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    drsawzall
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
This tale owes a debt of thanks to Shirly Jackson’s 1948 short story called The Lottery.  It is well worth the time to check out.

La Tombola - 2. Chapter 2

Scanning the readouts, Captain Reynolds saw that the systems were all in green for ‘Go’. There had been no issues with the passengers coming out of stasis. There were the expected bouts of disorientation, but all were minor. One of the benefits of coming out of stasis prior to the passengers, was that it gave his crew time to thoroughly check the status of all three ships and ascertain if there were any snags in planned disembarking schedule. While his crew was engaged in vetting the cargo, his responsibility was to undertake additional scans of the new world they were approaching. Adding to what little they knew from the information provided prior to their launch.

What he found most surprising was the lack of easily mined surface metals or deposits of organic fuel resources. No coal or oil, though abundant sunshine, and moderate winds. While the earth had long migrated from fossil fuels a century ago, that energy that would be needed on the new world, to refine raw ores into metals, was a critical component of the settler’s long term survival plans.

What he did find were conditions ripe for agrarian pursuits. The continent they had selected seemed to be situated in a golden zone. A temperate climate with moderate rains, a mild winter season lasting four months or so. There were a surprising number of tree species, from hardwoods to softwoods. The scans showed fertile soil, ideal for cultivation. Amongst the forests, there were several varieties of fruit and nut trees, and at the edges of what appeared to be naturally appearing fields, berry bushes.

There were several species of mammals, the ponds, rivers, and oceans appeared to have abundant sources of food at their disposal. On the avian side, there was a plethora of winged creatures with several showing the distinct possibility of augmenting their diets.

The land was much like what earth might have looked when homo sapiens first walked upright. There were undulating fields suitable for pastures and farming. Rivers and streams that might be tapped for energy generation. Mountain ranges situated that appeared to protect the land from the worst of the polar weather. Sensors picked up a small amount of volcanic activity, essentially thermal venting, hot springs along with a negligible lava flow. His scans showed that the poles were active, generating fantastical storms that buffeted the other continents.

All in all, if there was an ideal spot to start anew, their landing zone would give them the best chance of success. Captain Reynolds had launched several atmospheric probes along with the ground mapping satellites as they were still several months out. He needed to understand everything there was to know, before bringing the passengers out of stasis. He eagerly looked forward to mining the data they were collecting. It was a relief to know that the atmosphere was pristine, no outward signs of pollution. The gravity was comparable to earths.

A closer inspection of mammalian life showed the presence of creatures resembling everything one might find on earth from horses, cattle, buffalo down to pigs, goats, and rabbits. Mammals resembling squirrels were seen scampering through the trees. What he didn’t find were any mammals that were bipedal. Occasionally a wisp or hint of smoke was seen, but that was chalked off to be naturally occurring. In the open plains there was evidence of lightning strikes setting off brush fires.

After a second, third, and fourth review of their findings, it was time to bring everyone out of stasis and begin final preparation for landing.

~~~

The initial landing of the sixty-four families went off without a hitch. As with everything there was an order of disembarkation and as the Mayflower was finally relieved of its precious cargo that would sustain the settlers for the first twelve months. Preparations were made to bring the Speedwell and Discovery’s cargo of the tools and mechanical implements to the planet.

Standing with the settlers, surveying the work to be done to finish offloading the other two cargo ships, he left his second in command in charge of that detail as his assistance was needed on the planet. The equipment needed to begin the construction of their new village was about halfway completed when Captain Reynolds, along with a handful of the settler’s work crew, listened in horror as the garbled transmission over his communicator began to describe the implosion of the Discovery. That was followed by the Speedwell and Mayflower leaving orbit. From what he could see on his communicator, both were on a return voyage to earth. Unbeknownst to them at the time, a small fortune had been paid to someone, to slip a computer virus into the main computer processing cores of the ships prior to their departure.

That was the first of two devastating situations that threatened the very survival of the settlers.

