Unsung Heroes: Devon, 2300 AD Chapter 1
By Average Joe
"I--I don't want you to leave..." her voice trailed off. "You might not--" she hesitated, a knot building in her throat, "--you might not make it back..."
He had one hand on the doorframe, and the other tightly clutched his meager belongings: a change of clothes, a couple days' worth of travel meals, a small pot and a fork, all bundled up in a tattered brown blanket. He wished he had the courage to turn back to face her, to take one last look and tell her that everything was going to be alright, but he did not know if that would be true. He was not even certain that he would live long enough to finish off the small meals she had prepared for him.
With this knowledge it was enough for him to say, "Things'll work out. They always do," as a tear slowly rolled down his cheek. He heard the unsteadiness in his own voice, and was certain that she had heard it as well.
She had. She said nothing about it, for she knew that he was just as scared as she was. She also knew that the task he set out to do was of vital import. A heavy weight had been placed on his shoulders and she had no wish to add to that burden. She only murmured through the tears streaming unseen down her cheeks, "Just... remember to come back to me. I'll keep setting your place at mealtime until I hear one way or another."
"Don't worry," he replied softly. "One way or another, you will see my face again. I'll make sure of that." He gripped the doorframe tighter, fighting back the tears as he wondered how he would be able to keep his promise.
"I know," she muttered, shaking her head, allowing her hair to fall around her the way he liked, in case he decided to look at her one last time before he left. A break in the bleak, grey sky allowed a shaft of sunlight to filter through the broken window behind her, giving her a golden aura.
He did not turn. He simply let go of the doorframe, raised his head, and stepped out. He left home, the comfort and warmth of loved ones, and the safety of tamer lands. He looked left, looked right, and dashed off into the untamed wilds.
As he did, she fell to her knees, weeping. The shaft of light which had been at her back fell to the exact place where he had been standing only moments before. "Just remember to come back to me," she cried.
A calm wind stirred life into the dust of 300 years just south of a scarcely populated dome once called "Arris." A lonely figure brought up an arm to mask the face from the blinding, choking cloud, clutching a small parcel tightly against the chest.
Staggering forth through the vast wasteland, the solitary silhouette turned for a moment to take what he believed to be a final look at what he once called "home," the shattered glass dome over a decimated city, where the vestigial remains of humanity lived out their final days in the carcasses of burned out buildings.
Returning once more to his trek, which many of his people thought was both hopeless and futile, the most courageous and--heal...thy, was it? If you could call any of them such--of all the people who inhabited the devastated former metropolis began to have doubts about his journey as the shadow of fallen buildings, partially-liquefied, now-unrecognizable metal objects, and the ghosts of thousands upon thousands of dead spread black terror upon the horizon. Fear beaded sweat on the brow of the man traversing the vast desert, smearing dirt into recognizable lines as it slid down his face.
Shaking his head, the man muttered to himself, "No, no. I'm not turning back now. I can't. There are people depending on me in Trann... If it still exists..." He paused a moment to consider that point. No one had ever left Arris for the distant Trann Dome in a number of years. Furthermore, no one had ever made the journey from Trann to Arris. Only a trio of young travelers, who ventured into the food storage area where a murderous automaton attacked any who dared to raid the precious food containers, had ever come from the west. Though they said the food was spoiled, and his brother dead, they had returned with the seeds of hope.
"The seeds..." he thought, clutching his parcel tighter. "And hope," he stated aloud, again finding his footing and his conviction. "I will make it through, Trann. Lab Sixteen will not beat me."
Head, hand, and voice raised, the man cried out to the darkness, "You hear that, Lab Sixteen? I will not be defeated! Devon Levine will not be defeated!" And with that, the last of the Levines dashed off towards the west and the last hair of setting sun.
What had seemed on the horizon as a deep, black gash marring the joining of earth and sky the day before now ate Devon's entire view before him, consuming nearly 180 degrees of his field of vision. The wind, which had seemed so gentle previously, now muttered with the mouths of ghosts in the tortured landscape of a ghost metropolis.
Devon could feel the presence of thousands of people wandering aimlessly in the streets. Since the great calamity that critically injured the planet roughly one dozen generations ago, the nameless wraiths of persons unavenged wandered the place of their death until even eternity comes to an end. Or so his older brother Toma had always told him.
"Th-that would explain why it f-feels funny to live here," a much younger Devon said in reply, rubbing the tears from his eyes.
"Sure would, kiddo. Feels mighty eerie, don't it? Even though all of us have been here all our lives we all feel it. The presences of those who left before us press in on us all the time. And ya know what?"
"What, T-toma?" Devon mumbled through his sobbing.
"When they press on you the most, that's when you're on to something. Like when I go down there," Toma said, pointing at the ladder leading down into the black abyss where the legendary food stores were supposed to be located, "they really press on me. Most of the time, when they crowd around you like that, you run screaming. Even I do, sometimes."
Devon glared at his brother for a moment.
Toma shrugged indifferently. "Well, okay, every single time I've gone down there by myself so far. But listen," Toma continued, pointing a finger at his brother and getting serious once more, "I'll make it all the way, sooner or later."
Devon smiled and nodded, acknowledging that his brother was just as human as he was.
"And you wanna know something else, kiddo?" Toma whispered, placing a hand on Devon's shoulder. Devon leaned in, preparing to accept some sort of great secret.
"You, being a Levine, will have to face those things someday. I know they're pretty scary, and you wanna go run screaming and cry in mama's arms, just like you did today, but you just gotta learn how to deal with it. That's what being a Levine is all about. Facing scary things so you can get some great treasure is what we've always done. Be brave, kiddo."
"Be brave, kiddo," Devon muttered under his breath. "You can do it." Devon heaved his shoulders, taking in a deep breath, and placed his foot on the white "16" painted on the shattered asphalt road before him.
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