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Descent by Hunter Liguore

I.

I will be leaving shortly. I am one of the twelve Falklanders chosen for the mission, the descent over the edge of the world. Our situation has become critical. In just two short years, since the calamity, we have exhausted nearly all our resources, what little we had. We have all been asked by the acting-governor to record the expedition, and so I will take this moment, as the remaining members of Her Majesty’s Royal Band play a send off ensemble, to explain how we came to this day, 21 April 2021.

My father was born to a family of sheepherders during the Falkland War of ‘82. He was a hardworking man who taught me that any work a man does deserves his best attention. “When your hands are deep in the shit of the sheep,” he once said, “and you don’t notice, then you can say you’ve worked to your potential.” My father married my mother right before the millennium, and I was born shortly thereafter, and named, Cordell Louis Kingston, after my grandfather.

In 2018, after I finished home schooling, I had plans to attend university in London, using credits allowed to residents of the Falklands. This was cut short, by my father’s directive to stay put, due to the growing environmental hazards that were exacerbating globally. At the time, a third of the earth’s landmass was underwater. Scientists spoke to the world’s nations during the World Environmental Summit of 2013 warning of a shift in the direction of the ocean’s currents. This phenomenon, they warned, would change temperatures around the globe. Slowly, the earth would change so drastically, that maps would become obsolete. Their grim predictions, outlined for the heads of government, warned that the oceans would rise, lands would change, animals would migrate, people would be displaced, and hunger would prevail as the leading cause of death.

They were right of course, though no one believed them, or if they did, no one knew how to prepare. Following the summit, my father told his workers and me that we would need to work harder, and prepare for a recession, and so we did for a time. But after a few months, the routine on the farm and in the camp returned to normal. Initially, the island had suffered from a lack of tourism and imports, as travel anywhere was at a minimum. But with anything, if it doesn’t look broken, why fix it, and so tourism and importation was resuscitated for a time. It was business as usual.

The earth’s changes were subtle to start. During the next five years, global reports showed land changes along the coastal regions, or varying temperatures, or erratic weather patterns, but then the rapidity of life-threatening events escalated. Entire cities flooded. Europe was cut in half from the White Sea to the Caspian, and widespread migration and calamity ensued. Soon, the small islands around Indonesia reported evacuations of its inhabitants. In less than twenty-four hours seven islands disappeared. For those living in the Falklands this was a great concern. As a precaution, the governor called a state of emergency, and initiated a small-scale evacuation to Chili aboard the fleet of military vessels. My family did not feel the need to go, and I can only wonder if we did, how different our lives might’ve been. Soon, across the globe, major rivers swelled.

In Stanley, on East Falkland Island, more than half of the population, (or about 1,000), by 2018, had left before we were cut off from the rest of the world. Simple commodities were the first to disappear, like sugar, then tea and coffee. Our diet relied heavily on seafood, mutton, cabbage and potatoes, which was easily exhaustible with everyone vying for it. New animals migrated to the island that offered alternatives.

I still remember the first time I saw the Bobo bird, so named because it looked like a white bow was tied around its black, feathered neck. No one knew where the bird came from exactly, just that they came in droves, and competed with fishermen for sea birds. Soon, they were harvested for food.

It was around my eighteenth birthday that my life changed in a way me nor my father could’ve predicted. Before our electrical and communication systems became inoperable, there was talk about the earth’s axis shifting. The Anglican Church deemed it the “tribulation,” as the earth shook for two days, the sky darkened with ash for six, and the earth stretched outward, leaving a great chasm around the island.

During the days of the shift, my father and mother had gone out to the Beaker Islands for a rescue mission. All surrounding low-lying islands had succumbed to the growing tides. Only the two main islands had a chance, and even West Falkland had begun to recede substantially. My father and mother both died, I was told, trying to save the lives of two children stranded on a reef. Those who did survive the flooding were brought to Stanley to take refuge in one of the camps.

Alone with my grandfather, we relocated to the highest hills near Stanley. Cut off from the world, we waited to hear word of what was happening elsewhere. We survived on sheep for as long as we could. But as food grew scarce, sheep became hunted like gold. About a year ago, a small militia from the city held us at gunpoint and took our remaining numbers. It was about that time that I started hunting Bobo’s for food.

