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Zero Hour Part 8

Tinamou stood staring towards the dark opening in the hillside. She still couldn’t understand how Judash, Tec and Stantion had followed Zero here. For that matter, why had Zero come to this place? It didn’t make sense. There was nothing around for miles. Well, nothing excepting rubble and the fallen remains of civilization past. Still, what would cause him to run here? She glanced to her left where Jaxes stood. It seemed he was just as perplexed as her, but yet he said nothing.

To her right, Judash stood with Tec and Stantion. She could tell they were in the midst of a heated discussion, but since they were just out of hearing, she couldn’t tell what the discussion was about.

A few minutes later, Tec and Judash strode over to her, and Tec spoke out.

“I must tell you, I don’t like where your friend has gone. Some of the nastiest weapons that have ever been created were made and stored in this area. Weapons that helped create the firestorm that ended the world as it was. Yet here he is. Perhaps we have misinterpreted the prophecy? Perhaps he will bring about the end of all things?”

“That can’t be true.” Tinamou gasped. “Zero would not seek destruction. He would seek salvation. There has to be a different reason that he is here. Maybe when he ran from those hunters, he just happened upon this place. Maybe it is just a coincidence that those weapons were created here.”

“Perhaps you are right young one. I know we won’t find out by standing here though. We must follow him inside the cavern. Whatever he is doing in there will give us our answers. Be warned though; you might not like what you see.”

Tec quickly gestured for the others to follow and led the way into the dark hole. Tinamou was not surprised to see Stantion follow at a distance.

 

“Oingo! Boingo! What are you two doing here?”

Zerosta rushed out to greet the diminutive brothers. Though travel worn, they appeared just as he remembered them.

“Ah! We have found you atlas giver. Praise the gods. We feared we would never catch up to you!”

“Call me Zero. That is my name Oingo. What do you mean you feared you wouldn’t catch me? Why were you even looking for me? Why have you even come north of the wall? You said it was insane and death to do so.”

“That is what we said, and that is what it will be for you. At least we feared it would. We had to come. You were so nice to us. We had to warn you.”

“Warn me? Why warn me? You already told me how dangerous it was to be here. There shouldn’t be any more warning, should there?”

Even as he talked with Oingo and Boingo, Zero sent thoughts to Baobab. What did he think of their appearance? Should Zero be worried? Maybe he would like to meet them?

Though a bit perplexed by the brothers, Baobab responded that he’d stay where he was. Something was bothering him.

“Warn you we must. You are being followed. The day after you passed our gate, another group passed us. Two humans and an Other. We hid. Something about them worried us greatly. As we hid, we overheard them talking. They were following someone. It was obvious to us they meant you. No one else had passed that way in months.”

As Oingo took a breath, Boingo continued the narrative.

“So, that in itself was worrisome to us. Who would follow you? We knew not, but still we watched. Shortly after that, a second Other appeared, following those three. We tracked them all here. The three tracking you, the one tracking them. Of course that changed less than a day from here.”

“We found a killing field. That isn’t strange in these parts, but what we saw worried us more than before. The group of three joined up with two others. These were Kin. I should say they were Kin assassins. The Kin kill all humans they come across. Something about averting a prophecy. Anywho…these two spoke to the Other, and then joined them in tracking you. The second Other still did not make its presence known though. He kept far enough back to see what would happen.”

“We knew now you were in grave danger, so we bypassed them and came rushing after you. We had to warn you of them. They mean you harm. We know it.”

“I know of these Kin you mentioned. I saw them myself. I saw them kill a couple human refugees. Yet, they did not see me. You’re sure they are coming this way?”

Just then Baobab spoke out in Zerosta’s head “It is too late…they are here. Hide yourself.”

 

Tinamou could hear talking from somewhere ahead. It confused her. Who was Zero talking to? Was he even there? Perhaps Tec had been wrong. That was when Tec motioned for them to stop.

“OK…Zero is just ahead. Obviously he is not alone. Perhaps I was wrong. He may have been found by the hunters. They could be who we hear. They could be deciding what to do with him. Stantion, see if you can find a place to set up. We may need some cover. If you get a shot, take it.”

As he was talking, Tinamou watched them. Something felt wrong, but she just couldn’t put her finger on it. She was about to let it go when she saw something pass between Tec and Stantion. What was going on?

“Once he is in place, we will go forward. Tinamou, you and Jaxes will be in front. If it is just Zero, he will respond better to you. If he sees us, he may panic and run away. That could be bad. If there are hunters there, they will pay too much attention to you and we will be able to kill them.”

Without waiting for either her or Jaxes to respond, Tec pushed them forward. Not having any idea of what else to do, she stepped forward. They entered a huge empty space. Light spilled down from an opening somewhere in the ceiling of the cavern. She didn’t see Zero anywhere. There were just two small furry creatures standing on the other side. Who were they?

