Since I updated the site the map section has been blank for a while, but it’s still the most visited page on the site. The main thing I’ve learned from this blog is that people LOVE maps. I don’t really get it. I hate when my RPG group cries for maps all the time. Does everything have to be exactly nailed down 100% all the time? Does it? Oh, it does? My mistake.
After the traders scurried off, Martialla and I sat around in the hallway for a couple hours not really doing anything. We had been all primed and ready to head out to explore (sort of) and then just like that the wind was taken out of our sails. For no exact reason. It’s like when you get up early and you get dressed to go to the gym and you’re raring to go and then just as your hand touches the doorknob to leave, suddenly you think “I don’t want to do this”. I guess the reality of the situation was sinking in. The end of the world and all that.
You know in the movies when the aliens are invading or the zombies come out of the ground or the Ebola monkeys are on the loose and there’s the one character who immediately jumps out the window (or whatever) and kills themselves? And you’re like “whoa dude, can you wait five minutes to see how things are going before you commit seppuku?” I kind of get it now. When something this enormous is staring you in the face, there’s a wave of helplessness that passes over you. Jumping off that bridge I suppose is a way of making what happens (death) your choice. But once that wave passes you’re just kind of . . . there.
We half-heartedly started talking about venturing out to explore again and essentially took turns saying why we should and then providing excuses why we should wait until tomorrow. We were commenting lackadaisically that we should have had the traders draw us a map of the area when we saw some shadows through the dirty glass. It’s fun how you can snap from a variety of bored malaise to being terrified to your bones in zero seconds. One moment you’re wondering if you even want to go on and the next moment you’re very much thinking about how you want to be super alive. Deadly threats have an interesting effect huh? It’s counterintuitive but I suppose we should have propped the doors open so we could see who was coming.
I really wanted to tell Martialla to go first and I would cover her, I wanted it more than I wanted that role in The Mummy Returns. And I wanted to be in The Mummy Returns a lot. I can’t play Egyptian? I got news for you, casting director Joanna Colbert, Patricia Velásquez ain’t from Egypt either. But that would have made no sense since Martialla is the shooter and I’m the talker. I should be proud of myself for not asking her because she probably would have done it even though it’s illogical. She takes this bodyguard shtick pretty seriously. Even I feel most bodyguard contracts have an out clause in case of world-ending events.
Do you ever have that thing where being scared of something makes you reckless instead of cautious? I get that every now and then. It’s not a good trait. I should work on that. No reason to let the end of the world get in the way of self-improvement. I decided that the best thing to do was to yank the door open and shout “What the hell do you want?” On the other side, the small filthy men with bad skin, bad teeth, and an even worse odor scattered like rats. Actually more like armadillos. I was on Conan once and the zoo lady brought an armadillo. Those animal segments on talk shows are death. I blame Carson for that. Yeah, I said it. The poor little thing just ran around and around in a circle. If it could speak, I imagine it would have been saying “oh dear, oh dear, oh dear”. They were more like that than rats. Rats are more self-assured. When they run they’re hissing at you, the rat equivalent of flipping the bird. They’ll be back.
The first three traders had returned with friends. Because of the difficulty communicating with them, I’m not sure if they thought we asked them to do that or were just taking it upon themselves or what they were thinking. Once they stopped freaking out over me startling them, they were excited to show us more junk, but before I could politely decline, there was a second commotion up top where their wagons were. There was some too-fast for me to understand talking and then some shouting. The guys down the ramp seemed to be torn between running back up to protect their trash wagons and trying to dash into the building for cover. I saw them eyeballing my gun like maybe it was worth the risk to charge at me.
Before they could decide, a few more of the traders came marching down with a couple other guys herding them. The newcomers were bigger, although I doubt any of them were over five six, and they were wearing some kind of pants that looked like a camouflage pattern with the colors all wrong – hibiscus on a pastel yellow. I don’t know where you’re going to hide with that scheme unless it’s on a Rose Bowl parade float. They would have looked totally ridiculous if they hadn’t been carrying guns but they were, so they were merely mostly ridiculous looking. Two of them had what kind of looked like big long flare guns to me. Martialla later called them “cut-down lever action rifles” but how can a rifle have a barrel that’s only eight inches long? Regardless, Martialla assured me they wouldn’t fire flares, assuming they fired at all. They looked to me like something the juvie kids would make in metalshop.
But the third guy had something else altogether. I’ve seen enough action movies to know an AK-47 when I see one (Martialla’s note, it was an AK-101). I guess those things do last forever. I almost had a studio convinced to let me play a terrorist in some dumb plane hijacking movie. I thought it would be interesting to have a woman terrorist, but they decided in the end that wouldn’t be cool with foreign audiences. I guess they thought people in those countries wouldn’t mind being portrayed as terrorists much as long as it’s a male actor in the stereotype, I mean role.