Grandfather would divvy up the birds I shot. Some would be taken into town to trade for vegetables, or seal oil for the lanterns, while some would be used to feed us. The left leg of the Bobo, the red one, was another recent, saleable item. Inside the leg joint grew a soft bone that was extracted, dried, then crushed, and made into a paste, and formed into tiny pills, called the joint, or the red pill, for its red hue. It served as both a hallucinogen, and a painkiller, and since medical supplies were scarce, an alternative was needed.

I learned how to process the knee joint from the woman I took to be my wife, Anna. Like many on the island, she lost most of her family during the first wave of the calamity. Her mother was a chemist at the hospital in Stanley, who imparted Anna with the knowledge of the medicinal properties of the Bobo joint, before she perished in a hospital fire.

I first saw Anna in a refuge camp near the old battle monument. She looked sickly, and in need of help. I carried her back to my grandfather’s lodge and took care of her. As she gathered her strength, Anna started taking on responsibilities. Not long after, grandfather took ill. Anna prepared the red pills to ease his pain, and soon, we started trading the pills to area camps. Some used the pills to help with long-term pain, like rheumatism or arthritis, others to dull the senses and forget, if only for a time.

Anna lived with us for four months, until the day I found her dead in the barn from food poisoning. Although we were never properly married, I still considered her my wife, and always will.

Three months ago, it was reported by the newly elected acting-governor that there were 150 people still living on East Falkland. Small expeditions on makeshift boats started to occur more and more as people grew restless and wanted answers. Our neighbors, Argentina, Antarctica, and all the small islands are no more. Gone. Sunk into the sea. These sea vessels sail to nowhere and never return.

Several weeks ago, a man was fished from the sea on a plank of wood. He was delirious and starved. Right before he died he told the governor what he saw. His famous words are recounted often, as those still living try to understand and arrange our new lives in a logical order. The man said: the earth is no longer round, but flat. All that awaits you is the steady hand of death, and the downward descent off the edge of the world.

At night, I’ve tried to see the earth’s shadow on the moon, to refute or confirm the man’s claims, but I see no shadow, but that of a thin line. Talk of the Descent is supposed to scare me, but I have no choice but to go. One hundred and fifty names were put into a bucket and twelve names were picked out. We must go. There are no more Bobo birds to eat. No more fish or seal in the sea to harvest. No more potatoes in the ground. No communication with the outside world. No one to save us. We twelve go to bring back civilization. We go to bring back hope. We go knowing we may not return.

II.

From the time I had known my grandfather he wore around his neck a scrimshaw tooth. The design, etched in blue, was that of The Desire, the ship navigated by John Strong, who named the islands in 1690 after his patron, the 5th Viscount Falkland. This was Grandfather’s parting gift to me, as the small vessel, christened The Hope, set sail on the Queen’s birthday.

As the island, my home, passed out of view, I turned my attention to the eastern direction the boat was headed. The first crew manned the sails and wheel, while the second crew, the one I belonged to, was responsible for cooking and lookout duty. My group consisted of two-brothers, Jack and Burgess. Burgess the taller, but younger of the two, took the place of an elderly woman whose name had been picked.

David Gallard, who took to making the ship’s first pot of coffee, the old fashioned way, over a contained fire. He said he knew a thing or two about following the stars at night for direction, but when I asked him what the constellation was above us, during the first nightfall, he said he didn’t know. Galland tried to say that the stars, like everything else, had also changed.

There were two women in our group. Both were quiet, though one, Kelly, looked more approachable. She did most of the talking for Yellana, a Russian woman, stranded on the Falkland’s during a vacation several years ago. Kelly believed Yellana treated the expedition as a death sentence, “an auto-piloted suicide,” Kelly said. Kelly had flaxen colored hair that held a greenish hue, like the tussac grass on the island, which had been a source of shampoo in recent times. She was different than rest of us, because she hadn’t lost anyone in her family, a rarity.

