War and History Flash Fiction posted March 4, 2018


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An end-of-the-world story

When Buffalo Ran

by RodG

Sunday, Monday, Doomsday... Contest Winner 

   

Dr Morris Asher, a lean, stoop-shouldered man, stepped out upon a shelf of rock.  He squinted at the sun angled head-high in the cloudless sky.  Behind him, Pueblo ruins skulked in the deep shadows of a mammoth cavern.  Though it was the heart of summer, he felt no warmth radiating from the desert valley far below.

The shelf appeared to tremble, or was it him?  He stood gasping, still unbelieving all he’d learned.

Mostly alone, he had vainly searched for clues from artifacts as to why the civilization of the Anasazi--the Ancient Ones--which had flourished for centuries, abruptly vanished. 

Then a week ago he’d stumbled upon what possibly could be the answer.  He’d found his way into a tunnel the inhabitants of this site likely used as a means to get to the cavern’s roof where they planted corn.  In a wide spot within, dimly lit by a natural skylight, he tripped over a fire pit.  On his knees, he spotted what seemed to be a mural of pictographs painted centuries ago.

Huge beasts--what seemed like buffalo, maybe bears--stampeded across the stone wall from right to left.  He’d used special lamps to study them closely, individually.  Drawing each beast with just a few lines, the artist had captured rapid movement and panic, especially in their eyes. 

How long had the archaeologist peered at these images from a distance?  Close up?

Repeatedly he asked, “Why are you running?” 

Were they being chased?  By whom?  What?  In the background, Asher found no suggestion of prairie fire or volcanic explosion.

A scientist first and foremost, he would not allow himself to speculate without clear-cut evidence.  But in a scarred leather notebook he recorded notions spawned by his imagination.  

Two nights ago he had been too exhausted to curl up in his bedroll.  Instead, he hunkered by the fire pit, staring at the images, blinking away sleep until . . . the dream.

He stood alone on the valley floor.  So different!  Not a desert, but thickly covered with prairie grass.  A warm breeze brushed his cheeks.  High above hung a filmy sun in a milk-white sky.

For long moments a hushed silence . . .  then a murmur he did not hear but felt through the soles of his bare feet.  The ground spoke!  Grumbling softly before . . . loudly growling.  

He stared as the mountain shuddered.  Huge boulders bounded off the roof of the Cavern as the three-storied pueblos within shook . . . wobbled . . . crumbled.  From the shelf Indians flew to their deaths like broken-winged birds.

The ground heaved and rolled, toppling him.  From his knees he felt Earth’s groaning gradually mute.   

The grass shivered, whipped now by a newborn wind.

Then . . .

A rumble swelling.  He placed an ear to the ground.   

Hooves!  Thousands!  

Then he saw them.  Rampaging toward him.  Buffalo . . . bears . . . wolves and cougars.  All fleeing!

The dream stalled . . . jumped like an errant old-time film on broken sprockets . . . resumed . . . but it was much later, perhaps years.

The grassland was brown and badly-trampled.  He stood, still alone and barefoot.  A sharp wind cut his face as he gazed at a small band of survivors  a stone’s throw away.   

They’d packed all they had on dog-pulled travois.  The women and children far outnumbered the men.  All looked back at him with vacant eyes, then walked slowly toward the blood-red setting sun.

He awoke clear-headed and grabbed his notebook.  Frantically, he wrote down all of the dream he could remember.  As the day progressed, he jotted questions . . . answers if they came.

By nightfall he had a hypothesis underlined three times:

A single, severe and long-lasting earthquake caused such devastation to and disruption of these  people’s way of life they could not--did not--recover.  Hence, they had no choice but to depart.

Head bowed,  Asher stood on that shelf  and delivered a benediction.

 “Ancient Ones, hear me.  Your world ended that day the Earth shook and your homes collapsed, when the buffalo ran and did not return.”

Hopefully, the wind would carry his words to the People, wherever they had gone. 


Writing Prompt
Write a flash fiction story up to 700 words that involves a doomsday scenario. Anything goes, but the end of the world, or its perception, must be a driving force in your story.

Sunday, Monday, Doomsday...
Contest Winner


This pictograph found in a cave is courtesy of Google images.

The Anasazi culture thrived in America�??�?�¢??s Southwest until it mysteriously vanished about two hundred years pre-Columbus. �??�?�¢??Why?�??�?�¢?? has never been fully documented although there are many theories.

WORD COUNT: 699 Apple Pages
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