Days of Volan

Days of Volan

A Story by VALORMORE DE PLUME
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Dystopia: Remnant humans start anew.

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Days of Volan

From the

Mindscapes

Of

Valormore

 

           Volan leans back against the irregular surface to rest after smashing the cardboard boxes into the corner of the dumpster, forming the likeness of a recliner. At least, this first dry spot in days, may allow him to sleep while the boxes wick the moisture from his clothing. Exhaustion ushers him back to memories from long before the stars fell like a cloud of burning locus. Images of good times with his wife and daughter play in his head, until a thunderous explosion reignites the horror of his situation.

           Many days now, without any cries or moaning from under the debris of toppled structures, remove hope for Volan of finding another living being. Those he did manage to uncover did not survive for long and despite his best efforts secondary infection led to death in a short time. Volan examines the gashes and cuts on his legs and arms, and wonders why they don’t turn green like those of the victims he encounters.

           Lifting the dumpster’s lid, just enough to peek out, reveals a large wall of fire propelled by high winds bearing down on his location while the rain continues to pound against the steel box. He’s almost dry now, for the first time in four days. Unwelcome thoughts of trudging through the mud and sliding from one mud hole to another, take a backseat to the inferno rushing to consume everything in its path.

           He escapes to the next block through a long narrow alley, framed by two high-rise office buildings, before they explode.

           He’s been to the shoreline, where multiple tsunamis took away the manmade structures leaving barren bedrock formations in place of coastal cities. Wandered through the once fertile valleys in search of survivors. The mountain forests, now in flames, did not yield the food or companionship he hoped it would.

           Still, when Volan considers the utter devastation he has seen over the past few months he is thankful.

He manages to come across enough food and clean water to sustain him and despite his cuts and bruises, he is in good health with no signs of the sickness. He attributes this to his faith in God’s promise to never leave or forsake him.

           He hungers for looking into a pair of human eyes that are not intent on killing him for the meat on his bones. To this point, seven have perished at his hand, for sake of not becoming a meal or trophy of the roving cannibalistic madness.

           Volan prays to find others, like himself, who may gather and support each other in a common goal of survival. Perhaps this is the reason he is alive. For now, each day is a miracle bringing him closer to that end, as he continues toward the desert.

           Most days are spent searching for food and water. Some days raise the hackles. Rare to encounter others.

           Volan’s sturdy frame and rugged appearance spark fear in most eyes. He supposes the timid avoid him. Those who draw near are assumed to be enemies. Volan holds his ground, warning them off. In all cases, to this point, confrontations are never just one opponent. His military training enables him to vanquish all who refuse to back away.

            Many months pass without encountering people. The hostile desert requires special training. Two tours of duty in Afghanistan prepped Volan for desert survival.

            Tracks capture his attention. Humans. He wonders if they are good people. He follows with care, moving at night. Drawing a little closer each day.

~*~

Slapping with fervor, to dislodge driven grit, his wide brimmed straw hat also stirs a heavy cloud. Heavier grains amass at his feet. Fine alkaline dust lingers with its stinging bite. Wasting some water into his handkerchief, first the eyes and ears, before the face. If not dry, perhaps, on to the neck.

Today’s second half ruined, by random atmospheric discharges which could have been much worse. This small setback will require a long sprint. Night temperatures and the flat wasteland, should allow Volan to get closer to the others, unless another electrical storm pops up.

He thinks of the monster swarms and of how they bury entire towns beneath a three-hundred-foot-high debris dune. The sand is granulated everything. Animal, vegetable, mineral, all are reduced to coarse, dry, grit by the plasma discharges.

Keen on reading tracks and signs, Volan estimates the group he’s following is a medium size family unit with at least one good hunter. He figures, three adults and over a dozen young people.

For weeks now, he sees everything they leave behind. It was the doll. The first thing he found was that doll. It looked so familiar. Could it be?

Serious doubts interrupt memory’s hope.

Funny how hours of running stirs up the past. They call it the past because it is gone, dead, not here.

He stops.

Heart pounding, he takes a few steps while catching his breath.

