Their Stories: Steel and Stone

This poem is a fragment of my original fiction “The World”. I’m re-writing the whole story and I don’t know where to put this poem in yet.

Steel and Stone

In well-worn shoes, with blistered hands
The farmer took a vow
That he would change to soil, the sands
“ The first step, here and now “

He turned his back to One-Four-Five
And journeyed to Beyond
Where no man, beast, nor plant could thrive
Before the sun had dawned.

Changed the desert, oh that he did
And well-known then was Steel
With one odd thing he never hid
Nor shamefully conceal

The blood-thorn tree which by his side
Would stay for days on end
Its deadly branches shook with pride
As if it was a friend.

Time then passed for man and for tree
Until it came, that day
“Together” could no longer be
The farmer passed away

His lifeless body laid to rest
In One-Four-Five’s domain
The tree stood watch and faced the west
And never moved again.

Its slate-grey trunk soon turned to white
Its thorns dropped to the ground
Weathered by rain, wind, and the light
It never made a sound

One night, fire raged in from the east
The blood-thorn tree stood still
Until the crimson fire had ceased
And night had naught but chill.

Since then no beast or plant had dared
Disturb the resting place
Acacia wordlessly declared
“ Here stands my final trace “

Some wonder if the tree still lives
Despite its stone-white gloom
In place of thorns, aurora weaves
Light on a single bloom.


The ancient Earth no longer exists, but the planet is healing itself. Humans, animals and plants co-exist. Humbled by their past and thankful for their present, humans respect those that dwell around them. The ancient belief that they were superior to plants and animals no longer existed in their hearts and minds.

This is the age when  two-thirds of the planet is a vast desert, but a massive forest is slowly expanding. It provides more room for growth and is nourished by occasional rain. Seasons, which were a part of ancient Earth, occur again. There are storms and snow, but nothing like the tumultuous weather of the previous age.

This is the age when humans respect all life equally, when armored snakes find their new homes amongst other creatures of the planet, when plants settle down and peacefully live their short lives.

This is the age of The New World.

[ E N D ]

Chapter IX : The New World IX

Chapter IX : The New World

“ Beginning ”

Moments, days, nights, and years passed. The World continued to change. Ever so slowly, the planet was restored. There was rain, and soon, there was evidence of the onset of seasons. The desert became more forgiving and the oak forest continued to expand.

Humans and animals thrived and co-existed.

Plants flourished.

The Citadel fell to ruins and the forest around it was soon mostly submerged in water. As some of the plants in it died away, the empty spaces were filled up by the clean, clear, drinkable liquid. The trials of the past were soon put in the History of the World; forgiven but never forgotten.  Some towns were rebuilt slowly and they expanded to make room for more humans from all over the planet.

The planet continued to turn on its axis though it was not felt by its inhabitants. Unseen in the atmosphere and almost everywhere else, the World’s tardigrades watched on as the lives of the planet’s creatures improved. Benefactors who were invisible, even to Hunter for he did not know how to use Black Blood eyes, the tardigrades soon fell asleep. The Mechanism had been successfully shut down by their champion and yet the planet’s core continued to move. All was well.

Days were brilliantly beautiful, rarely too warm or too cold. Night skies were lit up by the majestic aurora. Its colors danced during the evenings and were reflected upon the surface of the Unreachable Sea. Sunsets and daybreaks were some of the prettiest sights that humans could see, and they became inspiration for the many young and old artists of 145. Over a few years, the town became known for having the best painters in the World.

Humans learned to appreciate art once more. Though the role of each artist was a temporary one, they cherished it dearly and that enthusiasm resulted in happier days. They loved their roles in their days as children, and the humans also looked forward to the days when they would be able to return to painting and drawing. But they never neglected their roles as farmers, guards, historians, or tamers.

It was just like a new beginning for the World. Life continued to become much easier for the humans. It was almost similar to how life was like before Apocalypse buried itself into the planet. Plants became less aggressive; some gardeners suggested that it could be because of the balance of water and sunlight. Before, water was difficult to find thus the plants had to actively seek it. Once rain fell from the skies again, they became more content with just remaining in their spots on the ground.

New towns, new lives; things could only get better for the New World.



