Random Ages

Shaft Age

A careless mistake.

The ozone is too thin. Sun beats down on a parched wasteland.

Yet life thrives. The great shaft plunges like a vast well, diving far below the desert floor into the pitted rock below. A few hardy plants cling to the upper walls, and further down, where direct sunlight falls only for a brief period of the day, trees raise needle-thin boughs skyward with leaves like antennae so that there is room for more to grow side by side. Plants draw water seeping up through the spring-fed rocky walls. Ivy and mosses spill down the sheer faces like waterfalls, except where people have cut caves and dwellings into the sides of the shaft. They live in the lower reaches, cultivating fungi and mosses, reaping fruits, and hunting the giant snakes, rodents, insects, and vine-grubs.
The people never risk the arduous climb to the surface except when they sense death approaching, and then go up to watch a final sunrise. In fact, "watching the dawn" is their euphemism for death. A few young people defy strictures and scale the upper reaches of the forest to catch a glimpse of unshadowed sunlight, but often pay dearly with their sight or their very life. The burn-scars on those who have risked this journey attest to their recklessness, sometimes within a few days, sometimes after many years' passing.

Halys Journal

I can never stay here for very long during my explorations, since this Age has no freshwater. Succulents trail their roots in the salty marsh, their broad plump leaves too heavy to lift very high above the spongy ground. They bear bulging fruits like melons and milk-nuts. These plants provide all the moisture needed by the native fauna, for most of the animals conserve and recycle all their water like desert-dwelling creatures.
The sea's odor bears an unpleasant metallic tang, not unlike that of blood. My tests show more traces of copper than I had intended; this also explains the oxidized metal nodules scattered about the marsh-grasses. I suspect they are secretions from the long-legged waders that keep the reeds from choking the narrow channels of the mud flats.

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