Writing Prompt #5: Laurelwood

Prompt: Give your city (or town or region) a new name that reflects what type of place it is and explain why you chose that name.

 

My name is Professor McDavis out of UCLA. I was the most recognized professor in the fields of anthropology with an emphasis on ancient civilizations. That all means nothing to me now. My biggest achievement is that I got the opportunity to be one of the first humans to visit the new city of Laurelwood.

Now I’m assuming that you have been living under a rock (not literally although I have heard some nature spirits prefer living in caverns and caves.) and are unaware of the background of Laurelwood. 6 months ago the world was thrown into chaos as the magical world and the human world collided violently. Apparently these spirits have been around longer than humanity has been on the Earth but they have been pushed to the wayside by humans due to things like fire, technology, industrialization, and globalization. Humanity was able to bind back nature but it seems that it finally reached its tipping point. Nature fought back.

Scientists have been picking up on things for years. Melting ice caps, rising sea levels, holes in the ozone, drought and crop failure, and storms becoming more intense. These were the first signs that that humanity was reaching its limit. The second sign was the strange happenings across the west coast. First there were things like people disappearing on camping trips or during jogs in the park followed by strange sightings of what people called feral dogs. Then strange plants started growing all over California. Later it would be noted that these things were caused by the barrier between the magical world and the human world collapsing.

Arguably the war has always been going on between humans and nature, but in the 20th century the war really heated up when the Beale Air Force base was attacked. Initially the media speculated that it was a terrorist attack from a Middle Eastern Terror Cell or a pacifist turned violent due to some kind of law being passed, but cell phone and security footage showed beasts as large as Humvees that looked to be either some kind of bear or wolf mixed with a plant (Classified information I did not get informed of until later). A California Senator made a speech on the US Senate floor a day later. He spoke about how he had been briefed on the attack at the Air Force Base and that we were not alone in the universe. Spirits older than the human race were turning violent against humans and that there plan is to take over the Western United States before moving eastward. Most wrote it off as ravings of a mad man (myself included) but two days later the Senator had committed suicide in his home. When they did the autopsy, they found that his lungs, spinal cord, and brain stem were covered in spores which were similar to spores coming from the new plants in California. (More classified information that I did not get debriefed on until much later.)

More attacks across California by “rapid dogs” and people getting sick by fungal infections drove the CDC to call a state of Emergency for California. People were trying to get out and FEMA had to set up camps in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, and Texas in order to house all the people escaping the mushrooms. I decided to get out of Los Angeles and move in with my sister in Austin Texas. People in black suits and black sunglasses showed up about two months after the Senator’s speech and asked my assistance. With California almost abandoned, they had started to secure the California border. I have heard stories about how there had been rapid tree growth and cities have been completely covered in vegetation. They wanted to send in a team into what was Silicon Valley to see if they could make contact with the locals. They thought my expertise would help although I had no experience with these things.

They insisted and I went with them. Being patriotic and all. Plus they promised me and my family a large sum of money as well as an acceptance letter to my nephew for any college in the nation. Apparently the military minds of the US military were coming up with a counterstrike proposal to retake California but more diplomatic minds in Congress and the White House wanted to send in a team of people to negotiate the status of California. I had suspicion that not all of the people on board were there for a diplomatic mission. Many people in our Humvee caravan were military people with guns. Big guns. I was told they were for self-defense but I had a feeling they were scouting the area of possible drone targets. They loaded us up and our stuff in four different Humvees. Military guys up front. Second one held supplies like food, water, clothing, survival stuff, and ammunition. The third were full of scientists like me who had specialties in linguistics (maybe they could speak to the faeries), biology, and botany. My Humvee was the last in the line and held me (an anthropologist) and a botanist that specialized in fungus as well as a few military guys to watch our backs. The whole time the botanist was talking to one of the military guys about how he almost joined the marine core before going into botany and the military guy didn’t seem that impressed. I had a few books I was looking through. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for but I had plenty of books about mythology and how people and plants interacted with each other.

Our destination like I said before was Laurelwood. A city of trees, spirits, and things unimaginable to humans up to that point which stood where Silicon Valley used to stand. The “city” of technology and metal was now the center of magic and forestry. Maybe these creatures know the concept of irony. We left from Reno, Nevada. A city converted into an impromptu military base and cornerstone of humanity’s border between nature and civilization. We set out on what was US route 80. Most of the concrete had been cracked and grown over, but the acidity of the concrete, oil, and everything else from our cars had led to the vegetation grow far less than the areas around it. That led to a path being formed for us and we were able to follow it pretty well. The botanist was busy talking about his college days while I read and the military guys kept watch. One guy was on the massive gun on top of the Humvee looking in all directions. The trees were thick but our passage was safe for the most part. One issue we faced is that the thick vegetation and other unknown forces were blocking communications. Our GPSs stopped working correctly and radio communication between the Humvees were full of static.