AK certainly seemed to be in charge. Was he in charge because he had the best gun or did he have the best gun because he was in charge? Or was it because of his potato head? You see, this fellow’s forehead was all lump and bumpy like he had tubers growing that hadn’t broken out from under the skin yet. It was like a crappy alien makeup design from Star Trek or some other sci-fi show like that, only even lazier than usual because they weren’t symmetric or matching or anything. Other than having a forehead full of tumors, he looked less scabby and unhealthy than the traders were.
He glanced at us and then spoke to the traders in a fast-clipped way that I couldn’t follow at all. I was about to speak up when he put the tip of his rifle against one of the trader’s chests and casually blew him away. Like he was reaching for a beer out of a cooler. No big deal, just killing a guy.
For a moment I thought the pain I was feeling was just in my head, like from the shock you know, but when I saw the blood, I realized that the bullet had gone through that poor sap and hit me right on the front point of my hip bone. It didn’t have enough force left to penetrate, but it was like taking a bad spill when your bike smacks into a tree.
I don’t know about the other two, but his gun sure as hell worked.
I looked over at Martialla solemnly “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
She blew out a long breath “That it’s going to be impossible to effectively keep watch on both entrance doors with just the two of us?”
I shook my head “No, I was thinking that if that’s what men look like now, there’s not much chance of a quality lay for the rest of my life. I was worried about my looks fading, but if those pigmen are what we having running around now, I’m in for a long dry spell.” I gave her a frank look “Unless . . . you know.”
When she didn’t react, I threw my hands up “Come on, that was funny, lighten up a little, it’s only the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine. What do you care about keeping an effective watch anyway? We were literally getting ready to leave when those mongrels showed up.”
It was a moment before she spoke “I’m having second thoughts.”
I raised an eyebrow “That’s my line. You said we’d die if we stayed here.”
“I know that!” She took a moment to calm herself “I know we can’t stay here, I’m just . . . those guys showing up really unbalanced me.”
I chuckled “Those rash-covered losers? Why are you afraid of them? I’ve seen more intimidating eighth graders. If anything, seeing them made me feel better. They didn’t even have guns. We probably have the only functioning firearms left in the world. That makes us queens of this world! Until we run out of bullets anyway.” I waited but Martialla didn’t say anything “It’s interesting, isn’t it? Weapons seem to last forever but everything else breaks down. Tools for killing? Immortal. Tools for living? Rotted away. It’s like a metaphor for human violence or something.” I waited another moment and then waved my arms at her “Hello, are you listening to me?”
I gestured “Well tell me about it, let’s work it out. Remember that movie where I played a therapist? I got the gist of it. I can shrink heads with the best of them.”
She frowned slightly “I don’t remember a therapist movie. I guess you didn’t need a stunt double for that one.”
“Actually I did, see I played Doctor Case Meridian and one of her patients became obsessed with her and broke into her house at night to eat her kneecaps. Also he was a serial killer, I think. Also maybe there was a vampire. That movie got really screwed up in editing. The working title was Fatal Attraction and when they found out there was already a movie with that name everything got messed up, I think one of the financing people pulled out. How could they not know about Fatal Attraction? That movie came in out eighty-seven! I don’t even recall what the final title ended up being. Something about a snake maybe. Anyway, you weren’t in it because you couldn’t work then, I was filming that after you fell off that mule at the Grand Canyon and ripped your perineum in half.”
She glared at me “That is not what happened! First of all, it was a full grown big horse not a mule, and more importantly . . .”
I laughed “Yeah, yeah, whatever, let’s get therapizing, have you been getting enough sleep?”
“You said you played a doctor in that movie? Are therapists doctors? Did you mean you were a psychiatrist?”
“There was a man wearing a George Bush mask attacking my knees with a circular saw, I don’t think the script writer was too concerned with accuracy.”
Martialla spit out some mung from the disgusting food she was eating before continuing “Seeing those men made it real for me. I was in shock before I think, probably still am, seeing them drove it home.
Our world is gone. Rick is dead. My parents, my friends, everyone I knew except you, it’s all gone. Maybe we can survive here, but what for? It’s all gone.”
“We don’t know that. In all the Mad Max movies, there’s like a biodome where people are attractive and have lots of food and go watch killer motorcade fights and laser themselves when they’re fifty as a form of population control because a giant computer tells them to. We just need to look for something like that.”
She looked at me annoyedly “This isn’t a movie, Ela.”
“Sure it is, we’re the last two women on earth, there’s a bunch of movies like that. When we finally give into the temptation of our desires in the second act, it’s really going to be hot, Mar. Some actresses get uptight about doing nude scenes, but here’s my theory. If it’s for the movie, and if it’s not just about nudity, but if it’s artistic and says something about reality, and if it’s in character and if it’s for the scene,
and if it’s not just a body that . . .”
