I live, I die, I live again

I like an action movie as much as the next person.  Actually that’s not true since the next person is Martialla and she likes action movies more than me.  I like action movies fine is my point.  But.  At a certain point you’ve seen it right?  How many times do you need to see Sly Stallone machine-gunning foreigners?  I don’t understand the people that watch tons of action movies any more than I understand the people that watch tons of rom-coms.  Even if you like the formula after a certain point it has to become rote doesn’t it?

What getting at is that I’m not sure if there’s any point to outlining the rest of our encounter on the high plains.  But Ela, what’s the point to any of this?  There’s no one even reading this.  A well measured argument.  I suppose to quote Del the Funky Homosapien “I brought all this so you can survive when law is lawless”. 

After a smashed the first enemy Mario Kart I got hung up chasing one of the other ones.  Their driver was a crafty one, whoever they were they knew a few maneuvers and I couldn’t get him.  I think military people in plane movies call that getting target fixating.  Is that what Kelly McGill was in Top Gun?  The problem is that when the only method of attack you have is ramming there’s not much you can do but dump and chase you know? 

While I was doing that the two other bogeys bracketed Lucien and Paul’s car and harpooned the Christ out of them.  Was that the plan?  Car one get killed, car two distract me and then car three and four go in for the kill on our other vehicle?  Since I’m the best driver should I have been driving the worse car?  Should Martialla have been in the slower car since she’s the best shot?  Should Paul have been with me since he’s useless anyway?  Should Lucien have been with me since he was injured?

It’s a classic question, do you give your best scene to your best actor and really knock people’s dicks off, or do you give that scene to the producer’s girlfriend who can’t act for shit and hope that the writing is good enough to stand on its own? 

Martialla likes to say that I have no friends other than her, which mostly true, but my friend Dobalina was one of those “I’m in this movie because I’m sleeping with someone” sorts.  We met on the set of Out of Luck Two – Honeybee’s Revenge.  I never did figure out if it was Billy Zane or the director she was banging to get the role.  Could have been both of them, you know?  To her credit she knew she couldn’t act worth a damn and often asked for her role to be reduced.  It’s not like she was getting paid by the word you know?

I wonder how she died in the apocalypse.  I hope she was just obliterated by an orbital missile or something like that.  Something quick.

Anyway, I chased car number two into an ephemeral river that popped up after the storm.  It really came out of nowhere.  I very nearly went over the side myself.  I would have if I didn’t suddenly see the car ahead of me dip down and then slam into the opposite bank.  Doing a hundred and ten on the coastal highways makes you forget how fast forty miles an hour is.  Seeing those bodies explode on the embankment and sclorch into the water below was a good reminder.

By the time I got back our other vehicle had been wrecked but everyone was still alive.  Lucien shot one of the drivers of the attacking vehicles and they bugged out after that.  I suppose they’ll be back.  Since we can’t cram everyone into J-Lo Two we were brought to a halt once again while they tried to get the other machine working.  It’s going to take us forever to get back to Junktown at this rate. 

That’s how sad things are, I’m annoyed that I can’t get back to a junkheap faster.

While the mechanic (who I swear to god said was named Skank) Martialla and Lucien were messing with the other buggy and Paul was off doing whatever he does I invited our other new friend to sit around doing nothing with me.  Her name apparently is Wool.  I asked her if she grew up on a sheep ranch but she didn’t know what a sheep or a ranch was.  That’s just her name. 

I asked her what she thought of all this, assuming she had never been out of Junktown before, and she said that it reminded her of when she first came across the plains on account of they had been attacked by the plainspeople all the time as well. 

I don’t know if she’s from the seaweed scum town that Martialla and I first encountered however many weeks ago that was or one that’s just like it, but the point is she’s originally from that valley.  On account of her great beauty (add quotes there) she was sent to Crow when she was of age where she worked until she was bought by a Road Hog gang boss who then swapped her to a merchant in New Frisco.  I didn’t know what to say that, what can you say?

