Zero Hour. There’s only me and Chacey left. And Xandu. There were millions of us, but they’ve wiped us out one by one until all that’s left is this. Us three sat in a hill cave. Cold, hungry and all alone.
I keep on looking out at the destruction. The sky is red with the blood of the slain. They’re down there now. I can hear their shouts. They wiped all of our clan out, and have started on each other. It’s hard to believe that one person could cause so much disruption and mayhem.
We only escaped by luck. Chacey, and me.. Well, we were hiding. That’s what our parents told us to do. Then, when the coast was clear, we started to run. That’s when we found Xandu. He was hurt. His leg, slashed by their spears. He could hardly walk. Chasey and I carried him all the way to this cave. It wasn’t easy, and there was a lot of ducking and dodging to do. We all ended up with our clothes torn to pieces by the brambles. We finally found this cave though. We put Xandu down, and got him branches of leaves as cushioning for his head. Then we tied some of our un-needed clothes around his leg, and settled in to wait.
I don’t know what we’re waiting for. I didn’t know then, and I still don’t really. But there have been no signs that we should move on. Xandu is too sick to move anyway, and Chasey and I can’t carry him. He’s a fully-grown man — we’re only teenagers.
I know why they’re down there — who they’re after… that’s the thing. I’m not supposed to know. The elders have done all they can to make sure I don’t know, but I’m not stupid. I know I’m different. I looked it up in the ancient scrolls. It was the last one I looked in, and that’s a lot of scrolls. I have it with me now. I managed to swipe it just before our parents forced us to go and hide. If they’ve kept it from me for all these years, then it must be too important to let the other clan have.
I keep staring at it, trying to get it to give me the answer but it’s not giving it up. I know what I am, but I have no idea what to do with that knowledge. I was born different. No one knows though. There are a select group of people who are born different, but it’s kept secret. For my clan, I am like a Messiah — a saviour born to one-day, save the clan. Keep our secrets alive. It’s not easy though. I am only fifteen.
I know now, that in a few months time, on the eve of my sixteenth birthday, I would have been taken to the elders, and told of my destiny. Once told of this destiny, I would have to take lessons from each elder in turn, to learn about the role into which I would someday be placed. But now, with no one left, there was no one to turn to: no one to teach me. And yet. I still had to fulfil my destiny. It would just mean that I had to teach myself.
For now, though, I merely had to stay alive, and to keep Xandu and Chasey alive. When the battle is done, we will return to the camp at the foot of the mountain and recover any living souls before we relocate to a secret hideaway.
Days passed, and still no sign of the battle’s end. Finally, on the seventh day, the war cries and angry screams grew quiet. Xandu, now massively healed due to a miracle herbal ointment that Chasey created, was ready to act. And so, we began our long journey back to the camp to look for survivors. Xandu, walking with a slight limp: Chasey, looking nervous, yet determined, and me. I cannot put into words, my feelings. Fear, terror, and at the same time, an intense knowing that I could in fact, do this and succeed enveloped me. We walked for many hours at a time, only stopping when our blistered and bruised feet would let us walk no more.
After about two days of walking, we made it. Ground Zero. The aftermath of zero hour so clear in front of our eyes. Bloodied bodies lay, their eyes staring up at us. Discarded spears, some broken, some merely dropped by the wounded, lay all around. We searched around for hours, finding nothing, and then suddenly, as if by grand divination itself, we found a group of youngsters — our clan men. They gasped as they saw us, and then ran to greet us. We resumed searching.
Finally, when no stone had been left unturned, and all survivors been recovered (and there were not many), we dragged the bodies of our ancestors to the centre of the camp and piled them up. Then, as the last body was laid on the wood, I lit a stick from a leftover fire, and held it to the wood. The dry timber caught light in seconds and flames danced along the bodies of the dead. They would be returned to the earth, just as prophecy ordained.
As we watched friends, family and elders return to the earth, we began the mourning chant. We sang for hours, until the last embers of the fire had burnt out.
I turned to the remaining members of the clan. “We must move on,” I said clearly and decisively. Others nodded reluctantly, some still sobbing. I couldn’t cry though. I had to be the one to lead them to safety, however long that took. I leant on a nearby tree and paused. I knew where we should head in the first instance. To the mountains. There, we would be above ground level and would be able to see more and avoid any possible encounters with our enemies.
We began to walk and before long, reached the foot of the mountain. We started to climb, us elder ones, carrying the youngsters. There was to be no stopping. We need only stop if one of us could not go on. We walked solidly for two days, and one night, coming to the cave that had been our respite during the battle on the evening of the second day.
It was crowded to say the least. There were many children sleeping on our laps that night, though few noticed as exhaustion set in.
The following morning, we elders began chipping at the back of the cave with our spears. A particularly unrewarding task, but our only hope of gaining more space in the tiny cave. The younger children were taken by Chasey to collect wood from trees to support the new cave chambers. Some were also told to collect twigs for a small fire, which some older children had made out of a pile of stones. It was quite accomplished of them as it meant that we could have fire indoors where there would be less risk of being seen.
After days of chipping, the cave was looking much bigger, although Chasey spent most of her time applying herbal ointment to the hands of those working. I had quickly worked out that we would need a door of some kind. I thought the best thing would be a boulder. The youngsters would then have to be supervised if they wished to go out and that would mean less risk of being discovered. It took ages to find a suitable boulder, and then ages for us to push it up to the cave. Finally, we had it and put it in position so that it could be rolled right over the entrance to the cave at night.
As days went by, the clan grew tired of eating leaves and fruit, and the men were forced to go out and hunt with their remaining spears. When they returned with a large wild boar on their shoulders, they were treated to a heroes welcome. We females set to work immediately, preparing this creature for a well-earned feast, while the men erected a spit over the fire. Once the feast was eaten, the men set to work, making the bones into new weaponry and we females used water from a little mountain stream that we’d found to clean the skin. I needed this to make my first scroll as clan leader. Of course, it would only be a small scroll as the remainder of the skin would be used as blankets, but in time, there would be more hide to write upon.
I took my scroll to a corner of the cave and with a boar tooth on a piece of wood, and some crushed fruit, began to write our story. The new story of how our new clan had been formed.
Today, as I roll up the scroll, which I have just read out loud to the clan, I look around. How far we have come! One year on, Zero Hour, Ground Zero. The clan has grown immensely and the tiny cave that was our only shelter is now a warren of caves, all interlinked inside the mountain by tunnels. Us elders have young, and as I read the scroll, remembering my own parents, I look at my beautiful baby girl and smile, knowing that she is special. That the prophecy continues…