She threw a hand up “Okay, enough.”
I grinned “The sex will be simulated of course, this isn’t a porn, but that doesn’t mean . . .”
She rolled her eyes “You are a buffoon.” After a moment she sighed “I’ve never had to be brave before. I’m not sure I have it in me.”
I was stunned into silence for a moment “How can you say that? You’re the bravest person I’ve ever known! When that mob attacked you didn’t hesitate, you took action.”
“That wasn’t bravery, that was just reaction, that was self-defense.” She smiled weakly “Plus that was over a hundred years ago, people change.” She sighed “Maybe brave isn’t the right word. When I worked at the embassy there was this one guy, everyone hated him because they thought he was a spook. His hands and arms were covered with scars, he couldn’t straighten out his fingers anymore because the nerves were cut or damaged. I asked him about it one day. He said that he climbed over several barbed wire fences to get out of a prison in Cambodia, the guards didn’t watch them because they didn’t think anyone would be fucked up enough to climb through them. I asked him how you do something like that he said ‘it’s just pain’. That’s what I’m talking about. There’s a difference between the kind of bravery where you don’t shit your pants in the moment but then afterwards you’re scared out of your mind and the kind of bravery where you know you’re going to be hurt, and I mean hurt bad, and you do it anyway. No one is making you, you just do it. I think that’s what’s going on out there.
We’re indoor cats who’ve suddenly been left at grandma’s farm because we hissed at the baby.”
“My cousin’s family did that, dropped the family cat off at our farm because it bit one of the neighbor kids. I remember how scared my cousin was for it, how she cried because she thought it was too soft and weak to make it. That cat was a freaking monster compared to our little farm cats. It was huge and it was mean and it gave zero shits. It ruled that place.”
She snorted “And what, that’s what we’re going to do?”
I shrugged “Sure, why not? In the words of Doctor Case Meridian ‘The first step to doing something is deciding to do it’.”
She shook her head “That’s a terrible line.”
“Well the guy who wrote it is probably long dead so things are looking up already.”
Eventually we figured out that the scabby little mole people actually were speaking English, or at least some patois with a lot of English in it. They were just speaking so fast and with such poor diction it was hard to understand them. It seemed like they were shouting “hooah!” like in that crappy movie where Al Pacino pretends to be blind but they were saying “who are you” or something along those lines. Once we figured that out, we were kind of able to communicate with them. Mostly.
They were traders. Or scavengers maybe. Actually I guess they were both, first they scavenge then they trade. They were wary of our guns but they didn’t seem to be afraid of them. I think maybe most of their trades take place at gunpoint. Or clubpoint or whatever since they didn’t seem to have any firearms. At one point I could tell they were making fun of the way we talked. I would have been offended if they weren’t such gross monsters that it was impossible to care about their opinion.
When I went up to look at their junk wagon, they kept trying to sidle beside me like one of those pervs that rubs up against you on the bus. I repeatedly had to tell them to stay in front of me, I thought I was going to have to shoot one of them to back them off. Or you know, not do it myself, but order Martialla to shoot one of them. Even though they were more varmint than man, I’m not sure I could have pulled the trigger unless they were actually attacking me.
It was definitely a waste of time. When I say that they had a junk wagon, I mean that literally. I don’t mean junk as in stuff, I mean junk as in literal garbage. There was some scrap metal which I guess has value but honestly it looked like a mobile landfill. I’m surprised there wasn’t a flock of seagulls circling it and screaming. The wagon was huge, it was bigger than a haywagon like back on the farm and it was being pulled by a comically tiny motorcycle. It looked like a minibike, honest to God.
The only thing they had that looked worth anything was food. Real food. Tomatoes, grapes, almonds, walnuts, all kinds of stuff. It looked half the size and twice as ugly as what I buy at the grocery store but it seemed healthsome enough. My mouth started watering in that gross way where it makes you feel like you might yak – that’s when you know it’s been too long since you’ve eaten. The problem was what to give them. There are probably all sorts of things with good trade value in the cryo-facility but it’s also best to keep that stuff undercover right? Plus we don’t know the relative worth of anything. If the world is really crunked and no one can manufacture anything anymore, that makes paper rare for sure, but is it valuable?
I asked Martialla what else was valuable in Waterworld besides dirt and she gave me that look she gives when I treat movies like they have real information. What the hell does she want from me? I’ve never haggled with post-apocalyptic badger people before. Where else am I supposed to draw information from other than movies? There’s no way to have any practical experience here lady.
She told me seventeen times not to trade away my gun. Which is insulting. I’m not a moron. Although strangely they didn’t seem interested in them. Maybe in this world no one would ever give up a weapon so they didn’t even consider it? They also didn’t seem interested in us, you know, as women. Not that I would have offered or agreed anyway, but that also seemed odd. They’re ugly as sin so maybe that’s what they like?
