O meu hovercraft está cheio de enguias

I saw this on twitter and it’s a good image for Martialla current day – I don’t know what copyright I’m in violation of, as always I apologize

I’m not a writer.  Actually that’s not true, since everyone else is dead instead I’m the best writer in the world.  This journal I’m writing will become classic literature in the future.  While I’m at it I suppose I should set about re-writing all the world’s great novels and claiming I’m the original author.   See you in hell Tolstoy!   

Anyway, I was not a writer in the world I came from is the point.  However, I know a thing or two about scriptwriting.  There are a lot of ways things that can go wrong in a script.  The stakes could be too low.  The conflict could be too easily resolved.  The characters could be subordinate to the themes they’re meant to embody which makes them flat and lifeless to the audience.  The characters could be poorly defined.  In particular character motivations are tricky.  The list of issues goes on and on.  It’s really kind of a miracle that anything good is ever written given the many pitfalls that can befall the screenwriter.   

One of the common problems with writing and the one that is my personal pet peeve is when there’s a story with bunch of characters so a writer will think “oh no, character number four hasn’t done anything in a while” so they’ll wedge in a stupid scene where that character solves a problem with whatever stupid hook the writers gave to try and make them memorable.  According to every movie ever made, every character has a special skill, and that skill will eventually save your life, regardless of how impossibly stupid it is.  The dumb kid that likes jazz will blow up the alien spaceship by playing their saxophone, or Jennifer Lopez will break open a bank vault with her ass. 

The second Lethal Weapon movie has a great example of this horrible instinct.  The first scene is Mad Max getting out of a straightjacket for the amusement of his co-workers, so you better believe that later in Lethal Weapon Two the bad guys are going to put Mad Max in a straitjacket and chuck him into the sea.  You know that classic way of killing someone. 

I was in a deleted scene for Lethal Weapon Two you know.  One of my only gigs a kid actor, I was the daughter of the “diplomatic immunity” guy.   But check this shit out, they’re currently developing Lethal Weapon Five where my character comes back for revenge, but they’re talking about giving the role to Charlize Theron, that emotionless coat-rack from the Keanu Reeves devil movie!   Can you believe that?  I’m available!

What does this have to do with anything?  If this was a movie this is where I would sneer in derision because they writers are trying too hard to make the Ela character seem useful.  She can’t fight like the other three or fix a car or fly a plane but she has girl social skills!  I mean it’s true, I do have girl social skills up the ying-yang, but the thing about movies is that realism is often not appreciated – people hate reality, it’s boring, that’s why they’re watching a movie.   

I used my talking powers to arrange for us to tag along with one of Aquaman’s water caravans which will get us in the general area of the car parts store.  And I befriended some renegade plainspeople to escort us the rest of the way there.  And I got the Jesus Lady people to send a couple folks with us to fill out our ranks a bit.  They’re religious fanatics so they should be useful if we get into a scrape.   

And that’s all fine and dandy but here’s the super sweet sixteen part.  We’re going to be traveling by water clan hovercraft.  A hovercraft!  And I mean a real one people, not the bullshit ones from my time.  We had things they call hovercrafts but they were just dumb boats, they “hovered” on the water the same way my feet “fly” on the ground.  But King Trident has an actual hovering machine that they use for his water runs.   

Lucien was confused by how excited Martialla and I were by the prospect of checking out the hovercraft. He thought it was technology from our time.  He was disappointed when we told him that there weren’t any real hovercrafts in the year 2000.   Like personally disappointed in us, like we should have invented it or something.

There’s a metal plate thing on the hovercraft that says “United Cattle Company” so at some point after the turn of the millennium but before the end of the world there were cowboys flying around on hovercrafts rounding up cattle.  I have to assume these space cowboys also had jetpacks and laser-lassos.  Now that’s a movie idea!   

Martialla had to ruin everything of course, saying that it looked like the desert skiffs from “Tattoo Nine” in Star Wars, which is a stupid name for a planet even by Star Wars standards.  To get her back I asked her if she was talking about the USS Enterprise.  She threatened to punch me in the boob but she said it with a smile.  Hovercraft! 

Martialla bombarded the crew with questions but it quickly became apparent that they had no idea how it actually works, they’ve just learned what buttons and levers they need to toggle and tweak to make it go.  I’m pretty sure there’s a name for that.  When the underlying technology has been lost but people still know how to use it day to day.  If the thing ever breaks down that will be it because no one understands the mechanics.

There has to be a lot of that going around these days. 

A thing can be true and still be desperate folly

I suggested to Lucien that instead of sitting around all day not doing a nothing maybe we should try to get our hands on some new wheels.  He gave me a funny look and said “What do you think Martialla and Paul are doing?”  Like I was supposed to know.  Nobody ever tells me anything.   And I’m the leader!

I asked Lucien if Martialla and Paul were looking through the stacks of junk for something we could fix up and drive on out of town.  What a foolish notion that was to suggest!  One does not simply sift through all the junk in junktown, that junk belongs to people!  People have major dibs on that junk.  They have a vested interest in that junk.  You get in a lot of trouble for molesting people’s junk without their permission.  It’s similar to that time they were going to hang Paul in Bosstown because he stole some mud.  Each gang (or whatever) controls part of the junkheap and they charge people for going into their junkzone to look for valuable junk.   

Since it would be stupid just to go in there and wander around and hope for the best, a whole subculture of middleperson junk guides have arisen.  The junk guides have already mapped out where all the sweet junk is that anyone would want.  And the good news is you can pay them to lead you to it, on top of paying the gang that controls the junk for access to it.  Also the path to that pile may be control by other gangs and you have to pay them too.  And probably you’re going to have to pay off some other people.  Junk fondling is serious business.   

