Rain had been gushing from the sky since before the sun had risen. The greenery of the area the Wisp was in was glistening and vibrating with the song of the weather with each passing moment, casting a heavy serenity onto the normally bustling world. Even the sun aided the event, painting the sky in brilliant pinks and oranges as it cascaded slowly above the horizon.
Unfortunately, this made Wisp’s task of hunting appear almost grotesque by comparison as she skulked about the wooded area looking for prey. With each tree she passed she checked among the large roots and tucked away crevices with groping but silent eyes. Though weather such as this often dictated the prey should take a rainy day and stay home, some of the creatures still dared to venture out, huddling in various hiding spots as they dashed from place to place going wherever animals dared to go. Yet, it was this same reckless bravery that made they easy pickings for Wisp, as few animals dared to expect a hunter stalking them among the sky’s tantrum.
After an hour of searching, Wisp spotted one particular large root that at last sheltered a prize worth having. A small, gray rabbit was huddled under the root, almost snuggling into the dirt as if all sense of being guarded was thrown away. Though far enough away she had to squint, Wisp could judge that its fur was dry, dirty, and still fluffy. The rabbit had thus been there a while, and had probably settled in thinking it’d wait out the storm. In essence, for a hunter like Wisp, it was practically begging to be killed.
The Wisp prowled a bit closer to the rabbit, her feet and ears attuned to every little twig snap that happened in the vicinity. The rabbit’s head shot up at one point, its ears twisting and twitching in alert for some sound Wisp hadn’t quite heard. A few, controlled breaths passed from Wisp’s lips before the rabbit once again seemed to calm itself. At this point, though, Wisp dared not approach further and decided to take her shot from her current position.
Reaching behind her, Wisp grasped and slowly pulled a rudimentary bow she had made the other day to her. Though not her weapon of choice for hunting or defense, it served its purpose of being easy to navigate while she was stuck in what seemed to be a particularly large wooded area (assuming she hadn’t been walking in circles). Nocking the arrow as quietly as she could, Wisp centered the tip on the rabbit, squinting and checking back and forth in focus to make sure her aim was true. Her arm muscles twitched some as she pulled back, and using techniques she was taught by her tribe, she took a long and slow breath.
Then, light overtook the area as the sky screamed and shook the very ground with a deafening roar. Even the trees next to Wisp shuddered in fear from the sudden and violent outburst of the otherwise calm storm. Though relatively unfazed, Wisp still had lost her grip some on her arrow, and her arrow sunk enough to be ill aimed now. Quickly, Wisp tried to correct it and bring the arrow back into order. As her eyes flitted to the rabbit though, her heart sunk just the slightest bit. Being a rabbit, it did what could be expected of a rabbit when encountered with a loud surprise: it had taken off running for its life.
Hastily Wisp scanned the area, finally catching a glimpse of familiar gray fur appearing and disappearing under a bush at immense speed. Heaving herself into action, Wisp took chase. As she panted and padded along, and the rabbit increased the distance between them with each passing second, Wisp had to wonder why. She of all people knew the futility of chasing rabbits. Yet, something in her stirred. Something told her to try and not let the luck of the hunt win.
And try she did, though for all of a few minutes. In the end, the rabbit escaped and Wisp was left to bend down and catch her breath.
Wisp contemplated her next course of action, anticipating still several more hours to make time for hunting. She even began to return to her skulking and checking of hidden areas, hoping the next rabbit would be the unlucky one. Unfortunately, the blast of thunder had been an ill omen, and slowly the rainfall began to thicken. Even the forest canopy began to fail her, and Wisp found herself quickly soaked straight through. After another hour of no prey and becoming soaked past needing a bath for a whole year, Wisp gave in and accepted nature did not want her to have any food on this particular day.
Satisfied as well as she could be with her decision, Wisp gave up all manner of stealth and near sprinted in the direction of a cave she had spent the previous night in. Branches and leaves smacked at her as she passed, heavier and more painful than usually given their extra burden of raindrops. Nevertheless, all of them failed in dealing damage to her, and she made it into the cave a bit more quickly than she had expected.
As soon as Wisp arrived, she unceremoniously hoisted her leather pack off of her and sifted through the remnants of her fire pit. In this weather, there was little hope she’d find any dry kindling or wood for a fire. Her only hope literally lied in ashes, and as her hand sifted and sifter through the layers, it became rather clear her fire from the night before had been immensely thorough. A frown alighted Wisp’s face as she sat back, though she quickly slapped her face a tad to stop any negative thoughts. Perhaps she couldn’t get dry, which was unlucky, but she could pin her hopes on the fact the rain was the warm and semi-humid. She would certainly rather be wet and slightly warm than wet and freezing cold.
It was this hope that Wisp clung to as she stood back up and stripped off her wet clothes. Carefully, she laid them out on the stone floor of the cave, kicking aside any stray forest debris that had wondered into the cave via animal or weather. Returning to her pack, Wisp pulled out her blanket, which had remained mostly dry thanks to the pack’s craft and make. Wrapping herself in it, Wisp began to move about the cave. She stood in a spot farthest from the cave entrance first, soaking in the atmosphere for a few moments. Then, she moved to a spot close to the fire and repeated the process, covering nearly all the cave. Eventually, Wisp settled on a spot midway between the back and cave entrance and lied down, as this seemed to be the warmest she could hope to get in her current shelter.
