Thursday, April 1, 2010

Apocalypse River 001

Tammon crouched at the edge of the inlet, spear held ready. The water was only a little murky, and the overhanging trees held back the sunlight that would have turned the still surface into a mirror. Nobody hunted down at the river anymore; not since that fish - or whatever it was - had dragged Sashil into the water last year. The inlet was shallow enough to keep out the larger predators, and as a result made a good site to spear smaller fish; but Tammon remained cautious anyway. Old Man Gaston said that in his youth, the fish had stayed in the water, and maybe that was so; but that world was gone.

A hopper swam into view, and Tammon raised his spear. It was a light, thin weapon, fast rather than strong. The hopper’s tail drifted back and forth, holding it still against the slight current; its front fins raised and lowered lazily. The second fins, below those, looked suspiciously like paws tucked against its belly. They were useless in water, but allowed the fish to hop around on the shore for as long as it could stand the air.

The tree branches stirred above him, but Tammon didn’t move. He knew that tree, and it only ate birds and the stupider sorts of rodents. If he flinched, he would scare the hopper away, and the food situation in the village would become even more precarious. The hopper drifted closer, but Tammon remained still, barely even breathing.

It darted towards the shore, and his spear flashed down. His first thrust missed, but the hopper was breaking water and didn’t see it. His second strike pierced its scales and pinned it to the ground; it gave a low, moaning sigh. Tammon twisted, holding it place with the spear while he extended his net. He had to be sure it was covered before he lifted it; he’d seen hoppers and other fish twist off of spear tips and push themselves into the water. It was only a temporary escape - the other fish brought the wounded down almost immediately - but it still cost the village food.

The village is dying anyway, he thought, as he raised the netted fish and reached for his knife. We cower back from the river we depend on. Like the fish - if you could believe Old Man Gaston - the river had once been merely water, flowing from one place to another. Now it grew increasingly strange - like everything else in the world, only faster. Tammon could remember when his father, and others, had taken boats across it, or rowed out to the center to fish the deeper waters. Nobody would dare that now.

He stood, holding his prize in the net, and wrenched the spear free. Then he heard the warning bell from the village, and knew that they were dying faster than anyone had expected.

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