Chapter 2: Tragen kind

Chapter 2: Tragen kind

A Chapter by M.R Steiner
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The Tragen, an almost medieval society of animal human hybrids. in this chapter March experiences them firsthand. (reviews and help welcome) this one got a little darker than I intended

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Chapter 2: Tragen Kind

 

I felt like a lamb led to the altar for sacrifice. The Old man had abandoned me and the gate behind was sealed shut, leaving me in that chaotic den of savagery. It was enough to convince me that was his plan all along. I was the tribute not that dismembered finger.

 

With the path behind me blocked and the way forward thick with Tragen I just planted my legs and gazed at the red-clods of dirt by my feet. Each panicked gasp tore at throat with pressure in a cycle of stress that stabbed my lungs as a knife.

 

Every once in a while I looked to the ruined city in the distance and witnessed the sheer scope of the path I stood upon. It sloped in an incline to the edge of the settlement with a sheer drop on either side into a desolate space below. 

 

“What are you?” called a voice.

 

It was high pitched and tiny. I turned around and saw nothing but the scrap gate manned by Tragen who stood at the top on either side.

 

“Over here,” it called again, sounding almost like a young girl.

 

She hung from the side of the path, her fluffy face akin to a cat with big yellow eyes to match. The second I noticed she climbed over from the edge and walked right up to me.

 

“I am Ersat…” I said half-worried she would attack.

 

“Really, I’ve never met an Ersat before.” The tiny Tragen smiled and took a few moments to sniff the air. “You smell funny.”

 

“I’m sorry it must be the sewage.”

 

“No it’s not that, you smell like burning plastic.”

 

Her honesty made me laugh, she seemed almost human.

 

“What are you, if you also don’t mind me asking?”

 

“Silly Ersat, I’m Tragen of course. I live beneath the path with my mother.”

 

I was overcome with a sense of shock from her explanation. Tragen actually had children, it surprised me.

 

“Why don’t you live in the city, surely life is better there?” I noticed her eyes well up with tears the moment I asked. “I’m sorry did I upset you?”

 

“We’re not allowed in the city anymore.”

 

Before I could ask her another question a whisper called up from below. It sounded eerily familiar, like the Wolf who held me down. A surge of adrenaline scared me silent and stiff as I slowly backed away from the Cub as those calls changed into words.

 

“Child, where are you?” it whispered.

 

“It’s my mother, she’s sick…”

 

The memory of that attack pressed against my skull. I dared not even utter another words as I finally turned around and ran for dear life down the path.

 

“Be careful Mrs Ersat,” shouted the child whilst I ran.

 

The towers grew closer and I felt my body tense. Once distant blocky blurs walked past me clear as day, veiled in cloaks as each went about their business. Like the vermin back home they flowed as a river without water. Snouts teeth and mandibles poked out from their hoods, all sniffing and snapping as each pushed their way through one another. The very ground they stamped on upturned into a dust bowl and provoked me into covering my face.

 

The gap on my display did nothing to hide their ferocity, especially when one stopped in front of me. It had green pincer-like hands veiled underneath its robes and stretched an elongated head from the cloak to show a resemblance of a mantis. It’s pink out of place nose sniffed the air as one eye twisted to my direction just before the insect hissed and scuttled off. With or without the hood I was easy to spot.

 

“March…” called out a broken voice inside my head.

 

“Hello?” I spoke out loud.

 

“Crater messing with signal, will try to activate trail, give tribute to Matriarch, ask for grade 1 pain killers and keep covered until you reach-”

 

-His voice cut out but I smiled regardless and thanked the deities he was still there.

 

Another trail appeared on my display for the briefest of moments through the crowd. Before I took a second step it cut out again as another Tragen stood in the way.

 

He too tested the air and looked directly at me with the face of a dog.

 

“Ersat filth, smell of plastic death,” it muttered before walking off.

 

A piercing bell then rung out in the distance and drew my attention to a white spire beyond. It stuck out like a sore thumb compared to the ruins that encompassed the streets, untouched by whatever event ripped up the foundation. Each repeated clang changed the flow of the crowd towards it; out of nowhere a herd of pig toothed creatures funnelled from the wrecks to envelope me in their wake.

 

They grunted as they waddled towards the building, pushing me along without any notice. My real worry was that they would smell me like the others but that mass of walking livestock seemingly granted a sense of anonymity. With their homes up close I found the environment was almost medieval in fashion; they truly rejected technology on every level and lived as animals pretending to be human. From every shattered window either side were hooded merchants shouting their wares, decorated jewellery and pieces of bizarre angular fruit that they exchanged for silver coins with images of an elephant pressed to one side.

