Sugar never tasted so good

I like dogs well enough but I would never have one in my home.  Animals, like plants, belong in the out of doors, not in your house.  It’s a controversial stance I know, people love their pets, but I’m not a pet person.  We had dogs on the farm but they weren’t really pets, they were more like co-workers.  There were always cats around too but they fit better in the category of non-invited guests.  As far as pets go that’s the end of the allowable list.  Birds?  Forget it buddy.  Fish?  Get real.  Don’t even get me started on reptiles, stop pussyfooting around and just get some angel dust like you want lizard guy.  Now if you have stables and horses that’s entirely different because those aren’t pets.

What does this have to do with anything?  I’m getting there.  Why are you always rushing me?  What’s your damn hurry?  Say what you want about cats but they’re smooth creatures.  Dogs are lovable but they’re herky-jerky goofs like a whacky sitcom neighbor.  And much like Kramer, Lenny, Squiggy, Mr. Roper, et al dogs can get on your nerves with their blundering.  It’s a lot of energy coming at you.  Cats on the other hand are generally chill.  Even when they’re turning your yard into what looks like a Civil War battlefield with dead moles they don’t get excited about it.  Just killing a hundred moles and not even eating them, what?   

The only exception to this cat class and cat style is when they drink.  When you see a cat drinking out of a puddle or the crick or what have you they get all scrunched down in a way that makes their cat shoulders (or whatever the hell they have) and their cat hips point up in an ugly awkward way.  It’s like their body drops softs down to another level while their limbs stay up above.  It’s displeasing to my eye.   

That’s what Martialla looked like when I found her.  We had stopped to get our bearings (we were lost) and while Lucien and one of the Jesus Lady people were messing about with the map Martialla wandered off like she does.  She’s going to get herself killed doing that one of these days.  I went looking for her and when I came upon her she was all hunched over with her limbs splaying out crazily cat-style.   

“What on earth are you doing?” 

She looked at me guiltily for a moment and then regained her composure and moved into a sitting position like everything was fine “Eating dirt.” 

I couldn’t even laugh, nothing would come out of my lungs for a moment “Why?” 

She wiped her hands off in a very prissy manner considering she was just literally eating dirt “It’s something Paul taught me.  There’s this grass that absorbs blood which triggers it to bud out and then die.  Something about that process injects the ground with sugar, I assume so the seeds can grow better.  They’re like sugar beets only instead of storing the sugar in the fruit they distributed it out through the roots.  He showed me how to look for the patches of ground that are still sweet.” 

“Why were you hunched over like that?  Why don’t you pick it up with your hands?  You know, the things with the fingers and opposable thumbs.” 

She started to say something and then stopped, her face falling “I don’t know.  That’s just how Paul did it.” 

I shook my head “Jesus Christ.” 

“Did you need something?” she frowned at me. 

I helped her to her feet and we headed back towards the killmobile we stole from the plainspeople “I’m worried about Lucien.” 

“That seems reasonable considering he got shot through the abdomen.” 

“Shouldn’t we do something?” 

“I’d love to, but what is there to do?  First aid for gunshot wound is to apply pressure and get the person who was shot to a hospital right fucking now.  They call it the golden hour after you get blasted because you need to get to a doctor inside an hour if you want to live.  Since he was shot two days ago and there are no hospitals anywhere, let alone within an hour’s drive, I don’t see what we can do.  Not to mention which any knowledge I have is for people that weren’t pumped full of chemicals by the Canadian Military that turned them into Engineer Smurf.” 

“There was no Engineer Smurf.” 

“Whatever, the point is he’s not normal anymore.  I got there right after he got tagged and the wound wasn’t even bleeding like it could have, a stream of Star Wars milk blood would come out every few minutes like it was being shot out of a water gun.  His skin doesn’t even feel like flesh, it feels like hardened Play-Do.  Whatever the Queen and her Royal pharmacologists did to Lucien and his men I don’t think they’re human anymore.  I don’t think a normal doctor would know what to do with him if there was one, which there is not.” 

“Shouldn’t we dig the bullet out?  Aren’t they always doing that in movies?  Put a knife on a fire for a while and slap some whiskey on it and then get to cutting?” 

