Only Monsters Survive in the Wasteland.....

  • ***Warning mature themes***

    And I looked, and beheld a pale horse, and his rider’s name was death, for hell followed with him. I recall not where I read these words but only that they came to me in that moment. Acrid, blackened smoke hung thick in the air, drifting from the burning piles. Everywhere the fires of conquest, of destruction, burned. The stench of burning rubber, wood, plastics, and more tickled the back of your throat and bathed the tongue in a heavy, oily residue. Eyes blinked through the blowing winds, the stinging smoke causing all those without protection to constantly rub their bloodshot eyes. But this was nothing compared to the gut wrenching feeling in the bottom of my stomach at the putrid smell of burning flesh, and the metallic tang of blood that wafted through my nostrils. Others seemed more stoic to the effects I felt within me, or at least didn’t let it show as much as I felt I must be. However, one among us seemed utterly immune to its effects. There, upon his makeshift throne of triumph sat our leader, our raider king, our warlord. With a grim face he surveyed the fruits of his labors. Watched his men, my brothers and sisters of the blade, go about turning over each and every stone, plank, and brick for anything of value or use. Little was likely still intact given the ferocity of our attack. I closed my eyes, imagining the quiet peace that must have been this settlement meer hours ago. I pictured the happy settlers, dirty and ragged yes, but alive and free, eking out their meager existence from the bitch that was the wasteland.

    I opened my eyes again, cries of pain and fear breaking my concentration. Looking to my chieftain, his attention too had shifted. Lord and serf watched together as more of our brethren pushed and goaded a half dozen survivors of the attack forward from the burning wreckage of their homes and towards our warlord. Piercing green eyes carefully took in their worth one at a time. Judging them, measuring them, weighting their use to him and our clan. I had seen this moment a dozen times and still the power and fear of the moment turned me back into that scared little sheep before the mighty lion I once was. Strong memories die hard and I shook myself clear of the cobwebs of the past to watch the exchange. I have come to call this moment the ‘culling’, when the wheat is separated from the chaff, and our losses are replaced, and the tribe bred with new blood and new strength.

    The warlord stood as the settlers approached, taking several enormous steps toward them. Every inch of him was power. Blacked, beaten metal plates encased much of his body and he looked as if he strode through the Commonwealth in archaic power armor despite being nothing but metal and muscle. His fierce glare caused all but the hardiest of prey to look away. He fed upon this, the charisma of fear. His first victim was a small whelp of a man, a puddle forming at his feet as he wet himself as my lord drew in close. The man’s eyes closed as he trembled under our king’s inspection. He immediately dropped to his knees, begging for his life. With a quick sneer, a decision was made and the raider who held the prisoner’s chain gave a gleeful smile. I shuddered from my vantage point as the gleaming, filed sharp teeth of the bald warrior hinted at what I knew to be all too true. With a quick yank he pulled the screaming man off towards the distance, his tongue flicking between the rows of sharpened fangs. What awaited that poor soul was a fate worse than death and even I pitied him in that moment.

    Next came a strong, but beautiful young woman. Her ruby hair gleamed in the firelight from the burning pyres around us. Her face was stone and her eyes kept forward as she too was inspected. As a hand reached out to touch her blazing locks, a voice shot up from the slightly rotund man to her side. Anger and froth spewed from the man’s mouth as he let loose a torrent of curses, threats and insults at our commander. The warlord’s granite expression finally gave way to a smile, a dark, dangerous smile that sent a shiver up my spine. Immediately he ordered the warrior holding this man’s chain to release it. Drawing a wicked, toothed blade from a sheath strapped horizontal along the back of his waist, he tossed it to the rabid man. With a slight bow the offer was obvious without a word: fight me. And fight him he did, as the settler grabbed the dagger and unleashed a fury of wild strikes at his target. With nothing but his hands our chieftain dodged or deflected each and every blow with precision and ruthless efficiency. After almost a minute of letting the panting, red faced man try futilely to exact some measure of vengeance for what was assuredly his burning friends and family we continued to choke on, our lord ended it with one massive right hook to the man’s face. Thick steel gauntlets smashed their way into the man’s nose, turning what was underneath into little more than a snotty red paste. He crumpled to his knees, his breathing instantly more labored. Even from a small distance away I could see the tears streak down his face as he looked up at the face of the woman he had tried to defend. Her eyes, like chips of ice, met his and her face twitched with lines of fear and sadness trying to break that stoic expression as her mind warred between strength and weakness.

    That same, terrifying smile creased our lord’s face once again as he made his way back up to the conflicted female. Again he eyed her up and down, his mind analyzing and calculating behind his emerald eyes. As gently as one might pick up an egg, he lifted her hair to his face, smelling it as he purposefully looked back down at the broken faced man. The man, and the woman, could not have looked more opposite. Bleeding, broken, and red faced rage burst from every pore of the shamed male, while a cool, cold hardness gripped the pale faced female. Drawing back, our king bade her handler to likewise drop her binds, and hand her his bloody sword. As her hands grasped it she unleashed one fluid slashing blow, opening the warrior up across much of his mostly exposed chest. He fell to the dirt dead as a cry of outrage sprang up from the throng of gathering clansman who had mostly ceased their search for the spoils of victory to watch the proceedings. A large, armored hand rose from the warlord as he almost instantly silenced the clan. A horde of gun barrels of all shapes and sizes slowly lowered at the command. With what I can only imagine was a mixture of amusement and mild impressment, he drew his own weapon. From the hanging straps at his back came a large weathered axe with a big spike coming out of back of the axe head.

