“AD” turned out to be 80, as in Interstate 80, known as Dwight Eisenhower Highway by some and Blue Star Memorial Highway by others. It runs all the way from San Francisco to Teaneck New Jersey. At least it used to, it doesn’t look like it’s in great shape now so I can’t attest to where it ends now. I-80 as I’m sure you remember was the hunting grounds of the Truckee River killer. I was supposed to play a character based on the Truckee River killer in a thinly veiled rip-off but the picture was cancelled because people just don’t get excited about a female murderer unless they’re flashing their beave Sharon Stone style. Sad but true.
I think we’re where Auburn used to be. I saw a mound that I think could have been the Capital Corridor station and a big area that maybe could have been the airport? Doesn’t matter what it was before now I suppose. What does matter is what else I saw, a couple dozen cars parked in a big clump with heaps of scrap and “goods” laid out between them in rows. One of the first things that drew my eye, and my nose, was a massive rusty drum on its side like a BBQ pit over which was roasting what looked like a Komodo dragon.
I have never eaten a lizard before, I never wanted to eat a lizard before, I never even thought about eating a lizard before, but in that moment I wanted to eat that lizard like the sun wants to burn an albino.
No one tried to murder us straight off, but I think that’s because we showed up with Redlight. They knew and were expecting him. If anyone was impressed with us rolling up with a tanker of fuel, no one showed it. I expected that it would be like showing up with a forklift carrying a pallet full of gold bricks, I thought people would lose their minds.
It was hard to tell how ugly the nonplussed people were because most of them were covered in multiple layers of clothing, to the point of head-scarfs and face coverings, all covered even though it was somewhere in the ninety-degree range. They must have been broiling under there. I did see a couple of guys walking around shirtless and aside from being rashy and hairy as goats, they didn’t look too gross. Ten or fifteen beers and I could get there.
The majority of people had blades and/or beating tools of one kind or another, but there were a lot more with firearms than we had seen before. Most of the guns were scratch-made numbers that looked like they might blow up in your face Yosemite Sam style if you tried to fire them, but a good quarter of what we saw were real firearms that I recognized. They were beat up all to hell but they looked functional. I even saw a cluster of people that had guns that looked new. The metal looked weird, like it was pitted or wavy somehow, but they looked newly manufactured. Martialla said that she thought it might be impact-resistant polystyrene rather than metal but how could these screwheads be making plastic?
The people running the swap meet are called the Roadrunners, you now, the bird from Wiley Coyote cartoons. Many of them had little bird symbols on their clothing. Overall they looked like violent lunatics from a Mad Max movie but it was a little hard to take them seriously because of their cartoon bird tattoos. They control Interstate 80 and organize these little trading parties. Trade is apparently a big deal because no one anywhere has enough of anything to make it alone. I guess that’s the same as it was in our time and I just didn’t think about it because there was more of a supply chain than a bunch of dirty nomads at a swap meet.
About half the people we tried to talk to were completely unintelligible to us like those traders at the cryo facility. Another forty percent we could generally understand with the liberal use of hand gestures and pantomime like the filthy lake people. There were only a few others like Redlight who we could mostly carry on a conversation with semi-normally. When we asked why we could talk to that section, he reminded us that he’s “not a mushroom”. Thanks.
It’s mostly a barter system as you would imagine, but you could get “chips” which looked very much like casino chips, I was surprised not to see a Harrah’s logo on them. And where do these chips come from? They’re doled out by the California Highway Patrol. I shit you not, that’s what they said. We double, triple, quadruple checked. As the swappers tell it, if you help with road repairs or act as a courier, they give you chips that you can turn back in to them for repairs and vehicle parts and fuel. The California Highway Patrol. I can’t wait to see what that’s all about.
I filmed a pilot for a new CHiPs TV series with Heather Locklear and Jerry O’Connell. What a piece of garbage. And the pilot was bad too. It didn’t get picked up, they said my look was too “midwestern”. Fuckers.
After gorging myself on lizard meat, puking my guts out, and gorging myself on more lizard meat (not in a bulimic way), we traded our fuel truck and other assorted junk for a lean mean machine of our own. I’m no gearhead but all the vehicles seem like hybrids cobbled together from the wrecks of the past, which makes sense. But there’s a big skull icon on the front. Who made that? Ornamentation? Does that mean there are artists? Seems like you’d have to have a pretty advanced society for art to exist. Then again, cave paintings.
While Martialla tried to learn everything she could about our new killmobile from the leather daddies that swapped it to us, I went to speak with the big kahuna Roadrunner himself. Or herself. I couldn’t quite tell. The person I talked to had a big round belly like a pregnant lady but I couldn’t tell if those were man tits or the normal kind bouncing around on top of it. Word got around that I was asking questions and they wanted me to ask them to this person.
According to preggo-belly, the Invincible are another group from up north that the Roadrunners (meep-meep!) don’t much care for. Sounds like their leader, Duke Eagle The Vain, is a peach – a real Ghengis Khan crush your enemies, lamentations of the women type. The Roadrunners had them quarantined out of this area for a long time but it sounds like something has changed. They weren’t very happy to hear that I had seen them in the hills by the awful lake.
When they asked why we were so clueless about the world, I told them we had been asleep underground for a long time. This didn’t seem to faze them. Not sure if that’s because they didn’t believe it or they didn’t care. After I was dismissed from my meeting with head honcho, one of the others came up to me and asked what it was like before.
“Better” I told her.