In the end, we traded them a couple of Applied Cryogenics West jumpsuits for assorted produce and some stacks of crud they called a word that sounded like a racial slur and Martialla called “lock-up loaf” because it’s what they give to prisoners for meals as a form of punishment when they assault a guard – at least when the Supreme Court lets them. Not anymore though, since I get the feeling there is no penal system nor Supreme Court anymore. The three stooges were pretty happy with the jumpsuits so we probably got ripped off.
The foodwad was gross but it was the only thing I could eat. All those nice juicy fruits and veggies tasted like the floor of a public restroom to me. Martialla was able to choke it down but I couldn’t force myself to swallow that nasty crap.
We tried to ask them what happened to the world but they didn’t understand the question no matter how we tried to ask it. Or we didn’t understand the answer. Maybe both. I asked them if someone dropped the bomb and I eventually realized their jabbering was them telling me where to go to get a bomb. I swear to god it sounded like they said to get on the 101 at one point. We asked them where people live and they talked a mile a minute and gestured all over the place, none of which made any sense to us. But I suppose that means there are other people around.
Martialla asked them what they used as fuel. After much “who’s on first” bullshit we realized their answer was “fuel”. She asked if she could look at their bike and they got real squirrely about that. Up until that point I got the feeling they would have hung around and chattered at us all day, but once Martialla showed interest in the bike, they got agitated and not long after that they cleared out. They wouldn’t even start up their machine until we were down the ramp below their sightline – as if starting up a dirtbike was magic that you could only replicate by watching it happen.
Even though the cryo-place seems like a fortress, the front doors are just glass. We dragged some chairs out into the hallway from the breakroom so we could watch to see if they came back while we enjoyed our feast of rotten fruit and prison sludge.
I sighed as I put my feet up on a chair “So one of us needs to be on watch here all the time probably?”
Martialla popped a tomato in her gaping maw and nodded “We should have been doing that before, that was stupid, they could have walked right in on us.”
I shook my head “I don’t see how you can eat that. What’s wrong with it?”
She shrugged “Bad soil? Maybe it’s irradiated and I’ll wake up with a bunch of tumors. Maybe this is just what food tastes like when you don’t have pesticides and herbicides and fertilizer and genetically modified bean sprouts. Who knows?”
“How do you know it’s safe?”
She gave me a cool look “I don’t, but if this is what food is like now, it doesn’t much matter does it? We only have so many high fructose corn syrup bars and once they’re out, this is all there is. If we can’t eat this food safely we’re dead either way.”
My face fell “Jesus Martialla.”
She held up a nut appraisingly “Freaking tell me about it.”
I did mess around with the computers for a couple hours. There wasn’t a password or a code or anything set up to protect access to the files. It was just all out there in the open. So much for confidentiality. All these dead guys would be pissed about that if they weren’t dead. I couldn’t figure out if anyone was frozen alive like Martialla and I were. After much poking of buttons, I did manage to open one of the other pods but nothing happened. I went out and looked. Just a frozen old dead dude in a tube.
After awhile I gave up on that idea and I started playing solitaire. Somehow out of all of it, that’s what made me cry. The world may be over and I was playing computer solitaire? It was too stupid not to make me really sad. When Martialla found me, I was in the bathroom starting at myself in the mirror. She looked around like she was expecting someone else to be in there with me.
“What are you doing?”
“Staring at myself in the mirror.”
She looked to the skies for help “Jesus Ela, I know you’re vain but this is too much even for you.”
I glared at her “Hey, if the world really is gone out there like you say, I’m never going to look this good again. I want to remember it. I want this image to be seared into my mind.” I held up one hand “If you’re right, I’m never going to get a manicure again, look at these cuticles! My nailbeds will never be this clean again. Have you thought about that?”
She shook her head and twisted the wedding ring on her finger “No, mostly I’ve been thinking about how I’ll never see my husband again.”
I sighed “You always have to one up me, don’t you Martialla? That’s one of your worst traits.”
She nodded somberly “I’m sorry that the thought of Rick being dead distracts from the sorrow of your beauty routine being disrupted.”
I snorted and then waved towards the door “If you’re going to be like this, let’s just go.” As we headed into the hallway, I looked over at her “Are you going to give me one of those guns?”
She thought a moment “I haven’t decided. I would like to have someone watching my back but I also don’t want you to freak out and shoot me in the spine because a cricket jumped on you.”
I scoffed “I went to the range every week when we were filming LA Gun Club.”
She gave me a side-glance “That movie wrapped over three years ago, I mean, three years before we were frozen for a hundred years . . .”
“It was not a hundred years!”
“Whatever, you know what I mean! Have you fired a gun since LA Gun Club, Ela?”
