“My names Peter Pan and joining me today is Peter O’tool…..Peter Jackson………Peter……” Said Luke as he tried recording his and Waz’s podcast on an old recording device. Unfortunately for Luke, the recorder kept skipping every couple of minutes making the recording jarring to listen back to. But he didn’t care as he was far more concerned about what name could follow Peter Pan. He gave up trying and carried on.
“Well after two days of walking across the long road with no sign of immediate danger to life, I thought I’d record this episode with my good old friend Waz. Because the mutants, raiders and other nasties would see four the us in our van trail of dust like a big red target, it would attract their attention and would result in our destination of being devoured” Luke gestured a noose hang as if in conversation.
“How’s your day been so far buddy Waz?”.
Waz, now a half man half machine who’s not a mutant, or at least in his case a rare mutation, looked at Luke with a stale and unemotional blank stare. His right side of his face constantly changed as organic and bonded metal, wires and lights shifted and reformed like it had a life of it’s own. His human side had become gaunt, pale and sickly as it would slowly over time be completely consumed by the biomechanical mutation.
“Waz?” Said Waz dryly as if it didn’t recognise the name as it’s own, to it that name and personality died years ago after it first began to change. “My name is…..my name is…..” it struggled to remember it’s name as it tried thinking hard to search for it’s name. No use it thought.
The conversation stopped, Luke paused the recording and packed the recorder back in his rucksack. He tried his best to bring the Waz he knew back, the friend he grew up with for many years. Sometimes he thinks that Waz may have truly died and was replaced by a stranger in the flesh.
He could never understand why the mutants regarded Waz as a non mutant when clearly he is changing physically and mentally. What made him different from the rest? Are mutants racist or something? Bigotry perhaps? Whatever it is, Luke would love to trigger a bullet in the mutants head every time he hears that phrase ‘none mutant’.
But even the friendlier mutants in the town they now live in say Waz isn’t like them, something doesn’t add up. Whatever’s changing Waz, Luke’s going to find out who or what caused the virus in that water purification power plant and blow the damn thing sky high!
Glenn, a wasteland hero forever damaged by the Apocalypse and the years of hardship in this new world, was checking his sniper rifle scope to see if there were any nearby groups of raiders or mutant hunting packs in the distance. You can never be too sure if your completely alone for sickos like to gang up on traveling merchants and foolish travellers.
He lowered his sniper rifle when he felt just assured enough to know nothing was nearby, yet. He looked to his left to see Krakstrong carrying the supplies on his broad back. Once a friend before the apocalypse, Keith was Glenn’s pal who would watch movies together on a Saturday night. ‘Godfather Glenn and Keith Gordon’ were their nicknames based their favourite movies, even dressing up as them in fancy dress parties. Glenn’s wife usually dressed up as Batman, expertly designed and crafted as a cosplay recreation of Tim Burtons Batman movie. She took the role on seriously despite her soft voice, even so by Glenn’s beating heart did she scare the crap out of him.
But she’s dead now, murdered by the Butcher. He too was now dead by Glenn’s own hands. Soon Glenn might have to kill Keith/ Krakstrong when the time came to put down this monster that was once his friend………
Krakstrong was bored, carrying all of the supplies on his back was stressing his muscles after two days of walking. He was getting irritated by his man slave (human ambassador), Luke, with his constant monologuing about vulgar and innuendo subjects like “sp@@9e pancakes” or “Luke’s surprise ”. Krakstrong will give Luke a surprise if he mentions the pancakes one more time!
He saw Waz in front of him, that abomination was living and breathing, it shouldn’t be alive at all. Machines and organics can never truly bond, only replaced or grafted. But to bond to metal as if it were apart of you is a sign of something worse than being an overgrown mutant. Imagine if you could bond to your computer, databases storage facilities, even AI technology. Would the symbiotic relationship be an extension or an evolution to form a greater intelligence?
Krakstrong can understand that mutants are a man made event, but nature had a role to play in developing them to exist in the wasteland for stronger or weaker existents in the food chain. Woz on the other hand was different, nature had no influence in his evolution because nature has no bonding to the machine.
