Category Archives: Short Story

How We Survived – End Of The World (Nano2016, chapter 13)

One. Two. Three. Four. They sang their cadence as they marched. The snow remained deep, but the air was warmer in the days now. Or at least it chilled the bones less. They had been outside the city for three days now, marching to some towns that were supposed to lead them to the source of the bandits. When they were in the city, they had heard many stories about the growth of lawlessness around the city in the summer time. Most of the residents had abandoned the wider outskirts of the city and they had left it to the police, army, and bandits to fight over it. With the freeze of winter, the bandits had fled, hidden among the people of the city, or frozen to death in unheated buildings. Everyone talked about the problem solving itself, and the problem just going away as the snow blanketed the world and enforced a ceasefire. Frozen hands couldn’t pull triggers, and solid powder didn’t fire. Frostbitten fingers couldn’t grip knives, or throw stones. Kristina knew better.

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How We Survived – Guardians of light (Nano2016, chapter 12)

It was a strange kind of science and magic that held a dome together. From the bunkers and hydro farms underneath, to the electric trams above, to the towering housing blocks, to the glittering brass plated steel and glass that bubbled them all in, each had its part to play. All was dictated by the genius of Buckminster Fuller. His ideas became the math behind survival, the design behind the domes, the beating heart of dome ecosystems. Nothing could exist as a closed system – there needed to be input from somewhere. So there was light. There were influxes of people, and grain, and water. Where there was still water, and people, anything could be created.

If you were to build a dome city from scratch, it would be significantly easier than retrofitting cities that already stood. Blasting could achieve the underground clearance needed in a new city. But if the city was already there, you had to work around its people. First was the core, the stomach of the city, deep below the other functions – the farms and water. By boring into the ground, cities could access groundwater. Some cities dropped a shaft, more than a mile deep into the earth, as simply a first step to ensuring survival. Without water, there was no future for the people. All water that came from the ground was circulated upwards, first to the farms and people, and then everywhere else. On cold days the breath of hundreds of thousands would condense on the glass of the dome, building a mist around the people, and trickling its way down. It didn’t meet soil – it met drains, that brought it through reclamation plants, distillers, and other treatment centers. If the water wasn’t kept clean, it would doom a city.

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How We Survived – Defenders of the Fatherland (Nano2016, chapter 11)

A colossal crack deafened several men, and outright killed two others. Grenades were flying and bullets zipped past ears close enough to sound like lead wasps. There was an immense firefight, as bodies charged hard held lines, and fell flat on their faces. Taking any kind of fortification was practically pointless, but generals gave orders, and those orders made it to the ground, and boys and men were pushed to try and follow them. An order never looked the same on the ground as it did on the small white table covered in miniature representations of war. The commanders loved playing with their toy soldiers. And then men marched to their death.

The battle and siege had already been going on for months. Yet all the while, the hammers kept falling, and the guns kept being produced. Sometimes they were made from scrap metal, panels from old cars, even cut up broken guns. Anything to keep sending bullets forwards to keep the city theirs. Karas worked in secret all those months, to produce a very special commission. The order had come in under an anonymous name just days before the armies arrived beyond the outskirts of town. The artillery shells had already started falling by the time he had started machining.

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How We Survived – The Pack (Nano2016, chapter 10)

What was there but your pack? A city was a pack, but it was more like ants. Some mass of creatures scuttling, seemingly uninvolved with each other, but all working together in some small way. They made the place run just by being there, and doing what they were going to do anyway. A town was a pack – the people knew each other better, and it was the first point where you’d start to see people banding together properly. A town moved like a colony, a group of great apes. There were leaders, and followers, the females, and the children. Big structure, but it was all just a pack. The villages were the last stop before the wilderness. Villages were more like symbiotic animals. The birds picked the ticks, and the cop moved the drunks along. The mothers brought food to the young, and the bakers made the bread. But they didn’t move like ants, and there wasn’t a strict hierarchy. But under it all, from a country to a friendship, it was all a pack.

Dylan slid down against his perch, and stretched his leg to the fire, pushing small lumps of dry wood back before they could escape. Every fire seemed to burn brighter, and throw more sparks into the air. Carlos and Frank lay across the other side of the circle, Carlos asleep with his hat over his face, and his bag under his head. Frank whittled. They listened for the faint sounds of insects drawn by the fire, the dull beats of moth wings, the sharp puff when one of them strayed too close.

