14 September, 2012

The Walkabout World: Part 7


Click here for Part 6: People (Part 1)

The People of the Walkabout World (Part 2) 


Those who survived in the wilderness
Generally, there were four types of people survived in the deepest wilderness; the powerful, the military, the survivalists and the last of the natives.

Working backwards through those groups…

The natives of the new world felt the changes just like everyone else, but without a strong reliance on technology, money or “civilisation”, they handled these changes far better. Still able to harvest the plants around their homes, as well as fish or hunt; they were self-sufficient even as the people of the cities starved. Still respectful to their land and its unseen inhabitants, they suffered far less at the hands of marauding spirits and monsters. The dark times reminded many of the native elders of ancient tales, and with this lore they survived the worst that the world inflicted on them. Many of the civilised natives had long given up on their former ways, spending generations in the cities and forgetting the survival skills that had kept their people alive or millennia; they survived no better than the other city dwellers.

Conversely, there were some rare city dwellers who did respect the wilderness. Perhaps watching too many television shows about wilderness survival skills, ingesting too much peyote or cannabis, maybe spending occasional weekends at a hunting lodge, or possibly even working with tribal groups to learn their ways. These people found their connections to the cities lost, and clung to the ways of the wilderness and the tribes who had lived there for millennia. In many cases it was hard for these city dwellers to completely abandon behind the creature comforts of the cities; but when their GPS became useless they turned back to maps, when their guns ran out of ammunition they accepted fate and took to bows and spears, and when their money became no good they traded valuable new techniques in hunting and tracking with those who still practiced the old survival crafts. In time, many of the native groups developed a fusion between the old and the new, in much the same way that they had adapted to changes throughout history. Anything that might give them an advantage to survive the dark times was taken as a blessing, and these survivalists had skills that could be learnt and adapted to the tribal good.

Those military types who “went native” in the dark times could easily be counted among the survivalists just described. But for every member of the military who went native, another was killed in the first days of the darkness, and a third desperately clung to the orders of their superiors in the face of a desperate and chaotic world. As time went by, aspects of the military gradually fell apart…there were no orders from the various command centres, radios howled with static and occasional unearthly screams from beyond the darkness, messages sent across the airwaves did little but reveal troop positions to hordes of angry spirits. In time, the “organised military” became no different to the “terrorists” they had been fighting for decades…each fighting in small cells to restore the world to a state that fit their belief system. No one can be sure how many military units were killed in conflict with civilians, how many wiped themselves out in battles with terrorists or insurgents, or how many faced the unknown horrors of parapsychological nightmare. As days of darkness turned into weeks, then months…military units found their resources dwindling, their ammunition depleted, their morale failing. There were no nations to defend any more, there was no point fighting for oil because it was more dangerous to transport it home than to secure it where it was found. It seemed that the only things left to fight for in the darkness were order, belief and ideology. Many soldiers found that their desire for order brought them closer to former “enemy” military units often joining forces to protect civilians from the horrors of the dark, other military groups fractured along religious or ideological lines, weakened by internal strife and then finished off by external forces. The surviving military groups of the wilderness typically returned to towns where they took on the role of militia and peacekeepers, or continued to patrol the desolate parts of the world in the hope of finding another great war or cause to fight for.

When the darkness descended, the most powerful members of society had contingency plans…as they always do. The wealthy may have languished in their walled mansions, wondering how to survive without their butlers, maids, gardeners and drivers; but the highest echelons of power evacuated the cities in helicopters, armoured limousines and entourages escorted by private security forces. Some claim that the most powerful were aware of the changes in the world long before the physical upheaval and spiritual backlash. Hidden across the world were dozens of underground shelters (some under the control of the military, some in corporate or private hands); the senators, governors, royal families and exceedingly wealthy traded favours and called in debts for their berth in one of these bunkers capable of supporting life for a century or more. With their retreat from society, they were hidden from the world and forgotten by the survivors who had been forced to face the horrors of the new world. In recent years, the background radiation has died away and the security forces of the underground have started making forays into the new world. Unprepared for what they now face, but equipped with the most advanced technologies of a bygone age; they struggle against a chaotic world, hope to reassert their dominance over the masses once again, and desperately cling to out-dated notions of digital wealth, global fame and up-to-the-minute fashion.

