Long have I slumbered. It is the way of things, after all, that we wake, we tend to our duties, and sleep again. Yes, even among my kind there is a time for rest. It is not surprising that I, who woke first, would also be first to sleep. Indeed, I had done so many times, slept and woke again as I was needed. I was not the only one, of course, and as I slept, another would keep watch. As we were many, there always seemed to be one who could step in.
But now, I have woken to a world that is eerily silent. I do not hear Tharm in his workshop, or little Vala's laughter from the meadows. I do not smell Kana's pot boiling on the fire, or the scent of green growing things in Neser's gardens.
I am – alone.
I have been alone before, although those days were long and long ago. But even then, there had been sounds. Smells. Life.
The world I have awakened to shows no sign of even the faintest green. The ground is dry and barren. Dead grass crumbles under my feet, and the twisted skeletons of trees claw at the sky. The water in the lakes is murky and brown, not reflecting the sky above. Even the stones have died, breaking easily under my hands – giant boulders reduced to a few palm-sized stones.
As the sun moves uncaringly across the sky, I feel a chill. It will be night soon, and I have no food, no shelter – if the land is this inhospitable during the day, there is little hope that it will improve under the cold light of the moon. And while the boulders yield readily to my touch, the dry earth is unmoved by my frantic pounding.
I wish that Tharm was here. He would be able to turn these bits and pieces into something that would help. I try to remember the times I stood in the doorway of his workshop, watching him craft some new toy or trinket. He had blueprints for so many things – something that would break this ground was all I needed for now. With only my two hands to work with, I fumble with the bits of wood I had been able to pull from a scorched tree trunk. What calamity had turned it into mostly ash and charcoal? It certainly isn't feasible building material in any sense.
A stick. A bit of charred wood. A light. Enough to see by as I sketch a pattern on another piece of wood. Stones – like so. A crude axe to collect the dead trees faster, and a pick to help me make a den in the hard earth.
And all too soon – night. As I take shelter, with nothing but a flickering torch for light and heat, the world outside my hole takes on a hellish parody of life. The restless shades of humanity growl and gibber in the darkness. I hear other noises, too – nothing wholesome, though. Snarls, howls, hissing, scuttling – the most innocuous sound is the squeaking of bats. Everything else proclaims its triumph over life until the sun begins to rise.
In so much, the light is still my ally. I hear the triumphant dead disintegrating under those purifying rays, leaving only bits and pieces behind.
Drowning. The world has drowned, and I am drowning along with it. Outside my door, I see the skeletons of trees, clawing towards a surface that may not even exist. Supplies are limited. No one could have expected this – not in our world of peaceful advancement. Five small houseplants and some grass are all that live in here besides me. I have a fishing rod, but my hook floats free to the length of the line. No chance of catching anything that way. There is a bed here. I could sleep until the inevitable. Eventually hunger will claim me – or madness.
But can I abandon hope so soon? What if life has survived elsewhere? This may not be the only house that was sealed against the flood. Perhaps madness has already claimed me, to think that I could survive – maybe even flourish. The fact remains that I still breathe. Defeat will not truly come until I am gasping on the floor. I will need food and I will need tools. Burrowing through the mud with my bare hands will only get me so far, but all I really need to do is get to some of those dead trees. A few logs will give me enough materials to get some crude tools, and the tunnel I create to it could then be re-flooded to allow me to lure fish into an area where I can catch them. Raw fish won't be that filling, but they will keep me going.
I can reach some dirt here by the door without leaving my air pocket. I'll dig up as much as I can and use that to build an extension to my shelter. Just a way to trap the air and something to keep my head above water. That will make it easier to collect more dirt as I go. Strange how I've gone from a world of stone, iron and glass to building with mere dirt. Ah, but I can replace these crude walls later. Make them more permanent. The dirt can serve to create the space without having to waste too much energy or materials if I need to change it.
I will need room to nurture my small plants into something more useful, though. Far more space than I have in this small house. A temporary cavern will have to suffice. Something just large enough for a tree. My crude tools will last long enough to let me construct sturdier ones, and I can use the stronger ones to hollow out a greenhouse of sorts. My tiny plants will grow and provide me with oxygen and wood for making more tools – maybe even structures. Wood directly in contact with water wouldn't be sensible, but logs and planks could serve as scaffolding as I build something more substantial.
Something more substantial. Yes. Even under the weight of an ocean, I still have access to all the raw materials that we had when the world was above the waves. There is no reason that I cannot recreate a glorious city down here! Farms, storehouses, all the infrastructure that we had at our disposal before the cataclysm that destroyed Atlantis!