Yeah, normally I don’t write this type of story so I figure I’ll explain a bit.
In English class for a final on our unit on gothic literature I was assigned to write an essay.
We had learned all about western and European styles of gothics but for some reason I decided to go with neither.
I’m not fond of how quick I ended it but I guess it is what it is.
The Periphery of Fate
97 years ago a nuclear war ravaged the planet. In one final stupid flash Humanity had finally eradicated itself. Except it had not. Instead, like cockroaches Humanity stubbornly clung to the ruins of the society they had destroyed. Some became raiders preying on the weak. Others became scavengers who delved for resources to eat or to trade. A much smaller population became defenders of their fellows. It was an uphill battle but still some fought.
One such defender was Trench. He was a wanderer who trekked the wastes stopping to help out bands of survivors wherever he could. He got his name from scavengers commenting on the coat he wore. Without a name of his own he decided that was as good as anything. His travels took him past many things from scrap cities of civilization to raiders resorting to cannibalizing their own.
So it was that Trench came upon something that made him gasp for a moment. Standing at the bottom of a canyon before him was a single building. It looked pristine and untouched by the war that had destroyed so much. It almost seemed to glow without the invasive nuclear fallout that penetrated everything.
None of the dangers of the wastes had prepared him for the sight of a single structure. It stood there a testament of the world before. It was though it dared the horrors of the radioactive world to stop it, to do anything to prevent this one perfect structure from existing.
Trench thought that the radiation blanketing the world must have finally begun rotting away his brain because surely this was not possible. It couldn’t be possible. Yet still it stood there as real as anything from Trench’s travels. It even seemed more real than those things, as though they had been mere copies trying in vain to reclaim the glory of the world before the war.
Regaining some of his composure trench sought to solve this mystery himself. He unslung a metal rod from his backpack. This was a rod he had scavenged years back and kept because it was one of the few reliable weapons available. The guns of the world before had deteriorated and those that survived hardly had enough ammo to remain relevant. It also was a great utility and had become a walking stick when the terrain grew difficult.
For this very purpose Trench used the walking stick to help him walk down into the canyon. The terrain was steep from the earthquakes that had plagued the landscape following the war. Trench did a slow climb down to maintain his footing. When he approached the base of the canyon, Trench slid to his feet at the bottom.
At the bottom of the canyon Trench broke into a full run toward the monolithic building in the center. He stopped however when he came into view of the junk surrounding the building. After looking for a few seconds the junk resolved itself to be piles of corpses. Corpses that Trench presumed were of the people who had previously tried to enter this building.
Trench’s serene view of the building was broken and replaced by something sinister. He resolved to attempt going inside anyways but already knew he would not like what he found. Aside from the bodies the building was still a clean example of what the world before the bombs offered. The striking contrast of this unsettled trench.
At the door to the building was a man who looked like he had died recently. His blood still glistened crimson around him and near his hand he had used the blood to cryptically write the words “ TURN BACK”.
Instead of turning back Trench resolved that whatever terror was inside had to be stopped. He gingerly stepped over the body and turned the handle of the door. The door stuck a little but with a bit more force came open.
Trench stepped within. He had barely shut the door behind him when a vision flashed before his mind. For a moment the building was a wreck with barely it’s supporting beams still standing. The ash that covered everything out in the wastes was here too. Then his vision returned to reality just as quick as it had left. Trench resolved that the vision must have been his fears clouding his mind.
The building really was a house of sorts. The denizen clearly had tons of resources when he still lived. Despite the horrible sight of what lay just outside the door, the interior seemed very clean and tidy. Trench had been born after the war so he had never seen anything quite like it. The chairs still had fabric and the paint had not yet peeled away from the wooden walls.
The only thing that stood to remind him that this was not a perfect remainder of the world gone by was a deep red cloud that seemed to fill the building. It was not like the clouds of white ash that were common in the wastes. Nor did Trench think that it was common in homes before the war. There was a very faint coppery taste to the cloud as it got in Trench’s mouth despite his efforts to hold his breath.
Trench walked through what looked like a kitchen. Immediately overcome by thoughts of using the ancient food to feed people in the wastes he approached the pantry. It was his hope that he would find food unsoiled by the radiation. As soon as he approached the cabinets another vision made it’s way into his vision. This one was of the cabinets falling apart beneath his touch just as countless others had in the ruins that trench had walked. Instead of food he found more ash.
