Hello, Relic Seekers and Wasteland Wanderers.
Wow… what is this place? It looks like no one’s set foot here in an awfully long time. It’s something to behold, that’s for sure. You’ll have to tell me how you came across this, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
In the City of Dust
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
What a beautifully versatile prompt you all have chosen this week. From disastrous to wholesome, old to new, the possibilities are as endless as the dust itself as it builds on my far too high ceiling light.
When we think of dust, we think of things that are old, maybe even lost to time. An ancient tome in a maze of dusty old books, an artifact in some decrepit ruins, or even just a small cherished treasure hidden in the attic. Maybe the city is a metaphor, and the seeker is looking for a precious journal of a long time missing friend of theirs that could hold the key to his whereabouts. Perhaps it’s a puzzle box left to the one unassuming person who could solve it, containing within a whole other world lost between dimensions. Maybe the city in question is in photos of a journey you took many years ago, and you’ve just blown the dust from the pages of the album.
The city could also be literal, like an ancient alien city buried deep in the ice, or a city that has fallen to ruin after some cataclysmic disaster. Perhaps it’s even just a microscopic metropolis where dust bunnies live and thrive like we do, but in the permanent darkness that is the underside of your couch. Maybe this city is some massive site of ruins that was rumoured to no longer exist, and your very own footprints are the first sign of any life there… until you come across another set that definitely isn’t yours. Or maybe this city of dust is just the mess created by building the first homes of a new town. Drywall dust counts, right?
Whatever kind of dust you choose to stir up, bring us along and show us what treasures you can uncover.
A word of advice: please remember your personal protective equipment. Dust is uh… it’s not good for the lungs.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Saturday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least four stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and two of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
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- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
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- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
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What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
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- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
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It Ends in Dust
Lafel walked the halls of the empty library memorizing the last book he would ever read by humans. Today was the day it would all end, and that saddened him. As he finished he saw Elnan standing by one of the large windows with tears in his eyes watching the people go about their business not knowing this was their final day. Lafel put the book back on the shelf and walked up to him. He put his hand on his shoulder.
“My lord,” he said. “It’s time.”
“You’ve finished memorizing their works?” he asked.
“Yes,” Lafel said “a story about a man searching for a women who fell from the sky and saved his life. He never found her.” Elnan turned away from the window and looked around the library.
“Such greatness they would have been capable of,” he said. “Why does it have to be this way Lafel? Is it not the duty of a god to ensure that his creations prosper that he be worthy of their prayers?” Lafel looked back out the window, the people below wore Elnan’s mark and statues of him were surrounded by offerings,prayers of thanks.
They were faithful and needed no temples for they knew Elnan’s nature and would pray to him from any where.
“They will not be forgotten.”was all Lafel could say. Elnan nodded in agreement.
” Let’s get this over with.” He turned back at the people and closed his eyes and stretched out his hand. Then it happened all at once.
The people,the the clothes they were wearing… the books in the library all gone leaving nothing, but a city of dust and a memory of could have been.
By Clockwork King (Rattregoondoof)
“This town is dying John.” Sue choked despondently, her husband wheezed and looked out into the gale force winds. Behind her are their children, choking on the foul air. Tom and Melissa were still far too young to help in the field, that is, if the Alberts had any crops or livestock alive to tend to. John continued to stand, looking out into the dim sky.
It was only early afternoon, though for all anyone could tell, it may as well as have been eight o’clock at night for the amount of light that could pass through. Rain was not in the forecast. Rain had not been in the forecast for many months and had scarcely been in the forecast for many years. The skies were dark but rain might have been the single biggest thing that would lift the residents’ spirits.
The Alberts’ modest farm had been bought just months before Tom was born, scarcely more than five years ago. John and Sue had both been raised on farms and, for the first four years, had good yields for the land. Though the market crash made it difficult to pay for the land, John had moved to grow more food and tighten the family’s belt. Now, the soil was deep. The kitchen window was already half-covered and John debated taking wood and trying to board it up to prevent a cave-in. All the Alberts knew most their crops had died, if not in the past few week’s tornadoes, then from dehydration. Harvest was months off, but this was the usual rainy season and the end was quickly approaching.
John pointed to a swirling mass of clouds, starting to form a distinct funnel shape, “Sue, take the kids inside and under some blankets. I’ll be there in a few minutes.” By the time it was over, the roof could be reached without a ladder. The city of dust would have no harvest, but the Alberts were lucky, the obituaries were not empty in the morning.
The sounds made no sense to me. I fell against the cover of my stasis pod and spilled onto the floor back into unconsciousness.
I awoke with a burning cough and pushed myself off the ground. The lights flickered strangely off the face print left in the dust. The dust should have been cleaned by first shift. More than that, I should have been woken up by a bright eyed attendant, not… like this. I pushed myself to my feet, the fog of deep sleep still hanging over my head. I placed my hand on the window the next pod. It was cold. That would mean… the systems were offline.
There was graffiti in the main corridors. I recognized the words and peculiarities of the sleepless nomads. Fuck. The automated security should have kept them out; they were farmers for fuck sake. But, they sure did break everything in just the right way. Did they capture one of our people? Worst case, the emergency was not broadcasted and we would all be… trapped in our pods. It was a possibility; the dust a testament that first shift did not begin their duties.
I would need to leave and go daywards across the thin, endless city. At a walk, I could outpace the scouring cold of the night. Then, emergency services could set me up with a temporary pod while they fix whatever happened. Everything would be alright.
I raided the storeroom of my office. All the knick-knacks and vestments of the nomads treasured away for our anthropological research: backpacks, compasses, fur coats. All the silly tools of our farmers. All the essential tools to survive. Even if the next one or two districts were offline, I would be able to make the journey. And, I filled out the requisition forms for when I would return.
I wiped the dust off my borrowed parka, hung my ID lanyard around my neck, and stepped into the trans-district corridor.
The unseen (Tales from Adfidem – Book of Boghos)
By Alan Baker
Fleeing the king’s men, Boghos entered the valley of Ashes, that lies under Mount Handipim in the Shunch desert. There he made camp among the eroded sandstone pillars. Falling to his knees, he shouted to the stars.
“Why does he not listen? He will bring his kingdom to ruin and leave The Golden City as dust on the wind.”
Boghos fell back against the cold rock.
“Does my brother care more for carnal pleasures than his holy mandate? If so, how can I hope to turn him from his path?”
He lay there with tears in his eyes. The desert was silent to his pleas. Not even a breath of wind stirred among the dunes.
“Is this my path, shunned by my brother-king and country? How am I to save them out in this forsaken place?”
The desert remained silent.
“No,” he shouted. “Why should I suffer for their incompetence? They do not care for me, that much is clear. They cast me out, I should let them suffer their doom.”
His bellows reverberated against the unyielding sandstone columns. As silence fell again, quiet voices spoke from the shadows: “What of us who cannot change the course of kings, but are bound to nonetheless?”
Boghos turned startled and saw the women he had met before confronting his brother along with others he did not recognise.
“Are we to suffer their fate?” she continued.
Boghos’s eyes filled with tears.
“No,” he said quietly. “You came here with hope for the future and in doing so have given me a reason to continue. I see now that it is not for them that I’m here but for you.”
A gentle breeze curled through the valley.
The Lack of a Duster
I could hear the tapping of branches against the windowsill and the creak of the floorboards beneath my feet as I shifted them nervously. I cleaned my house head to toe; what was there to worry about?