Campfire. In the distance, a blur at best. More than that, a glow.

He squats.

They’re in a small grove of trees. Maybe a spring. Best not get excited.

Can’t come up on them out of nowhere.

Circling around, to the direction they are heading, will let them come up on him after they’re rested.

Volan longs for human contact. He hopes to convince them he is an asset to their survival and join their clan. He also knows, they might be slavers, human traffickers, or cannibals.

Requiring the majority of this night’s moonless dark, he remains unseen while positioning himself on their most likely path.

Glimpses, shadow-play for the most part, indicate the group may be larger than expected. Perhaps, others were here in the grove before them, or joined after their arrival. No tracks of others observed while skirting this stand of trees.

Too late to erase his tracks and disappear into the distance.

Volan sits on a sandy rise, small pack at his side, concealed pistol at the ready, he waits.

Lighter now. He sees some of the children moving about, among the trees. Preteens to late teens. They appear happy and oblivious to danger.

He takes this as a sign of a family clan, rather than slavers. Surprised they take no notice of him, he stands, waiting.

A loud high-pitched scream causes them to scurry into thicker cover.

Volan moves closer.

Among the trees now, moving from one to another, he draws closer still.

The group is huddled together, facing inward, while the wailing shrieks continue.

He peers from behind a large tree, at the scene before him. It sounds like they are carving pieces from a victim.

Two sharp points, one at his right-side ribs, the other at his neck, reveals the presence of two eighteen-ish young lads.

Volan could overpower them with ease, yet he surrenders, dropping his gun.

They make him sit, binding his hands and feet. They return to the perimeter of the glade as the group remain huddled around the screamer.

The screaming stops, with the sound of a baby’s birthing cry.

A few moments of jubilation, until the jubilant faces turn ferocious as they surround Volan.

He remains calm, as pre-teen boys poke at him with sticks. They begin to poke with more force, until an old woman stands.

She waves to them, shooing them back a few feet. A middle-aged man and a another, perhaps twenty, carrying crude spears, flank Volan. The old woman draws close, peering into his eyes.

Volan too, assesses her intent.

“You’ve been following our scouts for many days. We’ve been watching you, for weeks. You are a good hunter. You have weapons, yet you did not attack. What made you come in so close?”

“In my bag. It was the doll.”

A girl, about twelve, moves in snatching his bag. She dumps it out at the old woman’s feet, returns to her place in the circle, sitting with legs folded beneath her.

“My little girl had one, almost the same. Before the plasma discharges started. She was three. I went hunting. Came back with a small deer, plenty of food for the three of us. The old delivery truck, we were using for shelter, vaporized, with them inside. She’d be six now.”

“I don’t trust him. He’s a liar,” says the middle-aged man.

The old woman examines his gun. Three live rounds and three spent rounds. No spare ammo.

“You hunt with this?” asks the old woman.

“No. Snares, mostly.”

“How many others have you seen, lately?”

“No others for months. All those were cannibals or slavers.”

“You used the gun on them?”

“My knife. Bullets are hard to come by.”

“We should kill him,” says the younger man.”

He puts the point of the sharpened stick against Volan’s back.

Volan spins, disarming the young man. Breaking the primitive spear, he throws it to the ground. He sits on the ground, in front of the old woman.

The people begin to close in around him.

Volan continues eye contact with the old woman.

She bellows a command to the people.

“Stop. Sit. Listen.”

They do as she said.

“What is your name?”

“I am Volan.”

“What do you want from us?”

“Escape from solitude.”

“Why should we help you?”

“I am here to help you.”

“How will you help us?”

“Eight months ago, I found some caves, near here. They are safe from the plasma discharges. There is fresh water and lead in many directions to acquire food.”

“Why would we trust you?”

“You are wise to trust no one.”

“Why would you help us?”

“Loneliness, is killing me. I miss my family. I miss being the provider and protector.”

“The people begin to chant in unison, “Kill him. Kill him. Kill him.”

Their vote is unanimous.

