Sherman walked the streets alone, like he always did. He wondered what time of day it was, but he didn’t even know. The sun never came up anymore, the stars never came out. It was as if they had died long, long ago. This was normal for Sherman though.
For as long as he could remember, Sherman had been walking the streets, sleeping in caves (if they weren’t reduced to rubble), eating from the resource dump (surprisingly, the food was better than the food that people with actual homes ate), and evading the resource collectors.
The resource collectors were sent out to displace people so the government could use their house resources. Since 2246, over 100,000,000 people were displaced (or, at least, that’s what he heard from others.)
Sherman had tried to search for water to fill up his canteen that was mostly just rust. But there had been no rainfall for a decade. Most of the streams had dried up, and people could barely sustain themselves.
The entire world seemed to be broken. Fires raged across the crumbled cities. People disappeared and reappeared in the shadows, judging how well their victims would taste.
Sherman didn’t even want to eat people, but sometimes… he just didn’t have enough food.
There was still worse though.
The sun’s deadly rays had become more intense than they had been in over 200 years. And the sun put out more solar flares than usual.
Walking around the roads (mostly reduced to rubble), Sherman found two, tall figures standing near one of the only alleyways that hadn’t been blocked by decaying buildings.
The men started to move towards Sherman, and Sherman knew it was either the resource collectors or two people who were displaced. No matter who they were, they were equally as dangerous. Sherman had to run.
Stumbling over the mountains of rubble, Sherman didn’t know how he would get away. It was easy if they were far away and didn’t notice him until after a while, but these two were, at most, five yards away. He wouldn’t be able to outrun them.
But he knew that he had to outrun them, or they would strip him of his resources.
The resource collectors didn’t just collect resources from streams and buildings, they also took people who were on the run and would drain them of their natural resources. Which was why Sherman needed to leave quickly.
Grabbing onto a pole, from a crumbling casino building, Sherman hoisted himself up onto the roof. Standing, he watched the men slowly inch closer. Their movements didn’t seem erratic, but Sherman could tell that they were distressed about something.
It could have possibly been the small fissure that had just opened up between them but, in a world like this one, that was normal. Fissures (larger than the one that had just opened) were scattered around the entire area. But this one seemed to give off some sort of red glow. Sherman did not have any time to think about that though.
Running across the roof, Sherman jumped from the next roof to the next. The men ran below Sherman, continuously following him. Sherman realized that these people were probably scavengers, like him. Resource collectors wouldn’t waste this much time on him. Sherman realized he maybe had something that these people wanted.
But that wasn’t possible. Sherman didn’t really have much. A pack of burnt playing cards, a small whistle, a rusty canteen, and a golden locket that his mother had given him. He had attached it to his neck with a piece of string that he had found when scavenging the resource dump. It flowed in the wind behind him, almost making him seem fiercer than he really was.
As he went to jump, he slipped. Tripping off the side of the building, Sherman crashed into a small alleyway. Getting up, Sherman saw the two men advance towards him quicker now. He looked around for a hole to climb through, but he saw nothing.
As the men came towards Sherman, the air seemed to chill (which was strange considering that it was always above 104°F.)
One of the men took off his glove to reveal a crippled and scarred hand. The bruises looked like they had taken a long time to heal, and the scars seemed oddly fresh, as if he had just fought someone.
The man took his hand and started to reach for Sherman. Backing up, Sherman realized there was no way out. He would be captured and sent to a tube and drained of his organs and other resources, most likely so these two could go on living. He felt like he should just give up because what was the point of fighting for a lost cause?
Before Sherman realized that the chills were probably making him think this, the ground opened up at his feet.
The man who was about to touch Sherman stopped, and backed away. The two men ran away quickly and disappeared.
Sherman regained thoughts of his own when the air started to get warmer. He had barely managed two steps before he slipped, fell, and was swallowed by the red glow of the fissure.
Sherman didn’t even know if he was conscious during the fall. He had hit his head right after he had fallen into the fissure and, after that, he couldn’t move his body.
He vaguely remembered the wind in his ears, the feeling of gravity pulling him downwards, but that didn’t matter. His brain was still trying to process what had happened. Why did the two men leave when the hole opened? Did they see something else that Sherman didn’t see? Sherman didn’t know.
