Sometimes we don't see the repeating cycles of life.
It was the kiss of gentle rain that awakened Niall, that laid a caress of small drops across his brow and cheeks. The softness melded with the touch of her hand in his dream, and he awoke slowly, in stages, leaving the sleep vision behind, looking once over his shoulder at the misty golden world as he departed, wistful, wishful.
Niall looked at the bleak landscape which surrounded him, sighed and rose to continue his journey. The Old Ones had admonished him to keep the rising sun to his left, the setting sun to his right, and he so positioned himself. He took a sighting of a barren hill in the distance, aimed for it and resumed his trek.
The sun glowed low in the sky when he reached the top of the hill and regarded the eerie color of the valley before him. Niall squinted his eyes and blinked. The greenishness remained. He rubbed his eyes. The green was still there. Strange.
He descended the hill to see what cast the green veil over the valley and detoured around the still-standing dead trunk of a tree. He’d seen pictures of trees in some of the tattered books in the library. He wondered what it would be like to see a live one.
As he leaped over a small fissure, his foot dislodged a stone, which clattered down the hillside.
The girl who knelt at the bottom of the incline beside a rivulet of water looked up, startled, her eyes full of amazement. She remained unmoving, staring at him. And Niall froze at the sight of her. He hadn’t known any other humans remained alive. He'd believed he was the last.
The Old Ones had not prepared Niall for this. They taught him what went Before, showed him how the catastrophe occurred. But they held no hope for a future for him and only gave advice that would help him to survive as long as possible after the Old Ones themselves had died.
“The problem,” the Old Ones said, “is that each generation of mankind is like a thread woven into fabric, part of an intricate pattern, but only able to see its own place, unable to see how it contributes to the whole, unable to truly see what went before and what will come after.
“The Ones Before could not see that all of time and life is a circle, that there are cycles that repeat themselves. And when they saw signs they had never seen before, they tried to avert the rising temperatures, thought that somehow life would be ended if they did nothing.
“So the Ones Before disrupted the cycles. And thereby ended the life they knew and sought to protect.”
Now, he could see that even the Old Ones were unable to see beyond their own time and place, unable to see that other human life also survived.
And as Niall looked at the girl who knelt on the green carpet of new growth, feelings he’d never experienced before flooded through him and pulled the corners of his mouth into a crooked smile.