Nothing but weeds.
They choked the life out of anything else that might have grown. Not that anything else could have grown. The earth in the Zone was contaminated – abused by man and trained to hate all that walked across it.
He squatted in the dirt and fingered a hoary leaf. It stabbed back at him.
Worthless. It wouldn’t even give up moisture. Or, if it did, the nectar would be corrupted with poison.
The sun was high and the sky blazed a merciless copper. The air was breathless with heat. He draped his head and passed through the desolation man had wrought. He was a lone figure, a ready target, as he made his way back to the City.
The Zone was a land made bare, stripped of all that was good and clean. Stripped of anything a man might use to survive, outside the City.
It wasn’t enough that they’d poisoned the sky. No. The Greys – the people of the stars – had helped them clear that many years ago. It was the earth, they said. Even the Greys could only help them make the City livable.
It was a lie.
They had salted the earth long after the skies cleared – long after the Greys departed the world. All of it – as far as the eye could travel from their glittering towers, and as far as a man could run in a day – had been destroyed by man, after.
And a day was all a man had before the dreadnoughts caught up with him. Before the poisoned wasteland crippled his insides, made his bowels burn and turn to water. Few made it to Beyond, to the wild green that lay hidden, just outside the borders of the Zone.
Those that did reach Beyond were loath to return. He was the only one to make the trip twice, and here he was, returning for a third time to the wasteland of modern marvels.
He had not been born there, amid its glittering towers. He was not an oligarch’s son, nor plebian drone. Nor was he one branded a Contaminate – a man who suffered to return to the City after escaping to the Zone.
No, he had been born in the Beyond, amid the green and growing things. He had been born, free to breathe and thrive in sunlight. He had stood on sturdy legs beside his mother as she did the washing, and skulked among the trees with his father as he did the hunting.
And he had left it behind to go to the City. He had followed a prophesy – attempted to claim what was his and free a people who had no idea they were slaves. He had failed.
No, he was not an oligarch’s son, nor a nameless drone. He was Samuel, and he was going to the City take back what was his.
A setting, a preamble, an introduction – whatever you want to call it, it’s all in the name of the WordPress Challenge of the Week: The Setting’s the Thing . Samuel’s intro is also part of The Heresy of Before universe, established here and here.