Fields of Glass
A scorching hot wind blew across the land, twirling devils
of dirt, ash and glass spun up and died in seconds. A ghostly howl accompanied
the spectre like devils and it did nothing to help the primal fear that had
nestled itself in Lyssa's young heart. She had braved the glass wastes so many
times in her twenty years of life she had lost count of just how many times
she’d been there and yet part of her, deep down in her heart, was always
terrified of the ghosts and demons that haunted the wasteland. And so many did.
Spectral apparitions, wraith like figures and howls of banshees were all common
in the wastes.
Her ragged cloak, a patchwork of fabric designed solely to keep her fair skin protected from the extreme heat that plagued the harsh environment of the barrens, fluttered and whipped about behind her and there was a soft crunch beneath her boots, barely audible over the howling wind. It was glass. Vitrified soil that had once been used to grow wheat and other crops, melted down and blown away by the intense, nuclear and plasma driven winds, causing the ground to become a glassy-obsidian substance that had rolled over and over itself until it formed the strange, partially volcanic look it had now. Dried out irrigation ditches crisscrossed the glassy ground in an almost alien symbol. She moved quickly over the uneven and broken ground, ignoring the soft crunch of glass and bone beneath her feet- as they sunk into the soft vitrified ground- and the shrieking of the wind, along the remains of an old canal once used by the colony’s industries to move large amounts of raw material and goods into the city. She passed the rusted, rotting remains of a narrow barge, the hull was split into two amid ship and was partially buried in the soil. Bits of green and yellow paint flaked off, the only remains of the bright colours that had decorated the boat, as she vaulted over the shattered bow and into the old canal bed. The flakes attached themselves to her like a burr to a dog’s fur.
In an empty field she saw a carcass of a massive automated farming machine, long stripped of valuable parts, its old metal frame was twisted and broken. The red and yellow paint was faded and peeling. The name of those massive machines, once painted proudly on the sides in a proud royal blue, was gone. Worn off by time and weather. The early morning sun seeped through the thick ash coloured clouds in scattered rays of light but offered no real warmth. On the horizon, wavering in the distance through a haze of heat, loomed the remains of massive skyscrapers, hollowed out and shattered, and in the centre, towering above everything like a god watching over the mortal world, was the tether. Once used by the colony to transport people and goods into an orbiting space station before the colony was destroyed. Now its massive cables were empty, the wagons and containers that once traversed the cables every minute of the day and night were silent, tucked away neatly and forgotten about in a massive station at the base of the tether.
Two hundred meters to her left the ruin of an old vehicle shed stood defiant, its walls rusted and stained and its titanium roof had collapsed in on itself. Whatever vehicle it had housed was long gone, picked clean and turned into spare parts by scavengers and survivors. An old motif had been painted on one of the outside walls facing the morning sun. Lyssa imagined that before the destruction of the colony the blue and silver emblem would have shimmered in the morning sunlight, standing out amongst the green fields and drab grey coloured shed it was painted on.
As she stepped into the shadow of the building, provided by the still standing walls, a large, half feathered bird erupted from its hiding place, soaring past Lyssa so closely and quickly she couldn't hold in the surprised yelp as she fell backwards. The Dunmore Eagle arched up and out of sight, letting out an annoyed squawk as it flew away. Named after the colony world the bird was native to the Dunmore Eagle came up to her mid-thigh and only its back and wings were covered in long dusty coloured feathers. Its belly, neck and face were instead covered with thick overlapping layers of leathery like skin that protected the more vital parts from some of the nasty predators that lurked in the plains of Dunmore. Not that any of it mattered to Lyssa. To her it was just another bird, a large one that, for the most part, left humans alone. The disturbed bird would probably be back soon enough to peck at her until she left. Lyssa planned on being gone before that happened.
Inside she found an old work bench and a dented, rusty old tool chest that creaked slightly as she sat on it and waited. The entire reason she was here was to meet someone. A man she knew and trusted. He, like herself, scoured the wastes and the edges of the city, looking for anything that could help keep their respective communities alive.
That’s how people lived on this world now. Not in glorious cities or thriving farming villages, but in small, worn down communities in the ruins of buildings that offered the most shelter. While the communities were mostly self-sufficient but they still needed things they couldn't get from trading with other communities. That’s where the hunters came in. Hunters, Gatherer’s, Fetchers, Scavengers; all of them different names for the same types of people. The people, like Lyssa, which ventured forth in search for medicines, fuel for the few precious generators that still worked and more ammunition for the guards. It was possible to trade for more ammo but it was a rare commodity and thus it was expensive. It was easier to scour the wreckages of old Colonial Guard vehicles and corpses of the old soldiers that had died over a century ago with the rest of the colony.
