The morning of the invasion was crisp and bright. Wispy clouds danced across the clear blue sky whipped along by a constant breeze with just an occasional sharp gust. Autumn was undeniably in the air.
The first sign of anything out of the ordinary was not an uncommon occurrence for the village; true it was rare but not unheard of for a stranger to stumble upon the settlement. With enough land to have separate areas for farming, both vegetable and animal, open areas where wild game was always plentiful, and a defendable living area located on a hilltop that allowed surveillance of the domain they called home, it wasn’t completely cut off from the rest of the known world.
At the top of the hill overlooking the town stood the Rook tower. A lone sentry at the highest point of land for as far as the unaided eye could see. The town was bordered on its northern end by the split forks of a wide fast river that flowed behind the cliff the Rook was built upon. The river’s current had cut a steep rocky drop into the hill at the base of the north side of the tower marking that edge of the town. The river’s fingers fanned out towards the southeast and southwest forming two sides of the roughly triangular shape of the territory they inhabited. The southern, and widest, side of the triangle was also the most fluid, in both senses of the word. The south fields were flood plains, acres of earth rich in the nutrients carried downstream and deposited there in each spring. Every year the rivers ran high from rain and melting snow, the plains would fill as the natural banks would overflow and join the twin forks together in a wide flat pan of water rich in sediment.
This area was used for grain and vegetable farming. Ellie always decided which fields to seed and which to leave fallow for a season to allow the ground to replenish. Between the hill and the fields were the farm animals. Rabbits and sheep were their main meat animals. These small mammals were easy to care for, mate, and slaughter for meat and pelts. Anything larger, pigs or cattle for example, would require much more land and upkeep. Along with the plentiful fish species in the river and the wild animals that roamed the land, they had all they needed to sustain the people of Home. ‘Home’ was what they called this land since their father’s grandparents came upon the deserted tower and discovered Ellie and her power and guidance.
Tom’s people preferred their solitude, or to be more specific, Ellie preferred they stay apart from others; isolation was her choice to keep them safe. Although Tom is the settlement’s spokesman, Ellie is their compass. She guides them along a path to survival. Without her their ancestors would never have survived the disintegration of society and the collapse of the agro-financial machine that made life in that artificial society possible. Although their choices are influenced by her, they have free will to do as they please; they can choose to follow her suggestions or ignore them. Many years of living under her leadership have taught them that she knows what is best for them as a whole. Even though sometimes personal sacrifices must be made for the good of Home, they tended to follow her directions.
Their self-contained community is located in the area of the Americas that was known as North Carolina during the occupation of the government headquartered in the former District of Columbia. Although that society’s capital was entirely contained in the old state of Virginia, their hubris demanded they declare their capital city a separate entity from the land they commanded. They believed they were destined to control whatever they declared necessary; they even lorded over a tiny island located half the world away as part of their occupied empire.
There is no nation now; there is no centralized government or leader of any kind. Groups of people live as they choose. Many live on their own, like Tom’s, apart from others. Some communities trade between themselves. The ancestors learned that these relationships ended badly, petty disputes and jealousies ultimately ended in fighting over some obscure insult. These tribes reverted back to the most basic of human needs and desires. Take or fuck what you can, destroy or burn what you can’t.
Tom is unique in Home’s society, and he’s pround of that fact; he is a ‘little person.’ He knows that this means he wasn’t born there and that he’ll never be able to father children of his own. One of Ellie’s roles is to arrange the bonding of compatible members of their population; she arranges future couplings of the children at birth. If as they grow two people are drawn to each other for purely physical desire, she can prevent the pregnancy if there is some chance of a birth defect or abnormality. She knows how the genes of everyone will interact and if their copulation might result in a handicap. Ellie may be powerful but her reach cannot extend beyond the geographical limits of Home.
Tom, like many others, was brought here as a baby when Ellie sent a gathering party to bring new diversity to their gene pool. She had explained to Tom, as she had to the leaders before him, that they must continue to add new bloodlines to their populace to prevent crossbreeding family members. Ellie had a strict policy regarding the ages and genders of the new citizens of Home. They must be young enough so that they will learn to accept the rules of living under her guidance. If the children are too old, they will not assimilate peacefully into the group. Once someone is brought into her society, and she has time to assess their attributes and shortcomings, they can never go back. Although there are stories of people leaving, no one can recall anyone specific who ever had.
The gathering parties were given quotas and sometimes specific ‘types’ of individuals to look for. For this season’s gathering, Ellie had asked Tom to supply six new members for their village. She asked for two boys, preferably from northern climates, and four girls of any race; none older than two years.
Through most of the year, the people would use flat bottomed skiffs to hunt in the ‘Southern End”; that swampy forest that delineates the lower border of Ellie’s reach. In late summer, the marshes usually dried up enough to make passage in and out of their territory on foot easy.
As it was on that clear morning harboring promise of an early fall in the breeze, a pair of children came walking out of the high grass towards the ripe cornfields.