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Posted by on July 14, 2011 in stories

 

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Zero Hour (part 6)

Tinamou watched as Judash studied the ground before them. For the past two weeks they had been tracking Zerosta across this barren wasteland. She still didn’t know how he had made it this far, but obviously Zerosta was more capable than she first thought. What really surprised her though was Judash’ unerring ability to follow the smallest sign in the land. It all seemed the same to her, yet he was able to note with certainty which path Zerosta took. Perhaps it just seemed that way. To her they had taken a straight path north. The odds were in their favor that Zerosta took the same path.

A few minutes later Judash stood up. He signaled Tinamou and Jaxes over to his side.

 

From their vantage point to the north, Stantion shifted. He could see the movement below. Tec had been right. There was someone else down there. He began to lift his weapon when he felt the hand on his shoulder. Glancing up, he found himself staring at Tec.

“No Stantion. We will go down and talk to them. At least I will talk to them. You will watch. Pay attention and you may learn something. Perhaps you will even see something that I missed.”

As Stantion rose to his feet, Tec headed across killing field towards the three. He noticed how they flinched at the sudden appearance of the Kin. At least the two humans did. The third only appeared to flinch. Tec smiled to himself. Judash was more adept at hiding his feelings than he had previously given credit for. This would be interesting.

 

Tinamou watched with growing trepidation as the two figures approached from the north. She couldn’t put a finger on it, but something was screaming at her, telling her to flee quickly. But it was already too late. The whole trip up, she had developed a bad feeling about Judash. Something was wrong and she instinctively felt the hunt for Zerosta was wrong, yet she never spoke up. Now this…She feared she had walked into a viper’s pit. She also understood that if her feelings were correct, fleeing would be the worst thing she could do. So, she stood her ground and promised to keep her eyes and ears open. Whatever was going on, she would figure it out. Moments later the two had arrived.

“Hello there strangers. I’m Tec. This is my son Stantion. What brings you this way?”

“Part legend, part myth brings us Tec. Have you ever heard of the travelling man? Well, these two are from his village. We are following his trail. He came into the wasteland after his village was attacked. I helped these two flee their captives and here we are. My name is Judash. This is Jaxes, and this Tinamou.”

As Judash introduced each, he made a small gesture to each of his companions. Tec nodded to each in turn.

“It seems we are not far behind him…perhaps less than a day. He seems to have lain in the dirt here for a while, and then for some reason diverted his direction and headed west. I was about to tell my companions when you appeared.”

“You’re lucky we found you and not some of the roving bands of killer men. As you can see from those two unfortunates they are in the area.”

Tec motioned towards the bodies of the two he had killed less than a day before. He knew it. There was another human down here! Better yet, it was the prophesized one. He had been within his sights and then vanished! Damn all the gods that would allow such an occurrence. He couldn’t understand how the travelling man avoided detection the day before, especially where he had walked so very close to him, yet he did. However, the gods seemed to favor him again. Judash would help them track down this harbinger of death and they would finally be free of the wicked prophesy. Man will never rise. The Kin and the Others will rule this land.

“Perhaps we can be of service. You will need someone to help in your search. We know the land. We can defend against the rovers. We will help you find this man.”

Judash stared for a minute at the Kin. What were they planning? He knew Tec. He had dealt with him on many an occasion, but he couldn’t figure out why he spun that tail of rovers. To Judash it was obvious that Tec himself had killed those two humans. But of course! He couldn’t let the humans with Judash know this. He wanted to find the travelling man as well. He wanted his head too. Perhaps working together, they could kill him? It would be worth working with Tec again just on the outside chance of success.

“We would greatly appreciate the help. Wouldn’t we?”

The last half he addressed to Tinamou and Jaxes. Both readily agreed, though Tinamou still kept her worries to herself.

 

~~~

From a rise to the south, Marcant’ny watched as his brother crouched, examining the ground. The two humans still travelled with him. Those fools! They had believed the story handed to them by Judash. They truly thought he was their friend. He wasn’t. The name should have warned them, but sadly, it seemed so much of their own history was forgotten by man.

Judash was deviously cunning. It was his intelligence, more than brute strength that he employed when dealing with humans. Always with the same goal in mind: to find the travelling man and kill him. Marcant’ny shuddered to think of how many times the ruse had worked. Still, it hadn’t produced the travelling man, though somehow Marcant’ny knew this time would be different.

He had just come to the conclusion that he must kill Judash. He must free those humans with him before they found the prophesized one. But would the humans believe he was their savior? Would they see him as an Other and think that he was there to bring them back, rather than save them? He didn’t know, but he had to try. It was as simple as that. He must give the travelling man a chance to fulfill his destiny. But then the opportunity was gone. Or, more precisely, it never existed and perhaps the deities were watching out for him.

As he started to rise, intent on making a mad killing rush at his brother, the two Kin approached from the north. He would never get close before they put a bullet through his heart. So, Marcant’ny crouched down and continued his vigil. Eventually he would get a chance to avert catastrophy.

 