I thought about lying for a moment before answering “No.”
Before she could answer, we came in sight of the front doors. The glass is too dirty to see through clearly but we could both see a silhouette on the other side – one that was obviously the size and shape of a person. We both froze in place and she silently handed me one of the pistols. We stood there for a moment wondering if we were seeing what we were seeing. When the shadow moved on the other side of the door, I almost fell over. Martialla started creeping forward in a ballet like shuffle with her weapon up. I wanted to ask her what the plan was but I was too worried even to whisper.
She stopped when then person (?) outside started making some kind of wailing sound. It took a moment but eventually I realized that it was singing. Horrible singing, maybe not in English, but it was singing nevertheless. That shook me out of my torpor. Not that evil murdering rapists can’t sing, but it was something human and familiar. Martialla’s eyes went wide as I walked up to the door and reached for the handle.
I winked at her “Cover me.”
When I opened the door for a second, I thought it wasn’t a person at all but a very small and very upright bear. It was a man wearing a fuzzy brown animal skin. Not a fur like a rich lady would wear, more like a pelt – like I wore when I had a small role in that movie about the Oregon Trail. A Native American group sent me a nasty letter about playing that role. They should have been bitching to the casting director, not me. What actor is going to turn down a part?
When the door swung open, the man (?) jumped back like a startled rat. He didn’t look like he was even five feet tall. He brandished a sharpened piece of metal at me with cloth wrapping for a handle, more than a knife, like the size of a baton maybe.
“Hoo-ra!” he shouted at me, or something like that.
I kept my gun down but made sure he saw it “What? What’s who-raw? Are you in the marines?”
“Digger hi baker!”
I kept my eyes on him and said over my shoulder at Martialla “Is he speaking another language?”
Before she could answer, the small bearman whistled and two more guys came down onto the ramp. They were equally as small and dirty and their exposed skin was covered with hives. What really bumped me was their teeth though, they were so yellow they were almost brown and they looked like they were half the size they should have been. One of them had a fire axe, one of those mil-spec ones that looks even nastier than a normal axe – it made me think about what had happened just a few days before (to me, maybe a hundred years before) to that poor slob who tried to stand up again the mob. The other one had what looked like a pipe but was closed on both ends, a heavy piece of metal for smashing heads in any regard. I did raise my gun at that point and they backed off a few steps.
“So you know what a gun is huh? Can you understand me?”
Bearman ducked his head and said something that sounded like “seecwo”.
Out of my periphery I saw Martialla move up and take cover with her gun trained on the strange men.
“What the hell are we going to do here Mar?”
Remember at the end of Planet of the Apes where Charlton Heston (I just realized for the first time what a weird name Charlton is) sees the Statue of Liberty on the beach and he freaks out because seeing that let him know that they “blew it all up”? Something like that would be helpful. When we go outside, there’s no reason not to just assume that Placerville had been abandoned. There’s nothing that says “clearly the apocalypse happened”.
You could say that the air quality should be a tip off, what with the haze and the throat stinging, but it’s California right? There’s always a wildfire somewhere it seems, plus all the pollution. Maybe the fact that our phones had no signal should be a tip off, but we always have crappy reception out of the city anyway. When the phone in the clinic didn’t work, that doesn’t even really help us know that the world has ended because if the place had been abandoned, there’s no reason it should have worked, right? Same thing with the water.
Plus there’s this to consider. Have you ever been cryogenically frozen? It makes everything all fuzzy. Even when that pod opens up, it takes a long time to get your head in the game. It was probably three hours before I felt like I could even sit up. I don’t know how long it was after that before I was clear headed enough to wake up Martialla.
There’s a storage room where we found some half faceplate masks with a bunch of filters, I assume they used those when they were handling whatever chemicals you use to freeze old dead dudes. According to the back of the box, the filters will only last eight hours in “very dusty” environments, which I am going to say the death-air outside is. Going through six a day is going to eat them up pretty fast. There’s an unopened pack of one hundred and maybe thirty in an opened box. That’s three weeks if we’re both outside all the time.
Whoever was living here while we were on ice had stockpiled a huge amount of bottled water, no loose bottles but pallets like you see in a warehouse, where did they get those and how did they get them here? But out of that, there were only about three hundred left. Martialla says we’re going to have to boil them before we drink them even though they’re sealed. And even then she doesn’t sound super confident that it’s totally safe. Can you get by on two bottles of water a day? Assume we can, that’s ten weeks of water, give or take.
Food is basically nil. There’s a pile of unopened cans but there’s nothing inside them but black flakes of scrud. I thought canned food lasted forever. I guess not. We do have a plastic crate of assorted energy bars, two dozen or so, that seem fine. Which is mildly disturbing. Martialla said that some energy bars are just a solid brick of preservatives so they last a really long time.
