Strays Species in Dread Romantic | World Anvil


Cory and Whiskey rest side by side in the brush near the treeline of the direwood. Whiskey is alert, resting her weight on one knee with her eyes closed as she listens for any sign of change.   Cory sits with his legs crossed, lightly picking at the grass and leaves.   It's dead quiet. It always is in the direwood, as if the wind itself is afraid of stirring what slumbers there.   Cory rests his chin on his closed fist, propping his head up. He lets out a long, melodramatic sigh that sounds even louder in the unnatural silence.     "Can I help you?" Whiskey asks, her eyes still closed.   "I thought we were hunting," he replies.   "We are."   "Oh, I didn't realize." He nods and the boredom closes in once more. He then whispers to himself, "Hot damn."
"Excuse me?"   "It's just. When I chose to go with you instead of the courthouse, I just knew I was making the right choice."   "Did you?"   "Yup." He replies, then raises his voice as if in celebration, "Bonding time."   "Jesus."   "I've honestly been wondering about your name. Why Sits-with-whiskey? You don't drink."   "Nickname from the army. Can't remember the night I earned it, though. It was what everyone in the barracks called me."   He opens his mouth to speak then stops. As bored as he was, he wasn't about to venture that far. His words pour out faster as he speaks, "You don't have a weapon."   "And you know why."   "You're a hunter? We've been setting traps all morning."    
"And?" Whiskey's voice had a certain edge to it, and it made Cory think twice about finishing this train of thought.   The urge is too much for him. He leans close and whispers, "doesn't that make you a trapper?"   Whiskey growls, "Son of a bitch."   "My mother was indeed a bit of a bitch, it's true." He laughs. "This one time olive and I-"   A snap cuts him off. It echoes across the treeline, the sound of possible success.   Whiskey stands and rushes to the east. Cory saunters behind, only picking up speed when she starts to disappear from view.   When they come upon the triggered trap, they see two large chickens wrapped in a net hanging several feet in the air. Both died, their necks snapped due to the force of the trap.   Whiskey looks at Cory and nods. "This one was yours. Well done."   "Fuck yeah!" Cory raises both hands in the air. "Dinner!"

34.8 Billion

34.8…billion. That's how many chickens were alive when the world ended. Then you have the two billion cows, half a billion pigs, one point two billion sheep, and just over a billion goats. That's just the livestock. Add one billion dogs and an equal number of cats, fifty million horses, 6 million alpacas, with just over 7 million llamas and you have quite the menagerie of domestication.   Strays present a uniquely human problem. That is to say humanity caused the problem. When the world ended, the number of domesticated animals was massive. Most of these animals would perish, primarily livestock. Most couldn't even leave the facilities they called home. The ones that could live on, as do all those released into the wild by those who meant well but had absolutely no idea how bad of an idea it would be.   The term "stray" is used when describing any of the hundreds of species, including both plants and animals, that humans domesticated. These animals are often considered pests by most. Cows roam the world in herds over a thousand strong, crippling the growing flora everywhere they go. Massive mobs of malicious chickens haunt the very dreams of farmers everywhere, known for digging up and consuming the seeds they sow.

The Problem

Strays were always a problem for some. Humans kept tabs on stray cats and dogs, for example. It was when the food industry collapsed that it truly reached new heights. So many of these animals are capable of devastation. They continue roaming unchecked, humanity having decimated the population of most apex predators in the name of community safety,   It gets worse. With the presence of the direwood, these animals are smarter; better than before. They know to avoid cities, so even the rainbows can't be trusted with the task of maintaining the balance. They're known for being mischievous, but many appreciate their existence. Everyone needs to eat. Most of these animals can be caught and butchered, feeding communities who happen to know the process.   Then you have the Strays that wander deeper into the woods. Dire strays are dangerous. They're bigger, smarter, and more aggressive. Some are mutated abominations that can't be eaten or domesticated. They simply have to be put down to ensure they don't spread their mutations.