~~~~

 

When Zero awoke, he found himself on the outskirts of what remained of a town. Not a single building still stood, though the remnants could be seen all around. Slowly he wandered through the rubble, not really knowing just what he was looking for. Eventually he came to a hillside, where half-way up he noticed a large opening. Quickly he ascended until he stood before a huge cavern. Somehow he knew what he was looking for was inside, so, with not a small amount of fear he slowly entered.

Light seemed to enter the cavern from two locations. One, the entrance he stood in, and the other somewhere high above, perhaps on the plateau of the hill. Slowly Zero entered, letting his eyes grow accustomed to the limited light.

He walked for what seemed like hours, yet was perhaps closer to fifteen minutes when he became aware of eyes watching him. He froze in place, only his eyes glancing left and right, searching for his watcher, yet nothing appeared.

“Silly human and your feeble magic! What brings you to this place? Speak up now. I know you are there! I need not see you to be able to crush you where you stand.”

Zero’s jaw dropped! What did it mean by magic? Why would it crush him? He barely could stammer one word out, but then he regained some of his composure.

“Magic? I don’t know what you are talking about. Magic doesn’t exist.”

“Of course magic exists! I just told you that you were using it, right? Magic has always existed, though few understood what it really is. It is the ability of humans, and some other creatures, to affect the world around them, using only their minds. You are doing so right now, making yourself invisible. At least you are invisible to eyes. I can tell you are there because I smell you, and I hear your heart beat. Now why are you here?”

Zero’s heart beat faster. What was this creature that could hear his heart beating? Not knowing what else to do, he answered the question.

“My grandfather told me to come to this land. He said I must find a way to free my people from their enslavement. I want to free them. I want to kill all the Others, to prevent them from ever threatening my people again.”

“Well, which is it? Do you wish to free your people, or are you more concerned with killing the Others?”

“I can’t succeed at one without accomplishing the other. If I don’t kill the Others, they will just enslave my people again. By killing them, I save my people.”

“Perhaps. What if I told you there were weapons buried in this hill? Weapons that are like the ones which created the firestorms that swept over this land? Would you use these weapons against the Others? Would you use them knowing that in doing so you would also be killing your own people? After all, death is a release from slavery. That would succeed in achieving the goals you’ve stated. It would also fulfill the prophecy you mentioned. It does state the travelling man will be like the firestorms. That he will end all that was. Is that what you wish?”

Zero stood horrified. “No. I don’t want to destroy everything! I just want freedom for my people. Is that a bad thing? How else can I guarantee their freedom?”

“Just because someone is born as one thing does not mean they will be that thing. Are all humans alike? Do all humans agree on everything? Do you all react the same way? No. You are individuals. You have your own wants and desires. Every other inhabitant of this planet are the same way. They have their desires. They have their fears. Perhaps some even have goals similar to your own.”

“Yes, it is important to stand strong in the face of oppression! Yes, freedom is a precious right. Yet, it is a right of everyone, not just humans. You must not only stand fast against aggression. You must be willing and able to accept help from wherever it may come, even if it is from an Other. Otherwise you are no better than they are. You become what you hate the most. You become despotic. Do you understand?”

“I don’t know. It sort of makes sense, but I have never met an Other that felt this way. They’ve all attacked with such ferocity.”

“Think of it this way, they too have heard the prophecy. They fear it means their annihilation. If you back a dog up against a wall, with no chance of escape, it will fight with all it has. It will fight to the death, even knowing it will die. Just like you are feeling that you should fight to the death. The Others will be no different. If you give them no opportunity to retreat, then they will act as you see. They will fight, knowing no other choice is available. More blood will be shed that way. More death will follow. Perhaps it would lead to the end that the Others fear? Or perhaps, by giving that opportunity to retreat, you show another option. One that may lead to cooperation and mutual survival. You would forever end wars by providing a glimpse into a different existence. You would deliver freedom to all.”

“I think I understand. It still does not change things. I must free my people. Whatever the cost, I will pay so long as they are free.”

“I do not ask you to do that, chosen one. I only ask that you do not lead us all to destruction. I see the beginning of wisdom in you. I see much potential. You bring hope for brighter days. I will help you. Together, perhaps we will usher in a golden age; one where all living creatures can be free.”

With that, the speaker stepped forth into the feeble light. Zero felt his eyes widen to unbelievable proportions as his mind tried to come to grips with what stood before him.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2011 in stories

 

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Zero Hour (part 5)

For more than two weeks he had wandered this desolate land that still, surprisingly, held life. He felt no closer to his destination. Sure, he learned the wasteland was not a certain death, though for an unwary traveler, it should have been.

The first several days, as he relied on the food and water he carried from the south, Zero saw very little. There were signs of animals passing through the scrub, and across the small creeks, yet he could not make himself test the water. He could not stand trying to eat the tiny plants. Eventually he would have to, yet what if the first one he tried turned out poisonous? So, he disdained the local vegetation and his meager supplies continued to dwindle.