She also said that as long as they don’t get wet, guns and ammo basically last forever. So the four handguns we found should work. The knives and clubs certainly will if it comes to that. I’m ninety percent sure I could shoot someone if I had to, but the image of that guy taking an axe to karate guy haunts me. I’m not sure I can stab someone. As we were going through the tedious process of boiling all the water and putting it back into the bottles, I started to have second thoughts.
I looked at Martialla as she stacked up water bottles on the counter in the break room “I’m starting to have second thoughts.”
“We need to find out what’s out there, you said so yourself.”
“I know, that’s why I said SECOND thoughts. We have no idea what we’re walking into out there.”
Martialla paused her work to look me in the eye “Right, that’s why we need to find out.”
I gestured “We have electricity here that is apparently apocalypse proof.”
“What good is that? What we need is food and water, whatever kind of geothermal rig they have going on here doesn’t help us with either of those things. I mean unless you want to play minesweeper, the computers’ electricity doesn’t help us.”
“There’s like fifty frozen guys back there.”
Martialla stopped to think for a moment “Cannibalism?”
I nodded “Cannibalism.”
She shook her head and went back to packing “Even if we knew how to thaw them out, I don’t know if you’d want to eat someone who was cryogenically frozen. They’re probably full of antifreeze or something.”
“What about water? If you turn up the freezer enough you get frost, right? Can we rig up something to make ice that we can melt for water?”
She gave me an appraising look “Can you? Because I am not an electrician or an engineer, I don’t know how any of this equipment works. I have no idea how to turn electricity into water. I wish I fucking did. I know you feel safe here Ela, but we can’t stay. All we can do here is waste the supplies we do have waiting for nothing.”
“Maybe we could wake someone else up, strength in numbers.”
“They’re all dead Ela, that’s how cryogenics works. They freeze you after you die because it’s bullshit.”
I held my arms out wide “How can you say that? We’re here! It worked!”
Martialla got a stubborn look “But the cell walls . . .” I made a disgusted noise and she moved on “Look, if you want to try and figure out if someone else was frozen while they were still alive and then how to unfreeze them, go nuts, but as soon as we get all this water ready to go,we have to move.”
“We don’t have to leave leave though right? We can explore and come back if we need to?”
“Sure, we can check out Placerville and come back here maybe but that’s about it. After that, we need to head for the highways. Using up all our supplies investigating the three-mile radius around this hole in the ground isn’t going to net us anything.”
“It just seems crazy to leave this place, it’s like a fortress!”
“I thought you were the one who was thinking everything would be fine over the next hill, now you want to hunker down? Make up your mind.”
When we went out of the facility, the air stung our eyes like it does when the wildfires get really bad. We only stayed out there long enough to confirm that there were no cars in the parking lot. We’ve both been coughing ever since. I’ve hacked up a few drops of blood, which can’t be good. It felt like I breathed in a cloud of sawdust and it’s now just twirling around at the back of my throat. Putting a cloth over your mouth when you go out helps, but not much.
The phones are dead but the computers come on. No internet access. Maybe because of the phone lines? I don’t know how the internet works. There’s no one else here. We checked three times. It’s not a large facility. Someone was here for sure. After Martialla and I went into the deep freeze, someone was here for a while. An office next to the break room is filled with empty water bottles, wrappers, and opened cans and the break room itself looks pretty lived in. It’s all covered with dust now. Everything we do kicks up dust, which doesn’t help with the throat situation. We managed to chase most of the dust out of the breakroom and sat down like we were on break from our data entry jobs to cough at each other and chat.
Martialla poked a thumb over her shoulder “I think one of those readouts says that we were under for at least a hundred years.”
I leaned back and put my feet up on another chair “Bullshit. I don’t think you have any idea how to read those things.”
She shrugged “Doesn’t really matter I guess, things were going crazy when we went under anyway, one year or a hundred it may all be over.”
“That’s what I like about you Martialla, you’re an optimist. For all you know we could walk out of here, flag down a car, hitch a ride to Sacramento and everything will be fine, I mean aside from being in Sacramento.”
She raised an eyebrow “Uh, did you not find spent shell casings and see bullet holes when we were searching this place? Not to mention dark stains on the floors and walls?”
I waved away her concerns “That was probably from you.”
She shook her head “No, the guy I shot was up front by the doors, this was in the hallway. And in that other office.”
“Well whatever, we don’t know what happened. For all we know the people that were here got rescued.”
“And they didn’t mention that we were on ice in the back? I still don’t understand how that even worked, human cell membranes . . .”
I rolled my eyes “Ugh, enough with that cell membrane stuff, we’re here, who cares how it worked. I admit that it seems strange that if the Indian dude or blonde Keanu were rescued that they wouldn’t say anything about us but . . .”
“What’s even stranger is them leaving their guns behind.”