 

The building they journeyed towards looked like a church of old. Pillars of brilliant white propped up a cathedral like roof where the single tower continued to echo outwards. Polished marble of the floor dazzled my display; I could not help but follow them to great red open door which led inside. Within I saw decorated silver vines stretching from the stone steeple roof to the bright tiled floor where a raised platform rested the middle. Set all around it were dozens of smooth wooden benches pointed in spherical rows where the Tragen started to sit.

 

I too was forced into the ranks and ended up sat one row from the centre. Once again I felt a panic the moment I noticed how short the creature was in front of me. It left me in full view to watch a Tragen veiled in white robes as he approached the centre platform.

 

“Brother and sisters, Tragen kind and children of the 1st circle, I hope the Founder has blessed your day.” He said, clearly some sort of Priest.

 

“Founder’s blessings,” chanted the crowd.

 

My heart sank when he spoke those words, Founder, the name that wolf mentioned after my eyes were cut out.

 

“My fellow Tragen we should be drowning right now, every one of us should be crushed from the pressure of the water. Who is responsible for this?”

 

“Ersat!” they all stood up and called it a dozen times over.

 

“They took the oceans, our ancestor’s homelands are poisonous mountains and now we drown in their sewage, those pitiful monsters that ran from death and killed this once green and blue earth. I ask you all how can a people who don’t eat, sleep or crap produce this much filth?”

 

The pig next to me began to grunt with laughter along with the crowd before my scent made him cough in disgust. Luckily he seemed unsure of the offending smells origin.

 

“Brothers and sisters you feel the Founders call, it is why you are here in this holy place. You have heard the rumours and noticed those who have disappeared; no doubt you have also listened to the Matriarch’s lies.”

 

His words seemed to split the congregation as each turned to face one another in outrage whilst I remained focussed on the Priest on the middle. His body span in a flurry of cloth as the emotion ran through him like a drug before he stopped the commotion with a mighty roar.

 

“Devolution is what the Matriarch has called it. A disease that turns good Tragen feral is how they describe it, a blight given to us by the Founder’s greatest foe. What his name?”

 

“Engineer!” some screamed in horror at the mere mention of it.

 

“But I know the truth my fellow kindred, Devolution is a gift.”

 

“You’d see us all dead by Ersat machines with talk like that!” called the pig as he stood up next to me. “They’ll do Reclamation like in the old days.”

 

The Priest laughed at his words while the rest threw pieces of food and trash until he sat back down.

 

“Trust a money lender to reject his saviour. Those words come from the Matriarch’s agenda for power, not the teachings of the Founder. Our so-called leader wants us weak so she can rule. Devolution will infuse us with the aspects of all those creatures lost in nature.” He lifted his arms and summoned everyone to stand up.  “Let me see who you all really are.”

 

Each removed their robes to reveal what beastly natures they embodied; it was like an insane zoo as calls of every species erupted. I still sat covered and focused on the priest who dropped his veil to the floor. His body was bright red with the face of a wolf, similar in appearance of the one who attacked me but nowhere near the same size.

 

“Look fellow Tragen, one does not embrace their nature.”

 

His sharpened claw pointed towards me the second he noticed.

 

The room fell silent just as it did beyond the gate. I could do nothing but watch him approach as the others backed off and pulled the bench out of his way. Like the rest he tested the air and backed away with an expression of shock.

 

“Remove your robe.”

 

I kept silent and covered.

 

“I said remove your robe.”

 

The slightest of growls rolled out his mouth. I knew at that moment I was going to die.

 

“I told you to remove the robe, Ersat!”

 

They pinned me face down to the ground as a group of them tore open my hood.

 

“Pale skinned filth, how dare you desecrate this sacred place with your presence.”

 

His foot struck my visor and for a moment my vision vanished; I held back the urge to scream but not by much. It only provoked him to strike me in the stomach as the others hoisted me up.

 

“Why are you here pale-skin, did you displease your masters on the council or are you simply their spy?”

 

“Burn it!” shouted a voice from the crowd.

 

“No, burning is too good for these walking lumps of plastic. I say we hang it up in the square and see how many pieces we can cut off like the last ones.”

 

“Please I’m not Ersat I’m-”

 

-He struck me right in the jaw.