“It wasn’t so bad, I was drugged most of the time” is what she said about it.

I was about to ask her how she ended up with the Church of the Lady Jesus when she threw a curveball at me. 

“I saw you die once in Murdertown.”

“That’s the entertainment place right?  They must have old movies there?  Which one did you see?  There aren’t many parts I had where my character dies, not ones where I have many lines anyway.  Was it Blood on the River Nile?  That’s not a bad flick, it got really screwed up in editing but if we had had a few more weeks to shoot and eight million more in the budget . . .”

She didn’t know what a movie was any more than she knew what a sheep was but I figured that she had seen one of my films without understanding what it was – you know the old gag where aliens see Gilligan’s Island or Murphy Brown and think it’s real because they don’t have entertainment.  But that isn’t what it was at all.  She claimed that she saw me actually get killed in really real life. 

I figured there was a tiny chance that it was someone who looked like me, tiny on account of everyone now is small and ugly and I am tall and stunning attractive, or more likely she was just insane in the membrane.  Who knows what those future drugs did to her brain?  Plus, maybe she has “religious visions” or something.   

“So how did I die?”

“Duke Eagle strangled you in the arena.  After you tried to kill him and were captured.”

I laughed politely, must be what passes for a joke these days “Oh yeah, and it doesn’t bother you that here I am alive now?”

She shook her head and gestured to my necklace “No, I’ve seen you die a couple times, you die and then you live again.”

I smile “I hope things work out better with the Duke this time eh?”

She nodded somberly “Me too.”

I alone tempt you

Did you know that the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army pioneered the use of non-standard tactical vehicles in the late 70s fighting for independence against Mauritania and Morocco?  I didn’t know that before but I sure do now because when they aren’t talking about stupid prairie grass or how dinosaurs aren’t really dinosaurs or some other damn thing Martialla and Lucien are obsessively talking about how Sahrawi guerrillas successfully used NSTVs against the less agile conventional armies of their opponents, which as we all know is unusual in that the force equipped with improvised vehicles prevailed over the force equipped with purpose-built fighting vehicles. 

Martialla and Lucien are trying to develop a combat doctrine for the ramshackle warbuggies and killwagons of the day.  No offense to them (well some) but I don’t know that a retired Coast Guard pilot and a combat engineer/science experiment are the best people to define the way battles are going to be fought.  Although in fairness to them I don’t think there are any tactics to be gleaned from how people fight now.  I’ve been in a few battles now and I would describe them as combination of a Black Friday trampling, Woodstock ‘99, and an English soccer riot.  Except everyone is in a poorly made car made out of nunchuks, flamethrowers, knives and dynamite.   

It’s beautiful in a way.  A society has evolved from the ashes of the one that I came from and it is a society that knows no stress or concern.  In my time everyone thought they had all these problems, because they were after some kind of answers, some deeper meaning to life.  The psychos alive now don’t bother to ask questions, they must smash into each other and gouge and stab and murder.  Theirs is not to reason why, theirs it but to do and die.  For them, the great spiritual war of humanity is won. 

The key, I guess you can call it a tactic if you want, is to drive with a reckless disregard for your own safety, and survive long enough to become very good at successfully pulling off daring vehicular maneuvers.  Also having an indestructible car doesn’t hurt.  Not at all.   

Case in point, on our way back to Junktown we were attacked by a quad-squad of the plainspeople.  On our side we had J-Lo’s Revenge, which is both faster and more durable than any of the four attacking machines.  And since I was driving also the best handled machine.  Our other vehicle was one stolen from the very people attacking us, so it was the same.  So what’s the tactic you’re supposed to take in that situation?   

I mean I guess there’s strategies in boxing, biting and groin punches, stuff like that.  I’ve heard boxers talking about their strategy and this and that, but at the end of the day who wins is just a matter of who’s better at punching right?  Has a guy that sucks at punching ever won a fight by using a super cool tactic?  Hit as hard as you can hit and try not to get hit back.  What else is there? 