It didn't take long for her friend to arrive in a flurry of commotion, stumbling through the entrance way and over parts of the collapsed roof. Lyssa rose up, hand on the pistol holstered on her hip, out of concern.
“Evan?” she questioned the figure.
“Damn it, Lyssa! You pick the worst meeting spots!” Even bemoaned as he made futile attempts to wipe off some of the dirt that covered his shoulders. He didn't look angry, just annoyed. She could live with that.
“This was your idea,” Lyssa reminded him. “So, why did you want to talk away from everyone?” she asked. It was still early but people would have noticed she was missing by now. Communities were a tight-knit group of families. Any disappearance without prior approval usually caused panic, fear of a kidnapping from a scavenger group, or rage from the leaders. Lyssa had done it enough time before that even her father wouldn't be angry when she got back. But this had to be good for Evan to want to meet here well away from any community.
“I’ve done it!” he said triumphantly, grinning like a child after winning a game of hoop-stick.
“Done what?” she asked. That had better good.
“Found a way past the wall!” he said, his grin getting wider, his stained teeth showing as his lips parted into a full blown, jubilant smile. He held out his arms, as if waiting for an applause from his stunned one person audience.
“The wall, surrounding the old city. I've found a way past it! But there’s a problem.” Evan said, his smile fading a bit. He moved to sit on the workbench, next to Lyssa.
“It’s in the Field. I was there, with a couple of guys, the other day. We went looking for any critters scattering along the silica troughs and we found it. I took a quick peek and said it was collapsed, which it mostly was, but there was a clear path. I just didn't want those two morons to know.” He spoke quickly to prevent her butting in and stopping him. When he finished speaking his smile was back.
“What? Evan, that’s huge! Why didn't you want anyone to know?” she asked him, mouth agape. The city was out of bounds. Had been for over a century, since fire and plasma scorched the earth. It was beyond the Field of Glass. A multi-kilometre plain of obsidian, swelling and troughing and gashes that could slice off an arm or leg if you weren't careful. If the terrain didn't get you, the sudden storms would. There was no cover there. In the communities storms were dangerous enough, the glass and ash would skin people alive if they were caught out in the open. Out in the Field, it was suicide. And even if you got past all that and reached the city outskirts, which no one had done for decades, the massive wall surrounding the city was completely sealed off and impassable. There was a list of names of people that tried and failed to get through it.
There was also the scavengers, unfortunate souls that been driven insane by the circumstances of their existence. They’d kill you and take your stuff and eat you for dinner if given the chance. Unfortunately they were sane enough to remember how to use weapons. The only saving grace was that they tended to avoid the larger communities.
“Because I wanted for us to explore it. Think about it; if we find medical supplies, ammunition, a way to contact another colony, we would be heroes to the communities! We’d become legend!” Evan said. He looked at her, smiling still, but his eyes seemed to burn with a fiery passion and hope. Hope that she’d join him on this near suicidal quest of his.
It was tempting.
“Evan, it would take us months, if not years, to search the city. It’s huge! It takes up the entire horizon! Without a proper crew, we would never explore it all. Unless you happen to know the layout of the city and can read the old language. If you can read at all.” She was totally serious but couldn't resist the small jab at one of her oldest and best friends.
“Lyssa, you said it yourself; this is massive. Are you saying you don’t want to be at the very front of it?” She frowned. His grin widened again. “I really thought you’d want to explore the entire city before anyone else. Guess I was wrong.” Evan shrugged and got up to leave. As he began out the entrance Lyssa spoke up.
“Damn it, Evan. I'm in. But we’ll need some time to gather supplies. We’ll be gone awhile. Two days, then meet back here?” She said. Evan shook his head.
“No,” he said. “The old highway. Junction twelve-A. The military checkpoint. That’s a better place to start. Two days and we’ll meet there, bring your COM pad with you, you’ll need it, I think. And if you can bring a rifle, just in case the crazies are sniffing about.”
“Right, I’ll see you there. And try not bring attention to yourself in the meantime. We don’t want anyone keeping a close eye on us when we go.” Lyssa said, finally cracking a small smile.
They parted ways at the entrance.
“Take care,” Evan said as they shared a paring embrace before dashing off behind the shed and off home. Lyssa placed her scarf back on before turning back the way she came and set one foot in front of the other. The entire way home she couldn't wipe away the wild grin that had appeared at the prospect of finally exploring the city.
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