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Science Fiction Adventure

A distant wolf mournfully howls its sorrows, and I am suddenly aware of just how dark the horizon has grown while I walked. Some old and forgotten habit begs me to pull my hood over my head in response to the eerie baying, but I know that would only impair my range of hearing. So I let the hood of my sweatshirt flop against my backpack, but I don't quite pull my fingers away from the thick fabric.

I bask in the sensation of remembrance, no matter how distant and vague, but I do not press the feeling for exact memories. I know from experience that this only scares the thought away, sending it skittering back into the depths of my mind I know not how to reach.

In my peripheral vision, I catch Skip watching me apprehensively. He recognizes that faraway look I get when I try to remember my old life and does not approve of my efforts. In his words, some things are better left forgotten.

I catch my own thoughts turning bitter. He is right, after all. Skip always appears hollow, and it's the things that I've had the good fortune to forget that make him that way.

I close my eyes and sigh through my nose. Lucky. Blessed. I am better off without that kind of trauma.

I could feel my thoughts spiraling towards bitterness again. Lucky that I don't remember everyone I've ever loved. Lucky that I don't remember why the heck my world is so screwed up.

Then I remind myself that it is lucky. That head injury saved me from a worse kind of trauma.

Skip and I finally crest the hill we've been hiking up for hours. We'll make camp here for the night as the tide comes in, submerging as much two miles of land below us. Every morning, the water will recede, but not completely, still choking out a few more yards of the mountain range every night while we sleep.

I don't remember anything before life like this. I don't remember what the world was like before the Flood consumed the Low Lands. I think it's better that I don't remember what the world has lost.

We drop our backpacks to the ground and massage our aching shoulders. Skip kneels and rummages through our meager belongings. "Sharp, go scout out the perimeter and see if there's anything edible; I'll get a fire going."

I nod mutely, knowing Skip will appreciate my silence as a man of few words himself. A rare smile finds the corners of my lips. Calling Skip a man is amusing; he is small and scrawny for eighteen, and I'm only a gangly sixteen-year-old girl. And yet we have become adults in the mind.

My minuscule grin disappears as soon as it came. We should not have had to grow up this quickly.

I slide a hunting rifle from a hidden pocket in my bag. This is where I get my nickname, Sharp, from. I'm a sniper in everything but disposition.

I frown at the weapon. If the world was perfect, I'd never have to use such a barbaric item. I would never want to either.

Shaking my head to rid myself of these thoughts, I silently disappear into the dense woodlands. Skip is right; I torture myself with thoughts of what could've been. I wish I had an ounce of his practicality. He would say that this is how it is, and there's no changing that fact.

But even as I disappear into myself and hunt for game, I think about what little Skip has told me about how the world became such a disaster and the little pieces I've heard from the few others we have encountered.

First, there was the Warming. Heat accumulated in the atmosphere, melting ice at an exponential rate and rapidly rising the sea level. Coastal cities were swallowed, along with any inhabitants unfortunate enough to be caught in the swelling tides and crashing tsunamis.

This catastrophe morphed into the Flood. Landmasses were consumed with angry and unpredictable waves, and all citizens fled to mountain ranges for sanctuary.

Not many made it.

The land absorbed by the hungry tides was dubbed the "Low Lands". The only earth remaining is the High Lands. Naturally, Skip and I and everyone else who has fashioned the skill set to survive call ourselves the Highlanders.

This is my life. A head injury and swelling oceans erased anything that existed prior to this life.

I climb a tall tree and gaze out upon the dense forest in search of a clearing. To my surprise, there's one not two hundred yards away. The thick brush obscures my vision almost completely from the forest floor, but from here, I will have everything I need to make a clean shot, should any prey choose to graze in the small meadow.

But I know they will be there. The thought sickens me, but I know it to be true. If any deer are in the area this is the perfect place to feed.

An image of a pretty young buck with velvety horns flashes in my mind's eye, the serene picture marred by the bloody puncture wound. Right between the eyes. Nausea threatens pump acid into my throat, and the world spins.

I suck in sharp breaths, trying to subdue the rebelling train of thought. I don't have the stomach for this kind of work, even if I have twice the aim needed for it.

Skip always marvels at how perfect my shots are, lamenting that he doesn't have the talent for such work, while I barely hold down my last meal. This is the one time he wishes he knew more about my past, wondering aloud how I managed to refine my expertise.

Skip has the nerve for this kind of work but lacks in ability. This is the one area of my past I am glad to have forgotten.

Movement in the clearing grinds my inward monologue to a halt. A doe limps into the grassy space, her head hanging low and her feet dragging.

Before I can second-guess myself, my long-ranged hunting rifle is cocked in my hands. I lift the scope and gaze onto the injured deer. Just as the crosshairs align on her, something startles the doe. She jerks her head up, her entire body tensed to flee.

I deftly realign the barrel of the gun. If the doe gets spooked now, it isn't likely that I will spot anything for the rest of the night. Skip and I will have to forage in the dark for edible plants, which isn't the safest course of action without light. We have flashlights, but they are only to be used in emergencies. Firelight would be our only option to identify the poisonous berries among the benign.

My finger snaps against the trigger, and an artificial thunderclap splits the quiet night in half. My ears ring softly, but I know it will pass. I shimmy down the tree and set off for the meadow. I know I didn't miss. I think that this knowledge is worse than having to check to see if I hit the doe.

Of course, the average hunting rifle does have some spread with the shots, but this has already been accounted for.

I'm in the clearing too quickly. I shut down my conscious mind. A stranger approaches the corpse only to find the deer isn't dead yet. Someone fires a second shot, and the doe collapses for good.

The same stranger picks the lifeless creature and walks back to camp. After leaving Skip to cook, she walks through the forest surrounding the encampment, checking for strangers lurking in the shadows and wild beasts ready to attack without provocation. She finds nothing.

The stranger tiredly flops onto her sleeping bag, exhausted by the day's work but too hungry to sleep. When I sit up in the tent, I know that I will have to face what I have done. I slink out of the shelter and rejoin Skip by the fire.

His customary roasting spit has been disassembled beside the fire, and some food is rationed out onto two plates. Skip is civilized despite a year without civilization and has been waiting on me to eat.

I mutely begin to eat the deer meat. In the morning, we will eat some of the meat he has roasted and dried into jerky, along with any edible plants we spot as we hike away from our camp. Then, we will begin our endless pilgrimage again, never stopping in one place for longer than a couple nights, always looking for something that cannot be found.

This is the cycle of my existence. Sometimes I wonder if our survival is a doomed endeavor, destined to be brought to a close by dark water made of chemicals and long-forgotten nightmares. Other days, I know I am too cowardly to halt my own suffering and go gently.

Someday, I will think I am brave. On that day I will smile as the tide comes in. That will be the last day.

September 23, 2020 02:54

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1 comment

Mustang Patty
12:06 Sep 26, 2020

Hi there, Thank you for sharing this well-written story. I enjoyed your tale of how Global Warming can and will affect our world. I noticed a few issues with commas here and there, but I think we all struggle in that area. Great writing, ~MP~ Would you mind reading some of my stories? I would appreciate your comments.

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