She gave me a sidelong look “You’re not being serious are you?  Bullets do damage on the way in.  Once they stop moving they don’t hurt anything.  Stabbing someone with a hot knife is not helpful in any way.  You’ve been on enough movie sets to know that everything they show in movies or TV would be the worst idea in real life.” 

I nodded absently “And why is that is?” 

“Because movie and TV writers are idiots.” 

I bit my lip “Oh right, I knew that.” 

Therefore, the battle is already over

The thing that attacked Paul had come out of the ground like a rabid wombat.  It was real weird looking and I say that having seen many real weird animals lately.  It was flat and wide like a shell-less turtle but it was a mammal FOR SURE.  Its mouth/head/snout thing was shaped like a massive shovel, you know one of those shovel with shark teeth.  Martialla said that the teeth were like that of some stupid extinct marsupial.  She was really enamored with those teeth for some reason.  Like she knows anything about animal teeth.   

Whatever the thing was what it wasn’t was very tough, it died after Martialla only shot it once like a loser.  But it did manage to bite Paul’s kneecap off so I give it points there.  That’s what it looked like to me anyway, but Paul was still able to walk around so there must be some kneecap left in there.  I feel that genetic engineering had to have existed in the 2030s because there is something abnormal going on with Paul physiologically.  Nobody normal can take the punishment he does and walk it off.  Limp it off, but still.   

“Why didn’t you yell for help Paul?” I asked reasonably. 

He thought for a moment and then said that it didn’t occur to him.  I suppose that makes sense.  If you’ve been alone for most of your life you’d want to keep quite even when you’re being mauled to death.  If you scream out for help the only thing that’s going to happen is another critter hears you and shows up to attack your spleen.   

The creature didn’t get into or onto or around our stolen land whaler vehicle but it still managed to break down in all the excitement Kelly Petillo style.  Martialla and I kept watch for more turtle-badgers and whatnot while the Lady Jesuses tried to make repairs and Paul laid down on the roof like Snoopy on top of his doghouse.  Remember that Peanut’s comic where Snoopy has one of his legs mangled by a monster and he has to recuperate?  It was like that.  Woodstock brought him Flintstone chewable morphine for the pain.  I remember.

I decided the best way to keep watch was to lie down and close my eyes for a moment “So what happens if we miss the appointed rendezvous with Lucien?”

I could hear Martialla’s scrawny chicken neck creaking as she scanned the area “I told him that if didn’t show up that meant we were dead and he was to go back and get his men out of all this mess, head south like we were going to before you wanted to start a war and see if there’s any civilization left.  So probably he would come looking for us at great personal risk with little to no chance of success.”

I nodded absently “Dudley Do-Right stops to help.  You’d think the military would beat that out of people.

“He was in the Canadian military, vigilamus pro te.”

“And an in vino vertias to you.”  I opened one eye to peer at her “Did you ever kill anyone, you know, before?”

After a moment she looked down at me “Is that a serious question?” I nodded and she scoffed slightly “No, of course not, when would I have killed anyone in the old world Ela?  What kind of question is that?”

“You were in the military” I pointed our reasonably “Plus you murdered that union guy you were always beefing with.  And you were an assassin when you were overseas right?”

She sighed “Yes Ela, I was an assassin for the US government, just like in the movies.”

I closed my eye again “What did you do over there?  There’s no harm in telling me now is there?  You can’t really have been a secretary.  Were you a spy?”

It was a moment before she answered again “I guess you’re right, there’s no one left alive who cares.  No, I wasn’t a spy, I just got stuff for operatives, spies if you want.  They called me a procurement agent I think but I was more like a quartermaster, I didn’t make fake IDs or anything cool, I just kept track of guns and laptops and bought furniture for safe houses, stuff like that.”

I opened my eyes in surprise “You worked for the CIA?  You just got a lot cooler.”

She shook her head “No, it’s not like that.  The CIA is . . . different.  I worked for a guy who was told not to do things by his superiors, with the understanding that he was supposed to do them, but that if he gets caught doing them he would be charged with treason.”

My eyes widened a little more “So you were black ops?  That’s too cool for you.”

“I mean, technically yes, but as you say it wasn’t that cool.  I was like an officer manager only sometimes I ordered a case of stolen glocks instead of lamps.  Why are you asking me about this?”

