Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Microstory 833: Cold War

Long-distance skiing isn’t exactly my forte, and I positively hate the bitter cold, but it’s not like I have any choice. There aren’t any roads way out here, but something up ahead is luring me towards it. So I continue, stopping only when I need to pee, or melt drinking water. After hours of trekking, I see a wooden building of some kind, peeking out from the snow. As I move nearer, I realize it’s actually a few little cabins clumped together. If I didn’t have this intense feeling of accomplishment, I would think to stop and rest here, but this is it. This is where I’ve been trying to go this whole time. I keep trudging into it, and recognize it as a ski resort. The world no longer has any need for a ski resort, so this place has been completely abandoned, left to provide shelter for the birds, and other animals. I’m alone. At least no one responds when I call out. As I approach the bottom of the hills, I can see a giant red crystalline structure, floating a couple meters over the ground, slowly turning counter clockwise on a vertical axis. I get as close as I feel comfortable with, worried about disturbing its position, and causing it to fall on top of me. It looks like I’m supposed to see through the crystal, but smoke is billowing around inside, like an oversized lava lamp. I’ve never seen anything like it, in this new world, or in the time before the fall. “Here, boss!” I hear on the other side of the resort. A man with nicer equipment than I have has spotted me, and the crystal. He’s waving to someone I can’t see yet, to come and check out this magnificent technological mystery. I see a head appear from behind one of the cabins, then another, and another. Nearly a dozen men and women appear, some on skis, but most just with snowshoes. They walk towards me, defensively, but not with a great deal of fear, and I quickly see why. It’s the Dowder Gang, and they’re afraid of nothing. They were once my rivals, but since they killed my entire survival group, they don’t consider me much of a threat anymore.

The leader, Shabel Dowder grins when she sees that it’s me, and promises not to kill me. I’m neither surprised, nor concerned that she’s lying. The Dowders always leave one alive, to tell the tale of their misdeeds. They don’t kill for no reason, mind you, and they don’t torture people. They come in with purpose, and get it over with quickly and painlessly. They’ve done a lot of good in this world too—I give them that—about as good as good gets, since the bombs dropped. We were even allied for a time, but a personal quarrel led to an accidental death, and the Dowders couldn’t let that go unpunished. I don’t know why we’re all here now, but once we’ve all gathered around the crystal, it begins to speak, glowing brighter according to the speaker’s volume. “Survivors of Earth, herein lies the souls of your fallen comrades. Inside Oakleaf Cabin, you will find a reserve of replacement substrates. You must bring the bodies here to transfer your friends’ consciousnesses. But be warned, if any one of them dies at the hands of each other, or one of you, you will all die. In order to continue living, you must find peace amongst you. You must learn to work together.” Shabel and I look at each other. The others in her gang might not agree with her choices, but their opinions are irrelevant. The only two people whose positions had any impact on what would happen today were her, and me. She asks me if I can set aside my animosity, and I say it’s possible, if we break the country in three; our third, their third, and a neutral zone. The crystal voice informs us that no individual may be beyond ten meters of someone from the other gang. We discuss terms for a few more minutes, but the voice urges us to finalize a deal. So we agree to form a new gang, proud of one undeniable certainty: the Sherlee-Dowder Family will be an unstoppable force.

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