Sleep Well

27 remained in ruins. The mark of the fire wall was washed away by rain over many moments, but the houses which were destroyed remained. The pumpkin patch continued to thrive and its pumpkins were still as territorial as ever. A human figure and a large creature with two antennae and eight legs walked amongst the rubble while the rain poured once again. They soon stopped in front of a ruined house. He was taller than before but his brown hair and blue eyes remained the same. Although it was torturous for his heart and mind, he always found his way back to the town where it all began.

Day and night he wished that he could see her again. Not once did he wish for his death. The blue-eyed tamer believed that she would return one day. Many generations passed and those whom he grew up with were already gone, but such was what humans called the curse of being immortal. To him, however, it was not a curse but an opportunity to be with the one whom he loved. He turned around to leave, and that was when he saw her standing there.

Her black hair was longer than before. It was almost down to her waist. She wore a tattered brown dress which was soon soaked by the rain that fell from the sky, just like on the day that she disappeared into the darkest chasm. Her left arm was riddled by even more black thorns and her skin seemed pale and cold, but the smile on her face was warmer than sunshine. She looked tired and weary, but happy; her right hand found its way to her greyish pet’s head which the latter welcomed joyfully with a grunt.

“ It’s good to see you again, “ she said as she looked at her giant tardigrade, then at the blue-eyed human.

The ageless man replied with a nod and he held his arms open. She rushed forward and embraced him, and his warmth was most comforting amidst the pouring rain. He kissed her forehead gently and they sat down on the doorstep of the ruined house. The black-haired one rested her head on his shoulder, and he put an arm around her to keep her close while the grey creature curled up near them.

“ I’m not going to let you go again, “ the man said.

“ I know, “ the girl whispered, and then she closed her heavy eyes, assured that he would still be there when it was time for her to wake up once more.

Chapter IX : The New World VIII

Chapter IX : The New World

“  The Flow of Time ”

Life in the World soon went back to normal. Some of the towns were rebuilt though the larger, completely ruined ones such as 27 were left in rubbles. But the lives of those who once lived in the ruined towns still continued. Practical and ever optimistic, humans moved forward. They learned from the mistakes of their past, appreciated the present, and hoped for the best future.

Xing, who became the Captain of the newly-built town #145, soon became the father of an eager little boy. The opposite of his older brother Hunter in almost every way, Zhao wanted to be a guard as soon as he was able to walk and speak. While Hunter’s eyes were blue, Zhao’s eyes were a fierce reddish brown. Despite their differences, the brothers got along and complemented one another. Both grew up to be fine young men but as time passed, Hunter himself noticed something strange.

He stopped aging.

By the time that he was nearly as tall as his father and reached the best moments of his youth, Hunter felt that time stood still for him. Many people noticed it but they did not say anything, and his own family treated him as they did before. But as his parents grew older, Hunter could do nothing about the sad realization that he would outlive them. Some days, he was depressed due to his predicament; other days, he was thankful.

Much time passed and those whom he knew died and were buried. In his death bed, Zhao assured his older brother that there was much to live for, and that if Yue Li had the gift of immortality, he should cherish it and make a difference in the World. And a difference he did make, for Hunter soon followed the late Steel’s footsteps and explored the desert. His guides were the eternally joyous redhead Lavender, daughter of Thyme and Rina, and her twin brother Oren. On Puppy’s back, the tamers journeyed to many parts of the desert. They discovered that beyond it, there lay a wasteland of stone and rubble.

At first, they did not notice any living creatures. Hunter only saw massive brownish structures on the ground. They looked like large coverings that could have towns within them. But as the group approached the brown towns, the structures moved. A foul stench shot up through their noses and into their brains as the ‘towns’ stood up. The creatures, which Oren identified as ridiculously overgrown descendants of ancient Earth’s cockroaches, merely looked at the puny humans. They then turned to the mountains of jagged rubble and stone, and proceeded to eat the inorganic boulders. Posing no immediate threat to the rest of the World, the tamers decided to write about their findings but suggest that the roaches be left alone.