When I saw the attackers I engaged what I call the Ela Maneuver – I drove directly at them and initiated a head on collision.  Its beauty is in its simplicity.   Like casting Bruce Willis as a quick-witted, snarky action oriented everyman who smokes, you do it because it always works.  I don’t think anyone else does uses that move these days.  Probably because their cars are made of papier-mâché, beetle dung, and snot.  If they weren’t apocalyptic psychopaths trying to kill me and use my flesh as a canteen I would almost feel sorry for them. 

I don’t like shooting people.  I’ve made me peace with that fact that shooting people is part of my life now.  But I don’t like it.  I HATE hand to hand combat.  I hate it so much.  I can’t even describe what it’s like.  Thinking about it makes me physically ill. 

But.  If we’re being honest, and I feel that we are.  When I’m behind the wheel of J-Lo and we’re crushing fools in their clay and cardboard cars with spears for weapons it feels good.  It’s exhilaration of a kind that I never imagined could exist.  I’ve performed in front of huge crowds thirsty for my glory.  I’ve jumped out of air planes.  I’ve done all kinds of things.  Nothing gives you a charge like smashing into another vehicle and watching it fly to pieces.  I don’t feel great about how great it feels but that’s how I feel about it feeling great.

Martialla said something along the lines that the impact of a freight train is equal to two tons of dynamite concentrated in a much smaller area and focused in one direction.  She said that even in World War 2 a lot of surfaced submarines were sunk by ramming.  Violence is wrong of course but if you’re going to do it you may was well do it right.  And there’s something about ramming that just feels right.  Sex pun here. 

I don’t know why but I started singing “I Alone” as the remaining three kill-cars scattered and I fishtailed around to chase one of them.  I don’t even like that song.  I wonder if the songs I sing during combat have some secret message from my unconscious that would reveal something new about me.  I should started recording them for future generations to puzzle over.  Of course they wouldn’t know the songs so I’d have to write them all down too.  Yawn. 

I had a role as a nurse on some stupid war show and between takes Matthew Broderick said to me that he would have liked to have been in combat for real “as long as there was no chance I could get hurt”.  Which is the kind of shit you expect a Hollywood dickhead to say.  In short he was just saying that he wished he could murder someone and get away with it.  At the time I thought he was disgusting for making that comment.  Now?  I get what he was saying.  As my agent said one time “Firing a man gives you a hell of a rush, but it’s no replacement for killing.”

Or to put it another way, it’s easier not to be great and measure these things by your eyes.

Tell don’t show

The Atlas-journals I found are an attempt by someone named Ellen (almost a great name) to document the downfall of American society.  She came to the garage with a guy she calls Silke which is not a real name, and an older fella by the name of Ezra.  Sometime later in their living in a car garage adventure they are joined by someone she calls Max.  She doesn’t say so outright but I’m pretty sure Max killed Ezra and she and Silke were too scared of him to do anything about it.  She doesn’t say anything about Max directly but reading between the lines I think he was the bad one. 

Ellen says that there was an energy crisis in the mid-2020s.  As a result of this crisis the government made a big push for alcohol fuel cells and passed a bill to nationalize oil and natural gas resources.  The first thing didn’t bother people so much, the second one did.  It bothered them a lot it sounds like.  Texas did what Texas always threatens to do, they seceded.  As Ellen tells it for a couple of years the Lone Star state and the federales tried to talk things out but according to her even after the US capitulated and said the rich Texans could keep their oil fields it was too late, the Texan weren’t having it.   

Talks came to a halt when Texas National Guardsmen seized military bases in San Antonio.  Ellen dates this as happening in 2032.  This is where the narrative gets confused.  She talks about a battle in Selma, but that’s in Alabama and she talks like it’s part of Texas.  Maybe she meant that a couple states left the Union and formed the “country” of Texas?  I say this because she also talks like some cities in Oklahoma and Louisiana are in Texas.   

