Martialla’s so-called plan, if it can so be called, was as stupid as it was insane – talk to them. Why did I go along with this stupid insane plan? That’s a question historians will be asking for generations to come. Why did someone as smart and canny and beautiful with a gorgeous singing voice as Ela the Savior of Humanity go along with such a stupid insane plan? They’ll probably ask that while sitting near a statue of me that’s been erected for my role in rebuilding society.
Speaking of, I need to start thinking about what stuff I want to make sure they don’t accidentally add to the new world I’m going to build.
I should have known better, and I did know better, so why did I do it? Here’s the only thing I can tell you about my mental state. Before we left Bosstown when I woke up, I saw that Martialla was sitting with her head in her knees crying. It was like walking in on your parents having sex, and I don’t mean vanilla PIV, I mean doing some really weird stuff like with props. It stuns you in a way you never thought possible because you didn’t even ever think about that being a thing that existed in the world. Parents are not sexual beings with feelings and emotions and hopes and dreams and flaws, they’re just there to give you money and cook and clean for you. Like a maid/cook/ATM. By the same token Martialla shouldn’t be crying, that’s like getting on an airplane and seeing that the pilot is a killer whale in a little pilot’s hat. It makes no sense.
My instinctual reaction, to say loudly “are you fucking crying?” in an incredulous and horrified tone, probably wasn’t helpful. In order to smooth that over, I told a little bit of a white lie. I knew that Martialla was having a tough time on account of her husband being long dead and probably painfully devoured by cannibals and/or taken as a warlord’s concubine, so I told her that I had secretly gotten engaged to my (now long dead and cannibalized or concubined) boyfriend just the week before we went into the cryo-tubes. So while I didn’t know exactly what she was going through, I could sympathize. In truth, we had broken up the month before but thankfully for Martialla I’m a tremendous actor and she bought it.
It seemed to make her feel better. But I’ve been feeling guilty about it. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense because I used to lie to Martialla all the time and it never bothered me before. I mean not really. After all it takes two to lie right, one to lie and one to believe it – so she’s just as culpable as I am when you get down to it.
Point being when she proffered this insane stupid idea of détente with these post-apocalyptic meatheads, maybe I agreed because I felt bad about lying to her too-wide unappealing face, even though as we established just a moment ago, she’s just as much at fault for believing me as I am for lying.
We drove closer and then stopped to see what they would do, ready to haul ass if they came at us en masse. I’m no good at estimating distances, maybe we were two hundred yards away, maybe it was a mile. I’ll call it “a fair piece” as my grandma used to say.
They didn’t immediately swarm us, which was good. In fact even though they obviously noticed us, they didn’t do anything for a goodly amount of time. I suppose they thought we were travelers noticing that the road was blocked and trying to decide what to do about them rather than people trying to get their attention to talk. We could have waved a flag or something only we didn’t have one, and also would they even know what that meant? Fun fact, one of my distant ancestors fled to America in the 1600s because he was a military commander that flew a flag of truce and then ordered an attack when the enemy came to parlay, and people weren’t pumped about that kind of behavior back then. I always meant to learn more about that. Too late now I suppose. Genealogy research has likely had its day in the sun.
Eventually a cadre of dusty future people got into one of the buggies and detached from the group to come our way. Behind them they left TWO people with what looked like functioning rifles covering them. That’s a lot of firepower by the order of the day. I was prepared to drop the hammer and ram them if things turned south – I’m pretty sure that J-Lo would split their moon-rover looking pile of junk in half without too much trouble. I imagine, had that happened, it would have looked like the time my friends and I moved old man Yeltin’s chicken shack onto the railroad tracks and it was smashed to bits. That was the same night I let Joey Latiano go down on me. It wasn’t great. But it was alright.
These folks had masks on and capes and robes and all the ragged-ass clothing you could want. That seems to be one of the three accepted apocalyptic styles of dress. I don’t get it at all, it’s balls hot out here and humid as you like, and they’re wearing fifteen layers? How do they not pass out from heat stroke? The leader, or actually probably not the leader but the one the leader told to talk to us, had on giant goggles and grasped an ax that was from our time. It looked brand spanking new, it said FISKARS on the side plain as day. How the hell is that still in such good shape?
S/he said something like “oota goota solo” and I figured the plan was dead right there but when I sighed and replied “I can’t understand you bub” one of the others with their head and face wrapped in a giant scarf leaned out of the buggy and said clearly (if confusingly) “Hello, chief. Let’s talk. Why not?”
Why not indeed? Scarfy (which would be a good name for a dog) claimed that s/he and their friends were not marauders at all, but rather were on a diplomatic mission of peace. They claimed further that there had been an earthquake (according to Martialla this may have been what granted the Invincible access to the valley) after which the river that all the communities depended on was poisoned by something underground. As they say, this had happened once before and at that time, Bosstown had grabbed all the filters you need to clean the water.
I told them that the Boss himself had said they were attacking people and they responded by saying of course they were attacking people, how else would you open up a dialog? Their diplomatic mission of peace was to cut off trade and try and force Bosstown to the bargaining table by starving them – you know, with violence.
While Martialla was mulling this over I said “so you’re from Smashweed then?” and Scarfy said no, they were hired goons from down south brought in not just by Smashweed but also Roachback, Treehorn, Iron Springs, Bristleboar, and other smaller villages in the area. They didn’t really care or understand what was going on with the water filters. They’re just in it for the “money”. I asked what they were getting paid with and s/he said food, water, chips, and monkeys.
“Monkeys? Like for pets?”
For some reason this seemed to be really offensive to them and they remounted and drove off in a huff.