He’ll kill Waz when he has dealt with Luke by keeping him out of his way, a way for him to tear this monster apart before it can cause a greater sin that’ll destroy everyone.
As for Glenn, Krakstrong can’t decide wether to kill him too or leave him alive, barley.
Luke came beside Glenn as the group walked down a long stretch of road, not much traffic goes down these roads after the apocalypse. Some cars were abandoned by their owners due to running low on fuel, or targeted and taken down by crazy scare mongers who would beat people if they saw a car. But in most cases the driver and passengers died from the virus, their bodies left unattended as they’ve rotted inside the transport. No one dare attempts to loot these vehicles for tales of the dead rising up from their Pestilence have been spread around by traveling merchants.
Glenn sees Luke and nods, area clear for now. Luke smiles at Glenn, “I’m surprised there hasn’t been a sighting of any mutant warbands or raiders for days, we’re pretty lucky so far but I have a feeling the Dark Mind wants us to think that. I find it odd to call this entity the ‘Dark Mind’, it sounds like a childish villain created by a conspiracy theorist”.
Glenn agreed, chuckling at the thought that a conspiracy theorist, probably Luke and Woz, would create a name like the ‘Dark Mind’. But his amusement turned to thinking on his toes as he looked around to see anything suspicious. Nothing in sight. Even he was thinking how easy the journey has been so far. It wouldn’t be a trap unless the mutants wanted the gang to follow a specific route, or to spring a surprise shoot off. No, there’s more to this than merely tricks and games. “The Dark Mind is the only thing we’ve not seen so far, yet we hear the mutant army praise this thing like a Great War general or some eldritch entity. Despite the name sounding childish, it’s what the mutant army wanted to call it wether it’s because their intelligence is very low and unimaginative, or that’s what it wants them to call it. Whatever it is, I doubt it would naive enough to not anticipate our mission. I should know, it predicted the downfall of our world and went under the governments radar” said Glenn as he was talking to Luke.
Luke’s smile turned to a serious expression, a thought on his mind now took place. He said “So are you going to tell me what happened to Melbourne after the apocalypse? We haven’t talked much about the wider scale of things since you left years ago”. Glenn was silent for a few seconds to gather his composure, letting much of his mental burden go out. “After I left you and the others years ago, I had to face my vices and rebuild myself. After losing my wife my world was destroyed completely, all that was left was the hate and wanting of deaths embrace”. He coughed as he opened up about his feelings to Luke, something he hadn’t done for a very long time.
“I needed a goal, a redemption for the way that I’ve been acting, so I became a bounty hunter and did some small jobs. Killed a few, lost a few but I became better at my job after awhile thanks to some training by an ex copper. He was like a second father to me, rebuilt me and gave me a chance to make myself useful in this world”.
Glenn continued “It was during one of my hunts that we both came across a group of escapees, all in rags and hungry for food. After we took them back and offered them food and clothes they told us who they were and where they came from. The Melbourne we knew I’d dead, it’s now the A.N.P’s deluded paradise”.
“Who are the A.N.P? Are they some sort of fascist military?” Said Luke, although Glenn’s expression of coldness implied that Luke answered his own question. Glenn continued where he left off “During the apocalypse the government and all political parties were escorted to a safe vault in an undisclosed location. The idea was that all sides of the political compass would be housed in a safe place until the storm passes, then they could go back outside with surviving citizens to rebuild and grow Melbourne. But putting all the parties in one vault was a fools joke”.
“Insiders from the extremes had supplied their members with weapons to take over the mantle of leadership, A.N.P party leader John .E and the People’s Cross party leader Andrew Summer armed their side for an all out firefight. Guess who won that fight? The rest was history, all parties that didn’t side with those two were killed, along with democracy and individual rights. The People’s Cross fled with only two surviving members into the ruins of Melbourne. The A.N.P soon established itself as the only rulers of Melbourne and soon the rest of Australia”.