After our introduction, Kelly and I spent a lot of time together. At night, when we slept, I shared a cot with Kelly, the warmth of her body made the cold and wet disappear, and for a time, during those brief hours, I felt a dull sense of purpose, as if she had somehow given me a reason to live.

Three days out, turbulent waters surrounded us. Occasionally, in the far corners of the horizon, we might see an iceberg, but little else. As morning broke across the horizon, of day four, a guy from the first crew, fished a bloated body out of the water. We inspected the man’s uniform and recognized the worn, American flag pin on his lapel. We took the man’s boots, coat, knife, and tossed him back overboard, respectfully. It wasn’t long after this that Gallard called from the crow’s-nest. “There’s a storm dead ahead.”

We were sailing headlong into a torrent. The sky darkened. Flashes of lightening cut across the horizon line. Angry clouds, like billowing smoke, crowded the surface of the sea. The ominous storm stretched like an iron sheet from one end of our sight-line to the other. There was no going around it.

Just as the orders were shouted out to make an about-face, the boat got pulled into a rapid current, and started to teeter. The water was thick with debris—plastic bottles, furniture, whole trees, human and animal bodies, the chimney of a cruise ship, wood and metal. The further we were dragged toward the edge, the more the ocean resembled a huge garbage dump.

“This is it, Cordell, ” Kelly said, joining me, taking my hand in hers. “This is the edge of the world the old man warned us about. We’re going over.”

“He could’ve been wrong,” I offered. I gripped the whalebone around my neck. The others joined us at the bow. All the sails were up and the wind should’ve taken us away from the fall, but it didn’t. The ship continued toward the horizon.

The vessel moved at a steady pace, occasionally getting caught up in the debris that entangled the waters. As we neared, I could see the chasm, a great drop. What was more intense was the view on the other side of the split. There, the ocean was moving toward us, chocked with garbage. Surely, we had reached the end of the world. The ocean drawing what it could into its web like a bandit spider.

The boat started to turn like a corkscrew in the current, and collided with the wreckage of another ship. A wooden beam jettisoned through the top deck, piercing the rail and part of the floorboards, the force of it rocked the ship, nearly tilting it on its side. I cradled Kelly to my chest, dropping to the deck.

It started to rain. Someone from the first group grabbed the wheel to steer the ship. Jack and Burgess raced to drop the sails before we tipped over the falls. I took Kelly below deck. I packed on my person this journal, a picture of my family, and the vial of red pills. Water began to spurt through the floorboards. Then the boat began to moan, while rising out of the sea. From a port window, I witnessed the ship lift upward and falter on top of a mishmash of driftwood. From above, someone cried out, “We’re going over!”

The boat titled. The room shifted and tumbled into a disordered pile on the one side. It felt for a moment as if the ship was weightless, suspended lengthwise above the ocean. Nothing was holding it in midair. It was eerily silent. And then all at one it crashed, the boat hammered the waves, the debris, all that was in its path. The sound of wood, steel, and wave collided—human screams battered my eardrums and a new consciousness took over my body, one borne of instinct grabbing at anything to hold me in place. I clung to the fringes of any material that would keep me connected to life the longest.

Blackness befriended me as I closed my eyes, yet wind and light forced them open as boards and nails spun off the ship. Behind me, or above me, I saw the edge of the world cracked open, a hole in the blue sphere. On each side of the cleft, two facing waterfalls, if I could call them that, pulled and dragged the earth down with it, like twin brothers, acting as one specter of death. From the right side of the chasm, a distance away, an abandoned cruise ship toppled sideways, the noise colliding with the surf, and later its destruction at the bottom, deafened me. Mist clouded my eyes, as the force of descent crushed me to the battered boards. I lost sight of Kelly, the other crew, the ship. Instead, the glowing light of an angel took over me.

Stillness. Inside the golden glow I found my father’s essence, his warmth and smile, his courage and love. Somehow without words I felt safety, despite the crash, the suffocation, the splintering of wood against my frail flesh. I tried to follow the brighter shades of light, and when I reached out, they were no more.

III.

