“I’m sorry that I’m strange to you. My life . . . before feels like a dream. Or that I’m being a tricked somehow. It’s like another world th-that I just looked at through a window. My parents. My shows. My toys. Were they ever real? I thought I knew . . . what the world was. And then, when I met Martialla. I felt like I got a new life. Like there was a new world. I felt like I had just been born. What happened before was a nightmare and I was living as a new person. I, I don’t know what I’m saying. I’m sorry is the thing. I know I don’t act right. I get confused. Sometimes, I, I’m not sure what . . . I just know that she loves you and . . .”
That’s what Paul broke the silence with after we had been walking for a solid three hours without either of us saying a word. Rambling on about how crazy he is. I wish I still had at least one bullet in my gun being next to this lunatic. He doesn’t know that I’m out of ammo but I’m not sure that it matters. He could rip my head off before I could shoot him even if I had a bullet to do it with. He doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything.
He obviously knows what death is since he kills people all the time but whatever you have in your brain that makes you understand that you can die and you need to avoid that fate has been burned out of Paul. I don’t think I could even bluff him, even though I’m a fantastic bluffer, because his response to any threat is to attack like a rabid dog.
It’s odd to be afraid of someone who has saved your life. This friend of mine who I hate, Valerie, there was a fire in her apartment building and a fireman came and pulled her out. Saving her life you know. Then a few days later Valeria is out at a bar and the fireman is there and he’s all like “hey so you owe me your life how about we bang one out in the bathroom?” Halfway joking but not really. Long story short she wasn’t into it and he started stalking her. Eventually she had to get a protective order against him. Or a restraining order, I forget which is which.
She called the cops a bunch of times because he was hanging around her new apartment and we’re pretty sure that he jumped her boyfriend one time, beat the hell out of him real good. That all stopped because he was killed in the line of duty. I never did get the full story, a floor collapsed or he fell somehow.
Point is before dying he saved three more people. And a dog. Valerie was terrified of him. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone more afraid in my life. I tried to get her to sell her story to this writer I know – make the fireman an arsonist and add some more action and you have a movie – but she balked at that too. Valerie was a world class balker. I wonder how she died in the apocalypse.
I know how she felt now. But you know what’s even weirder? Being afraid of someone whose life you saved. It’s like one of those movies where a lady finds out her kid is the devil.
“Look, I don’t want to step on your speech here Paul, sounded like you put a lot of thought into it and I appreciate it but it’s not necessary. Me and you we’re cool okay? You don’t need to worry about it. You and Mar have your thing and that’s, you know, a thing that’s happening so it’s all fine. We’re all fine here.”
“Mar” he said it like a he had a mouthful of peanut butter. Bad peanut butter.
I know that he was born in non-apocalypse and then woke up in apocalypse as a kid so he’s allowed some idiosyncrasies but this dude is weird.
Paul and I ended up playing cat and mouse with three plainspeople buggies and as a result we were quite a ways away from where the fighting broke out. Actually no, cat and mouse implies more stop and start action with hiding and stuff, this was more like playing dude on snowmobile with a rifle chasing wolves that could turn on you at any time. Actually, this is what it was, it was like that dude in Jurassic park who was hunting the raptors.
Paul is the worst shot in the world. Even worse than Bruce Willis, and I know that for a fact. For a guy who’s been in a lot of action movies that dude can’t shoot a lick. Because I’m such a great driver though I managed to get close enough where he couldn’t miss and take out two of them.
The third one was more of a challenge. Their driver was too cagey for any of my tricks and their gunner put a spear/harpoon/wooly rhino-elk killing thing through the front of our machine that sent us careening into another temporary river left by the rain. Or maybe I just didn’t see it and we would have flown into it anyway. There was a lot going on. Get off my back.
This ephemeral river had a creature in it. A big damn creature. At firt sight I thought it was the same thing that Martialla shot at, getting us banned from the first village we found. I wonder how things would be different if Martialla hadn’t ruined that place for us. It was a shithole but it seemed like a more peaceful shithole that any of the shitholes we’ve found since. Maybe we could have lived there. But alas, Martialla did ruin everything.
Thinking back on it though I don’t believe they’re the same beast. That first one in stinking mucktown was more of a hippo-octopus-elephant seal-whale type thing. It was round and blobby and kind of sluggish. The thing in this river I would say was more like a frog-crocodile-anaconda-lobster with a bunch of tentacles coming out of its mouth. It was leaner and longer and more aggressive looking. The difference between the two monsters is like the difference between a flaccid and erect penis.
I saw the shadow of the beast under the water moving our way and I yelled at Paul to jump but he can’t really jump up on account of he blew out his legs sliding down a firewatch tower a while back and the nanobots don’t work on him. He kind of tumbled out of the buggy into the water like a discarded banana peel while I nimbly leaped to the opposite side like Dominique Dawes.
The good news is that the creature was already surging the other way and flopped out onto land just as the enemy killmobile was approaching. Instead of ripping Paul to shreds it sent its mouth-tentacles (genticales perhaps, I saw some things on them) at them as they skidded right into it like a baseball man sliding into third. I was able to grab Paul and help him scramble up our side as our enemies were being boiled alive by some kind of spray the creature was emitting from its three eyeball sacks.
Did you know that there are beetles that when threated spray boiling, foul-smelling poison at their enemies accompanied by a popping sound? It’s over two hundred degrees and if that isn’t enough for you it’s also an irritant to the eyes and lungs. I know this because Martialla and all her fucking bug talk. Anyway, what this creature had seemed like something like that. So maybe it also has a beetle ass. In its eye-holes.
Paul and I got the fuck away from that once we got our bearings started walking back towards the hovercraft. Maybe. Paul doesn’t seem to know shit about how to navigate.
“You’re lived here for like twenty years haven’t you? How do you get around?!”
He says that back home you just follow the roads. Idiot. Still, it’s better than being alone.