Today's story takes us back to the Icarus universe, this time somewhere inland sometime around the same time The Icarus Project takes place. There are no real spoilers.
Our parents told us stories of what the cities were like when they were filled with people. Looking at them now, it’s hard to imagine. Once shining spires rise against the sky like rusted out skeletons, and streets that teemed with people lie quiet and still.
Well, for the most part. You do still run into pockets of survivors who refused to abandon their ancestral homes. Without the supply trucks of our grandparents’ day running, supplies are difficult to come by in the old urban centers, and desperation has made the holdouts...unfriendly. That’s why our parents decided to stick to the countryside after everything went down.
Living out in old farming country isn’t easy either, but potable water and food sources are more prevalent and accessible out here. The greater access to resources makes for fewer tensions between groups, and new trade routes established themselves over the years. It was through the interactions with traveling merchants along the routes that stories of a change in the behavior of the Merfolk began trickling in a few months ago.
According to every story we’ve ever heard those lucky jerks retreated to their underwater cities and left us all to die the minute one of them caught the plague we’ve been fighting for two decades. Oh, they’ve returned to pick at the bones of coastal cities over the years with their ships and protective suits. Then to add insult to injury, they treat the survivors in those regions like some cross between pathetic strays and rabid monsters.
Yet stories are emerging of Merfolk making contact with coastal settlements speaking of hope and recovery. They still wear their protective suits, but they approach without hostility and speak with respect. All they have asked is to take samples of blood, soil, water, and air for which they traded doses of the old vaccines those of us born after the war never had access to due to the loss of their manufacturing facilities.
That’s why Mama and Papa are having us pack up now for a trip cross country. Matty and I don’t know whether or not we ought to trust these Merfolk, but Mama’s expecting again. Even with her and Papa’s resistance to the plague, they’ve lost five of us kids, and they’re excited about anything that can improve our baby brother or sister’s chances.
Each story in this series is 500 words or less and is prompted by a first line taken either from a random first line generator like this one or reader suggestions like "Don't Forget Me" and "Culture Shock." I much prefer working from reader suggestions over generators, but to do that, I need to hear from you.
If you have a prompt you'd like to see done, comment below, send it to my Tumblr asks, Tweet it at me, or leave a comment on any of the audio stories from this series. I'll screen shot it, write it, and post it for you.
A. B. England is a small business owner, mom of two, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
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