Here is the latest installment of Serpula. Comments are always welcome…
The air was the cleanest it had been for some time. Since the Serpula had shown mankind the atmospheric purification process, people no longer needed protective suits and breathing apparatus to walk around the City of Ruins or its surroundings. The only radiation present was that from the sun and even that was no longer a burden on mankind. The atmospheric purification process had allows humans to live longer than ever before. Even in the City of Ruins, one could live a hundred years and still feel youthful and energetic.
However, there were still necessities in this lost, decrepit city. The necessary supplies for the day were all that was required; food and water and protection for security. Food and water were necessary from the outside. As there were no legitimate inhabitants, none of the electricity from the main land, was sent. Therefore, the city became the nomad land of generations past. One for self and none for all. This was the main reason security was necessary. Unfortunately, no one wanted to be a security officer in the abandoned city and the Serpula felt the city was not worth their time. If not for a weapon and his skill with hand to hand combat, the wanderers and vagabonds would ransack his camp, beat him and leave him for dead.
As Peter hiked down what was once the main thoroughfare, called Broadway, he noted the various and sometimes comical signs on the buildings. An old toy store called Tim’s Toys and Such. A coffee shop called Corner Coffee, and many convenience stores all with old rusted signs that squeaked in the gentle cool breeze. Broken display windows exposed the mannequins and antiquated electronics. Most of the clothing stores had been ransacked by the hidden, mysterious and violent inhabitants of the city. Store by store, Peter wrote down the natural and unnatural deterioration of the city’s architecture in an effort to put together a story of ancient times. As a historian that was his primary goal. As an amateur archeological enthusiast, the digging was to be done at another time.
Peter looked down at his watch which displayed the time, date and weather. Weather was the most important as you never knew when an approaching storm was coming. Even thought the atmosphere was clean, storms had grown in strength and severity over the past half century. Hurricanes had become a yearly phenomenon. Although this wasn’t the season for hurricanes, it was the season for surprise rain storms. If you didn’t seek protection from the elements, you may become ill and unprotected from nature, wanderers or criminals.
As he studied his watch, he realized he was slightly behind schedule. He thought to himself, “If I cannot finish today, I will have to make this trek tomorrow as well.” The thought of camping out overnight crossed his mind, but his safety would have been at risk. As he pondered his options, he felt it best to get to the study sight, work for a couple of hours and then make the hike back toward his safe haven. At least he would have food, water and electricity based on a small solar generator he made during his university days. At least, he wouldn’t have to worry about stories of the old city rummaging through his mind at rapid pace.
Everyone had been told and believed that the City of Ruins “citizens” were ruthless, violent and desperate. A small population of men and women who claimed the Serpula were the enemy were the main inhabitants. They felt that the laws of peace and prosperity were immoral, unethical and against the laws of an ancient mystical god. Peter thought they were mostly insane, but the Serpula felt it important to have them banned from society.
Stories had been told to him as a child about an archaeologist who after exploring the midtown area, was surrounded, beaten and left for dead. It had been so horrible that his own family couldn’t identify his body once it was discovered floating in the river between the City of Ruins and coast of Eastern Kingdom. That was why protection was so important. At least Peter would have a chance to protect himself in the sight of danger. Peter knew he had to finish what he started today.
After an hour and a half of walking, he arrived at the study sight. The shorter buildings and abandoned eateries told him this area was more residential than it was business. Tables and chairs were rusted, missing portions of legs so that they were either leaning or toppled. Awnings were torn and graffiti dressed walls.
The graffiti were indications of who was there. The markings were an old design of a skull with a cross on top of its head. This design was the mark of the Psychotics, a group of people who thought they saw and heard things that weren’t really there. Due to their psychosis, they were the most violent and most desperate. He had encountered them when he first arrived at another location north of where he was staying. Once, when he was documenting his observances of the sight, a man came out running toward him shouting, “Take heed of the dogs. Take heed of the dogs.”
Without hesitation, Peter had used his hand to hand combat skills to take him down. He didn’t want to harm him, but as this Psychotic attacked him, he felt the need to protect himself. As Peter locked the stranger in a classic choke hold, he heard the man whisper, “Take heed of the dogs. They are like the donkey of old.” With that, Peter let go as to not kill him but simply render him immobile. Peter then understood the necessity of a weapon other than his hands.
For years, Peter had studied the ancient martial art form, Akido. As far back as he could remember, he would study under his master, Toshiharu Nagasaki. An older but gentle man, Toshiharu pushed Peter to excel at whatever he put his mind to. At first, Peter felt Toshiharu was too demanding, but he learned over time that the demands of the art were specific, humbleness, control and discipline. If it wasn’t for Akido, Peter would never have learned to succeed in life. Peter knew he couldn’t stay for long but one building caught his eye.
Although its walls appeared to be crumbing, the architecture told him it was built around the early 1900s. Nearly eight hundred years had passed since the building had its first inhabitants. The distinguished lines, the castle style top and the crumbling plaster enticed Peter’s imagination. What was it like? How did people live in these conditions? As he thought about these things, a noise from within the building captured his attention.
“Hello?” Peter asked, “Is anyone there?”
No answer came, yet the noise happened again.
“Hello? Is anyone there? I don’t want to hurt you,” Peter asked a second time.
Once again, no answer came. The noise sounded like a deer that had been wounded and was crying for help. Disobeying his instincts, Peter began to approach the building with his weapon of choice in hand, an old samurai sword. Light and well crafted, Peter had the ability to wield this sword and use it appropriately. In order for him to accept the position by the government, he had to prove that he was able to protect himself as no military personnel were allowed to enter the city.