Then it came, the gentle ring of the doorbell. I could practically sense my mother’s feeble hands pressing the button. I quickly brushed the creases out of my nicest dress shirt.
I wanted to laugh off all the nervous energy, but it just resided there. I shouldn’t be nervous. It’s just Mom.
“Honey! Shumpkins, darling, are you going to open the door or leave me waiting out here in the cold wind?”
I sighed and opened the door, forcing a smile. “Hi, Mom.”
She immediately shoved past me, walking into my home. “My my, it does look quite nice in here!”
She smiled as we greeted each other with a very uncomfortable hug.
“Now, let’s see what your first home without me looks like?”
“Well, you’ve kinda already seen the outsid—” And off she went to comb my house from the oak floors to the tall ceilings. Just as expected. The nervous energy fluttered its way back into my chest. I had vacuumed, scrubbed, and tidied. So I should be fine, right?
My shoulders tensed up. Oh no, what had I forgotten?
I quickly hurried to the living room and I saw my mother standing there, arms crossed.
“…Y-Yes?” I never stutter! Why was I stuttering now?
She held up a dirty finger. “WHAT IS THIS?!?!”
Realization flickered across my face.
“THERE IS DUST EVERYWHERE? WHAT ARE YOU? A DUST MITE? A DUST GREMLIN! THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!”
“O-Oh, I’m sorry…”
“SORRY! YOU’RE JUST SORRY?!?!?!”
“IT’S LIKE YOU LIVE IN A CITY FULL OF DUST! YOU CAN’T THRIVE LIKE THIS! IT’S FOR YOUR WELL-BEING!” She harrumphed and opened her purse, pulling out a miniature duster.
“Now, go dust this house! You need clean air to breathe!”
I took the duster with a sigh. It felt like I was a kid all over again.
Rolling in the Dust
By Moo the Bloo
I was promised life, but I guess that’s what I get for trusting the dead.
In this endless desert, puzzled steps lead me at last to somewhere. Within spoiled sand, I find remains of what look to be lonesome walls, stairs that rise just shy of the heavens, and pillars with intricate undecipherable patterns. A depressed labyrinth of aimless architecture is the last thing I need this to be.
Faulty journals found next to exhausted corpses are what lead me out here, books that promised a timeless depiction of what could’ve possibly resembled a new home somewhere in this endless world. Only now to be greeted with sand. Sand, and careless remains of what possibly could’ve been that home.
Such a disappointment.
There has to be something here.
I’m not entirely sure what I expect to find. I’m like a headless chicken in a blank maze, and feeling just as silly as one. I turn what feels like the one-hundredth corner and I find something that takes me by surprise. Something truly strange. A primitive-looking computer, just sitting there. Slightly sunken into the sand around it.
“What the hell?” I ask myself as I step closer.
I look all around me before I crouch in front of the thing. Remarkably, grains of static still flicker on the screen. The PC is occasionally blinking with life no matter how much sand appears to be lodged into its cracks. I take a quick glance around me one more time before I reach a finger out. I already look stupid being here, this can’t get much worse. With a salty crisp clack, I click one of the keys.
The screen lights up with a completely blank desktop. I see unknown patterns on the bottom of the screen and an unmovable cursor. Only one icon seems to display itself on the left of the screen. In a desperate attempt to find something, to salvage some kind of answer out of this desert, I hit enter.
It’s a music file:
Fate of Solitude
The salty air blew across the landscape. Everyone that was left stood silently while trying to grasp the situation. Before, the people laid a blizzard of salt blowing across the land that was once green and lush with life.
Shocked and barely audible, Steve spoke, “All I did was push the blue button, I never thought that it would take everything.” The salt caked on Steve’s face where the tears began to fall; his lack of remorse seemed tragically just, right now.
Dory stared hard at Steve for what he did. She knew that he always wanted to wipe all existence form the face of the Earth. The blue button gave him the opportunity to do that, but she never thought that he would push it.
“How dare you, how dare you destroy it all.” Dory cried while clinching her fists so tightly that blood started to drip from her hands. “I can not believe that you would so callously destroy it all, and for what? So that you can have a moment?”
Steve never had thought that this could happened. “It was just a button, a blue button that should not have done a thing since it was…” Steve stood silent after trailing off, but his face told the full story about his feelings of this mess.
Dory started to walk away from Steve. As she walked away and vanished into the whiteness of the salty, dusty air. After she had taken a few steps she had noticed that the grass was still there, and that the trees were still there.
When Dory stood in the sun light, she turned. To her horror, she saw that where Steve was a torrent of salt that imprisoned Steve. At first she thought that she should save Steve, but then she remembered that he got what he wanted all along.
The aberration narrowed darkened eyes at the wall, etchings playing off the light of the sole defense against the chamber’s cold she held in her hand. The symbols were meant to be depictions of some kind, but their meaning was lost on the recipient. And yet, she continued staring, for even if it carried no meaning, the markings did launch her mind to the infinity of imagination. A feathered bird, a patterned serpent, a branch of leaves; all reminded her of the humid jungle that contrasted the icy stone complex.
Her mouth moved as she gazed upon the symbols, sounds human, insect, and all in between coming forth in hushed whispers. Patterns formed as symbols recurred, urged along by a primitive understanding of words. The utter blackness of the chamber behind her was broken by the faint outlines of flicking flame resting on the edges of the shapes of pods; each returning the ember-like sheen of obsidian in the torchlight. Only one of them was open.
If only she could see what lay under the sediment and deep stone that constricted the entire complex…Her curious mind might crack from the wonder of it, and her heart break from the loss. A whole city, a whole civilization, and a whole culture unlike any that dot this world today lay merely a few dozen feet behind the wall which she was staring. Yet she was none the wiser, and might never be.
“Sa…Rhe…Tck…Sc’ich…Lhe…Xs…Vm…” and on she went. Then her attention drifted to the pods, and to her place of genesis. More engravings. Her mouth idly sounded, and she substituted those symbols she had decided on which came from the other wall.
Finding the syllables; a light hum, a scratch, and then a click, she strung them together first with the deftness of a toddler.
And yet again.
Chronicles of The Dragon: Dust to Dust
Ultima woke up in pain, which got her attention.
She was also covered in rubble, which worried her.
She stood up, squinting in the bright light, and looked around her.
She flew up, spiraling out through the ruined city.
Where was it? What happened?
She swooped in, “Status report!”
The Squad commander’s eyes went wide, “Oh thank God! We thought you were dead!”
“Where is the dragon?” she pressed.
“We don’t know. It just…vanished.”
“Vanished?! How does something the size of a building ‘vanish’!?”
“We don’t know! We don’t even know where it came from!” He paused. “We’re just looking for survivors at this point.”
Ultima calmed herself. “How many have you found?”
The group grew still. “Just you.”
She pulled back. “What… What about the other League members?”
“Missing, dead, or hospitalized.”
“What about Finitous?”
Another long silence.
“Missing. Presumed dead.”
She visibly flinched. “No. Impossible.”
The commander shifted a bit. “Well, you were ‘missing, presumed dead’ until now, so who knows?”
She flew up, past the tops of the ruined buildings. She looked around. The only movement she could see were more soldiers looking for survivors. She started spiraling out again, but slower, searching carefully. Minutes went by, turning in to hours. Moving to the edge of the city, and spiraling back.
She flew up higher and screamed down at the city, “FINITOUS! ANYONE!”
The echo of her cry was her only answer.
There was nothing left in the city, but her, the soldiers, ash, and dust.
by Erin Clare (IrishPixie)
The halls were dusty.
