Death Stories for Those Who Stayed Behind - Jeb Franks
It was all wrong.
Winter is the time for quiet, introspective thought, planning for Spring, and strengthening the connections with our loved ones. Autumn is the reaping time, harvesting what we have sown, the time things die so that they may rest before they come alive again in the Spring.
All things are part of the Cycle, whether they care to realize it or not. The natural world, the seasons, time and matter itself. The people, their lives and deaths, even their different politics and faith, are all connected in the Great Cycle of the Seasons. Nothing is able to bypass the Cycle and those who attempt to disrupt it will not find the world to bear its insolence for long. The world has survived all things this far and will continue to do so because it always realigns to its natural path and flow. To go against the Cycle of the Seasons, the natural order of things, will only bring great pain and defeat. She is patient, our world, and will adjust a million small things so that the Cycle will reset itself. Bringing forth a wave of death when all should be quiet will have an unfathomable amount of consequences for them. The Cycle will make them pay.
When you truly embrace the rhythm of the Seasons, you understand that everything has its place. You begin to understand that you end up exactly where you’re supposed to be at the exact time you are needed. Although some things seem to be more enigmatic than others, the wind in the trees never sends you anywhere you’re not supposed to be.
I will never turn away from the earth’s call, nor of those who choose to faithfully adhere to the tenets of our Seasons. I have family, a caravan, and many friends, but my flock are connected to me through the earth, wind, water, and sky itself. Many, even of my own religion, have shunned me for opening myself so much to what our world has chosen to teach me, but the true believers know that what I have seen to be true. Olivia understood the vision the Earth had chosen to send me and she honored me for it. She believed in the Cycle and was starting to see how all things were connected. We listened to the same lake winds, tended the lands together, and laid hands on the same trees. I couldn’t have left her out there, lost amongst those defilers of the Cycle. I couldn’t leave with my caravan because I couldn’t leave her out there alone. Thankfully, they didn’t fight me about it, but instead loaded me up with provisions and supplies before sending me out with blessings of hope.
Few know this land like I do, but for those who tended it around Steel Horse Crossing I stopped at their homes to make sure they were leaving for safety. I knew Olivia wasn’t one for stopping at small farms, but at least this way I could try to save some others as well. I only hope I wasn’t the only one who tried to warn them.
I found her on a tiny deer path off the outskirts of a huge raider encampment. She was somehow staying hidden from them while inspecting a corral of what seemed to be normal local townspeople. I knew what she was planning to do and tried to grab her attention without letting the raiders know I was there. I never was very good at hiding so it wasn’t a surprise when I heard the gunshots hit and shatter my armor. That caught her attention. I could almost see her mouth form “Goddammit Jeb” before she started to move. I ran deeper into the treeline to obstruct the snipers’ view with much success, but instead found the traps I somehow avoided on my way in. The first one was brutally vociferous and momentarily felt like a blast of hot fire on my legs before they suddenly felt ice cold. I fell over into the second blast and the only thing I remember is that it smelled like the filthy smoke that billows out of those rides driven by Sophie’s “dirty cousins”. Something went flying - maybe a piece of my leg? - and that set off the third one that stopped me from being able to smell or see anything anymore. I did, however, hear Olivia muffling herself; I couldn’t tell if it was screaming, sobbing, or scolding. It doesn’t really matter though, does it?
As I laid there in pieces, I looked to the trees and whispered into the wind a message for her. The trees won’t lead her astray.