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Once Upon a Ruin : The Rebellion

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The world is indeed a cruel place, but the people who live in it are far crueler. The year is 2095. Fifty years ago mankind finally discovered another universe completely different from their own where a species called the Pure were at the top of the food chain. Little did man know that this new discovery would lead to their doom. Over time, the Pure, their own planet becoming toxic and having turned against them, invaded Earth and long war pursued that resulted in bloodshed and despair. The war was won by no one, humans becoming slaves to the Pure who now rule a ruined Earth.

Scifi / Fantasy
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

My grandmother once told me there are only two things good about being a human. One, you can experience the wonders of chocolate and two, you have the power to take control of your life. I don’t know what or who chocolate is and she died before she could tell me, leaving behind secrets of a past world she had once known and said she loved, those secrets falling into the red dirt and dissolving into the dry soil that now holds her lifeless body captivity and happily invites mine to join her. Maybe that is why I stayed even after she was gone, holding myself prisoner in this small one bedroom flat with only one window that’s eight feet high up off the floor and two by two, allowing only a meager ray of light into this shack that I call home. There’s a cot tucked in the corner, the thin wool sheet that is stretched over it, stained with dark brown spots that were put there by a previous owner. We don’t know who owned it before us, only that a group of scavengers pried it from the owner’s cold dead hands before selling it to us on the market for my grandmother's old locket that belonged to her mother. It was hard for her to part with it, but I had already sold off locks of my hair for a scrapping of bread and winter was fastly approaching us. It was all we could do.

The floor is nothing but dirt, my feet never once having experienced the feeling of floorboards. I don’t know what they look like or feel like, but I hear they make music and feel like smooth stone under your bare feet and are soft, yet still sturdy enough to support the whole weight of your body. I wonder if grandma ever walked on floorboards when she was growing up.

I grab the small worn leather bota bag I stole a few weeks ago from a poacher who had been walking around with a wagon, greedily running his hands through the shacks without doors on them and stealing from families too weak from starvation to even fight back. I wish I could’ve done more, maybe helped some of those less fortunate and weaker than me, but being a hero is just as effective as slitting your own throat here. This world is cruel and full of people who are often crueler. Helping each other is not a genetic trait that has been found in humans for a long time.

Slinging it across my chest as I leave the small, thin metal walls I call my home, I glance down at the red dirt that long ago stained the soles of my feet and I can’t help but want to stay here in the Edge, waiting for the time when I too will be nothing but red dirt. There’s a constant low murmur as people walk down the narrow dirt path, my hands clutching tightly at the bag in my hands as I stick close to the sheet metal that acts as a makeshift wall, my eyes scanning the thickening crowd of people. There is no telling who will walk just a little too close and try to grab and steal from one another at any given moment. I catch the eye of a small old man, his spine curved as he hunches over, the grey and tattered clothes hanging loosely from his body as the grey hairs on the edge of his chin blow in the gust of wind that sends a frigid air into my bones, his grey eyes staring at me, cataracts clearly taking over as his old age turns against him as he desperately tries to keep up with the flow of human traffic, his thin legs exposed to the cold air as they carry him further into the crowd and I wonder if that will be me one day. My body resorted to the dried mud that will become like a second skin and brittle bones hidden by the same torn clothes I wear now.

As I push forward through the mass of mud-stained faces that masks the people underneath them, I push that thought to the back of mind as I slip down a small alley, stepping over the small body of a woman who I think might be dead, her eyes closed, body stiff as she lays curled up against the unstable wall, her face buried in her knees, but I don’t stop to see if she’s okay as I slip by and keep walking, my bare feet carefully stepping over the scrap of metal and shards of glass that sink into the ground. I round the corner and there’s a ladder up ahead, that leads to an elevated level where the ground suddenly juts up, a small rope with knots in it, hanging over the edge, it’s threading worn and used from people who have gone up it before me.

