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    poetry


    dots Submission Name: To the Gatherdots
    --------------------------------------------------------





    Author: syrekata
    ASL Info:    17/F/Australia
    Elite Ratio:    5.14 - 7/7/6
    Words: 4752
    Class/Type: Story/Legend
    Total Views: 998
    Average Vote:    No vote yet.
    Bytes: 26088



    Description:
       This is a story i wrote at the end of last year ( I didn't expect it to be so long)
    It's set in a future in which humans have ceased to be the dominant species.


    Make the font bigger!! Double Spacing Back to recent posts.

    dotsTo the Gatherdots
    -------------------------------------------


    There was silence as Varaya walked up to the wooden pole. It was as tall as a tree, with metal spikes up the sides that could be used as hand or foot holds. Glancing around at the circle of grim faced people, Varaya wished fervently that she could take it back. But she had foolishly questioned his decision to pass by the Town they had come across, without raiding it for supplies. Jak had announced that the gang would bypass the ruins and continue straight to the Gather. Varaya had thoughtlessly protested, saying that they needed more to trade with if they were going to last the winter.

    And now, because she was stupid enough to speak out, she must climb the pole and spend the night up it. Wrapping her water flask and shawl around her neck, she began the arduous climb. As she made her slow way up the pole, she cursed Jak and the rest of the gang, who would not stand against him.

    Ever since the Scorching over one hundred years ago, when the sun broke through the ozone layer and began steadily scorching the earth, changing the climate dramatically, humans had become nomadic. The Scorching had destroyed civilization and led people to form nomadic gangs which travelled during the much lengthened summer. During that time they hunted, and scavenged through the burnt out ruins of towns for food and useful items that could be kept or traded. Towards the end of the blisteringly hot summer, all the gangs made their way towards the Gather, where they could stay in safety during the harsh, if short winter months. The Gather was a giant network of underground caves, the only safe place to be during the winter, when anything caught outside is likely to be frozen during the near constant storms. When the winter ends, the gangs must once again leave, as the melted snow fills the caves during the summer, draining away only as winter draws near again.

    Though the gangs were, at first, chiefly democratic, leaders began to emerge until the gangs became entirely dictatorial, with the leader having complete say in everything the gang does. The only way for a leader to be changed was for another, stronger person to Challenge the leader. There were set Challenges, involving the use of many skills that would determine which person was better suited to leading the gang. If the person wins, the old leader must step down, allowing the new leader to take charge. While Varaya didn’t agree with Jak, she knew she had no hope of beating him in the Challenge. All she could do was hope that she would be able to find a new gang during the upcoming winter.

    Reaching the top of the pole she manoeuvred herself into a sitting position, managing to sit cross-legged, though she was balanced precariously. Looking down, the young woman saw that the other fourteen members of the gang were turning away, heading back to the campsite. They were all careful to show no alliance to Varaya, knowing that they could be sent up another of the numerous poles.

    Though Jak was a strong leader, always leading them through any danger, he was not known for being kind or forgiving. It would be another one or two weeks before they reached the Gather, depending on the pace Jak set, and this time would be very trying for Varaya. Unless she managed to hold her tongue for once, she could find herself abandoned, left to make her own way to the Gather. Being abandoned was too dangerous to risk, for there were many dangerous creatures all too ready to attack a lone human. Being abandoned, especially so close to winter, was a death sentence.

    Raising her head, Varaya surveyed the surrounding land. There were quite a few trees, all with small dull leaves and white trunks. These were the only type of tree that could survive the harsh summers, where water was scarce. The trees stood in small clumps that grew larger the further to north they were, until, far off on the horizon, she could see a continuous band of forest. The entrance to the Gather was on the other side of that forest.

    Other than the trees, only the occasional ruin of a building blocked the view of the dry yellow grass. Away to the east, Varaya could see a small river, winding its way out of sight. Even from this distance, she could see that it was more than half dry. To the west, where the sun was just disappearing below the horizon, was the town that the gang had just bypassed.

    The darkness settled as quickly as ever and soon the sky was lit by stars. Varaya drank some of the precious water from her flask and wrapped her blanket tightly about her as the heat of the day swiftly disappeared. Closing her eyes, she prepared herself for the long night ahead.

