Prompt: In the woods there lives a man. There he hunts and thrives in complete solitude, unaware of the world around him. All is well until one day his prey stops showing up. He is forced to move beyond the trees, only to find that the world had already ended.
The animals had dried up. There were no longer anything left to hunt, to live off. He trekked through the woods to its end, and stood, wide-eyed.
The rolling plains that he had once traveled to reach the forest, where he had built his cabin from the trees, hunted under their canopies, drank from the spring that snaked through the earth, were desolate, dead, as though God had exhaled pestilence upon the world. The yellowed, brittle grass broke when the foul wind blew, drifting and disappearing into the gray horizon. Animal bones, bleached by the unrelenting sun, were scattered here and there, alongside human remains and possessions.
Tendrils of thick black smoke rose over the horizon, darkening the sky. He heard screaming from somewhere, and he tightened his grip on the rifle. He heard thunder grumble, felt the earth shake beneath his feet, saw lightning like tree branches cross the stormy clouds moving towards him. There was screaming again. Louder, nearer, like the storm coming, there were others, too.
Were they human? he wondered. Were they the same as they were when he first traveled into the woods? Was it the grocer who helped fill his sack with rations; or the gunsmith who sold him more bullets than he paid for, just because he was kind; or even the same innkeeper who gave him seconds for breakfast, because there was leftover and she was in a good mood that day?
He doubted those who screamed, those who were coming, were the same. They might be physically, but mentally, no. Like the dead plains before him, their minds were desolate of morality and kindness as well, he was sure. The world was no longer was what he left from. He turned back to the woods, and started for his cabin.
The animals may be gone, he thought, but with these screaming people coming, there will plenty to hunt.
Read my previous prompt, “The Discovery of the Sided Sphere.”
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