Story:Child of the Smog
Since the beginning of time, tales have been told of humanity beating back the primordial monsters into submission and taking dominion of the world for themselves. This story is not one of those.
This is a story of a world where humanity lost the war against the monsters.
The people of Abersynth couldn't say when the Smog first rolled in. Some said it had always been there, others claimed there had been a beginning to all this.
There was an equilibrium of sorts. A Deal with the Smog. It was a Deal that no one remembered making and it was a Deal that no one ever spoke of. But, everyone knew the Deal by heart.
Deal-breakers were sometimes discovered, on good days, when the Smog stayed further away, as skeletons.
Keep the Deal, and the Smog would respect the farmlands of Abersynth and ensure a good harvest. And their survival for the time being. Sometimes, rarely, the Smog even left behind useful objects, tools, machinery, even books.
One year, the people of Abersynth must have been particularly good, because the Smog gave them a child. A baby who held a black rock in its hand and who was found at the edge of the Smog next to a cleanly-picked skeleton. Everyone had been accounted for, so the skeleton, it was determined, had to be of a stranger. As for the baby, no one recognised it.
It was all very puzzling. As was everything in Abersynth. Even the sun was unpredictable. The stories said that the sun was in eternal battle with the Smog.
When the Smog was winning, the Sun would darken and when the Sun prevailed, it was day. As such, the light it provided them was temperamental and irregular and without the carefully-maintained clocks of Abersynth, nobody could be sure of time. There could just as easily be weeks of continuous daylight as there could be days of constant darkness.
The baby was taken in by the Clockkeeper and her husband, who maintained the Great Clock at Abersynth's biggest building, its church.
Officially, they worshiped the Sun, but nobody was really sure who or what they worshiped there. Some worshiped the Smog and other the monsters said to be within the Smog. There were some who paid homage to the stars or the sky and others who believed in an ancient legend of a great city holding out against the Smog that would come to rescue them some day.
Rescue? Rescue from what? And by whom? No one really knew. And yet there were a few folks who clung to the belief that someone would rescue them. This was a minority opinion, however, most were content to stay within the bounds of Abersynth. It was home, after all and it was all that anyone there had ever known.
And then there was the fact that no one who ventured out into the Smog at night ever returned. Yet, the Smog, however unforgiving it seemed, had given up a child.
He came from the Smog and so, his adoptive parents named him Smogborn. But, in a moment of foresight, they gave him another name, something to call him by. A name, which seemed good to them: Yeffric.
Smogborn Yeffric Clockkeeper grew up in the care of the Clockkeepers for a number of years. The years, which were still measured as they had been for time immemorial, turned Yeffric into a fine young man. A young man learned in the art of timekeeping, versed in the legends by the Elders, knowledgeable of every detail of Abersynth and, perhaps most importantly, ingrained with the Deal.
Sometimes, during the night, the Smog would clear, two events which usually didn't go together. And sometimes during those very special nights, the sky would clear enough to see the glory of the stars above.
Today, however, was not one of those nights. The Smog had rolled in deep tonight. It had rolled over all the farmland and into the village. It spread between the houses and through all the streets. That was, by the clocks, twenty-nine days ago.
The Elders pretended not to be worried. But, the way they spoke among themselves told a different story. Another twenty-four hours, and this forced church mass would be the longest in living memory. A record no one was keen to see broken.
The longer this went on, the harder it became to ignore the thought that everybody usually took for granted:
'What if the sun never rises again? What if this is the eternal last night?'
There were noises outside, unholy noises. Screams, human screams. It was impossible to tell which were friends and neighbours and which came from the Smog itself. Only with the dawn sunlight could they be sure. Only with the light could they verify if the dozen people not in the church were safe in their homes or devoured by the Smog.
For now, it was impossible to know and useless to try.
Yeffric was in an upper room, working with electronic pieces. He liked to play with his so-called 'magic rock' that he had been found with as a baby and lately, he had been experimenting with incorporating it into electronics. The results were fairly gimmicky, but at least it was something to do during long, sunless days like this.
Right now, though, his mother was in the room with him. The record player wasn't working and she was walking him through the process of fixing it.
As they worked, Yeffric tried to ignore the shrieks coming from outside. The faster they got the record player working, the sooner the crowded souls below could have something else to listen to.