    * * *

    For the next couple of days the gang walked steadily, stopping only to sleep and fill their flasks. During this time, Varaya kept quiet, doing her best not to infuriate Jak. However, on the seventh day, when Jak once again refused to raid a ruined building that they could see nearby, she couldn’t keep quiet.

    “We need more supplies to trade with, and there might be vegetables growing near it! What possible reason can you have for us not raiding it?”

    The gang moved swiftly to stand behind Jak, showing where their support lay. Jak glared at Varaya with bland contempt, “You think you know better than me? You think you need to know the reason for my decisions? Huh. This is the second time in a very short while, that you have questioned my authority. I take it that you either mean to challenge me … or you want to leave?”

    Varaya glanced around nervously, trying to think of something to say. She knew she should back down entirely, yet some stupid bit of pride stopped her. “No, no, of course not. I … I only meant that there could be something we could use in there. But if you don’t think it’s a good idea then…”

    “No. I don’t think it is a good idea. But it is obvious that you have a problem accepting my decisions. Now tell me, if you will not follow me now, how can I trust you to obey me when the gang is faced with danger? No, you have questioned me far too many times, and I will not allow this to continue.”

    Varaya’s face was going steadily paler. She was beginning to understand that she had gone too far. Jak had only one course of action that he could take without losing the respect of the gang. Jak’s voice was dangerously calm, and any who didn’t know him would be ignorant to the fury which laced his words,

    “You are no longer welcome in my gang. You may take the essential items and one day’s ration of food. You will stay after we leave, and if you are caught following us, you will be tied up and left with nothing.”
    At that he turned away, calling to the silent gang to move out. Varaya stared open mouthed as he opened her pack and removed all but her flask, shawl, blanket, firestone, one herb ball and a day’s ration of food. That done, he and the gang walked away without a backwards glance. Varaya stood there, unmoving, long after they had disappeared from view.

    She had no idea of what she should do now. Though she had often walked off on her own, there had always been her gang nearby, ready to be called on at the first sign of danger. It was the cry of a bird that got her moving. Dusk was fast approaching and she knew that a lone human would not be safe in the open at night. As the building was still close, she headed that way. There was bound to be some safe corner she could spend the night in, and she could dig the ground around it for any wild vegetables.

    As she walked, she fought to keep from thinking of what her fate was likely to be as a gangless person. Instead she made a list of what she had to do. Firstly, she would need to hunt, to find enough meat to last her for at least two weeks, though she would prefer to find enough to last her well into winter, and she would need to look for vegetables. She knew the way to the Gather, but getting there without being killed would be difficult to say the least. She had her bow, and a knife, and she could make more arrows so, so long as she was careful, she might make it to the Gather. This thought led to her considering what would happen if she did make it. Once there she would find a new gang, one whose leader wasn’t as tyrannical as Jak. But she would need to be able to trade because she couldn’t possibly carry enough to last through winter. So, she decided that she would focus on collecting wood and metal to trade, once she had enough food to last the journey. With the wood and metal, she could trade it as it was or use it to make useful items like knives. There was at least four weeks left before the first storm of winter came, and the trip would only take a week and a half of fast walking. This meant that she could take her time, raiding buildings and making items as she went. If she hunted as she went, eating fresh meat instead of drying and storing it, she would be able to carry quite a few items.

    She arrived at the building with a scant hour left before dark. Varaya unsheathed her knife before quietly entering the building, listening for any creature that may be inside. A quick look confirmed that it was empty. The building was in surprisingly good shape, with all exterior walls standing and only a few gaps in the roof. The building consisted of three large rooms, though crumbling remains suggested that there had once been more interior walls. After a quick search she found an enclosed spot far away from the door, with a small window through which she could escape if she needed to get away in a hurry. Wrapping her blanket and shawl around her to keep off the freezing night air, she settled down into a light sleep, from which the slightest noise would wake her. It was the first of many lonely nights, in which she felt the unceasing danger of being alone.

    * * *

    Varaya rose with the sun. After eating a sparse meal of dried meat, she went outside to look for evidence of hidden vegetables. She had decided to dig until it was light enough to search inside for metal and dry wood. Though anything of obvious value would have been taken long ago, there was likely to be something hidden among the rubble. Outside, she could see quite a few trees and what looked like the remains of a building that had collapsed long ago. Varaya took off her shoes and began to walk around; testing for the type of soil that vegetables can grow in. Though most plants had some type of foliage above ground, this was usually very hard to see as it was always very sparse, designed to allow in only a small amount of the harsh sunlight. The best way to find the plants is to find appropriate soil and begin digging.

