6 October 2013

Night in the ruins

Further adventures after Report on Sample 717, following on from here...

Much later, deep into the dark night, Edrig and Adrig sat together on a convenient crumbling stone ledge protruding from the rough grass of a thickly wooded area in the middle of the ruined city, with crumbling and precarious high shells of ancient buildings rising into the darkness around them.

Their new companions had started a fire by skillfully scraping stones against the abundant dead wood that lay conveniently all over the place, and amid the loud crackling and spitting of combustion the high orange flames were erratically lighting the trees and bits of wrecked civil stone that jutted up beside them.

There were twenty three of these people, Edrig had counted, so twenty five beings around the fire in all, and so far as he could make out they were the only intelligent life in the entire place, accompanied only by the primitive sounds of little woodland creatures and the sparkling of stars in the gaps between dark clouds.

A large stone trough not far from the fire was filled with what seemed to be a thick sludge of fermented apples and a few berries.

'Beer', Adm had said while pointing at it and offering Edrig and Adrig small leather vessels with which to scoop up some of the foul-looking bubbly liquid and drink. All of their new companions were drinking, including the two small children and one heavily pregnant woman, so despite some reluctance both Edrig and Adrig had scooped up a little and prepared to take a sip.

'Technically cider,' I suspect, Adrig had pointed out to Edrig, to which Adm had just said, 'Huh' as he watched with an encouraging smile. Adm seemed a kindly man, Edrig was thinking, as he resisted the urge to gag at the stench of the brew. Indeed they all seemed very friendly and kindly, and he had quickly noted that there were more women than men. Just six men, two of whom looked very old, although Adrig had whispered that they looked rather like the prematurely aged victims of radiation poisoning.

'There may be an opportunity for us here you know,' whispered Edrig, as he nodded towards a few of the women who did not seem to be associated with any of the men, but Adrig was too preoccupied with the attempt to swallow some of the liquid, since a refusal to do so would surely offend.

'Consider this my boy,' Adrig said quietly to Edrig as they both held the vessels near their lips. 'Our chromosomes will be so much more resilient than theirs. Our enzymatic repair systems more robust. And our exposure to radiation will be much less than they have had to endure.'

'Yuh speek funny,' Adm observed, twisting his brow into a puzzled frown.

'Oh well then,' said Edrig, 'Here we go.'

And when they drank they found the liquid to be surprisingly sweet, and surprisingly tolerable, but also rather shockingly strong.

'Oh my goodness,' said Edrig, spluttering a little.

'Well, well!' Adrig managed.

'Gud! Well!' Adm declared, then pointed to the trough and offered, 'More then. More then.'

And after sitting down and finishing their first small portion, they did indeed quite soon return for more, and they also picked up some strips of something that looked like cooked meat that had been shown to them, and they drank a little from another trough that was filled with water.

After initially being very interested in them and coming up to look them over, the others all withdrew a little and left Edrig and Adrig to their own space on their own little stony bench.

'Let be till when,' they heard Adm announce, with a tone that suggested he might be in some sort of command, or at least in a position of respect. 'Let set,' he then added. 'Let set in.'

And so Edrig sat beside Adrig once again, as Adrig sat beside Edrig, on a sort of a bench and drinking a sort of beer, not long after they had been sitting doing much the same in very different circumstances on Sample 717.

'This is alright you know, my lad,' Adrig began. 'That fire is lovely and warm and this drink is starting to really kick in.'

'Yes, my head is feeling it a bit now. Quite nice,' Edrig responded, 'but it is still another pickle, another big pickle, is it not?'

'Ach... a mere minor pickle compared to the pickle we might have been in with the Ladies and the Lady Lords back home. Drink up. And this is quite interesting really, all this ruined mess, you know, sociologically speaking... And you know, I am not at all sure that these fine people know what this place ever was. I was listening to some of them speak and managing to follow little bits of it. They seem to be in wonder at it all and they keep talking of the far high lands. I am not at all sure if these people have any idea of what a city is, or ever was. These, eh... survivors, perhaps... from the far high lands. Perhaps with more sturdy chromosomes too. There will always be survivors, at least usually, of those best fit to survive whatever befalls a large population.'

'Oh... Yes... It really is kicking in now. Quite lovely!'

'Are you even listening to me Edrig?'

'Yes. Yes. Very interesting. But this drink. This warm fire. Those few young ladies over there. Quite lovely.'

And just as Edrig spoke, one of the quite lovely ladies approached the edge of the fire, stuck a long sharpened wooden pole into the ground, and began to dance around it as everyone started to clap and chant.

'Oh... My... Good... God... Edrig... Look. She is pulling her gown off over her head.'

'Quite lovely,' sighed Edrig, as the dance and the evening moved on, and the naked dancing lady cast wierd and entrancing shadows against the trees and ruins around them.


Elephant's Child said...

Always look on the bright side of life...

susan said...

I've just read the whole series up to now. It's an excellent story and very well told, Andrew. For some reason I'm reminded a little of Trurl and Klapaucius - another pair of rascals.

Claude said...

Reminds me of my camping days...not that we ever drank homemade brew and danced naked around the fire! All the fun that I missed....

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Thanks Susan, and of course the first book in the (possible) series is already available in print or for e-reader if you want more, as advertised in the sidebar - not to mention two other doubtless timeless classics :)

Trurl and Klapaucius are characters I am unaware of, but I will look them up (I may be betraying a lack of education there).

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Probably just as well Claude. I did get drunk and go skinny dipping in the Firth of Forth one evening in a mixed bunch of students, with some interesting unintended consequences, but I don't recall any naked dancing in front of a campfire.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

We do need to try, don't we, but I do have some difficulty with that quite often.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Ah, I looked them up. No shame in me not being aware of them but I may need to investigate now.

susan said...

In my opinion Stanislaw Lem was one of the most entertaining science fiction authors of our age. I'd recommend both the Futurological Congress - From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy and The Cyberiad, both of them satirical and surreal.

ps: Now I have my e-reader I will read your originals.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Thanks for the tip (and I hope you enjoy my e-offerings)