His thoughts turn to his wife and young daughter. The excitement in their smiles, when he returns from hunts or patrols. The comfort of their soft arms embracing him as they sleep. The way Yola’s pulse would quicken, when his kisses moved up her neck. The way Ila would stand on his foot while clinging to his leg, when he started to leave.

Head down, indifferent to the angry chants, he drifts away to thoughts of them in heaven, waiting for his return.

He thinks of the maniacs he had to slay, along the way, and how easy it would be to subdue this group.

He believes they are the last remnant of humanity, clinging to the old ways. He can see how fragile their hope is. He sees the vulnerability of this oasis, to the plasma storms, and the futility of their resolve to remain in this place.

He feels the adrenaline churning within, about to boil over. Volan will not allow himself be the cause of their demise.

He wrestles between his moral code and survival instincts. He is unsure which way it will go, if they attack him.

His thoughts drift back to when Yola was birthing. He was never so afraid. Unfamiliar helplessness engulfed him for the first time.

Unable to bear the thought of losing both, all he could do was pray and wait.

The screaming stopped.

His heart plummeted into despair.

Ila’s first cry brought a smile to his face.

What of Yola? Too quiet in there, now. 

He remembers the relief when hearing her beckon, “Volan.”

“Volan. Look at me.”

Yola becomes a dissipating mist.

“Volan.”

Unwelcome reality returns to him. The old woman’s voice softens as he looks into her eyes once more.

“My name is Aural. Tell me more about the caves and the food you speak of.”

She gestures for her people to move away. Lookout’s return to their posts. Those remaining, youngsters for the most part, huddle round about Aural, with untrusting eyes fixed on Volan. The middle-age man sits off to his left, having Volan’s firearm.

“For now, there is abundant food, if you know where to look, and plenty of fresh water. Caves branch out for miles, in many directions, with openings to the surface at varied distances. I have no idea how far they may extend. For the most part the temperature is moderate, except the ice cave beneath that mountain peak over there.”

He points to the highest peak to the west.

“Liam is our hunter. He will take Jade and Asa, with you, for verifying your claims. If you are lying, they will put an end to you. Your hands will remain bound until you prove yourself. Do you agree to these conditions?”

“I agree. But you should all come with us. This oasis is not safe.”

Aural studies him a moment, discerning what she can of him.

“We are aware of the danger. This place used to be much larger, covering miles in all directions. The plasma eats what it wants and for some reason, leaves us with this small grove for now. How many days will it take to make the round trip?”

“About three days. Most of one day out. One day, perhaps a little more in the caves to see the truth in my words, and the trip back.”

“You will leave now. The day is young. I see your inner light Volan. It will require more than that, before Liam trusts you.”

“I’ll need my bag, with the things I carry with me, including the knife. You can refill my water bag, since you felt the need to empty it. The doll, is for that girl.”

He points to the girl who dumped the bag in front of Aural.

“You are perceptive Volan. How did you know it wasn’t one of the younger girls?”

“Her eyes betrayed her. I presume she lost her first child, recently.”

He turns his attention to the girl.

“You made it for the baby you were carrying.”

The girl wipes a tear away, maintaining a cold resolve.

Liam hands Volan his backpack.

“You won’t be needing your wrists bound,” says Liam.

Volan strides away to the west. Liam walks beside him. Jade and Asa hang back a few paces on either side.

Half a day passes before Volan stops at the opening of a narrow canyon. He crouches in a narrow shadow, close to some high rocks, signaling for the others to pause with him.

“We will be vulnerable from above, for the next couple hours. I haven’t seen anyone in this area in a long time. You never let your guard down, if you want to live. I did see a cougar near hear. Lots of snakes around and scorpions too. Stay on high alert.  Be quiet. Even the sound of our footsteps can betray us. You will see what is left of a man’s body in a while. He covered himself with sand and sprang out at me, several months ago. It was him or me. Be prepared for anything. Whatever you do, don’t waste the ammo.”

Liam nods in agreement. Jade and Asa appear uneasy. Volan is glad to see this, it will heighten their focus on sounds and movement.

Wind causes sand to trickle in continuous streams, loosening pebbles and small rocks that clunk and ping as they tumble. They make their way with caution as they follow Volan.

