The year is 2641. Noah “Z” Zedockla is 17 and he has been chosen as the new apprentice of Charles Walker. Z has never met Walker and all he knows is that he is the number one survival expert of the ever changing natural world. Charles Walker has written 14 virtual books about the adaptations plant and animal life have made to cope with the polluted and overpopulated world. Very few believe that the things he writes are true, most people read the books as a joke, or they think it is fantasy. Z was not one of these people, he believed every word. When Z’s father died from radiation poisoning, he vowed to make a change to save his dying planet. Walker believed that the humans could adapt to the world and start anew if they studied and learned from what remained of nature. This is a belief that Z hoped to adopt and learn.
Our story begins in a region of what used to be South America, here the elements became too intense for humans to live. So the plants and animals took over the abandoned cities. Walker had been here many times, studying the native species. Walker hoped this would be a good first stop for his young and impatient apprentice. Z and Walker were dropped at their landing sight early in the morning, earlier than Z would have preferred. Walker began to set up a sort of camp as Z rested upon a tree barely able to keep his eyes open, it was almost too hot to move in this forest. “Hey, Noah, help me with these things will you?” Walker huffed as he carried more than his ageing bones would allow. “It’s Z.” Z murmured back pushing himself to his feet. “What’d you say?” Walker asked passing Z filming equipment with wires falling out in every direction. “Don’t call me Noah, it was my Dad’s name and I don’t like to hear people say it. Please just call me Z.” “Alright, Z, take my equipment under that tent for me.” Walker responded pointing at one of the tents.
After everything was set up, Walker called Z over, so he could tell him about what they may face while they were out there. “You have to be cautious in order to survive out here, many things remain unknown and there are dangers beyond your wildest imagination,” Walker warned. Z was intrigued, then Walker began “First let’s talk rules and safety.” and Z was instantly uninterested. He was sat on the same low branch he had attempted to nap on earlier. He looked past Walker and focused on the forest beyond. Walker’s words became mumbled and Z lost complete focus, he would have fallen asleep if movement far in the distance hadn’t caught his attention. He could have sworn he saw a girl run between the trees, he stood up and pushed past Walker. “Where do you think you’re going?” Walker questioned. “I saw a girl, she ran between the trees. Are there people out here?” Z asked as he peered deeper into the forest. “That’s impossible, you must be seeing things.” Walker Scoffed. “I’m not look!” Z pointed out into the distance, two children in tattered clothing ran through the forest holding each others hands tightly.
Walker followed the children with his eyes, “How could there possibly be people here, in all my travels to this place… I never… this is a new drop zone, but children?... no impossible.” Walker was talking to himself rubbing his beard in contemplation. “We can’t waste time wondering how there could be people here, we have to follow them.” Z pleaded. “Are you crazy? You have no idea what’s out there, and these people, they could be dangerous. We can’t go in blind.” Walker stated moments to late. For before he could finish his thought, Z was whizzing through the forest in the direction he saw the children run. He looked around himself at the trees, they looked like they had been burned, the bases of most of the trees were charred. Although they had visible damage the trees still stood tall and seemingly unaffected, looking almost ominously upon him. This was the first forest Z had ever been in, he should be excited, so why does he feel so uneasy.
The ground changed under Z’s feet, instead of soft earth his feet were now bounding upon hard concrete. His footsteps echoed upon massive structures that grew in size and numbers as Z entered deeper into what he assumed was a city. Plants grew through the old buildings, thick vines wrapped in tendrils through everything that stood off the ground. Z stood still and looked at the devastation, the buildings were half fallen and it looked as though life here was just put on pause. Open signs still hung through shattered doorways and the vehicles of their time were left in what used to be a road. What could have happened here? Z thought. In the history books all it said is that the area became uninhabitable, but here Z was breathing in fresh air for the first time in his life. He didn’t need a mask and goggles to walk through the pollution like he did at home. Here oxygen was abundant and something kept people away. That’s the only reason the area remained so pure. Z sat on the ground avoiding broken glass and looked up at the sky, it wasn’t blue. Z will never see a blue sky, the world was too far gone, but he could see, there was no dust blocking his eyes and airways. Z almost cried at how good it felt to just breathe, he was too tired to realize how lucky he was before. Now everything in him was awake and he was buzzing with the excitement of his future.