Lucien and Paul and Martialla have been trading away all our stuff and working “odd jobs” (probably very odd) to piece together the right cardhouse of favors for us to get the right crap out in the craphole to get a working crap vehicle knocked together.  When I inquired why they hadn’t asked me to help with this project Lucien didn’t really answer.  The implication was that things would work better without me.  Why is everyone busting my hump lately? 

I decided that their plan was a stupid so I went to my Lady Jesus friends and asked them where I could get a bitching ride for cheap, preferably really cheap, like for free cheap.  They hooked me up with a person named Catcher who in return for Martialla’s battered copy of Watership Down told me that out in the plains there was a bitching car just waiting for someone to come along and give it a home.   

You see Catcher and his/her wives and husbands used to be junk merchants.  They had working metal detectors, which made them a pretty big deal in the realm of junkfinding, and they roamed the high prairie hither and yon looking for junk to bring to junk town to trade for other junk, as is the junk merchant’s way.  During one of these junkxpeditions they detected what they thought was going to be a big score.  They spent a week digging out an old auto parts store.  Which would indeed have been a hell of a find for them if the plains hunters of the shaggy land whales hadn’t taken exception to their digging up the land and murdered them up real good.   

Catcher managed to survive and flee while his various spouses were slaughtered.  Seems a little suspect to me that he made it out while everyone else died, but whatever.  Okay, that’s an auto parts bonanza but what about the car?  Catcher claims that a sleek old timey machine was down in that hole as well, and all it needs is to be dragged out and to have the engine converted and some new tires and it will be good as new.  Well no, it will be much worse than new, but it will run and be better than other stuff around. 

When Martialla and Paul got “home from work” I told them about the Catcher in the Rye and asked politely with all due respect that they consider if this might be a better option than their current course of action.  With all due respect.  After some measured and well-tempered discussion in which all parties were treated with respect and dignity it was collectively decided that my idea in fact might be a better way to go.  Assuming we could find Catcher’s hole and avoid being massacred by the furry raiders of the plains it would be much cheaper than trying to buy “new”.  Which is important because it sounds like we’re running out of shit to trade.  We may need to cool it with the nachos for a while.   

“Maybe we should do both.” I suggested attractively “Martialla and Paul keep working the system here and Lucien and I go on a hike to see if we can find this auto store and get the car working.  If we both succeed then we have two cars and we can race them.” 

Lucien and Martialla said that was a terrible idea.  Almost simultaneously they said it.  Setting aside the physical risks of splitting up, death and so forth, they said that dividing our already meager resources was the worst thing we could do.  It stung a little but I accepted their assessment with good grace as is my way.  Martialla said that we should commit everything to one idea and she thought that should be the mysterious hole out in the wilderness.   

After that declaration she started looking around our junk-apartment “Has anyone seen my book?  Hazel just got wounded on a raid to free some farm rabbits and I need to know what happens to her.” 

There’s a girl here and she’s almost you

Today I’m feeling like the kid at the end of Old Yeller.  If Martialla has gone rabid on me I’m going to have to put her down.  The upside is that if I do shoot her then I can say cool gritty post-apocalypse stuff like “It’s a hell of a thing having to killing your best friend”.  If I do need to take her out it’s going to be tough though because she has the nanocanister which means she’s the one with access to healing and super-strength and stuff.  Also she has most of the guns.   Another issue is that she has Paul watching her back like a faithful hound.  Since he’s a rabid monster maybe he’s Old Yeller in this situation.  Would that make Martialla the bear?  Or was it a wolf?   

The worst movie I’ve been in (so far) started out as a script for Old Yeller 2.  I’ve seen many a shitty script in my time but this one took the cake.  Nothing in it made any god damn sense to me.  Gun to my head I couldn’t tell you what the plot was.  Was it supposed to be an erotic thriller about rabies?  Maybe.  Was Cujo one of the characters?  I think so.  Whatever the movie ending up being was never finished, but I get residual checks from a company in Singapore for it.  They must have sold the footage and they used in in another movie.  Martialla gets checks for it too and hers are three times more than mine.  I don’t remember her even being in that movie.  I should ask my agent about that.   Which will be even more of a challenge than knocking off Martialla since my agent is super dead already.

I suppose for now I should just keep an eye on Martialla.  She’s been acting out ever since we came bounding out of those cryo-tubes like Frosted Chocolate Vanilla Crème Pop Tarts out of the toaster. Probably because her husband and all her family and friends besides me are super dead.  For a while I wondered if she was pregnant since she’s been acting so squirrelly, but we’ve been here long enough that she should be showing by now if that was the case.  Or maybe the nanos ate her baby.  That’s a grim thought.  Why would you even think something like that?  You are messed up.

She just needs a project to work on I think.  She’s much happier when she was something to keep her simple little mind occupied.  Martialla is like a service dog, she wants to work.  Since her embarrassing emotional outburst she’s been avoiding me, going off with Paul during the day to do whatever it is they do, and Lucien has been staying at the garbage-shack with me.  I don’t know if it’s for my protection or because he doesn’t want to be subjected to the sight of Martialla and Paul going at it or both.  Whichever it is he was standing guard at the front garbage hole while I was ripping up Martialla’s books to teach her a little bit of a lesson about respect.

“You’re not getting any less blue are you?” I observed attractively.

He glanced down at his arm glumly “No.  It’s quite garish.  I wonder what color the Russians turned their test subjects.” 

I raised an eyebrow that could use some serious thinning out “They were chemically freezing people too?” 

“Whatever we were working on it was assumed by the planners that the Russians were doing the same thing.  It’s a named doctrine but the title escapes me.  The idea is you’re smart enough to come up with something your enemy is too.” 

“If the Russians were working on it they probably only produced corpses, so whatever color corpses are.  White?  When the Soviet Union collapsed they discovered that they actually sucked at almost everything and the whole Cold War thing was kind of a shame.  Just nobody knew it at the time.  Er, sorry you wasted your life on that.” 

