Authors: Talha Ehtasham
The Children of New Earth
Copyright © 2016 Talha Ehtasham
All rights reserved.
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Table of Contents
They came from the sky, but looked like Demons from the depths of Hell.
My knowledge of the war comes not from memory, but the stories I was told by those who fought in it. On one late summer day, in the year 2050, began the greatest cataclysm in the history of the human race. In major population centers around the world, the the sky grew still and cold as a foul odor poisoned the air. The planet was shrouded in darkness as a shadow was cast over the planet, and all of humanity collectively looked to the stars. Then the sky began to crack. Rifts leaking black smoke tore open the atmosphere, and an onslaught of nightmarish creatures descended upon the Earth. Thus began the bloodbath that would truly test humanity’s strength, courage, and will to live.
Different subspecies of the invading alien race had differing methods of attack, and they bore a striking resemblance to monsters from ancient human mythologies. Giant flying reptiles, that we called Dragons, rained death from above. Smaller, humanoid aliens attacked in large groups, using only their teeth and claws. They were collectively called Swarms, since no one ever saw just one. The rarest type of Demon ever recorded was the Titan. Their sizes varied, but some were said to be over a thousand feet tall. These giants were only ever seen in a few cities, walking among the buildings as if they were traversing a concrete maze. Many other classes of Demons existed, though my knowledge of them was fairly limited. They clearly outmatched humans physically, but their combat style was quite primitive. The enemy’s sheer strength in numbers was overwhelming, but through years of careful tactics and adapting to their methods, mankind was able to persevere.
In 2060, on a breezy day in the middle of Summer. The gunfire, the screaming, and the unearthly roaring of monsters finally began to wane. The people looked to the portals, prepared for the next attack. But it never came.
Bases across the globe began to relay a single message: “Is it over?”
And as if to answer this very question, all the portals soon began to close. These blemishes that had plagued the sky for so long and caused so much misery and death finally began to clear. The days grew brighter, and the nights were quiet, peaceful, and full of celebration. After years of constant fighting, the people of Earth could finally catch their breath.
By now, nations had been reduced to communities called Sanctuaries, each with a population of a few hundred people. Some were created by scattered groups of survivors, but most were once military strongholds, bunkers, and other fortified bases. There used to be hundreds of such safe havens, but since the war ended, many fell to disease and lack of supplies. Communication was still active among most of the Sanctuaries, and negotiations began to select a leader. The Director of New Earth was finally appointed from the longest-surviving camp based in what was once the city of Dubai. This effectively became the capital of Earth, and humanity now had an establishment upon which it could begin to rebuild.
If you ask anyone about their fondest memory of the time before the war, they’ll struggle to find an answer. The survivors had lived this life of combat for so long that their old lives faded into nothing but a hazy memory from a long forgotten dream. But they hadn’t lost all their humanity. The strongest and smartest had lived, and they set out to rebuild the world better than ever before. No one denied that decrepit state of things, but no one complained either.
Not long after the fighting ended, people began having children to repopulate, among other reasons of course. Many called the war “the greatest act of natural selection in human history” and it had yet to play a part in the birth of the next generation. A few thousand were conceived, but most did not survive the harsh conditions of New Earth. There was no nuclear fallout; those missiles had been replaced by biological weaponry long before the invasion, though it’s unfortunate that our diseases had no effect on the Demons. Still, dwindling resources, broken infrastructure, and threat of residual Demons still roaming the Earth did not make for the ideal living situation. Most died either during birth or within the first few weeks of life. Those who survived were better for it, and came to be known as the New Generation, or Neogens.
It is fortunate that the people of New Earth didn’t completely let their guard down. Not long after the birth of the first Neogens, Sanctuaries began reporting cases of an unknown virus. They say the symptoms included a weak heartbeat, cold and pale skin, and unbearable head pain. Even more suspiciously, a few were able to confirm that this affliction had already been seen before the war. However, the disease wasn’t fatal; in fact, it was quite the opposite. The end stage of the illness was a vegetative state in which those infected would be conscious but completely unresponsive. They came to be known as Hollows, nothing but empty shells of their former selves. They had partial motor function, and were often found wandering aimlessly about the Sanctuary, having left their beds in the medical ward. Despite this, they had virtually no brain activity and no means to sustain themselves. Artificial life support was not an option, given the scarcity of supplies. And so, as a mercy, the Hollows were put out of their misery. The most effective method of killing them was a shot or stab to the head. While not elegant, it was still quick and relatively painless. We weren’t even sure they could feel. Surviving loved ones had a chance to say goodbye, and the rest of us prayed this virus didn’t spread. Such was the way of life for much of my childhood.
