Darkwind Game Fiction
By Matthew A DeBarth

I remember life before the Solar Apocalypse.

I was born in the year 2006, and my childhood was filled with the soft light of a gentle sun. I remember lying on my back in a field of grass, soaking up the afternoon warmth of summer, if you can believe that.

By the time that I was a teenager, we all knew that there was something wrong with the sun. It was brighter and hotter; an angry reddish colour. The winters were warm and wet, the summers hot beyond belief. At first, we blamed global warming, but we were fools to think that we had anything to do with it. We were blameless...and powerless.

And the sun just glared down at us from high above, while we all scurried around and hid from its terrible intensity.

When I was nineteen, the sun finally grew tired of toying with us and really started to show us his fearsome power. It was the dead of winter in the northern hemisphere, which meant it was the height of summer in the southern, which meant that they took the full force of the initial onslaught head on.

Almost immediately, the entire communications network broke down. Computers failed, electronics fried, satellites fell out off the sky - but not fast enough. We watched in horror as people died horribly from radiation poisoning all across Australia, Africa and South America, every moment of it dutifully recorded and sent north for us to see in real time. We watched the trees turn brown and the grass turn black. We watched people vomiting and bleeding endlessly from the mouth, and we learned to spot the vacant far-away look of people whose minds had been destroyed by the relentless pounding radiation of the sun. We watched, intimately connected to their suffering, and yet strangely removed by both distance and season.

And then, finally, a blessed silence.

We spent the rest of the winter preparing ourselves for the what we knew was coming. We prayed and partied, we repented and rioted, we connected and clashed. We dug in and gave up.

In the south, it had been so sudden and unexpected that people hardly had time for the worst in them to come out for all to see. We, on the other hand, had months full of hopeless days to use in all the worst possible ways. It was a bad time to be alive. So bad, in fact, that many people simply chose suicide rather than wait to face the end.

And then the sun came for us too.

We didn't die quickly. We cowered underground while the sun burned everything above us away. Plants, animals, anyone still out in the open - all dead. It was a dark, musty, crowded and miserable summer...but a reasonably safe one.

We waited, and the sun retreated south again for the winter. We emerged from the bunkers and bomb shelters and caves to find a very different world. Hardly anything was left alive on the surface, and the things that had survived looked like they would have been better off dead. It was a ruined, blighted world.

Those few of us that still had hope lost it right there, and most of them didn't last the winter. A small group of the hopeless held out until spring, but the hint of dry heat on the wind was just too much for them.

The sun had expended most of its wrath by this point, but it still burned brighter and hotter than before. There was enough radiation to slowly wear the survivors down, to make them age faster and die younger of terrible cancers. But we lived on.

In a way, it would have been more merciful to have been killed outright. The world was a barren wasteland of endless sand, rock and empty cities. The air was always hot but rarely brought rain. The solar wind had burned so fiercely that it had carried off a noticeable percentage of Earth's atmosphere, making it difficult to breathe even at sea level. Nothing more advanced than the internal combustion engine or gunpowder worked with any degree of success, and only a few scanty crops would still grow.

The survivors that had gone to ground in that area gathered and found a place where the water wasn't too polluted and the rain still occasionally fell, and set up a little farming village there. We called it Elmsfield, after the sickly cluster of elms that still clung to life there. Against all odds, we managed to harvest enough grain that fall to supplement the last of our stockpiled food, and we survived what little winter there still was in the world.

The other scattered bands of survivors nearby noticed that we were a little bit better off than they were, and started to show up in town and beg for food. We took in the healthiest and strongest to help with the farming effort, and a small group of us - myself included - lead the rest of them off a short distance to the east to start another town that we named Somerset.

Both towns survived that winter, and the next few as well. Those were years of hard work and an uncertain future, and a few of us began to hope again. We slowly spread out, found other groups of survivors and started feeling a little bit civilized once more.

But then the crops started to grow weaker, and it took more of them to feed the ever increasing number of hungry mouths that came wandering in out of the wasteland. Soon there was only just barely enough to go around, and less with every passing day. It didn't take long for people to abandon any ideas that they still harboured about rebuilding civilization, or for the naked desire to survive at any cost to show up in people's eyes.

I'm not sure if any one person came up with the idea, or if it was purely thousands of years of animal instinct whispering into hungry ears, but it was decided that those that didn't have enough money to buy food would have to fight each other for it. We lived in a land where life was cheap and plentiful stockpiles of cars and guns sat waiting in the decade-old ruins of nearby towns.

The deathsports were born.

The violent, the greedy, and the desperate found cars that still ran and guns that still fired and met in the dry river bed outside of Somerset and raced from one end to the other, blasting away the whole distance.

And we stood along the edge of the old riverbanks and watched them. And, as much as I was ashamed of it at the time, we cheered. We called out for blood and applauded enthusiastically when it was delivered.

And when enough of the racers were dead, we crowned the survivors as champions and made sure that they ate well that winter. That was the summer of 2035 - exactly one decade after the terrifying summer when we had all hid underground together. It only took a decade for our little civilization to descend to outright barbarism.

The following year the crop was good...but by that point the deathsports had taken on a life of their own. More people wanted to race, and more people wanted to watch. So we did it all again, bigger and bloodier than the first time, and at the end so many racers were dead that we all ate like kings, all winter long. And everyone understood, even if no one would come right out and say it - the faster we killed ourselves off, the longer the lucky few would live, and the richer they would all be. And everyone thought that they would be one of the lucky ones, right up until their last desperate gasping breath.

Suddenly, we had an entire economy based on death, polished up with a thin coat of sport. We used up every working car within ten miles in our third season, and some clever people went out salvaging for more in the empty cities - and did quite well for themselves by it. After five years, we had a vast trade network, and the tools of death travelled farther than the grain of life ever had. We started the old oil wells back up and clear the radioactive dust out of old factories and started making new cars and guns and tires. We even built new and terrible weapons that were specifically hardened against the background radiation - progress, after a fashion.

By the tenth season, we were so pleased with our vast empire of vehicular murder that we started to spread out. New tracks were built, new towns started hosting leagues, and we killed more young deathracers than ever before.

And we all cheered louder than ever for our blood-stained champions.

I eventually grew too old to farm, and at the beginning of the summer that I turned forty, I took up a new line of work. When I was young, I'd been interested in history, and that interest had lived on in me even as the end of history came and went. I had a reasonably clever wit and some slight skill with words in the days before the sun struck us down, but there had been others that were better at both than I. But I did have one major advantage over the historians and writers of the past - I was still alive, and they had all given up and died long ago.

And so I ended up in my current line of work, and business is good. I am the wiseman of the wastelands, the devotee of the dead champions, the high priest of the high-speed wreck. If you live long enough and die gloriously enough, I might even tell your story long after you're gone.

I am Markus Korivak, and I am the Voice of Deathracing.

[See Also: In The Beginning - Scientific Fiction]