I thought about saying something flippant for a moment “You seem to be okay, not okay okay, but mostly okay with . . . the however many people you’ve killed since we crawled out of those tubes.”

She pointed “You crawled out, I was pulled out.  By you.”

I waved her off “Whatever, I just assumed that since you were okay with it maybe you had killed people before.  That you knew the trick to being okay with it.  To not having nightmares and wondering . . . you know, if your life was really more valuable than theirs.  Or if there really is a hell even though it makes no sense and maybe you’re going to go there.  Just . . . wondering about that sort of stuff.” I cleared my throat, I wasn’t choking back tears at all “You know, generally.”

She shook her head slowly “No Ela, I never killed anyone in our old lives.”

I nodded back to her “Okay . . . . that’s what I figured . . . just uh, thought I’d ask.” I wiped at my eyes because of the grit in the air “I suppose you . . . don’t have any tricks then . . . not to be afraid all the time . . . you’re not trained, you’re just a woman, like me.”

She chuckled “Oh come on now Ela, there are no women like you, I wouldn’t dream of saying that.  That would be like trying to outshine the noon sun with a penlight!  You’re pretty, so very pretty, everyone says so.  You have the voice of an angel, the ass of a Greek goddess, one of the good ones not one of the weird animal ones, you can sing, you can dance, you can act, you have eyes that you can lose a whole afternoon in.  You’re the total package Ela, a perfect ten, and you want to know why you were saved when everyone else died?  Because what kind of a world would it be without you?!  Not one I want to live in I can assure you of that.  Plus, check this out, dealing with death has been the warrior’s dilemma since caveman times, but we’re girls Ela, we can’t be warriors.  Everyone knows that.  Our boobs get in the way and we have our periods all the time.  Also we’re too emotional, we go nuts at the drop of a hat.  The best we can be is schoolmarms and they don’t have to worry about death at all.  For once the double standard works to our benefit.”

I sniffed because of all the pollen in the air “That is good to know.”

She dropped me a sassy wink “And, don’t tell Lucien or Paul this, I don’t want them to know because they can’t handle it, none of this is real anyway.  This is all a simulation, we’re actually still in those tubes, we never woke up.”

“Like the Matrix?”

She shook her head “No, more like Total Recall.”

“I was supposed to be in that movie you know, Sharon Stone really screwed me on that one.”

She smiled “I never knew that, what happened?”

“Well, since you ask . . . .”

Reluctantly crouched at the starting line, engines pumping and thumping in time

The Lady Jesus people only had one vehicle and even by apocalypse standards it was a poorly made one.  Shoddy I’ll label it.  The shape was all wrong, it was like an eight person hot tub on wheels with a nose cone or something strapped to it more than a car or a truck or whatever.

I read for the part of “rape victim #2” in a movie about Kelly Petillo (never ended up getting made) and out of curiosity I did some reading about the early days of racecar car racing.  Something I hadn’t thought about before that was that the sport of car racing was establishing prior to the existence of car manufacturing being a thing.  In the 20s and 30s professional race car drivers were going to salvage yards to look for old fighter plane engines to strap to a bunch of curtain rods with wheels to make their racecars for racecar car racing. 

Three or four people died in every race and that was just what happened.  Billy Gabeebow took first, Gandy Mchandleshen took second, and four people died, would be the report in the paper.  And the people reading would just nod as they ate their toast because that’s was just how it was.  The cars they built looked crazy, broke down all the time, and killed people, because car parts weren’t a thing.  That’s basically the situation that people are in now, only it’s worse because at least those racecar drivers in the early days had the advantage of industry and commerce existing in the world.  The builders of this day have no such luxuries.   

All this to say that we knew right away that the vehicle approaching us wasn’t the Lady Jesusmobile we had been traveling with because that vehicle is very distinctive, even at a distance, and this wasn’t it.  The stated plan was to split up so Paul and could try and flank them and have the best chance two people with knives can have against a fast attack vehicle but the real plan was for me to slip away quietly while Paul engaged them alone.  Buying me precious seconds to get away with his very lifeblood.  He true hero that Paul.

The good news is before I got too far away I noticed that the approaching killmobile was flying Martialla’s ratty Acme athleticwear (code for training bra for adult women) like a flag.  It wasn’t in the best shape before Martialla was stuck with the same set of clothing for months, at this point it’s more like the ribbon of a rhythmic gymnast than an article of clothing.   

