A Baneful Wasteland



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Still searching for our patch of green. I call it our utopia now, because that's surely a paradise compared to all the shithole cities Roxy and I pass through. We'll know when we're close because the air will be clearer. It's hell here, I tell ya. Children and their parents dying because of the toxic fumes, wanderers getting nabbed by beasts... My daughter and I are lucky to have not yet gotten sick. Very lucky. Could still happen, though.

Oh yes sirree.

I miss Wanda. I miss her with all my heart and so does Roxy. We miss our little boy, Ben, too. The illness in the air got to them and there was nothing we could do about it. My heart is broke, but at least I still have my little girl.

Thank you, God.

That's enough of my depressing rambling. I ain't gonna sit around and die with the rest of the planet. Not without a fight. People think I'm crazy for going on this journey. Well, they're crazy for not at least giving it a try! If we have a chance to make things right again, why the hell not try? I love this planet, I love this country.

Most importantly, I love my daughter.

We're sitting outside of a city we once called home. Gathered everything we could and everyone we could, to go with us. I feel prepared and so does she. That's plenty of confidence to get me goin'.

Just another hour. It's been a couple since I last announced to the folks that they were welcome to come with us. I see some people up ahead right now, in fact. Bless their souls.
"Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"
"My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area."

Two verses. It was strange how two very simple verses explained life before Hell came on Earth. This was God's punishment for humanity's legion of sins against themselves. By poluteing the world, humanity assumed the role of Legion, fighting against any change to their distructive lives of convience even thought it was their only way to survive.

Nearly two thousand years, it was clear that humanity was not near Relelations. It was still a few sections off.

No one was around to listen, none at all. People had abandoned this church. Even the preacher was gone. Only three others heard his preaching, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirt.

Soon though, it was time to go. Time to leave and head towards the convoy. He sighed, "Amen."

The book went into the bag with a cloth covering, the quiver went onto his hip along with the cover, the knife went to his hip in its holder, the bow held on his back and the bag hefted onto his sholder. A quick dusting off of the habit and it was out into the area of hell.

It took a few minutes walking but soon the young priest was at the place, two people already there, a man in the middle ages and a rather attractive woman looking only slightly older than himself. "God bless us all, sir. That He does."
“Did you get the food?”
“Yes, I got the damn food, Katie!”
“How did you manage that? I thought you said we had nothing to--”
“Does it matter? We have food. Now let's go find this guy you were talking about--”
“You stole it, didn't you?”
“You shouldn't steal food, Noel. Someone else might need it.”
“They're staying here, and they've got a ton of the stuff. We're gonna be travelling; I'm sure they won't miss some of it.”
“If you say so. You still shouldn't steal food though.”

Two figures picked their way through the ruins of the city's outskirts, gas-masks holding back the smog that lingered throughout the area. They moved carefully, clearly practised at travelling through ruins, towards the place where the Fishers waited.

One was a young man, dressed in dusty black trousers, thick boots and a jacket covered in patches. His hood was up over his head which, combined with his mask, obscured his features. Next to him was a small girl, a teenager, dressed in a bright blue jacket and army fatigues that were far too big for her. She wore a brightly coloured hat over her head and a mask as well, though trails of light blonde hair has slipped out from both.

For another ten minutes they walked in silence, towards the meeting place, before the boy finally said, “I think I see them just up ahead.”
“Oh thank God. My feet are killing me,” the girl replied in a relieved tone, “Can we take these masks off? They're really stuffy.” The boy removed a small device from his jacket and flicked it on for a moment before nodding.
“Yeah, air here seems alright.”

As he returned the device to his jacket, the girl practically tore her mask off and inhaled deeply before smiling. Her brother did the same as they finally arrived where the other three stood. “You're Kenneth Fisher, right? The guy who thinks he knows where the world isn't so wrecked?” the boy asked, stepping forwards. “I'm Noel. Noel Lowe. This is--”
“I can introduce myself, Noel,” the girl chided, pronouncing her brother's namely sharply in that way only a sibling can, “I'm Katie. Nice to meet you.”
Roxanne was sitting on a boulder beside her father, entertaining herself with the gadgets of her Swiss Army knife. The breeze combed her platinum blond hair, filling her nostrils with the freshest air she's had in a long time. Sadly, this space wouldn't be untouched forever. The ill fortune of their city would travel here, then farther, and farther until everything died in its path. It made Roxy said that the few still healthy trees behind her would die. Without them, there was no purity in the air.

She looked up when Kenneth tapped her on the shoulder, pointing at some people headed in their direction. Quickly, she stood up from the large rock, pocketing her knife so she wouldn't be distracted.

A somber smile touched her lips when the priest arrived, her head nodding to him respectfully. As she did, she heard her father say, "Amen, my brother." while putting a fist over his heart, his eyes looking briefly to the gloomy skies. The Fishers recognized this young man from a church, though his name escaped them.

