Hey guys!!! This is a story that I'll be posting a few pages of every week to two weeks to get you through the wait for other postings. :D You'll really like this, well, I hope so. Let me know what you think!
P.S. Telija next Wednesday and more Knox and Izzy after that. Going back to work this work, so things will get crazy, but I am NOT taking a hiatus. Lucky you.
XOXO NIGHT TEMPEST
Heart For Trade Week 1
Five hundred years into the future, 2512
Life in the present was not as everyone had expected it to be back in the beginning of the digital age. There weren’t any flying cars or skyscrapers wall to wall, no robots that took over the work force. The economy of all nations had taken a plunge that it could not recover from after the last world war—all countries holding their own or trying to against the larger nations.
Some were completely destroyed. Entire cultures were lost or only had a few to carry on their traditions—the meager survivors that would never rebuild again. Businesses, jobs, entire ways of life were nearly obliterated. The earth’s eventual climate fluctuation and strange weather patterns limited fresh produce and broke people away from the cities. Everyone scattered for open land that would hopefully provide for their families.
Once most of the cities had been deconstructed for materials, small villages emerged all over the world. With no rightful system, laws or structure over each surviving nation, it was up to each village to govern their own people and ally with other trusted villages for security, not supplies.
Each village, because they were so spread out, were usually known for a service or trade. They tried to provide everything for themselves, but it was rather hard in these times. Barter and trade being the only forms of currency, sometimes the village leaders had to offer more valuable goods than oil, meat, clothing, or metals.
Sometimes they had to offer their sons and daughters to other village leaders—wives, husbands, labor hands—all in hopes of feeding their people for the winter or sheltering them from the vicious weather that always came back to haunt them. Arranged marriages to secure safety and alliance with other villages were common. But when desperate for goods, a leader could issue a traveling ad to all of the other villages—a messenger by horse, or if the village was wealthier and resourceful, a vehicle if still available.
It was an ad that proclaimed a human for trade, one good that did not come around often. This year was different than the last. They’d been able to scrap by last year with only one death during the winter season, but this year they were already down to the last of their supplies and winter had yet to come.
The village of Weeping Creek and its fifty or so villagers were down on their luck. An unseasonable cold front had swept through, freezing their fruit crop and leaving them high and dry. They had bartered the last of their oil and a few flats of laboriously manicured timber for two cows and a chicken. One cow had died unexpectedly and their attempts at incubating the eggs from the chicken were fruitless.
Bart was the village leader—a strong, proud man with quick thinking and a good head on his shoulders. He was the father of three children—two daughters and a son. His wife Maria had fallen ill three years ago. They’d traveled for weeks to seek medical aid miles at one of the few still active medical facilities, but by the time they’d arrived, Maria had died. The autopsy had produced results stating cancer—a small tumor in the stem of her brain that had quickly taken over.
When Bart returned with two of his men, he’d had to tell his three children the bad news. His two oldest, the girls, had stepped right in and taken over the motherly role for their younger brother, but his son was never the same. Maria and his son, Ryan, had shared a bond that not even Bart understood. Mother and child, the sanctity of it all was a well-kept and intimate secret of the world. But Bart loved his child with every beat of his heart and vowed to his departed wife that he would do right by their children—every last one of them.
Now Bart sat at his desk with tears in his eyes. Having only six young, healthy people in the village though, Bart’s choices were limited for what he had to do. His daughters were both married now—one expecting and the other their only source of medical aid. Katie, she’d bartered for the EMT training with a rare medical text that had been passed down from generation to generation in their family—some surgeon that hailed from the previous state of Massachusetts. The hospital out East had eaten it right up, a piece of history that could not be ignored.
One year later, Katie returned with a box of supplies and life saving techniques. Bart crossed his daughters off the list. Next on the list were brother and sister, Benji and Gabrielle. The Lawson children were eight and twelve. And although twelve, in this day and age, was an acceptable age to groom for a partner or a work hand, Bart was wholly against it. He found the very idea disgusting and scribbled both their names out in an angry block of lead.
This left two names on the list. Two names he could not imagine giving up to strangers, but everyone else, young and old and everywhere in between were either married or needed for their skills. Bart threw his pencil, even as valuable as it was, against the wall with a sharp scream of frustration. He put his face in his hands. His shoulders shuddered with grief.
“What do I do, Maria?” He whispered to his wife, who he hoped was listening to his pleas from above. “What do I do?”
Glancing up, Bart knew what the answer was, but it didn’t hurt any less in his heart. He got up from his desk and went to the locked cupboards against the wall. Once inside, he pulled a covered box from the top and put it on the desk. A hand gun, his wife’s prized necklace, a rare Polaroid camera with one box of refills, and a thick mass of papers was all it contained.
At the bottom of the papers, with a red tab in the corner, Bart pulled out the packet he was looking for along with the Polaroid camera. If he was to write an ad, he’d have to do it tonight. Tomorrow was when the messenger came to the village. If Bart missed him, they’d be stuck without help for the next three months.
Ryan sat next to his best friend Jarum on the ground. Having just got back into the village limits from a day’s trip to Surik, they were both exhausted. Surik was not a village, but a market place for traders—a large field with a few structures that some of the younger guys traveled to for entertainment. Ryan went to trade his wood figurines, a hot commodity while children’s toys were sparse. Every third week of the month, he and Jarum made the journey.
“So, what did you make out with?” Ryan peered over to Jarum’s untied pack.
“Bar of soap, large box of matches, some sweet onions. Got a box of chocolates…”
“Chocolates? Holy shit, J!” Ryan grabbed the pack, but was pushed away with a laugh from Jarum.