He frowned slightly in a Canadian way “You say that and yet we’ve seen evidence that Russia invaded the west coast.  Maybe they wanted to seem incompetent.  What happened to the Soviet nuclear arsenal?” 

I thought about it for a moment “I don’t know.  I guess they still have it?  Er, had it, you know what I mean.” 

He gave me an incredulous look “You don’t know?  How can you not know?  The threat of nuclear exchange has been the primary concern in human history since the end of the Second World War.  The disposition of the Soviet nuclear arsenal had to be what everyone was paying attention to.  It should have been in the news constantly.” 

I grimaced slightly “I don’t remember the news saying anything about it.  I mostly remember them showing people dancing on the Berlin wall.” 

He frowned “In Germany?  What does that have to do with the fall of communism in Russia?” 

“I was in junior high dude, what do you want from me?  I wasn’t paying attention to current events I had dances and Trapper Keepers to worry about.  And don’t give me that look, what were you doing when you were fourteen?” 

“Working in a sawmill.” 

I shook my head “Jesus dude, give it a rest.  How about this, if you had to guess how would you expect that the Soviet Union would collapse?” 

He seemed impressed “Good question.  First thing that pops into my head is an instigating incident in the form of another Warsaw Pact action like in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.  Say Poland and Romania both try to remove their governing communist party and Russia intervenes while already engaged in Afghanistan.  Prolonged military conflict erodes the reputation of the Red Army and undermines Soviet legitimacy to the point where internal groups start pressuring for change.” 

“That sounds familiar, that’s probably what happened.  Don’t shake your head at me Blue Man Group.” 

“What’s blue man group?  Some kind of therapy for men?” 

I shook my head “No, it’s three guys who paint themselves blue and then . . . uh, do a performance of . . . of some kind.  Like they hit a tube with a hammer or something.  I think I saw a commercial where they threw jello at a guy . . . something like that.  You know, its performance art, it doesn’t make any sense.  They get up there and do crazy shit and don’t talk and people love it for some reason.  It’s like on Broadway.” 

He laughed mirthlessly “Well, I can see how the west won the Cold War now, we have the Blue Man Group.” 

“I mean don’t knock the idea, that’s how we defeated the aliens too.  When the space invaders invaded in ninety-five at first they were kicking our ass with their alien spaceships, but you see they came from a warrior culture, they had no exposure to music or art or entertainment of any kind, all they knew was military service.  The first wave of alien soldiers who put boots on the ground became infatuated by human society, and spread these ideas to their comrades when they returned to the alien home planet.  End result, the alien soldiers refused to fight and the whole planetary government fell apart because of Mariah Carey, old sitcoms, and some postcards from the Louvre.” 

“You’re making that up!”   

Cuz you know that I know

The Lady Jesus people came through with the goods.  Rather surprising that.  Martialla had to trade them one of her rifles for the information, but the good news is that religious people with guns never do anything bad.  According to them the guy that shot down our plane (Martialla’s note – that’s not what happened) is part of a secretive group for Invincible flyers that have a base somewhere to the south.  It seems logical to assume that’s also where all their other stuff comes from.  Makes sense that you’d keep your planes around to protect your main resource center doesn’t it? 

Initially the Jesus and Mary Chain wouldn’t say where they got this information from but without much effort I got them to admit that King Water Guy fed them the information.  I went to talk to King Triton in his palace of old shipping containers on the edge of town/start of the non-town junkhole.  Water Man is not very ugly by apocalypse standards his but his legs are thick and round like those of an elephant.  It’s really something to behold.

According to water guy the Invincible pilots do actually come into town to trade and for recreation they just don’t make a big deal about it.  For instance they don’t fly into town in their planes, so nobody else knows that’s who they are because they’re all dummies.  Unlike Water Guy, who told me at length how smart and awesome he is, which is why he’s ferreted out these Invincible pilots despite their crafty undercover moves.   

As for his motivation for dishing out this information, his claim is that the Invincible know the source of the water he brings in and is simply trying to protect his monopoly and  is concerned about them poisoning said water source in the event that they even decide to conquer garbagetown.  Seems plausible to me.  Also I don’t know how much I really care why he’s doing this.  That’s one of the problems with dealing these post-apocalypse lowlifes, they probably have agendas and are trying to get over on me to some degree, but it’s hard to know if the it matters at all because the stakes are so low.  Nothing they do matters.

Regardless (perhaps even irregardless) Aquaman says that next time on of the incognito pilots shows up in town he’ll give us the high sign so we can grab one of them and torture them until they give up the location of the secret Invincible base.  Because torture is just a part of my life some days now. 

So I got that going for me.

I guess we just live in his dump until then.  As per usual everyone seems fine with this but me.  I don’t understand why they’re always fine with everything.  Nothing is fine.  Remember that line in Office Space, “everyday things get a little worse, so every day you see me, that’s the worst day of my life”.  That’s what it’s like being here.  Every second things get worse.  Paul and Lucien disappear doing God knows what all day leaving me with Martialla, and all she does is read books she finds in the shit pile.  She didn’t even bother to look up from her most recent find to admonish me.

“If you’re going to pace could you do it behind me?  You’re intermittently blocking the light getting in our hovel.”

I threw my arms up in annoyance “What are we doing?”

She did deign to glance out from behind her book at this point “Well I’m learning the Art of Third-Generation Site Design with David Siegel, the first eight pages are missing I think I’m getting most of it, what you’re doing is being a pill.”

I grabbed the stupid book out of her hands and hurled it into the street outside – and by street I mean path in the garbage maze.  Martialla just raised an eyebrow at me.

“That was rude.”  She reached into her stupid knapsack and pulled out another book.

“What the fuck is that?!”

