The waves of heat rippled the air ahead. Despair and sorrow seemed more logical trudging forward. He always felt this way so close to a destination, probably just to cherish society a bit more after such an extensive journey. The "Society" he came across was a one way street pathetically trying to preserve a time none of its inhabitants had been graced with. A store/bar with an unlit neon sign leaning off the wall it was strapped to said "Beer". Wondering if the decoration was planted as a ruse or irony along with the rest of the decrepit buildings called home he went in. While having barely enough materials to barter a decent amount of food and water from the clerk after detouring at places of interest in the waste he knew that scavenging was going to be less of an option on his journey with much less available dwellings to prey upon. The bartender with a graceful spectacle of delight spat on his own floor then directed him towards a house
further down the road. After closer inspection the house had a faded red cross on the wall beside the door. Knocking seemed unnecessary and impotent possibly since such manners have never been practiced towards strangers in such a miserable barter town that most likely has more hold ups than patrons.
"Help you." An apathetic voice resonating as more of a statement than a question was directed towards him. "I'm looking for a job" spoken with as much disinterest as him. "What's your name?" "Sean". The Employer walked towards him but turned slightly as to walk past him then stopped on the door step. "I'm going to get a drink your job now is to stay here and make sure I don't get robbed." Without waiting for response he walked across the dirt down to the shallow oasis labeled a bar for lack of a better word. If there was anything Sean hated more than being nameless and walked upon is people who think they could do that and oppress him into inane work. Sean was always exceptionally good at biting his tongue a talent confused with fear and admission. Hegrew up with men who would do the same thing, a minority used it as an assessment for work ethic most used it as an ego boost.After some time a familiar smell of the foulest of
stenches started to seep from a room in the far back with a curtain nailed to the door frame as a makeshift door. Needless to say the sentry duties moved to outside the front door.
"You realize the problem here?" the owner communicated in a dazedyet canny remark. "Sorry couldn't stand the company". No sign of humor was given just a understanding grunt as if remembering that some people still have responsive senses. "I'm sure you know what your next job is". Outside the heat continued to saturate the hard dry landdragging and leaving them took less energy and fed the wild life. The body's had torn cloth wrapped around there faces as a doleful marker of the persons fate. The bodies have long been swiped of any valuables first from family and friends then by everyone else. Four people were serviced the last person to receive peace was an old man, old age is truly an impressive feat but also sorrowful as you must rely on compassion if not pity of others. After finally reaching the eternal mile that separated the town from "peace" a glimmer shot up from under the man's waistband. Inspecting revealed a folding
knife hidden as a last ditch effort of defense. The handle was pitch black and riddled with cuts that revealed the metallic surface under the paint. A silver button on the side allowed the blade to spring out the handle with a powerful snap. The blade had a mirror bright shine finish that had stood well against the years with serrations on the bottom have of the blade machined precisely fitting the aluminum handle. The expertly crafted sword was enough payment.
"Deceiving someone and knowing when your are is knowing if you live or die" - wasteland proverb
It was five minutes of haggling getting more tepid with every second of sunshine. The standoff was beyond negotiating on an acceptable price but more to see which you would drop from heat exhaustion first. Innate function took over and the merchant agreed upon two strips of salted venison for a canteen. The impasse put Sean who quite proud of his victory behind schedule, with dusk setting in and half a day till the next town shelter was the best option. A tall building immortalized in post cards of big cities was toppled over with no foundation for the hulking mass of concrete in sight. Despite the personal wellbeing concerning sleeping in the crumbling domicile it was still better than the elements and whatever may still walk the night. Camp was set up, a stitched sleeping bag and jury rigged lamp dubbed the old world cave home. Four minutes passed after Sean finally felt secure enough to let his guard down when he heard a voice. "Hello" a hooded
figure leaned slowly from a corner near the entrance. Sean teeming with adrenaline managed to grab his sword leap to his feet, press the button that expelled the blade, then fall forward all without actually facing the would be champion of the skirmish. A quiet giggle echoed in the building
Enthralled by the elegant goddess gracing the earth, proving life was something more than mere accident but something cherished for its beauty. Sean babbled endlessly hoping that his time with her would last forever. She answered his myriad of questions with simple lucid answers smiling politely sipping her water. Sean still entranced but finally calming asked the obvious question "Why are you here?" She hesitated answering as if pondering the question "I'm running away from someone". The obvious discomfort showed sign that he divulged too much on the subject and with a frantic attempt of preserving there favorable amount of time together he implied they should sleep. She agreed and Sean like a true gentleman of the wastes let her sleep in his sleeping bag.