He also felt certain he was not alone. A furtive sound here, a small scent there, it all led to his belief that the wasteland was not death for humans. At least it wasn’t if you were careful. So, at each sign he would attempt to trace the source. Many times he tried and failed until finally, on the fourth day when his supplies finally gave out, he met his first wastelander. It was a young boy, probably no older than ten, yet with a haunted look in his eyes. Even now Zero was not sure why the boy trusted him enough to stop and talk. But he did. In truth it was quite fortuitous for Zero. Within minutes, a storm sprang out of the north, and had it not been for the boy knowing where shelter could be found, he would have spent a night drenched to the bone. As it was, they spent a cold night shivering beneath the remnants of some building.

When Zero made to start a fire, the boy frantically stopped him, warning of the dangers it would attract. He claimed that many strange creatures wandered the lands now; Creatures seemingly come alive from myth.  Some had no precedence. Yet, they all lived now. It was claimed the firestorm created many, and woke the others from their ancient slumber. The boy couldn’t be sure, but he certainly knew better than to look for trouble. If the creatures weren’t bad enough, the hunters were. No one saw the hunters. No one knew what they looked like, but they knew they were there. Almost daily one could find the remains of someone foolish enough to have come across them. The boy couldn’t figure out how Zero had not seen any.

They talked deep into the night, the boy relating all he knew about the land. How to tell if the plant you were thinking of eating was poisonous or not. How to avoid the more dangerous predators out there. He even gave advice on how to approach others like him. It was probably because of the way Zero had made his earlier approaches that the other refugees avoided him. Zero learned a lot, yet the boy could not tell him what he needed to know. He knew of no weapon that could help his people. He knew of no way to free them. The boy seemed to find it unfathomable that people would group together like that. They would become a big target for the hunters. It was always safer to remain alone and mobile.

Part of what the boy said made sense. Sure, the hunters would find them easier if they were in a community, but isn’t it true that safety lies in numbers? The more people in the community, the harder it would be for the hunters to overcome the defenses. Zero tried to explain this to the boy, but he was adamant about the mistake it was. Nothing would convince him otherwise.

When Zero woke the next morning, the storm had passed. The sun had just broken over the horizon and promised a warm, dry day. The boy was gone, vanished as if he never existed. Zero wasn’t surprised.

Since then, he followed the boy’s advice and found other survivors more receptive of him. Slowly he learned more and more about the land that he traveled through. He continued north, never really knowing where he was heading.

He stopped for a moment to take a small drink from his water skin. As he lowered it from his lips, he caught sight of a couple off in the distance. Slowly he headed towards them, following the boys advice again. Perhaps they would know what he needed. As he grew closer, he noticed the couple watching him. He was just about to raise his hand in greeting when the shot rang out. Without thinking, he dropped to the ground looking for somewhere to hide, though he knew it useless. He was in the middle of a killing field. The land stretched out for miles with nothing to break the monotony of the landscape.

~~~

“Nice shooting Tec. You got both of them with one shot. I never could have done that!”

Stantion couldn’t hide the awe from his voice. This was only his second foray into the wasteland hunting. Humans were such easy prey. Stantion couldn’t figure out why the elders were all afraid of them, but it was true. A deep-seeded fear lay within his entire people. All humans needed to die, and Stantion was now helping with that. Tec, his father and mentor, slowly lowered his rifle.

“Did you see where the other one went? He was approaching from the south, yet as soon as I took the shot on the others, he vanished.”

“What other one? I only saw the two.”

“You weren’t looking like I told you. You must learn to look Stantion. I’m telling you, there was a third human down there, approaching the others. Come on. We’ll find him soon enough. We have to make sure those two are dead. He must be cowering in a fold in the land.”

“But Tec…they are dead! You took them both out with one shot to the head. No one can survive that. Why must we go down there? We’d be exposed to counter-fire.”

Tec shook his head and lightly smacked Stantion in the back of his head.

“Humans don’t use weapons any more. They think that by forsaking weaponry of all kind, they will not be killed. It is a foolish wish, though one that serves us here. We will not face any danger. We must make sure they are dead though. Either could be the traveling man. If we were to leave without being certain of his death, then we would never know if the prophecy was averted. Plus, I want to know where that other human went.”

Slowly Tec moved forward towards his kill, eyes scanning all around for the slightest bit of movement. After a moment, Stantion followed, muttering to himself about his father seeing things.

~~~

Zero lay completely still on the rocky ground. He watched as the two hunters slowly walked out of the west, towards him. He was stunned. They weren’t Others, like he assumed they would be. They appeared completely human, though the closer they came, the less certain of this he became. There was something different about them. Some simple thing, yet vastly important, that made them different from all the people he knew. These must be the dreaded hunters of whom the boy warned him. Worse yet, they were walking straight towards him, obviously on their way to make sure of their kills. There would be no way they wouldn’t see him. What would happen when they did?