She held up the coverless wad of brown-yellow paper “Dennis Rodman, Bad As I Wanna Be.  I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, I assume it’s going to be a deep philosophical look at human behavior.  Most bad people are probably worse than they wanted to be, yet they couldn’t help being so bad, at least that’s what they tell themselves.  I’m interested in how Dennis Rodman was able to be only as bad as he wanted to be.  Should be illuminating.”

I started towards her to grab that one and dropkick it away as well but she gave me a look that stopped me in my tracks.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her look at me that way before.  I know she can kick my ass but somehow it never occurred to before that she might actually do it. 

She pointed a warning at me “Settle your tea kettle Ela.  It’s interesting how much paper has survived just sitting in piles.  I saw a ‘wall’ the other day that was entirely made up of old phone books pasted together with some kind of slime.  This must be a really dry area.  I wonder how often it rains.  That’s probably why the water guy is so powerful huh?”

“How can you just sit there?”

She raised an eyebrow at me “What else would you suggest that we do Ela?  I’m going to tell you something as a friend Ela.  Your little tantrums are starting to get old.  You don’t like it here?  It’s too hot?  The air makes your throat scratchy?  The humidity is making your hair frizzy?  Everyone we meet tries to kill or rape us?  News fucking flash, I’m dealing with the same shit.  You stomping around and whining about how hard your life is isn’t as helpful as you seem to think.  Knock it off.  It’s annoying.  How long do you think we’ll last if Paul and Lucien decide they’re sick of your bullshit and leave us here?”

I was too stunned to say anything but she guessed the dead question on my lips.

“How dare I talk to you like that?  You think because we sat and had lunch in craft services together a couple times a week that you know me?  Think again.”

Five or six

My parents were supportive of my career in the sense that they didn’t understand it in any way and repeatedly tried to send me checks for fifty dollars to help out.  Once a studio was nice enough to fly them out to LA for one of my movie premieres.  Afterwards my dad said that the movie was very nice but I should get a paying job.  When I told them I did get paid for being the movie my mom said “for what?”  When I was home for Christmas once I definitely heard her tell someone on the phone that I was a bank teller.     

I used to warn my parents because I happened to be partially nude in some of my early movies, but I realized that those warnings weren’t needed because they weren’t going to watch them.  I know they did see The Mistresses’ Guns because my dad said that it was okay but there was too much talking.  His review was that “sometimes it would just be talking for five or six minutes”.  Heaven forbid.  The funny thing about that is The Mistresses guns is right on the borderline of being almost an action flick, the last twenty minutes is just us mistresses in a firefight with the dirty Boers.   

What’s this have to do with anything?  I’m starting to feel the way my dad did about my movie about our stay in garbage town – too much talking.  And when I say that remember that I love to talk!  Seems like we’re going nowhere.  Slowly.  Even though the Invincible wrecked their whole society the Antolpians just want to talk and talk and talk.  I’ve explained to fifteen different horse-face people in stupid monk robes that we’re looking for the secret source of the Invincible horde’s advanced 1980’s technology.  They don’t really say anything in return.   It’s frustrating is what it is.  I understand being afraid of the people that smashed your livelihood but it’s already been smashed, what do they have to lose?   

Since that’s going nowhere I’ve tried to talk to as many of the dune buggy nomads of the great plains that I can find, under the assumption that they might have stumbled across where the Invincible are hiding but they’re taciturn to the point sometimes I wonder if they can even understand what I’m saying.  Martialla says that she thinks the ones here in garbagetown are outcasts and renegades so they wouldn’t know anything anyway but what does she know about it?   

Remember that silver necklace I picked up a while back with a crucified woman on it?  I’ve been wearing it because even after the end of the world it’s important to accessorize.  Perhaps even more important now.  While I was making my rounds talking for five or six minutes straight at a time to various people a group of garbagetown people, mostly women I think, saw it and flipped their lids.   

Turns out that woman on there is Jesus.  At least that’s the way these people feel about it.  Their theology is a bit off center from what I remember being taught in Sunday school.  As far as I can tell they have combined Mary and Jesus into one character who somehow gave birth to a magic baby but also is the savior-Redeemer herself.  Also I think there’s some John the Baptist in there.  They were pretty into me because they thought I looked like their Mary Jesus.   

So I have that going for me. 

At first I shrugged this off as post-apocalyptic tomfoolery but then I thought – someone had to make this necklace.  I’m pretty sure there were no silver necklaces with crucified ladies on them in my time, so that means that someone made it after the end.  I asked Paul if he knew anything about religion and lady Christs but as useless as ever he had no idea.  I don’t know really how jewelry is made but it seems beyond the capabilities of these mutants.  So at some point in the past this Lady Jesus religion came about?  I wonder how that happened.   

I told them about my mission and they were sadly ambivalent.  Even though I look like their Lord (Lady?) and Savior they don’t instantly want to fall at my feet and do whatever I want?  Rip-off.  They said they’d look into it but I get the impression they’re going to want something in return.  More of a transaction of commerce than an expression of religion ecstasy.  Ain’t that the story of my life?  Actually no, but it sounded good. 

I expressed my frustration to the gang over our slow/no progress back at the junkpile we’ve been staying in.   

“So what, do we just live here now?” 

Lucien started to say something conciliatory but Martialla rudely spoke over him “What’s your rush?  Why are you always in such a damn hurry?  Do you have a lot stacked up on your day planner?  I don’t think the guy you arbitrarily decided to murder is going anywhere.  If we wait long enough he’ll probably die on his own.  I think the life expectancy now is around forty-eight days. ” 

I pounded my first forcefully on the dirty dirty ground “There’s nothing arbitrary about it, it’s revenge!” 

“Do you even remember for what?” 

I gestured widely “For all of them.  The valley people, and the mole people, and the rat people, and those one guys, and the other ones.  I mean it’s not like I can get revenge on the people who put me in that tube.  They’re all dead.  Probably.” 

