This story is for Miranda Kate's weekly flash challenge. This is from Miranda's post:
This week's photo prompt was taking by Thomas Hawk, I think he has captured this particular sculpture really well from this angle. He called his shot, Woman. The sculpture is by mixed media artist Karen Cuolito and stands 30 feet high. The California-based sculptor’s towering figure of a woman titled Ecstasy is made of 9 tons of salvaged steel. When this was taken it was being exhibited in Hayes Valley, San Francisco, but is now part of a private collection.
Here's a link to the prompt image.
A sci-fi/post-apocalyptic story for this round.
Please note that anyone can join in with a story up to 750 words. Mine has 744 words for those who are counting (not including the title and byline), and I had to do a lot of chopping to get it down that far!
There is a link to a downloadable PDF version of the story at the bottom of the page.
K. R. Smith
Beneath a rocky overhang, an old man was carving strange marks into the stone. Trilla had watched him before, though she'd never had the nerve to approach. Her curiosity had finally overcome her fears, however, and she moved closer, hiding behind bushes as she advanced. Then the crack of a twig underfoot gave her away, or so she thought. The old man didn't react. She peeked out to see him running his fingers along the stone.
"It seems I have a visitor."
Trilla ducked down, afraid to move.
"There's no need hide. I won't hurt you."
A dirty face with dust-brown hair popped up as the man waved his hand, inviting her to join him. She stopped about ten feet away and sat on the ground.
"What's your name?"
She hesitated, then spoke almost inaudibly.
"Hello, Trilla. My name is Miklos. You've come to watch me work?"
"I hope you don't mind if I continue. There is much to be done."
Before the old man could strike his chisel, Trilla asked, "Why?"
He replied with his own question. "Why?"
"Why do you make marks on the rocks?"
"For you. And those like you. It's a story."
"Yes. And a warning. Someday you'll be able to read these marks and understand."
"I like stories. Can you tell it to me?"
"You may not like this one, but I can give you a short version."
Miklos set down his tools and gazed into the distance.
"The life we all live - gathering what we can, some farming, and hunting at times - it wasn't always like this."
"Life was easy. There was little to do outside of the arts. And plenty of food and drink, a thousand flavors to enjoy. Most people spent the day with friends and such."
"Plenty of food? Where did it come from?"
"Have you heard of the Valley of Death?"
Trilla's head bowed. "I was there once. I was afraid. The dead metal monsters where there."
"I see. Do you know where those metal creatures came from?"
The girl shook her head.
"We made them. Then we taught them to make others like themselves."
She looked up at the man, her eyes wide open and unblinking. "Why?"
"They did the work. They farmed, cleaned, built things. Soon, few people knew how to do the work the creatures did."
"Didn't anyone know?"
"All our knowledge, all our history, was stored in what were called clouds."
Trilla looked up at the sky.
"It wasn't quite the same, but it might as well have been. And the creatures were the ones who maintained those clouds."
"Did they forget, too?"
"Not exactly. Do you know what a comet is?"
"It's a pile of rocks and ice that comes from space, high in the sky. One struck our land. Although it wasn't very big, there was damage to a few cities."
"It's where a lot of people live together."
"The damage wasn't enough to destroy our world, but within that comet was what they called a protovirus. It wasn't a problem for people, but the creatures you saw, now just metal, had a coating of living tissue, sort of a fake skin. They looked very much like us."
"Yes. I was not much older than you when it all happened, but I remember well. The protovirus attacked that tissue and quickly spread. Soon the creatures we made where nothing more than the metal you saw in the valley. Everything, all the work they did for us, soon came to a stop."
"Why didn't you make new ones?"
"Why." The old man laughed. "You're quite fond of that word, aren't you? That's a good thing. You'll do well."
Trilla grinned even though she didn't understand.
"Because the creatures were now the ones who made others of their kind and controlled the information to do so. Without their labors, the world turned into chaos. There was fighting. Many suffered. Many died. We were helpless to help ourselves. We had grown lazy and useless. This is why I carve these symbols. To tell others what happened, and to warn them. Few remain who know. And I am growing old. There is not much time left for me to finish."
Trilla picked up the chisel and handed it to the old man.
"I will read them. And tell everyone."
The old man smiled.
"You know, Trilla, I believe you will."
While you're here...