Huddled in the fetal position, Wisp was left only to her thoughts. As usual, most focused on survival. Should she stay there huddled for warmth until morning? Should she attempt to weave something? Would the rain stop today or would it stop three days from now? Where would she get food if the rain didn’t stop? Rapidly each thought passed through Wisp’s mind, and each question laid on her like a pile of stones attempting to burden and keep her down. She could predict the weather no more than she could predict the course of her life. In some ways, the empty unknown of the future sent shivers down the spine of her soul. In others, it made her excited that each day could be different.
For now, though, the thought simply made her growling and empty stomach nauseous and ache even more for the meal she wouldn’t be having that day. Wanting to be rid of the feelings and the thoughts both, Wisp let the rain lull her eyes into a downward drift until they led her into an uncomfortable yet welcome nap.
In the scope of Earth’s history, human civilization had barely even been a footnote. “In the blink of an eye” was the terminology the elders had used to describe it to Wisp when she was much younger. The briefness of its presence bore more resemblance to the fantastical fables of unicorns her mother would tell her more than anything else. Tales of smooth rock roads, transparent sand, buildings that challenged the skies, and more fit right in, not having existed for a hundred generations. In fact, until Wisp had been 10 and accidentally uncovered a fallen pillar made of “metal” while foraging, she was entirely convinced they were simply a fable. Yet, this so-called civilization had once existed, replaced for her by green grass, imposing trees, and ravenous animals at every turn. All in all, Wisp’s favorite elder had truly put it best: nature had simply rejected humanity, past and present.
Unfortunately for Wisp, though, nature had nothing if not patience. Like wind beating against a rock year after year, nature eliminated each successive generation a little at a time. Large settlements became small settlements. Small settlements became wandering tribes. With each year, tribes died and moved, until no tribe knew if any other tribes even existed anymore. By the time Wisp came into the world, the elders of her elders hadn’t seen another tribe within their lifetime. Yet, even this was not enough to dissuade nature from its rampage. After one final push from nature against her tribe some years ago, Wisp had found herself in perhaps the most awkward position of all.
She was highly likely to be the last human alive.
Despite being a full-fledged woman, Wisp was much as her name implied: a wisp of a girl. Standing at 5’ and thin framed, even in lieu of her muscles, Wisp was perhaps the last one anyone would peg as the final survivor. Even as a child her tribe had little hope for her survival, whispering among themselves about how she’d be eaten or take ill any day. Yet, Wisp often considered that maybe it was her small stature that spared her from being noticed by nature in the first place.
Regardless of how it came about, Wisp was the last survivor. Thus, survival became the only task she could pursue. To what end, the Wisp wasn’t quite sure, whether two season cycles ago or now. Part of her simply was afraid to die, as if some unspoken consequence was waiting for her in the void if she failed humanity in this one task. Another part of her was banking her hope on finding another tribe somewhere, even if the odds of that were unlikely beyond measure. To her, neither felt complete in terms of a goal, though her musings often went back and forth between them. Nevertheless, the lack of direction was something she buried deep into her heart, rarely having the luxury to think on the matter anyway.
Instead, Wisp focused all her efforts on her survival routine. Each morning at the crack of dawn, the Wisp would vacate whatever makeshift shelter she had established and stalk the area for game to hunt. Once she succeeded on getting enough food for the day, the rest of the daylight hours would be split between crafts, cooking, travel, and establishing a new shelter for the night. After the sun dipped below the horizon and darkness returned, Wisp retired to her shelter, half-sleeping the night away until the sun came back around.
Day after day this monotonous routine went on, its habitual nature being something her tribe had also practiced. While in her youth Wisp hadn’t been bothered by it so much, on her own there was something maddening about it. During the second season she had found herself alone, she had even tried to deviate from the routine. One day she had spent the whole day hunting, while another she switched to hunting in the afternoon. She had even tried to weave some baskets while she was waiting for prey to appear once. Yet, all these attempts ended in the sort of failure that left Wisp going without food for that day. It only took one moon cycle for her to abandon the idea and accept the routine as a necessity for her survival. As much as she wanted to tear her dark hair out some days, she kept with it for that fact alone.
However, there was one thing that Wisp could take comfort in: the freedom of travel. Though her tribe moved often to follow prey, movement was a slow and arduous process. Spears, baskets, blankets, and the like all had to be bundled up for moving, which in itself could take as much half a day for the whole tribe to get ready. Physically speaking, not every tribe member was the fastest either. The elders, being elders, had shuffled along at whatever pace suited them, which was usually nowhere as fast as the rest of the tribe. Women with swollen, pregnant bellies also tottered along at a slower pace. Add in the injured and the sick, and moving the tribe even a small distance became a fiasco. Thus, for most of Wisp’s life, she had seen little beyond familiar forests and plains.
Alone, however, few of these issues applied. Most of Wisp’s equipment was easily replaceable, and besides a spear, blanket, and knife, little needed to go with her on her journeys that didn’t fit in a small woven pack that hung near her side. Her youth aided her speed, while her small stature made hiding in predator-safe spots for sleeping easy. It only took a few days for Wisp to realize she could travel ten times farther than her tribe in a single day, and this fact was made more apparent as she came upon several rare sights within that time frame alone.
In the end, whatever struggles she faced in her survival each day, Wisp took joy in the travel. Meadows with butterflies everywhere. Lakes with no clear shoreline. Trees so wide the Wisp could hug them without wrapping her arms entirely around them. Every new sight sparked something within her, though she didn’t have a single word to put to the feeling. Something in it though made her keep going everyday and reinvigorated her determination to stay alive.
If she was indeed the last human, she was intent on seeing what the world had to offer her, whether for ill or for good.
where to start reading?
Wisp of a Girl is a post-apocalyptic, episodic, slice-of-life novella about a girl name Wisp as she attempts to survive alone while potentially being the last human left alive.