“The people that put you in that tube saved your life, why would you want revenge on them?” 

“They could have set it up so I was in stasis longer, so that we didn’t come out until after the world had rebuilt itself.” 

“How would they know that?” 

I scowled at her “Quit being reasonable.” 

A nameless ronin enters a small village

As far as human occupied landfills go Junker’s Delight isn’t so bad.  There’s edible food to be had (for a price) water that only gives you a little dysentery, the air doesn’t shred your throat like you’re swallowing a solution of diet-Pepsi and sand (which you are not) and as far as I’ve seen no one is going around cutting everyone’s heads off overly much.  By the standards of the day it’s almost paradise, and much nicer than the actual place called Paradise we took off from in our plane before Martialla crashed it. 

I’d like to talk to someone about how they need to get help us find the Invincible base since they’re the ones who wrecked the convoy on which this place depends but that’s where it becomes a problem that no one is really in charge.  As far as I can tell here are the “power groups” of the area the True, the Antolpians, the guy who brings in the water, and a couple bigger gangs.  The True already told us they’re too stupid and cowardly to do anything about the Invincible, so that means in theory that what I need to do is go around and speak to all the other groups and see who’ll take the bait.  And then try to forge some kind of half-assed coalition against the Invincible like I just did back west. 

The problem with that plan is that I don’t wanna.  I’m tired of begging these future pus-bags to do things that are in their own best interests.  Why can’t anyone see that I’m telling them the right thing and just do it?  Why can’t people just talk to me once and then put me change their entire society?  Is that too much to ask?  I’m sick of it all.  We were sitting out in one of the many junk-pavilions drinking some almost palatable moonshine and I was explaining this to Lucien and Martialla.  I have no idea where Paul was skulking. 

“So what we need to do is figure out a way to play these factions against one another and end up on top.  We need to Yojimbo this place.”

Lucien frowned slightly “What’s a Yojimbo?”

I put my head in my hand “Jesus dude, have you ever even seen a movie?”

He shrugged “Must have come out after I was put underground.”

“Yojimbo came out in nineteen sixty-one!  There is no excuse for you not to have seen it!  Akira Kurosawa?  No, nothing?  It’s fantastic!  How can you not have seen it?  Do they not have movies in Canada?”

“Fistful of Dollars is the same movie beat for beat if you saw that” Martialla added unhelpfully.

Lucien halfway shrugged again “Don’t know that movie either.  I was never much of one for movies, I felt like I had more important things to do than sitting around doing nothing in a dark room with a bunch of strangers.”

I frowned at him “You know I’m an actress right?”

He frowned back at me but more in confusion than my righteous anger “I thought you were a singer.”

“I’m both!”

“Uh, yeah . . . so . . . are you suggesting that I should pretend I like movies so as to not offend you?  Do I have to pretend that I like whatever anyone else likes?”

“No” I said as I stomped away “Just things that I like so you don’t offend me!”

Lucien looked over to Martialla “Does she ever talk about anything other than movies?”

Martialla snickered “She talks about her ass sometimes.  Which you can’t fault her for on honestly, it’s a blue ribbon ass.  If you like that sort of thing.”

Lucien shook his head like an old school marm “In the year two thousand does everyone talk like you two?  Such language.”

Martialla’s snicker turned into a laugh “You’re highly persnickety for an army man.”

“Sure but you have to remember I’m, ah that is to say, was in, the Canadian army.”

Martialla nodded “Oh right.”

The Lakers beat the Supersonics

Junker’s Delight is the biggest town I’ve seen in the future.  I mean literally the biggest, as in the physical area of the place.  Is it the most populace?  Populated?  Whichever it is I don’t know about that part, because it’s hard to say how many people are actually here on account of all the massive junkpiles they can and do hide in.  There may be more people here than there are in Crow or there may be just a couple dozen trash-eat stinkbugs lurking about.  It’s swimming around in a lake and wondering how many fish there are in there.  There’s no way of knowing. 

Junkhole seems to be the first place we’ve encountered that has no ruling body of any kind.  Most other post-apocalyptic hellholes we’ve visited at the very least had a strongman that is Master Blastering all over the place.  Some of the more advanced ones even have a council or some kind of government that’s one step above that.  But as far as I can tell Junktown is just a bunch of people that do whatever they want.  It reminds of me a town from an old Western, they say that there ain’t no law atal in Tombstone, tobacco spit sound effect.   

Some of the Land Whaler types that were following us out on the plains are in the mix here with their furry robes, they come to trade Wheklinallo meat, I suppose those would the Natives in the Tombstone scenario.  There’s a bunch of the horse-face people from Antolpe in town as well.  This scrapheap is the mysterious source of the trade goods they bring out west.  The annual caravan they ran until the Invincible wrecked it was comprised of the raw materials from this pile taken to Scrapbridge to exchange for finished goods and weapons and stuff which they in turn would trade with the Junkers here to keep the cycle going and enrich themselves.  I guess that makes them the railroad people from New York City.   

The metaphor fall apart after that.  Aside from a grab-bag or standard future uggoes there’s also a bunch of the bumpy-head people in town.  Martialla said that we needed to be careful and steer clear of them like she’s the leader of the group and when I scoffed at the idea that they might know who we are she pointed out that since we’re a foot taller than everyone else in the entire world and also the only ones not covered in weeping sores and pustulent buboes we’re visually very distinctive and therefore they could absolutely know who we are.   We’re famous!

I talked to them anyway because she’s not the boss of me.  They didn’t know who we were because they aren’t Invincible.  These bumpy head people call themselves the True and they told me in extensive boring detail about how the Invincible are losers and outcasts from their society because the Invicincible associate with non-bumpy head people and even though they’ve set themselves up as the warrior elite of their dumb society that’s not cool with the True. 

