And, In the Death

Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

After the old nations fell, the survivors formed tribes. They argued, fought, and reformed into smaller tribes, always defined by ever-shrinking differences and increased fanaticism. When a tribe reached stability, it promptly set off to find other tribes to fight. For a long time after the ‘Years of Anger’, vicious skirmishes flared up as old hatreds manifested, driven solely by learned bias – because the causes were long gone.
These days, there are few enough of us that fighting is a last resort, except when confronting cannibal tribes. Where we go from here, I do not know. This is my last diary entry, for I now believe there will be none who need written knowledge for generations to come. We have become savages.
To any who read this, I hope you do so in brighter times.
Daniel Mapmaker.

“You finished painting on the rocks, my Daniel?”
“It’s called ‘writing’, Martha.”
“So you keep telling me. Still don’t see why you need to capture words before the air takes them away, but you’ve always been strange.”
“But good for making and teaching children, so you keep telling me.”
She giggles.
“Mama was right about that. Said your pappy had been a right brute, and only made one to follow him. Told me to ignore what I didn’t like and take what I needed. Said you’d learn, and that you’d always do right, no matter how much you didn’t like doing it.”
“Your mama was smarter than me.”
Martha sticks her tongue out: “She said that, too.”
He smiles. Look at me now, papa. You said you’d rather teach than kill, but to have a future with humans in it, you had to be a killer before being a tutor. I said it didn’t have to be like that. You smiled and said I’d change my mind. Here I am, agreeing with you. I wonder if that afterlife you spoke of was full before you got there? A lot of people died, after all. Guess I’ll find out, one day. Until then, I have a tribe to look to.
“Mapmaker! Which way?” Edward grins and raises his hands in entreaty.
Daniel waves to his eldest and points westward. Edward nods.
“Gather yourselves! We go toward the sunset. It’ll be a long haul, but our Mapmaker knows where better land can be found. We’ll have to fight to get there, so don’t miss a chance to speak your heart to those about you. You never know who’ll be left to come to the evening campfires.”
Daniel swings his pack onto his back with a surge of pride. That’s his son. Using a decent vocabulary to effortlessly lead and inspire a hundred people who have difficulty counting past five, and no interest in learning how to.
Martha swats his backside.
“Giddy up.”
“I will get you for that later.”
She winks: “Counting on it.”
He takes a few careful steps, settling the load. Then he strides down to join the tribe. Where they’re heading for used to be called Cornwall. Papa said there was something about the weather there that would make it a good place to settle when the foraging and farming couldn’t support the number of people the tribe would eventually attract.
Hope you were right about that, papa. Otherwise I’ll be finding out about spaces in your afterlife much sooner than I’d like.

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