Absorbing all this information made Luke’s knuckles turn white, his heart beating fast like a racing horse, his face turned into a sneer of anger hearing Glenn’s story. Will life ever return to how it was before the Post Apocalypse, or will this go on forever until everyone is gone in a field of blood, bones and corpses. Luke finally spoke to Glenn, his anger can be detected by the tone of his voice “How long will it be before they reach our settlement? I don’t want them to take a single foot on our land if they dare try to take away the home we’ve built for years now. I won’t stand for anyone who will harm my family and friends, no one”.
“They won’t harm us for now, they’ve got too many issues to deal with before they can expand and enslave us. We’re way too far for them to travel to us, not when the mutant army is on patrol in hunting packs. The A.N.P is currently dealing with a rebellion group created by the People’s Cross who are slowing the A.N.P’s rapid progress to take control of Melbourne. Only time will tell when this rebellion group will be destroyed to the last fighter. That’s when we should consider our choices on what to do” Said Glenn.
He checked his surroundings for any signs of threat. None in sight for now.
“About a year into the job as a bounty hunter I met a women out in the desert. I knew her before the apocalypse at restaurant in Melbourne where she worked as a waitress. Her name was Gwen. She was pretty shook up by the virus attack that killed most of her family. Her father, brother and friend all moved into an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere, they were lucky enough to not be in the city when the outbreak happened. When I met her she was alone, her father was killed by a raider gang called the Sunset Devils, they also took her friend. As for her brother…….”
Glenn coughed again, his body reaction became more fidgety as he kept talking “I killed him thinking he was like the rest, a mutant. I didn’t know he was just scared and wanted to protect his sister. But I thought he was like Keith, a soulless monster out to dominate and kill the humans”. Luke didn’t like what Glenn said about Keith, but he put aside his irritation to let Glenn carry on his story. “I was told she needed a bounty hunter to kill the Sunset Devil gang. So I went out to hunt them down, no one lived to tell what happened in the end except for me. When I came back to lonely woman, she thanked me and rewarded me with pay. I couldn’t leave her alone as I had concerns that she wasn’t safe on her own, so I offered to protect her and take her to a safer place the next day”.
“But it soon became apparent that we had feelings for each other, we clicked together due to our similar situation with losing a loved one. It was only later on that night that Gwen confessed that she had a brother who became a mutant. Her description and photo of him made me realised that I killed an innocent man. I killed someone Luke, not a raider, not a deranged mutant……just a protective brother……”. At this point Glenn was shacking from the memory, his expression of regret and shame showed on his face.
Luke understood how Glenn felt, he knew Glenn did a big mistake by killing an innocent life no matter if it was a mutant. He took Glenn by the shoulder and said “Glenn look at me, Glenn look at me. What you did was bad and I don’t condone what you’ve done. But you did what you had to, you saved that girls life by taking down that raider gang, heck they could’ve got her next if you hadn’t took on her request. Did you tell her that you killed her brother?”.
Glenn broke down in tears as he sunk his head down. “No, I couldn’t, not after we fell in love……how could I? Not now when I’m a father……..”. Luke’s face turned into shock by Glenn’s admission of not telling his sin to his lover and him becoming a father. “Your……a father? The child was hers wasn’t it?” Said Luke who was still shocked by the revelation. Glenn wipes the tears away and took a deep breath before replying back. “Yeah…..who else would it be?” Luke grinned like a mischievous little goblin, this was a sign that he was going to spill his beans on Glenn. “Well, it could be mine and Woz’s, we’d make a good couple. Ain’t that right woz?” He called out to Waz, but as usual Waz was a soulless being of emotionless understanding.
Glenn recovered from his breakdown as he brought some composure back, Luke made sure Glenn was okay and brought him back from his grievances. Waz walked alongside Glenn not out of comfort but to stay away from Krakstrong who eyes Woz with venomous hate. Luke was between Krakstrong and Glenn and Waz, acting as a middle ground to prevent a full infighting.
As they walked down the empty road something changed as the weather became misty, ahead of the road a green mist came up to them in a blink of an eye. It’s sickly appearance was like a miasma like disease that grew in its airborne environment. At first the gang thought it might be some sort of airborne virus that they’ve not seen before. Luke and Glenn quickly got dressed in their Hazmat suits to protect themselves from the airborne mist. Luke only just managed to seal himself before the mist reached him, sweat was running down his face by the close call.