You see the True don’t associate with “lessor” beings.  I thought about asking why they were in Junktown given this high moral standard because it seemed to me like they were doing nothing but associate with non-bumpy head people but I figured that would upset them so I didn’t.  People don’t like having their stupidity pointed out to them I’ve found.  Which is a shame because I’m really great at that.

One thing I did ask them is if the Invincible are so gross and unclean why don’t the True murder them all with righteous justice?  The lead Trueman gave me a bunch of blatherskite about how the Invincible were beneath the notice of the True, but from what I observed the real answer is that the Invincible would annihilate them.  I didn’t see a single gun amongst The True nor any vehicles.  The leader I was talking with had a crossbow and everyone else in the group had freaking swords.  Swords.  What the hell are they going to do with swords against Duke Eagle and his horde of Mad Max extras?   

I tell you this, now that I’ve gotten a better look at them up close the bump-head lineage is far and away the winner of the post-apocalypse beauty pageant.  If you put a bag over their heads to hide the lumpy forehead and you like a beefy body type they’d be solid fives and sixes back in our time.  If you hosed them down for an hour and slapped some decent clothing on them a couple of the women could give Martialla a run for her money, you know, from the eyebrows down.   

The “True” guy I was talking to also told me that they’re aliens and their ancestors came here in spaceships generations ago and that’s why they’re better than everyone else.  I managed not to laugh in his face but I did laugh at Martialla when she said that it could be true as far as we know.  She takes the notion that life went on while we were frozen so anything could have happened too far a lot of the time.  Aliens?  Give me a break.  If they were aliens they wouldn’t look like Star Trek people made on the cheap and they wouldn’t speak English.  She needs to use her brain. 

Now . . . I do have to admit that Martialla was right about one thing.  We saw a junkshop that was selling alleged robot parts and just as I was telling her that it didn’t mean anything because anyone can say a metal arm is a “robot” arm an actual robot walked past us hauling a bunch of tanks of water.  It was the shittiest robot ever but it was a robot.  So Martialla was right about that.  This one time she was  right about something.  Sometime between the year 2000 and whenever the world devolved in anarchy and bloodshed robots became a thing.  Technically robots already existed in our time, but they were just stupid arms making cars and such, not, you know what I mean – robot robots.   

We asked around about the plane that shot us down (Martialla’s note, that’s not what happened, we were not shot down, I won that fight) but no one could tell us much of anything, just that they see planes flying around sometimes but whoever flies them doesn’t come to the junkpile and they don’t know who they are or what they want out of life.   

What the Junkers do know here is how to make chips.  There’s a “food court” vendor area with fried ratbatfrog on a branch and fermented grassjuice with roaches and other awful future food, but I saw a table with little ceramic bowl of nachos and I started bawling like a baby.  Paul looked at the three of us like we had all lost our minds because Martialla, Lucien & I all started shoveling them into our mouths and laughing and crying and hollering and dancing around.

Obviously they aren’t nacho-nachos like from our time, they’re more like pita chips and the cheese I’m sure is made from something disgusting and the meat is probably human flesh or some bullshit, but I don’t care.  They were close enough that we lost it.  Lucien hasn’t been “out” as long as Martialla and I, and he’s better are keeping it hid, but he clearly misses the real world too based on how happy it made him. 

Today was a good day.  I wasn’t sure that was possible anymore.

Vote for Ela

I don’t know what a real junkyard looks like.  I’m not the kind of person who hangs around at junkyards shooting rats like my hillbilly cousins.  I did film a movie about a woman being terrorized by a slasher in a junkyard.  They still had the junkyard set they used for Dream Warriors and they wanted to use it for something before they tore it down.  So I know what that looks like.  According to that set a junkyard is a maze of stacked cars.  I doubt that’s true to life but I don’t know that it isn’t for a certainty. 

The director, who was coked out of his gourd during the entire three-week shoot, told me eighteen to seven hundred and fifty times how his vision for the film was a “modern reimagining of Theseus and the Minotaur”.  I’m not super up to date on my Greek myths but if Theseus was running around in a thong and the Minotaur was a chain-smoking stuntman in a Batman mask with the ears ripped off brandishing a meathook I think the director realized his vision to the fullest extent possible.   As I recall Martialla got tetanus on that shoot.  Or maybe it was hoof and mouth disease. 

What does this have to do with anything?  I’m getting to that, hold your horses.  As we got closer to the thing we realized what we were heading for wasn’t a ruined city at all but a massive, massive, MASSIVE junkyard.  Miles and miles and miles of junk. 

I read a script for a movie, some sci-fi future bullshit that centered around people living on an entire planet of garbage.  The twist at the end was that the planet was EARTH! It was Earth the entire time! Nooooooooooo!  Biting social commentary!  One of the many things about the script that made no sense is that a garbage planet isn’t logical.  Wouldn’t it cost way more space dollars in space fuel to haul everything to a certain planet rather than just flinging it into space?  Maybe I should run for space sanitation commissioner.   I could save the space government so many space dollars.

Despite much wild speculation from Lucien and Martialla , no one would come up with any plausible reason why a giant city-sized junkpile would exist.  But there it was in front of us.  Remember that scene in Star Wars when they fall into the trash compactor?  Me neither because I’m not a nerd, but the thing we were looking at was more akin to that than the car-maze from Meathook Massacre. 

What it reminded me of is when you shave your legs and then run the water and little hairs get swept into a circle by the drain.  It was like that, only instead of leg hairs it was everything under the sun.  Well that’s not true, it was all junk rather than garbage.  You know what I mean?  It wasn’t like a landfill, it was like a salvage yard.  A salvage yard the size of Chicago.   

As we approached trash mountain two things happened.  One, the land-whaler vehicles turned away and stopped shadowing us.  Before they left they did come close enough that Martialla and Lucien were ready to shoot them as need be.  The whalers appeared to be considering launching a rusty harpoon our way as a parting gift but ultimately they must have decided against it because they sped off into the hills.   