    Like with their attitudes, the two sheep, the man, and the woman, fought in near opposite fashions. Instead of wild fury, the fiery female attacked with careful, tactical movements that hinted at some form of training or education beyond one accustomed to fending off simple fauna of the wasteland. This disciplined approach met with much greater success as she quickly landed several noticeable, but non threatening strikes between the armor plates of the master. Indeed after a minute or two the gathered warriors, myself included, began to grow concerned for our leader’s life. But still that mildly impressed and amused smile kept our lord’s face as he fought, mostly on the defensive, with occasional wide swings of his great axe testing the defenses of the woman. He seemed to heed little attention to the multiple bleeding cuts around the joints and breaks of his steel plates. Our concern was for naught though, as his expression shifted to one that had drank his fill and had finished playing with his toy. In one fluid motion his foot kicked up a cloud of ash and debris into the face of the female. As she recoiled from the distraction, he brought his axe around in a flat arc, the blade angled so that its large flat head connected with her side. The impact was something like what happened when one was struck with a bat wielded by a super mutant. Audible cracks from the breaking of ribs split the tension as the woman crumpled to the ground, her liberated blade clattering towards the feet of the gathered onlookers. She wheezed and gasped, trying to snatch at the air in her lungs that insisted only on escaping. He stood there for a few moments, like some macabre god of war. Looking back over the other prisoners, mixtures of hatred and terror looking back at him, he turned on his heel, heading back to his vacant throne.

    As he resumed his seat of death he looked back over the clan. Only then did our lord speak, calling for the “trial”. Hands leapt into action, dragging pieces of rubble and debris into a hastily formed, roughly circular, ramshackle arena. Hooting, chanting, roaring raiders pulled up to the outside edges of the “walls”. Gunfire filled the air in celebration as the primal call of bloodsport electrified the pack. Several combat weapons were tossed into the center as the rest of the original half dozen prisoners were tossed just as carelessly into the middle to join the injured male and female. The great predator gave the sheep but one instruction. Whomever was left standing would be allowed to live, allowed to live that is, by joining the ranks of our mighty clan and join our depraved, fucked up little family. Reactions from the settlers was a mix of fear and outrage as the crowd of raiders cheered. To the credit of one of the prisoners, a tall blonde male, the will to live set in first as he lunged for a large curved blade at his feet and immediately shoved it through the chest of the prisoner closest to him. The short olive skinned female’s eyes grew wide with shock as she choked on her own blood for a moment before falling to the ground dead. The crowd exploded as the rest of the prisoners each clawed at the variety of weapons scattered about. The previously injured male and female, ‘no-nose’ and ‘red’ as I started to think of them, despite their wounds, grabbed a weapon and moved back to back, working as a team to ward off attackers.

    In minutes the small patch of dusty earth between the patchwork barricades grew slick with blood as neighbor slew neighbor, fighting to live seconds longer than those whom they may have known their entire lives. They were no different than us. I had learned that long ago. No matter from what walk of life you came, we were all animals. At least we did not pretend to be anything else. No, we were predators, and we were proud of it. That was the lesson our family imparted to each and everyone of our adopted brothers and sisters. Only monsters survive in the wasteland. The next to die after the dark skinned female was the sixth and final settler, an older worn male. His aged joints and weakened muscles offered no chance against the wall of youth that surrounded him. This left the blooded pair and the large blonde male. For a two on one fight he moved with remarkable precision. I don’t know if it was just the damage the duo had already suffered at our lord’s hands that did it or if the large male was just that skilled but watching the spectacle I almost wished that our liege had fought one on one with this man. Desire for such a show was cut short however as numbers prevailed and the one fell to the power of two. When just the pair remained the bloody male turned to our lord still atop his throne and threw his weapon down to the ground, kicking it away. It seems the fury of his spirit had returned as he unleashed a yet new round of curses at our warlord. He declared defiantly that he and his betrothed would not give us the satisfaction of playing our little game. He spit a big gob of bloody flem out into the dirt and stared back in angry silence. All were still as nothing but the wind moved, pushing a new cloud of smoke and stink across the masses.

    In the stillness the sharp crack of a rib cage breaking under pressure echoed like a cannon as a blade erupted from the chest of ‘no-nose’. As he looked down, his face awash with shock and horror he slid slowly forward, freeing himself from the rusty blade. Turning, his wide eyes stared at ‘red’, her hands still clutching the blade. ‘No-nose’ moved his jaw up and down as he worked to form words but none came to him. None needed to be said though as his broken face expressed every ounce of hurt and betrayal he felt. Closing her eyes, ‘red’ brought her weapon down in one swift stroke, forever extinguishing the flame of life in her lover. With a single baleful tear running down her cheek she opened her eyes and looked up at our great leader. Long did her bloodshot, icy eyes look upon him before she gave a low, submissive bow. Her spirit was broken, but her life had been secured. I knew she did not feel it, but in this moment, in her baptism by fire and by blood, a new world had been laid bare by her decision to live. This was our great chieftain’s greatest strength, the power to break our bonds and free us to live and not just to survive in the irradiated ruins of the world. As I too looked up at our father, our warlord, I could not help but be reminded yet again of those words. And I looked, and beheld a pale horse, and his rider’s name was death, for hell followed with him.


1 Comment   |   Valric and 2 others like this.
  • Amornar
    Amornar   ·  September 3, 2016
    Reposted my short story from the old site.