~~~

The first order of business was to tend to temporary housing and the securing of the medical and food supplies. Cargo containers were quickly converted providing rudimentary lodgings and storage. Of the tools and mechanical equipment, all was gone over to see what they could make do with. Next on their priority list was to form scouting parties to secure the perimeter.

Over the next several days the weather was with them, basic needs were met and a rota established of the chores needed and who were assigned to. High on the list was building more permanent housing. If the calendar was correct, it was just past early spring. While they had food supplies that would last a year, longer if they had to ration, it would be best if they could get some crops in the ground from the seeds they had brought.

Foraging parties were established, care taken that anything that may be edible be vetted in the makeshift lab. A few in this party were to observe the local wildlife and their interactions, to get a better understanding of how it all fit together. As these parties traveled further afield, they would be gone for a couple of days. As they drew closer to the mountains it seemed their luck turned a corner. There were several species of trees that could be harvested for lumber needed to build their first houses. Also found were several ledges with a soft, easily worked stone that could be used to build more substantial dwellings and chimneys. There was plenty of wood easily obtained sufficient for heating and cooking fires.

As they took stock of their situation the odds of their survival were greatly enhanced. It is said that many hands make light work, and in this situation, everyone was employed in one facet or another. Working on their behalf was the weather, allowing for all the necessary outside work to be completed. By the time late summer had arrived, several large housing units had been built. Individual homes would have to wait as space for storage for their belongings, equipment, and crops when harvested was crucial.

The settlement proved to be a curiosity for the wildlife that they shared space with. A decision had been reached that unless the circumstances were dire enough, there would be no hunting of the plentiful game. All sorts of fruits, nuts, and berries were collected and analyzed to see if they were safe for human consumption. Several proved high in nutritional value, they proved to be a welcome addition to their dietary needs.

With over two-hundred-fifty souls, sanitation and refuse proved to be the next biggest challenge. Communal bathhouses were built, separated by the sexes. The biggest challenge was securing a steady supply of fresh water. Test wells had been dug by hand, most proved insufficient for the steady volume needed for large use. A decision was made to create a rudimentary canal from a nearby river upstream from where they were located. Through this diversion, they were able to create a good-sized pond, deep enough they hoped, that it wouldn’t freeze over the colder months. They set out and buried piping deep enough so they were below the frost line, ensuring a steady supply of water. Each building was constructed in such a manner to collect the rain water thus augmenting the precious resource. In one sense, they were fortunate that the crops they had planted needed little irrigation as enough rain fell to provide for that need.

All understood the need to recycle and the benefits of doing so. Everything had multiple uses. Clothing was passed down, when it could no longer be worn, it was broken down and repurposed. Sometimes as more clothing or as curtains, nappies, blankets, or rugs. This was true for everything the settlers used. Nothing was thrown away until it no longer served a purpose or function. Scrap foodstuffs were composted and would be used in the next planting season.

Sanitation was a critical priority and among the first of the basic needs met. Two-hundred-fifty plus souls produced much human waste. From reclaiming water used for washing and showering, solid wastes were dealt with as well. Urine diverting toilets were built. The solids were sent for composting and the liquid underwent an evaporation process, the resulting powder, rich in nutrients would be used in fertilizer.

Individuality was frowned upon; they would operate as a collective the first few years until they had established themselves. Then they would begin a cautious program of expansion. They had done what they had to do to gain a tenuous foothold. And then their luck took a turn for the worse.

~~~

Two years in it was first thought that it was the precursor to the common cold of flu. Little did they know just how wrong they were, and of the terrible price it would cost them. At the same time, one of the foraging parties spotted what appeared to be tracks on the ground resembling a human foot print. In following the footprints, they lost the trail once it reached the ledges leading to higher ground. They scoured the area for several hours with no success. On a whim, one had the thought to install a hidden ‘game’ camera, with the idea to come back in a day or so to see if their quarry came back.

