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Imagine a world undergoing systemic collapse. Whether it is war, economic depletion or climate change, it really doesn't matter. Lawlessness, privation and death stalk the land. This story takes place 8 or 10 years after, when the survivors are struggling to stay alive in a world that can't seem to repair itself. The population is crashing. It is a new Dark Age.
"You know there is only a few things in life that really count, one is food, one is staying dry and plus, a few other things,"
spoken by Raif.
The Kids at the End of the World:
A huge hole had been torn in Raif's life for the second time. First it was the break-up of his family and now this. He cried not only at the loss of Newt but now, Max. He knew now that he loved them both.
He wished that Max had let him go with him. Anything is better that being here not knowing anything.
Raif lay on the mattress in the dark room littered with old blankets and clothes, alone. Time went by and the candle slowly flickered out.
"Raif, come on, get ready, we're going to the waterpark!" It was bright and sunny and the car was in the drive way. He looked around and saw green lawns and sprinklers and kids running and playing. There was a light breeze and it was as if it was distant music in the air.
"Raif," He looked up and saw his Father smiling. He was holding a multi-color beach ball. Raif tried to speak but nothing came out. He looked down at his clothes and they were still rags.
Then he saw his Sister and his Mother they all came up to him together. They were smiling and happy, but then, like an old photo tossed into the flame, they turned brown, curled up in the flames and then soon became sooty black ash He woke up alone in the dark and empty room.
Max hadn't bothered to sleep and kept going through the night. It was late afternoon when he approached a town that had life in it.
It was a medium town that, like all the rest, had fallen into ruin. The tendrils of suburbia had withered, many of these towns had become useless to the outside world. Most small towns were destroyed by warring fiefdoms. Burnt out buildings, wrecked cars and the aimless ones, wandering, always wandering, Max was indistinguishable from anyone else. The specter of hunger was always on every face and the greatest fear was that down the road lay famine.
But this town was a little different. It was encouraging to see small slightly disorganized gardens here and there. In the past, people thought about trivial things and lived from day to day without regard for the future. Now, even in Spring, they thought about the Autumn and the Winter that lay beyond.
Some people began to work together gathering, hunting and stockpiling. The most successful gave up their single family homes and formed communes in the large commercial buildings that had lost their purpose. They offered shared protection during the nights. There they could organize, share food, defend and protect. This town had had one large a supermarket and an attached what used to be a strip mall. The Clans showed up with a convoy of trucks and they removed any and all of the nonperishable's leaving the rest to rot. After that the local people moved back in, forming a strong unified group was the only defense they had against lawlessness. This town like many others had fallen under the protection of the River Klan and tribute obligations had to be met or there would be murderous reprisals and raids. There were those that cooperated and those that didn't.
The fire had been lit and people began to line up. A man began to stir up the dregs of the pot with a stick so that it would heat more evenly. The smell coming off the vile mixture was not appetizing. Next to it was a pile of mostly unwashed plastic vessels of many assorted sizes and colors. People ate it anyway, including Max. He closed his eyes and with up turned head, tried to swallow without tasting.
The man stirring the pot hadn't seen Max before so he assumed that he was a wanderer.
He looked at Max and said "I hope you're the right kind. If you're not you better keep on goin."
Max didn't understand what he meant.
"We got two kinds of people here, The "with us people" as in "are you with us" and all the others. This soup is brought to you by us in the Defender Tribe. We are a sub-clan under the protection of the River Clan so don't fuck with us!"
He pointed at the large boarded up super market. "We don't turn no one away but if you fuck up, we all come pourin out of there like a swarm of hornets and we will hunt you down and kill you if we have to. But if you are a good person and you are willing to work, you might consider joining us and become one of the Defenders!"
The man elevated his fist to the sky.
Max stayed around hoping to catch sight of Newt or Phil. The town was fairly peaceful and there wasn't any sign of trouble. Towards evening, an old mother woman came along pulling a hand wagon load of vegetables and some pieces of suspicious looking meat to add to the stew. She relieved the man tending the pot.
"David, you can be off now, I'll take over."
Someone yelled, "Throw that shit out and start that stew all over again. It's fuckin putrid!"
She ignored the taunts and started dropping the vegetable and raw meat chunks into the stew.
She turned and faced the sullen crowd. "It won't be ready to eat until well into the evening so go get lost!"
The unspoken truth is that if the Defenders didn't feed the useless ones, they would have a whole lot more trouble on their hands. Who knows, they might begin to rob and steal again and maybe start killing again. At the worst, they might rise up and join up with the enemies. It was just good business to feed the useless lot.
The man's name was David. Max followed him over to the boarded up super market.
"You look pretty good to me. I will check with the Tribe leaders and see if there is an opening for someone like you."
