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   Chapter 2 SUFFERING

The Taàr (Dystopia #01) By John A. Bonello Characters: 14736

Updated: 2018-02-08 12:02

It was almost dark when the boy and his mates finally made it to their abode–a huge construction, built on the crest of a hill, surrounded by the remains of the small town of Tartarys. A town shrouded in silence. Three enormous doors set in an imposing fa?ade barred the way into the building.

Many years before, the current Taàr and his less than four hundred followers found shelter in that building and made it their home. Before that time, under previous Taàrs, the clan had roamed the zones like nomads, never settling in the same place for a long time. They would stay just enough to scavenge an area, then move on to the next. The people lived in constant fear of attacks from a rival clan and so chose to keep moving to avoid being easily located.

But when Sal became Taàr, he led his people to the town of Tartarys, back to where he was born. He knew the town and the temple, knew that once cleared and cleaned it would make a stronghold for them, with enough space for everyone. He did so partly because of the clan's dwindling numbers–he argued that roaming like they did without ever settling down was causing the decline in their ranks and soon they would become too few to sustain themselves. The other reason was that they needed a central place from where they could organise searches, increase efficiency, store supplies and ensure some kind of future. They needed somewhere to call home. Apart from this, the building was strong and easy to defend against their enemies.

Sal had been proven right. Since settling in, the clan had grown to four hundred and fifty people. Men, women and children led by a wrinkled old white-bearded man with one good eye and another he kept covered at all times. At seventy five years of age, Sal was the only living man to remember life before doomsday. When in the mood, he often told tales of better days when that same building was a centre of activity in Tartarys, visited by many who prayed and worshipped long forgotten gods. The gods who had forgotten them.

From that place, the Taàr's clan controlled their territory, an area that extended to half the island. The other half belonged to the Baron and his people, feared rivals and enemies of the Taàr's clan. The border between the two territories was marked by the only building in that land to withstand the bombing and its aftermath–a gleaming white tower by day, a blue beacon by night. Reaching up past the clouds, with a perimeter as wide as a whole city, the scavenger clans used it as a landmark. Its proper name was the Nimbus Tower, a remnant of another age. But no one used that name. Everyone called it simply the tower. And every single one of them knew what the tower represented–Sal made sure of that. By the passing of time, its purpose and function became mysterious to the scavengers, almost mythological. A mysterious landmark they had never been able to unlock.

According to Sal, the tower belonged to the people responsible for the cruel destiny that befell the world, the remorseless murderers of whole populations, of families, of children and parents, old and young. Those monsters built a tower able to withstand almost anything, then they unleashed doom over the entire world. He drummed this knowledge into every member of his clan. He reminded them of what the tower stood for every single night, forbidding anyone to even go near that building. In recent years, many had seen strange beings near the tower, and after those sightings began, Sal warned his people to steer clear should they ever encounter people from that place. Hide, he used to tell them, hide and do not move until they're gone.

Out of Sal's earshot, some had it that the inhabitants of the tower had long since perished. However, others whispered that the sightings were real–someone or other had seen the strange slow moving people themselves. Some said they were tall as giants, some said those wandering through the broken roads and shattered remains of towns and villages were the ghosts of the original tenants of the Nimbus Tower. Still, everyone kept clear of the place.

Alex, one of their band, was waiting for them beside two women standing guard on either side of the temple's middle door. The women looked at them sourly as they went in with the loot. No one enjoyed staying outside the doors after the sun had set. As a rule, the doors opened every morning at dawn and closed at twi

rhaps aided by the fact that he alone among his people had lived in a past that had long since ceased to exist. And the sad truth was that if it wasn't for the few books and photographs they sometimes encountered during their forays inside the abandoned houses, no one would have believed some of the tales he told.

A few times every month, after dark, when everyone had finished eating, Sal would gather people around him in a big circle under the broken dome. There he would sit in a chair, and by the light of a candle or one of those artificial lights they sometimes salvaged from the zones, he would read from one of the books he kept in his room. His voice would echo around the silent building, carrying stories from another world. Other times, instead of reading, he would tell them about what he remembered from the time before doomsday and of the days that followed when most of them had not yet been born.

Very few of his tales were happy–they were mostly tragic ones, of great sadness and sorrow that left the listeners heartbroken. There was one tale he liked to repeat often, that of the day he saw the face of death. His descriptions of the people he saw dead or dying, the trees aflame, everything collapsing under a wave of death stirred a heart wrenching grief in those who listened. On that day, some said the Taàr lost his eye, but that was one tale he never told anyone.

After doomsday came famine and pestilence, thousands of decomposing bodies of humans and beasts, death under so many forms and disguises.

And every time Sal recalled how his parents died within months of each other about a year and half after the bombing, the boy would feel himself suffocating under an immense pain. After all, he was an orphan as well, and although his parents died much later, it was still death attributed to the nuclear attack. He couldn't even remember his mother or father's faces. The people of the old world had taken even that memory from him.

Then, at the end of his tale, Sal would silently look those around him in the eye, with a one-eyed stare as hard as Arctic ice that now existed only in photographs and legends. He would reach beneath his shirt to reveal a heavy golden chain that he wore at all times. Raising it high, Sal would show them a little golden cross attached to the chain, upon which the figure of a bleeding man lay nailed. Only suffering could protect them, he would preach, the same pain and suffering worshipped by the people who built the temple hundreds of years in the past. He did not believe in god. No god would have allowed that future to exist. But he did think their ancestors were right to worship suffering. According to Sal, wealth, happiness, global eternal peace, were just illusions, concepts that could never exist without much suffering and sacrifice. And in that suffering they could find themselves, find who they really were.

Only with pain life made sense. . .

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