~~~

Theu had been watching them, he had a difficult time calling them people, for two cycles of the sun. At first, he thought that more might fall from the sky, but none did. They had brought with them strange beasts that could move the very ground one walked on. What surprised he and his clan even more was that they no longer lived. They just sat there and now the work they did, was done by these strange creatures. They were attempting to train some of the living beasts that roamed the area. And now the sickness was befalling them. They weren’t honoring Mithras and she was upset. In the taking of her bounty, and the good health they enjoyed, there was a giving back of thanks. She wasn’t a demanding god, mean or spiteful. Just as the clan needed her gifts to survive, to eat the foods she provided, so must she eat the food we provided. Each season of the longest days, from one of the clans, a boy on the cusp of manhood, was given to Mithras.

~~~

Captain Reynolds was stunned, confused, and wondering how such a significant discovery could have escaped the scans they had conducted. Sighing, he knew it was of no use beating himself or anyone else up over this. The picture was all the proof they needed. Just how lucky they were to get the picture was a minor miracle, the camera failed once the image had been printed, there wouldn’t be others. For all the technology they had brought with them, they had expected to get nearly a hundred years of use. Two years down the road and none of it worked. Batteries wouldn’t charge, the infernal earthmovers and mechanical tools were useless. Everything that needed doing, now had to be done by hand.

Food production was falling off the previous year’s harvests. The fruits and nuts that were so abundant, were half of what they once were. They had been so careful to not overharvest any one area. And still, there wasn’t any rational explanation. There were minor cases of the flu coursing through the settlement. They were coming close to losing the battle to treat it. Already three of the settlers had succumbed. Latest reports had close to twenty suffering from dysentery. And now this, proof positive that they weren’t the only bipedal creatures walking the planet.

The image showed what appeared to be an adult male of indeterminate age. If he had to guess, no less that twenty-five-years and no older that forty-years of age. Remarkably healthy, fit and wearing rudimentary clothing, it’s purpose or function suited for life in the wild.

~~~

Theu was conflicted, the clans had decided that they would only observe these creatures. The problem was, that with the passage of anoth cycle of the sun, these creatures were three-quarters of their number. The sickness was rampant. The clans lived with the seasons, they did not quarrel with each other, helped wherever possible and lived simply. It was clear in his mind that they knew not of Mithras and the obligation due her. After much debate, Theu would go to these creatures and see if they could talk.

~~~

It had been hard work and taken longer than it should have but at long last, it was possible to communicate with Theu and his clan. After four years on the planet, the loss of half of the settlers due to illness, Captain Reynolds now had a better understanding of what Theu was telling him, what needed to be done. There was a debt to be paid, they, the clan, had fulfilled the obligation to Mithras for them. The sickness was over, food stocks were plentiful again and they were past the critical point of the danger of completely failing. Now it was time to convince the remaining settlers. What was odd, was that Theu and the clan would only ask for some of their oregano, they wanted nothing else in return.

The meeting had been sharp, divided, and contentious at first. It took all his powers of persuasion, along with a few other likeminded, to convince the rest of the settlers of the necessity to fulfill the need, this new world required of them. James Bishop, newly turned thirteen, was brought to the cliff face, that would forever demark the lands belonging to the clans, and those of the settlers, and offered to Mithras.

In the succeeding years the settlers prospered and along with the annual gift to Mithras, the clans were rewarded with oregano.

~~~

Tom Harrison, Ned Boone, and Billy Dunbar were the three boys chosen to escort Peter Miller on the Walk of Survival. It would be a two-day walk, going past the site of the first settlement. They were discussing amongst themselves the revelations that Josiah Trimble told them. After being sworn to secrecy, upon the pain of death, all three were relieved to know that they would no longer be subject to La Tombola. They would still have to stand with the other boys each year, until they turned fifteen. Knowing they would never have to follow Peter Miller’s footsteps brought them great relief.

All Peter knew they were told, was that he was going to the Gnos, and with him, the oregano they loved so much. He would be given a long-lasting, mild sedative to ensure his compliance along the journey.