As soon as he hit the water, Sherman’s nerves kicked into full gear: he felt an unbearable pain in his chest, his brain banged against his skull, and he was almost certain his leg was broken.
He still managed to kick to the surface and barely made it to the shore. He looked down at his right leg and saw, to his horror, blood spread across his entire leg. Besides that, nothing else seemed to be severely damaged.
Though, that wasn’t the thing Sherman was most surprised about. One word kept coursing through his brain, removing any other pain he felt. Water, Sherman thought. How is that possible?
Sherman had never seen this much water in his entire life. Usually, he found tiny springs, or a trickle of what was left of a stream, and took it gratefully, but this seemed like too much.
There were at least five huge pools of water next to each other.
Sherman walked over to the pools of water and touched it. A cold feeling washed over Sherman. He bent down and started to drink from the pools.
The water felt so refreshing, trickling to the back of his mouth as he drank. It felt as if he was in the North Pole (if the North Pole hadn’t melted 100 years ago.)
Sherman filled up his canteen and dragged his leg with him into a dark cave that seemed to be staring him in the face.
Strangely, it reminded him of home. His house was mostly stone. But that didn’t matter to the government. They took it anyway.
He had been kicked out of his home as well as the other millions. The locket was the only thing he had left that reminded him of his family and of his sorrow.
He remembered his mom being dragged away by the resource collectors. He remembered her screams echoing in the cave that Sherman had hid in to evade the collectors. It took many days for Sherman to muster the courage to come out. And when he did, his mother was nowhere to be found.
Sherman instinctively touched the slash mark on his face, where the resource collectors had hit him when he tried to protect his mother.
His mother was probably dead, drained of her resources. But Sherman had always held on to a little hope. Hope that his mother was still alive.
Walking through the cave, Sherman looked around at the strange drawings on the walls, trying to make sense of them. The drawings didn’t make sense to Sherman. Some had very large marks on them, and others were very small. They just seemed to be regular sketch marks, but he gazed at every picture as if it would save his life someday.
Then, he found a collection that almost made his heart stop. It showed a boy and his mother being attacked by two people in cloaks and masks.The next one showed a boy hiding in a cave with marks on his head. After, it showed the boy walking through a broken city, grown up. And very faintly on the next wall, it showed a boy falling down into a chasm. This seemed to be the only drawing that was in color. The chasm was painted red. The next one confused Sherman. It was blurred, but he could make out two faces fighting side by side. But he knew one thing. None were his mother. Then, Sherman saw the last picture. A picture of (presumably) the same boy hugging the mother that was in the first picture, as a giant tower collapsed on the two.
Sherman backed away from the paintings. It couldn’t be possible.
The red chasm had happened, at most, an hour ago. No one could have drawn that, that quickly.
No one could have written Sherman’s entire life in advance. Then again, there shouldn’t have been water down here with the harsh climate looming above.
He stared at the last painting. Was it true that his mother was still alive? Had she really not been killed or drained?
He found it hard to believe his mother was still alive. But if everything up to this point had already happened, maybe he would see her again.
Then, he realized, this would mean they would die in the end. The building… no one could escape that, even if they were the fastest people alive.
Then Sherman realized there was no reason to dawdle on the fact that these paintings may or may not be true. What was more important was to find a way out of this cave.
Sherman looked around to find a way to escape. All of the tunnels seemed to be blocked off. And all that was in this room-like cave was water, string, sticks, rocks, flint… and the paintings. No food. The prospect of not having (at least) a morsel of food scared Sherman.
Sherman decided to make the best of it. He found some sticks and rested them on a rock. He took some flint out of the wall and nearly cut himself. But to stay warm, Sherman would take any risk. Funny, you wish you could be in a normal climate up above, but once it gets cold, all you want to do is seek warmth.
Sherman took the flint and tried to remember how to light a fire. He remembered hazily that he needed steel. But he didn’t have that down here. So, he decided to do the more tortuous method. Sherman grabbed two sticks and anxiously rubbed them together. One spark flew, then two. Suddenly, Sherman saw a tiny flame erupt from the two sticks. Shocked, Sherman almost dropped it. But he managed to keep the flames going on the sticks and not on his tattered shirt. He blew the flames to the larger pile of sticks, and immediately, a roar was heard.