Zero remained as still and silent as he believed possible. He knew if he ran, they would just shoot him down. What could he do? Then, just when he felt it inevitable they would see him, they inexplicably stepped right by. They continued the short distance to the couple, knelt to examine them, and then stood again. The taller of the two glanced back towards where Zero lay. Certainly he would see him now, Zero thought. He didn’t though. With a shrug of his shoulders, he turned away and the two headed off to the north. The direction Zero had been going.

Zero lay on the ground not moving an inch as he watched the hunters depart. He watched till they were nothing but specks on the horizon, and then watched some more. Eventually, hours after they left, he slowly crept over to the couple. They were dead as he knew they would be. What were their names? Who were they? Why were they killed? The questions haunted Zero, yet no answers revealed themselves.

Finally, as dusk was beginning to settle over the land, Zero headed off, not north like he had been travelling, but east. It seemed the safest direction for the time being, since he had no desire to meet up with the hunters. He walked long into the night before finally stopping beneath the tattered remnants of a sign that seemed to read Lo  Al mo .

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in stories

 

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Zero Hour (part 4)

Jaxes was still trying to come to grips with his poisonous thoughts about Zerosta when he became aware of a commotion approaching. This is it, he thought darkly. Any second now Zerosta will arrive and laugh at us all. I know it.

All too soon, a small procession appeared in front of the cage. It certainly wasn’t what he expected. Most prominent of the group was a being nearly seven feet tall wearing nothing but what appeared to be a kilt of some sort. Its hair was pulled back in a tight braid. Displayed just over the shoulder was the blade of a huge battle axe. Jaxes found himself mesmerized as he realized he would never even be able to shift the giant weapon. It seemed like the other’s muscles had muscles.

Standing just to the right of the behemoth was a being nearly the polar opposite of the giant. Perhaps four feet tall on a good day was a woman. Her entire body, bare for all to see, was covered in tribal images. Two diamond studs, embedded in her areola, were connected by a long, thin silver chain to a single golden earring sitting in her left ear lobe. Her hair stuck out in all directions. As they neared, Jaxes found himself wondering which would be more dangerous.

The behemoth spoke out: “Is he here?”

“No…The one is not amongst these…though there is knowledge of the one.”

Jaxes just stared in confusion. The One? What are they talking about?

“Listen up, all you worthless maggots! I want answers, and I want them sooner than later. I want to know about the travelling man! Where is he? Tell me, and I’ll set you free. Withhold your knowledge and I will make life hard on you. Look over there! See the pit! See the maggots working night and day in that pit? That will be you if you don’t tell me what I want to know. You will forever be men at work till the day your worthless body gives out from exhaustion. Tell me.”

As the behemoth spoke, Jaxes could feel the woman watching them all. Her eyes seemed to penetrate deep into his soul. There was some hidden power within her that frightened him more than the physical might of the behemoth.

“Well, none of you have anything to say? I will give you a little time to think things over. Know this though! If you still remain silent when I return, you’ll wish you were never born!”

Jaxes felt his mouth go dry as the behemoth and crazy woman turned and left. Somehow he needed to figure out what they wanted. He certainly didn’t want to spend the rest of his life working in a pit. Just as the pair passed from view, a raspy voice whispered.

“I see you thinking there, but you aren’t thinking correctly. Who’s missing from your village?”

“As if you didn’t know! He’s the reason you captured us. He betrayed…”

Jaxes’ answer faded off as he felt a sharp kick to his shin. Glancing to his right, he saw Tinamou glaring at him. Her anger had a palpable feeling to it, though it only made Jaxes smirk.

“You still aren’t thinking straight, human. No one betrayed you to us. You remember the woman you just saw? She is a Twisted Sister of the Metal Church;  A seer of sorts. She told our chieftain that the Travelling Man walked the earth. A man of prophecy…a man foretold to herald destruction. She claimed he lived north, near the wasteland, so our forces moved out to capture, and perhaps kill the Travelling Man. Obviously they failed. This one you think betrayed you, in actuality is the one that is sought still.”

“If what you say is true, then I don’t know how to help you. I never knew where he went. He was almost like a ghost.”

A smaller version of the behemoth stepped forth from the darkness.

“You mistake me, human. Unlike the others, I do not subscribe to their interpretation of the prophecy. There must be another way for it to come about. One which will not lead to our annihilation. If I were to release you from your cage, would you come with me to the wasteland? I figure that is where the Travelling Man has gone. Anywhere else and he would have already been captured.”

“What’s the difference between what you are offering, and what the chieftain has offered? Why should I listen to you, and not him?”

“It’s simple, really. With me you have a chance at life. With the chieftain, once you have told him what he wants to know, he will kill you. That is the freedom from the slave pits that he offers. He will never release you. However, you must decide now. I don’t know when he will return.”

“You’ll free us all? You’ll take us all with you?”

It was the first words Tinamou spoke, barely a whisper, yet somehow conveying a deep sense of commitment to her people.

