The sun crept over the Horizon, slowly flooding the small wooden shelter with a golden glow; the light gently rested upon the eyelids of the sleeping humans, dragging them carefully out of their sleep. As the group started to awake, they looked around, being dragged back into the harsh reality that sleep ever so briefly protected them from.
James sleepily stumbled over to the pile of weapons that were left in the encampment; rubbing his eyes, he peered over each one, but they simply seemed to be a carbon copy of each other, so he grabbed a spear and headed to the door of the camp.
“Hey, where are you going,” Johnathon ran over to James and turned him around.
“What do you think you are doing? We only get a few of those, and you are going to throw it away by going out alone?”
James stared blankly at Johnathon and shrugged, releasing the spear and returning to sit back down by Greg and the rest of the group.
“Come on, people, we can’t just go wandering off. We need to group up to make sure we do not lose any of these gifts.” Johnathon carried on preaching to his half-awake audience, taking advantage of the early morning to get people onto his side.
Greg and his group wanted none of it,
“All right guys, what do you say to grabbing some different foods and going out for a scavenge? Because by the looks of it, that food pile won’t last longer than a day.”
Greg gestured for them to leave, “James, Joseph, and I will take spears, Margret. We need you to stay here with the kids, but don’t you worry. We won’t eat anything we pick until you give it the all clear.”
Margret smiled and shuffled over to the still-sleeping youngsters; Mary cleared her throat and croaked out, “But what about me?”
“Honey, I do not want you coming out, but we will need someone to carry the food as we have the spears, so you will have to come with us. James comes with me to get the spears while the others grab the food.”
The group split up. James and Joseph approached the pile of spears, while Mary and Greg went towards the food pile.
“Woah woah, wait, you can’t just grab food. We are all hungry, and we have barely enough for a day. Why are you grabbing it like you deserve it more than the rest of us.”
“We need them to identify them out in the wild, you know, so we don’t bring back acid berries again.”
“Look here, you have already messed up enough by killing Peter, and now you want to tempt fate again by getting more food. Maybe stay home, pal.”
“You know what, fuck it.” Greg turned to the scared crowd of people all spread out.
“Hey, my name is Greg, and I am; I was a survival guide on Earth, and if we are not going out there to get more food and resources, we will die. There is no question that if we brave the outside, there is a chance we will survive. So you know what? I think we should have a leader, someone to make sure we are all working fairly, everyone is fed, warm, and most importantly, everyone is alive; I reluctantly vote for myself.”
Johnathon tried to get the next word in but was overruled by James, then Joseph, and finally Mary, all agreeing that Greg should be the leader. The crowd seemed to agree with all that was said but were uncertain on how to proceed.
“Ok, let’s make this simple, people. I will call out a name, and you raise a hand to who you want to lead; I want to hear your voice, the voice of the people.”
Joseph called his own name, and not a single hand went up his face soured. He called Greg’s name, hands shot straight up. It was clear that the people had chosen. Johnathon locked eyes with Greg, slowly returning to where he had fallen asleep just the night before; Greg then proceeded to lay out the plan.
“Alright, this is something I can deal with; now we are heading out to find more food and, more importantly, water; there are still a few spears. If anyone here is strong and willing to come, we will need a couple more people to help carry the food back; as for the rest of you, we need a count on all the food we have here. Finally, you will need to split into groups based on the work you can do, so any crafty people in one area, big laborers in another, then any other roles you can think of, we will return soon.”
A few more people stood up to join Greg and the others, bringing them up to five spear wielders and three carriers, Greg slowly opened the gate to the outside, and the group headed out as Anodyne watched, floating just overhead, cloaked from prying eyes.
The group was only minutes into their mission, and everyone was on edge, the spear wielders’ eyes flicking side to side, trying to catch anything they could while the carriers were as jumpy as a buck on hunting season, freezing every time a leaf fell. Greg realized that everyone was so on edge and was trying to think of a way to calm them down when he was called to halt by Mary,
“Umm, hey guys, I think this here is one of our vegetables, maybe.”
The group looked downwards to see lush green sprouts bursting from the ground that matched the head of one of the vegetables they had on hand. They pulled them up, carefully examining them, looking for any sign of a difference; after nearly an hour, they decided they were safe. Today was already more beneficial than anyone thought as they returned with arm fulls of more food; everyone’s tension seemed to drop a little on the way back as they had gotten food and were all safe.
As they walked back through the door, they saw everyone standing in groups with a short line standing in front of Maxwell; they would say something then he would point to a group that they would join.