Flames erupted, and for once, Sherman felt proud of himself. He remembered how to make a fire.
Sherman sat around the flames for a while, looking around to find any place that could serve as an exit.
He admired the embers giving off warmth and smoke. Smoke, Sherman thought. Where was the smoke going to go to? He looked around to find a place where the smoke left. Then, he saw it. A small cave, maybe six inches tall, leading into this one. And just maybe, it led back out into the world above. Though, Sherman had a problem. How could he get up there?
The cave seemed to be perched on a ledge, almost at the top of the cave.
Then he saw it.
Spider webs. They didn’t seem strong enough to hold a human for 24 hours, but they could hold him for maybe five minutes. Just enough time to grab a ledge closer to the bottom. And then start climbing up to the higher ledge.
Sherman decided to take his chances.
Not knowing when he would get another drink of water, Sherman used some sticks stuck together with spider webs, to make a makeshift canteen. He made three and filled all of them with cool, refreshing water. Sherman was surprised that the webs could hold all of the sticks and water. It was as if the spider that made them had some magical properties. After, Sherman decided to start making his journey upwards.
He ran over to where he found the spider web and jumped on. He felt the shake of the web and the breaking of some strands, but he continued to climb.
Sherman found many small bugs and critters in the web on his way up. He had never been fond of these creatures. But he continued to climb.
Just before he could jump to the second to last ledge, the web gave way. Without a second thought, adrenaline now coursing through his veins, Sherman jumped and reached for the ledge.
He felt a stab of pain on his hand. He winced but managed to pull himself up.
Feeling a wash of relief, Sherman looked for the last ledge that housed the small cave that he had saw before. There, right on the ledge, was the cave.
Sherman had done too much to turn back now. The cave was only a few inches away.
If only he could reach the ledge and pull himself up…
He heard a growl. Thinking it was his stomach, Sherman continued to try and reach for the ledge. Then, he heard another growl. Followed by a stomp. Followed by one more growl.
Sherman turned around. Just in time.
He hit the spider with his fist. Sending it flying backwards. It hit the ground with a satisfying thud. It shuddered for a bit, then got back up.
Usually, Sherman would just squash a normal spider out of disgust. But this wasn’t an ordinary spider.
It was 10 times its size. 10 inches. Bigger than Sherman. Its eyes were green. It didn’t look as lifeless as the other spiders Sherman had seen. It was as if it had been awakened. With the intent to kill.
Sherman backed away from the giant creature. Smaller spiders started to crawl down from the walls of the cavern. But they weren’t small enough to easily get rid of. Sherman tried to run in the other direction of the spiders but stopped when he realized he was behind a ledge. He was cornered.
The spiders drew closer to Sherman, their mouths foaming with the poison in their bite. Poison, Sherman thought. And just as fast as the spiders had leaped at him, he came up with a plan.
Sherman kicked one of the smaller spiders jumping at him. Sherman stomped on the spider, turning it into a gooey mess. Quickly, Sherman reached into the spider and pulled out one of its teeth.
With a weapon in his hand, Sherman ran towards the spiders. A small spider lunged at him, its jaw open. Sherman looked for a weak point. Then he saw it. A small, dark bruise in the spider’s chest. It was as if the spider had been hit there before.
Sherman took the deceased spider’s venomous tooth and jabbed it at the bruise of the spider.
The tooth collided with the bruise, and the spider screeched, shuddered, then collapsed. The venom had destroyed the target in a matter of seconds.
Sherman looked down at his hand. It was oozing blood. But the blood wasn’t red. It was purple. The venom had entered his bloodstream. Sherman’s eyes blurred. He could barely make out the large, fuzzy shape in front of him. Sherman knew he had to do something. If this spider ever got out, the world could be in serious danger. He took the spider fang and lunged towards the spider. He heard a screech right before he collapsed. His vision swam. He saw the spider collapse as well. He had done it. He had killed the spider. While not his goal in the beginning, he had saved at least one life. He closed his eyes and drifted off into unconsciousness.