The strangest part came next as a puddle reached towards the boots and feet of the gang, it was like sewage water with a dark consistency of sludge. It grew into a lake, then by the time it stopped it reached up towards their kneecaps. Was this a flood? But it just came out of nowhere in a strange way, flood would happen much faster and flow like a stream. This phenomenon was a calm flood with no wave direction.
Glenn couldn’t move his feet as the dark sludgy water trapped his legs. So was Luke and Woz finding it difficult to move, only Krakstrong could barely move in this strange environment. “What is this?” Shouted Krakstrong as he tried to move around the rising water. “Is it the bad energy like Gornicus wields?” Krakstrong May not be the brightest in the group, but when he senses the ‘bad energy’, that’s a sign he knows a threat is incoming. He wasn’t wrong, something was coming.
Small red dots appeared in the heavy dark green mists like small flowers in distance. These red dots moved closer and closer to the gang like laser targeting, there were eight, sixteen, thirty two and more red dots getting close now. It was only until the gang realised that the dots were actually eyes that it was all too late to escape to safety. They were red eyes, eyes of the mutant rats.
Big black creatures from the deep dark underworld that they breed and multiply in, these creatures are monsters of the wasteland that have caused untold destruction to settlements. One day there’s a small thriving village, the next day. A ghost town with dried blood as the only evidence of its previous occupants.
They swam in the sludgy waters like it was an easy flowing lake, their black furry bodies paddled with their tails swishing like worms behind them. Soon the gang were all surrounded by these vermin, trapped in a circle of hungry malicious rats.
Luke’s Heart was beating fast in his chest as he saw the gathering of what looked like a million rats. He unsheathed his gun in preparation for the battle to come, a futile one by his guess. Glenn had the same thought, his sniper rifle would be useless against the horde so he got his close combat weapon ready. Woz was frozen still like nothing was happening, lost in thought in his own world. Krakstrong snarled as he saw the ambushers as they stared at him with keen interest, and not the good kind of interest.
The tension was high, eyes unblinking, muscles ready to move by the merest action, hearts beating fast and sweat glistening by stress. But nothing happened. The rats floated still in their position just staring at the gang. Why were they staying still? They’ve got the chance to get an easy kill with the number of rats surrounding them. Where did this miasma of heavy mist and dark water come from?
The answers were clear as suddenly a song could be heard from all around them, neither at a distance nor in sight, but clearly where they are. Luke thought it was his recorder so he checked it to see if he left it on. It was off. He looked at the others and they couldn’t understand where the music was coming from either. What was odd was that it was directly in front of them by a couple of yards, but nothing could be played as there was no radio in sight, just a big space of the water.
It took him a couple of minutes to realise the song, it was Blueberry Hill, a 1950’s song he heard once in the car on a road journey to work. Just as he remembered the song, the water in front of him by a couple of yards bubbled and popped as something emerged from the depths of the dark river. A head emerged from the water, stepping up as if it was going up an underwater stairs. It wasn’t recognisable at first because of the water dripping down the figure, it was a man in smartly drenched business suit, slightly short, dark hair and a fairly fair face with creases from ageing. He looked at the gang who were looking at him in surprise by his sudden entrance.
The man made a hand signal as if pointing to go ahead, the rats suddenly started to come closer as they were commanded to go for the kill. Luke couldn’t remember where he saw this man, but he knew him from somewhere years ago.
The man looked at Luke for the first time eye to eye.
He smiled as though he read Luke’s thoughts.
Luke looked into his eyes, lost to the gaze of someone he tried to remember but couldn’t find the answers to.
He realised that he was looking into the eyes of a dead man, the name finally came to him as all the pieces slotted into place in his mind.
The rats were near and ready to slaughter and gorge their fangs on soft meaty flesh.
“It can’t be…..I know you, your…” Said Luke, lost for words as his eyes were wide with shock and fear.
“I always knew Luke, the Dark Mind knows……..” said the man, who’s name was…….
End of part 2