I grab hold of the thick rope, gripping it tightly as I pull the weight of my body up, climbing the rope one knot at a time and the action takes everything in my body as I reach the top, dirt buried in my nails as I dig my fingers into the ground, pulling myself up, not caring that a streak of red earth stains the front of my already dirty shirt, the stain resembling that of blood as I dust myself off as best I can.

“Halt,” I tense at the commanding low rumble of an unfamiliar voice, my whole body going stiff as my eyes slowly look up to see a man standing there, towering over me as he looks at me with cold blue eyes. He’s wearing this clean and crisp leather black suit that sticks to his skin like a sleeve, his gray skin matching the sky above, dull and lifeless. It’s a Prole. “Show me your papers” He frowns, the markings that run up his neck to the side of his face shining slightly in the dull light, barely visible, almost hidden in his gray complexion. I choke on my own fear as I stand there, unsure how to breathe. What is a Prole doing here? They only patrol the inner barriers. Why is one out here in the Edge.

“Papers, Slum!” He snaps, growing impatient and I start to hurriedly search my body. He moves to grab threateningly at the black utility belt wrapped around his waist as if to warn me as his fingers run over the small silver capsule there, his eyes focused on me as I dig into my narrow pockets before grasping the familiar smooth edges of the paper between my fingers, hurriedly pulling it out to show to him. His large blue eyes narrow at me and I don’t know how much longer I can keep staring at the vibrant color without getting a headache. He snatches the paper out of my hand and I can’t help but notice the way he is careful not to touch me, possibly for fear of contracting something from me. I lick hurriedly at my chapped lips, tasting the familiar iron that bleeds from the cracks and he glances between me and the paper, his gaze calculating and scrutinizing.

“You’re a Prowler,” He mutters and I flinch at the way it rolls off his tongue with an edge of disgust to it as he crushes the paper between his hands, wrinkling it even more. “Go back the way you came, this path is closed,” He commands and I pause at that, confused.

“I-I take this way every day to get to work...It’s the quickest way to Perivian...” I breathe, my voice small and full of regret. I shouldn’t have said anything because now he’s looking at me hotly, eyes narrowed in anger and disgust as he throws my identification paper to the ground, the yellowed paper nothing but a crumpled ball.

“You think scraping dead vermin off the sidewalks is a job?” He spits out, his voice dripping with venom as I kneel to pick up the forgotten piece of paper, tucking it back into my pocket. “You’re no better than the trash you clean,” He hisses and the hate that fills his words is coming off his body in waves, the heat of them stinging at my skin as I weakly nod, averting my eyes, no longer able to look at him.

“I’m sorry...” I mutter quietly, wanting this interaction to be over and somehow it is. He shoves me away with the blunt end of his baton, the cool silver metal jabbing me in the dip of my collarbone, sending a dull pain throughout my chest as I stumble away, turning on my heels to go back the way I came.

Having been forced to take the long way to work, I find myself back on the path full of Slums just like me, their ribcages skinny with hunger, faces stained with dirt. My fingers are numb from gripping tightly at the rim of the mouth of my bota bag and as I push through the crowd, praying that no one tries to pry it from my fingers, I keep myself far to the left, trying to keep myself isolated as much as possible.

I’ve been walking for about thirty minutes when finally I reach the outskirts of the Edge, the red dirt here slowly turning into a light brown, the forgotten scraps of metal and broken glass that jut out of the ground unable to reach past this point as I see the familiar small black building up ahead, it’s brick walls lazily painted with black tar to seal any leaks and to keep away the large green Rock Beetles that would otherwise buzz and fly low to the ground as they spat hungrily at the brick, turning it into a meal they could eat. But there are none except the few that lay dead on the ground, ants already eating at the shelled carcasses.