Now, could it have been “them” flying Martialla’s bra as a triumphant display of having killed, eaten, and raped her in no particular order?  Sure, but since people of this time don’t even know what underwear is I was willing to take that risk.  I revealed myself and the killbuggy approached slowly, revealing Martialla hanging off the back and a couple of the Lady Jesuses. 

I brandished my knife at them “Good thing you identified yourself, I was just about to spring into action with my anti-tank weapon.” 

Martialla looked around “Where’s Paul?” 

“Hello Ela, I’m so glad I found you, I was so worried about you.   Good to see you Martialla, I am also glad that you found me, thanks for looking.  Paul’s slithering about somewhere.”  I jumped onto the side of the buggy and called out “Hey Paul, you can come out now, it’s your woman.”  I looked over at Martialla and noticed that her face looked like a squashed prune “Jesus, what happened to you?” 

She continued scanning the area “You remember that scene in Robocop where the melty guy gets hammered by the car?” 

“No.” 

“Well I took a little tumble during the fight and got run over, luckily my face took the brunt of the damage and as you so often point out I was hideously ugly to begin with so no big loss there right?  The nanos are doing their work, otherwise I’d be in the process of dying right now.  What with all the bones in my face being shattered and all.” 

I winced “Ow.  Where’s everyone else?” 

“The water people continued on their way to the water, they weren’t too concerned with your fate.  Lucien is looking for you off to the south, we have a rendezvous set up.  Lucien got clipped pretty bad in the fighting too.  His blood is blue too turns out, fun fact.  I think whatever chemicals they pumped into him must slow down blood flow or cause faster coagulation because he should have bled to death.  He still might.  It’s a slow leak like a part balloon”  She frowned “Are you sure Paul is around here?” 

“Yes, I literally saw him two seconds ago, I . . . oh shit!” 

That’s when Martialla suddenly had her rifle to her shoulder and fired off a shot right by my fricken’ ear!  

Too crazy for boystown too much of a boy for crazytown

It’s strange to think that Paul is older than me.  I guess technically since I was in cryo-stasis longer than he was I am older.  Chronologically.  You have to give it up to me on that, I am without a doubt the sexiest one hundred- and twenty-five-year-old woman of all time.  Huzzah for me, huzzah for Ela!  He’s older in years lived not frozen? 

Point being even though he looks like an adult man, a big beefy serial killer of an adult man, it’s hard not to think of him as the weird kid in HS who wore a trench coat and was into knives and Samurai movies.  I bet being the parent of a knife kid is a real pickle.  You buy them one knife because you don’t want them to strangle you in your sleep which you hope that will pacify them but then they just want more knives because they have a taste of it.  And now they have a knife so what are you going to do then when they ask for another knife?  Say no?   

I remember my aunt telling me that when my cousin Reggie turned sixteen she started sleeping with the door locked.  Paul is a real Reggie.   

It’s also strange to think about Paul murdering me in my sleep, having sex with my corpse, and then turning my skin into a floppy sunhat, but hopefully it won’t come to that.  Hopefully for me Martialla’s right (for once) and he’s harmless.  Well not harmless, I’ve seen him kill like forty people, but . . . you know, something.   

I wonder if Paul seems more creepy and insane than everyone else from here because he’s not really one of them.  He’s of two worlds.  Obviously the people that grew up here are violent lunatics because that’s the world is the kind that produces violent lunatics.  But those violent lunatics go about their violent lunacy in a casual way you know?  They’re chill about being homicidal maniacs.  It’s not a big deal to them.   

Paul seems like he’s stretched thin, like a condom over a throbbing member, like he’s barely holding it together.  I imagine Paul’s attitude is what it must be like for  a dude who’s been in prison for murder twenty years and he’s about to get out.  Every muscle in his body is just tense all the time because he’s right on the jagged edge.  He made it twenty years, it would suck to get shanked at the last minute.   

I think that’s what it is.  The people of this time are fatalistic about their lives and understand that their lives are worthless so nothing matters.  Ipso factor ergo they’re more casual about murdering each other.  Paul is in a no man’s land where there are still some values of the old world rattling around in his brain so some part of him knows that this is all insane.  I feel for the guy.  A little. 

