(Please read Chapter 1-3 below first)
Note: It seems I can not post all 4 chapters on the same blog. If I can, please let me know how. Otherwise I will probably keep it to 2-3 chapters per blog.
“Tch tch tch…what to do, what to do.” muttered Bullet to himself. Standing alongside his ATV, he stared down the crumbling freeway, his destination lay approximately five miles straight ahead and then he would need to turn east and travel across open plains for another two. He had concerns over the left side of the road, which ascended steeply into a rocky face that continued for about a mile before levelling out with the highway again. No more than fifteen feet high at any point. The visage was peppered with knotted, hardy shrubs, an obvious spot for a raider or throwback ambush. Using his cracked lens he tried to spot even the faintest of movements, but like the last dozen times, he spotted nothing out of the ordinary.
Bullet tried to put his paranoia and concerns to one side. The sun was on its daily descent and in the past hour the unusual pains in his stomach had returned. His only option was to make haste and drive through as quickly as possible. Resting his tenderizer and axe across his lap, he jammed his foot down and kicked his ATV into gear. The familiar hacking sound of the ATV’s engine grinding pistons together, reverberated across the rock-strewn surface. Bullet didn’t know if anyone was watching but he was sure of one thing. Every living creature within a two mile radius knew he was coming.
As the setting sun filtered through the rustling scrub on the ridge, it cast twisted shadows across the freeway. The spidery shapes jumped sharply, as the swirling desert air flowed through the thorny vegetation, bending them to its will. Bullet heart quickened with each sudden movement and all his childhood fears begun to emerge once more. He tried to reassure himself that his ATV was fast enough to out run any attempted ambush but his imagination was in overdrive…in his mind, Throwbacks came crashing down across his path, striking him with their enormous clubs, Survivalists threw nets out from the top of the ridge whilst hooded Judges took aim with their crude rifles, each had their own agenda, and ultimately wanted his life. Bullet willed himself to remain focused. He tried to stabilise his fears by thinking of the people he had ever loved in his, mostly, secluded life.
A knowing smile broke across his face as his thoughts fell on Tucker. A hardened Traveller, Tucker knew all of the abandoned tracks from Embry Crossroads all the way down to the southern settlements. About every twelve weeks he would turn up and barter metal or rubber scrap that he had found in the wastelands. In return, Bullet traded dried vegetables or toilet tank gin, something he had become proficient at making. He let out a happy, ‘Ha’, as he recalled the times him and Tucker sat on his roof, admiring the setting sun, all the while, looking out for raiders who might dare to approach his fortified home.
He always poked fun at Tucker telling him that, not only was he the best Scavenger he had ever met, he was also the worst trader. After their business was concluded, Tucker insisted that they finished the gin he had just bought, and Bullet would insist on matching it with one of his finest. Sitting on the roof, sharing their bottles of gin, Tucker would retell his famous stories of near death experiences and strange happenings from his travels in the wastelands. His tales becoming increasingly funnier as the bottles were drained. As usual, he always held back his best story to the very end and even though Bullet had heard it a hundred times, it always brought tears to his eyes.
Pangs of guilt struck him as he thought of his old friend and what his companionship meant to him. Tucker couldn’t travel anymore and had retired in a shanty town, unfortunately known for its squalor it lay just west of Embry. He desperately wanted to visit his friend, but failing to secure work up north he had very little funds and even less fuel, so he was forced to head home.
Then there was his closest friend, Bella. She would visit roughly each month to swap dried meat and sometimes, if he was lucky, some untainted milk. Although she was at least ten years older than he was, they had become best of friends and even companions in the latter years. The loss of her still pained him incredibly, in spite of everything, he retained a mental note to hunt down and kill the group that ambushed her. Tucker was the one that broke the news to him all those years ago. That week, they drowned their sorrows on his best gin, and even after Tucker left, Bullet lost the next six months in an intoxicated haze. Yet, the memories, cruelly, remained. The thought of his friends steeled his nerves, he needed to continue on, without him, Jessie will remain in brutal captivity and Bella’s soul will never rest in peace.
The pains in his abdomen worsened, what used to feel like a bag of sand worms squirming in his stomach, now felt like a sack of wild cats shredding the inside of his belly. The end of the rise was now within two hundred metres, he wondered if could make it. Cursing his luck, he pulled back on the accelerator trying to maintain maximum throttle, his ATV responded with a loud backfire. “Come on AC, get me out of here.” he said slumping over the handlebars.
Something inside him murmured, words not from his own thoughts resonated up through his chest and he found himself whispering incoherently, his lips twitched and a tingling sensation struck the right side of his face, the possessed babble continued, and the unknown words started to roll off his lips. The rise eventually descended, levelling out on to the flat plains, but he barely noticed. Clutching his stomach in agony he wanted to scream but his lips continued to move on their own volition. He could almost hear the words now, but their meaning was cruelly snatched away as his body slammed into the dirt.
Blinking to clear the blood that had seeped into his eyes from the slash on his forehead, Bullet tried to orientate himself. The impact had briefly stopped the pain in his stomach, but already the worms had returned and now he feared the tearing pains would soon follow. As he tried to raise himself, the world spun madly about him, staggering in a circle he tried to find his balance but his legs betrayed him. Like a mortally wounded animal, unwilling to surrender, he pushed himself up with his right knee but only managed to stagger forward a few steps before landing in the dirt once more. He couldn’t be sure, but he was convinced he spotted a hooded figure watching him from the road. Hope it’s not a faking Judge, he thought, and then his lights went out.