One Dark Night

Ancient trees, promised wine
now devastated.
Existence, aspirations
like those trees, this ruined land
blasted. Unfulfilled.

—lament of the traveler

His name, now devoid of meaning and value, he had not used since the initial step of his journey. He had adopted a title: Traveler. More of a description really, but it was strong enough to serve as both. In certain portions of this new world, it was spoken with the reverence of legend.

Those portions where it was not spoken, the most vile gesture known to humankind was substituted for it. On a world where water was now scarce, one did not waste a single drop. Thus, the act of spitting on the ground, voluntarily expelling precious moisture from one’s being to have it simply waste away in the red dust and the dirt was the epitome of contempt, the signal flare of acute hatred. It was a gesture directed at the Traveler on more than one occasion.

The breakdown of civilization had progressed swifter than any would have guessed. Several communities had very quickly descended into anarchy; hoarding supplies, building enhanced edifications to protect themselves and those supplies from marauding bands of thieves and potential killers, refusing contact with those outside of their close-knit clan.

The world and life as they knew it had been obliterated. Their fear was understandable. Their irrational behavior and voluntary isolation were not. They had no hope of survival if they splintered off into self serving groups and dissociative bands of individuals.

The Traveler had watched in dismay as the ensuing chaos stripped the dignity, the conscience—the humanity—from his fellow human beings. He had watched many of them metamorphose overnight into defiant, ghastly creatures incapable of reasoned thought and immune to all logic.

He had taken it upon himself to continue to attempt to enforce the laws, to retain some semblance of order and civilization. He spent his days journeying between the isolated communities, appealing to their better judgment, their common humanity. Life, for as long as he could remember, had been about survival. It was all he knew. The laws would help them survive even in this new description of “life in the present”.

Night had fallen. He turned to stare into the black night, thinking of home.

They had to survive. He and the others living on Mars were now the sole living remnants of the human race.

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