Charlie Sheen asked me to give him a Rusty Harpoon once on the set of Bad Day on the Block so after we wrapped I had Martialla cut the breaks on his Miata.  Not to kill him, just to scare him a little, you know fooling around.  I think a lot attendant got fired over that but he and Charlie Sheen are both long dead now so I don’t need to feel bad about it anymore.  Also I never felt bad about it, do you job lot attendant guy. 

That did allow us to get a closer look at the land-whalers themselves.  They were all covered up with Welkino furs like they were mummies wrapped in heavy furs instead of strips of linen, staying with the apocalypse fashion trend of everyone either being covered head to toe or being nearly nude.  I can’t understand how they can live like that, it’s a hundred damn degrees all the time, they have to be broiling in their own juices under all those pelts.   Maybe even bribeling. 

The other thing that happened is we noticed that there was a town on the edge of the great junk sea.  The town was tough to spot at first because it blends in very well as it merely looks like slightly more organized piles of junk.  Perfect camouflage because that’s essentially what it is.  Eventually we realized that there was a junk peninsula off the main junkpile that had people moving around in it and doing people stuff.  There were some vehicles coming and going as well – both coming and going to the north.  I’m starting to get the hang of identifying the different styles of junk-machines and I think they’re similar to the ones that the Antolpians convoy that the Invincible destroyed them back west. 

This inevitably led to a debate between Martialla and Lucien regarding the topic of if we should approach the junk city and how he should approach it if we should and this and that and the other which was all pointless because we don’t have a choice.  We barely have any supplies and we even more barely know where the hell we’re going.  We can’t just walk by a town.  I told them as much and they gave the stink-eye like they do whenever I point out that all their jibber-jabber is a waste of time.  This is like dialog from a badly written movie, of course the characters are going to engage with the only thing there is for them to engage with so what’s the debate?  Otherwise there’s no movie.  You can’t have a movie where nothing happens.  I’m looking at you Excess Baggage starring Alicia Silverstone and Benicio Del Toro.

Harpoon The Musical

A couple of dune buggies have started shadowing us.  These ones have hides strapped all over so from a distance they can be mistaken for the wooly-elk-rhino buffalo creatures of the plains.  I mean, sort of, for like half a second.  Maybe it works better on the Welkinos themselves.  Don’t herd animals have poor eyesight?

I have to assume these folks hunt the wooly-elk-rhino buffalo creatures of the plains since they have harpoon guns affixed to their dune buggies.  Have harpoons ever been used to hunt large land animals before?  Or was that murder technology only for whales?  Maybe all the big land animals were hunted to extinction before the harpoon was invented. 

I said “So nobody can live on these plains huh?” pointedly to Martialla and Lucien but they didn’t acknowledge my rightness and instead started discussing the possibility of trying to attack the buggy people and stealing one of their machines.  How are you supposed to get the drop on someone half a mile away that’s seven hundred times faster than you?  They didn’t have any good answers for that.  Dig a pit maybe and somehow lure them into it?  I said maybe we could try to talk with them and that was ignored as well.   

I think Martialla crashed our plane somewhere around Winnemucca.  According to a report I did in junior high  Butch Cassidy robbed a bank there in 1900, getting away with thirty thousand dollars which is the equivalent of three quarters of a million bucks in today’s dollars.  Well not today, but you know what I mean.  Why was there that much money there?  Winnemucca had a thriving brothel district.  I got sent to the principal for explaining what a brothel is in my report.   

I bring this up because I am relatively sure that there are no big cities anywhere near Winnemucca yet around the same time the buggies showed up off the northwest we spotted what looks like a ruined city.  As I said once we got over what’s left the Rockies the land turned from a giant muddy shithole into a land green and fair.  Well no, more yellow and stabby than green and fiar, but plants instead of dumb dirty desert is the point.  But then there’s a big black scar up ahead and looks to be miles and miles wide of dead city.

Maybe we’re farther off course than I think and we’re nowhere near where Billy the Kid stole the hooker’s gold but what city could that be?  Boise?  I don’t think Boise Idaho was that big.  But as Martialla loves to point out things could have changed between the time when we were frozen and before the entire country collapsed.  Maybe in 2050 Twin Falls was a huge metropolis, easily the equal of New York City or Paris or Tokyo and then was hit by an intercontinental ballistic missile. 

I suppose we’ll find out soon enough because we’re headed that way more or less, assuming that the Welkino whalers of the tall grass don’t murder us before we get there.  After we stopped for the day Paul and Martialla went off a ways to have some private time, leaving me with Lucien in the semi-darkness. 

On this side of the non-Rockies the “northern” lights aren’t as bright as they are across the mountains, which makes no sense, but there’s less grit in the air so it’s still pretty bright during the night.  In the movies whenever people “camp” for the night they have a campfire, but we never do.  I don’t think any of us knows how to make a fire.  On the plus side Paul has gotten pretty good at weaving grass into a pallet or sorts so I was laying on an itchy mat instead of atop a writhing mass of grasshopper-octopi bugs.  

“So, Lu, can I call you Lu?” 

Lucien looked up form some piece of junk he was fiddling with “I would prefer that you didn’t.” 

“Fair enough” I said magnanimously and attractively “So Lucien, how are you holding up?  Waking up the future, disco is dead, whatever else was going on in the seventies is done, world gone to hell, it’s quite a shock.  You going crazy?  You getting the crazies on me buddy?” 

He thought about it for a moment “I think I’m alright.  This is technically what I trained for.  The world isn’t what I expected, I thought I was going to fighting the Russians.  I guess this isn’t so much different from that.  I also thought I would have access a lot more equipment and support, but that’s always the case in the military.  I’m not sure I’ve ever read an after-action report that didn’t include the phrase – we had higher support expectations.  Not one that was being honest anyway.” 

