La Tombola

by Doc Sawzall


As it was for every year, with school letting out for the summer, crops, animal stock bountiful in the fields, along with the Solstice, signaled the beginning of the Days of Obligation. A solemn remembrance harkening back nearly a millennium, to the first settlements, as their ancestors left an overcrowded, polluted beyond repair and slowly dying Terra, known as Earth in the old language. Climatological abuse, the deliberate raping of the planet for resources, and the wars to keep control of their ill-gotten gains, was the final death knell.

A concentrated, concerted effort as the planet was choking to death, by one of the last, advanced nations paid off as their interstellar telescopes, showed the path forward if humanity were to survive. Veiled in total secrecy, a nascent program was born. Its mission was to initially launch a series of three interstellar ships, their destination was Orion-24ZFX.

Exploratory satellites at the utmost limit of their range, sent back proof that the planet was habitable. Approximately the same distance from their sun as Earth, Orion-24ZFX shared one other characteristic with Earth. The planet was a water world, where the land mass was roughly 25% of the planet's surface. There were three continents, making up most of the landmass and two smaller ice-covered poles. Interspersed among the three continents were several smaller islands, all of which were deemed too small to support any communities. While much of what they knew was conjecture, everything they could glean from the limited data could not be overlooked.

Heated debates centered around who to include, what technology to bring, lasted several years with decisions no clearer as the date for launch drew near. Word eventually leaked out to the other nations of Earth what was going on. Some of the larger, more powerful, demanded a seat at the table, as there wasn't any more time for these nations to create and develop their own programs, the planet was convulsing in its death throes.

It was decided that what would be brought were the tools necessary for agriculture, housing, and healthcare along with the 'selected' sixty-four families. All told some two-hundred-and fifty souls. The second, future wave of interstellar ships would bring everything else necessary for a larger colonizing the planet now known as 'The New World". The first initial settlement would be known as Plymouth Plantation.

What wasn't brought were political parties, religious, sexual, or racial intolerance. A governing compact known as the New World Compact was created to establish self-government, consisting of justice and equality for all, enshrined in the legal framework of the document. Every one of the settlers' families and those at or above the age of majority, signed the compact.

Time had run out, war was impending…the promised total-destruction by those nations left out was coming. Sensors aboard orbital satellites showed nuclear warheads in the launch position, targeting major population centers and the launch site.

Early on the morning on March 10 th , 2154 the first rocket ship blasted off from the Mojave Desert to meet with a pre-positioned cargo ship Discovery, hidden just off the dark side of the moon. The Mayflower carried the sixty-four families and the goods necessary for their first year's survival, to be followed by the cargo ship, Discovery from the dark side of the moon.

In a paroxysm of anger, missiles were launched towards the launch site shortly after the initial launch, necessitating and moving up the Speedwell's launch. While the defense of the launch site bought some time, it would be a close call. By the narrowest of margins, the Speedwell barely cleared the atmosphere as the launch site disappeared with the coordinates of their destination, under a cloud of radioactive dust, along with a large portion of the rest of the planet.

They say that time heals all wounds, and for the most part this is true. As the Mayflower, Speedwell, and Discovery neared the planet formerly known as Orion-24ZFX, their new world and home, old earth was just emerging from a nuclear winter that had lasted five-hundred-years, never to be the same.

When the interstellar ships were approximately a year out, everyone was brought out of stasis and work began to get ready for transfer to the planet's surface. Everything concerning the landing and transfer down to the planet of people and cargo was pre-programmed. Safety checks needed to be conducted, cargo secured and inventoried.

In all the planning no one fully understood or accounted for, the effects of a five-hundred-year journey across the vastness of space, would have on the three interstellar ships. Or what would be found down on the planet known as Orion-24ZFX…what their sensor and scans did not pick up…the Gnos.

