Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Look to the East... (Wermspittle)

Contraband ectographic print used to promote resettlement in the Eastern Reaches, circa 268gh

This place was supposed to be a farmer's paradise. Instead it was just more of the same, only different unscrupulous bastards were raking in the hard-earned savings of families desperate to relocate from the increasingly barren fields of the North and West. Out past the Red Weed clotted river and through the dismal woods that served as a living wall between the Plateaus of the East, there were hundreds of small valleys and cul de sacs, box canyons and hollows that were wide open for the taking. Or so the hucksters and land speculators claimed, cajoled and promised. It was one of these duplicitous financial predators who coined the spurious phrase 'Ten Thousand Plateaus,' when initially describing the Eastern Reaches to a group of displaced farm families. The phrase stuck. It had an air of mystery and adventure to it, and a sense of expansiveness. People felt like there just might be room out there. Room, and a chance to start over. Away from the lingering traces of Black Smoke, the prowling things that struck in the middle of the night, the all-pervasive sterility that afflicted anyone and everyone who lingered overlong in the established Farm Enclaves.

People were sick of sending off their young ones to Wermspittle, or trading them off to the nomads in the hope that they might have a better life. That's why the children marched into Wermspittle every Spring to escape the barrenness, to avoid becoming one of the Afflicted; for there are worse things than simple sterility. Those who remained past the onset of puberty learned this the hard way. The Low Lands are not a place for children any more. They aren't much of a place for anyone really. But the old farmers persist. The Enclaves hold on through the bitter dark nights of Winter to watch their offspring leave them behind. It's a slow, bleeding sort of death, but it's the only life they know.

So when the hucksters, boosters and promoters rolled their gaudy wagons and fancy coaches down into the Low Lands to visit each of the surviving Enclaves, the old families listened. They resisted the blandishments and tomfoolery, the folderol and fiddle-dee-dee of the slick, fast-talking people from the city. In the end it wasn't the promises, nor the lies, not even the bribes or flimsy trinkets that got the farmers to consider pulling-up stakes. No. These were hard people. Survivors of terrors most couldn't imagine. They didn't fall for the cynical ploys, nor the crass nonsense. But they did allow themselves to hope.

It was hope for a better life for their children that got them to pay for passage, to register claims, to fill the surveyors and map-maker's pockets. They wanted a chance to raise their kids and not have to send them off to that damned city before they became twisted and distorted by the lingering, hateful things in the soil, the water, the air, themselves. No one could blame them, least of all those who opted to stay behind. Some folks were too enmeshed in the way things were to change now. Too caught up in the day-to-day to drop everything and start over. But there were those still young enough, restless enough, desperate enough to seize upon the opportunity.

The Eastern Reaches were rich in black soil, bordered by dense woods, criss-crossed by tiny streams and creeks. It appeared fertile, on the surface. But looks are often deceiving. This soil was not the same as they were used to; it still had a touch of sterility to it, especially in those parts closest to the older settlements. This region had been affected differently. It was more prone to outbreaks of Red Weeds. The trees grew too rapidly, only to fall over within a couple of seasons, rotted through and through. The hucksters were right on one point; this region was fertile. But it was a cancerous sort of fertility. They still send their children off to Wermspittle during the warmer months, or swap them off to the nomads, usually after the first harvests of massively hypertrophied fruits and vegetables. Too bad none of it lasts more than a day or so once it is picked. But they can what they are able, pickle some more, and make the most of what they are able to coax from their gardens and fields. Before it all rots. And the lean times start all over again.

But it is different. Every one of these families would agree on that. Those that lived through the migration are the first to say that things are different now. But then the more things change, the more they stay the same. They also say that.


  1. Even the bucolic countryside around Wermspittle ain't so bucolic, it seems.

    1. It has its moments. It also has its costs. People have adjusted, for the most part. It's in how they've adapted to these unreasonable circumstances that things have gotten...interesting...


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