“You’re late,” A raspy voice croaks from the corner of the room as I walk into the building, my eyes flickering over to the old woman that sits behind a metal table, her hands pressed against the surface to steady the unstable structure, one of the legs having rusted away long ago, leaving the table wobbly. Her dull brown eyes stare at me as she sits there on an uncomfortable stack of plastic crates, the angry red boils on the back of her hand demanding attention as she gingerly scratches at them, her grey hair slick with grease to keep it from falling into her eyes as it sits on top of her head in a tight bun held secure by a few paperclips.

“Good morning to you too, Loppy!” I yell, making sure she can hear me as she cranes her head to the right. Long ago she lost all hearing in her left ear, how, I don’t know but when asked she only laughs and pretends to not hear you, asking ‘what?’ over and over again until you give up.

“Don’t forget to clock in,” She advises, her thin, dry lips stretching over the black mass in her mouth where teeth used to be, her molars and a few of her top and bottom teeth having been spared, though her lisp is starting to kick in and pronouncing words that begin with ‘T’ is becoming a task for her.

She taps lightly at the small device next to her, her yellow, long nail tapping at the small screen and I grab it from her, the item small in length yet wide as a dull blue light emits from the bottom of it where it scans you, the light flickering, desperately trying to stay alive long enough to scan the dip in the inside of my wrist where a code invisible to the naked eye is inked into the skin there. As I press the small device into the skin there, a series of beeps sound before it indicates it is done reading.

“June 13th, 2095,” A mechanical voice sounds as I hand the device back to Loppy, her frail and thin fingers tapping at the screen. “Slum number 008-B2, request granted to access level 33, Prowler section,” It finishes and Loppy is looking at me now, her fingers disappearing into the faded brown wool cloak that’s draped over her thin shoulders.

“Here,” She mutters, the sound of gears grinding against each other reaching my ears as she hands me a glove, the black cloth clearly worn, two of the fingers having been torn off. “I found it the other day behind a bit of trash,”

“Loppy-” I begin, my eyes wide with disbelief, but she shakes her head, the action seeming dangerous, her thin neck seeming unable to hold up the weight of her head as she looks at me, the wrinkles in the corner of her eyes folding as she narrows her eyes to either study my face or to just actually see my face.

“It will help with the scraper,” She breathes out, shoving the worn black glove into my hand, the rough fabric grabbing unforgivingly at my skin. The sound of metal grating against each other becomes louder and I turn to look as the elevator arrives, the rusty copper cage beckoning for me to hurry up. I turn to look at Loppy, wanting to thank her, but she hates that kind of thing, her hands waving in the air, shooing me away, so I simply nod before heading to the elevator.

The metal is rusty and groans as I pull back the fenced gate, stepping into the unsound space of the car, the gate springing closed behind me and as I turn to look at Loppy, her hand tugging at the lever in the wall right next to her, she winks at me as the sound of gears screaming against one another is loud in my ears as I’m being lowered down, her face, the whole room disappearing from my sight and being replaced with the dark tunnel I am being lowered into.

It’s dark and I can’t see anything, just flashes of random light that blind my eyes and send an ache to the back of my head as the loud screams of metal rolling against one another comes to a screeching stop, the elevator jerking forward, my balance becoming unsteady as the gate slowly pulls itself back and I’m faced with a narrow tunnel. I pause for a moment, the familiar stench of sewage and gasoline filling my nose.

I step out into the darkness, the gate behind me springing closed and the elevator abandoning me down here, in this familiar darkness. I stand there for a moment, adjusting to the darkness, focusing on the sound of the light pattern of water hitting concrete, my toes curling against the rough concrete floor, the cold surface seeping into the sole of my feet.

“Hey!” There’s a small light up ahead, a familiar voice beckoning for me and without hesitation, I start walking towards it, the light getting brighter the closer I get and I have to bring up a hand to shield my eyes. “You’re late, what gives?” His voice is low and full of this rustic tone that warms the immediate air around him, his eyes a light brown as he repositions the red helmet on his head, a light strapped to the front of it.

