In continuation of my Westlands theme this week, here’s my Author Aerobics exercise. This piece shows how the Westlands is a sort of bottom-rung nation.
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THE BLACK SKY was a blanket of cold. Down below, Westians clustered together around a froggish machine, trudging across the dull white landscape slowly. It was the month of Fjerd—what day, nobody could remember. Nobody could ever remember. Sometimes the month had sixteen days, sometimes it had forty. It varied incredibly, and since Fjerd began with the last day, and counted down until it reached the end of the month, 1, it was very confusing.
Peka, standing on the edge of the group, folded her arms more tightly and shot a few searching glances about the horizon.
It was then that she spotted what she was looking out for. “Wolves!” she said loudly, above the low chatter from the group. She darted back to her kinsmen. “Up there on the slope. And they look Nestern!”
The leader of the group, Sebashten, allowed a glimmer of fear to peek out of his weathered eyes. Nestern wolves? She must be kidding; most wolves in this region were the short, wiry, Vestern kind. What would the enormous Nesterns be doing way out here? “Did you say ‘Nester,’ or ‘Western?'”
“Nestern,” said Peka, frustrated. “Four feet tall at the shoulder, I’d guess.” She turned around and pointed a gloved hand at the group of around twelve wolves under moonlight. “Coming this way, and looking hungry.”
“Jak!” Sebashten called up to the top of the machine. A young man, who had fallen asleep while sitting on top, picked up his head and looked around.
“You spotted some?” he asked, not sounding very interested.
“Yes…start the system up.”
Jak popped open a panel and fiddled with some very complicated wires and knobs. How he did it, nobody knew. The machine was old…a leftover gift from the Andorans, who seemed to be “Too good for simple machines,” like this one. Someone had used the instruction manual to start a fire years ago, and Jak was the only one who remembered how to use the fire-shooters in the monstrous structure…
“They’re coming closer, Jak!” Peka barked, picking up a little one that was pulling at her coat. She ran to the machine, climbed the ladder one-handed, and sat up on top next to Jak. She tried to figure out what it was exactly that Jak was doing.
“Come on, Jak, there’s not much time left…” Sebashten was getting worried. He took the gun off his back and pointed it at the rapidly-approaching wolves. His trigger finger twitched, as his brain was racked with memories of looking down this same barrel. Once from the wrong end. “Jak!”
An explosion of sparks and embers lit up the area, as a lone rocket streaked out of the machine toward the pack of wolves. It bounced across the frozen ground, until its internal timer went off and it erupted into myriads of sparks and flames. When the explosion had cleared, all that was left of the wolves were slightly-charred dogs running in the opposite direction.
Peka smiled and took her hands from the child’s ears. Goodness, that was loud…it was a wonder that Jak still had his hearing after all those years of fire-shooting.
“Well done, Jak,” said Sebasten. “Now, let’s get going.”
The group slowly began to crawl forward once again, as a blizzard of stray snowflakes whipped through their midst, in what little wind there was.