Running water trickled from a high place. Mist eclipsed a pale sun overhead. I felt my body being pulled out of the cool water, higher, across a disheveled terrain. Barely conscious, I was delivered to a dry place beside a fire. I was offered water from a tin cup by a male soldier, with several layers of dog-tags around his neck. His accent was distinctly American, his skin pale beneath a tank top. He introduced himself as Lance. With him, tending to the wounds of the other survivors was a woman he called Little Nikita, though by the dirty glance she gave Lance, I hardly believed it was her name, though she didn’t correct him. Her skin was light brown, possibly of Hispanic origin, and she wore a grey T-shirt with tan khakis. Lance pointed to a dark-skinned man, Tate, whose arms were sculpted with muscle; he laid a body to the ground, carefully, and then indicated to Lance he would return to the waters for one last look for survivors.

As Lance fed me some type of white sea meat, we exchanged stories. Lance was one of twenty survivors aboard the USS Obama, a Navy exploration vessel bound for South America to offer aide. The ship was shifted off course, and like the Hope, and countless other sea vessels, toppled over into the abyss. After many failed attempts to reestablish contact with their fleet, the survivors split into four groups of five and set off in search of a way home. His group was left to hold camp, should another sea vessel arrive.

“Where are we exactly?” I asked, glancing around at the mishmash of land battered with shredded wood, metal, plastic, mixed with a deep green vegetation.

“We call it the plastic jungle.” Lance took out his knife and stuck it into the detritus strata. “If you dig down far enough, all you’ll find is plastic.” The knife hit something. He tapped the blade on the hard surface several times. “Good, old-fashioned, non-biodegradable plastic. It’s great for burying the dead.” Lance laughed. His hurt was apparent, and without him needing to tell me, I understood, as he left the fire, clutching the tags of his deceased friends, that he had buried many.

My left arm was put into a sling. My body was covered in stitches and scars, where someone took the time to sew me back together. I found the vial of red pills deep in my pocket, and took half a pill. It allowed me to sleep free of pain for sometime. When it wore off, I awoke once again to the strange land.

Several days went by before I was coherent to function with the day-to-day task of survival. The only survivors from the Hope, beside myself, were Burgess and a Chilean woman, Adelgonda. Burgess was in a state of shock having lost his brother. His leg had been badly injured, and he walked with a splint and limp. Adel was also very much in her own world, saying little. She stayed like a lost kitten in the protective sphere of Little Nikita at most times.

I had grieved for Kelly the same way I did for Anna, by pushing her memory off to a distant place, until the day Tate returned to camp carrying a wounded Kelly. She was much twisted and injured, but not forgone. According to Nikita, the former Chief Medical Officer, she would live. It was then I made the red pills known to Nikita, trusting her to use them wisely on my beloved.

Over several more days, Burgess, Adel, and myself became part of the constant rhythm of the camp, as if we had always been there. Burgess took to Tate and Lance like brothers. Often they left camp in search of food or to scavenge the water’s edge for salvageable resources. Adel continued to stay close to Nikita, assisting her with the care for Kelly. I was always nearby, and though we spoke sparsely, we each were aware of the other’s presence.

Occasionally, as I felt able, I would venture into the jungle to explore, hoping to find something of beauty to bring back to Kelly. Over the tangled vegetation, I caught a glimpse of several red birds, perhaps a parrot relation, high up in the superficial hedges. I didn’t notice the nearing pitter-patter of the venomous creature approaching from behind, until its shadow nearly engulfed me.

The beast let out an uproarious cry, like a lion, but deeper and more terrorizing. When I turned it was ready to lunge. Its eyes blinked at me behind a hard, plastic armament, and its fleshy arms swung at me as it dove. I thought I was dead for certain this time.

My body was knocked out of the way. With quick action, Nikita, armed with a makeshift weapon faced off with the beast. Adel joined her with a knife-spear, each taking turns jabbing the green flesh beneath the creature’s hard shell. The animal was ferocious. Its tail, covered in jagged, spear-like carbuncles flailed, knocking Adel down. Nikita stepped in and overturned the beast. She ran the knife-spear through the middle. The beast wailed in agony and defeat.

