Art: Written Word

Riding The Radioactive

Jiles woke up to the sound of his alarm clock. The buzz penetrated into his dream like a hammer. He opened his eyes to the darkness and sat up. His hand went instinctively to the matches on the crate next to him. He lit the lantern and waited for his eyes to adjust to the sudden flare of light.

His room, like everyone's, was a simple concrete square filled with a mattress and crate and whatever things he called his, which wasn't much. He stood up and stretched. finding a shirt and pants to wear. He put his boots on, these were a show of station more than footwear. Only the Warriors or others of high rank had footwear.

He moved into the hallway, lit by nothing more than the kerosene lanterns every ten feet. Creating a dim light that was just enough to navigate the hall by. He walked toward the main room, past other rooms like his. Some had no activity as people still slept, some were empty as the occupants had left already.

He moved into the main room, several fire pits were going. Fueled by whatever they could find that burned. Sometimes the burning smelled, but they ignored it, after all, fire was fire and you could cook with fire.

The meat they found wasn't all that good sometimes. But if sufficed, fed them, most of them anyways. He rarely went hungry, he was a Warrior. That meant he got food when he was hungry, new clothes when his were to tattered to wear, and boots.

He took a bowl of the soup, it had little meat in it today. Vegetables were not to hard to come by. The farms were well maintained, set up long ago to work with no real sunlight. Hydroponics the old ones called it. They came from before the End. Knew about things that he didn't. He asked them sometimes, got strange answers about things.

After eating he went to the hangar. His jeep was waiting for him. Number thirty-four, after the yellow 34 stenciled on the side long ago. It was a deep green color at one point, now it was green with mud all over it. His partner was waiting for him, another just like him.

Jiles hopped into the drivers seat and fired up the engine. It's motor hummed gently, they had only about eight hours of power in the cell. The cells were charged overnight somehow. He never knew how, tried to ask once and got a long story about recharging batteries. He didn't care as long as they worked.

His partner jumped in the back and manned the gun, it was rarely fired though. They moved out, up the ramp and into the gray light of dawn. Soon the sun would be up, burning a bright orange in the sky above. For now it was cool as they moved across the landscape.

There wasn't much to look at, mostly rocks, dirt and shrubs. They were the patrol, searching for whatever wandered into their radius. The occasional person, sometimes even with an old vehicle of some sort. Mostly they found nothing though. Just a wasteland that was created before them, the reason they lived underground in the giant bunkers.

They were about three hours out when his spotter saw something. They moved toward it, a small shape. Not moving at all, but something was moving in the wind. As they approached they could see it was a body, swathed in a large brown coat of some sort. The jeep stopped a few feet from it.

Jiles got out and moved around, his spotter trained the large gun on the body. Jiles touched it with his boot, it rolled over and moaned. He bent down and looked closer.

There was someone underneath all the clothe. Being careful he moved closer. After a few moments of deliberation he picked up the body and put it in the back of the jeep. They drove quickly back to the bunker, not finishing their patrol.

First thing when they got back was to unload the body into the hanger. Jiles moved slowly as he unwrapped the clothes. There were a lot of layers. First a giant coat of leather, then an undercoat of some slick material, then a shirt. After a few minutes the discovery was made that it was a woman in some sort of camoflaged uniform. She had boots on as well, must be another Warrior from another bunker somewhere. They'd found them occasionally, other dwellers from the bunkers around.

Food was brought, a room was found. The woman was made part of the clan. She told of how her patrol had encountered Outlanders. She made it out, traveled across the waste looking for a bunker, any bunker. So she was part of this bunker now.

That's how things worked. They found others in the waste, took them in. Outlanders lived in the waste, liked it out there for some reason. So it went, the patrols rode the radioactive waste looking for anything that might help. An answer maybe, who knows. The elders say they should try to make contact with another bunker. But the jeeps probably won't make it that far.

Copyright ©2000 Gordon Feiner.