The forest stretched on as far as Avaescent could see – twisted branches beseeching the heavens, clouds heaving like waves in a storm. Gale winds whipped his face with leaves and twigs, rainwater pressing like glass slivers against his cheeks. The first bolt of lightning made him wince and bow his head, but for the second he only glared as the fingers on his right hand tightened on the trunk of the tree he had climbed. He shielded his eyes from the rain with the other.

“Where are all the people?” he asked no one, his words shattered by the roaring wind, ravaged by the curling branches that braved the world above the canopy. He saw it, then, how the wind and rain were cutting the trees, slowly grinding them down to nothing.

How tall must these trees have been? he wondered, hugging the trunk to stay steady. How long have they suffered the storm? He pressed his forehead against the tree and felt it, the thrum of sap surging through the bark. He could hear cells divide, the struggle for life in this broken world.

Lightning split the skies, the spark of it calling to him. It stole all hope of vision, the rumbling thunder shaking him loose from his perch. He fell, caught himself, pulled himself upright as another electric vein curled from earth to skies.

This time it felt more like a warning than a threat.

He looked to the clouds, spotting patterns among the broiling gray mass, something like letters, something that felt familiar, but before he could make sense of it thunder shook the world once more and he fell, fell, fell.

Branches failed to catch him as he flailed for purchase, the skies stolen and the canopy claiming him and still the thunder did not relent. He glanced downward as he fell, his belly slamming into a large branch and robbing breath from his lungs. His ribs creaked but did not break, his skin rubbed raw on uneven wood.

Then he struck another branch. Another.

Falling among crippled dying wood, falling like everything good in the world.

His vision swam as he fell and he lost all sense of self as he fell to earth. The impact rippled through his entirety, and he lay shaking and breathless, grasping for sense. The wet ground caught and cradled him, muck embracing the curl of his hips and shoulders. He gasped, sucking in air as the world around him shook, the thunder closer and closer, the earth trembling around him. He felt it in his teeth, his bones, mud seeping along his fingernails.

Pushing himself to his knees, he calmed his breathing, opened his eyes and raised his head and discovered a terrible truth of this world: the thunder was not just the louder lover of lightning, but a warning of the herd that hunted and that herd had found him.


Alright, new story time. This is the first part of Avaescent and the Broken World, which will update every Tuesday and Wednesday until the story ends. The cover art comes from Pixabay, and you can find it and other art like it by clicking here. You can read the first part by clicking here, the previous part by clicking here, or the next part by clicking here when the next part goes live. Good reading, and if you like it leave a comment or spread it around. Writer likes readers and comments.  

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