If I have the timeline right, which is dubious, Paul was born in 2018 or 2019.  I wonder what I would have been doing at that point had I not disappeared into a cryo-tube just when things were heating up for me career wise.   

I would have been in my forties at that point so even though I’m going to age spectacularly my acting career would be over or almost over, winding down.  Doesn’t matter how good you look, at a certain age the only roles a woman is allowed are mom or sad hooker and I’m not going out like that.  By that point I imagine that I would have received four Academy Awards, three for Best Supporting Actress and one for Best Actress.  I’m sure I would have picked up some Emmys too later on too when my movie career was slowing down but who cares about those?  

My singing career on the other hand would probably be in full force.  I don’t know why there’s such a difference, but in the music industry as long as you’re hot you can stick around, they don’t care how old you are.  In fact, being young and pretty halfway works against you.  When you’re young and pretty you may be popular but you aren’t taken seriously no matter how talented you are.  But if you’ve got the goods and you stick with it that swings around as you become more “mature”.   It’s the MILF effect.

I’d wager that I would have had many Grammy nominations but only two wins.  Those buggers are hard to nail down.  The question we have to ask though is, would I have picked up a Tony to complete the grand slam of entertainment?  Rita Moreno did it in the seventies, and I don’t mean to diminish her accomplishments but her Grammy is for a children’s album.  So you know.  I guess I do mean to diminish her accomplishments.   

Stage acting was never really my bag.  It’s not an actor’s medium you know.  But I could have really cashed in with some musicals.  Ela in a Broadway musical?  People would have been lined up around the block for tickets they would have!  I’m going to say, estimating conservatively, if I hadn’t been frozen in the ground when Paul was a kid there’s a seventy-five percent chance that I had won a Tony.

Given all that there is a very a good chance that I would have been one of the most famous people in the world.  In this hypothetically world there probably were some better actresses, your Meryl Streeps and whatnot, but they wouldn’t have been better singers than me.  And Mariah Carey would be out there holding down the top singing spot but she couldn’t act her way out of a Mariah Carey biopic.  All things considered I would probably be considered the greatest entertainer alive.  Maybe of all time.   I probably would have taken over the Tonight Show from Jay Leno at Johnny’s insistence.

“You want some nettles?” Paul asked, interrupting my train of thought as we crouched in the wet sticky grass. “I’ve been sucking on them for a few hours so I think they’re soft enough for you to swallow now.” 

Martialla + Paul 5eva

“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.

Marginally.

OOC – How sweet the sound

Every 6-11 months I drop a hint to my friends about my blogs. Then I immediately hate myself for crying for attention like a zoo orangutan begging for a mango. Sure, orangutans are much stronger than me and are better climbers and they have fiery red hair like Christina Hendricks but they can’t drive cars.

I have some new art for Grace, the character in my other blog and I think it’s cool so I’m sharing it here as well.

Credit – instagram.com/jdirenzo

I’ve also started re-writing and posting that blog from the beginning on wattpad – https://www.wattpad.com/1239343099-the-shine-hello

I think wattpad might be an even worse way to attract readers but on the plus side it keeps track of where you are in the chapters which is the excuse some people have given for why they don’t read my blogs.

Point and click

I guess this a move the raiders like.  Attacking right after a thunderstorm.  The travelers that you want to murder huddle up to get out of the rain and then you swoop down on them before they get back on their killer go-karts.  I’m no military expert but it seems like a solid move to me.  Although it didn’t work out so well for them this time so maybe not.  They should have listened to Jah Youth and gotten right at this time because there may not be no next time.   

There’s a stupid shot they always do in action movies or war movies where everyone is standing around dialoging and then suddenly someone’s head explodes to signal that the fight scene is beginning.  I hate it because it’s pandering.  Come up with some new shit directors.  

But what I’ve learned in my new life in hell is that is pretty much is how an ambush starts on when you’re the ambushee.  One minute your attention is locked on a disappointing spaceship and then you see a dude’s head explode Scanners style.  You’re just glad that it was someone else’s head and not yours.  That’s why I always stay in the middle of big groups.  The gazelles know what they’re doing.