    Just as she was about to give up, she found the right type of soil. Kneeling down, she began to dig, and to her delight and soon found a potato. She continued digging but by the time the sun was a quarter of the way through the sky, she had only dug up two stunted, soft potatoes. Though she had found a few better vegetables than those, she had left plenty in the hope that they would survive to grow better ones next summer. Disappointed, Varaya packed them all carefully into her pack. After putting on her shoes, she entered the building and began the slow business of searching through the piles of rubbish, hoping to be more successful.

    * * *

    She finished searching the area just before dark. Her search had been quite successful, revealing some good sheets of metal, soft wood and even a square mirror that had been stuck to the inside of a small box, deep beneath the rubble. However, her most treasured find for the day was a cauldron, in which she could melt her metal and cook her food. It was larger than most of her other possessions, but could be tied to the outside of her pack.

    Varaya lit a fire outside and cooked one of the potatoes. The fruitful day had made her much more optimistic for her future. She had decided to stay there for the night and move on first thing in the morning. She would spend the day travelling and looking for animal tracks. Even if she found no land animals there was bound to be some bird stupid enough to be seen. Once her food was cooked and had been eaten, she stoked up the fire deciding to melt the metal into an easier to handle shape. Using hard wood to shape the melted metal into two thick flat rectangles, which would be easy to carry in her pack. Once it was cool, she emptied her pack and began to repack it, so that everything was easily accessible. After putting out the fire she returned to the spot in which she had slept last night.

    The next day she headed north-west, knowing that she would be able to find water and possibly even a stream deep enough to have fish. She walked all day until she came to a stream. Looking in, she was rewarded with the flash of scales. There were plenty of fish, all migrating down stream as fast as possible, trying to out swim the winter. By the time night fell, she had caught and cooked enough fish to last her for the next day and had climbed the tallest tree she could find, with wide branches to sleep in.

    * * *

    The next week followed the same pattern. Varaya would travel during the day, hunting and gathering food, stopping in the late afternoons to eat and make knives, arrows and pots from her metal and wood. Whenever she came across a building, she would spend the better part of a day searching for more materials. She had a good run, being hunted only three times by small packs of dogs. These she easily evaded by climbing trees and firing arrows down until the slunk off to find easier pray.

    After she had been alone for two full weeks, she found herself in a burnt out town on the edge of the forest. It would take another six days to make it through the forest to the Gather, so that would leave her with at least another five days to gather materials and change them into tradable items. The town was the perfect place to do this.

    Varaya explored the silent buildings with her bow strung and arrows ready, for though she could hear nothing, there could always be hungry animals, searching for food. When she found a suitable place, she set up a temporary camp, rigging traps to warn her of anything approaching.

    By this time, she had become used to being alone and no longer listened hungrily for the sound of other humans. In fact, a fierce determination had stolen over her. Varaya was determined to make it to the Gather, alone and alive, just to prove that it could be done. She had already realized that if she did run into a gang on the way, she would not reveal herself.

    With the camp set up, she chose a building and began to search. By dark, she was exhausted and had found a pretty metal plate that just needed cleaning. The next four days were spent searching and forging knives, plates and bowls. She left the town only to hunt, so by the end of the fourth day, she was ready to leave, with a full – and heavy – pack. Varaya now had five knives of varying quality, a wooden comb, three plates, two small pots, a good stock of dried meat, some small skins and feathers for arrows, on top of her own possessions.

    She set out on the fifth day and set a good pace, feeling very optimistic. In just six days she would be at the Gather and she knew that most gang leaders would welcome someone who had proved beyond doubt that they wouldn’t hamper the gang. Varaya would be able to pick any of the hundred gangs to travel with next summer.

    The first three days of travelling through the forest went without mishap, and Varaya found herself gradually relaxing and even beginning to enjoy herself. Midway through the fourth day she found a clear stream, heading in the direction of the Gather. Varaya decided that she could afford to take the rest of the day off. She filled her flask, fished, and then bathed while waiting for the fish to cook. She then whiled away the afternoon by shaping arrows from the branches of the nearby trees, fitting them with feathers.