Coming upon scattered bones, Jade kneels to lift a human skull.

Volan grabs the back of his heavy shirt, jerking him to his feet.

Asa, charges Volan, with spear at the ready.

Volan maintains his grip on Jade, as he snatches the spear from Asa with ease.

Liam points the gun, in reaction to Volan’s aggressive movements.

Volan inserts the butt end of the spear into the eye socket of the skull, while forcefully pushing Jade into Asa. Both fall to ground several feet away from the boney head.

He flings the head against the rocks. A small deadly snake emerges and strikes at Volan. Using the blunt end of the pointed stick, he smacks the snake pinning it to the ground. With caution, he grabs the snake just behind the head.

Tossing the stick to the ground, he sits, with snake in hand. He smiles a wide grin.

With his knife he removes the head and slits the long belly. Pulling away the scaly hide, he removes the innards with his hands.

He takes several bites of raw snake meat and offers the rest to the others.

Liam takes several bites, before handing it to the boys. Asa holds it close to nose, wrinkling his face in disgust. Jade snatches it away, taking several bites.

“This creeping critter was about to dispatch me. Now it will keep me alive instead.”

Asa refuses to partake.

“We need to move along, before the smell of blood attracts red wasps. They are as deadly as the snake.”

Volan wipes his hands with sand to remove the blood, motioning for the others to do the same.

As evening draws near, they come to an area where the high walls of the narrow canyon are fractured. Deep side canyons appear as a maze of grand proportion. Volan takes a left, into one such crevasse. Soon they come to a huge tree, blocking the way. Liam is about to make a disparaging remark, when Volan begins to climb the tree with haste.

“Come along now.”

Jade and Asa look to Liam with concern.

“Come along now. We are almost there.”

Liam begins to climb and the young men follow.

Thirty feet above, near the top of the tree, where the high walls dwarf the huge tree, Volan waits. As they get close, Volan disappears into an opening in the rock. His voice echoes.

“Come on now. We are here.”

The opening is small. Inside, it opens to a great cavern. Sunlight enters through multiple fissures, revealing a great wonder. Wide veins of gold and others with crystal formations, reflect the sunlight. A small stream creates a miniature waterfall. Volan stands in the flow, rinsing off the dust and drinking his fill. The others do likewise. A wide variety of edible plants thrive within this tremendous cavern. Ava and Jade are elated. They find many good things to satisfy their hunger.

“How did you find this place? How is it so many varieties of plants are in this cave?

“It was not like this when I found it Liam. I’ve been adding every type of food that could be rescued from my travels.”

“Why did you make us eat the snake, when you knew this was waiting?” asks Jade.

“Meat is more difficult to come by. I could have made a fire here, to cook the meat, but that small snake would have spoiled before getting here.”

Volan lights some torches and they begin to explore further.

They follow the stream of water as it meanders through miles of fractured mountain. Much of the way is through the narrow network of fissures. Although, in a few places the path widens into lush wooded areas of many acres.

Volan points to alternate trails, leading to deep caves whose expanse knows no end.

After a long while they arrive at a grand waterfall with a huge pool containing fish and water plants.

He ushers them behind the falls, into a honeycomb of connecting grottoes.

“There is ample room and food here for all of you to thrive. Do you think Aural will be pleased?”

Jade and Asa display wide smiles, appearing quite enchanted. Liam is humbled by Volan’s willingness to share this secret wonderland.

“My suspicion was ill founded Volan. I believe Aural is able to see into people. What she saw in you filled her with hope. I’m ashamed to say, I thought only of killing you, for most of this journey. I’m glad I was wrong about you.”

“Were I in your place, I would feel the same. This is your duty, to protect the people, our last hope for a new beginning. There are many more wonders within this labyrinth of caves. If you have seen enough, we shall dine on fish and salad tonight. In the morning, at first light, we will go, with what food we can carry, and gather the others.”

Asa and Jade pack their mouths with fresh cooked fish. Volan warns them to watch for bones.