The only thing that’s different is that in the movies after the head explosion there’s beat where all the main characters stand around emoting.  That doesn’t happen because that first shot is followed less than a beat later by all the others.  The ambushers are working together you see.  They set up a whole ambush together.  They’re not just as shocked as you are when the first guy snipes someone’s melon off their shoulders.  They’re on the move.

When everyone started getting shot I noticed something interesting.  The renegade plainspeople were not getting shot.  In fact they were taking out long knives (short swords?) and other killing tools and they were going to town on the water people.  I guess they’re not renegades so much as spies and double agents. 

I shot one of the non-renegades in the chest and then kicked him off the hovercraft with my foot.  S/He looked pretty surprised.  I wonder if not all of them were in on the scheme or if they just forgot that we have guns. 

I’m pretty sure on an episode of the Rifleman they said that the best thing to do in the case of an ambush is to go on the offensive.  Or maybe it was Mannix.  It could have been China Beach.  There’s an outside chance that it may have been Party of Five.  Or it could that Martialla told me that going on the offensive is the worst thing to do in case of an ambush, that when you get bushwhacked what you need to do is survive the first few moments as best you can with the goal of GTFO. 

It was one of those.

I jumped down out of the hovercraft into one of the non-renegade kill-buggies.  I don’t know who was more surprised by our collision, me or the person trying to slither into the driver’s seat.  Probably me since I don’t think dead people can be surprised.  My foot got tangled in whatever you call the upper structure of a buggy and I came down with my leg out like it was World Wide Wrestler and I was doing a legdrop.  The guy leaning in the side got it right across the back of the neck.  A neck breaking doesn’t make as much noise as foley artists would have you believe.  It’s more of a pop than a crack.

That’s a thing I know now. 

I was trying to roll and kick and get into the seat and get the dead guy out at the same time when the machine rocked backwards on account of Paul jumped on the back and macheted a guy that was just about to skewer me from behind with a pointed stick.  I won’t call it a spear because it was too short.  It was like a sharpened baton.  The guy was split from shoulder down to the hip like this was a Friday the 13th movie.  Paul’s machete was ripped out of his hand and he tumbled ass-backwards, getting caught up in whatever the back part of a buggy is and hanging horizontally.

I got to return the favor one second later but shooting a guy who came to hack him with what looked like a T-square.  I shot him until my pistol went click.  Martialla would be very disappointing in me for shooting myself dry.  Which sounds gross.

Unlike us townies these plains nomads don’t seem to be worried about theft because the buggy started up with just a kick pedal thing instead of complicated ignition sequence.  I hauled Paul up and we took off, swinging around to try and come at the attacker’s vehicles laterally. 

As we lurched and almost flipped I saw Paul struggling to get his machete out of the two-thirds of a person hanging in the buggy between us.

I gestured upwards frantically “The gun Paul, man the gun!”

I could barely hear him over the wind and the engine “I don’t know how!”

“Just point and pull the trigger!”  I heard a rattle and saw some dirt fly up ahead of us and I started waving frantically at the rapidly approaching enemy vehicles “Point Paul!  Point at the enemy damn it!”

Science fiction!

I don’t hate science fiction.  Don’t listen to Martialla when she tells you that I do.  Actually don’t listen to her at all.  I have no movie biases.    A good movie is a good movie.  Period.  Science fiction is a genre that doesn’t produce good films reliably.  As a genre sci-fi is under the gun because if you want to have other planets and aliens you need a lot of money to make it look good.  And sci-fi doesn’t warrant a lot of money.  It’s one of those catch-22s.  Sci-fi movies need money to be good but they don’t get money because they don’t have a track record of being good.

End (is that the catch 23?) result is a lot of sci-fi looks like crap.  Which is a problem for a genre that leaves heavily on cool visuals.  Sci-fi leans on looking cool over things like good actors or dialog or a story by its very nature.  There’s a high degree of difficulty and they rarely pull it off.   

I wouldn’t pretend a good sci-fi movie was bad because I don’t like sci-fi, but first you’d have to show me a good sci-fi movie first.  Star Wars?  Laughable.  Visually it’s not bad but the writing is intolerable.  No one talks like that.  Hero’s journey my sweet juicy ass.  Star Wars might not even count as sci-fi because I witnessed Martialla almost get into a fist fight once because she says that Star Wars is a “space opera”.  Whatever the hell that means.  I must have missed all the singing.  She needs to cool it.  One day her temper is going to get her into some hot water and I won’t be around to bail her out. 