Max went to interrupt the man when...
A truck pulled up alongside of them. It was from the River Klan. The man behind the wheel wore shades and was accompanied by a rifle bearing guard. He was a sort of tax collector. David approached the vehicle. The driver opened a note book and took out a small calculator.
The Driver spoke. "David, how many chickens you got up to now?"
"Not more than fifty, we lost about a dozen to a pack of dogs."
The driver pulled his shades down a bit on his nose. "You wouldn't be lying to me now would you?"
"No I wouldn't do that."
The driver studied David's face and then his notes. "The way it stands now, you're givin the Clan 30 eggs a week and we've waived the chicken meat so that you could increase the size of the flock, right? Well, stop fuckin around and get busy!"
David appealed to the driver. "Can you try to get us some grain, the chickens strip everything off the ground till there's just mud and chicken shit."
The driver didn't answer, he just drove off in a shower of gravel. David spat on the ground. "Motherfuckers!"
Max was anxious to get going. "I'm looking for someone kidnapped from my family and I have to find him."
He described the man and Newt.
"They came through for the morning meal. That kid of his was disobedient and a right nuisance."
The man laughed. "He had to keep the kid tied to him to keep him from running off. Kids today got no discipline. They're like animals. They rested over there where so we didn't have to listen to their arguing and bickering. Yeah, I saw 'em, they headed down the Post road about 4 hours ago.
When the man looked up, Max was gone.
The Mismatched Duo:
"Ever since you run off, you've been fuckin ruined, When we get back, I'm gonna to lock you up in the storage locker and you'll be lucky to ever see the sun again. You won't listen to nothin. You turned into an evil little fucker! You'll pay for almost biting my dick off, I'm still pissing blood!"
Newt started tugging on the rope again and pulling away from the man as hard as he could.
"Fuckin stop it, stop it! You're drivin me fuckin crazy!"
He bore down on the boy hitting him and punching him. It didn't seem to do any good. Then Newt started screaming again. Phil grabbed boy and covered his mouth tight to stop him and held him until the his revolt and struggle subsided.
Newt looked up at the man. The boy's eyes narrowed with hatred and he spit at him.
Newt yelled at him." You know what? You're a fuckin dumb bell!"
"See what I mean! You're gonna push me too far and I'm gonna snap and I won't be able to stop myself from murdering your stinky little ass."
Newt really was wearing the man out. He got up and tugging Newt harshly with the rope, then continued with the journey.
After a 2 days and a night Max was thirsty, hungry and dizzy with weariness. He would sit periodically but only for a minute or two. He was on the right track because the man at the defender's camp told him that he had seen a man pulling a barefoot boy along. Phil was taking Newt back to where Max had first found him. He was tired but relieved in knowing at least that much.
Off the road and half way up a hill and almost hidden with overgrown grass he saw small rusted house trailer with smoke coming from a tin chimney. He was desperate for something to drink. Just some cool water and he would be fine and able to press on. Max thought he could do without food as long as he could get some cool water. He was sweating from his brow and chest and he slipped several times trying to climb the steep hill. A the top, he rose up on his feet and was met with a woman aiming a rifle right at him. She was dressed in the same old Chinese cottons. Her sweatshirt said, "College Drinking Team."
"What the fuck do you want! You know, I know how to use this and I can, and I will, blow your fuckin head off!"
Max was weaving on his feet.
He said, "Nothin."
Max turned on his feet and fell. The woman cautiously approached. She studied the motionless prone figure that lay in the dirt. Once she removed his pistol, she was sure that the boy was harmless. She stowed her rifle and got down to see what was the matter with him.
"Hey! You ok?"
She was middle-aged woman and had a pleasant but gravelly voice. She got him a jar of water and helped him drink.
"What goin on with you?"
Max told her about Newt being kidnapped and what had happened.
"How long you been on the road?"
Max said three days.
"Well you better stay here for the night to like, recuperate, ya know what I mean? They won't get that far ahead of you, they gotta sleep too."
Max didn't want to but he was hardly able to sit up. There was a small stream that came from up above, went down the hill and then disappeared under the interstate.
She tugged at his sweatshirt and sniffed at it. "You're clothes aren't so bad but you are too smelly."
by the side of the stream she washed him and looked after him like a put-upon mother.
She looked at him and said, "You boys are a menace to civilization."
The inside of her trailer house was small but warmed by a make-shift wood stove.
"You can lay over there, there's room."
She told him her name Lucy and he felt safe enough to close his eyes.
"This is your lucky day, we're havin rabbit for dinner, rabbit and puny potatoes. We'll be eatin poor Reggie. I didn't want to but I had to kill him this morning because,"
She looked right into Max's face. "Because why?...Because, that's life, that's why!"
