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Not so long ago, humans created a path of destruction due to their inability to change. During this path, they created a new planet, and a new world, unlike history has seen before. This planet, decaying from human pollution, was on its last leg of life. In this broken world lived creatures and humans. These creatures had coexisted with humans since the start of their existence. The creatures lived in the shadows, hiding their existence from the humans. Humans, as far as they could recall, had never known of these creatures existence until it was too late. The creatures lived quietly in peace, away from the humans, until it was clear that the humans were destroying the world that they all lived in. Slowly over time, these creatures emerged, the ones who emerged first were those that looked human. These creatures appeared visually as human, but only the other creatures knew what they really were. These creatures possessed powers, some were able to control the elements while others could change their appearance if needed. The powers that the creatures held were vast and too many to actually keep track of. These non-human creatures lived in human society and began their lives pretending to be human. Some started their lives as doctors and scientists trying to fix the world that the humans had started to destroy. They used their powers to help fix the world they had no part in destroying just so that everyone could survive.
However, over the course of a few decades, the creatures that lived in the shadows grew reckless. These creatures were tired of watching their human look-alike counterparts be a part of human society. The other creatures who had breached into society had gained all of the benefits of healthcare, technology, and some even started families. These creatures who remained hidden slowly grew jealous and could no longer bear to stay hidden. One by one, these creatures started to walk into human society, and not all of them could blend in so easily. Some of these creatures had wings, while others had no mouth but could speak to others with their mind. Some lived in waters and as a result, had gills under their arms. These creatures are the ones the humans called the “ shadows”. and they had started to take over human society. As each creature walked into a society that was not theirs the humans became powerless against them. The human population was soon overthrown by the shadows in a matter of weeks. Shadows had taken on positions of power within the government, leaving humans coexisting peacefully with them for the time being.
The humans and the shadows lived peacefully for a few years. The shadows and the humans worked together to try and save their world from extinction. All children attended school together, seeing shadows on the street became quite normal, and most humans grew fond of the idea of the hidden helpers. However, there were always some humans who feared the shadows. These humans feared the shadows' powers, and how the shadows could easily kill or take over the government. This group of humans started off small at first. But once shadows started trying to make changes to society, it changed some minds and had sparked a flame of fear in more humans. The human population that grew to fear the shadows grew larger and larger until they were able to fight back. This fight is what ended the world as they knew it.
The fight lasted a few long weeks, which over this time the humans had fought back with nuclear weapons attempting to kill the shadows, and all the humans that supported them. The only thing the humans succeeded in, however, was scorching the Earth and killing over eighty percent of the human population. This death and torture the Earth went through sent it into shock. This shock changed the genetic makeup of the Earth, how it was colored, how things grew, how life could be sustained on this new Earth was questionable. However, during the attack, some shadows and humans remained safe and hidden.
The humans and shadows that survived the attack stayed hidden underground. This group stayed inside a small bunker for possibly months, surviving off of emergency supplies and first aid. While they were underground they had no concept of time, and only emerged when the supplies had begun to run low. What the group found when they emerged, however, was not what they were expecting. This group had stayed hidden just as the attacks had started, and had no idea what was waiting for them on the other side.
Emerging from the underground bunker my dark blonde hair blew across the pale skin of face as I walked across the once green grass. My shaking unsteady hand straying for a few seconds longer on the cold steel door of the bunker as my eyes peered around the door taking in what I was seeing. The dark ground was a putrid grey-black color that stood brightly contrasted against my muddy white shoes. I turned my head up slowly stepping forward hoping to catch a glimpse of the clear blue skies I had grown to miss being trapped in that bunker. However, once my eyes turned to look at the sky, I quickly realized I could never unsee what I had just witnessed. The images were forever burned into my brain.
The skies were blue no more, but what remained now in their place resembled a hand painted sky similar to the dark orange color of rust. The ground was a faded black to grey, the vibrant green color that meant life nowhere in sight. The bright colors that used to be found in nature were now drained and nowhere to be found. In its place were pale, dark, and murky colors that resembled death.
The once lush forest seemed to have melted into piles of toxic brown sludge that had hardened into rocks. The Earth that was once theirs, was theirs no longer. It had been taken hostage by the fight, and it was forever changed.
“How can we grow food on this ground!?” cried Derrick. His eyes looked over at the rest of our group, all of whom who had taken to wandering and exploring the small piece of land before us. Derrick was a man in his late twenties. His blue eyes dull from lack of sunlight and his black hair lacking all life. Everyone's appearance seemed to match that of the new Earth: dull and broken.
Just like the rest of us, staying underground took its toll. The ones who had the hardest time were the shadows. These creatures of all shapes and kinds who lived in the woods had the hardest time acclimating to staying underground with no light, and little movement. Looking at every person I had just spent weeks of my life with, it is an understatement to say what we went through was an ordeal. Each person once underground grew restless, some more than others.
Celeste had the hardest time of all. She was one of the shadows. However, she was one of the few that had wings, her long silver hair matched that of her wings. While her violet eyes remained the only source of vibrant color I could see, it was clear seeing the Earth this way had taken its burden on her.
Her eyes cast off into the deep red-orange horizon, not looking or speaking to anyone in sight. Walking over to her I ignored Derrick’s question as I had no answer. Once I reached Celeste it was clear she wasn't upset, but rather she was intently looking at something. Casting my eyes in the same direction I scanned the scorched Earth for anything she could have been possibly looking at, and that's when I saw it.
