There isn’t much traffic on eighty these days. When we were at the pop-up flea market (with plenty of actual fleas) Queen/King Big Belly made a big production out of trade being the lifeblood of the land and so on and so forth and how important it was for the Roadrunners (meep-meep) to maintain control of eighty because if the Invincible or other wicked groups from the north got their mitts on it, trade would be strangled and everyone would die. The Roadrunners are big heroes you see. But we’ve only seen one other vehicle on the road.
That vehicle – which was something that looked like the love child of a nineteen-fifties Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Holiday Coupe and a World War two armored bulldozer (with a couple whirling blades for good measure) – blew past us headed the other way. Didn’t seem like the kind of thing that could carry a lot of trade goods to me. Hard to see how it could have been an important lifeline for delivering hope to the wasteland.
Whatever it was, it had a cheetah painted on the side, which begs the question; how do these people know what a cheetah is? I’ve never seen a cheetah at a zoo, so it can’t be that after the end of the world they got out of the cages and started breeding and they live in northern California now. Martialla claims that there used to be cheetahs in North America but they died out thousands of years ago.
Even if that was true, what is she implying with that information? That somehow the collapse of human civilization caused extinct species to come back like magic? Whenever I say something like that to her, she reminds me that there was a bug man at the swap meet. It’s annoying because I can’t really say shit after that.
That all changed today though. We saw plenty of vehicles today.
Martialla was busting my tits about drinking too much and I was reminding her that my wrist is broken (or sprained maybe, or just hurts maybe) so I’m allowed to drink for medicinal purposes and so she said that I shouldn’t be the one driving then and then I said that I didn’t think there were going to be any sobriety checkpoints and then she said I was missing the point, etc. I’m just setting the scene here, Martialla was carping at me in that shrill tone she gets sometimes when we came upon a hell of a sight.
We parked like two lovers (or more commonly one lover and one apathetic go along to get along participant) on make-out point to check it out. I think we were somewhere in the vicinity of Rollins Lake, there was no lake anymore but there was a weird series of depressions that looked like where a lake might have been to me. Skirting those depressions, there was a thing crawling along that looked like one of those giant mining trucks with the bed (or whatever) removed and in its place stacked side by side boxcars from a train. Flanking it were a few vehicles that were long and low like a flatbed only they had trucks at both ends seemingly. Around that was a swarm of crude dirt bikes.
But that was just the beginning. That mass of machinery was all headed the same way, there was a second blob of machines that was coming at them – a madman’s delight (not a rapper’s delight sadly) of buggies and trikes and things that sort of looked like buses and everything in between. Many, but by no means all, of the vehicles in this second group had a sort of stylized fist painted on them that I’ve been told is the symbol of the Invincible. It was like stumbling on the world’s biggest demolition derby, only this one also had guns and people being run over.
There was gunfire but there were also people throwing rocks and chucking sharpened sticks and whatnot. It’s pretty strange to see a dude on a motorcycle with a lance like a medieval knight. After watching for a minute, it seemed like most of the guns were on the Invincible side. I suppose if you have rifles and everyone else has javelins and slingshots, that’s how you end up with a name like the Invincible. Based on Martialla’s inexpert analysis, in addition to being better armed she thought that the fist boys had a five to one advantage in numbers as well, and overall their vehicles were better. I told her that I didn’t think that was very sporting. She dropped our newly acquired binoculars and looked over at me.
“What rational person would ever want to give their enemy a sporting chance?”
A fair point. There’s three million people in LA, and I believe about nineteen million cars on the LA streets. Er, there were I mean since they’re all gone now. Suddenly being alone with Martialla most of the time was eerie coming from that crowded life. After a few days (and/or a hundred years) of seeing few people and fewer cars, somehow coming upon this scene was even more startling. It’s like being in pitch black and then having a light flare up in your face. My first thought was that the scene reminded me of an ant colony attacking a fallen ice cream bar. Only the ice cream bar was full of blood and bits of metal.
Martialla and I watched the carnage in silence for a while, only partially because of morbidness (is that a word? I guess it is now since I’m in charge of the English language now). The other reason we watched being that sadly, it reminded us of rush hour traffic on the one ten and was therefore one of the most familiar things we’ve seen lately.
I handed the binoculars back to Martialla “Should we do something?”
She frowned back at me “Like what? You want to drive into that mess? Do to what?”
I gestured vaguely “I don’t know, to help . . . someone.”
Martialla raised an eyebrow “Who?”
“You know . . . whoever the good guys are.”
“Well, if the good guys are the ones getting their asses kicked, there’s nothing we can do about it. And if they’re the ones doing the ass kicking, they don’t need our help do they? Not to mention which, I have a strong feeling that we’re not in a good guy-bad guy world here. For that matter, it’s highly questionable if the one we came from was ever that.”
Before I could respond, as if to prove her point, we were both startled out of our britches by the sound of a bullet pinging off J-Lo.