“Had to take a detour,” I mutter as I try to focus on his face, the dark stubble that lines his jawline and reaches into his sideburns starting to grow and thicken as he hands me a black wetsuit that has holes in the shoulder and collar, a grin playing at his lips as he hums at that.

“Prenn, this is the third time,” He sighs as I start to slip into the wetsuit, his eyes averting my general direction as I shed off my clothes, uncaring that he is there. It’s not like any harm can come from him looking, we both know that, yet he can still manage to get flustered.

“I know, but I have a good reason this time Kalan,” I mutter as I zip up the front of my wetsuit, the fabric squeezing at my arms and legs. He lets out a sigh as he takes my discarded clothes, banging hard against the wall behind us three times, a hidden compartment springing open. He shoves my clothes into it, before reaching in, grabbing a small spear-like instrument out of it and handing it to me.

“Your gonna need this,” He mutters, my hand wrapping around the cold steel rod. “Tell me later... about your ‘reason’. Right now there is a code three in the lower banks. A Sea Babe is clogging one of the main tunnels,” He frowns and I let out this exhausted sigh, my eyebrows knitting in frustration.

“Pain in my ass...” I mutter, Kalan letting out a small laugh, his chapped lips spreading into a warm smile. We’ve known each other since we were children, both being orphans at such an early age, yet despite how similar our stories are, he smiles. He can always find something to enjoy, to smile at and I can’t. This life is nothing to be happy about and I can’t help but bite my tongue whenever he smiles like this. I hate it, but I can’t tell him that. Then he would just feel bad and I don’t want to be the reason he doesn’t smile anymore.

“I’ll do it if you-”

“No,” I rush, frowning deeply at him as I shove the bota bag I brought into his chest, his large hands wrapping around it, making it seem small and insignificant. “You’re too wide and big to fit in the tunnels, you’d only get yourself stuck or worse- killed,” I frown, gesturing towards his body. He’s only a few inches taller than me, but his shoulders are broad and his muscles thick. He’s sturdy and strong, but too wide and even in this narrow tunnel he seems to be taking up half of the space already.

“Well, I can-”

“Just, fill the bota with water, okay?” I frown, Kalan’s thick brows turning and knitting in frustration as a frown tugs at the corner of his lips. He clearly doesn’t want to just stand around, but he only nods, holding back his words and part of me is grateful.

“Oh, they’re going to turn the lights on soon,” He beams, tapping at his helmet and I can’t help but scoff a little at that. This tunnel wasn’t always dark, there are a string of lights that run along either side of the walls, but an energy shortage forced us to cut them off three months ago, the promise of them coming back on being an unlikely one.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” I mutter before walking away, the wet concrete underneath my feet a familiar sensation as the sound of water reaches my ears. I start to take in slow deep breaths, my lungs contracting and expanding with each breath as the smell of sewer water becomes pungent, stinging at my eyes. The sound of water falling and crashing into itself is loud and deafening in my ears as I reach the end of the tunnel, the concrete floor giving way to an abrupt drop as my narrow path abruptly ends, the mouth of the tunnel opening up to a cylinder, chamber like room that runs vertical, the bottom seemingly never ending.

The walls are curved and wide, spreading and opening up as a cascade of waterfalls seemingly from nowhere up above, my eyes gazing up its expanse, the source of where it’s coming from being hidden as if the water were coming out of the concrete ceiling itself.

I grip cautiously at the edge of the concrete wall, making sure not to fall as I lean out over the edge to get a better look, the tall walls that surround me, stretching and pulling as they disappear below into the dark abyss, the water flowing freely and uncaringly into it’s inviting darkness. All I can hear is the water crashing into each other down below as I look at the lime green moss that grips at the wet concrete walls, the mist that pours and floats off the waterfall and into the air slowly sticking to my skin.

A cool breeze rushes past me as I stare back down into the black hole and usually any ordinary person would feel the beginnings of vertigo looking down into the unending mass of darkness, but I’ve done this so many times that it no longer phases me.

