I need to do more with this blog… so here’s part of a story. I’ll post more of the story later. This is something I wrote for my buddy Jason’s Wasteman project. Hope you enjoy.
I’m not padding, you’re padding, you just wanted to give people things and make friends and grow some self esteem.
We are a dead people. We scuttle across the corpse of our world, waiting to be devoured by history. My time in the mountains taught me that, and I take that knowledge to my grave. a century has passed since my family and I ran from the raiders that destroyed our home, but I still remember the fear and desperation of that journey, the fireless nights and the cold stars above. My dreams chase me from sleep, however, not with images of the monsters beneath the peeks, but with the memories of my parents.
The gun kicks in my hand, the scrap weapon bucking hard enough to jar the muscles of my arm. The raider and his mount roar in pain as the bullets hit them in red explosions. The noise, married to the rumble of our vehicle, sends popping squeals of tinnitus through my ears long before I realise that my weapon is sputtering and clicking empty.
“Reload,” mother shouts. She doesn’t look up at me, her hands still busy with her own weapon.
“I’m out,” I fumble in my jacket and find nothing. My mouth fills with dust and I am unable to do more than choke the words out. Ochre clouds billow around us, plumes of blown sand and earth blurring the terrain.
“Cab. Ammo crate.” Mother doesn’t look at me, her words short and barked. Next to her Susanna, my sister, fires a shot from her long rifle. In the distance a raider topples.
I duck back into the cab, sliding through the hole in its roof. The ammo crate holds thick plastic wrapped bundles of bullets of all different sizes and shapes. I scrabble, tossing bags aside, unsure of what I need.
“The .45’s.” My father says from the driver’s seat.
“The .45’s, Hieme, come on, boy.” Father’s thick arms flex as he hauls on the steering wheel, swerving around a boulder that looms in the dust clouds ahead.
Hard shells spill from my fingers as I open the bag and try to slot them into the clip. My hands are thick with pain, making my grip an unresponsive claw. I scatter bullets, the brass cases rolling and clicking in pathetic music. I try to reach down for them but the hot gun barrel burns the flesh of my arm.
“Give me that,” my father grabs the machine pistol from my grip, his eyes never leaving the trail ahead. He speaks through teeth clamped tight as an iron cage and fumbles as badly as I had, steering the truck with his knees as he reloads.
“Here,” he tosses the gun back to me, “don’t hold it by the barrel next time.” The rig gives a machine bellow, its engine rumbling pleasure as father stamps more fuel in.
I can see the raiders in the wing mirror; huge and bipedal monsters each with a red cloaked rider atop the creature’s back. They move quickly, their bobbing run taking them in and out of our dust cloud.
I pull myself up through the roof hatch and onto the firing step, the sway of the truck almost sending me beneath its wheels.
“Glad you could join us, Hieme,” Susanna, my sister, says, her voice made thick by her dust mask.
“Not now, Su,” mother readies her rocket launcher. “Get the target lock set.”
“Todo-Padre, any of them,” mother spits the words, lifting the launcher to her shoulder. I fire my own pistol, the bucking truck fouling my aim, the clackclackclackclack hammer of the gun shoving my body backwards and forwards.
One sharp boom cuts through the engine bellow and scrapyard avalanche sound of my weapon; Susanna fires her rifle, the home made locator dart spinning out to strike home into the flesh of one of the great beasts.
Mother fires the launcher, the whoosh of the escaping rocket popping my ears as it is sent straight towards the tracker dart.
There is a wet, red, eruption somewhere behind us.
“One down,” mother shouts, her voice on the edge of euphoria. Father urges the engine to greater efforts of speed.
The roars of the monsters are drowned out in the machine peel of our horn. We drive on, the dust and the sky blending together into an ochre maelstrom around us. Our world is one of noise and smoke, and I scramble to reload my gun. The raiders continue to chase us.
One of their creatures slams into the rigs rear section, sending us jerking to the side. Father’s eyes bulge and he hauls on the wheel, his teeth like white stone chips in his face. The animal roars, its snout covered with blood from the impact, its rider waving his rifle up and down. I cannot hear him, but I know he is laughing.