Chapter 1

The morning of this late June day was reserved for what had become known as 'La Tombola'. From the days of the first landing, certain traditions remained inviolable. The length of days and the number of those along with the seasons, mirrored that of the ancients' home world. Important dates were kept as the settlers grew accustomed to their new surroundings. Numbering was based on the decimal system as well as the naming conventions.

The citizens of New Boston, a prosperous village of four hundred souls would all gather on this day, each year to take part in the ritual. It would start on or about the tenth hour of the day and conclude in time for the mid-day repast.

The younger boys were the first to assemble, eager in their new-found summer freedom to vie for the choicest spots in the town square, while they waited for the adults to slowly make their way.

They filled those empty minutes with a sense of nervous anticipation as they at first gathered in small groups of one or two. Soon however, their restless energy found them engaging into animated activity amongst themselves. Talking about the school year past, of lessons, teachers along with those who were caught misbehaving and punishments. All were glad to see they had moved on the next level in their education. Off to the side, no less interested were the young girls talking quietly amongst themselves, as they looked over the young boys and the smaller children playing at their feet.

Now off to the side of the town square the men, husbands and fathers and eligible bachelors began to gather, unwittingly seeking comfort in the company of their peers. They spent time talking of the weather and the crops in the ground. The prospect of beneficial rains through the growing season. The latest improvements in agriculture and care for the animals they rode or plowed their fields with. Not surprisingly they grumbled about their taxes and the need to economize. Wistfully recalling the tales of old, of the first settlers and the wondrous machines they had.

Machines that could so the work in hours that took them days until their time ended abruptly. Parts wore out or things broke and in the fullness of the early years, replacement parts were no longer available, or could be made, the planet simply lacked the resources needed.

The women, wives and eligible daughters, wearing the toil and struggle of their days, arrived shortly after in their faded slipovers and washed-out best dresses. Exchanging news of loved ones in different communities, gossip, the latest pregnancies, and births along with recipes.

As the town square filled up, the assembled began to gather in their family groups. Mothers called out to their children, who actively were still roaming the square playing game known only to themselves, as they waited for things to begin. As the children came back to their parents, they were reminded, admonished to settle down.

La Tombola was a yearly event of gratitude, unlike the other holidays, dances, weddings, and various civic undertakings. It was conducted with the utmost solemnity; as it deserved no less. It harkened back to the first years after the landing, the desperate struggle to survive, one they almost did not. So many things went wrong, belying just how unprepared the original settlers were.

The mood of those assembled quieted as Josiah Trimble made his way up on to the stage that has been built in the days previously. Standing next to the large revolving drum, he greeted the crowd and asked that the assembled families take a moment in reflection as to what this day meant before adding, that soon it would be time for the slips of paper to be placed in the revolving drum.

Josiah Trimble had the time and wherewithal to devote to the town's civic activities. A widower with no surviving offspring, he ran the mercantile store located just off to the side to what passed as the health center. There wasn't a business or farming operation that did not use his services. All goods, from the sawyer to the smallest farmer or tailor, that did business with him and through him. His store was the conduit that all goods needed or produced crossed paths. Items ordered from other towns such as theirs, or offered for sale in those towns, went in and out of his warehouse.

The drum was showing its age, it was older than anyone in the town. Grandparents fondly remembered their grandparent's tales of the day and that drum. Occasionally, the menfolk would discuss replacing the drum, but doing so would upset custom, and no one wanted to be responsible for that. Legend had it that the various pieces of wood that made up the drum, could date back to the original one and many subsequent ones.

Horace Smith, the town administrator, and keeper of the records followed shortly after Josiah Trimble. In his hands was a locked black box, every bit as old as the drum. Its condition was care worn. In the box was the name of every male villager, between the ages of twelve to fourteen, on a slip of paper. When a boy reached the age of twelve and then fifteen, the name was recorded, written on a slip of paper, and placed or removed the box.