Star Trek?  Give me a break.  Effects are childish, the production design is garbage, the acting is acknowledged even by superfans to be idiotic, the action is slow and awkward, and the stories vacillate wildly between incomprehensible, fantastically boring, and blindingly ham-fisted.  There’s a reason that show was cancelled.   

Bladerunner?  Awful.  The Matrix?  Some kind of leather fetish Devo music video.  ET?  Flying space potato.  2001?  Literally just a light show for drugged out hippies.  Alien?  I’ll give you that one, it’s a good movie/rape allegory.  But that is the exception that proves my point.  I don’t hate science fiction. 

What does this have to do with anything?  I’m getting there.   

In science fiction spaceships generally come in two types.  One is the space plane.  These are movies where they have WW2 dog-fights in space even though that’s stupid.  Take a cool fighter plane and makes it look “futurey” and you’re done. 

The second kind of ship is the giant flying slab of metal.   Doesn’t look like a vehicle at all, it looks more like a skyscraper turned sideways with some big round things on the end that glow or maybe shoot fire out of them.  Unsurprisingly neither of these turns out to be accurate.  And the reality is even stupider than you’d expect.   Which not surprising.  Reality is often disappointing.  That’s why we spend three times more money on entertainment than on education.

Once the storm cleared off and we un-transformed our way cool hovercraft back to travel mode I noticed that the heavy rain had washed away a big chunk of plains sludge in a long strip.  I think they call that an ephemeral river, which would be a good name for a movie.  It’s a comedy of manners story about how all’s fair in love and war between a food critic who hates seafood and a mermaid.   Actually that’s a better plot for Splash 3 starring myself and that bland dude from The Object of My Affection. I’ll think of another story for Ephemeral River.   

All the sediment being washed out of the gully (or whatever) revealed the flank and the nose of an actual spaceship.  It was very disappointing.  It looked almost entirely like the space shuttle Endeavour with the addition of a big yellow jackhammer looking thing on the front and some weird black discs on the wings and sides.  It looked like something my nephew would make with his Legos and then my sister would get mad at me because didn’t praise him enough for making it.  That’s probably why the world ended.  Over-praising kids.

We didn’t get too close to the disappointing spacecraft because there were dozens of electric blue eel-leech things on it longer than my leg.  They didn’t really seem dangerous, and they weren’t moving fast or anything, but they had a look to them – nobody wanted to get near those things.  Still we debated what there might be to loot from a spaceship that had been buried for who knows how long.  Martialla and Lucien in particular were interested in the yellow nose thingy – which did have the air of a weapon about it.   

“Does that make a lick of sense?” I asked attractively. “Planes flying around in atmosphere don’t shoot at each other directly, it’s all missiles right?  A spaceship would be going even faster?  What use would a gun be in a space fight?” 

Martialla gestured at nothing “A plane was just shooting at us the other day, that’s why we’re here.” 

“Yeah, but you know what I mean.  Back when planes weren’t MacGyver bamboo and a cement mixer for an engine.” 

Before Martialla could accede that I was right Paul of all people spoke up “I think that’s a thermal cannon.” 

All eyes swiveled to him and he gulped nervously.  I thought he might just shrivel away, like the “touch” of the human eye is to him like salt is to a slug. 

I narrowed my eyes at him “How would you know that?  You never know anything.” 

He looked down at his feet aggressively “I think . . . I remember . . . something about it  . . . my dad . . . talked about it.  Or maybe I saw it on television.  Or maybe it was a toy.” 

Before I could say something snarky Martialla asked him in a soothing tone “What’s a thermal cannon Paul?  Do you remember?” 

He looked at her with wet eyes and a moment and then whispered “Yes . . . superstring theory was rejected . . . but they learned . . . about electromagnetic fields under extreme conditions . . . you, you induce a balanced electromagnetic charge in a solid slug.  Then you launch the slug.  On impact the electromagnetic bonds is disrupted, unleashing a massive explosion.”  His voice changed, like he was reciting something, mimicking someone else “The rate of fire will be slower since each slug needs to be individually primed in the barrel, but the destructive power is formidable.” 