She gave out a world weary cackle. She was proud of her earthy observations.
Lucy tried to make the dinner almost like a fancy romantic dinner from the old days and she sort of succeeded. It was obvious that she was happy to have company. The meal was topped off with some grape juice that had turned a bit hard. It passed as wine, sort of.
"You know, you are better lookin than what I seen on the road these days. Mostly it's the poorest excuse for human beins are no better than half alive, scarecrows."
Max was pleasantly trapped in the corner of a rusty old house trailer with a woman he didn't really know. There was something about her that warmed him and made him feel strangely secure.
"You're safe here with me. If some motherfucker sticks his head in my door I'll shoot at it like it was a bullseye target and the only thing I'll regret is cleanin up the fuckin mess.."
It was plain to see that she enjoyed saying things like that. She laughed a bit and then calmed herself down.
"Max, I'm not the type to play games and tricks with people. I always like to be upfront and honest, you know what I'm sayin?"
Max nodded yes.
"I like, shared my meal and my house so now I have ask you a real important favor."
Max began to feel uneasy.
"I could have taken advantage of you but I'm not like that."
Now he was puzzled.
"I need you, I need your..... It'll be a real simple thing, I promise.....I want help havin a baby."
Max sat up. He didn't really have any idea what that meant.
He looked around his surrounding and then at Lucy. "Um, I don't know, I have never been with a woman before. I don't know if I even know how."
"It's not real difficult, no more difficult than stuffin a chicken and I won't laugh at you neither, I promise. I know you gotta be on your way but you're healthier that most so far and it 'll all be over in a jiffy. I already shot two ugly men that were tryin to get me and you're not so bad."
Lucy looked rustic but fairly attractive in the light of the wood stove and candles. She moved in closer and placed her hand on his leg .
"So what do ya think would happen if you go back and tell your buddy friends that you met this woman and she offered to let you fuck her and you said no?"
Max looked down at her hand moving up and down on his leg.
He said, "I don't know."
"Oh come on Max, they'll call you a stupid and a jerk for not doin it."
Max shrugged his shoulders and said, "I guess."
The situation was vaguely uncomfortable but the food made feel better and it really was a favor owed. He closed his eyes.
Max got his boner and it was roughly pulled out of his pants, there was no way that this wasn't going to play out.
Lucy was in earnest. She tugged off Max's clothes and her own and they coupled. Max thought about Newt and even in the heat of the moment he thought of being with him. It was all he knew.
Lucy breathed into his ear and said softly, rude words of instruction. "Whatever you do, don't go losing it, get it in my pussy, please because that's the only place its gonna work."
She climbed into his lap and sat down on his boner. "Do you come right away or do you have work hard at gettin off? I don't care. Whatever makes you happy."
She put her arms around him and whispered, "I don't care who you are but you are good lookin and young and I am in love with you right now and that's all that counts. Please come, come inside of me. It's not so much to ask, please give me a baby."
It was a strange kind of hard affection but he responded to it like she was a mother telling him to hurry up and do your chores. With Lucy's help the objective was achieved quickly.
Lucy elevated herself to keep all of Max's juice inside of her increasing her chances of pregnancy.
They ate more food and talked. She asked him all about his life and how he got this far without already being dead.
"Max, I know that this is a really fucked-up time to go and have a kid, but I can't help it, I want a baby more than anything in the world. It's not goin to be something you're goin to have to worry about except until he or she is growed."
She gave out a private laugh like she knew things life that Max couldn't. She kissed Max and said, apologetically, "I'm sorry I was so mechanical and all, but it was important to me and maybe it was coincidence or sumthin in the stars but I know it is the right time for me. If I have a baby you and me will always be connected. So many bad and broken men out there and I've had to fight 'em just to stay alive. I looked at you and I can tell, you are going to survive. So someday, after I'm dead and gone, this girl or this boy will come looking for you and they will want to take care of you and you will look back and be glad that you met me.. "
Max was thinking that the whole thing wasn't so bad and if she hadn't been so instructive he might have even had fun. With Lucy's help, his first experience with a woman was successful but a little disorienting.
"We can do it again in the morning just before you leave. I promise that we'll take our time and it 'll be more like making love."
Max was drifting off to sleep.
Lucy whispered in his ear, "Max, you are going to be a father. I can feel it, I just know it. Max, you have given me a wonderful gift."
Max furrowed his brow and opened his eyes wide....and then fell asleep.
She put his pistol back into his back pack.
He dosed for barely an hour and then he was up preparing to go. " Lucy, can you get a message back to Raif? He is my family and I know that he is worried."
"Sure, I can do that, write it down and I'll take it."
Max said, "I can't write.. Can't you just tell him?"
"You boys are so fuckin worthless!"
This piece will continue, Please let me know how it is going.
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