How long had they been dusty?
I no longer knew. Ever since everything ended and I found myself here, alone, dust was the only thing to accompany me. Sometimes it seemed alive. Light would filter through it in a way that was mysterious and cheerful. It would crawl in thick clumps and layers over the covered furniture in a laze. Occasionally a gust a fresh air would find its way in, and the dust would dance for me. Thinking about it all made me feel sad, but I never understood why. There was nothing else to think about, so there was never any point in complaining or questioning. This was the way things were: just me and the dust, frozen and infinite.
And yet, and yet, and yet! Something buzzed at the frayed edges of my mind- something important!
I felt a presence behind me. I whipped around to find a figure stepping through the decayed threshold. A boy? Yes, the boy! Memories fluttered in of his kind eyes and calloused hands. He came here once- or was it often? He would sit inside the dust-claimed walls and just… look. Perhaps he liked the solitude? He rarely spoke, but sometimes he would, and I’d feel a jolt as if he were talking to me.
This time he knelt down at a patch in the floor. Taking a trowel from his belt he began to dig. The dust stirred, unsure what to think of this intrusion. Then he opened his pack and reached inside. A brilliant flower was taken out and set into the earth. Gold-orange petals caught rays of sunlight while my dust sparkled jealously. The boy finished and stood. His eyes turned to mine. Could he actually see me? He smiled. Something exploded out and filled my being, freezing me in place as the boy turned and left.
A light rain began to fall.
The dust was washed away.
I remembered. I understood. I wept.
I let the light of the flower encase me. And hope was all I knew.
Back of the Antique Shop
By Passion the Panther
Living in a small town, antique shops were common, but David was not a fan of that. This fact wasn’t in his favor since his step-dad loves to bring him antique shopping frequently.
While David had nothing against older items from decades ago, he had little interest in them. David’s parents had a habit of taking the time to admire the art and history of items in the stores. David always interpreted this as “Just standing around and staring at stuff for longer than they had to.”
David’s step-dad brought him to a different antique shop this time, one that they hadn’t been to. Walking through the entrance door, it was what he had expected. Glass casings full of plates and other items that people kept as decoration or souvenirs before getting bored of them and selling them online for a high price. If this had been a superstore, he could at least look around in the electronics aisle to pass the time.
However, it didn’t take long before David found something that changed his outlook of the location. In the back area of the store was a section full of action figures, books, comics, and video games from the eighties and nineties.
Just seeing the thin layers of dirt and dust that covered the packaging made it clear that this was the kind of store where stuff like this belonged, but a good find was as good to find nonetheless. It surprised him that he could find such interesting stuff in a store full of dusty home decor and outdated electronics.
When David’s step-dad came around to find him, he had his arms full of the items that caught his eyes. Although it would be a hefty price total to buy all of them at once, he was still glad to see David’s change in attitude. He decided that he would go with it this time to reward David’s good behavior, but next time he would have to pick only one or two items.
Julia’s feet skidded on the wet gray steps and her dad stabilized her. He reached out to take the stuffed giraffe from her arms.
“Watch your step darling, let me take this from you until we’re down.”
She let him take it and didn’t slip again as they moved with the crowd, descending below the streets of Paris. They left the sounds of the city above them and caught up with mom. Dad gave Julia back her giraffe, and both parents took small white LEDs out of their pockets and flicked them on. Julia had one in her pocket too. Many of the people around her carried small lights, others carried trinkets like coins or photographs.
She walked near the middle of the group. Their feet scuffed dust as they walked by the light of electric lamps. The tunnel became darker, and Julia clutched to her mother’s coat as they walked with only the tiny lights they carried.
The crowd narrowed into a semblance of a line before slowly streaming forward toward a wall of twinkling lights. Julia and her parents came to the front and Julia found herself face to face with a wall of human skulls. They rose above her and Julia stared as dad knelt and her mom walked along the wall, nearly brushing her fingers against the macabre visages. Other bones stuck out between the skulls, and many more lay on the ground. Amongst all of them were offerings and lights.
Her mother chose a place on the wall and tucked in her light. Her father placed his on the ground and nudged Julia.
“Darling, your light.”
She scanned the ground, and on impulse dropped her LED through the eye socket of a skull.
Shining with internal light, the skull seemed to be grinning at her. Hesitantly, Julia looked over her shoulder and grinned back as her parents led her away.
City of glass (Copy from Private)
by Larissa (Lari B. Haven)
“Was the city really made of glass?” They would ask my father.
My dad would light his pipe and nod to the people of the tavern. The old man would tell the story again, back to back. No matter how many times the patrons had heard, like a fool.
It goes that one stormy night his ship sank. My father doesn’t know for sure how he survived.
He would always brace himself at that part, as to brush off the lingering feeling in his mind. He just knew that he closed his eyes. And when he opened it, he was not on a beach, but a desert. And in the center of the desert, a city made of glass
He would always say that the sand he walked on was “alive” and “whispering”. Saying that wind would blow the sand and harden into new structures. Impossible buildings that spiraled into the sky, shining in multitudes of colors, always sporting about a fine layer of dusty sand from the surrounding terrain.
It always struck a chord to me, that story always felt to my father, too painful to remember yet too fantastical not to share. With no catharsis from it. Even if you doubt the ramblings of an old man, delusionally reliving a story that doesn’t exist; it was real for him.
He always finished the story, telling how the sand never seemed to leave his skin. How at some point he thought it was saying something that he could barely make in his ears. Until the wind blew, and the sand created a glass copy of him.
That’s when he fainted and woke up at my mother’s door, with no memory of ever being rescued.
For all the other drunks of the pub, his maniacal retelling would make them laugh.
If it’s a lie, I can’t say for sure. But in days of growing storm ahead, I see my dad rubbing his hands against each other. Warming his old knotted fingers, and with the smoke of his pipe, I swear I see him blowing off a fine mist of sand.
The rotted apholstery and brittle frame crumbled as I tossed my pack on top of it. The loud crunch echoed through the derelict floors. At least the windows of this corporate office still held up after all this time; the sand storm would have just lead to more problems.
I unzipped my pack and got to work. Power supply, a jumble of cables, and a laptop computer from the old days. Within half an hour, the dusty monitors of the fallen world groaned awake as the laptop’s program translated the golden knowledge to our new systems, then feeding it into my cranial storage banks. The image of a dialysis machine blipped through my mind as the process continued. I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate, there were no old humans left to consult.
Lights flickered on in my peripheral vision. Other vultures to get their fill, no doubt.. I lifted my arm and readied my built-in cannon, anticipating an unwanted visit. The silence was broken by the crumpling of what was once paper, followed shortly by a crackle of electricity. The bolt broke through the wall, leaving black scorch marks on the peeling wallpaper. The mangled remains of a scavenger drone came into my sight a moment later, leaking vital fluids on the molded carpet.
Download complete. I had to get out of here; drones never travel alone. Worse still, they could fly, and I was on the twenty-fifth floor. As the escape auto-functions engaged, routing me through the elevator shaft for a quick descent, I cycled through the information salvaged. Gigabytes of useless data, investor portfolios of imaginary money to industries that no longer exist, I found what I was looking for: schematics and design documents for my progenitor. Looks like I’ll be kicking around a bit longer, assuming the drones don’t get me first.
Swinging into the lobby in a roll, my auto-functions glitched. In an instant my legs froze and I fell to the ground. The swirl of the storm producing a wave of drones.