Loud howls echo through the expanse, causing Volan’s guests to recoil at the ferocity.

“What is that?”

“Sounds close.”

“Some sort of mutations. They are not as big as they sound, but they hunt in packs, like wolves, but not wolves…”

“I don’t know what they are. I call them screamers.”

“Will they attack us, in our sleep?”

“Don’t worry Asa. They live up top, for the most part. They howl like that as territorial displays. I believe their main food source is rodents.”

“What do they look like and how big are they?”

“They’re small like a terrier Jade. I’ve caught glimpses of them, as they always run away. They have dark brown fur, like a mane around their shoulders and neck. The rest of the body and head are hairless with black skin. Their footprints are like a canine with thumbs. I presume they can climb trees too. They are noisy tonight because you three are strangers to them. Think of them as security alarms.”

The screamers soon become quiet again. Sleep arrives as a welcome friend in this place of safety. Volan stirs them to wakefulness before first light. They gather food plants into cloth sacks and make their way back to the oasis.

~*~

“Something is wrong.”

“What is it Liam?”

“I don’t see the lookouts, Volan.”

Jade and Asa appear apprehensive. They squat, looking in all directions.

“Spread out,” says Volan. “We make an easy target when we’re bunched up.”

They diverge, to enter the trees from different directions.

They meet in the center, finding no signs of the others.

“We need to circle around the perimeter to locate tracks coming in and out of the area.”

Doing as Volan suggests, they discover the trail of exodus.

“Why would they all leave?” asks Asa.

“Look here,” says Volan. “There are at least three sets of large footprints. One at the front. One at the rear, and the other off to the side.”

“Someone captured them. We need to follow before the wind erases the trail.”

“I agree Liam. We need to get ahead of them and set a trap. They are heading east. Lots of open territory between us. They will see us coming. They will turn north, for water. We can beat them to the water and set a trap, by using the caves.”

“The caves are a day away. By the time we get to the caves they will be two days ahead of us and we could miss them.

“Not if we sprint Liam. We know where they are going and I promise we will get there first. Leave the food here and carry only water.”

They sprint for many hours, stopping for water breaks, reaching the caves in half a day. Volan leads them through several caves, arriving at the spring with time to spare.

“Jade, go up there on high ground and let us know when you see them. Asa, I want you to hide among those rocks over there. When Liam and I attack, you will come up from behind them. Liam, you take the gun. Hide in the rocks on the other side over there. Take out the leader, with the gun. I will attack the middle man. You and Asa will overpower the third man. Jade, you will show our people the way to the caves. No matter what happens to us, get our people into the caves.”

Jade ascends to a clear vantage point. He spots Aural and the others in the distance. Casting a rock toward Asa he captures his attention, motioning to join him.

Volan and Liam ascend as well.

“Slavers?”

“Yes Asa,” says Liam.

“This is really bad,” says Jade.

“Not as bad as cannibals,” says Volan.

“No, I mean, look way over there.”

He points in the other direction, to a grand caravan in the distance.

Volan assesses the distances of the two groups, knowing the timing will be close.

“I have an idea,” says Volan.

“There must be at least thirty or forty people in the caravan,” says Asa. “They have guns and horses. We don’t stand a chance.”

“We have to do something to help our friends,” says Jade.

“We’re outnumbered,” says Liam. “If we get killed, we won’t help anyone.”

“Most of the people in the caravan are prisoners,” says Volan. “I counted five men, plus the three coming in from the other direction. Just like our group, the majority in their group are children.”

“Exactly,” says Liam. “We can’t attack. We need to hide and live to fight another day.”

“No. We need a diversion,” says Volan. “The caravan is an hour away if they sprint. I suggest we have Asa and Jade allow themselves to be seen by walking out in the open, toward our group of friends. When they are sure they’ve been spotted, they will run back here, where you and I will ambush the men. They will leave at least one with the group. We can take out the first two, dress in their clothing and pretend to be bringing back two new slaves. I will pretend to be injured in the struggle with the lads, in order to keep my head down and Liam will walk backwards with both eyes on Asa and Jade. By the time we get close enough for the one remaining man to recognize us, it will be too late for him to stop us.”