“Get out of the way!” A girl screams, her voice high pitched and loud as it echoes towards me and I turn to see a girl with bright red hair rushing towards me, a lopsided grin on her face as she brushes past me, my back pressed against the wall of this narrow tunnel as she leaps out from over the edge, gravity pulling her as she dives, her arms tucked against her sides as she lets out a war cry as if heading into battle. I look over the edge in time to see her body disappear into the darkness below, my heart beating wildly at the inside of my chest. Who the hell was that? She was wearing the same wetsuit as me, so she must be a Prowler, but I’ve never seen her before.

I hear hollering down the tunnel, my eyes focused on the darkness and I know there are more people just like her coming my way. Without thinking, I lean towards the edge, my toes hanging curling in anticipation as I let the weight of my own body pull me forward, the air tugging and pulling at my skin as I fall. As the cool breeze that picks at my skin as I hold my breath, closing my eyes as the darkness that I was staring at from above just seconds ago, becomes closer, I brace myself for impact. It feels as if I am suspended in air, the sound of the air and water loud in my ears and for a second I think I will fall forever and then it happens.

Water floods my nose, presses against my ears and envelopes my entire body with its cold grasp, the nerves in my face being shocked to life as I hear the water rushing, the sound muffled and more peaceful as I twist my body, paddling blindly in this underwater world, slowly opening my eyes.

All I am met with is darkness as I hold the air in my lungs, kicking my legs rhythmically as I start to swim forward, unable to see where I’m going, but I know exactly where I am, my eyes burning against the unforgiving cold water as it pushes up against me, my body fighting the current as I see a small tunnel tucked into the wall as if trying to hide. It’s pitch black and I don’t hesitate as I let the mouth of it swallow me whole, enveloping me in a true pitch black. I try to ignore the burning in my chest, my fingers gripping and pushing against the water as I kick even harder until the need for air becomes unbearable and I find myself swimming up towards the surface, my mouth gaping and sucking greedily at the air as water lodges itself into my ears, my head breaking the surface of the water.

As my lungs fill with air, my skin tightening as a shiver runs through me, I swim over to the edge of a brick pathway, my fingers gripping at the ledge, pulling my weight up over the edge. My limbs heavy and my body drained, I lay there, the lower half of my body still submerged in the cold black water as I press my face against the cold brick floor beneath me, trying to catch my breath, closing my eyes, too tired to keep them open.

“Wow, you sure are weak,” I turn towards the familiar voice, my eyes opening to see the girl from earlier crouching down just a few feet in front of me, her eyes looking me up and down with this wide amazement as if she isn’t sure what to think of me. Her long red hair is damp as it sticks to the side of her face, her wetsuit dripping with water as she leans against her spear for balance.

“Y-you,” I stumble out, grabbing hold of my voice, trying to steady my breathing. “You broke protocol back there, you could’ve gotten us killed,” I breathe out, noticing the way she rolls her eyes at that.

“Hey, I told you to watch out,” She shrugs, moving to stand. “Besides, the protocol doesn’t exist down here. The Pure could care less whether we’re safe or not. They’ll just shovel our dead corpse out of the way and replace us the same day,” She huffs and I can’t help but narrow my eyes at her, a bead of water rolling down the bridge of my nose as my legs kick in the water below out of an unconscious tick.

“I care,” I snap and she laughs at that, shaking her head as she glances at something behind me.

“Whatever, weirdo,” She sighs, tapping lightly at her spear as if indicating something. “Don’t forget to take this with you,” She hums and I furrow my eyebrows in confusion, glancing down at the spear in my own hands. I look up at her again, slowly shaking my head.

“Take it with me when-” The words get caught in my throat as I feel a sharp pain wrap itself around my ankle, tugging and pulling me back down into the icy water below, the air rushing from my lungs as I’m enveloped by the icy water that floods in around me. Something is pulling me and as I twist and turn, uselessly kicking my legs, trying to escape, I realize that isn’t going to happen. Spear in hand, I turn around to see what’s pulling me, my chest tightening in panic and anxiety as I’m met with a soft orange glow that emits from it’s large, leaf-like limbs as it roots itself into the crack of the bottom of the floor, bubbles of water escaping from underneath it as it’s one large eye stares up at me, the pale orange color that surrounds it's black pupil singing to me.