When not in use, the box sat in a safe located in the office of Horace Smith. Each year, the day before La Tombola, Doc Graves and Horace Smith would peruse the town records, confirming the list of all the eligible young men whose names would then be placed on a slip of paper inside the age worn box. Both men saw to the securing of the box, placing it in the safe. When it was time to come out, both would be present at its removal prior to being brought to the town square.

The box was placed on a stool where everyone could see it and note that it was securely locked. As Horace Smith stepped to the back of the stage, Doc Graves took his place and presented the key to the box to Josiah Trimble.

With the arrival of the box, there was a great deal of fretting as the time to declare La Tombola to commence. As with any civic occurrences requiring the town's assent, there were formalities that needed to take place. Josiah Trimble needed to take the solemn oath, administered by Horace Smith, who by dint of his duties to the town, served as the de facto official of the day.

There was a time the older denizens of the town remembered, that the day was much more involved. There would be recitals, songs sung in honor of the day, the speech made before the drawing of the name or names. Many of these traditions had lapsed over the intervening years but one such ritual held fast. Josiah Trimble, as in years past, having assumed his duties to the town, would call up each of the eligible young men and greet each one with words of encouragement and thanks.

Thom Jamison, the oldest man in the village, turned to Peter Boone, who in conversation about the day, told him that had heard that the town to the north of them, were discussing giving up the day of remembrance.

"Fools, nothing but silly fools," Thom exclaimed. "Those folks would rather go back to the way folks lived, eating nuts and weeds, and living in the hollows. It's like nobody wants to work anymore or honor the traditions that have kept us alive. Why would they want to go back to that way of life? There is an old saying, much older than me or my grandparents, La Tombola in June, crops will be copious in fall. There's always been a La Tombola," he added in a sarcastic voice. "It's bad enough to see Josiah Trimble laughing up there with everyone."

"We've all heard tell that several towns have given up La Tombola, Mrs. Harrison noted. "Likewise, they ain't doing so good, lack of rain is making things very difficult for them. They ain't got much to trade or much that's worth anything."

"I was conversing with Horace Smith the other day," Old Thom continued, "He's getting requests for all the produce we can spare, seems like some of our non-believing neighbors ain't having much luck this year," Letting a derisive snort out, "Yields are down and their stock is faring poorly."

"Is it any wonder?" Mrs. Dunbar heatedly butted in, "They've turned their backs on all we've done to survive, the sacrifices made for our community of settlers, in order to survive, and the giving of thanks in remembrances of those efforts is too much for them to bear?"

"Surely you don't hold stock in those old tales of the beginning, do you?" Larry Begins asked. "Isn't that what they are, just stories that have changed over time, perpetuating a silly old ritual that hasn't anything to do with the crops, stock, or the seasons."

Old Thom was incensed, "Surely Larry, you as much as anyone have benefitted from this…quaint tradition, as you have called it. You've been lucky, more fortunate than most some would call it, from this day of tradition." Reminding him of several years past, Old Thom went further, "Your family has been called on this day, more than once over the years and has been rewarded many times over."

"Larry Begins," Mrs. Harrison acidly commented looking down her nose at him, "It may be best if you and yours, took some time in the library's records of the seasons, going as far back as the embarking of our ancestors to this new world. You may be surprised to find that in those records, there were times in the past, when those in this little town thought they knew better. Driving her point forward, "You'd be astonished at the correlations found between hunger and disease nearly wiping us out, to the prosperity enjoyed when we've followed the tradition, you above anyone else here must understand that!"

"This is what bothers me most about some of the foolishness we've allowed folks to get away with." Old Thom sternly reminded those gathered around him, "We have allowed such talk despite what the records show and prove, we are doing a poor job of reminding all of us the importance of this day. It brings shame and discredit to our community."

Looking directly at Larry Begins, Old Thom continued, "I don't know about you, but I think I speak for most of us, I won't stand for any further deviations from the sacred tradition of this day, that so many of our families have been called on, that to do otherwise would bring a disgrace and dishonor, that would be forevermore an un-washable stain on our community."