“That might just work,” says Liam.

“We need to do this without the gun, and disarm the others before they use their guns. Once we hide our people in the caves, we will plan out a rescue for the others.”

~*~

Jade and Asa descend the high ground fifty yards to the left of the entry to the water hole. They pretend to be disorientated and near death, as they make their way to the box canyon and the water. They kick up a cloud of dust as they help each other struggle to make their way.

They are noticed. Two of the three men begin pursuit. Jade pretends to fall and Asa starts dragging him into the canyon.

As per plan, Jade plays dead about twenty feet in, and Asa lays on the ground thirty feet farther in, continuing to crawl toward the water.

~*~

Two slavers reach the entry, pausing to evaluate the scene. They scan the hillsides, seeing no one. They smile to each other.

Asa is at the water’s edge, splashing water on his face, while Jade remains motionless.

One man runs past Jade toward Asa. The other moves toward Jade with caution.

Volan throws a rock, knocking out the man about to skewer Jade with his sword.

The other man turns toward the commotion.

Liam runs in, wrestling him to the ground and breaks his neck.

Volan finishes off the other.

Trading clothes, they continue the plan of dragging two new slaves, toward the small group.

The children begin to cry.

“They caught Asa and Jade.”

Their guard laughs at them.

He lashes the closest with his whip, commanding them all to sit, as he strides toward the others.

He taps Liam on the shoulder, offering to help with dragging Jade. When he bends to grab Jade, Jade plunges a knife into the man’s chest. Liam finishes him with a knife to the spine at the neck, next to the skull, and the lifeless body drops to the ground.

Volan quiets the group.

“There is no time for rejoicing my friends. There is a caravan coming, to meet your captors here at the water hole. Asa and Jade will show you to safety in some caves. Liam and I will hide your tracks and the bodies. We will join you later.”

“Wouldn’t it be better for you to come with us?” asks Aural

“We need to lead them away,” says Liam. “They could stay here for days or weeks, near the water. Eventually they might find the caves. We can’t risk that.”

Aural’s apprehension pools in her eyes as she looks at Volan.

“I know this area well Aural. We will lead them away and lose them in the labyrinth of canyons. We might be a while. We intend to free the others.”

“What others?”

“They have about thirty children with them.” Says Liam.

“What will we do if you don’t come back?”

Jade sees Aural’s attraction to Volan. He pulls Aural close, redirecting her gaze.

Her eyes remain pleading, as she turns to join the others.

Asa covers the entrance with branches and brush, after Aural enters. He can hear Liam dusting the tracks away, on the other side.

He turns his focus to placing boulders in the entry. The children assist, making short work of it.

“It’ll be dark soon,” says Jade. “We can’t stay here. Stay close. If someone needs to stop, we all stop. Stay together.

Asa leads the way.

Jade follows behind everyone.

They make their way, following the cues and clues provided by Volan.

The Screamers begin their chorus of anarchy, causing the children a predictable fright.

“I won’t let them get you,” says Asa. “Keep moving. Be quiet. Don’t worry, Jade has your back.”

Jade hears these comments, opening a wide grin.

Jade is glad to hear the screamers. He knows their secret. They eat the rodents that would eat the gardens. Also glad the children are quiet and moving at a good clip. His thoughts leap ahead to the small forest, they soon will be in.

Aural asks, “Is that trees I smell?”

Asa turns a corner, calling back to the group.

“Check this out everyone.”

His bellow echoes through the wooded expanse.

As they turn the corner, each set of peepers pop wide with glee.

“I knew Volan was special, when I looked in his eyes for the first time,” says Aural.

Asa and the children share warm smiles, as they take in the wonder before them.

Jade reminds Asa, they need to press on to the garden area.

“I’ll take the lead for a while,” says Jade “We still have a way to go.”

Asa brings up the rear, where he studies the sounds around him.

Individual clans of Screamers have different calls. These, in this forest, are not so shrill as the ones living in the rocky fissures. In the trees, some sound like wolves at times, or like whooping apes at other times.