 

“Put it somewhere quiet whilst we prepare.”

 

They dragged me away by my feet, face-forward on the ground through a sea of gnashing teeth. Every single one of them reached out and tore at my clothes in anger. Somewhere along the way I felt the jar roll out onto the floor as one picked it up and showed the crowd in triumph. The dusty paths outside were empty but still made me choke as dust plumed all around. I barely saw a thing until they took me into the basement of a wrecked concrete building close by. As my head hit the steps I saw what hung above. A smell of burning plastic hovered up my nose, it emanated from the severed limbs that dangled above all pale and bloodless. Some still twitched and moved in response; one even grabbed the arm of the reptilian Tragen who held my legs.

 

A single dim light shone above the barred cell they cast me in. The floor was dark but the shadows made it look like an uneven heap. I began to scream the second I realised what they were. White still moving heads cushioned the fall. My fingers rammed into one there mouths as the lips pressed against my skin without a voice. I almost threw up as my boots kicked them away but the reflection of light in their eyes blinked at me regardless. Somehow they were still alive. It made my jailers laugh with delight before they left the room and sealed the door behind them.

 

I waited for what felt like hours with my hands over the visor, overcome by whatever blood filled scenarios my thoughts could conjure.

 

“I’m sorry if we frightened you,” said a voice underneath the pile.

 

A hand reached out from below and cleared the others away to show a partial chest barely connected to a limp yet active head.

 

“You can talk?” I asked.

 

“Alas I am the only one with vocal cords and a working lung.” It wheezed up and down with each laboured word. “Perhaps they will show you mercy and do the same?”

 

“What are they going to do to me?”

               

“You saw the hallway before didn’t you; I thought it would be obvious?”

 

I started to sulk as he made my fate abundantly clear. Some small part my brain was strong enough to delude my common sense in the face of such a horrible end.

 

“I don’t want to die…”

 

“Why would you die?” His face posed a curious expression the moment he uttered the question.

 

“Because I’m not Ersat, I’m human.”

 

“Forgive me it is dark in here, but I’m sure your skin is white and that there is a visor implanted on your face?”

 

“It is, I was attacked and then this Old Man installed it, he made me look like this.”

 

“But if you are human why not tell them; surely it would be an easier fate?”

 

The lock of the door tumbled open to show the scaly faces of my jailers, blank and soulless as snakes. My cellmate went still and quiet as the pair drew closer and pulled me out.

 

They bound my wrists together before forcing me to the surface where the streets had once more swollen with a stationary mob. All of them moved aside as I was forced along the streets to receive a pelting of mud and rotten fruit. I looked on either side and saw nothing but hate and sadistic joy. Truly those savages enjoyed watching me suffer, the cheers only amplified as we came to a stop before an open square. Dozens of buildings rested as dominos with hundreds of animals hung from each window. What awaited me in the centre was a wooden platform with a cage, a noose and a set of shackles suspended in by a beam above it.

 

I tried to run but they just yanked the rope and snapped me to the floor where I was dragged up the steps and forced to my knees for the crowd. Again they cheered and roared as one ripped my hair back to show my face. It only became quiet as the Priest from the temple approached, once more dressed in his flowing white robes.

 

“Tragen kind, today we will have some small measure of justice,” he shouted.

 

His hand gestured to the chains and the guards picked me up. They nearly yanked my shoulders from the sockets as they clasped the shackles around my wrists where I hung with barely a toe touching the floor.

 

“Today we shall see how many layers you can peel from an Ersat before it ceases to the function. First the skin and then the organs, let’s see if anything still works underneath.”

 

His fist collided with my display inducing a scream as I felt the implant recoil in my skull. For a moment the crowd fell silent, shocked that I made such a noise.

 

“Ersat don’t scream,” shouted a voice.

 

The Priest lifted up his veil and looked at me with a confused expression before delivering another punch. Again I screamed and the crowd stayed silent.

 

“Ersat don’t feel pain,” cried another.

 

The Priest took another long look at me before the angered voices turned his attention.

 

“Brothers and sisters do not be fooled; it feigns feeling to save itself. It is all an Ersat trick.”

 

In an instant they tore off what little rags remained and left me exposed to the crowd.

 

“You see now the skin is bleached white with that scent of burning like the rest. I will prove it to you, Ersat don’t bleed.”

 

One of his servants produced a knife and handed it over to the Priest. It glistened in the light as he held it up for inspection, its handle a solid gold hilt with a reflective silver blade.

