That was a bit of a fib I told you before. I kicked that guy as hard as I could. But it’s not like I’m a Jeet Kun Do champion. In school, I was never even any good at kickball! Plus whenever it was my turn, that little monster Sally Weaver would yell that my underwear was showing. Well now she’s a gross soccer mom with four ugly screaming children and a mouth-breathing husband that teaches IMPROV and people PAY to see me in my underwear. They pay me, Sally! They pay me a lot! Actually I guess now-now she’s not a soccer mom, she’s dead. Anyway, the point is that one little kick to the chest from me should not cave in a man’s chest. When Martialla went over to help him (after grabbing the crossbow thing he dropped) I one hundred percent expected him to whip out a knife and put it to her throat because it was a gambit but he just wheezed and rolled around. I guess I really did hurt him.
He bounced back like a champ and stopped bellyaching fairly quickly though. It took a while but we did eventually convince him that he had no car. When we said we walked there, he gaped at us like we said we flapped our arms and flew high in the sky, as if the idea of anyone walking anywhere was beyond the pale.
“Didn’t you walk here?” I pointed out smartly and attractively.
He didn’t as it happens. He had a car hidden in the brush, which means not only did he creep up on us but we didn’t even hear the car. Which isn’t great situational awareness. He was trying to carjack us because his vehicle wasn’t in great shape. He needed to get to “AD” and he was concerned that his car wouldn’t make it in the shape it was in. When we asked what AD was, his answers made no sense to us, the best he could do in the end was to point to the north. He looked around at all the tools and scrap with his greedy beady little eyes and asked if the stuff was ours. We said that of course it was.
“How about we help you fix up your car and you help us take some of this stuff to AD? They have trade there?” I asked him shrewdly and charismatically.
He jumped into the air and quick-walked in a little circle a bunch of times while making a snuffling noise that I guess was laughter. At first I thought he was sneering at our offer but we eventually figured out that he thought I was joking about the possibility of fixing his car. Once I made it clear that I wasn’t joking, he stepped away from us like we were radioactive. He asked us if we were engineers – he enunciated the word very slowly and purposefully. There was more than a little reverence to the way he said it as well. I told him that we aren’t engineers, but we knew a few things about cars. He headed over the edge of the parking lot and waved us on eagerly to see his car.
Martialla half-whispered to me as we followed behind “What are you doing?”
“You fix my car all the time, maybe we can help.”
“I change the oil, Ela, I’m not an auto mechanic. I can do maintenance, I can’t fix shit.”
“There’s no harm in looking.”
“There’s no reason to think that whatever hunks of junk they have running now resemble anything like the cars we knew, Ela. It’s probably more like Model A or whatever came before the Model A, one of those old things from black and white movies where the driver puts on goggles and an aviator cap and . . . you have got to be shitting me.”
The car we saw didn’t look exactly like the one from the Road Warrior (which Martialla assures me was based on a car they never made in America) but it was pretty damn close. It had that spinny thing sticking out of the hood and everything. It wasn’t black, it was tan, which kind of ruined the Mad Max effect but it was still a lot cooler than what I was expecting.
Martialla sounded like she was having a hard time catching her breath “Where the fuck did this come from?”
Our new friend said the f-word a couple times like it was a new term, and ultimately it seemed that he decided he liked it. Even though he mostly sort of kind of speaks English, he was referencing a lot of people and places that meant nothing to us. I think either he stole the car from a courier or he was a courier of some kind. So couriers exist. Maybe. Which seems like an advanced society concept. Which is good news. Maybe. I asked where he was from and he pointed north again, explaining “I’m not a mushroom”. Good to know.
Any further questioning was overridden by his lust to see his car being fixed. And there was a lot of lust. I’ve seen horndogs walking into the strip club, you know the all-nude kind of strip club where they give handjobs in the back for a hundred bucks, that were less excited than turnip-lips was for us to pop the hood. Which was the first issue because there was no hood.
Martialla was peering around for a seam of some kind “So what’s the problem? What’s not working?”
Vegetable mouth jumped in the car, put the hammer down, and the engine roared for a second before sputtering out. He jumped back out just as quickly to watch Martialla crawl underneath the front of the car. He was hunched over and licking his massive lips like an old-timey perv looking through binoculars from a tree branch. Martialla started coughing and spitting and peered out from under the car.
“It reeks under here, what do you run these things on, mule droppings?”
He shook his head furiously “Run on fuel! Fuel good.”
Fuel good indeed. Unless the environmental issues of the mass consumption of fossil fuels is what destroyed the world. Then fuel bad. When Martialla wriggled out from under the Mad Maxmobile, she was smeared from tits to nosetip with greenish slime.
I took a step away from her as she got to her feet “Good god, is that glowing? What is that?”
After another coughing fit, she tried to wipe the slime off her torso as best she could, which wasn’t very “Hell if I know. There’s mold or fungus or something growing in there. I saw something that looked like a green brain the size of a peanut.”
I reached out to touch the hood “Whoa, so it’s biological technology?”
Martialla spit up a bug or something brownish and coughed some more, very ladylike “No, I think it’s just fucked.”
Despite that highly skilled assessment, she told beet-lips to try it again and the thing roared to life. He grinned and sat there revving the engine for quite a while. I gave him a thumbs up and he scowled back at me like I had given him the finger but he was too happy about the car to be mad for long.