“Ah, welcome back, triumphant heroes. That was a short trip,” Maxwell walked over to the group with three little old ladies, Margret included.
“These fine women are your food testers; if you put the food you gathered on this side, they will make sure it is safe.”
The food was placed down, and the three old women each grabbed a piece from the original pile and started investigating the new plants.
“Alright, here is what we have, boss; there is a group of four men over there that are either builders or carpenters; we got our big group here that is our weaker build people good for gathering. There are twelve there, including your lot, then we have the lifters here that will be good for hard labor, and including yours, we have five, then we have just three children, and the three lovely ladies here who you already met.”
“Lovely? He can’t know us that well then.” The three women all laughed away as they examined the fresh pile of vegetables.
“This is insanely well done, Max. How did you sort this so fast?” Greg stared in amazement at the efficiency and complain-free system that Max had organized; he was concerned though, as Maxwell was one of the ones that wanted to run the camp, Greg was uncertain if he could trust him.
“Well, it was easy; I told you I ran my own business, so I just used those skills to get everyone moving, and after hearing you earlier about being the leader and being responsible for everyone’s life here, I knew that I would not want that job, so I will help just make sure you get down what needs to be done. Don’t worry, I understand hierarchy.”
Days went by, and the group was thriving; they had food, water, their health, and in one short week, a small shack that five people could sleep in. Everything seemed to be moving along better than they could have ever dreamed of.
The first shack always had the three children sleeping in it along with the old ladies as they needed to be out of the wind. The next shack was already well underway when they managed to build some crude beds for those already in the first shack. The two smaller orphans slept on the same bed together so that they would all fit. One night, however, the little girl awoke to a strange noise.
“Big brudda, I hear something.” Both of her brothers stayed fast asleep as all the girl could manage was a small whisper; the noise seemed to make its way out of the shack and disappear into the black. She sat in darkness wide-eyed until the noise returned, it was louder this time, and instead of leaving the shack, it sounded as if it was coming back in. She snuggled up to her little brother as much as she could, completely terrified, closing her eyes so tight that her whole face wrinkled as much as the old woman sleeping two beds over; the noise kept getting closer until it rested under her bed and stopped. As scared as the girl was, sleep eventually overtook her, and she was awoken by the cries of the adults.
“Mary, where are you, Mary, Mary.” The shouts got louder and louder as everyone realized that she was gone. The door was still locked from the inside; there was no way she could have gotten out through the front door and kept it locked. Joseph was frantic and approached the small gathering of leaders.
“We have to go out there looking for her before it is too late! Come on, Greg, we’ve been together since this all started. Letslet’s get some spears and head out.”
Greg gave a long sad stare at Joseph, “We can’t. If we do, we might lose someone else; we can not afford to lose more people. So we are calling a lockdown for today, and we are going to put guards out for tonight.”
“What the fuck do you mean no? She is my wife, and I don’t give a rat’s ass about your lockdown; I am going out to find my wife.”
“No, we can’t lose anyone or anything; this world was designed to hurt, so expect that; we have already lost three, four now, so we can not allow anyone else to die.”
“But if we head out now, we might….”
Greg yelled to ensure vocal dominance. “JOSEPH, I am sorry, but she is dead alright? Just give up; there is no way whatever took her did it for a play date; she is dead your. Your wife is dead; deal with it.”
The whole camp was now staring as Joseph and Greg were staring each other down, Joseph’s eyes slowly filling with tears and turning red when a scream broke the awkward silence.
Joseph Sprinted for the door with a spear in hand and a group of men in tow, each with a spear. The door flung open, and Mary was running straight for the camp, only a hundred meters away; she was covered in blood and limping; her eyes were barely open with blood pouring over them. She was constantly wiping at them to see, just to be blinded by the morning sun. Joseph sprinted to her; as he left the walls, the door slammed close behind him, locking in the men behind him and locking Joseph out. Joseph got to Mary, holding her up. He turned to get her back inside just to see that there was a beast leaning on the door, locking everyone in; the door bounced as those inside slammed upon it. His eyes filled with panic, were there more? Did that matter? Could he even take this one?
Screams echoed through the camp, both human and beast before finally, it all abruptly stopped as the tip of a spear pierced the camp door. Those inside were hesitant to open the door, they approached it, listening to see what they could hear; grunting and shuffling crept through the door, followed by knocking and Josephs’s voice.
“Let me in, or don’t; I really couldn’t give a shit at this point.”
The door was opened to see Joseph standing covered in green blood from the monsters; Mary and the three monsters lay dead around him as he stood an empty shell of a man.