Chapter 8: THE WORLD BEFORE
Cities toppled from their cliffs into the ocean and dark clouds clotted against the sun. Vermin shredded the fields and the Bright Jewel Named Fire purged the land with a terrible plague. Babes expired and rotted away in their cribs within the quick pulse of an hour. Mothers woke to find their milk turned to poison in their breasts, poison that consumed them from the inside out and left them hollow, raving husks.
The sons, brothers, and fathers who tried to turn the tides of famine in their fields found themselves weak beyond imagination, they fell and wasted away at their ploughs, left their brittle bones and stiff, dry skin rustling in the dust. Government officials found themselves with no one to officiate and turned on each other like rabid dogs in a panicked frenzy.
From the lowliest curbside shanty town to the loftiest mansion, every village, town, city, country, and nation turned agains nation until every living thing felt the hot bite of the Bright Jewel Named Fire. In this landscape our two brothers grew up and when they were in their prime, the ephemeral and effervescent time where endless possibilities and experiences awaited them, they set out on a quest to change the world.
Spider and Fly were two human boys who found themselves living in a world where humans were at the bottom of the food chain. They shared their father’s sturdy build and their mother’s wicked smile. The both shared a passion for hunting; watching deer as they moved from wood—what little wood was left—to road and back to wood, watching the wolves that hunted in the wood with them. Fly especially admired their sleek fur—so sleek and healthy despite the abysmal conditions of their prey—and their intellect, how they moved independently and together as one, working for the good of the pack. Spider admired the wolves for their ferocity and their strength.
They both shared an interest in tending to growing things—what precious little things that could grow in the devastated waste—though Spider preferred herbs for tending wounds and snuffing out pain while Fly enjoyed bramble vines and foraged with the robins and grackles for their sour berries. Among all the other things they shared and did not share, the two brothers were concretely of one mind in their concerns for the future of their world.
Their world was dying and they both lived paralyzed by the fear that there was nothing they could do to save it. Borders rose and fell around them, religions warred with each other and within themselves, climates changed and changed again, animals and crops died, new animals and crops were engineered and those also died. Science lost its tenuous grip on the environment, the great and the small, the microscopically small rebelled against the control of man.
Spider and Fly were just two brothers. What could they do against such monstrosities? As is often want to happen during times of crisis, Fly heard a rumor of salvation. It was whispered from fading body to fading body that the Bright Jewel Named Fire had a brother, another jewel as dark as she was bright and as wondrous as she was horrible.
The whispers choked on words of hope and courage. The polar opposite of the Bright Jewel Named Fire, an elusive and sphinxlike stone, simply named Cold, lived in a secluded and uncharted forest from where only the bravest in the universe would dare to fetch it forth and rid the world of death forever.