Time continued to flow, but not for Hunter. Soon, even his little companions died of old age. His only comfort was the company of Puppy who was ever cheerful and supportive. Though the tardigrade occasionally showed signs of being as dumb as a rock, his empathy for the Black Blooded human could easily be felt. Day and night, the two traveled together and wherever Hunter was spotted, surely, Puppy was close by. Though the human’s heart ached severely, he was thankful that he was given the opportunity to understand how Errol felt; how he wished that he could see her again. But no matter, he had forever to wait for her.

Chapter IX : The New World VII

Chapter IX : The New World

“  Their Stories”

That day changed the World.

For the first time after the Age of the Sun, rain fell from the sky. It was like a myth that suddenly became reality. Humans never questioned the sources of their water; unbeknownst to them, the World’s tardigrades worked hard to fill the seas. As the planet’s temperature lowered, the seas were filled up with water and that allowed life to flourish in the World despite the lack of precipitation.

But while the tardigrades could accomplish many great feats, they simply could not do everything or recreate every system that the planet once had. Weather was one of the most unpredictable systems and the tardigrades simply did not understand it well enough to meddle with it. However, at long last, the planet’s healing process reached a vital point. Once again, it rained.

The humans were wary at first, but when Rina ran into 54 despite the downpour, they emerged from their homes. It was day of both joy and sorrow. The attackers were defeated, clear water fell from the sky… but Errol was gone. She didn’t return that evening, and she didn’t return the following morning, or the day after that, or a week later.

The chasm soon caved in on itself as rain continued to pour. For many days, water fell from the sky and the streets were flooded, but not so much that it hindered the humans. When the rain finally stopped, the humans saw another miracle of the planet: a rainbow. The return of rainy days was accompanied by many changes, one of which was the emergence of a deadly plant from the depths of the Overlord’s Sea. Historians called it kelp and it kept humans away from the Citadel. With its many long leaves, it could grab anything and crush it. Some said that it was left behind by Eight; others said that it had been there all along and resurfaced when the Citadel was raised above water level.

But the changes did not end with rain. Human lives also moved on. Errol’s original history book finally revealed its contents on the day that she disappeared. Rina decided to continue the Overlord’s studies but before she left 54 to travel all over the planet, Thyme proposed that they be husband and wife. Unlike the ancient days, there was no grand ceremony or obligatory blessing from some complete strangers. All that was needed was the affirmation of their life-long love, respect and fidelity to one another.

Someplace else in the World, the oak forest expanded its reach. To help the planet recover its supposed former lush green and blue state, Steel and his band of determined farmers set out to the Desert Beyond. His friend Ochre failed in his undertaking, but the older man’s experiences during his journey with the Overlord made him want to live more. He no longer wanted to stay in a town to exist in a mundane way. The farmer gathered young visionaries and, with the aid of the ever-enthusiastic acacia, they traveled to transform parts of the desert into arable land.

The townsfolk of what used to be 27 soon moved out of 54 and, along with the people of other ruined towns; they built Town # 145 south of the Unreachable Sea. The part of the forest which stood to the west of the Iron Wall became more dangerous than ever during rainy days. But humans, after everything that they’d been through, still strived to expand their towns beyond the Wall. However, it was not due to conquest or greed, but due to the desire to co-exist with the rest of the World’s inhabitants.

Hunter was happy for his town, his family, and for his friends. He also managed to understand the intricacies of Black Blood. As gardeners explained to him, such a gift required a strong will. Due to his diffidence, he initially found it difficult to use his abilities but over time, he was able to use them to help improve the life of his fellow humans. By his side, Puppy remained. Although Linnorm and some of the snakes returned to their home in the desert, Puppy did not return to the giant tardigrade colony. The odd-eyed snake stayed with the humans as well, ever curious and willing to help.

Within their own journals, they wrote their stories in much the same way that the Overlord confided in her diary. During one of her occasional glimpses at the pages of Errol’s confidante, Rina could barely hold back her tears when she flipped to the last entry and read its last line.

I will see you again tomorrow, Diary.

Chapter IX : The New World VI

Chapter IX : The New World

“  And then, there was rain. ”

Linnorm’s head and body were completely still on the ground while Hunter knelt down on its head. His arm was outstretched and his hand held Errol’s firmly. Around the chasm, the earth was unstable and only the large snake could approach it safely. Half of its body was on solid ground and Hunter, without hesitation, used Black Blood to strengthen himself so that he could dash to Errol immediately.

