Short Story: Deadman Part 3


Part 3

The five stepped into sunlight, the world around magnificently colored with a plethora of verdant and earthen hues. The trees, regrown through centuries that had passed, threw shadows over the ruins of once prominent sheet-metal warehouses that had decayed to rusted out skeletons. The sun shone through a missing section of roof around ivy and tall grasses that had reclaimed it and the concrete floor their boots resounded echoed with. They rubbernecked their way forward to a metal door, emerged into full-blown day.

Their radiation suits, of a thick plastic, and yellow and red in color, were hot, chaffing. A member of the team lifted an instrument to measure the atmosphere. It returned normal. The few, small bounces of needles no doubt came from the sun itself. He gave the signal– a thumbs up– and the others pulled back their plastic helmets, switched off small re-breathers on their backs through devices at their wrists. They looked upon the world with renewed eyes, saw now that the complex of rectangular warehouses, covered in green ivy, was flanked by trees that threatened to topple them. All around were high rock-walls that formed a horse-shoe ’round the warehouses. They stepped for the shoe’s center, looked westward toward its open face.

A small path led outward, wound down and around the mountainous cliffs. They took in the spectacular sight, breathed deep to inhale fresh air that lightly stung their chests. In the untold centuries that had passed, their subterranean lifestyle had only afforded them the fruits of reclaimed and carbon scrubbed air. Here, it was an adjustment just to breathe, but a welcomed one.

A renewed vigor infected the Five and their mission; they must find somewhere not far to establish a settlement. One team member elaborated on the benefits of following the path down the mountain in search of an old settlement, but stayed himself when reminded of their current location: they were atop a range, likely a few thousand feet from the region’s average sea-level. The road could twist and turn for days. The man understood. It would take far too long to blindly follow the road, when there might be a more than suitable expanse on the range itself. They did however, elect to follow the road for a time, and in keeping with the ways of their utopian society, each one agreed before any of the others would leave. They set off.

The road sloped a short way then leveled off, still far above sea-level. An exploration into a mass of plains between two tree lines that spanned yielded measurements of roughly a mile in each direction. At the furthest edge forward, a remarkable sight appeared. The ground dropped away abruptly, where the Five stopped and sat upon its edge. They looked out on the profundity of what lay below.

The cliff side was staggered, the path winding down for miles. It became smaller and smaller, until merely a line that wound beneath canopies, around forests, and onward into oblivion. The team remarked to one another. This was once their domain; Humanity had claimed it as its own, and when the bombs fell, were whisked beneath it. As if man had been a pile of dust swept beneath a

rug, there was no trace from this point, but the path that had once been a road. It was doubtless that by exploring the nethers of the proverbial rug, humanity’s final resting place would be uncovered.

For a moment, the team was contented to remain and dine on the first meal taken in the reclaimed world. The others in the utopian complex would enjoy the sight, its borders large enough to house a collective. There was a matter, however, of finding suitable agricultural land. And so, planting a tracking device, linked electronically to their wrist devices, the Five set out to find suitable land.

The path curved around to a second clearing, hidden from them by the orientation of the first, and of a lower elevation. It looked out upon a ruined landscape where, clearly, had been one of the bombs’ striking points. A team member examined the ionization, as the others looked down upon a massive crater, miles wide from end to end and more still from side-to-side. It was as if a large meteorite had struck the ground. Dirt welled up around its perimeter, such that it gave

the appearance of dunes, or waves breaking in a dirt sea. Its inner perimeter, along sloping ground, still scorched over eons from the intense heat that had been released when the missile struck.

In the center of the pit, was a clearly discernible ivy that grew in distinct, unnatural shapes. It hid beneath it, ruins of a man-made structure while the craters outer-banks were much the same as before; charred dirt that morphed into green grasses. Bushes and foliage came next, that towered over the pit. Then, a mass of sprawling trees, roughly a hundred feet high, their girth a fifth of their height.

The Five took measurements, concluding this would be a more than satisfactory place to begin their agricultural pursuits. They planted a tracker, and moved on.

So it went for days. The Five would travel a short way, find a clearing, and once satisfied, plant specific tracker for different tasks. In time, each who spoke were satisfied. The “Common-man’s” advocate found peace in the beauty of their proposed residential land. The “Agriculturist” found suitable land marked to meet their people’s needs, and when the bottom of the cliff-side seemed much nearer than before, the “Business” advocate put forth an idea. Perhaps it would be best to keep their district nearer the complex and their manufacturing equipment within. The “Security” advocate agreed; to mount any defensive encampment much further from the complex, did indeed endanger their ability to defend their industry. This was of course, in speculation that defense might be needed, as save for their underground home and themselves, they’d yet to see a shred of humanity.

When the Five returned bearing news of a beautiful world awaiting them should they choose to nurture it, the utopians obliged. They moved outward to their assigned areas, began their reconstruction. They re-fertilized the soil, cleansed from its minute contaminants with artificial, microbial life; and planted their crops. They built homes among trees and plains, cleaning and replanting the soil around them. They dismantled a few of the skeletal warehouses, used their components to repair the others, and set about matters of business and defense.

In the years that passed, they were contented to stay upon the mountain. Their harvest traditions, though no longer necessary, were upheld with even greater zeal. Their views, for the first time in the span of Humanity, worked out its flaws to incorporate the compromise of few among many, and vice-versea. While a few did leave to start anew nearer to sea-level, their spirit of cooperation lived on. If one were to wish, in any of their days, to see true paradise, they need only visit the people upon the mountain, and indulge in their way of life.

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