“I don’t think so, asshole. You can have some, not all.” Jarum winked. “But the chocolate is nothing compared to this.” From his pack, J pulled a dark bundle of fabric. He unrolled it, thick black wool—sleeves with a deep hood.
“Wow.” Ryan fingered the pullover with envy. “Where did you get this, J?”
“I just did.” Jarum looked down at the ground, hiding his brown eyes with his dark hair.
“Dude, did you take this from someone?” Ryan clucked his tongue. When Jarum didn’t answer, he shook his head. “You did, didn’t you? Jarum, someone worked hard to make this. They probably needed something important from the trade and you just took this? My God, J.”
“I didn’t take it,” Jarum countered quietly.
“Then what did you trade for this? Had to have been something rare…”
“I thought you would just say cool and be done with this. Here, have the fucking thing. I don’t even want it anymore.” Jarum shoved the thick garment into Ryan’s chest and pushed to his feet.
“Jarum, stop!” Ryan followed, grabbing onto his arm. “Talk to me, dude. What happened?”
“I…” Jarum turned around. “I did something.”
The face Jarum made, the tears in his eyes, caused Ryan to flit through endless possibilities. Jarum was a tough guy, not someone who cried like this. “You can tell me, J. You can tell me anything.”
Ryan’s best friend sighed, his whole chest deflated of tension. “When you were making one of the last trades, the lady with the bushel of tomatoes, you know?”
“Yeah, I remember. You said you had to take a leak.”
Jarum looked away. “I went to the pond instead.”
“The pond? You didn’t.” Ryan rubbed his face with a groan.
The pond as it was called was nothing more than a muddy pool of water the traders used for their horses. But most people knew the other purpose of the secluded hole in the ground. It was also a place for strangers to interact sexually. Anonymous men and women looking to let go of months of pent up desires. A few villages didn’t care who you slept with, but most frowned upon casual sex. With disease and sickness flitting about, not a whole lot of medical attention, and pregnancy a fear among most, the pond was something to be avoided.
“I’m a grown man, Ryan. I have needs too, you know? I’m twenty one and I’ve never felt anyone touch me like that. No guy, no woman, no one. I couldn’t help it. You may get by fine with your hand, but I…I just needed to.”
The blonde knew all too well the feeling Jarum was describing. The need to touch another person beyond a hug or a peck on the cheek, to be intimate—it hurt sometimes to think he would never know that or if he wanted to, he’d have to leave the village to find a partner.
“Hey,” Ryan breathed. “Dude, it’s okay.” He looked away shyly. “Did you uh…you know, go all the way?”
“Was she good? Or I mean…”
“What?” Ryan paled.
Jarum knew Ryan was gay or of the male preference as a lot of villages called it. It’s why he had a hard time finding a partner. In such small communities there weren’t a lot of choices. He often wondered where all the gay men were hiding. But Jarum? He’d never said a thing about men. Not like he could be with Jarum or even think of him that way. They were too close, like brothers, to be intimate. But still this revelation surprised the hell out of him.
“It just happened that way. I was standing there, waiting for this girl across the way to come over. I guess I misunderstood her looks because turns out she was with someone else. I was about to go back to the field when he came up to me. One thing led to another and he asked me to you know, give it to him.
I was scared. I’d never thought about doing it with a guy, but how did I know I didn’t like it if I didn’t try? We don’t exactly get a lot of practice or—”
“I know what you mean, dude. It’s okay.” Ryan nodded weakly. “So, I take it all went well?”
“Um, I guess so. He gave me the pullover. That’s got to mean it was decent, right?”
Just as Ryan was about to reply, an echoing gobble rippled through the trees—grabbing both of their attention. Two wild turkeys broke through the bushes and the boys looked at each other with twin smiles.
An hour later they trudged through the middle of the village, proudly holding two turkeys by their limp necks. It was sure to be a fine feast to feed them all if they were careful. Instead of happy faces, pride at their exquisite catches, Ryan locked eyes with his father. His sisters, Katie and Breanne, stood to the side crying.
“Dad? What’s wrong? Who is it?” Ryan dropped the turkey with his pack and ran to him, but Bart held up a shaky hand. Someone had died, he could feel it.
“I can run the fastest if you need help from the other village. It’s maybe an hour,” Jarum offered, grabbing Ryan’s shoulder.
“No one has passed,” Bart stated flatly. “Ryan.” The village leader held back his tears as he held up the Polaroid camera.
“No,” Jarum whispered. “No fucking way!” Both boys knew what the camera meant. They’d also both been promised when Bart had become the leader after his predecessor’s passing that they would never see the damned thing again.
“I’m so sorry,” Bart pleaded. “We have no other choice.”
Ryan stared at his father. The man he’d called home his entire life, the man he’d slowly let into his world after his mother had died. That man was now going to give him away. But being raised in this world for twenty two years, Ryan knew the choice his father had made wasn’t easy and was thought about long and hard.
Rationally, if Ryan went along with this trade, an ad for sale, he’d most likely save his village—his sisters, his unborn niece or nephew, his best friend. They’d live because he was brave enough to take this sentence for love. All in all, he knew it was him or Jarum and he’d spare Jarum anymore heartache than he’d already known.
“Take the picture,” Ryan boldly said to the people gathering. “Just do it before I change my mind.”
“What?” Jarum turned to him wide eyed. “No. You can’t do this. If you go, I go. You won’t leave me here!”
Ryan refused to look at his best friend and straightened his shoulders. “Go ahead, dad, take the picture.”
To be continued...