“ I’m going to pull you up little by little, “ the tamer held out his other hand as he spoke to her.

But Errol looked at him with sad eyes. She glimpsed at the darkness below her feet, then up at Hunter once again. She could hear the many voices around her as the World’s tardigrades, for the first time, headed down to Apocalypse of their own accord. The fight was not over and they needed their champion. It was a long fall but she would surely survive. However, based on her previous journey into Impact Cavern, she knew that it would take an extremely long time.

“ The cycle will repeat itself, “ she said to him.

“ I don’t understand- “ Hunter frowned as he still held out his other hand.

We have to hurry, the World’s Ancient Ones said, They will use the rose’s body again. Evidently, there was no other way. She was the one who unlocked the Mechanism. She was the one who fueled it and gave it life. The core had already been restarted and it will continue to move; the Mechanism was unnecessary. The plant within it was just being used by the Apocalypse colony for their ideology.

Halfway with twenty

Halfway alone

The journey to the Mechanism would be a long one. The humans whom she knew would be dead and gone by the time that she reached her destination. The poem which the tardigrades recited…

To end their story

To ensure it is done

… was a chronicle of the lives of Errol and her copies. Of how it began, and how it should end.

From one to nine

The Apocalypse tardigrades would just repeat the process. Once they have Eight in their possession, they could remake her in a place where they were numerous, a place which the World’s tardigrades refrained from invading out of respect. They would, without hesitation, recreate all of the fallen copies. They could even, at that point, make all eight true immortals.

Errol’s bone knife was still in her right hand. It was a bitter reminder of what she went through when the Mechanism crushed her arm so that it could harvest her blood. She undid the locks; she should lock them again. If she sealed the plant away, if she removed whatever remained of her Black Blood from the Mechanism, the Apocalypse tardigrades would be unable to recreate their children.

Of all the things that they could do, there was one thing that those creatures from the cold depths of space could not accomplish: they could not multiply. The World’s tardigrades continually increased, but the Apocalypse’ remained the same. It was because of their shortsightedness, their arrogance; they believed that they should be the only ones of their kind that should ever exist… the only passengers of the fallen Apocalypse.

If the Mechanism was shut down…

… they would go back to sleep.

If the Mechanism was shut down…

… they would settle for their quiet life in Impact Cavern.

If the Mechanism was shut down…

…their delusions of grandeur would be lost in their slumber.

 The black rose’s body would remain there, forever, but it would be locked up safely within the Mechanism… and only Errol’s Black Blood, something unique to her and her alone, could ever open it.

“ Let me go, “ she said to the blue-eyed boy, “ And the World will live. “

Linnorm’s eyes widened as Errol opened her left hand. Hunter tried to hold onto it.

Ebb nine to one.

Soothing, cool drops of water fell down from the sky as she disappeared into the darkness of the abyss.

Chapter IX : The New World V

Chapter IX : The New World

“ The Darkest Chasm ”

The tardigrades which resided on Apocalypse had good intentions, but their vision was skewed by their hatred of humans. It did not help that they evolved far beyond what they originally were and instead of dying out, they became immortals. At first, they tried to influence the World by using plants. However, they soon realized that they were not alone.

The planet was occupied by its own colony of tardigrades, and despite being of essentially the same natural blueprint, they had opposing views.  The World’s tardigrades enjoyed their life with the planet’s creatures. They were particularly fond of a being which they referred to as The Overlord. They spoke highly of it. Soon, the Apocalypse tardigrades grew tired of their World counterpart’s passive ways.

As they originally planned, the inhabitants of Apocalypse began to weave life based on the pattern which they read in remnants of Black Blood. They created eight pods which contained similar basic forms, but as time passed, they slowly altered those copies. The tardigrades tried different interpretations of what could be ‘perfect’. Within the cavern, as time moved on, the copies grew within the pods which the tardigrades created by using the dark plant. Little by little, it all made sense and Errol’s mind managed to complete the pieces of the puzzle:

The first one was left in her shell for far too long after she was ‘complete’. Her mind was developed beyond what her creators intended, and so she had a different understanding of their predicament. Her weakness was that her body had not developed to its full potential; it seemed as if most of the development was concentrated on her mind. Soon, that first one left and was never seen again. But Errol knew what happened… One appeared before her and told the Overlord about herself and the other copies. She also wanted to die by Errol’s hands, and the latter reluctantly obliged.

