It takes a village to raise a child, but how many people does it take to make that village to raise that child? I think of these people as villagers but does five treehouses make a village? I guess either way it isn’t a village anymore since all the tree-houses are burned up.
The villagers are bald, just like the other people with the lumpy heads, but whereas the potatoheads are close to normal human proportions, these people are even shorter than the norm we’ve seen so far. I’d call them squat. Seemed like they were not even five feet tall but were three feet wide. One other thing that really stuck out to me was how hairy the backs of their hands were. It was thick enough you could have braided it.
Had I been thinking about it, I would have expected them to swarm around us in thanksgiving and offer us their finest foods and sing songs of praise for saving them. But I wasn’t thinking. Not about that anyway. I was thinking about how on the news they used to have some dullard standing there shell-shocking mumbling “it all happened so fast” after a natural disaster or a plane crash or something. I shouldn’t have judged them. It does happen fast. And afterwards you don’t know what else to say. It’s like it happened too fast for your brain to understand it.
Some of the squat bald villagers that were fleeing during the attack continued fleeing. Some of them started trying to help the wounded that weren’t able to flee. A couple of them stared at us warily. The guy that Martialla shot and I ran over was super dead, but there was another one of the attack bikers that was alive. I’m pretty sure he wished he wasn’t soon enough, because a couple of the hairy-handed people tied him to a burning tree and started in on him with their spears.
I guess I can’t blame them but it didn’t make his screams any more bearable. When you hurt someone, they scream. Most people know that. But what I’ve learned in California After Apocalypse Twenty-Two Hundred is that if you hurt someone bad enough they don’t scream, they make a different kind of sound. This sound has no name because the overwhelming majority of humans throughout history don’t know it exists and those that do know about it also know that nothing can do justice to that sound other than hearing it for yourself.
Martialla stayed low and dashed from cover to cover, sliding up beside the car in a way that seemed very unnecessary since the fighting was over. She had a pistol in her hand and was scanning the area in a sort of crouch. Her voice was strung tight as a tennis racket.
“Are you hurt?”
I shook my head and then realized that she wasn’t looking my way and couldn’t see me “No, I’m not hurt.”
Her voice trembled a little “You can’t do that Ela. You can’t just drive into something like that. You need to check with me. You can’t make snap decisions. We could have been killed. We should have been killed. What the hell is this car made out of?”
“I know, I’m sorry.”
Her head whipped around and she stared at me like I had never said that I was sorry before. Maybe I hadn’t. Her lips moved like she was about to say something but then she stopped. She threw one leg over the window and slithered back into the car without taking her eyes off the ridge.
“You’re not thinking about going after them, are you?”
“No, not them. But I think we should put our vacation to Colorado Springs on hold. What do you think about this idea? We head north and find the leader of these assholes, Duke Eagle, and we murder him.”
“That sounds dangerous.”
“Yeah, it’s probably pretty dangerous to try and kill this guy, but I’ve realized we’re not going to live very much longer no matter what we do. Might as well go out with a bang, right?”
She took a break from darting her eyes around manically to glance over at me “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay.” I pointed at a cluster of village people dragging one of their dead friends out of the rice mud “Not like that guy. He’s not okay at all.”
“I guess going on a roaring rampage of revenge is the cinematic thing to do. That’s what the mysterious stranger always does. Does that make us Shane, or Chris from the Magnificent Seven? “
“Girls can’t be the mysterious stranger, Martialla, that would be silly. If this was a movie, you would have been killed for trying to fight and I would have been taken as a sex slave. The real mysterious stranger would have been badly hurt in the attack but he’d crawl into a cave and heal himself by willpower alone and then when he got better and came to rescue me months later, before I died in his arms from all the sex slavery, I would whisper to him ‘you gotta kill them for me mysterious stranger, kill them all, for me’.”
“And then you guys would bang, right?”
“Obviously. When you’re dying from sex slavery, that’s all you want to do on your way out. Being the mysterious stranger has to be rough, knowing that you have to wait until right before a woman dies before you make your move. That’s probably very frustrating for him.”
Martialla finally put her gun away “Yes, leading men have a bad hand for sure.”
I put my hand on the gear selector, which is also a skull in case you were wondering – who the heck made that?
“So what will you have, Martialla? A deadly mission of revenge or continue on our way to Colorado Springs? I want to make sure you feel heard here.”
“I hear wine country is lovely this time of year.”
“That’s more east than north really, but I’ll allow it.”