Through the forest, into more caves, through another smaller forest, and on to the maze of fissures.

They arrive at Volan’s gardens with plenty of light remaining. Asa instructs the children to wash in the tiny waterfall. Afterward, he shows them to where burning hot sunlight enters through cracks with full intensity, for drying in moments.

“I’m going to catch some fish for dinner,” says Jade.

“I want to come along,” says Aural. “You children stay here with Asa. Pick us a salad to go with the fish.”

Jade leads the way.

Aural follows in silence.

With tremendous thrust, water gushes from the wall, arching into some unknowable abyss, of its own making. The great falls disappears into a place that is void of time. Sometimes, echoes play within her foggy froth.

Aural and Jade stand in awe, of the vanishing water, as it spills over the edge of the pond into a crevice.

“I see the way you look at Volan.”

“Say what you are feeling Jade.”

“I don’t blame you. Volan’s seed will produce strong children.”

“Oh, that may be true, but my days of making children are behind me Jade.”

“Even the youngest girls look at him that way.”

“You must admit, he appears to have promise as a provider for the group. The children see his softness, when he looks on them. That is the look of a father, for his child. Volan is a good man. He is an asset to our survival.”

Jade looks at his feet, at a loss for words.

“You are drawn to him too Jade. Why does this trouble you?”

“Something stirs inside when I look into his eyes. Not the love for a father, although I never knew my father. I want to feel his arms around me and surrender everything to him. Yet, I live a lie.”

“I have been aware of your secret, since the day we found you, broken and without hope.”

“But, how….”

Trailing off, embroiled in thought.

“You will not be able to continue your deception, for much longer Jade. Your body will betray you.”

“I know. I feel safer as a boy. You don’t know what it was like, before you found me. I was a victim too many times to count. After the last man ravaged me and I crushed his head with a rock, I began the deception, living on the offensive. His knife became my claim to manhood. I used it on many, at the first hint of being found out, before they got the notion.”

“I feel your pain Jade. All women share your agony. Few have the courage to live as a man. I am proud of your determination. You will begin to flower soon, unable to hide your femininity. Time will assist you in winning Volan’s heart. No need to rush into change.”

“What of the others, in the caravan? What if he falls in love with someone else?”

“Men guard their hearts closely. It is our duty to find our way in. Volan is a hero, with virtue. None will steal his heart, for he is still in love with his dead wife and vanished child. That scar is deep and bleeds to this day. You will not need to worry about any other woman. You may never win his heart, my dear Jade. You need to be true to your true nature. If you have any chance at all, it will be through your femininity. Take your time, revealing your secret. All too soon, it will be obvious.”

They use a small net to capture enough fish for everyone, returning with their bounty.

After eating, fading light gives way to dark moonless shadows, and the Screamers seem to be in an extravagant turmoil, sending chilblains through the group.

The children look to Asa, having said, not to worry about the screamers. They see his worried expression, heightening their fear.

“Take defensive positions everyone,” says Jade. “Someone must have followed us.”

Asa takes an attack stance at the tunnel opening. Jade joins him, spear in hand.

Aural gathers the children around her in the darkest shadows, urging silence.

Screamers intensify. Sounds are closer now.

Asa turns to Jade.

“Stay here. If you hear gunfire, get everyone over to the great falls and hide behind it, in the grottoes.”

Asa begins to run toward the intruders, while shouting loud growling noises of his own.

Jade focuses attention to every sound.

“Asa. Its me Volan. Stand down, my friend.”

Asa turns a corner, seeing Volan and Liam with a group of frightened children.

“It’s Volan,” says Jade.

Aural and the children rush forward to greet Liam, Volan, and the new arrivals with food and water. Asa and Jade go to get more fish, to feed the new children who are understandably skittish at first.

Aural’s mothering instincts calm the additional children who begin to bond with the group in moments, without hesitation.

Liam signals Volan to follow him, away from the others. Once alone, he expresses concerns.

“We have nineteen children already, with twenty-eight more now, how are we going to provide for so many?”

“I understand your concern Liam.”