It was slow going through the forest and we ended up camping for the night in a place called Dew Drop, California. This was initially baffling to Commander Lewis (the military mind behind our exhibition and leader of the voyage) who thought we would make it to Laurelwood in about 5 or 6 hours. Instead we made it halfway in 12 hours. One military guy whose name was Scott Lyte seemed to conclude that time might work differently within former California due to magic. The other military guys laughed at the idea of magic but I think that Scott thought on a different wavelength than everyone else. Almost like he had interaction with stuff like this before. Commander Lewis told us all to set up camp and get some rest. We would leave early in the morning. Then he and Scott went off by themselves on the edge of camp to talk something over. A lot of the other people on the voyage were full of energy and decided to set up a fire in the middle of the forest. They sat around it and drank, talked, and carried on. I have always been someone who gets tired from traveling and being in a car all day, so I set up my tent and laid down in my sleeping bag.

I laid there unable to fall asleep. Maybe it was being in this environment or maybe it was the fact that all of this was so crazy to me. I’ve lived in California almost all my life and now I’m back here and I’m surrounded by trees and mushrooms and who knows what else. I heard the commotion from outside and I turned over trying to drown out the noise. They were just too loud. I don’t even know why they are being so loud. You would think that we would want silence on our side if this was a military mission. Eventually laying there without being able to fall asleep got boring so I decided to get up.

I opened up my tent and to my surprise the camp was empty. All our stuff was there but no one was around. The fire still roaring and tents all set up around the campsite but no people. I looked around but the entire thing was empty.

“Hello?” I called out with no response.

“HELLO!” I called out louder looking around the camp.

Only a few seconds ago there was noise and commotion and now everyone is gone. That doesn’t make any sense. I pulled out my phone. Even if I couldn’t’ use it to call or text anyone, the flashlight app still works. I flipped on the light and the air seemed shiny to me. It was like a fog had taken over the camp and it blurred my vision. Then I heard yelling.

I turned around and heard muffled yells but I didn’t see anyone standing there. I turned back and the air became thicker. I started to cough harder as it became tougher to breathe. Pain resonated from my chest and then I felt a sharp pain in my face like someone slapped me real hard.

I shook my head and the fog began to clear. I became aware of the situation around me. People were screaming and I heard gunfire in all directions. Scott Lyte was shaking me and he slapped me across the face.

“WAKE UP!!”

I shook my head and I started coughing again. He took a breathing apparatus off his face and forced in unto mine. My head became clearer.

He took it back and took a deep breath. “Don’t breathe the air. It’s full of poisonous spores.”

I nodded as he gave me back the oxygen and I took a deep breath.

“I need my own,” I said and he gave a nod.

He slipped the oxygen tank off his back and he helped me get it on. It was a lot heavier than I expected but it was nice to be able to breathe normally again.

He pointed behind me with his hand and gave me a command. “Run!”

I stared at him for a second no comprehending what he said. Then he shoved me towards the center of the camp. All I could think of was to follow his command and run. I started to run as fast as I could through the camp even though it wasn’t very fast. It can be quite tough for a bookworm to run fast when he’s carrying a tank full of oxygen. It was also very hard for me to keep my eyes open. I had always lived a pretty vanilla life and I had never had my life in danger. Now camp was complete chaos and I was completely out of my element. Gunfire continued from all directions and I heard screams and yells coming from the woods around me. As I ran through the camp I saw several people laying there with their eyes glossed over and not breathing. Apparently the spores got to them.

I continued to run and I got to the edge of the camp on the opposite end of where my tent was located. I turned around and Scott was nowhere to be found. I glanced around taking in some deep breathes and I didn’t see anything to convince me that he was still alive.

“SCOTT!” I yelled through my mask.

All I got in return was a roar that definitely didn’t belong to any human or animal I knew. It was as loud as a fighter jet flying over and I threw my hands over my ears. Suddenly from above dropped a large beast as large as the Humvees that took us this far. It looked like it was part bear, part tiger, part wolf, and possibly part tree. It was covered in matted fur as well as mushrooms, moss, twigs, and vines. It gave another roar and I feel backwards landing on my back. When I sat up, I checked my breathing mask to make sure it was on tight. Apparently I wasn’t imagining anything.

It locked eyes with me and started to approach like a cat might stalk a mouse. It made a low-pitched growl as it squared up its body and prepared to pounce at me.

“FIND COVER!”

It was Scott who had positioned himself on top of a Humvee. He had a breathing mask on with a tank on his back. In one hand he held some kind of gun and in his other he had a bundle of something. Was that dynamite?

The creature looked from me to Scott and I took this opportunity to run further into the woods. I hid behind the large base of one of the trees and I heard an explosion. Suddenly everything was a lot brighter and this wave of heat overcame me. The whole forest lit up and I was temporarily blinded. When the light faded I turned back to see that the entire camp was a blaze that was consuming several nearby trees. Smoke was heavy and I pressed the oxygen to my face making sure I wasn’t breathing in smoke or spores. I heard the creature roar again but this time it was weaker and I took a guess that the fire wounded the creature.

I stood up to see if I could see Scott in all the fire, but it was hard to see anything amongst the smoke and the blaze. I began to call out to Scott when something heavy hit me over the back of the head and I blacked out.

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