“. . . BUT we don’t know what happened. Everything could be fine over the next hill. Did you see any bodies around here? I didn’t. That means they left, right?”
“There may be nothing left to find, after a hundred years even bones . . .”
I smacked my hand on the table, which wasn’t nearly as loud as I wanted it to be “We have NOT been here a hundred years!”
Martialla frowned slightly “Since when did you become such a Pollyanna? The refrigerator is burned out, you know how long that takes?”
“Bah, that thing was probably twenty years old already.”
Martialla glanced over at it dubiously “Looks pretty new to me.”
“We’re not going to find out anything by sitting here, we don’t have any way to communicate with the outside world.”
“And what if there’s no one to communicate with?”
I shrugged “Then I guess we’ll have to repopulate the world.”
She couldn’t help but laugh “There are a number of things wrong with that statement.”
When it got dark, we went outside again – the glass on the front windows was too grimy to see through and in any case, you have to go up a ramp to see anything. We had several layers of fabric over our mouths and noses but it didn’t seem to make much difference, it was like breathing in shards of glass. We didn’t see any lights coming from Sacramento. We didn’t see any lights coming from anywhere.
I’m starting to think Martialla may be right.
Jennifer Lopez is the only person who’s had a number one album and film in the same week. That is an undeniable fact. What is also undeniable is that I am both a better singer and a better actress than Jennifer Lopez. She’s a better dancer, I give her that. That ability will come in handy once everyone realizes what a fraud she is and she has to work the pole for a living.
And yes, her albums have had more commercial success than mine, but I was nominated for best supporting actress at the Golden Globes. I didn’t win, but seriously, have you seen the Wedding Planner? To say nothing of Anaconda. Although her experience handling giant snakes will come in handy once she gets too old and saggy to work the pole and turns to porn.
Is she hot? Of course. No one can take that away from her. She’s possibly even hotter than me, if you’re into that sort of thing. But no amount of hotness makes up for her limited vocal range. Her lower range, besides being the weakest point of her voice, is also her technical downfall. While the rest of the voice is sound (most of the time) that part is foggy, unfocused, and almost hazy, denoting little control, and possibly damaging vocals.
Though she may mix well from a technical aspect, intonation problems are even more evident in her belting range, due in part to the pitch and forwardness of the notes. This lack of complete control over the range results in an unpleasant nasality in the higher range when her technique slips. Which it does. All the time.
And again, when it comes to acting? Anaconda.
I just want to make it clear from the outset that I am better than Jennifer Lopez. If you’re reading this, you probably have no idea who Jennifer Lopez is but it’s important that I get that on the record. She’s not without talent, I’m just better.
My name is Ela, that’s with ONE L. I hate when people misspell my name. Okay, the name on my birth certificate is Ella Preston but my name is Ela. It’s a Hollywood thing, although you probably don’t know what that is either.
I was going to be in a science fiction movie with Matthew Fox, that dude from Party of Five. Not the one you’re thinking of, that’s Scott Wolf – the other one. And on that topic, let me tell you something, I have a thing or two to say about that Jennifer Love Hewitt thinking she can sing. And I Know What You Did Laster Summer? Give me a break. Since I am a serious actor and not a dabbler who does stupid romcoms and slasher movie trash, I was doing some research for this sci-fi movie. It was going to be a taut thriller drama about the use of cryogenics as a way to keep criminals incarcerated. And NO, it’s not anything like Demolition Man!
I was at Applied Cryogenics West near Placerville getting a tour of the facility from an intern with shaggy blonde hair. He looked like a surfer dude with a lab coat tossed on. Martialla was there too. She used to be my stunt double and stand-in because we’re around the same height and build, although I’m much more petite that she is. And obviously she’s not as attractive as I am, but in a wide shot it’s fine.
I say “used to” because she kept getting in trouble with SAG and eventually they wouldn’t let her work on movie sets anymore. I hired her to be my personal assistant. She likes to tell people she’s my bodyguard but really she runs errands for me and housesits. She did shoot a guy once but I’m pretty sure he just wanted my autograph. He was a creep, but as a female singer/actress/media icon, creeps are part of my demographic. Their money spends. Believe me, their money spends. She’s lucky she didn’t do time on that beef. I had enough juice to get her out of that jam. Can Jenny from the Block say the same? I doubt it.
Blonde Keanu Reeves is showing us around the cryo place and we hear a massive roaring noise. It came up slowly but once it got going, it was ear-splitting. I assumed it was an earthquake. Maybe it was. A few hours later, the power goes out but the cryo-place has some kind of geothermal back-up so the stiffs don’t all thaw out. Can’t have Ted Williams’ severed head getting all moldy. We sat around in the break room with another couple of dudes in lab coats and watched the TV.