A Sea Babe. A large one at that. It must’ve been down here growing for months. How did no one notice it? Pain erupts up my leg as the vine it has wrapped around my ankle tightens, the small thorns that jut out of it unforgivingly digging into my flesh, making me cry out, but my voice is drowned by the water that quickly fills my throat and I need to get out of this.

Its large eye blinks up at me through the flurry of large vines and orange leaves that glow around it and I have to kill it, drive my spear into its eye. Gripping tightly at the spear in my hand, the water tapping coldly at my face, I can feel my lungs start to burn, my head starting to ache. Kill it. Just kill it already. But I can’t. It’s looking at me and for a moment I forget where I am. Wait, what am I doing? It’s too beautiful to kill. So unique, so bizarre. I shouldn’t kill this creature.

My mind is becoming clouded, my limbs heavy as I stare at it and as it pulls me closer, it’s eye slowly starts to split apart, revealing it’s mouth, showing the larger row of sharp teeth that jut out of it’s grey gums as if smiling at me and I’m so close I could reach out and run my fingers across the razor-edged fangs. Wait, what?

My mind pulses to life, my lungs slapping me awake with the realization that I’m not only drowning but about to get eaten. I grip tightly at my spear, remembering what the hell it was I needed to do, but it’s thorny vines are wrapping around my legs and arms now, tugging and pulling and I have to fight against its hold as it tugs me closer, my vision becoming blurry as the lack of oxygen starts to rub at the edges of my brain. I don’t want to die, I can’t die, but it feels like that is slowly becoming my reality as I struggle against it. I just need to drive this spear into its eye. I just need to break free of this hold. I try to jerk my hand away from the vine that’s wrapped around my wrist, using up the last of my energy as I break free, throwing the spear, wasting no time as I watch it slice through the water, a muffled scream filling my ears as it suddenly releases me, a thick, milky orange substance filling the water as the sharp-edged blade of the spear slices into its eye and I have to close my eyes and mouth to keep from ingesting it as I kick hard at the water around me, swimming towards the surface with a desperate need for air.

My body is already starting to choke, my chest tightening at the lack of oxygen and as I break the surface once more, I can hear the sound of my own throat as it opens up allowing the stale air around me to rush in and fill my lungs, my chest aching as it expands. I can’t stop the burning sensation at the back of my throat as I swim towards the edge once more, this time pulling myself all the way onto the brick surface, rolling onto my back as my limbs go completely limp, a cough ripping through my body, sending a tremor through my shoulders as my eyes start to water, the foul stench of Sea Babe blood filling the air, it’s rotten decaying stench making me my stomach turn on itself.

“You made it!” Her voice is loud in my ears and as I look through blurry eyes to see the red head girl leaning over me, a wide smile on her face as she watches me cough up the water in my lungs, I feel a sudden rage that heats the tips of my fingers. “Honestly, I thought you would die, I mean, you were down there for a long time. You didn’t look in its eye, did you? Cause that’s a big no-no, they aren’t called Sea Babe’s for their ‘good looks’,” She laughs and I feel like I will pass out from both anger and exhaustion.

“W- Why didn’t... you help me!?” I breathe out, my voice scratching at the sides of my throat as I glare at her the best I can. She huffs a sigh at that, running a hand through her hair as she purses her lips as if searching for an answer.

“I wanted to see if you could do it! And you could which is totally bad ass,” She hums, stretching out a hand for me to shake, her whole body seeming to be upside down as I look up at her. “I’m Dal- short for Dalia. What’s your name?” She hums and I just stare at her in disbelief.

The world is indeed a cruel place, but the people are far crueler.

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