Did they ever not wage war?
By Mango Gravy
At this time of year what little life remained in these ruins seemed to have died all over again. What were once towers of glass were now vast slabs of concrete, covered in sun-baked overgrowth. Many collapsed buildings were half buried in soil, forming mounds on which tufts of dry grass struggled not to collapse into dust.
A breeze passed through the ruins, kicking up a small storm of dust and pale blades that danced between two figures, swaddled in red robes.
One was a tall man, unkempt and unshaven from weeks of travel. His eyes gave off a faint blue light in tandem with the markings on the left side of his face.
The other was a malformed skeleton, towering over his companion, robes hanging loosely over its frame.
“Is this what happens when an Exile refuses the call of the Monolith?” asked the man.
“No,” said the skeleton. “Many don’t have the strength to seek the Monolith, but they merely wander the wastes until their flesh rots away. Then they continue to wander until they crumble. No, Oshun. This is what happens when an Exile returns home.”
Oshun touched the markings on his face, “How can that happen? Is it even possible to resist the call?”
“The call fades with time. Some have the strength to finish the journey. But to return home against all the warnings?” The skeleton raised a hand to its chin, “That can take either weakness or strength, depending on the person.”
Oshun’s hand dropped. This was a world of riddles. The scriptures that named him a pariah spoke in riddles, and now his guide to the Monolith refused to speak plainly. “Will you at least tell me what exactly happened here.”
The skeleton turned to Oshun, many shadowed sockets peering into his very soul. “Words as old as dust can be pillars. Doubt is a crack, spreading fast. Necrosis of body and mind.” The skeleton spread its arms wide, gesturing to the grim setting and to itself, “Making rubble and bone of anything it touches. Thus does the soul crumble.”
A Cause to Fight For (Crossroads City Canon)
By Fredrick H. (challeng3r22)
Hiro drifted along in the aimless void outside of reality. Eventually, he came to rest outside of 24th century Earth. Quickly, he made the incision and slipped inside.
Taking a deep breath, he expected the mountain air of his home mountain, but instead choked on the ash of soot that circled the air.
“Odd,” he thought, “Ragnarok isn’t supposed to happen for another two centuries, and I should have millennia till Armageddon. Perhaps my mountain was a dormant volcano that awoke since I’ve been gone.”
In the distance he saw a massive lumbering figure.
“Daidarabotchi-sama,” he called out.
As the figure turned he realized it was not the yokai he knew from eras past. In it’s right hand it held a sword higher that Mount Fuji. Its eyes burned like a pair of suns.
“Daidarabotchi fell decades ago, and no one native to this era should no their name,” the creature responded in a voice like a thousand tsunamis.
Mustering his courage he inquired, “What happened?”
“I destroyed them, as I did with all the other beings who defied the will of my mistress. Now, will you comply, or shall I add your body to the pile, reality cutter.”
Without a second thought, Hiro drew his blade and cut his way out of that mess.
“By all prophecy the 24th century should a paradise,” he monologued to the void. “They cured cancer, humans had evolved into natural pacifists, the gods stopped trying to tear reality apart over beauty pageants, the other realms stopped trying to invade and instead immigrated, and that Futakuchi-onna I met was finally going to give me that date she promised me.”
He gripped his head at the madness of it all before making a simple realization.
“Something must have messed up fate. A chosen one must have fallen early. Or perhaps they were corrupted. I have to try and fix this before they start tearing reality apart at the seams.”
By Danny Gilhooley
(WARNING: Violence and abuse)
Kayla’s bruise itched. It was under her eye, where the bones in her cheek bulged on her face. She wanted to scratch it, but her helmet was on already. It was too late to take it off.
She looked once more around the lab. It was her home for all sixteen years of her life. The main corridor and five rooms were the only parts of the world she knew. Her mom used to tell her stories about where they lived. About a beautiful place called California. She remembered telling Uncle Bruno how she wanted to see it one day.
That’s how she got her first bruise.
Her mom went out into the world one day and never came back. When that happened, Uncle Bruno told her she was the last girl on Earth. To her, the only other people were mom and Uncle Bruno.
Now, both were dead.
She was facing the glass entrance to the lab, a place she was forbidden to even make eye contact with. Now, the glass was shattered on the floor. It was supposed to keep the pollen that killed everyone out.
“Why do you even want to go out there?” Uncle Bruno said. “There’s nothing there! Nothing you haven’t seen in those stupid books before!”
It wasn’t the same.
Kayla wanted to see it for herself.
She wanted to see what the sun looked like. She wanted to hear wind and not just the vents. She wanted to feel what it was like to walk on dirt. Mom said it was ‘slimy’ and she wanted to know what that felt like. Maybe she’d see a giraffe like in one of mom’s books.
‘What if nothing is out there?’ she thought. There could be nothing. The world could just be empty corridors where recycled air blew pollen and dust that would kill her once the suit ran out of oxygen.
“I still want to see it,” she said to herself.
Without turning around, she walked out of the lab and into the world she wanted to explore.
by Johnny Saguaroseed
The lift descended into the undercroft, the clink of its chain small and thin and soon lost to the darkness. To Yimothy it was the echo of his heartbeat, a monotone pulse devoured by that vast space. Clink, clink, clink.
“Goin’ to Dust Town, eh?” said the old lizard operator as he pulled the chain. “T’would be wise to keep your senses sharp. It can be an education for a fresh face.”
Yimothy straightened and brushed at a stain on his cloak. “It’s not like I haven’t been before.”
“Have yeh now? My my, and I took this for your first visit. Back to partake in its comforts I gather.” The lizard’s wink was barely visible in the gloom. “Well be wary, Dust Town’s ladies are known for their many hands, but so are its pickpockets.”
“I—I am upon my master’s errand!”
“So you say lad. But that don’t mean you can’t stop for a bit of kip on the side. Many a young mouseling like yerself come back to my lift with ruddy cheeks and tales of dusty wonders. I never go meself.” The lizard sniffed, a wet, sickly sound. “Too many legs fer my taste.”
Clink, clink, clink.
“How much longer until we reach the bottom?”
The lizard considered the dark. “Ah while yet I s’pose. Yeh can see lights when we’re getting close, but sometimes yer eyes play tricks.”
Clink, clink, clink.
“So young master, what be this errand of yours anyhow?”
Yimothy squared his shoulders. “My master has bid me seek Lord Jiraiya, whom he believes might help secure him a lucrative business opportunity.”
The lizard stared at Yimothy as they swung back and forth, no longer descending. “Young sir, I believe it’s part of me job to warn spratlings like you about the dangers of Dust Town, my duty as it were, so please take it with all earnestness when I say that, if you’ve business with Th’ Toad, then when this lift hits bottom you should turn right round and ride it back up!”
Bargains in the City of Dust
By Claire Golder
The twilight sky gave the darkening ruins an uncannily eerie atmosphere. Seeing the crumbling buildings at this time of day, it made sense why the surrounding towns people refused to even speak of the place. The shadows seemed to almost come to life and follow Sorina as she entered the forbidden town. A single lantern lit her way, simultaneously giving her some comfort in the ability to see, but also setting her further on edge by its distortion of the shadows that followed her. As she approached what she assumed to be the well in the center of the town, hollow, whispery voices began to reach her ears. The words inaudible, yet the warning clear. She should turn back while she could.
Approaching the well, the voices grew in volume until a blue light began to ascend from deep within it. The light began to take on a vaguely humanoid shape, transparent yet draped in tattered robes. Her knees locked in place as the specter glided towards her. “Why do you disturb us, mortal?” The voice seemed to come from all around her.
