Worlds Adrift Side Chapter- The New Paradigm

Jess was having a bad day. It was not an uncommon occurrence for her to have a bad day, especially so since a few weeks ago. Thinking about her woes, she remembered the day everything started. It was the day that everyone from all across the world would remember for generations, but It was memorable for her for a different reason. Her friend from her childhood, whom she had known since she was still stuck in the orphanage, had been struck by lightning. It was ironic too, because it was that time of the year again: judgement day. Or at least that was what their little family had called it. It was the anniversary of the death of the caretaker from their old orphanage. During the really tough times after Jack died, they made jokes about how the ghost of the dead caretaker would haunt them and take one of them every year after her death. It was desperately needed levity in their dark situation, but nothing shattered the illusion of the joke more than when the fated day arrived following another death. 

She sighed, remembering the days when things were much more complicated, but safe. Sure, life had decided that one of them was slated to die every year, but they could still pretend like everything was alright. The same could not be said for what she was living through. She took another swig of water, wishing it was something stronger that would let her drown her troubles away. She sat back and looked up to the sky and closed her eyes. Soon, however, a familiar voice called out to her. “Jess, this spot taken?” She opened her eyes and looked at the young man that was gesturing to the chair beside her. He was 25 at most, and very handsome. His face was covered in stubble, like everyone else after the burst, but it was covering a very sharp jawline. His face was nearly perfect, with a strong brow, piercing eyes, and full lips. The only blemish she could see on his dark skin was the large gash that had scarred on his right cheek. If he was to be believed, he had gotten the scar when he was fighting a bear infested with mana.

She gave a minor smile. “Nope, all yours.” She said. He sat down in the lawn chair next to her and stretched, his joints being more flexible than most. He was able to stretch so far back that his hands grazed the tent behind them. Looking around, she saw many more of the same types of tents dotting the area. Beyond the tents, there was a large wall made up of cars, furniture, and road signs that stretched around the small park area. She looked at the people around her, going about their tasks with a grim disposition. She looked over to the man, his eyes staring off into the sky. “Hey, Ket, how’s the wall doing? You just came back, right?” 

The man, Ket, blinked hard and looked at her, taking a second to fully process what she had asked. “Not good. A pack of weredeer hit the wall not long ago. I’m surprised we were able to fight them off as well as we did, but they punched a hole in the outer wall. The guys over there are working on repairing it, so they have extra guards over there.” He recounted.

She gave a sympathetic nod. “Poor bastards. It’s bad enough living through this crap, but to be turned into a weredeer is…” She said, shuddering. “Either way, it makes our lives difficult. We have to fight them off, but we can’t even eat them, so we just have to get rid of the bodies.”

“Well… you could technically eat them.” Ket said, which inspired a shudder from Jess.

“Like hell am I going to eat that. I am no expert on cannibalism, but I do not want to test to see if they count. Seriously, I’ve been hearing people talk about whether or not eating were-beasts is cannibalism and it’s f*****.”

Ket just shrugged. “Cut ‘em some slack, Jess, they don’t get the same kind of rations we do. We get a full three meals a day for fighting on the wall, and they only get one.” 

“Well… I guess that’s true, but still.” She huffed. “Anyway, how’re the sweeper teams doing? I heard that they had gotten to my old city.” 

“The one you were talking about where your friend died and the whole fungal apocalypse thing happened?”

She shot him an angry glare for being so nonchalant. “Yeah, that one.” She ground out. She recalled, for a moment, the image of her friend, someone that she could have even called a brother, lying burned and dead in his hospital bed. She remembered the nurses practically screaming at her, the doctor yelling at them, the equipment showing his flatlined vitals, and so much else. She could even remember the shade of while that was being used for the bedsheets. Thinking about it, she wondered why they had taken him to a normal hospital room instead of the emergency care wing. Those thoughts were soon drowned out by the memory of the lightning that snaked across the sky. She remembered the pale blue tears that rent the sky and filled the clouds of unnaturally heavy rain with blue light. Just as soon as the memory came, it faded to remember her splitting headache afterwards, and the days of escape that followed. Her memories were vivid of the fungal plague that devoured the city. It took everything into it. She was thankful for, if nothing else, that her brother’s body was too far gone for it to control. Apparently, the fungus could only control bodies that were relatively undamaged in most areas. Her brother’s deep burns was something that not even the fungus could control. Unknowingly, she began to shed tears; letting them drop onto the ground she grieved the loss of her brother. 

Suddenly she was torn from her thoughts by Ket. He tapped her on the shoulder, and wore a concerned face. “Hey, you alright? You’re getting emotional again.” She couldn’t answer, feeling the weight of every loss she had to bear crash into her all at once she broke down crying. Ket, a bit flustered, could only think to sit there and keep her company.

It took a while for her to calm down, but she was able to stop crying after a while. “Sorry about that.” She said, embarrassment tinging her voice. “Everything just came crashing down. I guess the s*** that went down today was the last straw.” 