Problem | Opportunity

While they're a nuisance, they rarely pose a problem for those that know how to handle them. Standard strays can be easily thwarted by a decent fence, and few would say no to a good grass fed steak.   The only real problem is actually hunting them. It's unsafe to use weapons. As such, those who live in the world resort to clever and complicated traps to do the deed for them.   A single trapper can feed an entire community with a good day's work. Some try to rehabilitate them, such as the stray shepherds. They guide the herds, care for them, and in return, they are always a day's work away from a bounteous feast.
The stars dance, soaring through the multicolored evening sky like grains of insects sifting through neon rain. The residents of Boring gathered outside of Dread Romantic, each given the promise of a hot meal.   Blankets lie spread out on the ground, with families sat upon them. A barrel of lemons sits nearby, its contents cut into halves and squeezed into a large vat of water and sugar. There was a strange summer-in-autumn air that lingered even after the sun faded from view.   Corey stands before a massive cast iron pot, tall enough to meet him at the hip. A fire burned beneath it as he stirred its contents with what appeared to be a small boat oar. The nameless residents toss in their contributions. He sees diced onions, bell and cayenne pepper followed by white rice. Corey added his own, tossing in celery and garlic with Mavis standing to the side adding seasoning by the handful.   He marveled as It all danced around the generous chunks of chicken and pork, the broth slowly evaporating. He covers the pot as the dish bubbles.   He helped fill the bowls as they came, one by one in a single file line. He takes note of their faces, sees their worries and troubles as they pass by. He always gives a smile and when it came time for him to enjoy a meal of his own, he filled a wooden bowl and joined the others around the fire.   Their faces changed. How quickly a full stomach makes all feel right in the world. Even Toby looked in higher spirits than before.
He sat on his faded lawn chair, letting out a dramatic groan despite feeling no discomfort whatsoever. The sound made Toby giggle. He turns to her and smiles.   "You okay?" She asks.   "Of course," Corey began, "I'm old enough to moan and groan whenever I please."   "Not just that," Mavis adds. "All men know that at thirty years of age, you're actually supposed to groan when sitting and standing up. Helps keep you feeling young."   Corey joins in on the laughter, finishing his meal as he comes to a strange realization. He only now remembers. He missed his thirtieth birthday. His thirty first and second as well. That’s not old, is it? Why did it feel like he was running out of time?   Toby speaks once more, "Can you play it again?"   "Don't get him started," Olive warns.   He tilts his head, then realizes she meant his guitar. Faith called to him, even now. She sits near the pot, practically screaming. It was as if he could hear the strings. He stood from the chair, making sure to groan as he did. "I reckon I can." When he returns, he plays.  
Before this, the people of Boring seemed to avoid the group. Toby made them uncomfortable. The presence of music, or more importantly Cory's music, beckoned them closer like a siren song.   Toby notices, and practically shrivels at what she perceives to be attention. "What are they doing," she whispers. "We're not safe."   Corey shrugs then muses, "You're a line in the sand."   "A what?"   "Boundaries… holes" He then corrects himself, "Wounds."   Toby narrows her eyes. "Wounds?"   "Lots of people here, all survivors. Lots of wounds. You're an unfortunate bit of straw, and the camel's back cracked. They don't hate you. They don't want to hurt you. They're just projecting."   "What the fuck are you talking about?" Olive says with a sneer.   He stops playing, and it's as if the entire crowd snaps out of a trance. Even olive has to shiver to feel right side up.   Cory turns to Toby. "A wound has to bleed in order to heal. All I see are scars that never had the chance."  


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Then save for the pets, They're the loneliest....


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Jul 15, 2023 13:59 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

So many chickens. So many. It's a little heartbreaking, though.   I love Cory.

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Jul 15, 2023 15:24 by R. Dylon Elder

I... cannot believe that number. It's accurate. That's an actual number as of 2023. I cannot even fathom that number. I agree on the sad part.   I'm very glad. Lots of heads to keep track of but so far it's turning out pretty well. Thanks so much!

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