This piece is a Write or Die response to The Mission
They called it the necessary war. The war the world needed. Perhaps they’d called every war that, back and back to when humanity had picked rocks off the ground to throw at each other.
Like most of the things the species had deemed ‘necessary’, it had gotten seriously out of hand.
Mortimer put down the pen and blew across the smooth surface of the vellum. Though the air was dry, it was far from warm in the tower, and beneath the half-fingered gloves, the joints of his hands ached and throbbed. When the ink lost its shine, he placed the sheet with the others and turned from the little rosewood desk. As always, the fire had died, a few embers breathing in crimson unison with the draft coming under the door.
Beside the small hearth, a roughly woven basket held pinecones and branches, hastily gathered during the short hours of daylight, eked out with a miser’s instinct through the night. He shuffled across the cold floor to feed the coals. Winter wasn’t here yet but it was coming, as sure as the witch of the north.
Flame licked around his offerings, tasted portions left black and smoking. In the moving colors, he saw them again, hailstorms of rockets, arcing across the sky, their poisons and fire consuming everything in their path. Afterward the earth had been black, scorched so deep no seed remained.
The wind teased its way inside and Mortimer shifted, his knees popping and his hip cracking like a gunshot.
Not everywhere, of course.
Some plants had survived. And some animals. Even insects.
A new world order, they’d called it. People had survived. Like the cockroaches, it seemed impossible to kill them all. He put another slim log on the brightly burning cones. Had it been three months or six before it became clear that things had changed? He couldn’t remember anymore.
Six months. Yeah, at least six months before the first children, those who’d been conceived through the short but necessary war, had been born. Their hunger had come as a surprise.
The flames warmed his hands and knees as he knelt by the warm bricks of the hearth. He wouldn’t write any more tonight. He wouldn’t sleep properly either, hadn’t done that for longer than he could recall, but the effort of remembering exactly those days turned his stomach.
He shivered involuntarily as faint ululations drifted on the twists and turns of wind, filtering in with the drafts. Some said they weren’t people any more, in spite of the fact that they looked like people, and for the most part could pass as people. The only way to be sure was to get close and that was usually a one-way deal. They were stronger. Faster.
The sharp rap on the old metal door made him jump.
“Mortimer?” Carl’s voice was muffled.
“I’m here,” he called back, forcing his knees and hips to behave as he hauled himself upright.
“Just brought your dinner,” Carl said as Mortimer opened the door. “You alright up here?”
Mortimer glanced at the tray in the other man’s hand. “I’m fine, Carl.”
He waved a hand vaguely toward the wall. “Heard them start already.”
Carl grimaced. “Earlier each evening,” he agreed, walking across the room to set the tray on the desk. “When the sun rose, there were fresh bones around the walls.”
“Will they get in here?”
“I guess so. Eventually,” Carl said, turning back to him. “Not tonight.”
“No. Not tonight.”
“How are you coming with the histories?”
Mortimer shuffled toward the desk. The smile felt like it was cracking his face. “Slowly.”
Carl nodded. “Well, we got time.”
He went out the door and closed it behind him. Mortimer stared at the smooth metal.
They didn’t. He hadn’t told anyone yet, but they didn’t.
Edd Jennings, edh lamport, Daphne K Moore, Felicia C. Sullivan , you have been entered to the Hell of the Dead by me. To escape to the Living Hall, you will have to recreate this piece in your own words or extend it as part of the Write or Die collaboration. Failure to comply will leave your name and soul in the Hell of the Dead.