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Orwell

Har Nevo

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The salt was stained and grey, accumulating into piles across the lake bed. The wind never let up, and the fine salt and sand became one with your clothes. Even from this distance one could make it out.

 

I pulled the wrapping over my mouth. From here, one could see everything.

 

The scorched sides of the Wasatch Mountains were drab and grey.

The twisted metal from what was left of Ogden stretched up into the air; a mangled mess of melted support beams and rubble. The air warbled and distorted under the hot sun, shifting the images from far away into a wobbling haze.

I breathed heavily, sucking in the stinging air into my lungs. I planted my hands on my knees, and looked out over the summit.

The entire lake had disappeared.

Dropship hulls were littered across the choked lake bed. A gust of hot air rose up the windward side of the peak, bringing with it a taste from the foothills of the shore. They said it would snow, but that was a week ago.

 

My ears are ringing.

 

He placed a hand on my shoulder.

 

"There. Further South. Do you see it?"

 

I pried the caps off my binoculars. I hefted them up to my goggles, squinting.

 

A shimmering spit of land, rising up out of the lake bed.

 

 

 

 

My lungs ached. 

 

He pulled on the burnt, peeling sign, grunting.

 

ANTELOPE ISLAND

 

The land was desolate, and piled with heaps of ash and salt.

 

"Did they really have antelopes here, back then?"

 

"In the beginning."

 

"What do you mean?"

 

We crested over a dune, trampling over a rusted fence.

 

A scattering of massive chalky bones, arched into vaulting cages crowned with a long and flat skull flanked by two small horns.

 

 

"When our ancestors first came, they raised buffalo here."

 

I reached out and grasped the dark horn. It broke off in my hand.

 

"Behind us."

 

He almost whispered it. We both saw it.

Bulbous and bleeding feet. Warped skin saturated with salt.

A pulsating mass of silently shuffling flesh, calloused and burned by the sun.

Tendons hung off the exposed bone as it staggered towards us. 

Arms and prongs hanging off of its waist, supporting a vestigial set of legs above its pelvis.

 

Pop. Pop.

 

My ears ring. A chunk of its midsection slides off onto the sand, taking a string of tangled innards with it.

 

Pop. Pop. Pop.

 

I start to join in.

 

Pop. Pop. Pop. Ba-bum. Ba-bum.

 

He hated doing it, despite everything. I wasn't as bothered. 

 

We watched it writhe on the ground, bleeding out of the holes drilled through its body.

 

Ba-bum.

 

I smelled the propellant floating up from the barrel, and time resumed.

 

In the distance, we saw another salt-encrusted body turn on the shore of the lake bed. It rolled aimlessly in the sand, pitifully dragging its body along.

 

"Are you still up for the rest of all this?"

 

"It's too late to be asking questions like that, don't you think?"

 

 

 

 

We walked towards the ruins to the South.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The interior was totally still, as though it were suspended in time.

Not even the particles of dust seemed to stir with our entrance, and poking around.

 

All the seats fanned out around a decrepit stage.

 

I sat down, and for a moment, imagined what it must've been like.

 

I thought of the shows, the music, the laughter, the drama...

To be able to forget, if just for a brief moment.

 

The seat gave away, and my fall kicked up a plume of dust and sent an echo through the ruined chamber.

 

I looked up at the sunlight spilling in through the gaps blown through the ceiling, tracing the perfectly angular beams of light illuminating the dirty floor up to the holes they poured in from.

 

I found a dirty pamphlet.

 

 

 

C A P I T O L    T H E A T E R

 

D E C E M B E R   A T T R A C T I O N S

 

 

The rest was burnt and ruined.

 

 

I could hear the doors swing open, followed by his footsteps.

 

 

"Look."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"...How old is this?"

 

"Very old. Back when they still used these."

 

"It looks so... Green. There's snow in the mountains. This was really here?"

 

"Yes. But, that was a long time ago. You've seen the ruins- it's since been built up. Hundred floor buildings, shopping megacenters..."

 

"It must have been beautiful."

 

He knitted his brow, before nodding slowly. 

 

"It still is. We just need time, and diligence."

 

I looked around at the chamber pit.

 

There was an old grand piano with a rack of a burnt collection of pages resting on the music rack.

 

The elaborate designs in the carpet had long since been singed off by the immense heat.

 

He sat down on the bench while I wandered towards the entrance. 

 

 

 

 

 

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They were a series of huts, re-purposed from the little wood that could be reclaimed.

It took days to clear the rubble.

It's a strange experience, to pick through what used to be someone's living room.

Holding fragments and pieces of family histories in your hands.

I was delegated to the lighter work, at their insistence.

 

The road ahead seemed fret with troubles, but seeing the rows of houses we had raised ourselves put a bounce in my step.

 

I thought of my future.

 

I thought of our future.

 

In a sea of debris and destruction, we'd made an isolated stand; the first steps towards the restoration of what once was.

 

All I had to go on was scripture, and the knowledge of those who had seen it first-hand.

 

He looks out over the salt flats, and despite everything, he smiles. 

 

I think he wanted this, deep down. A chance to be a part of history, like our ancestors did so long ago.

 

It feels somewhat ethereal to walk the same ground as them.

 

To think, what it would have been like to cross the Wasatch on covered wagon.