It gets even more confusing when she starts in about Mexican forces.  After reading through it a couple times I don’t think she meant national troops from the country of Mexico, I think she was talking about Latin Americans in Texas who weren’t happy with what was happening.  She talks about protests and riots and crackdown and even more confusingly she talks about a Mexican leader being executed for plotting to make an alliance with Brazil.  

Regardless of exactly what was going on, it sounds like things weren’t going great for Texas.  She says there was a battle of the Tulsa oilfields were US armor punched through the Texas Guard and they retreated.  She says there was a surprise attack from New Mexico that seized a lot of land from Texas.  She claims that Texas used a tactical nuke to stop that offensive.  This caused a real uproar.  The US response was “we have enough nukes to wipe you off the map” to which Texas said “yeah, but you want our shit so you won’t”. 

The war never officially ended but per Ellen active fighting mostly stopped.  The high-tech vehicles that formed the backbones of the armies on both sides became too expensive to keep in the field and the US became occupied with a bunch of other bad stuff that was happening.   

So then in Texas there was flooding and a crop blight and food riots and the economy and infrastructure was already fucked from the fighting.  Houston and San Antonino both “collapsed”.  I’m not sure exactly what that means.  Did everyone leave?  Or did the cities literally crumble?  So that’s why in 2036 Ellen and Ezra and Silke decided they would become refugees.   

Ellen claims that the auto mechanic shop they found to live in, which we are now currently fucking around in, is located in what was Kansas, which cannot be accurate.  I admit that I don’t know exactly where we were, but the former site of Kansas has to be literally a thousand miles away. There’s no way we’re anywhere near Kansas.   

Now, that does raise a question.  If we accept as fact that Ellen and her buddies ran away from Houston because the city government ceased to be and the downtown area was “taken over by gangs”, even the idea of them wandering as far as Kansas is hard to believe.  She makes it sound like they were just on foot with a couple backpacks walking along the backroads because the main roads were too dangerous. As crazy as that seems, it’s more believable making it on foot to Kansas that it is to Idaho, where I think we are right?   

How far can you walk on a good day when you’re not in a country that’s falling apart and avoiding rape-gangs?  Twenty miles?  Thirty?  Wouldn’t it take half a year to get this far north?  Back in covered wagon times didn’t it take them like a year to get anywhere?   

The irony is I would really like to take a look at the maps in the Atlas that she destroyed to create the paper to write her journal on.  But then I wouldn’t have the “history” that I was questioning that made me want to look at the maps.  It’s a real gift of the Magi scenario.  If nothing else it would be nice to see what an atlas from the 2030s looked like.   

Everybody walk the dinosaur

Remember the scene in Jurassic Park when the velociraptors are chasing the stupid kids around in that giant kitchen and one of the dinos jumped up on the big metal table?  Me neither.  When we got to the auto mechanic place there were a couple dinosaurs checking it out.  One of them was walking around very gingerly on the counter like it was going to start operating the cash register.   

It wasn’t scary, it was adorable.  These dinos were the size of turkeys and they had deluxe orange and red and blue feathers.  I know that I said before feathers on dinosaurs are stupid but these ones were magnificent.  They hissed at us like cats when they saw us and then when we weren’t afraid of them they scampered off like squirrels.  They’d make cool pets if not for that giant claw on their feet. That would scratch up your floors.  I wonder if you can train a dinosaur to use the bathroom. 

The lying paleontologists are always going on and on about how smart these little dinos with the arms were and how they could do complex math and drive buses.  I barely believe they know what dinosaurs looked like, how on earth could they know how smart/dumb they were or how they behaved?  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, being a paleontologist is the best job in the world.  You can make up whatever you want.  There’s no way to know.   

When we came upon the facility I had a question – how did Catcher and all the friends he left to die dig the place out so well?  Did they have a backhoe?   