The second one was incredibly skilled. She was also most artful, but she expressed her thoughts through her actions, never through words. She had been sent to retrieve One, but came across the Overlord instead and discovered that she was the historian named Errol D’ Theov. Two was fairly smart and managed to gain information about the World, which she subsequently brought back to the other copies. Due to her meek nature, she did not ask for the others’ help therefore, in her next escapade, Errol managed to catch her and, still with much hesitation, the Overlord killed Two.

The third one was insanely strong. He managed to uproot many trees south of the forest, but he was as dumb as a rock. He was so stupid that Puppy was actually the one who took him on, and the tardigrade emerged victorious. Although the creature did not kill the copy, Errol arrived just before Three got away and she immediately disposed of him.

The fourth one was very cunning and used parasites to gain control. Her body, however, was very weak for her influence over Apocalypse tardigrades was developed instead of her physical strength and endurance. The tardigrades refused to admit that it was a miscalculation on their part, and so Four continued to exist even though her body could just fail at any time. Around those moments, Errol already put Linnorm at the original entrance to Impact Cavern. Four was the first one to use the exit through the antlion burrow which Three once worked on from the surface.

The fifth one was the animalistic boy. He was quick on his feet and adept at fighting. Unfortunately he was, in one word, mad. Five was very wild and even his comrades found it difficult to control him. They avoided him if they could, and Seven was the only one who seemed to be patient enough to work with the boy. Like the ones before him and the two ones after him, however, Five was far from perfect. They were mortal.

The sixth one was a being in two bodies. At times, Six split her mind between the two and each part could make independent decisions and movement. Her strength lay in her ability to control both bodies at once in perfect synch. Her weakness was connected to her strength, for if one was injured while synchronized, the other would feel the pain as well. Regardless of whether they were in synch, Six’s bodies would both die even if just one was mortally wounded.

The seventh one was the charismatic, tall, perpetually smiling man. He was very good with words, and he tried to make his comrades work together. Unfortunately, Seven also resorted to indirect lies, things that he called “half-truths” which were not true at all anyway. He read many books and convinced the other copies that they were gods. But he cared more about his appearance than the lives of those around him. His patience with Five was also a way to manipulate the boy into fighting in the front lines for Seven disliked close quarters combat.

Lastly, the eighth one was the last to emerge from her pod. By then, the Apocalypse tardigrades decided to just copy most of Errol, even her appearance. They removed the part which they identified as the Overlord’s humanity and instilled within Eight’s mind that she was far superior than the other copies, other creatures of the World and even the Overlord herself. It worked. She was perfect… or so they thought. The copy which they created turned out to be just like the Overlord of the Age of the Sun- perpetually depressed even though she did not know why. This resulted in Eight’s preference to distance herself from the other copies, and it also led to her downfall. She underestimated the strength of Errol’s will, that which allowed her to control collective consciousness of the World’s tardigrades. Eight, who was just used to exercising her control over the Apocalypse tardigrades, did not think that they would be overpowered. She was very wrong. The flames continued to burn through her flesh while her creators tried to hasten her regeneration. Their attempts to put out the fire were overcome by the Overlord’s unseen army.

Errol then snapped out of the trance. To her, it felt like eons but in the World, it was a mere few seconds. The experience was enough to keep her distracted and while she thought about what she saw, the dirt beneath her feet began to shake. The ground opened up and down fell Eight into a seemingly-endless void. Errol managed to grab onto the side of the chasm but as she struggled to get out, the more it crumbled and even when she tried to use her vines, the walls of the chasm widened. When she thought that she would fall into the darkness below, a warm hand grabbed hers.  She looked up at bright blue eyes and a familiar face which made her feel something odd and bittersweet.

“ Hold on, “ Hunter said as he grasped her left hand tightly.

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