“I… I seek knowledge that you can provide,” she spoke up when she finally found her voice.
“What information could the dead provide?”
“I seek knowledge of knowing when a person will die.”
“No mortal may know the date they are to expire!” The specter shifted towards her, its form distorting as the shadows began to surround her.
“I don’t seek knowledge of myself!” she defended, fighting the waver in her voice. “I seek knowledge of others! Of the whims of the spirits of the sea.”
The hood of the specter’s cloak briefly seemed to be caught by a nonexistent breeze, a skull flashing where its head would be. “That knowledge I can provide. If you are willing to pay the price for it.”
“I will pay whatever price you require.” Sorina clutched the lantern tightly in her hand, glancing to the band around her wrist. “I have nothing to lose and everything to give.”
“Well,” the shadows retreated at its words, “let’s begin.”
In the City of Dust
Yukhan had collected the greatest army of heroes the world had ever seen. He and his partner Climant had led the attack against the Dark One’s castle. The floor was a sea of blood. The bones of the dead were scattered about like lonely islands, their claws pointing upward as if they were miniature tombstones. They had done all this to gain access to the Dark One’s portal. The gate that led to the demon realm.
“This is it,” Yukhan announced. “Inside this hellish orifice lay the dominion of the Great Corruptor, the Mage of Lies, the Ruler of the Destructive. Make ready, for by all that is holy, he has seen his last dawn.”
The two great heroes led the way. Before them stretched a great city, its towers rising to heights no mortal had ever dreamed. The buildings were decorated with the most gruesome of images. Vampires drinking the blood of kings, unholy abominations tearing apart peasants limb from limb. And all of it lay in ruins. A heavy layer of dust drifted across the air. The stench of death lay everywhere.
“All that effort,” Yukhan lamented. “Thousands of souls lost… countless lives wasted to bring about the downfall of something that breathed it’s last long before the foundations were laid for the pyramids. Before the kingdoms of men even began to build more than mere mud huts.”
Yukhan turned to Climant, but he was already gone. The survivors heard Climant’s voice upon the wind. “Ever has it been so. For no greater foe has man faced than himself. My thanks, Yukhan. My realm is the land of the undead and you’ve furnished me with an unstoppable host. Now that I know there are no demons to stop me, I can descend on the world of men with pestilence and disease.”
If Climant expected Yukhan to be despondent, he was mistaken. He turned to his followers. “Break out the holy water, stakes, and crosses, boys… looks like we have a real fight on our hands this time!”
Relentless Pursuit (also in private)
It had come. Koffa stared as it descended upon them. Citizens held their dear ones close, screaming and running as fast as they could from the great storm. The winds relentlessly ripped buildings apart, scattering debris and dust as it threatened to fell the entire city in its wake.
They had known it would come. It always had before, yet they still had built their homes in the vain hope it wouldn’t. Now their homes were torn asunder by the powerful disaster, and again it had all been for naught.
Screams filled the air, a cacophony of terror and fear, as people were torn from the earth and launched into the welcoming storm. Was there no safety? No matter where they traveled the storm seemed to follow, like a beast on the hunt. Would his people ever be free of this cursed wind?
Even as his palace fell around him Koffa watched the storm, feet rooted to the ground. Why run? It would only find them again in the future. Maybe if he willingly gave himself to the storm it would somehow end the cycle. It was a foolish hope, a lie disguising his despair and loss of will to fight as he opened his arms to meet the storm.
As the winds drew closer, wrapping around him violently, he stubbornly refused to avert his gaze from the coming demise. There, he saw it. His eyes widened in terror, tears falling as he stared into the face of a great monster within the chaos. It was larger than life, too big to be real.
Koffa laughed desperately, tears still streaming down his face as he tried to comprehend the god-like being before him. One angry eye gazed down on the ravished city and lighted upon him. Koffa’s laugh became a shrill scream as he read the cursed name scrawled across the creature’s forehead.
by Skye Doust
She walks, blinded. The hot air currents that waft and eddy about her are dry, and she feels her body craving moisture.
She does not know how much more time she has left, how much longer this place she has lived her whole life has left.
All around her, her people die. None of them able to see the splendor of the colony around them, the vibrant colours lost to their unseeing cries of lamentation.
Structures created from left over fibres, soil, pollen, and plastic tower over her as she searches for something to eat. Her quest takes her far from yesterday’s eggs and the last food she found.
Still, she walks on.
She has kept above the others that lay down in the alleyways around her, dead or dying. Sometimes literally, stepping over their bodies to keep herself above the dredged of a dying people. Most of which have been left to desiccate in the arid heat.
She is determined. She will not give up. Though her single minded pursuit is less of a triumph of personal will than one of generations of instinct and a drive so primal that every living creature shares it to some degree or another. Her legs, covered by a hard shell, push her on almost without her own needs in mind.
“We need to compare both results in an equal solution of water,” said the man as he pushed the first batch of dust slides into the oven.
“So if we are going to make them both wet,” asked the annoying student, “why dry them so thoroughly first?”
He sighed, this was in the material he had asked everyone to cover before starting this little experiment. Still, it was his job to teach and so he replied, “You see, by first baking away each sample’s water content…”
The Corpse Of A City (Nyssa’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis
She ran. Ran from the collapsed mess of the teacher’s accommodation, ran from the shattered wreck of the university, ran from crumbled stone and splintered wood and scattered belongings and spilled blood and broken bodies, ran until her body could run no more.
Nyssa had ignored everything in her path, all to keep herself moving. Her head stayed rigidly forward, barely allowing herself to look at the devastation surrounding her.
Sometimes she would step on something sharp, but the pain felt strangely numb and dull. This did not stop her.
Sometimes she would step on unstable ground or a slick surface, stumbling or even falling to the ground. But no matter how often she fell, she pushed herself up, forcing her agonised legs to move once more.
Occasionally she would step on something soft and rotting. Even the small weight of her foot would be enough to cave it in beneath her, resulting in a noise and smell that would send a revolted shudder through her whole body. She wouldn’t let herself look down, wouldn’t let another terrible image burn itself into her screaming brain, so she kept moving.
It was the hill at the edge of the city that stopped her, in the end. She had ignored all else, but when the ground itself rose against her momentum, even she couldn’t continue.
Nyssa’s knees collapsed onto hard cobbles, swiftly followed by the rest of her. She breathed in ragged gasps, her body shaking and her eyes endlessly filled with blinding tears.
Time passed. How much, she couldn’t tell. Eventually though, straining with effort, she rolled onto her back, sat up, and stood, looking back down the hill to the ruins below.
What she saw…almost reminded her of gruel. She had expected to recognise buildings, parks, streets, even if broken and ruined. But all she could see was a half-flooded mess of grey and white stone, colours all washed away and buried by the storm and the dust.
There was nothing here for her anymore. Nothing here for anyone, anymore.
Nyssa turned, and walked away. She never looked back again.
Sanctuary in the Dust
The entire city was covered in dust. And something was keeping it there, stopping the dust from dispersing. There was a very visible line at the edge of this place, where the dull grey stone bordered bright green grass.
Tarron wasn’t there to just look, however. Taking a deep breath, which momentarily proved to be a mistake, he walked inside and was overcome by a coughing fit from dust reaching his throat. To remedy this, he tore cloth from his shirt and tied it around his face.