What went on unnoticed by those in that conversation were the number of folks that had gathered around them, what wasn't a surprise was the nods of assent or the quiet admonitions of support for Old Thom.

Horace Smith noticing the restlessness of the crowd thought it was time to commence, calling out, he announced the swearing in was to begin and the start of the day's ceremony. Josiah Trimble stood proudly and pledged a fair and equitable process. The names had been certified; it was time for the calling of the names.

"If I could have your attention folks, lets quiet down," He said soberly, "The sooner we get started the quicker we can get back to our homes and business. Is there anyone missing?"

"Corey Larking," Called out his mother. "Had his appendix out the other day, he's resting in the Health Center."

"Who will stand for him for the drawing?" Josiah asked.

"His brother Tim, he's a bit young but knows to behave, he'll also run over and let him know if he's been picked," His mother added.

"Well then," Josiah said. "Guess that's everyone spoken for."

The anticipation was palatable as the gathered crowd silently stood, awaiting the results.

"I'd like to call up this year's boys up to the front of the stage so we can begin." Josiah stated.

Once all the boys were present, the locked box was opened, each boy was given the corresponding slip with his name on it, confirming in fact that it was him. Once done, each boy in turn placed his slip in the revolving drum, returning to the front of the stage.

Slowly the drum was spun several times to ensure there wasn't any subterfuge, and then brought to a stop. Opening the door on the side of the drum, turning his head away from it he reached in, and drew a name.

Bringing out the folded slip, he held it up for the crowd to see before opening. Pausing for a second, he opened the slip of paper and called out…" Peter Miller."

Standing in front of the stage Peter was stunned to hear his name called. He knew it was an honor but was conflicted to what it all meant. He'd be leaving home, never to return, to face an unknown future. That three others would be called to accompany him, to the point of no return on the Walk of Survival was comforting. His mind was a blur, a mix of emotions cascading throughout him.

Before he knew it, he was saying good bye to his parents, brothers, and sister. All were teary eyed.

"We all know what this day means," Josiah Trimble started, "When our ancestors landed here, we nearly did not survive. We faced odds that were never accounted for, hardships that threatened the very fabric of our survival." Looking out and studying the faces before him, "We were alone, left on this world with very little. What had been planned for never materialized." "More to the point," He continued, "Had it not been for the help given, none of us would be here."

"I want you boys to know the honor that has been bestowed on you. The very survival of our community rests now upon your shoulders. Like those who went before you, they did only what needed to be done. You have been taught our history; you know how tenuous life here is. There's a price to pay for what we take from this planet, it demands our respect and obligation and for that, we thank you.

A little bit later today, I will be speaking to each of you individually with your instructions for tomorrow when you begin the walk. For now, all of you need to meet with Doc Graves for your physicals. After that we will meet in the Founders Hall for the evening meal and then your instructions.

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, the 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 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 settlers 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 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 any one 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 another 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 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, far from being reticent, Ned Boone was 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 as his three friends each made love to him.

"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.

There is a back story and a continuation of this story at Ned Boone, which does not form part of the challenge. It is intended to be read after this challenge tale


This story is part of the 2021 story challenge "Inspired by a Picture: A Walk in the Country". The other stories may be found at the challenge home page. Please read them, too. The voting period of 30 July to 20 AUgust 2021 is when the voting is open. This story may be rated, below, against a set of criteria, and may be rated against other stories on the challenge home page.

The challenge was to write a story inspired by this picture:

2021 Inspired by a Picture Challenge - A walk in the Country

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La Tombola

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It grabbed my attention early on
I had to know what happened
I identified with at least one of the cast
Gritty - it had an edge to it
Realistic - it could have happened that way
I found it hard to follow
Good characterisation
I feel better for having read it
It was romantic
It was erotic
Too much explicit sex
It had the right amount of sex, if there was any
Not enough explicit sex
I have read and enjoyed other work by this author
I will seek this author's work out

Current Results

Readers may wish to note that this tale was also inspired by "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

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