 

“Please don’t, kill me…” I stuttered.

 

“Let us see together just how far this monster can take the charade.”

 

I pleaded over and over but no one listened, I shouted to the top of my lungs but none of them stopped. Just as before I was forced to watch the blade draw closer, this time next to my bare stomach, helpless as the knife touched my skin and slowly twisted with gentle pressure.

 

“Halt your action Priest!” called a voice seconds before he cut into my guts. “Your Matriarch commands it.”

 

Everyone fell to the floor as a sound of hooves approached. I struggled to see what they were until my implant focussed on a group of horse-like Tragen who stormed through the crowd, their heads lifting and braying whilst they came to a stop. Each propped up a shiny reflective platform on their shoulders adorned with jewellery. Upon it was a throne of animal bones arranged to seat the being I assumed to be the Matriarch. She was covered head to foot in solid gold, a statuesque frame with the features of an elephant. Tusks poked out of a gaudy mask covered in sparkling stones. When her arm extended she revealed a flat foot where fingers should have been.

 

Beside her was the Boar from the gate, in his hands was the preservation jar taken from me in the church.

 

“You do not dispense the laws Priest, for that is the right of our Matriarch. That Ersat has initiated the right of tribute and is protected until our leader says otherwise,” called the Boar.

 

“You grant this abomination rights?”

 

“Ersat or not your Matriarch commands it, cut the pale-skin down and for Founders sake someone put a robe over it.”

 

The clasps flipped open and I fell to the floor, huddled against the planks of wood almost foetal with trauma as a fresh cloak was cast over my body. I waited underneath until a large set of hands scooped me up and carried me away. I realised it was the Boar and peered over his back to see the Priest who nearly gutted me, his attention focused on the knife as he inspected the tiniest drop of crimson blood.

 

Every other Tragen leapt up enraged. Neither the Boar nor his master seemed to care as the crowd still gave us a wide birth. We followed behind the precession past the citizenry to the middle of the crater. The Boar often snorted the air, overcome by the stench I supposedly reeked of. Occasionally the Matriarch would turn with a shudder of her jewellery to see me still wrapped up in his arms. The mask completely covered her face, how she saw anything was a mystery.

 

What awaited us as we came to a stop was a colossal tent propped up by a network of bones. I was gently put down and left to stagger towards the entrance where a small group of veiled Tragen awaited. I only saw their grey fluffy hands which made me jump a mile when one touched my shoulder and led me inside. They brought me through hide canvas hallways to a circular room where a tiled pool of clear water steamed a sweet aroma on the surface. Not since the church had I witnessed such splendour, bleached skulls decorated each corner as plumes of scented smoke erupted from burning sticks within.

 

“Please wash,” said the servant as she left.

 

At first I thought it was some kind of trick. Only moments ago I was hanging naked in front of a crowd ready to be skinned alive, now those same beasts wanted me to clean myself up. It felt like they were preparing for me for a ritual that demanded a freshly bathed victim.

 

The tempting sight still overcame my judgement and I removed the robe to see the dark bruises on my chest contrasted to the bleached skin. Just below my ribs was the tiniest of cuts where the knife had stopped short of the final assault. The dried blood flaked away as I ran the tip of my finger against it and relived the memory. The look in his feral eyes as he realised there was blood on the blade sent a cold shiver up my spine. Ersat or human I was sure either would get me killed.

 

Those thoughts were washed away the moment I stepped into the water and completely submerged myself up to the nose. There I played a dangerous game of balance to keep my visor away from the liquid. It was an acceptable risk; I never felt anything like it before. There were no chunks of dead vermin, no putrid green oils, only a sublime warming comfort that washed the filth away and gave me my fill to drink.

 

When more of those servants entered the room I stupidly dove right under out of reaction and expected my vision to burn out or electrocute me. However it kept working regardless as I waited with lung full of air until I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I erupted from the bath and wiped the glass of my display before noticing one of them had left a set of grey garments and robes nearby. Both felt smooth to the touch and shimmered in the light as I climbed out to put them on, another level comfort I had never experienced.

 

“Where are my shoes?” I said to myself.

 

They had taken everything I was wearing away including the boots; it left me barefoot upon the cold surface as the low breeze ran over my dripping wet feet.

 

“Your footwear is being repaired, follow me,” called the Boar stood beyond the doorway.

 

He took a great sniff of his nose as I stepped in front of him before coughing with a familiar disgust.