Those who evolved
The survivors who evolved have been touched on in a few areas so far, but they demand a bit more explanation. In a world of spirits and nuclear radiation, mutation is a common sight, with malevolent spirits channelling evolution down more dangerous and bloodthirsty paths while benevolent spirits channel the evolution toward amazing heights of beauty and sophistication. Some of the mutations afflicting humanity in this desolate age are physical in nature, but these deformities are easily seen and often inspire deep emotions in the “normal” survivors of the world. The physically deformed are sometimes revered, but more often ostracised, hunted outright or killed at birth by survivors afflicted by the new age of superstition and paranoia. Far more successful are those who have internally focused mutations, such as high intelligence, unnatural animal magnetism or the ability to bend the spiritual energies of the world to their own advantage. Careful members of these evolved offshoots are able to provide leadership and skills to their communities, but even they must walk a delicate line in case they be branded as witches, heretics or tainted by spirits. Among the societies that have regrown in the new world, the following responses to the “evolved” are common…   

The inner city troglodytes living in the tunnels of the great metropolises use anything they can to gain an advantage in their dangerous nocturnal world. Physical mutations are often seen as gifts from the darkness, and those who bear obvious signs of physical transformation are commonly mated as quickly and as often as possible to spread the changes across the next generation. This has led the underground populations to become genetically unstable, erratically producing genetic advancement and unexpected transformation as often as infertility and stillbirth. Those who still practice the arts of science and medicine have become a caste of priests among these people, using their knowledge in conjunction with ritual and spiritual superstition to transcend the limitations of humanity in their people.

The neoprimitives (whether born of native tribes, or adopted among the hippies and survivalists) are more wary of those who bear obvious changes. The mutation of the mind, flesh or soul is seen by many of these groups as the sign of a totem’s influence. Those who use their gifts for the benefit of the community are accepted, while those who use their gifts for personal gain are viewed with suspicion (or outright hostility). Those bearing the signs of a totem are often under a taboo to never mate with another bearing the signs, for it is often said that conflicting totems cause stillbirth (in the best of cases) or the awakening of destructive flesh-bound spirits (in the worst of cases). Many stories of forbidden love have developed around this notion. Those with the most powerful changes to their minds and bodies often end up becoming great warriors or shamans among the neoprimitive people; few seek to lead their tribes, often feeling that their destinies lead them elsewhere.  

The sprawl tainted exist among the scavengers of the former outer suburbs, these are some of the most carefully hidden of humanity’s evolved children. The scavengers have lived a hard life in most cases, and they do not permit anything among them that might make life more difficult. A mutation that renders a child less capable is seen as a burden on the family, a mutation that renders a child more capable is seen as a threat by the rest of the community. When either of these is identified, the child is often dropped off at the one of the known entrances to the underground communities at the centre of a city. In a few rare cases, a family will protect and support a child until the child is able to fend for themselves. In rare cases still, the child will reach adulthood perhaps using their gifts as a part of a secretive black market, or calling on spirits in show of religious ritual, charismatic histrionics and “divine miracles”.

The skyfarers rarely manifest evolved descendants, this may be a function of careful eugenics or simply avoiding the worst of the irradiated zones…but in recent generations, a number of elementally attuned children have been born across their aerial villages. Among the symptoms shown by these children are a mental acuteness, capability to predict wind patterns, direct lightning strikes and even summon storms on command (though this may take a few hours to manifest). These children have renewed a belief in the mystic arts among some members of the skyfarers.

The powerful survivors who huddled in the underground bunkers for decades spent many years developing a new caste of servants and slaves to do their bidding. This occurred through careful eugenics, chemical affliction, genetic modification and surgical methods. Soldiers were made stronger, more alert, and more fanatical. Servants were made more beautiful and more compliant. Technicians were made smarter and the technology fed back in on itself in a decadent loop. The asters of these underground bunkers felt the chance that their more power, more beautiful and smarter underlings might rebel. Some turned to the one thing where they believed that their servants couldn’t outshine them…fundamentalist religious dogma, they had no idea what was happening in the real world outside, and the inside world was of their own design. They claimed descent from ancient gods or prophets, and established the caste systems that they had claimed to hate only a generation or two earlier. As god kings they opened their gates on a new world ripe for conquest by their genetically advanced super servitors…only to find that the world had far evolved them on the outside. In other bunkers, the powerful accepted their fate and mingled with their servants knowing that their time was past, but hoping that their legacy might remain. In a few, the advanced children turned on their creators, in much the same way that the Olympian gods had turned on the titans before them.   


The Others
Before the earth turned on a new axis, there were spirits in the world. Hidden things that did not wish to be studied by the banality of science or persecuted by the bigotry of religion. Some left their mark on our folk-lore and myth, as vampires, werewolves, djinni, bunyip, angel and demon.

When the world turned, many hid amongst the survivors in the same way that they had for millennia. Some provided the new spirits with intelligence on the world, and the ways it may have changed since the last time spirituality reigned supreme. Others used the opportunity to establish nations and empires of their own. There was little evidence of these creatures in the world before the dark days, but now there is no denying their existence.
Post a Comment