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The Barrier — une courte fiction anglophone


02-09-2016 19:39 by carado

"We should really leave", said Mayk. "The Pubs will be here soon." Jane kept rummaging through the trash, looking for canned food. They had managed to find what seemed to have at one point been a shop of some kind, going south from their homelands; although in front of the building were strange contraptions, with a roof over what seemed like small metal towers - the height of a child - with tubes attached to them.

"Hold on, I think I've got something", answered Jane. She packed a can of what looked like vegetables, and joined her companion through the back door of the mysterious building.

The two had been avoiding the Pubs for four months, after leaving the north and their fellow Krats to reach the rumored peaceful lands to the south. A land where the Pubs couldn't go, and people lived in peace; a land where there was more to life than scavenging for food and hiding in ruins. They knew that between them and the lands south were the cities where the Pubs lived, but they had to try; life in the north was possible, but the death of their close friend from a Pub raid convinced them to leave everything behind in hope of finding a land where they could finally live a quiet, simple life. Maybe they would cultivate some land, collect and maybe try to read books from the times long gone, found a family, and die old, their kids never having to worry about the Pubs.

They knew, of course; everybody knew; the peaceful lands were protected by the Barrier. But surely, they would open to Krats; they would open to those known for their peaceful nature, if they asked for refuge.

On their way they had spotted a few other Krats, avoiding them out of primal fear; in the southern lands, trust was not a common concept. Although they were all made of flesh and bone, Krats were easy to distinguish from Pubs; the former skinny and pale because of the hiding, the latter fat and dumb, generally sickening to look at for anyone but themselves, and noisy, loud of mindless chants and obscene bodily sounds.

Many days later, the two of them knew they were getting close as Jane pointed to Mayk square towers surmounting what they could only imagine to be the Barrier. A large city, no doubt swarming with Pubs, could be seen far to their right, where what they could see of the tall stone palisade met the horizon.

The barbaric Pubs had their own words for the Barrier; they were so fascinated by it that they often kept saying the word over and over. It was so characteristic of them that the word was taboo among the Krats, its sound reminiscent of the Pub raids, of the pillages, the rapes, the manhunts that the Krats had been subjected to.

They camped in a ruined farmhouse far from the city, waiting for nighttime as suggested by Mayk. Of the two of them, he was the careful one; Jane was a fair bit more daring, which Mayk had a lot of respect for, as this had many times before gotten them to precious supplies. But all of this would soon be over, he thought; no longer would they have to risk their lives to eat.

Dawn came, and as they left the isolated dwelling, something didn't seem right to Jane. She knew she was what kept their pair going forward, so she didn't say anything; if she were to express concern, they would both turn back from what had been their quest, their hope. But as they came closer to the imposing structure, one thing struck her: in the Barrier's towers, the fire weapons, "guns" as the Pubs called those prized relics they collected everywhere they went, were unmanned. Stranger still, it seemed that they had been pointing away from the Pub cities, and towards what they hoped to know were the peaceful lands south.

Mayk was starting to get anxious; he thought he heard a sound in the distance. But Jane was too intrigued by the surface of the large stone structure that they were now getting close to. At regular intervals were blue panels with white markings in a written language of the past; which she started trying to read with her limited knowledge, looking to find some information about the Barrier and ways to get across it to the other side, now so close.

Mayk was frozen in fear. Out of nowhere he saw coming what could only be torches, no doubt a pack of Pubs, seemingly coming their way. He told her to turn around, and once he'd finally gotten her attention, they both looked at what was now a visible mob of a few dozen Pubs, clearly armed. They were stuck against the Barrier, and started to run, along the side of the stone surface, going past many instances of the same white on blue signs, repeating one after another.

Finally they faced a corner; they were stuck. Fleeing was no longer an option; they heard a few gunshots, and ducked to the ground.

They knew that was it. The Pubs were now closing in; their chant suddenly made sense in Jane's mind. It was what she was trying to read back then, but she could only make out the last two of the four words being chanted over and over by their assailants.

As they were now being shot at madly by the Pubs, or Publicans as she recalled them once being called, those two words were the last thing she heard.

"Great again".