Somewhere in North America's future, there is no longer a United States of America. There are only scattered colonies and battle groups that cover the land. Some take part in violence with one another, others stay hidden from barbaric outsiders.
CHAPTER 1 of HAVEN
I began my climb up the side of a dense, green, tree-covered mountain. Fred and three others followed behind closely, bows drawn and arrows stretched back, prepared for anything. A light drizzle fell from the gray, sheet clouds overhead. The climb at first was easy and the ascent, slow. But the side of the mountain soon came to a steeper slope, and we were forced to strap the bows to our backs for an easier climb. I had traveled up the mountain before, but never during bad weather. The cold rain caused me to chill and my fingers to go numb. I struggled as I grabbed at tree roots and sturdy rocks to pull myself along.
We continued our scramble up the face of the peak for an estimated two hours. Halfway through our ascent, a loud snap came from deep within the forest, and echoed from our right. The disturbance caused us to stop in our tracks. We listened closely and waited. It seemed to be the sound of an unnatural force, putting weight on a dry stick. It could have been an animal. We listened for another cracking sound, but the forest remained still. I snatched up a rock and tossed it in the direction of the disturbance. Still there was no sign of movement, nor any sound of ruffling behind the trees. After another long period of silence, our party finally resumed the climb.
We soon came across a thick layer of cloud that blanketed the top half of the peak. Our journey became even more bitter and cold as we passed through the chilly, white mist. The trees were tall, dark beings that slowly faded in the distance through the ashen haze. We struggled at each step we took. The quest would soon be over, and we would set up camp at our usual view point just below the crest of the mountain.
I was the first to reach the leveled, rock platform near the top. I pulled myself over the edge to stand on the fifteen-foot wide boulder. I then lent a hand to the others and pulled them over the edge as well. The four of us stood together to take in the view. The clouds were dissipating, and the sun began to shine through, revealing a small, tree-filled valley. Between the mountains were hills that rolled under the forest.
“Here we are. Again,” said Fred. We had taken this climb before during several hunts.
“We didn’t find any game on the way up, but I always enjoy coming here to see the view,” I replied. There were three others who accompanied us. Fred and I didn’t know them too well. They were brothers, and usually secluded themselves from the rest of the people in our colony. They lived alone in a shabby hut at the edge of our settlement. They were also orphans. Four years before, both of their parents were killed in an attack on our colony by outsiders. That was the last time it had ever happened. Since it had been so long, our colony was no longer on the lookout for outsiders. They believed it would never happen again. They became negligent. Then the defense posts and lookout towers positioned on the valley walls were destroyed.
Beau, the oldest of the three, around eighteen years old, spent most of his time taking care of his two younger brothers, Alex and Avery. Both were twins and were close to my age; sixteen. All three were rather skinny and had dark brown hair. Alex and Avery’s skin was pale and lightly freckled, while Beau had a slightly darker tone to his. They were very shy and didn’t talk much, especially Avery. I had yet to hear his voice.
“Well I admit. It is nice coming up here. It’s the only way that we can see beyond this valley,” replied Fred. He scanned the area around him, looking over the tops of the mountains and off into the distance. It seemed to be nothing other than additional trees and peaks.
“Why would you be worried about anything outside of the valley?” I asked, frowning at the landscape.
“There’s always something new to discover,” replied Fred.
“There’s nothing out there,” snapped Beau. “Only danger… murderers and thieves.”
Fred folded his arms and then turned to Beau. “It’s people like you that make our colony unsafe.”
“Unsafe?”Beau clenched his fists and began walking towards Fred. “You don’t know anything.”
“Fred! Don’t!” I shouted as I began to step in between the two.
“Ben, it’s true. People in our settlement have developed the wrong sort of mentality when it comes to our safety. We need to be aware of what’s going on around us. How can Beau disagree?” he asked me.
Beau stopped his advance on Fred with his fists still clenched, eyes blazing.
“You can’t…” Beau began to say.
Fred cut him off. “We need to reestablish the defense posts and continue making weapons that will protect us. Not bows and arrows. We need to find a way to get our hands on some firearms.”
Beau folded his arms and turned away. Alex and Avery looked at each other in disapproval.
“Guns?” I asked, shocked by Fred’s words.
“Yes. That’s what we would be up against.”
“I know, but where are we going to get them?”
Fred paused. The rest of us were silent to allow him to think. Beau smirked.
After several seconds, Fred said, “If I could, I would venture outside of the valley to search for them.”
“I think you have been listening to Mr. Daniels a little too much!” I said. Mr. Daniels was the local paranoid in our colony. He was always going on about the end of our settlement and immanent attacks.
“He does make some good points,” Fred countered.
“And who else will be as convinced?” I replied.
Fred fell silent and continued to scan the valley. Beau and I stared at each other is disbelief. Nobody was allowed outside of the valley. Even if our mayor let Fred leave, he would never return. It would be a waste to send someone away to gather weapons. It would only reveal our location and expose the colony to outsiders.
“Well then what are we going to do when somebody comes across our valley? It’s bound to happen sometime,” shouted Fred.
I smiled. “Don’t worry yourself, Fred. The mayor knows what’s best for the colony. Trust the people who lived during more dangerous times. I promise you they’ll know what to do if we’re attacked again.”
“But we don’t have an early warning system! How is it going to be any better than last time?” asked Fred.
“I don’t know.” I couldn’t answer his question. “The best thing we can do is climb this mountain every day and report back to the mayor if we see any signs of danger.”
The conversation was over. An upset Beau broke away from the group and took hold of his backpack. He set his bow and arrows against a rock and began to rummage through his things. His brothers sat silently on either side of him. I left Fred’s side at the edge of the boulder to set down my bow as well. Each of us pulled out food that was packed away in our bags. Nobody looked at each other as we ate. The argument left the atmosphere very tense.
I thought to myself about what Fred had said. I didn’t understand why the mayor would choose to lower our defenses. Surely someone would come across our settlement sooner or later. Why would he allow a massacre to happen again? We didn’t even have an early defense system. I felt unease as I contemplated this.
“Well, I guess we should set up camp,” I said.
Fred remained where he was. The rest of us stood and gathered at the center of the boulder. I then withdrew a red-colored tent from my backpack. It was a small and accompanied by four poles that arced over each other in a star-like formation when posted. The three brothers and myself worked together to pitch the tent. Once finished, we threw our belongings inside and climbed in.
The four of us spread out evenly across the floor. Beau yanked five wool blankets from his hunting pack and tossed them to each of us, also placing one at the foot of the tent for Fred. I knew that by morning, the heated argument between Beau and Fred would be forgotten, and we would be able to enjoy our trip back down the mountain.