A preacher was asked by a funeral director to hold a burial service at a small local cemetery for a person who had died with no friends or family to mourn them.  The preacher said of course, but when he set out he got lost on the way to gravesite.  Eventually he found the backhoe and its crew. 

The preacher jumped out of his car and rushed over to the open grave.  Feeling terrible on account of being late he gave an impassioned and l lengthy speech, sending the deceased off to the great beyond in style. 

Once he was done and heading back to his car, he heard one of the workmen say “I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years and I never seen anything like that before.” 

Ba-dum-dum, don’t forget to tip your waitress. 

My second question was how was the place still intact to be dug out anyway?  The Canadian Stasis Hole still being around makes sense, it was designed and built underground to hold all the human popsicles through a nuclear war.  That place was still ninety percent wrecked.  How could Uncle Tony’s crappy rural auto mechanic shop survive being buried in such good condition?  Mudslide?  When the lying archeologists dig up an old Celtic hut or something how did it get down there?  How does a building get buried without being smashed to bits in the process?   

On the approach we saw some Blair Witch style things made of grass and teeth and fur and whatnot arrayed in a semi-circle around the bodies of Catcher’s very dead friends.  They were skinned and staked to the ground, the dead people not the dolls.  I’m going to do way out on a limb and suggest that’s a warning not to hang around this place.  As we set to hanging around the place Martialla and the two Lady Jesus people went to start working on the legendary car.  It’s already been Mad Maxified so I guess it was in service until it ran out of gas and no one bothered to convert it to run on bio-sludge.   

Lucien was sort of helping but he was mostly just watching.  I don’t think he’s doing well.  Although if you want to be a half glass full kind of person he’s doing great for someone who got shot through the belly and received absolutely no medical care.   

That left Paul and I to be on the lookout for marauding plainspeople.  I figured Paul would be fine looking out on his own so I poked around inside.  There wasn’t much to find.  I got excited for a minute because I spotted a Jim Beam bottle but it was dry as a bone.  Does alcohol evaporate?  Aren’t there bottles of wine that are hundreds of years old?  The only other interesting thing was a bunch of old Atlases that weren’t rotted away.  Not that interesting in itself, but someone had gone through a lot of trouble to bleach them out so they could write on them.   

I dragged what was left of a chair out front and piled enough prairie grass (tall or short grass, no one knows!) on it that sitting down was merely horribly uncomfortable and took a breather to peruse my reading material. 

“Hey Mar, there’s a bunch of old wheels in there with little bits of rubber on them.  I don’t get it.  I thought the problem with tires was they last forever.  What happened to all the tires?” She pretended like she couldn’t hear me and said nothing back.  “Typical” I said to Paul “Do you know what happened to all the rubber Paul?  And speaking of rubber, are you and Martialla being careful?  The last thing I need is her getting preggers on me with your mutant apocalypse baby.  Speaking of, the way people kill each other in the futre here how is there anyone left?  Is everyone just scoring around the clock and the women are constantly cranking out mutant babies?” 

Paul turned to face me with a look on his face like his nuts were in a vice “Uh . . .” 

I waved him off with a laugh “Don’t worry about it Paul, just keep a look out for those furry people.” 

Martialla’s voice came clomping at me self-righteously “You’re both supposed to be watching” 

“I knew you could hear me!  Why am I always the one getting stuck on guard duty?” 

“Because you’re useless for anything else!” 

I nodded at Paul “That’s true.” 

It’s mostly a Christmas and Easter thing

The whalers of the plains shadowed us for a while after the attack.  Today they got close enough that Martialla and Lucien threw a couple shots at them to encourage them to go away, which they did.  I wonder what their motivation is for attacking us and everyone else who comes out this way.  If they live off hunting wooly elk rhino buffalos what are they hassling us for?  Maybe they want our vehicles.  They look to have plenty of vehicles but where do they come from?  Stealing perhaps.  Where does any of their shit come from?  I suppose it’s entirely possible they have no motivation other than being violent jerks like everyone else around. 