Ket looked at her, thinking. “Oh, was it the whole deal with that chick you were friends with turning into a fungal zombie?” He asked. He then winced, as he realized what he had just said. “Ah, sorry. My bad.”

She clenched her fists in a tight ball. She wanted to punch him, she wanted to, but she knew that he had a bit of a problem with his mental filter, so he would say things he probably should not have. Thinking that let her calm herself down, and she let her anger evaporate. “F*** it, whatever. Anyway, do you have anything new from the think tank? We could use a boost right about now.”

He, seeing her anger disappear, sighed in relief. “Yeah, some guy apparently figured out that if you make some sort of micro-earthquakes in the ground, then you can manipulate the ground around you. Apparently it’s a concept that’s taking off in Cali. Maybe it’s their affinity with natural disasters or something.” He sarcastically joked. 

Jess’ eyes went wide. “I thought the coverage was gone in out there, what happened?” Last she had heard almost every line of communication had been cut from the interior to California.

He gave a pained expression for a moment. “From what I heard, fleeing. There was some mega-moth monster that was terrorizing the area. Flame flavor apparently. In Cali. It’s probably hell on Earth over there. Literally.” He stretched out for a moment and gazed back up to the blue sky. “What about internationally? You were put closer to the comms tent than I ever am, so you’ve gotta have something interesting, right?”

Shrugging, she took another sip of water. “Nothing too different from here. Apparently, everything is f***** everywhere. Thinking off of the top of my head, China is having major problems with some sort of bug that controls people. Th-

“Like the bodysnatchers?!”

“No, not like the bodysnatchers. They take the body in its entirety. Anyway, similar stuff is happening in India. In the middle east, I heard that there’s some sort of giant worm. Y’know Dune.” He shook his head. “Wha? I thought that you were the sci-fi nerd!”

“Too old for me.” 

“Bodysnatchers came out in the 50’s”

“Too obscure.”

“They taught it in colleges.”

“It’s a book?”

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She stared for a moment. “It was a movie as well.”

Ket sighed. “Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe it just never caught my attention.”

She gave a muted laugh. “Anyway, the thing out in the middle east is like a giant worm that can dig through sand at rapid speeds. Not many know about what happened to sub-Saharan Africa, but there were some rumors about a giant pack of green gorillas that could replicate like a cell. Mitosis, was it? Anyway, Europe is not much better. The west is dealing with an infestation of some slime creatures from god knows where and the east is dealing with a bunch of giant wolves. There was also some sort of rumor about some yetis in Siberia. South America is not dealing with anything like a fire breathing moth, but they have an oddly high amount of mana-beasts. With all of that on top of werebeasts, hiveminds, the new races that are popping out of the woodwork, and straight up mana-beasts, the world isn’t doing so hot. Who knows, maybe there’s something up in the arctic that’s ready to rudely introduce itself.” she laughed

He gave a smile. “Yeah, maybe. By the way, did you hear about the new estimates?” She shook her head. “Apparently, there’s a 75% human depopulation across the globe. Though, that is counting all of the raiders, looters, and homebodies as casualties, so I’d say that a solid 70% of the globe has been taken out so far.” He gave a drawn out sigh. “It was weeks ago that they were blabbing on the radio that the number was 60%. The bastards even made it seem like the world had already solved the whole monster issue.”

Jess gave a half-hearted shrug. “Well, I’d say that it’s at least impressive how far up their own asses they are. Hell, they broadcast from within the shelters, so they should know what the hell is going on.” She gave an annoyed huff.

“Who knows. Maybe it’s a good thing. If people out in the pockets of peace learn how bad the rest of the world is, they may just take to looting or something.” Jess, wondering what he was talking about, gave Ket a questioning glance. “Hey! Don’t look at me like that! I aint no sociologist.”

“The hell does that even mean?”

“Someone who studies other someone’s. That’s why you should have taken to your studies a bit more.” He said in a sarcastic tone. “You shoul-” Before he could finish his sentence, an alarm rang out on the west side of the compound. They immediately jumped up and ran to the side. They dodged confused pedestrians, tents, cars, and other obstacles until they reached the west side. Before anyone could welcome them, they jumped up onto the wall, leaping a few feet to do so. 

Jess swore under her breath. “Dammit, I thought that you said we just got attacked by a weredeer pack!” Beyond the wall, charging along a street between the buildings were a pack of weredeer. The creatures were large and burly, and had a coat of fur that draped over their muscular forms. On top of their heads were large antlers that were sharper than most of their knives. The only other things about them that made them different from a pop-culture werewolf were the hooves that were in place of their hands and feet, and the two extra arms that extended from below their normal arms.

Someone shouted orders, who she assumed was the person in charge of the wall. “Get your s*** ready! These guys are tough!” She pulled out a nail from her pocket and began to draw mana runes in the air. Once completed, she stared at the oncoming horde. There were over 40 of them. She sighed and psyched herself up for the fight.


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