Just a moment later, a pair of teenagers showed up. The two of them made Roxanne's smile brighten, her lips tight to help keep back any laughter. The sister was adorable in the way she communicated with her brother, who obviously got annoyed.

"Yessir. That would be me. Glad the two of you decided to come along," Kenny replied, extending his hand out for a more acquainted greeting. It was available to any of the three who wanted to accept it.

"And I'm Roxanne, his daughter. You see anyone else coming this way, by chance?" asked the young woman, her eyes looking from person to person. The question was an important one; they would be leaving soon.
“Kinda... her idea, mister,” Noel said with a shrug in response to Kenneth, motioning to his sister before briefly shaking the man's hand, who was shaking her head in response to Roxanne's question. “Umm, no I didn't see anyone else coming this way. Just us. You see anyone, Noel?”
“Would've mentioned it if I had, wouldn't I?”
“What's got you in such a mood?”
“Nothing, nothing...”

Stepping to the side, Noel unslung his backpack and began to check through it. His sister quickly drifted over to look over his shoulder.
“What are you doing?”
“Making sure we've got everything.”
“I thought you said you'd already checked?”
“I did. I'm just be--”
“--Checked twice, you said?” Noel glanced up at his little sister with a scowl, then looked back down to the bag.
“It's called 'making sure', little sis. I like knowing we're all set for this.” Looking up from the bag again, Noel raised an eyebrow at Kenneth. “So... is this everyone? Not much of a grand band of adventurers so far is it? A man and his daughter, a priest, a teenager and a kid--”
“--I count as a teenager too!”
“...a man and his daughter, a priest and two teenagers?”
“Thank you.” Katie's tone was one of satisfaction; she folded her arms and smirked at her brother, who scowled at her again.
"Very well."

Kenneth trusted the words of the two teenagers. There wasn't anyone beyond them. Not that he could see. They might as well get a move on before the sky turned darker. Their footprints in the loose, dusty soil would provide good enough direction for anyone who changed their minds. Hopefully, nothing life threatening would follow that trail...

The man and his daughter got their backpacks on and double checked the provisions, nodding to each other to silently state their readiness. As for the other three... They looked as ready as they'd ever be.

"You're right, Noel. This isn't much of a caravan," Roxanne said to the young man in a soft voice so Kenneth wouldn't hear, her own skepticism showing in her eyes. This was what her dad wanted to do, though. They had nothing else to lose, so she didn't reject the idea. "We'll find more people, I bet. Along the way, you know?"

She always did her best to be positive.

Feeling a hand on her head, strong fingers making a mess of her hair, she was forced to turn around, now standing beside Kenneth. She made a sheepish smile up to him, clasping her hands in front of herself. In her mid-twenties, yet he still treated her like a child sometimes. Although he didn't hear all of what she was saying to Noel, he knew well she was being secretive. The smug look on his face assured that.

"I'll lead the way. Why don't cha get to know our new friends?" Kenny suggested to her before walking forwards, that being all the announcement he needed to get them moving. Roxy stayed right behind him, next to the others, searching her mind for appropriate conversation.
Jain could move across the Deadlands better than anybody he knew.

The country, the world, laid in ruin. Highways crumbled to dust; cities fell to the clutches of ivy poisoned with a wild, vicious contagion; men had fallen to the whims of primal urge, killing and raping and thieving just to prolong their pitiful lives just one more day, one more hour. It was a hell of a life to live, in one hell of a trapping of a world. It was Hell, for all intents and purposes.

Jain didn't care. He knew that this had been a long time, coming. He had prepared for it, too. Just not well enough.

His bunker, several miles outside of the city, had been built too closely to a gas-line that had not been properly documented. The gasline was a mile closer than it was said to be, and in the aftermath of the world ending, his bunker had gone up in a fiery conflagration just minutes after he was able to escape. He had his compound hunting bow, Vera, and a dozen carbon hunting arrows, each tipped off with wicked-looking steel-tipped broad-heads. He had a broad-band hand-radio that he turned on during the days. He also had a woodaxe, and a hunting knife, and had managed to salvage a week's worth of provisions that he had stretched out to well over several months, due to constant hunting.

His arrows were dulled and covered in the rusty-colour of dried blood, from that hunting. But not all of that dried blood had come from animals.

Jain had received that message from a hopeful father, a man named Kenny. A simple name, for a simple man, he guessed. The man claimed to know of a paradise, an Eden that still existed in this hellish world. Jain was up for anything, at this point. There was nothing to lose any longer.

He came across the caravan of people, noticing the disproportionate amount of children. 'Great, he thought sourly. Children would do nothing but weigh them down, slowing their trek and increasing the likelihood of them failing. Bandits would attack seeing fresh meat (in all meanings of the word 'meat'), or they might fall ill to sickness. Anything terrible could happen. An older-looking man lead the ragtag pack; Jain guessed him to be Kenny.