Martialla suggested that it might be a religious thing.  Maybe this area is their scared land.  “Remember the bomb place?” she said.    I do, I do remember the bomb place.  In our goodwill tour we visited a community where they worshipped a missile silo.  I know what you’re thinking, isn’t that from Beneath the Planet of the Apes?  Yes, yes, it is, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  I don’t know if there was actually a nuclear missile in there or not, but these literal mutants were like the fictional mutants underneath ape town in that their religion is based around nuclear annihilation.  Makes sense if you think about it.  A nuclear missile is more powerful than a lot of the gods from old myths.  All Zeus could do is throw lightning bolts at people and turn into a duck and bang their wives.  I’d take my chances with that over a cobalt bomb.   

I had a college boyfriend that used to get high and watch the Planet of Apes movies and freak out about how it was sending and anti-ape message.  When he was high he we convinced that’s why all the apes were going extinct, because people were killing them so they wouldn’t take over like in Planet of the Apess.  One time when he was high I reminded him how that’s not true and how he knew that when he wasn’t high and he freaked out even more and started crying.  That would make an interesting movie plot, multiple personalities are bullshit (like getting bullets out of people with a hot knife apparently) but there are for sure people who act different when they’ve been drinking and or under the influence of substances.  A movie where somewhere becomes a different person in that circumstance could be cool.   

Lucien heard us talking about Unexploded Bomb Town and said “Are you guys talking about the Atomic Priesthood?”   

“Uh . . . what?” I said reasonably and smartly.

Lucien went on to make the claim that the US government (he’s always blaming things on Americans) when they started putting atomic wastes out in the deserts put together a bunch of scientists to figure out how to make sure people in the future didn’t mess with it.  Atomic waste takes thousands of years to become inert and countries don’t last that long, so the US would be a distant memory but the waste would still be there killing everyone unless they knew about it.  Seems like too much foresight for the government to me, and on top of that I think it’s treason to admit that the US might ever end. 

Treasonous foresight notwithstanding, Lucien claims that one idea an anthropologist proposed as creating a religion around the atomic waste site because religion is the one thing that does last for centuries upon centuries.  Hundreds of countries have come and gone through the march of time but Count Popeula and his Pope minions are still doing Pope stuff after two thousand years.   

The proposed atomic priests would preach and do rituals and stuff about how the devil (or whatever) was in the ground where the waste was so you should stay away because religion.  The atomic pope would be responsible for passing the rituals down the generations “creating and nurturing ritual-and-legend, whereby the uninitiated would be steered away from the hazardous site”.   

Even Martialla laughed in his big blue face at that one but he swears that it’s true.  This would also be a good idea for a movie.  The crazy think tank comes up with this idea to create a religion to protect the future generations but what actually happens is they create a secret cabal that a couple generations down the line triggers a nuclear war because they want the world to crumble so they can fulfill their purpose.  I imagine the atomic priesthood wearing extravagant red and yellow robes with that atomic symbol on them.  That would look great on a movie poster.   

Hugh Jackman would stumble on the plot and he’d do his shirtless best to stop it without wearing a shirt, but the end of the movie would be all the bombs going off and the Atomic Priesthood people would be in a state of ecstasy as everyone is annihilated.  Then you have a sequel where it’s post-apocalypse times.  Although now that I think of it have there been any successful movies like that other than Mad Max?  Waterworld was a flop and a half.  The Postman was a studio-ending flop.  Tank Girl was a joke.  I can’t even think of any other what were made.  Maybe post-apocalypse is not a successful genre.  Makes sense maybe, I sure don’t like living in it. 

Anyway, if we ever get down to the southwest we can check and see if the Atomic Priesthood became a real thing and is skulking around. Which ironically is the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to exist for.  If they exist.

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.” 

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?” 


“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.