The city had become a prison island of sorts. The military was allowed to drop criminals off, but no residence could be taken other than that of historic or archaeological in nature. And even that was done at one’s own risk. Convict and drop off. Nothing else, nothing more. Sometimes, the military would simply throw the convicts overboard and told them to swim to the island and make bets to see who would survive. On occasion, the captain would turn away and the soldiers would take bets on how many they could pick off before they reached shore. Most times, the convicts would drown as they never learned how to swim. Either way, the world had gotten rid of the criminals. Understanding this, Peter still felt the need to write a true story based on the historical discoveries of this old city.
The noise sounded for a third time. This time it was louder than before. Peter slowly released his sword from its sheath, readying himself for any possible attack. As he cautiously opened the door, he peered around the room. He saw the layers of dust and dirt indicating centuries of neglect. A single wooden desk still stood while the old style office chair had two wheels missing. Above the desk was a mirror that had clouded with time. To the left a window with broken glass. To the right, a closet door. He entered the room and shone a flashlight with the intent to continue on this quest.
Again the noise became louder. Peter knew he was walking in the right direction. As he walked toward the back of the room, he noted another door with frosted glass and what appeared to be a light moving back and forth behind it. Peter turned off his light, gripped his sword with both hands and tapped on the door.
“Hello,” Peter shouted. “Is anybody there?”
No answer came from behind the door. The light continued to move back and forth. Peter thought, “Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s an optical illusion.” His instincts told him to leave, but his curiosity got the better of him. What or who was behind the door? How were they getting light when no electricity flowed through this place? Whatever or whomever it was, Peter knew he was in for a possible fight.
As he approached the door, reached for the handle and silently turned it. As the door opened, it creaked loudly as a cry for help. He looked around to discover the origin of the horrific sound. As he looked around, he saw an old non-working light swinging, swinging and a hole in the wall that led to the outside. Suddenly, a bird swooped down and hit the old light making it swing. “That’s all it was. A clumsy bird”, Peter thought smiling, while giving a sigh of relief.
Again the noise became louder and more frequent. This time, Peter knew the noise was with him in the room. As he looked around, he saw a closet with the door hanging half off. The top hinge had rusted and disintegrated by the rain, while the bottom hinge was nearly gone as well. He heard the noise and knew it was coming from inside there.
Peter approached the closet and placed his sword in front of him, ready to protect himself from whatever or whomever may appear. “Last warning”, Peter exclaimed. When Peter was in striking range, he kicked the door into the closet. He cleared the door with one hand and what he saw was not so shocking. Two cats. Two simple alley cats. They had gotten through the hole in the wall and were in the process of doing what cats do during certain seasons, mating.
Peter began to laugh. How ridiculous could he have been? The thoughts of someone hurting and left for dead had raced through his mind. Yet in all of this, all it was were cats. Simply cats. As he continued to laugh his hearty laugh, his phone rang.
Peter opened his pack and took out a flat thin touchscreen device. The device rang with vigor. He had equipped his device with Serpula technology called, Everlasting Sight, a method of taking a voice pattern and making it a three dimensional projection. They had given mankind this technology soon after their first arrival. They wanted to make a positive impact on mankind and show they were peaceful beings, overseeing mankind’s evolution. He swiped his finger from left to right and an image immediately appeared just above the screen in three dimensions.
“Peter, honey, it’s mom”, said the female image.
“Hi mom. How are things?”
Peter’s mother was a distinguished short grey haired woman. Prior to her business days, she was a stay at home mother. However, no matter what she did or where she was, she always had a smile and appeared to be the most distinguished person in the room. Well dressed and a face that looked younger than her hair, she could make a chaotic room, orderly simply by entering the room. Her presence commanded respect and order.
“Things are fine here. I was just calling to find out when you’re coming home, honey”, she voiced intently.
“By the end of the week, I hope. It depends on how much I can get done over the next couple of days”, Peter answered.
“The end of the week? You told me that last week and the week before. Are you sure this time? Your father and I miss you and are concerned about your safety with the upcoming winter.”
“Yes mom. I am sure this time.”
“How are you getting off that retched island?”
“Military convoy. They should dock this week. My boss has requested that I take some time off to recoup.”
“Recoup? From what? What happened? Are you hurt? Did one of those criminals attack you?” Peter’s mother asked with worry.
“Stay calm mom. I’m not hurt and no one has attacked me. It’s just that I’ve been here for five years and my boss feels that some vacation is in order. That’s all.”
“Oh, okay honey”, his mother said with calmness. In the background a door was opened and another voice was heard. His mother quickly turned and said, “I’m in here, dear. Peter, your father’s home. Did you want to speak with him?”
“I can’t mom. I have to go. I only have another hour before, I start to lose daylight. I have to be sure to get back to my apartment before then and it took me an hour and a half to get here.”
“Okay honey. Well finish up and get back there in a hurry. I love you and please be safe.”
“I love you too mom.”
“Promise me that you will be home by the end of the week, no exceptions.”
“I promise mom. So long as the transport is there, I will be home on Friday. Bye.”
As both hung up the phone, Peter thought, “I’d better start heading back to write my report.” Peter put away his sword, picked up his bag and started to head back to his apartment. Another day, another discovery even if it only was a couple of felines. At least when he arrived at his apartment, there was food ratios and a cold sponge bath waiting. He quickly turned around and started his journey back. In a few days, he would be home eating a home cooked meal. That was definitely something he was looking forward to.