Mother tosses the launcher to Susanna and runs towards him. She pounds along the spinal gangway towards the trucks rear axle, some twenty feet above the ground, charging full tilt at the monster. Dust covers her and the wind threatens to rip her from the truck. I see the raider and his mount staring down and I know they see her even when I cannot. Then they too are obscured by the dust.
“Mother,” Susanna screams into the ochre wind.
Mother reappears, her right hand clutching her left shoulder and making her way back towards us as best she can. Blood covers her left fist.
“Get inside the cab,” she yells, her voice snatched away by the wind.
The storm outside throws clouds of sand and dirt at the windows. The engine sobs as it fills with dust. The glass windows shudder under the assault. I can’t see out of them anymore. The gun is hot in my hands and I shake as I stow it in the gun rack below my seat.
Mother strips the dust baffle off her augmetic arm.
“Su, help me with this will you?”
My sister crawls over, peeling back the soft cloth to get at the greased metal beneath.
“Are you alright?” My father keeps his eyes looking forward, trying to see through the maelstrom ahead of us. “Are you hurt?”
“I’m fine,” mother sounds anything but.
“You have a bent strut,” Susanna pokes and prods at my mother’s machine prosthetic. “What did you do?”
“I hit it.”
“I love you.” Father’s smile reaches his eyes and I hear his soft amusement under the words. Mother grins and, for a moment, she is the young woman I have only seen in family picture, the lines of care and worry are gone from her face.
Something roars behind us. Her smile fades.
“The dust storm’s getting too thick,” mother says, “they won’t case us further now. Hieme,” she turns to me, Susanna’s fingers still buried in the workings of her arm, “you did well.”
I take their weapons and stow them in crates under our seats as Susanna continues to work on mothers arm. The dust rattles on the windows and wind makes short screams and moans as it slips in through cracks and holes in the old truck. Father keeps us going, although the storm makes visibility poor. The rest of us huddle in the back seats and try to sleep for a while, although I doubt any of us do more than doze. I see faces in the shifting dust, faces of the people I love.
We are the only survivors.
Mother’s hand, her real hand that is, strokes the nape of my neck.
“Are you alright?”
For a moment I can pretend we are back on the farm and she is still the same warm and loving person her voice implies. Not the cold machine our flight has turned her into.
“I’m ok.” I know I am lying and I think she does too.
“Good.” She strokes my hair, seeming unable to say more.
Susanna stirs from her place on the back seat.
“None of us are ok,” she says. The redness around her eyes is back. I bury my head in my jacket, pulling the sleeves down over my hands and tucking myself up into a ball. I don’t want to hear this again.
“Su, we will be alright.”
“No we won’t. You saw what they did to the farm, you know what they’ll do to the family.”
Father sighs from the front seat.
“Yes, Su. We know.”
“Then why are you not upset?”
“We are, Su,” mother says.
My sister says nothing.
I know there will be more tears in her eyes. Ever since started running she has spent every night crying herself into an exhausted sleep. I haven’t cried. Neither have mother and father. I want to ask them why, what makes us different to Susanna, but I’m not certain I want to know. Maybe Susanna has something wrong with her? Maybe there is something wrong with mother, father and me?
Su wants to talk about what happened. She tried to talk to me at first, trying to sooth tears I never had. Then she looked for comfort and community with mother before finally looking to father for solace.
“What’s wrong with you?” She had half screamed on the fourth day of our flight when she was unable to coax any of us into speech. I wanted to talk to her, to show her that I cared and that I wanted to deal with what I was feeling, but in truth, I had no idea what I felt or what to say.
I know that Susanna will be clutching the wooden figure of Thosé Santoze and whispering her thoughts to the saint. She has done this every day.
We leave her to her prayers, my father silent and weary, mother tired and brittle. The sun still rides high in the sky, although the dust makes it a false twilight.
I try to sleep, but I know I can’t. My eyes keep glancing at my father in the front seat, noting how his mouth is set in a firm pale line and his eyes flutter as sleep tries to claim him. But he endures. The metal studs that line his brow gleam dully in the half light.
I want to be as strong as he is and as brave as my mother. I wish I knew how. The deaths at the farm do not seem to have fazed them, although my mother no longer laughs and my father no longer holds us. Is there a price to pay for their strength?