A great horned owl hooted a farewell to the departing night. I rolled off my mat, and massaged my lower back in attempt to alleviate my numerous aches. Sliding into my leather boots, I moved silently so as to not to wake the others. Two buckets lay nearby, attached to an oak pole as thick as my wrist. I slung it behind my shoulders and headed to the slithering stream that bisected the camp. The dull monotony of my task and the hypnotic rushing of the waters encouraged reflection.
It must have been over forty seasons ago. I had been out washing my car, taking care to ensure that every harsh line gleamed in the Citadel sun. The hiss of static had suddenly blared from the radio and a wavering screaming voice appeared and warned of invaders from above. I laughed at first, thinking it a grand joke. It had been done before, after all.
The laughter died as they landed. I watched in awe. According to everything I had learned in school, what I was seeing was impossible. But there they were, sharply dressed, and carrying weapons designed for their appendages. I stood my ground, watching them amongst the piercing screams and the sounds of fleeing footsteps. They quickly overcame what little defense we managed to muster.
Gathering all the citizens together, they locked us into schools and community centres. There was an irony to that. Our emergency shelters were being used to cage us, but I was in no mood for humour. After a few weeks, the smells of rotting flesh and human waste, and the cries of the sick and starving enveloped me. Amongst all that decay, the lone bright spot was finding my brother, stunned but in good health. We stuck close together after that, sleeping in shifts with makeshift clubs close at hand to ward off attacks by those desperately seeking food, any food.
One day, without warning, they opened the doors. They told us we would be moving away from the coast. “It is no longer safe here,” they said. “Humans were not meant to inhabit these regions. Gather what little you can carry.”
My brother contributed to the shouts of protest. “This is our land you fuckers. We're not moving,” he said.
In the end we had no choice. They radio tagged us and roped us together. Thus began our migration. They were kind to us, I suppose. It was no death march. The pace was manageable and they flew in food and water.
Along the way, we joined with other bands composed mainly of dreary, desperate stragglers hoping for some way to escape the predicament. They were unwelcome, more mouths to feed. But at least they had news of the outside. I was shocked to learn that the entire world had been overwhelmed and the major powers defeated in a large military operation, their industrial capacity left in ruins. Oil refineries, fisheries, weapons factories and power plants were among the long list of industries destroyed.
“This is madness,” my brother said. "We have to get rid of them. This is our land. They can’t just come here and destroy our civilization. What are they going to do with us anyway? How do they plan on feeding us, on providing shelter and warmth? They’re leading us to our deaths. We need to fight back. We outnumber them. We can kill them.”
“Delendi erunt.” They must be destroyed. That was the motto of Humans for Humanity, the group my brother formed. They were a small and disorganized bunch of men playing at resisting, meeting in shadows and speaking Pig Latin. It hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. The zeal of its membership is as blind as ever. They’ve managed to murder a few of our captors, but no more.
A guard’s shout woke me from my reverie. “You there. The hunters have arrived. See to them.”
I knew little about the hunters. They were always grimy, their ripped clothing hinting at lithe muscled bodies beneath. They looked above us and they limited themselves to short, unrevealing sentences. They would return to the camp every couple of weeks and trade their meats and furs for the goods and supplies that we produced. I do not understand why they were trusted to leave the camps when no others were. Why they returned was an even greater mystery.
Moving to fill the leather canteens at their sides, I asked the first one, “What’s it like out there? Any news?” He didn’t reply. “Listen,” I said, “we don’t have much in the way of flowers in here. If you can bring me some fresh ones the next time you return, I’ll make a new shirt for you. If you can find some roses, it’ll be boots instead.”
“Done,” he replied.
Even in the camp, flowers still worked. Why we were allowed to breed, I do not know. Suffice it to say, there is something to be said for sustainability.
I made my way back to the stream to re-fill the buckets and my memories enveloped me once more.
After a few months, we had arrived in the hilly rolling countryside that I have learned to call home. Without any equipment, any fuel and with only the most basic of implements, we constructed our first camp.
We built two more in different locations over the years and each year we moved to a different camp and allowed the old one to lie fallow. Our captors initially brought in supplies, but eventually we learned to provide for ourselves. We farmed. We chopped wood. We planted groves. We made tools. We fished. We did everything that was needed. Over time, our camps began to feel more like rustic villages than prisons.
I guess that was the first sign that I had embraced the new way of life. It seemed the best way to adapt to the present situation and is not so bad. It’s a hard life, but I’ve found more satisfaction these past few years than I ever did being an accountant. Many others however, still dream of regaining our old way of life.
“Whose side are you on?” My brother’s voice cut through my daydream.
“What?” I asked.
“I’ve been watching you. You haven’t been to a meeting in nearly six months. You don’t even try to resist anymore. You just wake up every day and do your job. You even spend your free time helping out. Don’t you see? You’re doing exactly what they want you to. You’ve been pacified. You disgust me.”
A guard saved me from having to reply. He walked up to us awkwardly and flipped the switch on the small voicebox he wore around his throat. Looking at my brother he spoke, “Get back to work.”
My brother looked at me and spat. “Collaborator,” he said.
When he had left, I turned to the guard, head bowed. “How may I help you.”
“We’ve been watching you,” he said. “It is time for you to leave and join the hunters. You can learn nothing else here. You may join a band or wander alone. You may trade and rest at any camp. We ask only that you speak of this to no one. You are free.”
“I do not understand,” I finally whispered, hardly daring believe what I had just heard.
“Yes,” the guard replied. “You do. That is why you may go.”
(Retirado de "Tales of Taenaris, volume 3", que está em fase de tradução para Português)