Index

Upstate

Prologue - The Gray Death

The Gray Death took light from our cheeks and hope from our eyes. The disease crawled from organ to organ, prolonging the suffering until the body could take no more. The poor died in droves while the rich staved off the worst, but soon it was clear that none of us stood a chance against nature’s slow boil.

“Planned extermination of the poor.”

Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. We didn’t know, and we didn’t trust. The words took hold from Seattle to Singapore, and the world shattered like glass.

The further away you were from cities and families, the more it looked like you were in it for yourself. The governments and corporations of the world pledged to purge the plague, but as far as we were concerned, either they were in on it, or they were useless. Either way, they kept asking for money. Eventually, people stopped giving.

By the time the plague was cured the damage was done: the only country bigger than Cuba to make it out alive was China, and anyone who went through the Harmony Project had the same nightmare to tell: Internet blackouts, citywide quarantines, family members shipped off to incineration at the first sign of symptoms. At the price tag of a billion bodies, China held it together. Beyond the Middle Kingdom’s strict laws and stable borders, the world belonged to whoever had the money, the guns, and the will to take it. Mercenary warlords pillaged and plundered across the globe, but none were as feared as the Auroran Dragons: everyone on Earth knew them by just two words:

Obliteration. The Dragons swarmed from the sky they shrouded with smoke and fire and piercing shrieks, their trademark of terror. The smart and brave stood and fought for a quick death. The survivors - and they were always discovered - were bound and lined up for Evisceration.

Each survivor had their head shoved in a bag of stones and told to take one in their mouth. When they were done, they spat them on the ground. The lucky bastard with the white stone had their hands untied and given a knife with the following orders: “Slit each of your comrades’ throats or we set you on fire.” When only the one survivor remained, the knife was taken and used to slash out their eyes. A Dragon stuck them with a tranquilizer dart, and the words before it all went black: “Tell the world what happened here.”

Scared?

Imagine how I felt when the Dragons woke me at my home to offer me a job.

I don’t expect you to forgive me for what I’ve done. You can call me a monster or a murderer - I’ve heard it all before. All I ask is that you hear me out to the end.

The capacity for evil lives in us all.

Next: Chapter 1 - Wake Up

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