Volan motions for returning Jade and Asa, along with Aural, to join them.

He leads them to the surface, at the top of the fracture maze, where they sit in a close circle, near the center of the flat expanse. He brings their attention to the fact that the Screamers are calm, pointing out their hunting behaviors as they scurry about from one crevasse to another.

“Take note. See how they go about their usual hunting activities. They would not be this way if the slavers were near. Liam and I did battle with those evil men. We killed the three in charge. The remaining four ran, like the dirty dogs they are. They will not survive for long on their own, without water, and no leaders.”

“How are we going to feed everyone?” asks Liam.

“Volan would not put us all at risk if he did not have a plan,” says Aural.

All look to Volan. His broad smile reinforces her comment.

“The children will be fine. Come with me please.”

He leads them across the fractured mesa, jumping the narrowest parts of fractures for about twenty minutes. As it is all the way around, they come to an overlook at the edge of the high sheer cliffs, looking east. He takes a seat with his legs hanging over the edge.

“Have a seat everyone. It will be light soon. I want to share this with you.”

Aural sits next to Volan, Jade on his other side.

Volan puts an arm around each.

Liam sits next to Aural and Asa sits next to Jade.

The air is cool, the stars shimmer as they begin to fade.

Low clouds hang in clusters, catching color from piercing rays, that soon give way to golden and amber hues rising above the horizon.

The group of friends sit in awe of the wondrous sunrise.

“A new horizon,” says Volan. “Take this as a sign, my friends, for we are at the threshold of a new horizon for mankind.”

“It’s lovely,” says Aural.

“Yes, great metaphor Volan,” says Liam. “I still have concerns on how we will feed so many new mouths.”

“There are higher forces at work in this Liam,” says Aural. “We need to step out in faith, without fear.”

“Wait for it,” says Volan.

As the disc of the sun breaks the surface, light fills the valley below. Nestled between three mountain ranges, is a wide, open, valley with vast grasslands and wild fruit trees. Herds of deer and other wildlife graze in peace.

“When I first brought you here Liam, I told you there was more to show you when time permits.”

“This is astounding. I’m sorry Volan, I guess I’m just not used to having hope.”

“Many more wonders abound in this place. For some reason, these mountains repel the plasma discharges. Caves lead away in all directions. There are many such hidden valleys, some also have lakes with abundant fish.”

Aural hugs Volan. Tears of joy flow freely.

Jade walks away, sitting alone, head on her knees.

Volan sits next to her, placing his arm around her midriff.

“I admire you very much Jade. You are becoming a great provider and warrior. Beyond that, you touch my heart, every time our eyes meet, from the first, when you were poking me with a pointy stick.”

Tears well in her eyes, speech, resists her efforts to convey feelings.

“What I’m asking is; will you bond with me? I will be your man and I will have no other woman, for all my days.”

She looks deep into his eyes, wiping her tears on her sleeve.

“You changed me Volan. I can never be whole without you. I knew this from the first, but never imagined you could feel the same about me.”

Aural rushes to embrace both, sharing her joy over their commitment to love.

Asa looks puzzled.

Liam nudges him in the ribs with his elbow, while smiling.

“Didn’t you know she was a girl?”

Asa looks embarrassed for a moment, before congratulating them both.

Aural claps her hands to gain attention.

“How wonderful this place is. Ever so much more wonderful is this bonding. I suggest we use Volans words to be the name for this place and our newly founded community. Let us call it “New Horizon”.

As time moves forward, the children of New Horizon mature, having children of their own. Each new month, they honor the founding members at Storytime, where heroic deeds and bravery are recounted, keeping them fresh in memories forever.

THE END

©8192019

 

© 2020 VALORMORE DE PLUME


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Added on June 14, 2020
Last Updated on June 14, 2020
Tags: Young Adult, Adventure, Thriller, Survival

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VALORMORE DE PLUME
VALORMORE DE PLUME

Picture Rocks, AZ



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Welcome to, "The Mindscapes of Valormore" I hope my stories produce pictures in your mind. That is what a mindscape is. A place you can go repe.. more..

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