I scoffed “What the hell is superstring theory?  Sounds made up.” 

I looked to Lucien since he’s an engineer but he just shrugged.  Martialla had her arm around Paul consoling him like he had just come out of identifying this parent’s bodies after a rabid chimp attack instead of just saying four sentences in a row.   

I didn’t have time to learn more at that point though because that’s when the raiders attacked us. 

Autobots rock out!

I can now say without fear of contradiction that hovercraft is the only way to travel.  It’s a smooooth ride I tell you what.  And on top of that (literally) there’s a nice little canopy to keep the deadly radiation of the sun off my fair and nubile skin. 

There’s a bunch of other water chumps on normal scrap vehicles with us, and of course the raiders of the plains are on their kill-buggies, and I pity them I do.  Pity them from my positioning lounging on back of a hovercraft.  Now I understand why old timey bible ladies liked being carried around on giant couches.  Or was that Cleopatra who did that?  Was Cleo in the bible?  The only thing that could make traveling my hovercraft better for me is a pitcher of sweet tea, some whiskey, a crispy BLT, a shower, a shave, some chapstick, and some clean clothes. 

Martialla and Lucien being the way they are couldn’t just sit back and enjoy the ride.  They had to try and pick apart why this way cool hovercraft like this would even exist.  Martialla’s issue was that the energy involved to make something hover above the ground in this manner would make it utterly impractical from a fuel consumption perspective.  Lucien was focused more on how there would be no military application for a vehicle like this, although he did allow that maybe it would be possible to arm a hovercraft with “soft launch systems” which sounds like something you’d hear about in a commercial for boner pills.

This is why Martialla is always flying off the handle like a lunatic.  You just have to accept things as you find them.  You don’t have to analyze every little thing.   If you can’t enjoy a hovercraft ride what are you doing with your life?  I dated a guy who pretended to be Native America (not cool Hector) and whenever he wanted to sound like he knew what he was talking about he’d go “My people having saying” and then he’d say some crap from a fortune cookie.  One of these gems was “even the eagle knows when to sleep” which was supposed to mean take things as they come.  I think he got shot a couple years ago. 

In a strange reversal of fortune I found myself taking up the position Martialla usually takes with me, saying that we have no idea how technology progressed in the decades after we were frozen – they may have developed some kind of anti-gravity thing scientists in our time never even thought of, making hovercrafts not only super fun but cheap and easy to make and the most fuel efficient ever.  There’s no way for us to know. 

When asked the dumb water people didn’t even know what kind of fuel it runs on.  Which is a smart move on the part of the Water King I suppose, your lackeys can’t steal your hovercraft if they don’t know how to make it run on their own.  Poseidon probably has a second group of jerks that only know how to fuel it up and keep it running and a third group that doesn’t know anything except to murder either of the first two groups if they try anything funny. 

And check this shit out Jeepers, we’re hovering along and then out of nowhere a violent plains thunderstorm whips up.  Hail and thunder and rain and the whole bit.  And the damn thing transformed into a non-hovering shelter!  There was even room for all the non-hovercraft traveling chumps to crowd in there. 

A transforming hovercraft?  Come on!  Finally the future has come through with something cool.  I mean I guess the nanobots inside me and Martialla are pretty cool.  What with the regeneration and the super-strength and all.  Maybe the hovercraft runs on nano-fuel.  Even over the sounds of the pounding rain I could hear Martialla and Lucien sucking all the joy out of life.

“How would a hovertank even fire?” whined Martialla “the recoil would send it flying backwards with no firing base.”

“You’d have to build in some mechanism to counteract it with force in the other direction.”

“That would take even more fuel!” 

“You have to think of it less as a tank and more like a fast attack vehicle.  The main advantage of a hovering vehicle is the ability to move laterally while firing, which allows you to avoid return fire and attack while moving in and out of a hull down position.  I have to assume that maneuverability is the important part of a hovercraft not heavy munitions and armor.”

“Hull down?  I tried that with Antonio Sabato Junior once and I nearly broke my neck!” I said hilariously.  They both just stared at me. “Jesus, can we talk about something else please?”

Martialla snorted mannishly “Like what?  The creature comfort of the past that you’d kill someone for today?”

“Sure why not?  Today it’s a nice massage.”