The next walking towards a city chanting the reoccurring mantra "Never again" Sean nowconned, plodding, and two strips of venison poorer but graciously allowed to keep the rest of his belongings found his way to a sprouting metropolis, desperate to avoid another night of sleeping under the stars he looked for vacancy. The city seemed to be plagued with smog or some equal disgusting pollutant from a nonconventional attempt of powering ancient machines, the city was a sad phenomenon with parties of power fighting to gain control of the entire city. A renovated billboard slandered an opposing figure head endorsed by an "C,Teston" the current bureaucrat after the "Utopia". Taxing to enter there Eden was common and determined by the demander of whoever wished to enter Sean unkempt and aptly hiding his possessions was able to enter with only a can of expired tuna.
With little interest or fund to indulge himself on whatever jaded entertainment was in town Sean scouted for a place to rest. Avoiding the putrid piles of "progress" that riddled the streets led to a diamond in the ruff. A one story overlooked store located at the end of a cracked road in the middle of the decaying city between Baldwin and Yang. The building had no alluring allusions or any other sign of aegis just light barely protruding through the dust covered window and a sign that said "Open". Behind the counter was a meekly woman reading who gave the impression that Sean was intruding on her peace. After giving a sign of recognition he started to browse, she stared as of measuring his character but returned to her novel after a few seconds of study. Sean was entranced by relics of the past for sale a flask engraved "South Side Sun" a large black flag with "Dirty Acres" stitched finelythen a bookstand on the far corner of the way,
above it a handmade sign that said "Reality." The books were easy to distort from fiction as many had proof of their disinformation between the pages but were most likely kept there as humor or to give better insight on possible explanations of the current world. A familiar writing stood out though horribly damaged the only part of the title said "A Boy" the rest ripped from abuse and history, nostalgia even for a grim reality still has its place and the numerous uses for parchment closed the sale.
Bartering with collectors requires effort of knowing exactly what they want; if not half dead a collector would gladly trade things of monetary worth for artifacts that were once worth something. No words were spoken just a slow wave of a dollar coin and a display of the book was enough. The clerk had no expression but after a few seconds opened up her cash register peering into the tray revealing bottle caps that filled a coin slot with nothing else of value in the machine, she stuck her hand out as not to touch him. Sean dropped the coin in her hand and walked towards the door delighted with his purchase. With a mousey almost restrained voice the clerk said "Thank you."
"My only regret of surviving is never showing how beautiful the world was and still can be" -Elliot (amaurotic survivor)
The walls were a depressing sight; bland and rotting they seemed to peer into whoever was confined to the room the realization of why anyone would possibly put "No Refunds" on protection from the outside became a clear warning inside of the walls of the motel. An hour till the break of dawn was enough to send Sean away from the appalling city with a dreadful migraine as the only farewell received. Pondering on which road to travel Sean heard stories in the city of the pilgrimage of religious folk north taking the trip from wolf creek to pathfinder and the thought of peons trying to convert him to praying to machines was enough reason to continue west. Noon came and the sun started its long process of scorching the earth then glimmers of metal shot ahead. A caravan of gypsy's or pilgrims trying to find home were traveling towards Sean obviously not posing threat with woman caroling in unison Sean initiated trade with the caravan of five mechanical
buggy's each coming to a stop after the other
The drifters came out of there metal and wood machines and started conversing with children running out into to the sand with each other playing, a woman directing the caravan, kind and open greeted Sean and took him to one of the machines to trade. Listening to the other vagabonds revealed that they were religious travelers but not modern. They seemed to practice towards an old world god using old world ways. Sean was dumbfounded when he learned that only a finite number of them will receive eternal peace. Stunned as of why anyone would take such a chance the matriarch was called away "Ms. Green we need you up front" The yelling snapped Sean out of his stupor and noticed someone on top of one of the caravans behind him. A silhouette of a young woman painting.The glare of the sun covered her features and her work moving closer towards her revealed other pieces of paper hanging on the caravan walls. They were beautiful murals of things he had never
seen before green and bright but each having the signature of "N.Surreal" on the bottom. Inspecting the pictures with an intuitive glare all he could do was stare at their magnificence, the caravans started moving again without any warning with the passengers already inside them and continued forward. Sean after realizing how long he stood there watching them leave, continued his journey on the way they came.