He walked for some time, not in any particular hurry, but he eventually came to a small tavern, in the size he was used to, that seemed untouched by dust. It was a welcome sight, so Tarron gathered his wits, prepared for a trap, and entered the tavern.
It was a nice place, though disturbingly empty. A man at the front counter greeted him, and beckoned he take a seat at the counter.
“What can-” He cleared his throat, making it clear he hadn’t spoken in some time, then continued. “What can I get for you?
“Information, and a drink.” Tarron said, giving the bartender gold for both.
The man nodded his agreement, and a beer was set on the counter.
“What ‘cha need to know?”
“What can you tell me about the monster living here?”
The man sighed. “I thought you looked like a hero. Those’re the only ones who ever come by, anyhow. I don’t suppose I can talk you into turning back?”
Tarron shook his head. He had come all this way, so of course he wouldn’t just leave.
The man nodded gravely. “Thought so. You would’ve been the first. I haven’t seen the beast, but I’ve heard enough rumors to paint a clear enough picture. It’s like a massive boar, with a bat’s wings. It can breath fire, or ice, depending on who you ask.”
Tarron nodded. He knew at least that much.
“Any idea how to kill it?” Tarron asked.
“You’d have to ask someone who’s fought it.”
Tarron finished his drink, feeling death watching him from afar.
The City’s Dust (repost from private)
Padas had never before made a broom. He knew the device by sight, of course, but had never been wealthy enough to warrant needing one.
Vienas had never held a broom. The temple priests had swept, of course, but she was groomed for other duties from birth.
Ziniu’s temple needed a broom. The air was hazy to see, stale to taste, and thick to smell. Truth, a broom wasn’t all it needed, but Vienas couldn’t see more and Padas was too occupied in gathering their food. So when Vienas asked him, he found a way to do both.
He killed a guinea.
He was carrying his prize through the empty city when he heard the braying.
He knew there were dogs—long since gone feral—as he had seen their leavings. He had told himself it was fine, if he was careful. Now, he had a guinea on his back and only a fishing-spear to defend himself. He hurried back to the temple, through those few city blocks he had hunted, where the houses turned to dust and only he and the guineas moved. And the dogs.
He was worried then, seeing fresh tracks in the street’s dust, that the dogs had gotten into the temple. He didn’t use the grand doors, but the priesthood’s private exit.
Something growled as he approached the door and he stopped. The dog was barely above his knee, but such creatures never travel alone. As he readied himself to go in, the screaming started.
It did not sound quite human, but Padas went in swinging anyway. Dog attacked him, but screamed as his fishing-spear bit back. Other dogs came and he began to think of the spear more as a club with two ends.
More screams echoed through the temple library. This time, undeniably canine screams.
Padas never felt quite right after that day. Something about his perception of the city had changed.
In the library, he found Vienas blindly swinging Karas’s sword. The pack bowled him over as they sought escape.
“Padas, we’re safe?”
She smiled, “Do you know how to make a mop?”
Dust to Dust
Em and I peered through the window from her kitchen table. People scurried to and fro below. A grey day and a grey city. Thick smog and fluffy clouds mingled in the overcast sky.
“So this thingamajig of yours, what does it do?” I asked.
Em stared a while into the distance, searching for her words. “Do you know what people are made of?”
“Sure.” She sighed. “But you know where dust comes from right? I mean the kind that just seems to materialize in our homes?”
“Like dust bunnies? Yeah, from us, from animals, and all kinds of stuff.”
“Humans are kinda made of it too. And my thingamajig, as you so eloquently called it, changes us to be more dust-like. It makes us into dust people. And, the really cool thing about it, it allows you to retain your conscious and physical form. I call it the Pulvisator–3000. It’ll solve everything, push humanity into the future.”
I raised my eyebrow. “If this whatchamacallit is so darn great, how come you just keep it in your apartment, and no one’s heard about it till now?”
“The government would never allow me to turn us all to dust. But screw them. No need to eat, drink, breathe. We’ll be truly adapted to this new Earth we’ve created. It doesn’t matter anymore that we’ve turned it to shit!” She got up and dragged me over to the bulky doodad next to her dusty TV. “Start it! Solve humanity’s struggles with one simple action.”
I shrugged. “You’re a real nutjob Em, but whatever, not like the world can get worse.” I reached out for the lever. I dragged it down with a satisfying click. Then everything changed, fast. My skin cracked, turned grey, turned soft. My senses blacked out and then came back again, sharper than ever. I stared at my hands, all dust.
“Pretty cool huh?” Em said. She flashed me a grey smile and darted over to the window. “Look!”
The dust-people walked the streets of this city of dust in utter confusion. Confounded about their new existence.
“Beyond the black”
By David Chamberlain
The city sprawled across the countryside like a magnificent wave. The leading edge with spires glistening like gigantic fangs taking bite after bite of the frontier. Gleaming with all of the latest building techniques and cutting-edge technology. Leaving in its wake older sections in varying states of decay. Walking along the bustling, effervescent boulevard, Janet and Brad discussed their next undertaking.
“How far are we going this time?” asked Janet
“I’m not exactly sure”, replied Brad
“Do you have something specific we are hunting for this time?” She queried.
” I have been in negotiations with a very motivated individual “.
“do you mind if I ask what they are looking for?”
“I am not at liberty to say… right now”
Brad rolled his eyes and swung his head to the left indicating for Janet to follow him.
Janet saw the look and took his queue. They were not as alone as she had previously thought.
She grabbed his hand and they bounded over to their vehicle; at first look a gas-guzzling behemoth. They climbed up into the “beast”, which is precisely what the vanity license plate read. Brad turned the key, there was a single “click” he shifted into drive and the beast sprung to life. Rapidly accelerating up to highway speed without a sound. The only noise it made was a barely noticeable whisper as the air rolled over the 40-inch tires. Traveling less than 45 miles an hour, it was as silent as the grave. The silent running, 10,000-pound pack mule was the difference between success and an early grave on more than one occasion.
Janet could no longer contain herself.
“NOW TELL ME HOW FAR WE’RE GOING!” , “Are we going to the skids? … the muck? … the black?… she hesitated, the blight?”
The black was as deep as they had ever gone…
“Farther”, was all he said…
“Beyond the black?” She swallowed hard and pondered…
“Nobody goes to the dust”
“That demon-infested hellhole?”
She was terrified, justifiably so…
Nobody goes that far…
“Lots of people do,”, Brad said.
“They just don’t come back…
Alex sighed as he looked around the cafeteria before sitting down with his unnecessary tray of food. Being alive for so many millennia can take its toll. He was so very bored. Part of that was deliberate, truthfully. He could easily have picked his prey at random. But that idea was somehow even more monotonous.
It was much more amusing to have his target’s fate be their own fault for provoking him. Every game has its rules after all. Even self imposed ones. And if humanity had any true purpose in their few decades of life, it was as his entertainment.
Even if it were common knowledge that humans were not in fact the top of the food chain, it wouldn’t make the slightest difference. From their conception, humans seemed almost defined by their own indulgent self-importance. It was laughable.
From dust they came. To dust they return. And with the importance of dust do they exist. Pointlessly taking up space. Cleanliness only being a possibility when they’re wiped away. As a species, they are almost a waste of a soul. However… those souls WERE quite delicious and easy to come by. So they had slightly more value than dust. Slightly.
The other amusing reality was that Alex knew his boredom wouldn’t last for much longer, comparatively speaking. The game took advantage of humanity’s belief in their own importance.
All he had to do was quietly mind his own business and be slightly different from the norm. It was that simple.
