, trying to reclaim the land once denied to it, but the plant life was almost as deadly as the creatures which still inhabited the city streets. The last groups of Humanity were small and doomed, hiding out in sheltered clusters in caves and hidden valleys, trying to meek out a meagre existence. Angry and willful, but there is no denying they brought in on themselves. In a rush to get technology, better, quicker, smarter, they never stopped to think if they should, only that they could. Now, look at them. At least they stopped the technology…there was none left that worked.
She felt for the treasure inside her jacket, a book, she liked to collect them from the cities, she hid them and read when she thought no one was watching. She tried to grab titles she felt were worthy, she could not save them all. Without these books, will anyone remember what has gone before them? Will anyone remember their shared history? Fighting for survival was a more important lesson taught now, than reading and writing. Would anyone even remember how to in future generations, if there even would be future generations? Life will find a way, it always does, humanity was like a virus on the earth and will always find a way to spread. But what kind of existence would it be? Surely there must be places left untouched by this devastation, some small pocket of paradise, the thought gave her hope.
The silence was almost deafening, but it was better than the screams and groans that marked the night in these tombs of terror, she finally shook herself out of her daydreams and pushed forward, it was time to get back to the others. That thought didn’t really inspire her either, even after all they had been through there was still the petty bickering and fights, for what had been salvaged. You would think they had learnt their lesson, to get along or be doomed. But it was a cycle that would forever repeat itself, it seems, perhaps Mother Nature should wipe them off the planet and leave it to the plants and insects and birds.
Oh, she was in a fine mood today, melancholy – that’s what her Mother used to call it. As a child she was often afflicted with it, even in days of sunshine and blue skies, she had so much to be happy about back then, at least now it is considered normal, not a lot to be happy about these days. Always hungry and often cold, they eeked out a meagre existence living in a cave, living off animals and scavenging for food. Were they no better than the creatures inhabiting the cities, they were just trying to exist too? She thought about leaving, heading out on her own, they said that there was safety in numbers, was it true? Or was she safer on her own? She could sleep in the trees, the creatures rarely ventured out of the cities and could not climb trees, due to malformed limbs. At least that is what she had been told, perhaps in other areas, there were tree-climbing creatures. What of the larger animals, were there none left? The Apex predators from before the Burning. What had the radiation done to them? She often had nightmares about things unseen, apart from in her imagination. The thing that really scared her, was what if her imagination could not convey the real horror out there?
Again, so shook herself out of her reverie, it was getting dark and she still had some distance to cover, she had lost sight of the others from the raiding party, they had probably just left her to sort herself out, no honour among thieves or scavengers. She preferred it this way, the raiding parties were mostly made up of young men, one thing they scavenged from the cities was alcohol, it was going to be a long, loud night, so she looked around for a stout piece of branch, she would need to defend herself from the brazen and drunk youths, she didn’t really want to kill them, so a swift knock to the head usually put them out cold, adding to their headache the next morning. Hopefully, no need for her knives this night.
By the time she made it back to camp the men were already drinking and the rest already fighting over what was scavenged, she kept a little for herself and threw the rest of the loot on the pile, no sense being greedy. She made her way to her own little alcove and made her own small little fight with the flint and steel she kept close by, it was a small win, but so precious. She opened the food tin she’d kept for herself…tomato and cheese baked beans, bonus! She’d eat well tonight. She placed the open tin near the fire to heat up, she was always amazed that they could still occasionally find tinned goods in good shape after all this time and they seemed to be unaffected by contamination. She pulled out her book and flipped through the pages, while she waited for her dinner; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a favourite of hers as a child. She sure felt like Alice some days, but this was no Wonderland.
She was emersed in her book, reading by the dwindling firelight, she stretched and yawned, it was getting late she mused, that’s when she noticed the quiet, absolute, total silence. Even when the drunks had fallen asleep, there was the snoring, giggling and random other nightly noises, not to mention forest noises, but there was nothing. The fire crackled, making her jump, was that something moving in the shadows? No, surely just her imagination running away with her. A slithering, skittering sound followed by a twig snapping…that was something for sure. She put the book down and grabbed her knife, backing away from the light of the fire, so stupid sitting that close to the fire, she could see nothing in the darkness.
When she saw the shadow move through the encampment, her breath caught in her throat, as the creature came into view, she knew now the Apex predators had come back, she also new no-one was getting out of here. In her shock and awe, she studied It, trying to draw from long-lost childhood memories, a mix of Bear and Lion with wings, but not the feathered kind and a long snaking tail. Other things came in its wake, they crawled, slithered, piercing eyes searching through the night. She watched in disturbed fascination, like watching a ghostly macabre feast, as she saw them dismember her fellow tribe, a scream stuck in her throat as the main beast turned its eyes on her. She knew this was the end, hr feeble knife no match for those fangs.
I will leave it here, but perhaps I may revisit. Will our Herione survive? Does anyone?
P.S. Last week I was contacted by Jo Purple, the model used in the image from the UK. She loved the image and wanted to use it on her Facebook and Instagram page. How cool is that?