“Come help me,” Nikita called. “We must work quickly.” Nikita handed me Adel’s knife-spear, and led me to the remains of the beast. As if she’d done it countless times, she cut a perfect line from neck to rump, hoisted out the warm entrails, shouting at me to help, as I kept myself from vomiting from the toxic smell. She showed me what meat to take and what to leave. It was like killing sheep, I thought. We wrapped the meat in large leaves and packed it into her backpack. When I asked her what kind of animal it was, she smiled, and said, “We call this one the jungle-rat. Lots of them, and hard to get rid of.”

That night at camp, we feasted on the jungle-rat, the meat not unlike lamb. A special bottle of vintage champagne, scavenged from a cruise ship, was open and shared. Top-forty pop songs were sung, like sea shanties of the old days, after the meal. The only thing that would’ve made the night more perfect was if Kelly woke up. I would get my wish soon enough. Under the fading light, I saw Kelly’s hand move, then her arm, and then her eyes. She was weak, but understood enough of what I said to know she was safe and alive. I lay beside Kelly, holding her gently, feeling happiness for a time.

Three days later, Nikita led an expedition southeast in hopes of finding a way off Flotsam Island. It wasn’t hard to convince the others to join us. Burgess was just as determined to finish the job he and his brother set out to do. Kelly, who continued to gain strength daily, was unwavering in her desire to return to her family. Adel went where Nikita went. Tate and Lance were less interested in leaving the comforts of the camp, but relented when they saw they’d be without medical aide with Nikita gone.

We climbed the colorful tapestry of wooden pixels; the terrain was moist and damp, with occasional showers that lasted only a few minutes. It was enough to drench our clothes and make the soil construct muddy, and hard to navigate.

We walked for days, seeing rare rainbows of iridescent colors tilt into the distant horizon. We crossed many waterways, some covered in ice or snow. Soon, the elevation rose, taking us into a dessert like terrain, one still made partially of plastic.

Our supply of dried jungle-rat was running low, as was our purified water. The sun was setting with red and golden colors. Nikita called camp, but Lance continued on. Tate and Burgess scouted ahead with him, leaving the rest of us to make a fire and prepare a meal. No sooner did I dump a pile of wood to the sandy, plastic ground that I heard one of them cry out.

Nikita grabbed her knife-spear and dashed off in the same direction. The rest of us followed. As we spun around the clearing, we heard the screams again. On the hillock of shiny aluminum cans was a scorpion like monster. Like a giant action-figure, its two claws were encased in plastic, as was the erect stinger, which served as both an extra leg and a stabbing pinscher. It had already killed Lance, and was ready to pounce Burgess.

Fearlessly, Nikita cackled at the monster, diverting its attention on her, allowing Burgess to get his footing. But the scorpion moved only a few feet before returning back to him, pinning him against a rock.

Tate charged the monster from the side and was thrown off. Adel and I made the next attack, as Nikita ran for hirer ground. I jabbed the spear toward what I thought was an eye, but a claw swatted at me, snapping my weapon in half, leaving me defenseless.

As I ran, the pincher smashed the earth all around me. Adel was nearly tramped underneath it. Nikita jumped on top of it, but was tossed off instantly into the sand, taking the breath out of her. The monster groaned and wailed. It was all but hopeless. I saw our end, our ultimate demise, and was pleased we had tried, rather than remained idle.

Lying in the sand, waiting for a swift death, as the beast rushed me first, I saw a hundred darting, masked shapes cover the sand. Looking again, I saw it was an army. With swords fashioned from durable plastic, sharpened on both sides, the cloaked army swarmed the scorpion beast; they surrounded, attacked, then killed it, with few casualties.

Relieved at first to find other inhabitants, my feelings were dashed, as we were abruptly taken hostage, our weapons and supplies seized, our arms bound, and our mouths gagged.

We were taken through a winding desert trench, across a coarse terrain. When darkness fell, and torches were lit, I saw a menacing statue, that of a giant head the height of three men. It could’ve been the face of the Buddha in one of his incarnations, or some other ancient, Asian ruler.

