The Negotiator

That was close,

Witnessing the great cave lake behind me, I turned back to the hulking horror and asked him if we could make a deal. I would start a caravan: taking water from the cave, bringing it to Abundance, and then paying Urmit with some dog-tags on my return. The mutant did not like that.

“Eh, I’ve got no use for tags.” Urmit replied. He licked his lips, “It’s been awfully hot. I’ve been dryin out, losin a lotta mass. Need me some protein to get back to full size.”

At that moment, I realized why I was in the cage. He had planned on eating me, at least initially. However, I could tell from the modern comforts of his home that Urmit was educated. That meant he could be reasoned with. I just had to lead him to my way of thinking.

“Tell ya what, big guy,” I began. “You let me go, I’ll bring you some protein. As much as you want. Maybe a nice plump chicken?”

The horror snorted “Heh, there hasn’t been no real chickens in da Mo-Javi for a long time. Just tacultia these days.” His gaze narrowed. “What game are you playin, boy?”

Mentally, I slapped my forehead, but kept a calm expression. One farmer at the bar in Abundance had offered me tacultia meat if I brought him water. Turns out I really did have the advantage.

“You haven’t seen the tacultia I get. Not from Abundance at all.” I lied. “They taste just like the real thing.”

The mutant licked his lips, but his eyes winced. He could tell I was lying, but a small part of him believed me.

“Look, I’m in the caravan business, see?” I said, only partially lying this time. “You let me leave with some water and I’ll send my boys up here with two tacultia per shipment of water. Sound fair?”

Although it was true that I didn’t have a caravan yet, I would be able to hire as many people as I wanted once I controlled the water. I stuck my hand through the cage to make a deal.

The horror inhaled deeply through his piggish nose. His eyes stared off into the darkness. Finally, his mouth opened slightly. He had an idea.

“Tell ya what?” Urmit began. “I cripple you. Break onna your arms, maybe a hand. You come back, I use my…gifts to heal you, good as new. It’ll be like it never ‘appened.”

I’m no expert in mutants, but I didn’t believe this creature could heal broken bones. This prompted the horror to give me a show of force. Urmit gripped my extended pinky finger and jammed it to the side as hard as he could. A sharp pain shot out from the base of my finger to the end of my wrist. I was almost laughing in pain as the mutant let me observe my broken hand.

With a grotesque squish, like a wet towel smacking into tile, the horror’s own hand turned into an indistinct mass of glowing mucus. The mound opened up like a toothless mouth and Urmit guided my hand into the maw. The mouth closed on my wrist. It was unpleasant and warm. My hand felt like it was submerged in a bowl of gelatin. The good news is that the pain in my finger instantly vanished. After a minute or so, the horror released my hand and molded his own to a more familiar humanoid shape.

I held my wrist in awe. It was a bit slimy, but otherwise miraculously repaired.

“So…” Urmit said, breaking the silence. “I’ll break ‘ur arm, letcha go, and then fix ya up when you come back.” He smiled ear to ear, exposing a mouthful of needle-like teeth. “Whadda shay?”

“Could we do something a bit less painful?” I asked. “I still need to defend myself on the way back to town.”

“Alrighty, which hand do you write with? I’ll leave that one intact.”

This is going to hurt….

 

-Joe Junkman.

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In the Belly of the Beast

Well, this isn’t so bad,

10f7365ae3a83129b412f4aeb2ba0b0d  There I was, trapped in a cage like a common animal. My captor was busy nursing a crackling fire. With the cave illuminated, I was able to orient myself to the exit portal. Looking around, I found a mattress, a chessboard resting on a table of stacked car rims, and even a carved china cabinet full of knick-knacks.

I was then distracted by an unpleasant pattering sound that scratched the back of my mind and caused my eyebrows to twitch and my neck muscles to tense. Turning away from the fire, I spotted a collection of drying pots and pans. Licking my cracked lips, I watched as precious water droplets rhythmically plopped into a tin dish. Though my head was still pounding from dehydration, I knew that my captor had must have a sustainable water source if he was willing to waste such a valuable commodity on washing dishes.

A monstrous humanoid shadow appeared on the wall in front of me, growing larger and larger as the sound of crunching sand grew louder and louder. Trembling, I turned around to formally meet my kidnapper. I don’t know what I was expecting.