“I cannot. What I propose will be difficult enough. The more I try and free, the less likely that escape would be achieved. I can only take the two of you. Somehow I sense you two know more than the others. Somehow you two know what the chieftain wants. He must not get those answers. Perhaps a way can be found later to free your people. I really don’t know. But I do promise to make the effort to learn of a way.”

Jaxes and Tinamou stared silently at one another, lost in their respective thoughts. Finally, as one they nodded their assent. Within seconds, they were free of the cage, and following silently in the wake of their rescuer.

An hour later, far from the Other’s camp, they stopped for a minute to rest and eat.

“I am Judash. We can only stop briefly. We must be beyond the wall quickly. You do not know how much effort those two will put into finding us.”

“I am Jaxes…this is Tinamou. We are thankful for your help in escape, but to go into the wasteland is certain death. Why save us if you were just leading us to doom?”

“It is true that none in our lifetime have come out of the wasteland. That does not mean it is certain death. We will only know once we enter. What I do know is that you will wish you chose certain death if they catch us now.”

“Fine…but when we get to the wasteland, promise you will tell us everything. I know there is something you are not saying.”

“I agree. Come on. Time grows short.”

As Judash started out, Jaxes and Tinamou following, they were each wrapped within their own thoughts. Jaxes worried what he had gotten himself into. Judash wondered if they would make it to the wall. Tinamou, though tried to puzzle out what it was Judash had said that struck her. She agreed with Jaxes that they weren’t being told everything. None of them noticed the creature step out along their path, staring after them.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in stories

 

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This has been a public service announcement (blogophilia v4.4) Zero Hour part 3

He walked all that night and much of the morning, before the wall loomed before him. A huge black granite nightmare, at least 20 feet tall, topped with barbed wire. A solitary gate led through to the other side. No one really knew where the wall came from. It hadn’t existed before the war, yet sometime after, it had appeared fully formed. Taking a deep breath, Zero started for the gate. He didn’t know why he needed to go to the wasteland, but that is what grandfather told him, so that is what he would do. Suddenly a voice rang out.

“Halt! You’ve reached the Oingo Boingo Gate. I’m Oingo…That’s Boingo. This is our gate! If you wish to pass, you must pay the toll.”

Zero stood speechless. Two furry man-like creatures stood in the shadows of the wall, flanking the gate. The wall actually dwarfed their stature, seeing as they were at most three feet tall. Shaking his head in amusement, he responded.

“A toll? To pass through to the Wasteland? You must be insane. Why would anyone pay you to go into the wasteland? You should be charging those that come the other way.”

“Shows how much you know about business, that does! No one in the wasteland has anything to pay with. What would we charge them? An arm? A leg? Actually, that might not be a bad idea. Anywho…back to the toll. Everyone wishing to use our gate must pay a toll. It’s not that much. Do you have any midnight oil? How about some bangles? I really want some bangles.”

“No…I don’t have those…I have a banana. Would that suffice?”

“Bananarama? Banana Republic? Oo…I know monkeys love bananas. Do you have any monkeys?”

“No. All I have is this rotten banana and an Atlas.”

“An Atlas? Is it Atlas Shrugged? I always wanted to read that.”

“No…It says world atlas on it and it has pictures and diagrams.”

“A world atlas Oingo! He has a world atlas. That means we can finally see what Europe and Asia looked like.”

“Shut up you fool! Keep up like that and he will end up only offering us a map of Boston or Kansas. Remember the old saying…take what you can…give nothing back. It is the sign of a shrewd politician.”

“I thought that was the sign of a great thief.”

“Politician, thief, same thing!”

The two began wrestling with each other. Two furry balls, flailing at each other with no sense of anything else. For a brief moment, Zero considered just walking by while they were busy, but he had to admit. They made him smile. It was the first time he smiled in quite a while. He couldn’t just ignore that.

“Hey! I’ll give you the World Atlas and, as a bonus to prove I’m not trying to rip you off, I’ll add in this old map of Chicago. It’s faded and torn, but you can still see some of it.”

Instantly the two were staring at him. Oingo reached out and took the atlas while Boingo, rather greedily, snatched at the map. They stepped aside and gestured for Zero to continue on. Then, almost as an afterthought, Oingo spoke up.

“Here…I guess I should give you this. It’s a map of the area. It will let you know where there is danger.”

Zero looked at the proffered paper. He saw a solid black line bisecting the page, with words written above and below.

“What kind of map is this? All it says is ‘stay here’ below the black line and ‘stay out’ above the black line.”

“Its’ obvious. North of the wall is death. No person in their right mind would go there. Hell, Boingo and I are insane and we won’t go there mate!”

“Well, I have to go, so I guess this won’t really help me. Thank you Oingo. Thank you Boingo. I hope you stay safe.”

With that, Zero turned and continued on towards the wall. With a growing dread, he felt his life slipping away.