We were taken to a cell made of plastic-bamboo. Asian servants delivered food and water to us. The servants were mostly women with shaved heads, dressed in tan robes. We were fed a red, fleshy fruit and brown meat, which Nikita presumed was from taken the scorpion, and bid us not to eat it lest it was poisonous. All but Tate listened, and in the morning he was found dead, the veins running to his head protruding, and black as death in color.

Only Nikita, Adel, Kelly, and I remained healthy, suffering only minor wounds. Burgess had broken out with fever. According to Nikita, with few medical supplies he had little chance of recovering. She gave him a red pill for pain, handing me the vial with three pills left. “You may find yourself wishing you had these in the days to come,” she said. I pushed the vial deep in my pocket, silently hoping she’d be wrong.

After a light breakfast of twig-like tea and more red fruit, we were escorted to a courtyard enclosed by plastic-bamboo rods. Armed guards, with ornate masks and neckpieces lined the walls. We were pushed to our knees in the sand before a thrown made of blue coral, where a small, Asian boy, of no more than ten, came and sat. He wore a red cloak, the same color as the fruit, and probably dyed from it. The boy raised a scepter that could’ve been fashion from a wrench or hammer. He bid us to raise our eyes to him and spoke, “I am Emperor Jinan, of the newly found Jinan Province. No one may pass my lands without paying a tariff.”

We were silent.

“What do you have to give me that I may spare your lives?”

Nikita spoke first. “You’ve taken all our supplies, weapons. We have nothing left.”

Emperor Jinan nodded, which signaled a guard to assault Nikita in the gut, knocking the air from her lungs. She gasped for air, spread out on the ground.

“Any other naysayers?” He looked at each of us. “If you don’t produce something of value for me, then I’ll kill you one by one, and you’ll die here. You’ll never know that there’s blue sky and fertile land over the next hill.”

“Are you telling the truth?” I spoke without thinking of the consequences.

“These vines were uprooted from the next valley.” The Emperor extended his hand toward the vines decorating the courtyard, each with large melons, encased in a plastic shell. “My twin brother, Tashen, rules there. We seek to trade with other provinces for goods. It’s my job to make new alliances, but if you have nothing, we cannot afford to take you on.” The boy raised his hand, signaling a guard, who stepped forward, grabbing the nearest victim, Kelly, and put his razor-sharp, plastic-sword to her neck.

“No,” I screamed. “I have something. I have something,” I screamed. The guard let Kelly go, and dragged me forward. I told them I needed my hand, but he wouldn’t untie me. The guard dug into my pocket and pulled out the vial, delivering it to the Emperor. I explained to him briefly that the pills were both a medicine and euphoric high that would fetch a high price, since there was so little of either to be had. For a moment he seemed impressed. He placed the bottle beside him and rung a little copper bell. An attractive woman, in a plain robe, appeared from a curtained door. She bowed formally, and then swallowed a pill on the Emperor’s orders.

The woman became giddy, then relaxed, until she was intoxicated, careening with arms to each side of her like an airplane, dashing in and out of the guards, until she dropped to her knees laughing. Her laughter had an infectious affect, first upon the guards, who found her behavior amusing, and then to the Emperor, who clapped when she dropped off into a sleepy stupor.

“We have not laughed in such a way in a very long time.” The Emperor raised the vial. “But there’s only one pill. One pill for one life.”

“Two pills,” Nikita corrected. “Two.”

He didn’t like her insolence, but smiled, still lighthearted. “Two pills, for two lives, but I see four of you, and one who may not live very long.”

Tate was hunched over, his breathing rapid and uneasy.

“Can you get any more of it?” Nikita whispered. I solemnly nodded, no. “Tell him you have more back in Falkland. Tell him,” she spoke louder.

My voice wavered. “I can get more and return with it.”

“How long?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know where we are? Maybe a week by sea, maybe longer?”

“I see.” Emperor Jinan glanced into the jar. “Lots more?”

“Lots more.”