The encounter triggered the revelation that caused Sean to remember why he travel's in the first place.The yearning that he couldn't control, to find a place and to right the wrong, end the indignities he grew up with, to prove to the world that we are not machines designated useless by a broken part. That we can correct and make best of the fault of our ancestors, we need not kill each other for meager piles of food while the few stand in there old world towers intimidating the people they deem lower, enacting the old world societies that destroyed the world to begin with. Sean filled with so much malice and disgust for letting his objective lose him clenched his fists looked to the sky above and screamed with authority "I am not a machine!" Seconds after realizing where he was and what he did Sean felt a wave of embarrassment and euphoria for his outburst then a loud boom was heard in the distance.
"I went through life like the rest of you, alone and afraid, and I decided that is not a life worth living when I stood up for what I believed in you all told me not to, before I left and I told you that I may have lived like a coward but I won't die like one" -Anonymous epitaph
Cautiously but determined to find the source of the noise Sean went towards the ruins it came from. Moving though the sand covered suburbs lead to I giant building near the center. "Austin. White Institute of Aero Space Engineering" Sean wondered why such a fortress was unoccupied. Walking though the front door revealed routine signs of scavenging with books and machines missing flipped tables and broken windows. Sean then heard squeaking echoing down one of the halls coming towards him peeking behind a door frame the frantic steps got loader. A familiar face, terrified running down the hall past Sean with four men thundering behind her trying to catch her. The men wearing boots and makeshift body armor, three holding clubs with the one farthest ahead holding nothing.
Sean found his reason, the purpose he has been searching for. Rescuing the girl who stole from him was his mission and now, inspired to live or die for that cause he went after them. Catching up to them explained why there was no occupation in the building there was a giant fault running across the town previously covered by buildings that formed into a canyon. He found them in the main hall half of it still there, half 50 feet below them. She was on the edge of the canyon, calmer than she should be. Sean was ready now more ready he ever could be. He stood tall atop the desk he was hiding behind "Why are you doing this?" None of them seemed surprised from his presence. The cold stare they gave him proved their intentions were not friendly. The one closest lunged with his rebar club. Sean was terrified but not willing to let it control him, leaped on his head from the desk knocking him down. Sean grabbed his blade he ran towards the man closest to her
plunging his knife into his armor, pushing it snapped half way between the plates strapped across his chest. The man pushed Sean towards the canyon. Trapped between the abyss and them Sean was ready for the inevitable. The man grabbing his chest revealed the source of the noise from before. A old world "peace keeper" aimed at Sean. The man grinning said roughly, wheezing "Are you afraid to die?" Sean delighted that he was able to come up with his last words said "I don't know, never died before" The three men behind him laughed, He just continued to grin. Sean annoyed with the lack of humor with his would be executioner decided not to give him the satisfaction afraid but knowing that this was the end no matter he jumped off the canyon.
He awoke near a fire at the bottom of the fault which proved to be not so deep with the rays of dawn light pouring in. Unable to turn his head from the pain he looked to the side to see her on the other side of the fire. She noticed him and moved to his side, they were silent but her faced betrayed her showing how horrible she felt for his involvement and the pain she caused him. After a few seconds she took a deep breath and slowly said "Do you regret helping me?" Sean didn't hesitate answering and with as much strength as he could told her "Why would I do something I regret" She let it a quiet laugh. Sean didn't know if he would survive or if she would either but was happy that if he died he would die with her, knowing that he stayed true till the end.