Grabbing the iron lattice, the mutant revealed himself in all his horrific glory. My captor stood nearly seven feet tall. His flesh was a sickly yellowish green that had the consistency of fresh mucus. His whole body unnaturally oozed and festered, yet not a single drop of slime fell from his body. An odd explosive glow churned in his bloated belly. He wore little more than leather boots, tattered cargo shorts, and a pouch bandolier that seemed fused to his chest.

My captor introduced himself as Urmit, apparently of a race called the hulking horrors. My teeth chattering, I silently nodded my head. Suddenly, the mutant’s body made a grotesque crunching sound, similar to splitting wood. His muscular left arm atrophied until it was little more than a five fingered stump, while his right arm turned into a tentacle, slithering into the cage to meet me with a handshake.

Retracting his right arm and re-growing his left, the horror noted that I was extremely dehydrated. He picked up the tin dish full of drippings and slid it into my cage. As I emptied the curved plate, Urmit asked what I was doing out in the desert without any gear. I plainly told him that I was looking for a water source to help the people of Abundance. It was the truth after all, mostly.

“You mean like dat?” the mutant asked, pointing behind me.

I turned around once again to find a reflective pool that stretched as far back into the cave as I could see.

Now I just need to play my card right and get out of here.

-Joe Junkman

Deja Vu

I’m really not cut out for this.

I woke up to a sharp pressure just below my eyebrows. I was being dragged uphill. My whole body was sore. My arms were all ripped up after being dragged through the rocks. My legs would have been worse if I had been wearing shorts. I had no idea where I was going. That seemed to be happening a lot lately.

Trying to keep my cool, as I had in the spider’s web, I remained perfectly still. The pressure on my skull was such that, I felt whatever was dragging me could blind me or smash my head in at any moment. I did not want to startle my captor. Although I couldn’t look up to see the creature’s whole body, I could tell that it was humanoid as it angrily mumbled to itself. Its fingers were moist and sticky.

Before long, the moonlight and stars over my head were replaced by impenetrable blackness.  I was being dragged into a cave and a fairly nice one at that. My hands drifted through soft sand. It reminded me of the beaches of Brazil. Once all natural light disappeared, I was assaulted by the unsettling creak of rusty iron before being thrown into a cage. This was exactly like my last trip to Brazil.

I heard distinctive click of a padlock followed by the mumblings of a raspy congested voice. Aside from insane gibberings, I could make out “boil da water, add da meat, cook up some’fing real neat.”

Moments later, I could make out a series of sharp clicks coming from my right. The first spark revealed a monstrous silhouette, like that of a body builder. The second spark ignited the kindling, gradually revealing the creature in its entirety. The monster cracked his knuckles and turned to me.

This would be a really good time for Gray to show up.

-Joe Junkman

Hallucination

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Well….

I let Gray walk off over the mountains before I started following him. I made sure that I was always just out of his sight before continuing on to the next pass. It was obvious that the Bushman was looking for something, but I’m wasn’t sure what. I tracked him for hours, seemingly walking in circles through sandy hills. There’s nothing out here but brush, rocks, and cacti.

Normally, I would have been up to follow Gray all day. Unfortunately, I am not a smart man. I had spent most of the day walking uphill, in the desert, while wearing insulated pants and a long sleeve shirt. At the time, I didn’t even think about taking them off. Not to mention that all of my food and water had been stolen. I developed a horrific pounding headache and it felt like I had been gargling sand.

As the sun dipped below the valley wall, my whole body felt shaky. I was stumbling about on my hands and knees, too weak to turn back. I just hoped that Gray would find me and lend me a sip of water before I turned into a piece of jerky. I crawled as far as I could, making my way over one last hill. Before I passed out, I saw Gray sitting cross legged in a cactus field, his back turned to me. I tried to cry out, but my voice was just a raspy squeak.

I woke up to strange noises coming from ahead. It was too dark to see, but it sounded like shifting sand. I was helpless to do anything. All I could do was look straight ahead and clutch at the dirt.

Cast against the moonlight, I could make out figures surrounding Gray on all sides. I could tell they weren’t human. Their silhouettes were elongated, almost uncanny in their proportions. One stretched out a hand to the Bushman. Its palm was teardrop shaped while its fingers were short, fat, and stubby. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I dipped my head into the dirt and nodded off again.

-Joe Junkman

Rivalry

You’ve got to be kidding me…

I was escorted through the tunnels by Gray and that spider woman. On our way out, I spotted a clearing full of supplies, tables, and sleeping bags. A tribe of mean looking women were gathered around a soft electric lamp, enjoying some canned food. At first I didn’t think anything of it. Then I realized that my backpack (and everything in it) had been stolen during the attack. I had nothing but the clothes on my back.