Humanity was so sure of their superiority that they had this intrinsic need to segment themselves so they’d have someone to look down on.
“Stop ignoring me, freak!”
Alex’s eyes widened slightly as a short blonde girl’s spittle was deliberately ejected onto his food.
“Sit somewhere else.” She growled. “This is our table and we don’t want your weirdness contaminating it.”
Alex’s mouth began to water as he looked up. He could practically see the peacock tail with all this human’s pomposity. He was going to take great joy in breaking her.
The game was now afoot.
“The Exiles Return”
Valenhost! Heart of the Valenic Empire, now still and quiet. Wind whispers softly through the empty broad streets, marble columns, and graceful statues. A city peopled by statues, frozen faces of agony as they turned to stone when the magical surge washed over them as it flooded Valenhost, and Shadar to the west. Most people simply vanished. Others turned to stone. Still others transformed into shapes of quivering flesh and alien features. Then, of course, there were still more.
Demons. They stalked the halls gilt in polished brass and mirrors. Their bestial forms, grunting in guttural tongues, lorded over empty thrones. The demons were as much prisoners as those whose flesh had turned to stone. Magical wards throughout the city once served as protection against assaults from fiendish forces. The demons who were dragged from their dark realms by the rush of magical energy found themselves now within a city meant to be barred from their reach. Those same wards now curbed the reach of the most powerful fiends to the city proper, though some weaker ones had slipped their bonds and had fled outward toward the countryside to terrorize the locals.
Now we, the Exiles, returned. Each of us who the Empire had turned away for our crimes against it. For dangerous magics, forbidden arts, or countless other acts we’ve committed were we cast out. Now the Exiles would inherit all the magical secrets and power the Empire had kept hidden away. Locked away libraries of arch-mages. Magical might through powerful artifacts. All of its wealth and gilded treasures. If only we can defeat the fiends who now lurk those halls. Overcome the wards and traps meant to keep out the unworthy. And overcome our greatest foes, each other.
The Deprived City (Oneiron Universe) [Private Repost]
The director looked out his office window and the previous night flashed before his eyes like a waking nightmare. It was a short battle without much bloodshed, but it confirmed what he had feared all this time.
“They think we are the enemy.”
“Murdering a thousand Deprived doesn’t really clear our names either,” Alfred said.
The director chuckled. “It’s only been one night and you’re already exaggerating! There were exactly twenty Deprived. We never fired a shot.”
“What of the leaders?” Alfred asked. “I crushed the first one with my bare hands! I’ll never forget that monster. The five lights in place of its head were enough to enhance my nightmares.”
The director turned from the window with visible concern. “I noticed you were still fighting even after all the Deprived had left or otherwise ended their lives. There was a single leader having a heated discussion with himself and the monster with the five lights didn’t exist. So, I ask you. Which one of us is infected?”
“What are you suggesting? Do you think I’m seeing things? What if you aren’t seeing enough?”
The director sighed. “Calm down, Alfred. I am not going to cast you out. After all, how long can you hold off the Madness in an abandoned city where insanity falls like dust? Our little argument proves that even our memories are ashes.”
“This year has been terrible, hasn’t it? We didn’t even celebrate the holidays.”
“What is there to celebrate, Alfred? We are slowly losing our minds, regardless of how long we survive.”
Alfred revealed the guitar case he had concealed behind his back and placed it on the director’s desk. “Well, for what it’s worth. I got you a present. Found it in last week’s supply raids and I know how much you loved to play. Merry belated Christmas, Jamie.”
“I accuse you of being Deprived, and you give me a guitar. I don’t know why we are still friends after all this time.”
Jamie picked up the instrument and played a series of broken chords – A eulogy for his Deprived City.
Look Upon My Works, Oh Ye Mighty…
By C. M. Weller
Ozy had tried to cling to the way things were, back in the glory days. Things had been good, once. Good for his family. Good for him. Not any more. It should have gone back to the good times, but no. It all fell down. Went down the crapper.
For a while, things went wild. The ones with the most guns got to dictate the rules. Then they ran out of food, not bullets. Now there was a new order in the new world. Building itself up from the ashes of yesteryear’s defeat. Money used to be power. Knowledge had some power… to Ozy, it was the power to get beat up for being a nerd.
Now it was all renewables. Wind power. Solar power. Water power. Knowledge was really power, especially if you knew how things were done without colossal machines.
Now, it was all how anyone could HELP… Ozy managed to scrape a peripatetic living by being a pair of strong arms and able hands. He never stayed anywhere long. People tended to recognize him from the Before Times and then… he’d be lucky to be run out of town.
He used to be a big hope. He used to be a shining star. He used to own countries. He used to have so much money that the number was incomprehensible. No more.
This city was a new one, set beside a river like most of the new cities. Set by the fresh water because things were easier that way. Solar panels and windmills bristled from every rooftop. Greenery sprouted from every possible surface. Typical nouveau-hippie stuff. One of his old mansions was still standing. Someone had turned it into a hostel.
The city was called Dust, probably from irony. Everywhere was green.
Didn’t they know they were wallowing in deprivation? They were spiraling in economic depravity. The stock market was a dream of days gone by, and prosperity was a memory.
Ozy sneered at the happy children playing in the street.
They just didn’t make apocalypses like they used to.
Divine Hubris’ Legacy (Sword Isles)
By Connor A.
“This place is called the City of Dust for a reason.”
Areia led Death through a small town.
He looked around at the people as they went about their day, apparently unaware of their presence. “Why is that?”
“It never survives long enough to be known as anything else,” she continued, slowing down to stare at the remains of a statue. Areia turned Death’s attention to the marble remains. “Fifty-nine years, never late. The town comes up, that town develops into a city, the city falls, and the land is left alone for seven years. Then the cycle starts again.”
Death knelt down in front of the pedestal to read the engraving. It was a simple, “In the Name of the One.”
“You will not have to meet these people’s god until it is time for this place to fall.”
“How long until then?”
Death stood up and watched some children playing with a ball. “Can I ask one more question?”
“If it will help you in your new position as Death.”
“…Why are these people doomed to fall?”
Areia’s expression did not change, but her grip on her spear tightened. “Do you recall the first rule to being a god?”
“Place the needs of the people before your own?”
“Yes. It is why the gods are your predecessors. Dying is a service humans take for granted, and this job can humble even the haughtiest of gods-to-be.”
Death looked at her.
“Once the city falls, the gods ask him if he will serve the people. Every time…” Areia’s voice cracked. “Every time he says, ‘It is the people who will serve me.’ He tells his people to serve those in need, but is willing to watch them suffer when others undermine his authority. The hypocrite!”
He hesitantly placed a hand on her shoulder to comfort her.
“From what Cassan said, I will be here when the city next falls. I will not show him any mercy.”
“…Does that mean I have to tend to a god?”
Areia gave him a melancholic smile. “I can only hope so.”
It was said to be a city of hope and peace and new beginnings-the “El Dorado” of the days after the fall. Many a wanderer spoke of how its towers stood tall, a stark contrast to the shattered wastes that were known to cover all of the known world. Rumors were spread of the grand stone colossus that guarded its walls, a beacon of safety for those within, a symbol of envy for those without.
I made it my aim over the months that followed, to leave everything behind in the search for something more. I travelled the seas of endless sand, the skeletal remnants nations that stood once so great, marveling at the might of the power that could bring the world to its knees.