When this vision cleared he faced a different problem than lack of food. The “food” that he found could hardly retain that title. The red cloud had tainted the food and permeated it making it crumble to crimson dust beneath his fingers.
Annoyed by this turn of events but hardly dissuaded Trench determined to keep searching the house for what caused the horror outside. This search brought him to what looked like a living area. The couch looked like it had been made from cotton. This stuff was a precious commodity out in the wastes that people fought over the tiniest scraps of and here was a large family couch just layered with the stuff.
Trench knew he could not carry the couch but he resolved to take some of the cotton with him when he left the house. As he turned away he heard a voice echo within his head.
“Rest, you can help later. Just rest”.
This deeply affected Trench because it was clearly the voice of a girl he once knew named Milly. In all his travels helping people the only thing that had made him ever consider stopping and settling down was that woman. She had succumbed to radiation poisoning about a year after they had met each other.
“Can’t be”, Trench breathed, his voice was raspy from the cloud within the building.
Yet it had to be, That was her voice exactly as he had remembered it. Then he realized how raspy his voice had sounded. He reasoned that she could not have really been there if her voice still sounded normal. Still, he had to test it.
He cleared his throat as best he could and said “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog”.
It was still just as raspy as before so he figured that he must be imagining things. He pressed toward a door that looked like it may lead to a staircase down. He cautiously opened it up to find exactly what he had expected.
He did not expect the corpse at the bottom.
The body, a woman, held the telltale signs of having lived out in the wastes. Like many others the radiation caused areas of her skin to bloat with tiny cancers. This reminded Trench of Milly’s miraculous ability to be unaffected by this. He had thought her to be immune to the radiation until he found out as she died that the radiation was tearing away at her from the inside out.
This body seemed fresh. At the very least fresh enough to still have blood flowing out of her. Trench wanted to do something but knew that he was too late after he felt her cold skin.
Trench looked around this basement room. The walls were a cold grey stone. The red cloud seemed thicker down here and the coppery taste only got worse. Trench strained to see through the cloud as it now filled his vision.
“Rest” The milly sound alike whispered in his mind “Rest and you can continue this later”
Trench did not want to stop. He wanted to find out the mystery of this place and hopefully get out with something to help others with. The fake voice of milly only drove him further toward his goal.
Trench began pushing through the fog toward the other side of the basement. Keeping a hand against the stone wall so he wouldn’t get lost, he walked across carefully. Midway through he hit a point where the wall gave way to reveal a tunnel that had been hewn into the wall.
Trench had been in his share of caves to seek shelter from radiation but this tunnel was unlike those. The ones he had encountered before were always natural formations from the earthquakes after the war but this one was very much human made. It went down into darkness.
Seeing nothing in the home to explore aside from the tunnel before him, he decided to walk in.
Then a new voice screams into his mind. “Stand in reckoning for your feet lie upon the Periphery of Fate!”
This was not the voice of Milly. It was something darker, something more malevolent. Trench did stand for a moment before defiantly continuing deeper. The walls grew narrower and even trench who had been in tunnels and tight spaces countless times before had to admit he felt claustrophobic.
The new voice spoke to him once more. “There is no need to continue, you can rest”.
Trench realized this was in fact still Milly’s voice but now it was distorted into something barely recognizable. Trench still resisted. He would not rest, not when there was work to be done.
The walls opened up suddenly to a small cavern with an obelisk in the center. This Obelisk seemed to absorb what little light had made it into the room. It sucked the light into it’s pitch black surface.
Upon approaching this obelisk Trench heard a cacophony of voices going through his head. The darker voice he had heard before continued to beckon him to rest but a new chorus of quieter voices told him to run away as fast as he can.
For the first time trench thought about going back the way he came and leaving but he could not because his body failed to respond. He tried to stop himself from slumping to the ground as his legs buckled beneath him but he was powerless to prevent it. He tried to use his arms to pull himself back off the ground but they too had lost energy. He fought for his life to keep his eyes open but they too succumbed to the sloth curse.
And then Trench saw Milly again…