So I just woke up from this crazy dream that seemed to mix all the things processing through my mind in recent days, in a bizarre, semi-coherent post-apocalyptic setting. It was cards, the fact that collecting keeps me broke, but also sane, yet is probably ultimately pointless, and possibly of the pointlessness of life in general, Amiga longplays on Youtube, desperation to get out of this godforsaken place I live and see the world cropping up again… And rather than just talk about it, I decided to try and turn it into a little story. I dunno, I can’t really make much sense of it either way.
Also, I wouldn’t count on it, but if it sticks with me long enough, I may try to add some illustrations to it at some point. But anyway, enough jibba-jabba. It’s storytime! (Oh, fair warning, I am really bad at writing short, succinct sentences.)
In a series of cave-like structures rising out of the desert somewhere on the barren husk of a planet its inhabitants once called “Earth”, a pair of young scavengers bring in a new box of artifacts for the caretaker of this place. Several long stone slabs in this place are dedicated to them. The caretaker meticulously catalogs the tiny rectangles of (mostly) cardboard with pictures on them, before sticking each one in an individual-sized hard plastic containment unit. Then the old archeologist or historian of a sort affixes them to these massive stone slabs. Not that any unit of time has much meaning when the clock on the life of humanity rapidly dwindles to zero, but it would be fair to say he has done for this decades now… Ever since he ended up at this place when he was a small child.
He thought it a hobby, but maybe it was an obsession. It kept him sane as the world died all around him, and had kept him fit some 30 years after the fact. Knowing he wouldn’t be around forever, he taught the younger scavengers who found their way here the craft and why he used to believe it was so important.
“This is the story of our history!” the kindly caretaker would beam. “Even if it is lost to us, maybe someone will someday find this place and have some idea of what we were all about.”
The caretaker used to go out into the world to forage for supplies and artifacts with rest of them. He was hopeful and often even exuberant in his quest. But even he couldn’t feign hope forever in a world that no longer seemed truly capable supporting life as we knew it, and indeed one day the light finally extinguished in his eyes. From then on, he buried himself in his legacy. The cards.
But these days even that couldn’t mask the hopelessness and despair consuming his heart.
‘What good have I actually done?’ he often found himself wondering when he allowed himself the time to think.
It was hard to lie to himself about the emptiness he felt. The seeming pointlessness of this monotonous endeavor. It kept him sane for the longest time, but that was it. There was nothing more to it, no legacy or actual importance. Just some old man attaching these little colorful pictures, mostly depicting the sportsmen of their day, onto giant stone slabs.
He was so jaded but he never let it show. To the other dozen or so residents running around this half-buried little monastery-like structure in the shifting sands, he was still the kindly old caretaker, full of homespun wisdom and a warm smile.
The old caretaker pulled down the hood of his ragged robes and ran his fingers through his long silver mane of hair. He adjusted his glasses examined his latest wall of work. Finally he knelt down before the latest box, but stopped before opening it.
“I want you fellas and your sister to do this,” he looked at the young men, smiling.
They stared down at him, confused.
“This is a young person’s game,” he dragged himself back up. “It is not in my heart to do this anymore.”
They seemed confused and tried to protest, but he raised his hand to silence them.
“Now I taught all of you how to do this at one point or another,” he spoke more gruffly than usual. “You can still go out in the world to hunt. I did both until I became an old man myself.”
“You know the process, how it all works,” he reassured them. “It is time to start the next slab.”
He spoke softly as he walked passed the duo, one of whom was fighting back tears, “Please keep up my work for me wall I’m away.”
After informing the others of his decision to leave the encampment and offering his words of encouragement and saying his goodbyes, he packed up his few belongings an the few days worth of food and water they could muster, hopped a windjammer (think surfboard + sail + small engine), and was never seen again. No one at the underground compound would ever know what exactly happened to him, but he somehow managed to kick around out there in the desert wastes, surviving for many years.
The old man was many mostly, but not constantly, lonesome adventures and thousands of miles away from his place in the cards by the time his ancient and weary frame had finally fallen into such disrepair that he could no longer continue his journey. Through the dissipating remnants of a raging sandstorm, he saw two big bright lights in the sky nearby loudly jet away.
Desperately he called out to the lights as he futilely dragged his broken body towards where they had been. The old man collapsed atop the ridge in the crater whatever was connected to the lights had caused in the burned out land. He gracelessly slid and rolled and tumbled and crashed and burned down to the center of the surprisingly deep crevice.
“Ow…” the ancient explorer deadpanned after laying face first in the sand for a moment.
At last he summoned the strength to drag his broken carcass up for what he knew was probably the final time. He couldn’t believe his eyes at what stood before him.
“A… a potted plant?” he stared in amazement.
He wondered if he was hallucinating, but the aroma the flowery, bushy, fledgling tree gave off was too real to be mistaken. He hadn’t smelled anything like it since his youth, when the dying world he inhabited was still modestly capable of creating life. It was just so out of place, a bizarrely innocent reminder of somewhat less hellish times.
All the broken down old man could do was laugh riotously as his strength faded and his body gave out. His manic laughter sputtered into pained wheezing and he collapsed over the pot holding the plant, willingly giving himself up with joyful tears in his eyes…
Some millennia later and you can feel it all around this lush and beautiful world the original inhabitants once called “Earth”. From the Tree of Life that reignited this lonely little planet with the enrichment of one little spark, to those now meticulously preserved old caves full of cards thousands miles to the south and east. To everything in between and far, far beyond…
Strange beings now inhabit this world. They aren’t quite human, but not quite those that left that silly little plant all those eons ago either. They seemed something of an amalgamation. Their head and ashen skin tone were more like that of the extraterrestrial interlopers, but they had smaller, smoother, less angular bodies like humans were believed to have had. An odd mix indeed, and very few, if any, of either original species is believed to still exist. Their conflict is what nearly destroyed both of them anyway. But hey, this world lives again. And I guess that’s something. Right?
I don’t even know…