Once we returned to the surface, the spider woman (who Gray called Tarantulanna) quietly slipped back into her hideout. Gray started removing the spider web residue from my body. At first I thought he was helping me, but then he packaged it into a puck shaped tin. I pleaded with the Australian that I needed my gear back. Gray pulled on his hat and pointed me back toward Abundance. I slapped my forehead. I didn’t have anything to trade with; even my dog-tags had been stolen.

The bushman just blinked at me and said, “Such is life in the wasteland.”

I can’t believe this guy. He has so many tags that he clinks and jingles with every step, but he won’t even give me a handful out of charity. He said it was my fault for trespassing, but how was I supposed to know? The mine looked abandoned from the outside!

Worst of all, before leaving, Gray mentioned that he couldn’t help me because he had to find a water source for Abundance and some General. I told him that I had traveled into the wasteland for the same reason and asked if we could team up. He shook his head and started toward the mountains without another word.

I’ll show him.

-Joe Junkman

All Tied Up

I have a headache…

I woke up upside down. I had no idea how long I had been hanging here, but all the blood had rushed to my head. I tried to squirm free, but my entire body was bound in something strong, silky, and sticky. To make matters worse, it was pitch black; I couldn’t see a thing!

After what seemed like maybe half an hour or so, a beam of white light appeared, revealing my surroundings. The walls of my tomb were made of solid rock and wooden pillars, but everything was covered with streams of white silk.

Then I noticed the spider hanging from the ceiling. It was the biggest most grotesque thing I had ever seen. This monster looked like a black window, but was the size of a coconut crab! I tried to stay still as the light came closer, hoping that the creature wouldn’t notice me. Still, I felt sick to my stomach and my eyebrow wouldn’t stop twitching.

“Wakey wakey,” a woman’s voice called out. She shined the flashlight right in my face. I couldn’t see a thing.

When my eyes readjusted to the light, I was able to clearly see my captor. She wore a glossy cat suit and half of her head was shaved, revealing an awful rash or maybe an acid burn. The woman clicked her tongue, causing the spider to crawl up her body and rest on her shoulder.

She turned her head to the darkness and said “Is this the one?”

“Yeah that’s him.” a familiar voice replied.

The woman hissed and clicked at the back of her throat.  The spider leapt off her body and starting biting at my sides. I felt something cold flowing through my veins. I couldn’t even squirm. I thought my heart was going to shut down.

Then I dropped to the floor. My captors helped me to my feet. I thought I was being poisoned but there wasn’t a scratch on me. I still had no idea what these two wanted from me.

As my eyes adjusted again, I was able to make out the distinctive slouch hat and safari gear that could only belong to James Gray. The Australian brushed me off and said that this was the last time he was going to save me.

I really hate this guy.

-Joe Junkman

Hi Ho Silver!

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I hate my life.

So I’m walking through this desert pass, climbing high into the hills surrounding the valley, when I spot another town. As I got closer, I realized that all the buildings were old, rusted. Most of them had collapsed roofing. A sign outside the town read “SILVER MINE.” Being an enterprising man, I decided to go have a look. I was hoping to find signs of ground water to point me in the right direction.

As soon as I stepped onto the main street, I knew something was wrong. I should have turned around right there. I heard rustling coming from a two story tin building to my left, but I figured it was just a rat or maybe a lizard. The point is I really didn’t think any of it. Like an idiot, I continued down the street, looking for anything that might be useful. It was obvious all the buildings had been stripped clean decades ago, probably before the apocalypse.

I admit, I was lost in thought. Visions of scrap crews tearing the place down flashed before my eyes. I considered what I’d do with all that metal. If Saul Fore was still alive, I could probably get the Blacksmiths to buy all the tin. Maybe I could go back to the Boulevard. If not, I could build a wall around Abundance and charge traders a fee to enter the town.

I was caught off guard by a pressurized hiss from a second floor window. I didn’t have time to turn my head before I was caught under a net. The more I struggled, the faster the lace tightened. It was tearing at my skin like razor wire! I couldn’t move. I could hardly breathe. My lungs were caught in a vice. All I could do was helplessly gasp for air.

I saw the silhouette of a woman standing over me.

Then, everything went black.

-Joe Junkman