In the distance beyond the mountain was one spot of green land. The green color stood shining surrounded by the dark burned ground that had died around it. The image of the small specks of green grass stayed burned into my mind. I no longer saw the broken Earth, the melted trees, or the rusted sky. I saw something else entirely. Looking Celeste in the eyes I saw something none of us had seen in a long time. Her looks were emanating my exact feelings, one feeling in particular that no one had felt in a while.
Hope for survival. If there was a spot of green land, that meant grass was growing. If grass was growing then food could be grown on it too. That green grass wasn't only hope for survival, but it was hope for peace. For a world where we could all live together and just be ourselves. A world where shadows don't feel like they have to be hidden or humans have to hide their friendships. This grass gave hope to a whole new world, a world that could be started with us.
“Guys!” I yelled motioning over with my right hand. Once the group of five gathered, I pointed to the mountains. After a few moments smiles were burned in everyone's faces as we all rushed to leave.
Everyone moved so fast what happened next was much of a blur. There was no talking, only frantic movements complete with painted smiles and hope flowing from all of us. Packing what little supplies we had was necessary. What we had left wasn't much, but we didn't know what we would find out there when we left. For all we knew that green spot was the only one on this entire Earth. The only way to know was to move and find out.
Rationing off the food enough for two weeks for the five of us was hard, but doable. No one knew how long the hike to the green patch would be. Hopefully, no longer than two weeks. While we could all see it was beyond the mountains, it was clear the world we walked into had changed a great deal. This was not the world we left, and we had no idea what we would find when we ventured out of the bunker. Packing all the supplies we held in the small bunker each person carried their own weight in supplies. Some carrying bedding, others medical supplies, while others carried some personal artifacts some were able to bring with them. After the fight, no one really had any idea what was left out here. The humans who fought against the shadows and the shadows sympathizers couldn't survive in this kind of land. We had heard no sign of life aside from us on this new Earth. While that could be good, it could also be bad. No life may mean that there are other things out here killing humans and shadows, other than humans.
Shaking off those thoughts, my mind wanders to other thoughts, much less horrible but still not much better. No one thought humankind was capable of such things. The only ones who had some idea were the shadows. Coming into our world attempting to save it, and now all their work was put down the drain. The shadows had always just tried to help, and then all they wanted to do was ensure they would have the same rights as us. But as some humans said, they don't deserve human rights because they are not human. Shaking the thoughts out of my head I trudged forward. We had all grabbed our things and headed towards the direction of the grass in the matter of an hour. Things were seeming to move quickly, but still not as quick as some would like.
The group had walked for what seemed hours, with no sunset in sight it was safe to assume the sky had stayed like this since the fight. The sky had remained an unsightly shade of red and orange, but as we began to walk farther and farther the orange color turned more into a crimson red. The sky still staying as bright as before and only changing in color. This perhaps was our new versions of night and day, and with no view of the sun, it was curious to see what was making the sky those color. The sky was void of any clouds or life, no sounds were present other than the soft claps of everyone's feet on the damaged Earth. It was clear we were the only people or animals to come by this way in a long time. Paths were overgrown and the ground had no sign of footprints from anyone or anything else.
After the sky had turned even more red, it was clear the group was beginning to tire. We were now moving at a slower pace filled with more sighs and grumbles that echoed through the empty Earth. Deciding to take a break, it was clear the group was in need of one as well. They all sat down quickly and remain silent. That's when I sat down on what I thought used to be a tree to take a breather. Looking around at my friends, it was clear they were more thankful for the reprieve than I was. My background as an athlete allowed me to walk more than the rest of the group. While other members of our group could fly ahead, it was unsafe to do so. Leaving us all tied together in one big tired clump.
Celeste’s wings were hanging sadly from exhaustion. No one was used to moving around since being caught in the bunker. The sudden harsh movement was rough on everyone, along with dehydration and lack of food, everyone was beyond uncomfortable. Derrick’s hair was even more disheveled than before, his eyes widening ever so slightly as he took in the surroundings. Arron's eyes fluttered closed slightly. His quiet nature making his face easy to read, it was easy to tell he missed the nature that he and Celeste came from. Arron was one of the creatures that lived in the water. While he had no fins and could survive on land, his kind much preferred the water; and with all this walking and no water in sight, I'm sure he was beginning to lose hope of ever truly being himself again. The last of our group was Mara. She herself was human like me, however, her dad was one of the shadows. Not really fully knowing how that would affect her as she was only in her pre-teens, it was clear the lack of nature was affecting her more than the other humans. Her light blonde hair was darker due to mud and dust, her emerald green eyes shined signs of sadness as she took in her surroundings. The mood of the group had only depressed the farther we moved. Attempting to get us up and going, I decided to try something.
“Okay guys, are you ready?” I yelled with fake enthusiasm that echoed through the empty Earth. I was greeted with lifeless eyes and a sharp pain to my shoulder. Mara screamed, her voice echoing even louder than one would think possible. Looking to my shoulder, I soon realized I was hurt as some of the group members ran to my side. With blood dripping down my shoulder I peered my neck down as far as I could look. A sharp pointed stick that was carved into an arrow was sticking out of my right shoulder. Sighing in pain, I looked up at the blood red sky.
“Guys..” I whispered as I shut my eyes for a moment. “We're not alone.”