"Ho-there!" he called out from a pile of debris. He stepped out with his hands raised. His bow was folded up and dangling from his left hip, the hilt of a long knife sticking out from the folded device. At his right hip was a dusty flap of leather barely covering the dulled, coloured fletching of arrows. Slung across his shoulders, tucked underneath a heavy leather haversack, was the red of a woodaxe. It was dusty coloured, with hints of a rusty red.

"You Kenny?"
The two siblings fell in behind Kenneth and his daughter, Noel slinging his bag across his back and Katie moving in beside her brother. They were away, at last, from the city and towards the hope of the unspoiled patch of the world the leader of the group spoke of.

Privately, Noel wasn't so sure of the whole 'Eden' story Kenneth had on the go; he'd seen too many false prophets of hope since the world went to hell to really believe in any of that stuff now. But he knew Katie believed the man, and figured that this way at least his little sister would be happier and at least they would be away from the rusting hell-hole of a city.

Katie, on the other hand, was busy taking in the landscape around her. Murky browns and dull greys made up the colour-palette; almost nowhere could you see even a patch of green. The land was dead; it had been since the world died. Sighing, the girl moved in a little closer to her older sibling. At least where they were going, there was some hope of seeing something alive again.

Along the way, Roxanne shared her own concerns with Noel, who simply nodded and muttered back,
“Time'll tell, I guess. We're all in this together now I suppose, though.” He was grateful to know that he wasn't the only one with concerns about the whole venture, but didn't want to come across as overly sullen. They were all going to be travelling together for a while, after all.

Then the new arrival appeared; a wild-looking man, heavily-armed. As he stepped out from behind a pile-up of rusting cars Noel's hand went to the revolver at his side, but when the man hailed them and asked for 'Kenny' he relaxed a bit.
“Man, get a look of that guy!” Katie muttered to her brother with her eyebrows raised, “He looks like one of the mountain men from those stories of the Old West!”
“He looks like a lunatic, you mean.”
“Be nice, Noel! He doesn't look like someone you want to annoy.”
“I think we both have just by being here, Katie; you see the way he glared at us?”

“Oh, man...” Katie muttered, rolling her eyes, “Not another Andrew. 'Kids will just slow us down', 'kids are useless'. I'm not a kid, dammit! I'm thirteen!” There was an impertinent tone to her voice and a slight frown on her face.
“You could try telling him that, if you like.”
“Bite me, Noel.”

Kenneth immediately looked to the direction of the voice, the grip on his violin case tightening. It couldn't be helped. Even the friendliest greetings could be spoken by the cruelest of people. More than once, he clobbered unfriendly males trying to get their hands on his daughter. She was his treasure; she was all he had.

Approaching them was a man with several weapons on his person. Dust and dirt covered his skin, leading Kenny to assume he spent a lot of time outside of public. A glance was made over his shoulder to the siblings walking alongside Roxy. They exchanged some words about the newcomer in their usually childish ways. 'Ahh, this'll be fun...'

"Yes, I'm Kenny,"
he replied to the stranger, exchanging a hand out to him. Roxanne had gotten distracted by her nails; there was dirt under them. While gingerly picking at the filth, she walked right past Noel and Katie, her walk interrupted by something solid: her father's back. Embarrassingly, she took a step backwards from him, trying to ignore the smirk her parent was giving her.

"That there is my daughter, Roxy," Kenneth added with a slight chuckle. In response, she waved at Jain while peeking over her dad's shoulder, her lips twitching into half a smile. "I could have introduced myself, Papa," she reminded him with a friendly smack to that same shoulder. "Just, I was busy for a minute!" He faked a pained 'oof!' as a reaction, just to humour her.
"Uh huh... Sorry, honey."

Roxanne then looked to the priest, and brother and sister that were traveling with them, making a gesture towards the 'mountain man', as Noel called him, with hopes they'd introduce themselves.
Kenneth turned to the siblings and gestured to them; Katie quickly caught on to what he was suggesting they do.
“Oh, yeah!” she said brightly, smiling at the new arrival, “I'm Katie Lowe.” In truth the new arrival made her a little nervous, but she did not want to be seen as impolite by the others.
“Noel,” her brother grunted by way of introduction, nodding to the 'mountain man', “You here to join our little expedition to Eden as well, huh?”

Like his sister, Noel was somewhat apprehensive about the man. Unlike his sister, however, he was expecting trouble; the man had the wild look about him, one the teenager had seen before in bandits and thugs that now plagued the world. The sort of people who'd rob you, kill you or take everything you had before leaving you to die in the wastelands. His hand still hovered near to the revolver he carried; until this man showed that he wasn't a threat, Noel wasn't taking any chances.