“Hey, where’d he go?” Boingo asked his brother. “He was there just a minute ago.”

“I don’t know…but he gave us the atlas…Look…It’s Europe. I always thought it would be beautiful.”

Jaxes sat huddled in the small cage; crammed in with all the other survivors of his little village. Staring sullenly out at his captors, He found his thoughts drifting to Zerosta. Where was the little prick? He must have betrayed them. Otherwise the Others would have stuck him in the cage too. He never would have fought back, so they wouldn’t have killed him.

As he continued to stare out bleakly, he vowed that if he ever saw Zerosta again, he would kill him.

This was written for blogophilia. To join in the fun visit:

https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=197644423590116

Blogophilia 4.4 Topic: “This Has Been a Public Service Announcement

Bonus Points:

(Hard, 2pts): Name three bands from the 1980s  * I promise I have at least 10 in there Marvin. 😀

(Easy, 1pt): include the words “take what you can… give nothing back!”

Final date to post: March 29th, 2011 GMT midnight

Final date to post ALL GUESSES: March 26th, 2011 GMT midnight

I will say that DJ Myke provided the topic and that David II gave the picture.

bonus guesses *shadow dancing, pottery, synchronized dancing, leaping, hopping…

 
28 Comments

Posted by on March 26, 2011 in stories

 

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Zero Hour part 2 (blogophilia v 4.3)

Zero slowly made his way back towards home. He had stayed out way too long. Lately he found himself staying away from home longer and longer. He claimed it was because no one saw him, but that wasn’t really true. Sure, sometimes he seemed invisible, but most of the time it was just they treated him that way. No one listened to his suggestions. No one even bothered to ask what he thought. Of course, they noticed when he did something ‘wrong’. Especially Jaxes. He always found fault in Zero’s actions. It didn’t help that Jaxes was the son of the chief.

Jaxes’ family had always led their village. It was his great-great…well too many greats to remember grandfather that first gathered the refugees together after the War. It was said the family originated from Brussels. Zero didn’t know where Brussels was, but was sure it had been full of blowhards who thought they knew everything. At least it was if Jaxes was representative of the population. Simply put, Jaxes was an ass. He always criticized Zero, even when it was obvious that Zero was right. So, Zero avoided him at all costs now.

The sun had set hours ago, yet Zero still worried he’d see someone as he entered the small village. So he walked with a slow, methodical pace. Dreading the moment he arrived. It was probably that fear that caused him to hear the scuff of rocks up ahead. He froze, terrified of what it might be. His terror was well regarded.

An Other appeared in the path ahead. An Other! What brought it here? They never came this close to the wasteland. It was said they had drifted down from the wasteland after the firestorms and refused to return. No one knew for sure though. All that was really known was the Others sought out every human they could find. They enslaved those humans, forcing them to work the rest of their lives in misery while the others threatened them with death. Zero’s village was one of the small remaining enclaves of free men.

Zero could barely breathe. The thing was huge, nearly seven feet tall. Its skin was a motley grey and seemed made of scales rather than skin. A course hair covered most of its body. As he stood there, he watched the beast begin to sniff around. It seemed to have caught a whiff of something. It stared right at him.

Zero was so terrified he couldn’t even move to get away. His breath stuck in his throat. He was going to die! He knew it. Suddenly, a guttural bark shattered the night silence. The beast grunted in reply. It took one more sniff, then strangely turned and loped off into the night, towards the bark. Zero was alone again.

Zero couldn’t explain it. Sure, people seemed to ignore him, but he really thought it was only because they hated him. Now he wasn’t so sure. The Other had stared right at him. He was five feet away. The night sky was clear. No way could it have missed seeing him, yet that is what happened.

Then thought returned to Zero. The village! He had to warn them. The Others would enslave them!

Zero ran like the wind. Where just a minute before he hesitated in his return, he now raced through the darkness, worried he’d be too late. As he rounded the last corner and the village came into view, he realized how right he was. The village lay in ruins. Every hut seemed to be torn apart. Debris littered the area. Nothing moved.

Slowly he began to move among the desolation. The Others had missed nothing, it seemed. Not one building remained standing. Here and there, Zero saw a body torn apart. Mostly they were older villagers; ones who wouldn’t be able to work hard, he noted. Sadly, there were a few toddlers among the remains. No one between the age of 6 and 50 remained. Not among the dead. Perhaps some had escaped?

Just as he was about to give up the search, he heard a small gasp. Turning to his left, he felt his breath catch in his throat again. Quickly he rushed over to the old man lying in the tumbled remains.

“Grand-papa!”

“Zerosta. You are OK. The Others didn’t get you. I feared the worst when you were gone so long.”

“No grand-papa. They didn’t get me, though one almost did. I don’t know how it missed me. Stay still while I bandage these wounds.”

“There’s no time Zerosta. I don’t think anything can be done to save me. You can save yourself though. The Others will return. I doubt they are just looking for more slaves. They are planning on claiming this area too. You must be gone before they come back. You must go north over the wall.”