Stories were told of what it had been. The pragmatists spoke of a war harnessing the power of atom, the priests sermonized on the Exodus that had come to reclaim his creation, and even those that spoke of the wrath of a single vengeful being, of this world or otherwise, but all agreed on one simple fact: we were not meant to be alive.
But live we still did, among them myself, and so I wandered the Earth for years seeking what I hoped to be my final place of rest.
So when I saw this once-great goliath, now reduced to a shattered visage, half sunken in the sand, it’s withered lips whispered a message of anguish into my ears, but I wandered past the crumbling walls of this once-acclaimed “city of gold”, begging to whoever listened that some hope here remained.
The city’s once-glorious carcass would bring me no hope, and days later, I decided my time here was done. I would pass the colossus once more now exiting, but in the time I’d spent on the city, a new inscription on it had been written. It spoke of the King of Kings, a man by the name, Ozymandias, and here to may back lay the labors of his work, a symbol of his might for all who considered themselves mighty to despair.
An Old Poem
Oh Ozymandias, I look upon your works. I said to myself while lifting myself from the pedestal of a half-buried statue, I still can see its shattered face strewn across the field, and the trunkless legs, destroyed by uncaring time.
I do not know what I expected to find in this place, what glories have I imagined, did I think I would be the second Carter, even after uncovering nothing but a couple of eroded columns, and demolished walls.
I walked towards one of the chunks of the face of the great statue on whose toes I sat, dwelling upon my plight. I took up the chunk next to my face, the white granite still after this many years spent in dust shone through, as did the detail on the cheek, a singular streak running down to meet the jawline, and the smashed in half sad eye.
I looked once again upon the grand throne of this statue, what great king must have once resided on this throne, whose armrests were decorated with bundled sticks, and on which was laid a fabric to ease the rest.
I walked down the stairs that lead me to the place, cut off in the middle by the encroaching desert, in a few years they’ll be covered up by dust, as did the city that surrounded it. I wondered, what god was worshipped there, for column rows and solid walls, from pure white alabaster made, now demolished and eroded by the passing time.
I ventured back out into the desert lands, stopping by a toppled and half-buried column with a tip of a sharp spear, and the room to house whatever treasure laid inside, not for me nor for anybody those glories that once stood would be, as I sat among ruined sculpture and temples to the eagled god, made from marble that eroded, and metal that corroded through and through long ago.
I thought to myself, Oh Ozymandias, I look upon your works, ye mighty.
A Return to Earth
Kyla braked the car, the tires screeching.
“How can we be LOST?? Aren’t you looking at the map??” Kyla spat at Kia.
“I told you to take a LEFT at that fork. Not MY fault you chose not to listen.” Kia rolled her eyes.
“You said the wrong name. Town is called DUSK. Don’t know how you can misread a ‘K’ as a ‘T’. It was in all caps and big as shit.” Malcolm’s monotonous voice came from the back seat as he scrolled through his phone.
“Eat me,” Kia shot back.
Kyla squeezed the bridge of her nose. “Not now, guys.”
“Makes more sense to keep going.”
“Yeah. We can fuel up there, rest, then head out in the morning.”
The low gas tank agreed with them.
“Fine.” Kyla continued on.
Soon, huge stone gates bordered by wooden planks came into view. Before Kyla could slow the car, the gates opened to a town straight out of the wild west.
Horse-drawn carriages. Boxy establishments faced each other. Even a saloon with swinging doors.
The ladies gasped while Malcolm quirked an eyebrow.
Once the front of the car crossed into the town, it sputtered and died. Kyla tried to revive it, but it stalled each time.
Malcolm growled at his dead phone.
When checking, Kyla’s and Kia’s phones had suffered the same fate.
“Great. Looks like we’re stuck here.” Malcolm shielded his eyes against the harsh sunlight as they all stepped out.
Amid grumbles, they unpacked the car.
As they trundled through the dust-strewn town, men tipped their hats and women waved at them with unnerving familiarity. Ice tumbled down Kyla’s back.
Overhead, several crows circled too low for Kia’s liking. “Is anybody else creeped out?”
“Definitely,” Malcolm admitted as Kyla nodded.
A large, mustached man materialized before them.
The trio took a collective, reflexive step back.
“Howdy! Welcome to Dust!” He touched two fingers against his hat brim. “I’m Sheriff Pike. What can I do for y’all?”
Kyla and Kia shared an uneasy look.
Malcolm couldn’t help but notice the little flecks that danced off of the sheriff’s skin.
Dead Civilizations (Forsaken Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
Rain spent her time alone, as she always did. Finding that space hadn’t been easy on the Fugere, when they’d had a full crew compliment and an entire class of cadets. After the incident, however, the amount of people left could be counted down on two hands, making this ship appear much bigger than it was. A silent graveyard, adrift in orbit around a nameless planet. They jokingly referred to it as Ozymandias, after some old Earth poem.
Rain had never quite been sure why. After all, from what she knew about Earth poetry, it would be more prudent to call it Odysseus. Or Duranil, after an old story from her own home world of Obsedia. That is, until she actually went down to Ozymandias.
After touching down with a shuttle to scavenge for supplies, they came across a field of dust and ashes. Stretching out from that field were the crumpled remains of what must have once been massive buildings. Pillar bases, wide enough to serve as a living room, stood lost among the dust. Boulders of once titanic buildings lay strewn among them.
“Wow.” Rain could barely hold back her amazement. “Who do you think once lived here? Those remnants are… really impressive. How big do you think their cities were?”
“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair,” Newton answered.
“Nothing. Just… an old poem from Earth.”
“In a way. It mentions a king, Ozymandias, the remnants of his kingdom found somewhere in the desert. All that’s left is the lower part of a statue, with those words engraved on it. My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings and so on. In the end, we’re all eaten by the universe.”
“That’s… really sad. Are all human poems so depressing?”
Newton laughed at that.
“Don’t Nightwalkers have melancholy poetry?”
“If you live on a world of perpetual twilight, you learn to appreciate some cheer every once in a while,” Rain countered. “Maybe the universe does eat us all in the end, but we’re not there yet.”
Rain didn’t have an answer to that.
I am empty. I was once full of speaking and laughing and footsteps, but now they are gone. I don’t know why. I don’t know if the people will return. I hope they do. I am lonely. I don’t know who you are. You have come here alone. Do you come bringing news? Or do you come to listen? I have many stories. Many lives were lived in my walls. I have grown wise in my age. I could tell you of the loves, and the fears, of the grandnesses. All the wars and revolutions I have lived through.
Or maybe you want something else. Something smaller. I can provide. I can tell you of the two friends who always met in that one cafe. Who taught each other about science, math, and history, who longed to make something of themselves, who died in obscurity. Or the young man who rescued injured pigeons and nursed them back to health. The old woman who was passionate about sewing, who made and sold stuffed animals. Who loved her family.
All of them lived small lives. All of them died suddenly, abruptly, unfairly. They weren’t famous, they didn’t change the world. They were forgotten by people, but I remember. They left a trail, they left a mark that one day only the hills will know.
Is that sad? Maybe. But maybe it’s ok. Maybe there is something grand about the forgotten. We burn bright and fade out fast, and it is beautiful, I think. We spend our whole lives carrying the vast, blinking in defiance of the void. What is more admirable than that? I have many more stories to tell But it is getting dark and I am old and tired. I have many centuries left in me, but all dust must settle. I will one day give in to rot and decay. Eventually I too will forget and be forgotten. I think I can try to be ok with that.
You will probably join us one day. Are you scared? Or will you accept the unknown like an old friend?