 

“I’m sorry if the water didn’t help.”

 

He didn’t reply, instead the Boar led me to a large hall where a great fire raised its flames to an open gap in the roof, surrounded by a dozen more animals skulls. Sat at the end was the Matriarch who was perfectly still upon a cushioned platform with her arms outstretched in the air. The gold and jewels reflected the embers light into jetted rainbow shadows as I approached. She did not move a muscle, out of curiosity I crept closer until we were almost face to face. The tusks jutted out at either side of me as I leaned in to look at the mask.  It occurred to me I had seen such a creature before in one of the torn pages, a many armed elephant in a circular frame.

 

“Ersat!” called a voice from within.

 

I backed away and fell to the floor as she began to stand up. First the Matriarch removed the gauntlets I thought were hands to reveal thin a thin set of claws. Next the chest pieces dropped to the ground, displaying a red robe underneath similar to mine in design. And lastly she unclipped the back of her mask and pulled it away to show a face more akin to a bear than an elephant. It struck me how different she was compared to the rest. She was still a Tragen but the Matriarch possessed a face and build similar to myself than that of her subjects.

 

“Do I surprise you Ersat, is this the first time you have met a Matriarch?” She stood above me with a look of regal confidence as I continued to lay on the ground, awestruck by her unique nature, “Why do you not respond Ersat?”

 

“Forgive me Matriarch, your armour made you look completely different.”

 

“Did you really think I was an Elephant? Such a ridiculous notion of course, after all your kind wiped them out along with everything else on this circle. And you were there weren’t you?” She walked to the side of the room and ran her hand against an ornamental skeleton. “You were there when the last one died out, when your Masters on the council killed almost every creature on earth.” She turned back around to face me with a bizarre look of joy. “I’m sorry but this is the first time I’ve talked to an Ersat, they are usually cut up in the square before there is a chance.” With a click of her claws she summoned the Boar who placed the preservation jar in front of me. “For now we shall gloss over how you knew about our right of tribute and address my primary concern. Where did you get this relic?”

 

“I found it the sewer whilst hunting for Vermin.”

 

“What are Vermin?”

 

“Fluffy creatures I used to-” Then I remembered that Ersat don’t eat. “-That I used for my experiments…”

 

“We call them the Founder’s bounty.”

 

She spoke the name with such reverence just as the priest did. The Old Man told me the Founder was gone but whatever legacy she left lived on through the Tragen. It left me uneasy and full of questions I could not ask.

 

“I shall be honest with you Ersat; my servant’s believe it highly dubious that you stumbled on an 800 year old jar this deep in the circle. And now I realise that a finger is missing from your hand.”

 

“Life down here is cruel Matriarch, I wouldn’t dream of tricking any of your people, all I ask in return are pain killers for my experiments.”

 

“A matter we shall discuss tomorrow at the banquet, though it is more of a formality since your stomach dried up long ago. Now the hour is late and I require rest. My servant will show you back to your room.”

 

I stood up and nervously bowed. It was something the Matriarch seemed unprepared for as she gave the slightest of laughs and shook her head in disbelief.

 

The boar seemed angrier at my gesture than amused as he led me back to my room. He stood with barely a glance at me, his hand gestured towards the doorway.  

 

“Thank you for saving me,” I said as I slowly walked inside.

 

“You think I saved you Ersat?” His voice kicked up in huff behind me. “If it were my choice you would have been burned at the gates.”

 

He stormed off and left me to my own devices as I paced around the room until the shock of his words wore off. In those first seconds of relief I felt a pit in my stomach; I hadn’t eaten for the better half of a day. I dared not even sleep for fear of those animals finding me unconscious or snoring. Regardless of the comfort it would have been insane to feel safe.

 

“March…” The Old Man’s voice spoke through my implant in a hazy field of familiar static. “Get out now, Reclamation is coming!”


COMING SOON, chapter 3: Reclamation



© 2016 M.R Steiner


Author's Note

M.R Steiner
running edits/rewrites for the completed book atm, if you see a spelling or grammar error please point it out as I am dyslexic. will post the rest of act 1 as my rewrites of the book get to an acceptable level. sorry if this one isn't yet :D thanks for reading. let the Founder into your heart :)

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Added on August 2, 2016
Last Updated on August 2, 2016
Tags: future, distopia, dark, augmented reality, animals, hybrids, tragedy, scifi, hurt


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M.R Steiner
M.R Steiner

a terrible city, an even more terrible region, United Kingdom



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