    They came just before dark. She had just enough time to raise her knife before the first of the mangy dogs leapt at her. The force of it knocked her over, even as the knife slid deep into its heart. The smell of the hot blood merely served to enrage the rest of the pack and suddenly they were all on her. Freeing her knife, she slashed around at the dogs. Reaching down she grabbed a branch from the fire and began swinging it around causing the dogs to back away. As they formed a circle around her, Varaya was able to see that there were four of them, not counting the one lying dead by the fire.

    The wild dogs took turns leaping in, snapping at her before backing away. Once managed to get close enough to slash open her arm. Crying out, Varaya lunged at the dog with the burning stick bringing her knife swinging round, aiming for its throat. It yelped as the branch hit its side, and Varaya lunged forward, burying her blade deep in its eye. Dragging the knife free from the falling body, she didn’t see the dog leap at her from behind. She fell, screaming as sharp claws slashed her back. Twisting, she dropped the branch and tried to bring the knife up from under her. Using her free hand to push the dog’s face back, she brought the knife up and stabbed it into its shoulder. A sharp jarring of her hand told her that she had hit bone and as she stabbed forward again, she corrected her aim. The knife plunged into its neck, killing instantly.

    The next dog attacked as Varaya struggled to push the body off her. Unable to protect more than her face, she screamed as a set of jaws clasped about her leg. Kicking out, she felt her free leg connect with a head and immediately the dog released her leg.

    Finally freeing herself, she saw the remaining two dogs circling her. Looking around she saw that the branch was out, and the dogs were between her and the fire. Struggling to catch her breath, she picked up the dead branch. Picking one of the dogs, she leapt forward striking out with the branch. It struck the dog solidly on its head, causing it to fall forward. Spinning around, Varaya plunged the knife into the heart of the dog that had just leapt at her back. It fell, dragging her knife with it. Abandoning the knife, she spun back around.

    Varaya now had only a branch to fight the remaining dog with. It was standing now, shaking its sore head. Normally, if all but one dog remained of a pack, that dog would leave. However, this close to winter, the dog would need all the food it could get to fatten it up. A human and four dogs was too good a feast to run from.
    Snarling, it came forward, driving Varaya back towards the river. She looked around desperately and saw her bow, with its arrows beside it, lying near the fire. Throwing the branch straight at the dog, she ran past and picked up her bow and an arrow. Raising the bow as she turned, she took a split second to aim before releasing the arrow. It flew straight into the throat of the snarling dog. Only once it was lying still, did Varaya allow herself to collapse.

    * * *

    The rising sun woke her. Sitting up she checked her body to find out how badly she was hurt. Her leg was bleeding sluggishly from the bite marks and she had a lot of scratches down her arms and back that had, thankfully, stopped bleeding. She had gotten off pretty lightly considering that there were now five large dead dogs lying around her campsite.
    Sighing, she crawled over to the ashes of her fire; she opened her pack and found her spare shirt. Ripping it, she moved to the river and began to wash and bandage her cuts as best as she could.

    That done, she retrieved her knife, and then spent the day skinning the dogs and cleaning the skins. They were in good condition and those that she didn’t keep would be traded at a very high price. She also cut and dried as much meat as she could carry, wrapping it in the skins and tying the packages to her pack. The rest would be left for scavengers.
    Packing up, Varaya moved on, following the stream, even though she was exhausted, sore, and the light was fading. It was too dangerous to stay. The smell of fresh blood would draw in many creatures.

    * * *

    When she woke the next day, she almost fell from the tree as a she became conscious to the sharp stabs of pain that were shooting up her leg. Steadying herself, she climbed carefully down, biting her lip to keep from screaming. Once on the ground she forced herself to look at her wound. It was swollen, weeping clear pus, and there were vivid red streaks around it. Cursing, Varaya opened her pack and brought out her firestone, a small and large pot, and her precious herb ball, which she held it in her hands for a moment, wishing that she didn’t have to use it. But it was no good saving it, if she then died from an infected leg.

    She gathered together sticks to light a fire, and putting as little weight on her leg as possible, moved closer to the water. Varaya lit the fire where she could easily reach it and the water. After filling the larger pot with water and setting it onto the fire to boil, she picked up the herb ball and the small pot. When she broke open the ball, a rich, fragrant smell filled the air as many kinds of dried healing herbs tipped into the pot. Pouring a little bit of water in at a time, Varaya began mixing it into a thick paste.