There was a slight breeze filled with the scent of the sea that filled the courtyard. Another bell rang from nearby, and servants brought out trays of red fruit and twig-tea. “Do you see how the fruit has evolved?” Emperor Jinan spoke to us, spitting out several black seeds into a copper cup. “It’s like eating fruit from a plastic bottle, completely preserved. Two of you will go on a journey, along with my guards, to make sure you return.” He pointed with the plastic rind. “You and you will go. The other three will be my security that you’ll return as you say, with lots more pills.”

He had chosen Nikita and me to go.

By morning Burgess had passed away. His body was given a burial in a plastic casket outside of the compound. I said prayers to all we lost, as he was laid to rest. Before Kelly and I parted, she told me I had been her protector, and was grateful for me. I left with her my grandfather’s whalebone for good luck, promising to return as fast as I could. Nikita bid a similar farewell to Adel, begging her not to give up hope.

Over the next hill, overlooking a valley, we witnessed a sandy beach and peaceful blue waters. The split in the earth had reunited here, and a small plastic city ascended from the shores like sand castles.

In port, a cobbled ship awaited us. Supplies of fruit, water, white-sea-meat, and navigational equipment were loaded to the ship and provided by Tashen Dynasty. When the boat was launched to sea, Nikita and I watched the land recede under a red sky. So many questions circled my mind. Would we find the Falklands, and if so, would there be any survivors left. How would we reproduce the red pill without any Bobo birds? Would we ever see Kelly or Adel again?

The first week at sea took us through storms of rain and snow, and waves that turned the ship round and round, but we managed to survive; though several of the Taschen warriors had taken ill. Nikita and I served as doctor and nurse, helping whomever we could.

After the second week without spotting land, I had nearly given up hope, until a guard from the poop deck clamored at the sight of a black bird. Turning from my place, I saw the bird fly across the deck toward me, noting the red ring around its neck, like a bow—a red Bobo bird, or maybe a relative. A bird at sea always meant land was nearby, and each of us took up places along the rail to be the first to spot it.

Nikita called out first, pointing to an islet of green with a makeshift beacon. Several people gathered on a nearby knoll and waved to us. It wasn’t Falkland. It could be any place. It didn’t matter. The important thing was that people were waiting for us.

I imagined the excitement of seeing new people, of exchanging stories, both the horrors of the journey, and the cherished memories of a past life, still heavily connected to each of us, grounding us with commonality. We would tell them of a new, rich land, and of the new emperors. We would trade our futurist fruit for a taste of the past, if one still existed. I saw myself setting up shop to harvest the birds, and distilling the treasured bone into usable, saleable goods. I would do a good day’s work, like my father taught me. And from my labor, the red pills would be my redemption. With it I would raise my own army, or take over Jinan’s, and make them swear allegiance to me. They would see me as leader, and brave the sea for me. With the red pills I would barter for Kelly and Adel’s lives, laying waste to the Emperor if need be.

A tear rolled across my cheek as we entered the harbor to land. Nikita joined me, smiling. “What are you thinking this time?” she asked. “Something happy, I hope.”

I shook my head, wiping my eyes. It didn’t matter any more if the old world was gone. In its place new nations with new leaders have taken root. The human race will go on. It won’t be the same at first, but given some time, new boundaries will form, new trade routes, new maps and soon new wars.

“Happy thoughts.” I smiled.

And new heroes. As long as there was hope in a person’s heart, the world would always have heroes—heroes to spawn new legends, ones that would bring courage to a new people in order to endure the next enigma.

———————–

Hunter Liguore is completing her MFA from Lesley University. Her work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, The MacGuffin, and Steampunk Tales. My short story, “Red Barn People,” was nominated for the 2011 Pushcart Prize.

“Descent” started first with wanting to show a job that no one on Earth held, a job that was as mundane as typing, but critical to society’s survival. Thus my character would harvest bones from a new species of bird. Then I answered: what will the world look like after a polar shift, islands shifting, land covering with water, and realized there’s enough plastic in the ocean to make a new world, with new threats and creatures, one where new kings would rule. “Descent” is also part of my “odysessy” around the world in thirty stories, thrity genres, and thirty countries. To read more about the concept behind the story, visit: http://theworldinthirtystories.blogspot.com/2010/01/falkland-islands.html.

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