Z heard footsteps approaching him and he turned around with a jolt. “Oh, hey Mr. W, sorry I ran off like that.” Z called to the slowly approaching Walker. Sweat dripped from the two men, if anything made this area uninhabitable it was the heat. “You don’t-ever-do that- again.” Walker made out though deep exasperated breaths. Z smirked at the old man. “Ha, I won’t I promise” Z laughed. “So, are we gonna look for these people or not?” Z questioned. “Once i catch my breath, boy give me a second.” Walker huffed, he had lived a much longer life than Z and the pollution from his travels lined his lungs. Z wandered up ahead, kicking a piece of garbage in front of him. That’s when he heard laughter, it was faint and somewhere to the left of him. He looked at the large building that stood there, it remained intact unlike the others. The door was shut and on it “They will come at night and take the children” was painted. A shiver went up Z’s spine “Mr. W! Come look at this!” Z beckoned over his shoulder. Walker shuffled behind Z and read the writing, “That is very odd indeed” he said.
Z could feel eyes on him, so he looked up at one of the broken windows, a figured dipped out of view, but it was enough. Z knew there were people in there, without asking Walker, Z tried the door. Walker placed a hand on Z’s shoulder but even his curiosity peaked when the door opened without any trouble. They glanced at each other and Walker made the first step inside. It was dark except for the light from the windows, cans of unopened food lined the walls, and children’s shoes were hung from the rafters. “Who, You?” a small voiced called ahead of them. Z looked up and the girl who had run through the woods earlier was stood in front of them at the base of a stairway. “Hello, young lady I’m Charles Walker and this is No- I am mean Z” Walker said gesturing to Z. The girl looked very confused and like none of it processed. She must speak English, everyone does, unless maybe she’s uneducated, Z thought. “You’re confusing her”, Z said to Walker as he crouched down to the girls height. “I’m Z” Z said as he placed a finger on his chest, He then pointed to Walker and said “He is Mr. W”, “Z and W” the girl said softly, “Yes” Z responded nodding his head. “Come Z and W, I Eva” the girl said gesturing with her arm for the men to follow her up the stairs.
They went all the way to the top of the building into the most secure floor, no windows were broken up here and the air was hotter than ever. “This family” Eva said as she opened the door to one massive room. Inside was at least 50 people. They ranged from very old to infants. The people looked tired, they were dirty, and they had very odd clothing on, it had no pattern. Walker had pulled out a small camera and was docummenting the whole thing. “Grandma, this Z and W” Eva called to the oldest woman in the room as she pointed at Z and Walker. “Hello, welcome to our home, this family. You are kind?” she questioned. “Yes, we are kind” Z responded. “Who’s taking your children?” Z asked, he couldn’t help himself, after seeing all the shoes hanging he needed to know. “The Trees ,they always have” Grandma responded somberly. “Oh dear” Walker sighed, “I had feared this might be happening somewhere, I just thought all the people were gone.” He added. “What do you mean? How could the trees being doing this?” Z questioned. “After years of pollution trees and other plant life had to adapt other methods to get energy, the sun was no longer enough. So they take in animals, people, and decompose them for energy.” Walker explained looking sadly around the room. “When night falls, children become sunshine” a man said from the corner of the room. Z stood in disbelief, “What can we do?” he asked. “There is no way to reverse the evolution now.” Walker stated. “Stay with us?” Eva said to Z tugging at his pant leg. Z looked at Walker for approval, “Maybe just one night.” Walker said.
As night fell the Family huddled in the center of the room away from the windows. Z and Walker stayed awake for as long as they could. From outside a low rumbling could be heard and Z’s heart beat in anticipation. The tendrils of the plants began to cover the windows, small vines squeezed their way through the cracks. The strongest of the men stood with his weight upon the door. The vines wrapped around his ankles tightly, but he did not budge. He had scars were it had happened before. The children seem unfazed, except for a small few who clung to their mothers. The building shook as the Family slept. The building moved as though a storm ravaged its walls. Z was in shock, he couldn’t believe this was real.
He was fascinated and had so many questions “Why can’t these people speak properly?” Z whispered to Walker who was sat beside him. “ My theory is that they are the children of the homeless who couldn’t afford to leave when the trees first began to do this. The years without proper education have led them here” Walker whispered back. “Ah” Z said back yawning. The shaking began to be just a hum. The vines had gone back from the windows and the rumbling had settled. Z closed his eyes and tried to imagine what he would learn tomorrow. He fell asleep happily, knowing that the possibilities were endless.
Hopefully the first of many stories for Z. Maybe even a book !