An Ending

An Ending

A Story by Gar Avoch

A small group of survivors in a cold cold time face extinction



The spring above the waterfall froze that winter. It was cold. Coldest by far in the thirty years I recall. The children marvelled at the blue-green colour in the hummock of ice which had once been a fountain. They danced around it and sang a song they’d made about an ice man.
Donal visited me a week after the crops had been decimated by spring snows, and day after sunny day of sub-zero temperatures. His gaze reflected stark rows of blackened bean plants, glazed eyes stared at the dead crop. Even I was well beyond willing them to turn green and grow.
‘Half of us must leave,’ he said, expressionless.
‘I know,’ I nodded, meeting his steady gaze, needing no explanation.
‘Tonight,’ he added.
I nodded. He turned and walked back toward the clutter of huts. Thick low walls and snowy thatched roofs leaned into dark cliffs.
The council met that evening. Huddled around a scanty fire at the lookout post above the high fields. They spoke their fears. We decided on who would leave and how, it would be the next day. Some of the council resolved to depart, many had partners or children who would be cast out. Perhaps they thought they could survive.  Spectres leaped, starving flames fluttered as we parted, pushing through knife cold air. The frozen fountain seemed to dance with shadows, our first idol to winter. Ice. A bad omen.
In the spring sunshine of the following day, sorrow was shared, yet never softness. As suspected there was a fight. Foreknowledge had armed us well, spears helped too. Several men who would never leave served to quell further dissent. Besides, all knew no other options were available, even those leaving. Had I dreamed of the winters to follow, perhaps I too would have gone. I  like to think I would have walked across the snow-covered fields toward the forest and into the empty lands beyond.
*      *      *
Today a stranger arrived.
Eighty years since Malcolm, Donal and the council split the tribe. The weather has grown colder and colder. We are hunters, there is no seed for crops, and anyway, some years one winter merges with the next.
He was brought to me, for only I recall the old knowledge, including the language he speaks. The stranger told of crossing a frozen ocean and of how his people lived underground. I marvelled at hearing of crops grown below the ground, some even in darkness.
Could he take us to collect seed, to see how they were prospering whilst we were dying. I asked him.
‘Your fresh blood would be welcome,’ was his brief reply.
‘Yet we need help or we will perish,’ I pleaded. ‘Every year our numbers diminish.’
‘There is no way you can survive here,’ he held my eyes as he spoke. ‘Within a few years your tribe will be gone. I‘ve seen this happen before.’
‘You will not help?’
‘All are welcome to come back with me,’ he replied. ‘Yet I fear your hunters will refuse.’
I spoke to the council of hunters that evening and was almost killed for suggesting we leave. No-one would leave. They would continue to survive. They are so confident and yet so wrong.
I farewelled the stranger yesterday and that night went to my sleeping pallet, hoping as always I would sleep deeply and never again waken in this cold, cold hell……

© 2009 Gar Avoch

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One of those stories that you have to read several times to pick up the subtext--is it the far future where a few struggle to survive in a nuclear winter, or telling a tale from the distant past when the ice sheets slide down from the north . . . .Very good. Subtle conflict and resolution.

Nicely done. Pat yourself on the back.

Posted 12 Years Ago

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Added on March 20, 2009
Last Updated on March 20, 2009


Gar Avoch
Gar Avoch

Mount Egerton, Victoria, Australia

Moved from my mountain home, it's still back north, down to the colder goldfields in Victoria. Followed my heart. Studying writing and editing, hopefully this will begin to reflect in what I produce. more..