We did not know why this disease had taken so long to manifest, all we knew was that it was a serious threat, as Sanctuaries all over the globe had fallen to the virus. The Child Mercy Law, which forbade the conception of children, came into play during this crisis. Proponents argued that New Earth was no place for a child, at least not until it had become a more habitable place to live. Opponents of the law argued that the human population was shrinking, and we needed children to learn their parents’ crafts and contribute to society. The virus was a win for supporters of this law, and it was quickly passed after the first camps fell to the disease. The New Generation, my generation, was not legally affected, and lived on. It is important to note that the upholding of laws at the time did not come from force, but rather from a sense of mutual respect for fellow survivors.
There were a few hundred Neogens conceived before the law passed, and we were the first children to be born after the war, marking the first time in ten years the human population actually grew. We became useful members of society; some learned combat, some learned about technology, and some learned to grow food or even to catch it. Animal and plant life, miraculously spared during the war, had taken over abandoned cities.
Perhaps the most significant development of post-war society happened when the Neogens reached their early teenage years. We began to exhibit mysterious abilities beyond those of any human. We were taught the power of DNA and its role in genetics, but not even the brightest scientists couldn’t understand this kind of evolution. My own Sanctuary had children with healing powers, mind-reading abilities, super-strength, telekinesis, and other such skills. Eventually, it was found that all Neogens were immune to the Hollow virus, among a number of other afflictions. Using our blood, a working cure was developed and administered to the rest of the population. Unfortunately, it was a preventative vaccine, and could only prevent infection. Those who had already fallen ill could not be saved.
Another crisis arose early in the year 2075. Up until this point, the Sanctuaries employed a planet-wide communications network to maintain order and stability. Frequent conferences among the leaders of the Sanctuaries helped to accelerate the rebuilding process, as well as establish a sense of unity among the surviving human population. But in that year, communication among the Sanctuaries was inexplicably cut off; we could no longer contact the capital Sanctuary in Dubai, nor any other on Earth. After weeks of panic, order was restored through the reformation of our local government. My father and leader of our Sanctuary, Elliot Aion, oversaw this restructuring. However, recovery from the war was set back significantly. Investigations of the closest Sanctuaries only made things worse. Our scouts didn’t find anyone alive, nor any sign of a Demon attack. Most alarmingly, they didn’t find any bodies either. In our new isolation, a wave of melancholia swept over the Sanctuary. Despite our stability and relative safety, the people's morale was shattered.
But not all hope was lost. Over the next few years, Neogens attained an increased understanding of their abilities and were able to use them for the betterment of the Sanctuary. We still didn’t know why we were given these gifts, but we tried not to question it. By helping ourselves, we believed we might one day help the world. This guiding thought led us out of the darkest time on New Earth.
The citizens of our Sanctuary receive their injection of the vaccine once a year. The day this happens is known as Salvation Day. I keep telling everyone the name sounds too dramatic, but I guess we Neogens take our immunity for granted. We don’t even know if the virus is still active, but “better safe than dead” as all the Parents say.
Being the child of the Sanctuary Leader, I got a few perks. Our home was a large tent in the center of our camp. Guards stood watch at all hours, and we had the respect of just about everyone in Sanctuary. People would often come to us with requests, not struggling families or frail old men and women, but battle-hardened soldiers and brilliant scientists. They asked for permission to go scout nearby locations for resources or the clearance to access old tech in storage. If they had a reasonable petitions, they were granted what they needed. My father put the good of the camp ahead of everything. “All before one” was a popular saying, and many in our Sanctuary believed strongly in these values. We came to adopt these altruistic beliefs and as such, our camp has never had a major civil crisis or conflict.
Given that we didn’t have the luxury of buying new clothes, we had to wear whatever garments we could salvage. Those who knew how would mend would repair ripped or ragged clothing into something with at least a modicum of modesty. As such, my wardrobe consisted of simple old shirts and pants. One garment I was proud of, however, was my purple cloak. It was worn over the head; the right side draped only slightly past my shoulder, from which it curved across my chest and extended down to my right hand. From the back, it fell down to about knee-length. When it was windy or rainy, I’d put up my hood, but today was one of those days when some higher power decided the weather would be just right. As I left my tent, I saw my parents speaking with some of our scientists. My father caught my glance and gave me a subtle wave. I waved back and continued onward.
Though the golden glow from the sun hadn’t been seen since the war started, a gray light still managed to pierce the clouds and offer what weak strength it had left. The air was warm, but a constant, cool breeze flowed through my hair. I stood still for a moment, simply acknowledging my place in the universe. I looked to the calm sky, shut my eyes, and heard nothing but the wind. This tranquility was soon interrupted when my cloak flung itself over my head.
“Thran!” a familiar voice called out as I struggled to get it off. “Shoulda known you’d wear purple again.”
“Hey, Rachel.” I fixed my cloak, pushed back my hair, and smiled at her. I then slowly inhaled and closed my eyes. I imagined a small flame burning calmly in front of me. By manipulating time relative to the fire, I could do the same with the world around me. Each second for her was now almost a minute for me. Taking my time, I walked behind her and stood still. I then allowed time to flow normally and spoke. “You know -”
I was cut short when she quickly turned to face me. Her dagger was drawn; she was levitating the weapon in front of her, ready to attack.