 

To see this land for the first time.

 

I keep myself busy with these thoughts when there's not work to be done.

 

We've run into the same problems they did, according to him.

 

The canals that lead to the lake are completely dry. Only stagnant puddles of tainted water remain, festering with flies and gnats.

 

We've penetrated the water table with the help of some equipment, and have built a handful of wells that will supply us until the Spring.

 

As temperatures rise, hopefully the snow melt from the mountains will seep down into the valley and provide us with a bit of excess.

 

We found the old temple. It was of course, destroyed. He spent many hours there, alone in deep thought.

 

We're still visited by them. We come across new ones pinned under the rubble, paralyzed and malformed. 

 

They've become less of an active threat, and more of a nuisance that must be dealt with before further expansion.

 

His voice is drenched in vitriol when he speaks of them.

 

 

With our numbers, we'll have our work cut out for us. Others are arriving here as well.

 

They talk among each other, both glad and apprehensive at the lack of any Mobile Infantry.

 

I ask him if it's only a matter of time.

 

"They won't ignore us. It's inevitable that they will eventually come here."

 

"And what then?"

 

"We won't repeat the mistakes of the past, and allow more blood to be spilled. We must show them that we can sustain ourselves independently. They're tired. Fatigued from fighting."

 

"Has that stopped them before?"

 

"This is different..."

 

He planted the sign into the soil. Nearby, we were putting in the supports for our greenhouse.

 

On it were four words emblazoned over a painting of a beehive.

 

 

 

 

S A L T   L A K E   C I T Y

D E S E R E T

 

 

 

 

 

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New arrivals today from Nauvoo. Some of their ships landed near our dwellings.

More would be passing through in the coming days.

The peculiarity of everything wasn't lost on them, I don't think.

 

I learned later that there were some among us who felt the leader of their camp had buckled, and made a grave mistake by surrendering Nauvoo on faith.

An argument broke out, and it escalated to blows near the southern well. They had to take him to the infirmary.

 

"...Ultimately, not something that could've been rectified in the eyes of the more extreme among us. Nauvoo rivalled Chicago in its heyday. Couched on the Mississippi, they would've had a lot to work with."

 

"It sounds like they were forced."

 

"I agree, but..."

 

"But what? Would you have rather they died there? You heard how it happened."

 

"Of course not. I just know that this won't bear well for the future, that's all."

 

 

"What are you afraid of?"

 

"I'm afraid that the Federation doesn't hold up their end of the bargain. We're alone out here. There's not much stopping them from painting us into the rubble. I know I wouldn't have been able to have put my faith in a Mobile Infantry officer to keep his word, even if I were a veteran."

 

Thunder clapped in the distance. A front was coming our way, laden with acid rain. We'll have to repaint everything again.

 

"If our numbers keep growing, then I think we can stand a chance. Show them that we can hold our own against the Neons. It wouldn't be hard."

 

 

 

 

"We'll see how it goes."

 

 

 

We're driving down to Provo tomorrow. According to reports, it's not as leveled as Ogden.

 

On the way back, we're splitting and stopping by Camp Williams, in the mountains.

 

Much of the freshwater deposits have been tainted. They're deep in the earth. Every drink has to be saturated with iodine.

 

Some of the animals are starting to get sick.

 

I hope nothing comes of it.

 

 

 

 

 

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I placed the final rock over the small pile.

 

No headstone. No markings, just a pile of rocks out on the dead plain. There was no name.

 

Snow had started to fall. It smelled of sulfur, and was stained with ash.

 

The ground was still too warm for it to stick. It turned into this soupy slush that covered everything, and clung to your clothes.

 

I spent the night swaddled in blankets, caught in a never ending cold sweat.

 

Neighbors came by to bring gifts of consolation, constituting of the little surplus that they had.

 

I felt sick to my stomach. I wondered what I had done to deserve this.

 

I heaved and sobbed until I passed out.

 

I sat out on my knees, in the cold.

 

Before the pile.

 

I listened to the wind cross the dried lake bed, and the distant humming of ships passing overhead.

 

Air traffic had picked up recently.

 

People were starting to get more and more concerned about the inevitable.

 

He came down and sat beside me, and pulled me close to him.

 

"We can try again. It's not the end of the world."

 

"I failed."

 

"No, you didn't fail. It's happened to plenty of people. It doesn't make you any less of a woman, or a mother."

 

My eyes welled up again. I couldn't clear the images from my mind.

 

"...It happens. Sometimes, without a proper reason why."

 

"...If I had done something differently, maybe..."

 

"You'll drive yourself crazy, dwelling on it like that. These kinds of things happen, and plenty of women who have them go on to deliver healthy babies. God has a plan for us. This was part of it."

 

"Aren't you upset?"

 

"I am upset. But I'm not upset at you. You know that."

 

"I just wanted..."

 

"I know. It's alright."

 

 

 

 

Our livestock are dwindling. Many are ill, and there's little to graze on this time of year.

 

Scouts at Provo said they saw dropships buzzing around.

 

People are getting nervous, and it's only being fueled by dwindling supplies.

 

We may have to begin rationing to last through the Winter.

 

Our numbers are burgeoning, and there are fears that we may not be able to support them all.

 

The temple is being restored. It keeps us together.

 

The cold is biting.

 

I can't forget why we're here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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