“Over the wall?!? That’s insane. No one goes over the wall. That’s certain death. It’s a barren wasteland there.”

“Yes, it’s a wasteland, but hardly barren. Before the War, a powerful nation of men existed. It existed north of the wall. Then the War brought death and destruction. Waves of fire tore through the land, destroying much. Yet I doubt it destroyed everything.”

“But grand-papa…”

“No buts. You must go. It has been prophesied. It is said in man’s greatest hour of need, when all seems hopeless, one will arise. He will be the travelling man. He will go north into the wasteland. In doing so, he will change what is. He will end what was. There’s more to it, but that is all you need to know. Shortly after you were born, I realized the prophecy was about you. I can’t tell you how I knew, I just did.”

“You must go into the wasteland. You must find a way to free our people. I know you will. You are the one. Perhaps you will find a clue in that land. It was said that during their time of influence, the world was connected in a way it has never seen before or since. There was something called the World Wide Web. I don’t know what that was, though it makes me think of giant spiders. Never mind that though. Time grows short. Perhaps you will find answers in that ‘web’.”

“How will I know what to look for? Even if I find this web, how will I understand what it says? I can’t do this grand-papa. I want to stay with you. I will make you better.”

“No Zerosta. It’s too late for me. You must go. You must promise me that you will find answers. You are humanity’s only remaining hope. Please say you’ll go.”

As he finished his request, Zero’s grand-papa wheezed out one last gasp and collapsed. Tears welled up in Zero’s eyes as he held the limp body in his arms, crushing it to his chest. He seemed to be trying to urge him back to life with sheer willpower.

Finally, as the sun crested the horizon and a new day began, Zero realized it was hopeless. Nothing would bring life back to the dead. He wiped the remaining tears from his eyes. Then, he reached out reverently and closed his grandfather’s eyes, whispering “I will grand-papa. I promise I will find a way.”

Zero stood and began to move around the village remains, gathering what he could for the journey north. Within an hour he was ready. Resolutely he started out on the path that led to the wall. He never looked back, though before the village was out of sight, tears were once again flowing from his eyes.

~~~~

 

This was written for blogophilia on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=194143027273589

 

Blogophilia 3.4 Topic: “Traveling Man

Bonus Points:

(Hard, 2pts): include the ‘web’ (as in world wide web)

(Easy, 1pt): mention Brussells

 

Final date to post: March 22nd, 2011 GMT midnight

Final date to post ALL GUESSES: March 19th, 2011 GMT midnight

I will say that Colleen provided the topic and that Dahlia provided the picture. Picture guess is these boots were made for walking.

 
30 Comments

Posted by on March 14, 2011 in stories, writing

 

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Zero Hour (blogophilia v4.2)

Zero stood quietly contemplating as the sun, making its final gasps, inched beneath the horizon. Where moments before a blaze of hues, scarlet foremost, lit the sky, there now existed a weird moment of half-light. Night had finally arrived to end another day of his useless existence.

As long as he could remember, life meant nothing to Zero. Well no, that wasn’t exactly true. He supposed he would pay a peso for his life. It certainly wasn’t worth anything more. As he watched the darkness creep closer, he wondered what it would be like to actually matter.

Nothing he did ever made a difference in this madness the world had slipped into. In fact, he didn’t even think anyone saw him. He may take up space in this world. He may breathe oxygen, thereby actually living. Words sometimes crossed his lips. Through all of this, physics stated he existed, yet in the end did he? No one ever noticed him, instead they kept on walking right past him. No matter the occasion, nor if he even made an attempt at standing out.

That is why he now solely went by the name Zero. He was nothing. He was a zero. He didn’t even remember what name he used to use. It didn’t matter. No one else knew the name either. At least not in connection to him.

Yet tonight was different. There was no single thing that he could point to, but he knew that a change was in the offing. There was something in the air tonight. Something inexplicable that signified…he didn’t know. Hell, the world could be heading for Armageddon right this second. He didn’t believe it was that, but you never knew.

Of course, whatever was to come didn’t necessarily mean he would be noticed. It could mean that he would just cease to exist. Physics might decide, just like the rest of the world, he was not there. What would that be like? He wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer. In the end, all that mattered was that a change was coming. He had to be ready to face that change. He had to embrace that change, for in his mind it was the only hope he had left.

 

~~~~~

This was written for Blogophilia

https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=192729654081593

 

Blogophilia 2.4 Topic: “Something in the Air

Bonus Points:

(Hard, 2pts):  use a word starting with “Z” three times (we take this to mean the same word three times – NOT three different “Z” words)

(Easy, 1pt): incorporate a type of currency

 

Final date to post: March 15th, 2011 GMT midnight

Final date to post ALL GUESSES: March 12th, 2011 GMT midnight

 

I’ll say SLJ for the topic and Joanie for the picture.

 
24 Comments

Posted by on March 8, 2011 in stories, writing

 

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