At issue for them, was deciding how to choose who would guide Peter to Mithras once they reached the cliff face. Josiah Trimble solved that issue for them when he had them place their names inside the box, he would then pull out the name of the boy responsible. As they sat there anxiously, Josiah told them a bit more of their history, showed them the records of the years past. The boys could see for themselves what happened when Mithras was not honored, there were too many examples, a more convincing argument could not have been made. In recognition of their duties, the boys would be quietly rewarded. When they came of age, they would be given ‘extra’ assistance in whatever occupation that would benefit the town they chose. When his name was called, a reticent Ned Boone was not looking forward to doing his duty to the community.

~~~

Only a few people turned out to watch the boys set off, there was work to be done after all. Bellies full after a substantial breakfast the quartet took the main road out of town. The destination for their first night’s stay, would be a little over a half day’s walk. The weather was cooperative and they made good time and had lunch when they arrived. They set up camp in the old town square and knowing they needed to clean up, went skinny dipping on the old pond.

Once the fun was over from playing the water games, they set up for the evening meal. A small fire pit was built, enough wood sufficient for the nights fire was found and with full bellies watched the longest of the summer days fade into night. Tom Harrison had made sure Peter had enough ‘water’ to drink. The effect was that Peter was very risqué and as boys of a certain age are, willing to play games. As the last embers of the evening’s fire dwindled Peter was well and truly satiated.

~~~

“Hey guys,” Peter called out, “I can see the Gnos, they look like tiny bugs from up here. It’s gonna be a while before they get here.” He said looking over the cliff face. “Anyone want to have some more fun while we wait?” he said, wiggling his hips suggestively.

Standing behind Peter, Ned called out, “Just a moment…I’m in…let me have your pack.” Talking the pack off Peter’s outstretched arms and tossing it aside, “Wow, they really do look like bugs, don’t they!” As he placed a hand on the small of Peter’s back and pushed.

Thanks for reading, your thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated!
Copyright © 2022 drsawzall; All Rights Reserved.
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Thanks for reading, your comments and thoughts are appreciated. Please take a moment to let me know your impressions.
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

6 hours ago, Mawgrim said:

I had the feeling it was going to be human sacrifice. However, we don’t know who or what Mithras is yet. Maybe when people are pushed off the cliff, they actually enter another dimension, or Mithras preserves their lives somehow? I’m eager to read more.

Thanks Mawgrim...I wanted to see so much more about the world Shirly Jackson created, it seemed that this type of scenario was ripe for exploration! I hope to do it justice.

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This was a fascinating chapter, Doc. It felt like a brave new world, almost too good to be true, and turns out it is. Or... is it? I have a lot of questions. The clans are benevolent so far, and that bodes well for the settlers. Still, the barbarism of what Mithras expects is quite jarring. I have a sense all is not what it seems. Great job so far, buddy. Cheers. PS. Sorry my reading is sporadic... I'm trying. :)  

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52 minutes ago, Headstall said:

This was a fascinating chapter, Doc. It felt like a brave new world, almost too good to be true, and turns out it is. Or... is it? I have a lot of questions. The clans are benevolent so far, and that bodes well for the settlers. Still, the barbarism of what Mithras expects is quite jarring. I have a sense all is not what it seems. Great job so far, buddy. Cheers. PS. Sorry my reading is sporadic... I'm trying. :)  

Thanks Gary, your comments are always appreciated sporadic or not!!

You have the right of it, it si a brave new world, fraught with all sorts of complications!

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So far a great began to this story.:yes: Just perfect description so well thought out, which I am loving. Poor Peter Human sacrifice! Just unbelievable, strange as it is, it seems that Mithras is real somehow so I must read on!

Thanks so much:worship:

Edited by Albert1434
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56 minutes ago, drpaladin said:

I hope Peter didn't suffer the fate we are assuming.

One of the rare times I used an actual cliffhanger...

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