The omni-racial lady with the hyphenated name on the news didn’t seem to know what was happening. A lot of people thought that the nukes were flying. It was chaos. The footage was like after the Rodney King riots but it was everywhere. They cut to a reporter on the street for something and as soon as he was on screen, he got beaned in the head with a chunk of pavement. Half his head tore off. Not the kind of thing you’re used to seeing on TV.
After that it was just a bunch of cursing from the camera guy and then a weird shot of the boom operator getting clipped by a Lexus. Not long after that, the channel went out. One of the lab coats said there was no one transmitting anything on any channel. One of the other geeks said that the signals were getting scrambled somehow. Another said that it must have been an EMP.
The Indian guy in charge tried to drive home to his family but he came back with bullet holes in his car. He had that look on his face like when someone stumbles away from a car wreck. I suppose that’s shock. We all decided that we’d hunker down there until things cooled out. The cryo-place had power and water and vending machines full of food. And it’s built into a hill, kind of like a bunker, I guess because they want the frozen stiffs to be protected in case of world ending events.
It was scary sitting there in the emergency lighting waiting for some kind of news, but more than anything it was boring. They don’t tell you that about a massive disaster. You can only be scared out of your wits for so long. Then it becomes tedium.
After a couple of days, one of the lab coats – the one who was practicing dumb karate moves out in the hall each morning – suggested that we could freeze ourselves “for a while” if it came to it. He said it as a joke at first. Once we started thinking about rationing our vending machine food pile, it wasn’t a joke anymore. Martialla insisted that you can’t survive being frozen, something about the cell membranes bursting, but it looks like she was wrong. Because here we are.
What sealed the deal for me was not the food, but when a gang busted into the place. Not a gang like the Latin Kings, that would have been less frightening actually, this was just a bunch of people. Like normal people, you know? I’ve seen desperation before, but not like this. They had the look in their eyes of refugees in a warzone. They looked like they had been through the ringer.
They wanted whatever we had. Our counter-offer was that they could take all the water they could carry and leave. Mentioning we had running water wasn’t a good idea. Karate man tried to get tough with them. A guy who looked like a 45 year old dad from the suburbs hit him in the face with an axe. An axe. I’ll never forget seeing that.
I don’t know what would have happened if Martialla hadn’t been carrying. Actually, I do know what would have happened, I just don’t like to think about it.
After I helped drag the bodies outside, going into one of the tubes seemed like a good idea.
Ela, Martialla, and their post-apocalyptic dream machine/killmobile “Jennifer Lopez”
That song is by Cheap Trick, I never would have remembered that.
I’ve updated the character sheet and made some site changes if anyone is interested. I remember in the D&D Ela phase people asked me for a character sheet ALL the time (because it was so popular you see) and then when I finally put one up I don’t think anyone ever looked at it.
I’ll probably start posting some stuff for Ela story #3 this week.
Here’s some stuff that was left on my comic book Ela idea pad when she died –
Liberator pistol, not sure what I wanted to do here other than I found out about it and thought it was neat
Shark people, I forgot exactly what the idea was here, I think Martialla was going to hate them but they were actually allies
Malibu Al – a shady used car salesman guy from back home who was in Madripoor running from trouble back in the states
Red Viper – A retired supervillianess who robbed banks for the commies, to bring down capitalism you see, I think I stole this idea from Icons
Australia’s first combat cyborg – I’m not sure why I started picking on Australia, but I was going to continue with that
The shapeshifter guy was going to turn up again, somehow?
Saving Maggie was going to involve a Bullseye rip-off called Pinpoint, two people who are really good at throwing shit fighting? Thrilling!
Ela narration about how much she misses sugar, basically the same thing as I did with Coke. Why do it again? Shrug.
Ela bumps into a supervillian during some kind of wild melee and it turns out to be her estranged sister! Why is she a supervillian now? And how did she get powers? We’ll never know now I guess.
When Ela and friends stormed the prison where the Duke was supposed to be they were going to kill him and then find out he was a clone and the real Duke was alive and well! Comic books!
Some people really hate when other people talk about dreams. It’s generally not the best conversation fodder I admit. One of my friends loves talking about dreams the most, and my other friend hates it the most – what a hilariously mismatched pair!
The other night I had a dream that I was talking to an old lady who was a covid researcher. We were talking about covid research and then out of nowhere she tried to stab me in the groin with a syringe. I moved and she hit me in the thigh. The police came and it was a whole thing.
The next night I had a dream that she was standing in my driveway with her syringe waiting to stab me so I called the police. They showed up but she put on a “I’m just a confused old lady act” and the police left. She was still out there saying she was going to get me and air-stabbing with her syringe.
I figured if she showed up in my dreams again that she most likely had to be some kind of Freddie Kruger style dream infiltrator.
Thinking more about it I think she might be the ghost of the old lady that haunts my attic. I guess she has dream powers now? Which is nice for her.