    It took an hour for the water to boil hot enough to kill anything in it, then another half hour for it to cool sufficiently for her to use it to wash the wound. During this time, Varaya tried various methods to distract her from the pain. She dug her nails into the palms of her calloused hands, bit her lip and then began listing the names of everyone she knew. When the water was finally boiled, she began to carefully wash the wound. Once it was as clean as it would get, she carefully applied the paste and wrapped it up with a fresh piece of cloth.

    Putting out the fire, and getting up, she limped among the trees, searching for a branch that would be strong enough and tall enough to use as a crutch. Finding a suitable branch she stripped off the bark and twigs.

    This done she began to walk, because though it hurt it, she knew that with a wound to slow her down, she couldn’t afford to waste any time. It was only a matter of days before the first storm came. Though she could normally have made it to the Gather with time to spare, an infected leg wound, will slow her down.

    * * *

    Two days later, when she was still deep with in the forest, the winter storm hit. The only warning before hand was the sudden, unsettling cease of all sound. No wind shook the trees, no birds sang, and there were none of the usual rustlings of small animals moving through the undergrowth. Even the insects were still. Varaya froze for only a moment before wrestling her heavy pack off her back and unrolling all of the skins and blankets. She wrapped the skins around her body, fur inside, ensuring that they covered all but her face and hands, tying them on with rope. To protect her hands, she created little pockets in the fur. Her shawl and blanket were both wrapped around her head, the shawl covering all but her eyes, and she left a loose flap on the blanket so that she could protect her eyes from the worst of it.

    Moments after she had put her pack back on her back and crouched down against a tree, everything went dark and a torrent of wind and icy sleet swept through the forest. Trees were bent almost double, but only one young sapling was uprooted, these trees were designed to withstand the harshest winter storms. The gale knocked Varaya back against the tree and all she could do was to crouch, head tucked down into her chest. The icy rain ran off the water proof skins and blanket. Within ten minutes her teeth were chattering and her eyelashes were coated in ice. This continued for what seemed like an age, before the sleet turned to hail, then snow, and the wind dropped enough for her to stand.

    This proved to be extremely difficult, as her legs were cramped and locked into place. But she persisted, knowing that it was only during the snowing part of the storm that she would be able to move. Leaning heavily on her crutch, and bowing low under the onslaught of the snow, she struggled forward.

    Varaya walked steadily for a long time, stopping only for the hail, sleep and, when possible food. The time past in a daze, for there was no night or day, only storms. She soon forgot why she was walking and knew only to struggle on. When she did, finally, reach the forests edge, Varaya stood for several moments in the thigh deep snow, before she realized what she was seeing. Though it was still snowing, slowly but steadily, and the entire valley before her was blanketed in a thick whiteness, nothing could hide the long, dark slit in the earth, a mere half day’s walk away. She choked back a sob of relief and resumed her desperate struggle through the thick snow. She reached the edge of the crevasse some hours later, and with a last look back, descended the ice-covered steps into the Gather. All the stories had said that this was impossible, had said that there was no way for a human to survive the summer alone, let alone the first storm of winter. Yet here she was, merely sixteen years old, with a wounded leg and a full pack, proving them all wrong.




    Submitted on 2006-02-28 01:24:15     Terms of Service / Copyright Rules
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    ||| Comments |||
      It's so good to see a story writer in here with all the poets. I really enjoyed this story, as much or more than Firestorm.

    In fantasy pieces like this an author has to first, create a world, and second, people it with characters that we care about. You've done both well here. Your first two paragraphs introduce us quite well to Varaya. We understand her temprement, which is critical to the rest of the story. I might throw in a sentence in passing, providing a bit of physical description. I like the names a lot. They're exotic, yet pronounceable.

    I think that I would rework the setting of the place a tiny bit, taking it away from earth. The reference to ozone is vulnerable to political interpretation and as well as scientific nitpickers. If the cause of the climate change is something less tangible, you'll be free of naysayers.

    This story has a better conclusion than Firestorm and doesn't leave me waiting for chapter 2 as much. LOL You've wrapped the tale nicely, showing her as victorious.



    Steve

    | Posted on 2006-04-12 00:00:00 | by Lost Sheep | [ Reply to This ]


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