“Did your training include anything on how to deal with future feral psychos like Paul?” 

He smiled thinly “I think Martialla has that situation under control, if I’m worried anyone I’m worried about you.” 

I grinned “You’re not getting sweet on me are you?” 

He shifted uncomfortably “I mean to say that you’re a civilian, this . . . was never on your radar.  It’s not possible to truly prepare yourself for this circumstance but at least they tried with me.  You were minding your own business before.   All things considered you’ve handled it admirably but you’re showing all the signs of someone who’s undergone serious trauma.  If you were in my unit and it was possible I’d have you taken off duty and spend time with a mental health professional.  A lot of time.” 

I raised an eyebrow “Did they do that in the seventies?  I thought everyone being in therapy was a fad that started in the nineties.  I thought all those kids in Vietnam who said they were messed up were laughed out of the service for being pussies.” 

He shrugged “Maybe things were different in the states, psychoanalysis is a proud Canadian tradition, in my time, where I came from.  Although not as much in the military admittedly.” 

“Of course, stiff upper lip and all that.” 

“That’s British.” 

“Same thing.  So what’s the prognosis Master Sergeant?  Am I going to go totally batshit like Paul?” 

He shook his head somberly “No, not like Paul.” 

Crush

I’ve already covered how I used to CRUSH my workouts like a sexy beast in the before times so we don’t need to go over that again.  You know it as the truth.  I remind you of that fact to illustrate the point that my legs should be like steel pistons.  Walking all day shouldn’t make me feel like I’m going to die.  Hiking must use different muscle groups and I never got into hiking. 

There’s a big hiking culture in LA but that was never my jam.  I mean if I can’t make hiking shorts look good nobody can.  That’s why I turned down the role of Lara Croft Tomb Raider.  And yes, I did turn it down despite that Variety said, the studio did not pass on me because my boobs weren’t big enough.  My jugs are huge and everyone knows it. 

Don’t beat yourself up about it Ela, you’ve been severely malnourished since coming to the future, you haven’t been sleeping well, you’re been in a state of constant shock, and you’ve been shot at least three times, been bitten by a snake, and that’s all not to mention the fact that you microscopic robots inside of you doing God knows what to your previous insides, it’s no wonder that you’re struggling with trekking cross country.   

That’s all true, and you make a fine point in my defense, but the problem is that Martialla seems to be handling it just fine!  Paul I understand.  He’s more creature than man.  He grew up in this deathzone, he’s been forged by fire into a ugly ball of guts and gristle.  It makes perfect sense that he can travel all day and not cramp up or feel like his ass is going to implode.  And Lucien is fresh out of the tube, he hasn’t had his stamina eroded by bad food and shitty air as much yet.  Plus he was in the military and he’s gay to boot – so he was starting off with a very high fitness threshold.   

But Martialla?  That’s the part that I can’t wrap my mind around.  Is she in better shape than me?  Of course she is, she doesn’t have to waste energy looking good so she can focus purely on practical exercise.   I’m a racehorse, she’s a sturdy old plow mule, I’m a sports car, she’s a rusty old four by four, I understand that. 

But she’s not in that much better shape than me.  She’s got the thick manly build you want for long distance travel but she should still be struggling, maybe a little less than me, but a couple months ago she was picking up my clothes at the dry cleaner and yelling at the pool boy for me – she shouldn’t be used to this any more than I am.

And yet she’s up there with Lucien chatting away about whatever stupid thing they’re talking about while I labor along behind them puffing like a train and wishing that my legs would go numb.  It was enough to make me think about giving myself a shot of the orange nanos but Martialla is right about one thing, we need to be more careful about using them.  I doubt we’re going to find another canister of magic robots any time soon. 

I wish there was a readout or something on the nanotube that would tell us how many are left in there.  Future technology from the past is annoyingly user-unfriendly.  Martialla says that people in the time from which it came probably had some kind of technology installed in their brain that let them interact with tech like this by thought.  But what the hell does she know? 

When they finally called a mid-day halt I flopped face-down into the sticky yet dry stabby yet polleny grass and just lay there.  Martialla came over to give me some mashed-up beetle paste mixed with mung but I was too tired to sit up.   She lorded over me like a sovereign, clearly enjoying my struggle. 

“Do you want me to massage your legs?” 

I wanted to refuse.  I wanted to tell her to die and go straight to hell.  But instead I just plaintively squeaked out a “yes” and wallowed in my shame.  Martialla’s man hands are unsightly to say the least, but they are good for some things, cracking open crab legs for instance, and they’re great when it comes to soothing sore muscles. 

I’ll admit that taken out of context the sounds I was making were more than a little obscene.  Lucien moved away, he said to find some high ground to try and figure out where we were, but I think it made him uncomfortable.  Paul on the hand came over and stood there all but panting like a dog.   

“What the hell is your problem Paul?” 

He took off his backpack and pulled out his stack of 70s girlie magazines “I’ve seen this in here.” 

Martialla shook her head with a chuckle “This isn’t that Paul.  I’m just helping Ela feel better.” 

Paul open one of his magazines and turned it sides “This look like it feel good to her too.” 

I managed to turn my head to glare at him “Paul get the fuck out of here before I bite your dick off.” 

Martialla gave me a totally unwarranted pinch to the back of the thigh as Paul scuttle off with a hurt look “Be nice to Paul.” 

“Why, so he doesn’t skin me alive in my sleep and fashion that skin into a pillow that he humps?” 

She stopped and gave me a hard look “Don’t do that.  Don’t say that Paul is a psycho killer.  He’s saved your skinny ass more than once.  He’s done what he’s had to do in order to survive in this world, don’t judge him.  Look at what he’s been through.  He doesn’t deserve your abuse.” 

I turned onto an elbow to look back at her “Jesus, you don’t really care about him do you?  What the fuck is wrong with you?”