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How We Survived – Centralia (Nano 2016, chapter 9)

It was a half moon that began its slow climb into the sky that night. It rose from the east, first peering through the long dead trunks before hitting clear sky. The stars seemed to part to make space for their majestic king. The light in the darkness spread across the ground, illuminating the sparse vegetation that struggled against its ultimate fate. Nothing that couldn’t move lived on this patch of earth for very long. The bracken and lichen began in wisps and it strived so hard to reach into the light, to overtake this place. It drank weakly of the water, and tasted all it could of the air. But this was all for nothing. Soon it would grey and feel its roots contract, shrivel, and crawl out of an earth that seemed to reject its presence.

The moon climbed on, bringing more dim illumination into the shadowy places. The eternal stone showed its cracks to the world, wearing its battle scars proudly. It had survived ice ages, and the boots of soldiers, and every end of the world so far. Madmen raved, carpetbaggers wheeled and dealed, saints whispers, tyrants screamed, and the everyday people talked of things deep, or idle. There was no more of that here. There was only one woman there to witness it.

Celia had grown up here. She barely knew of a world before the choke. Her father had told her stories, he had shown her the places where the plants were thick and lustrous. He told her about the arm thick vines that dipped their roots into the bottoms of streams and provided homes for tiny river fish that darted through the water like shooting stars. Providing brilliance in each moment. The moon crept on.

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How We Survived – Water (Nano 2016, Chapter 7)

A low wind blew the loose sand around the camp, sweeping it across the corrugated iron walls of Abel’s shack. His cough rattled loosely as he sat bolt upright, attempting to recall the last time he’d had a drink of clear water.

“Tank”, he rasped at the other side of the room, “Tank, get up.”

Something massive stirred in its cot, but didn’t rise. Abel threw a dented hubcap at the cot, but ended up just knocking over a can of rusty nails. He gave up on rousting Tank, wrapped himself in something that approximated clothes and stepped outside into the breeze. He stared out at what he figured would soon be the rising sun and walked away from the beaten camp to find a latrine. He snatched a small folding shovel from his bike in case he didn’t find one. You always had to bury it; you didn’t want to alert the flying insects to your presence for any reason. He pondered as he squatted that even though there wasn’t a lot of eating on them, if you got enough insects together you could get a decent handful of protein. He buried it anyway; there would be better ways to eat today.

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How We Survived; Strawberry Canyon ( Nano 2016, Chapter 2)

There are no ends on the earth. Each horizon is just a slice, keeping your mind in place, trying to prevent you from wandering too far. After the exodus started, some people decided that this was the slice for them, and that they weren’t moving. They started digging into the earth, and imprisoning themselves within sprawling domes. José was having none of it.

He’d always been a rambling man, and no dust bowl was going to stop him. Back in the old days before the war, they had seen this happen before. Crops died in the ground, crumbled to dust and left barren earth behind them. He dimly remembered a childhood friend that was sold because his mother couldn’t afford to keep all the children alive. Occasionally throughout his life he had considered looking that kid up, but with the constant fleeing at the time, it didn’t seem likely that he could have any idea where that kid went.

He slowed his motorcycle and pulled off the road for a cigarette. It hadn’t been that long since people had gotten themselves into a big panic and started running, but they had moved fast. Mostly the land looked like it always had, just maybe a little drier. But every 50 miles there was another ghost town, and most of them ripe for the picking, if you knew what you were looking for. He could get used to not paying for gas, or a bed, or cigarettes and food. The road provided.

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How we survived; The dark bulb (Nano 2016, Chapter 1)

It takes a lot to unseat people from the natural order of things. People will tolerate war, they’ll tolerate rationing, they’ll tolerate shortages, and hardship. They’ll tolerate atrocity if they have to, at least for a while. But each has their breaking point, and as one after another they begin to snap like too dry brushwood, the world weakens. Each stress adds up, causing the fractures to merge and form fissures.

Some break when the radio stops playing. Others when the air conditioning is a few degrees off. But some won’t break until the earth crumbles in their hands, and takes to the wind just like their hopes. The loss of hope is the last breaking point for so many. They’ll die where they stand when the hope leaves them. Or they’ll rage against the end of the world.

It’s hard to see a revolution when it’s happening all around you. The rains slowed or stopped, and you don’t notice at first. The paper told you it was a problem, but the paper is full of problems. The protests start, and their inconvenience scratches at your windows, but you’d swear it was just the wind. The violence happens elsewhere; it won’t reach me. Safe and tucked within a country, bubbled by your state, softened by your city. Safe. Always safe.

Then the protests turn to anger, and the anger turns to property destruction, or to blood filled coups, and that was the point at which you started paying attention. Weeks and days too late, you decided that now was the end of the world. Ignoring the symptoms, ignoring the signs, literally ignoring the writing on the wall. It was coming for you too, the whole time. These ill winds whispered your name amidst the dry sagebrush, it whistled the song of your life in the pines. The drip drip of drying water fell in the canyon of your abandoned life.

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