When One Door Closes…

It’s all coming together…

Saul Fore wouldn’t take me in, so I had to find my own lodging. The good news is that I still had the dog tags he gave me. The bad news is that I could only afford lodging in the mutant part of town. It might be a while before the cash rolls in, so I’ve got to stretch these tags for as long as possible. I hope things pick up soon; my new Undying neighbors don’t trust me and are extremely sick.

I was trying to stay away from the apartment as much as possible. I started with a tour of the BLVD. It’s a big place, probably two or three thousand people. I can’t believe how many businesses there are around here. Aside from the blacksmiths, there’s cooks, doctors, tattoo artists, and even a dentist! All those are nice, but I had my own concerns. If I was going to produce a list of all the BLVD’s laws, I’d need some paper or maybe a printing press.

As fate would have it, I bumped into the weasel who writes the local news rag. He was a short guy in a grimy blue suit tearing at the shoulders. An ugly straw hat hid his red hair. He was so preoccupied writing onto his notepad that he bumped right into me.

“Hey! I recognize you. You’re that guy who got caught after curfew.” The pressman said with a sideways smile. “Care for an interview?”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“Oh. How rude of me!” the suited man cried, raising his hat “Mr. McGavin at your service. I’m the best journalist in town, let me tell you, and it’s not just because I’m the only journalist in town.”

I didn’t smile, but the sides of my mouth pulled tight. “Joe Junkman” I replied.

I noticed that the pressman had something hanging around his neck. It was one of those old cameras that spits out the pictures. I was surprised that he could find enough film to use it.

Mr. McGavin must have caught me staring because he immediately raised his camera and said “How bout a photo?” He paused “Only ten…er…only 15 dog tags! It’s a steal!”

“Oh it’s a steal alright.” I replied. “It’s highway robbery!”

Mr. McGavin and I both had a good chuckle.

I think we’ll get along just fine…

-Joe Junkman

Police State

“Two weeks hard labor.”

That was the sentence given to me by “his honor” the Judge. Geeze. I can still see that fat sluggish tongue scraping the cheese dust from his bloated lips. Guy looks like a bullfrog with a mustache. And the smell… his whole courtroom smells like a plate of steaming hot puke with a glass of skunked beer.

After my “trial” (if you can call it that), I was shackled, beaten again, and hauled off to the blacksmiths. Saul Fore wouldn’t get me out of this one. For two weeks, he just glanced at me and shook his head. When I called out to him, he said that I was beyond helping. Those words hit a lot harder than the police batons, even if they didn’t leave me covered in purple splotches.

For the past two weeks I’ve been lighting forges, assembling weapons, and handloading fresh bullets. My fingers have turned grey, but it hasn’t been so bad. I’ve actually learned a lot about how guns work. Plus, all this gave me some time to clear my head and think about everything that’s happened in the past few weeks. Besides, hard labor is a lot better than getting thrown out in the wasteland…again.

You’re probably wondering: How did that idiot Joe Junkman get into this mess?

Well, I had just entered the BLVD with Saul Fore our food caravan. It had been a long, but uneventful journey from Abundance. Almost immediately, I spotted a crowd gathered round a band playing on a rusting pickup truck. Then the music hit me. All I could hear was the wonderful strumming of a finely tuned guitar. I ignored Saul Fore’s warning and followed the string of notes drifting through the air. I caught myself nodding my head and shaking my hips. I was in a trance, comfortably numb to the world around me.

That’s partially why I didn’t hear the curfew siren. The other reason is that I had no idea the BLVD had a curfew in the first place. At first, I didn’t even notice the “counselor’s” approached wearing their fancy suits and armed with nightsticks and hand crank sirens. The crowd quickly dispersed, but I had no idea what was happening. Nobody told me anything! Of course the Judge croaked out that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Seems pretty stupid to me.

It wasn’t long before I was the last person on the street. The counselors boxed me in. One shouted something at me through a megaphone, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. I didn’t want any trouble, so I shot my hands up and slowly walked toward the suit with the megaphone. He didn’t like that.

Something slammed into the back of my head. I hit the ground hard. A padded knee rested on top of me as my arms were roughly placed behind my back. I tried to use the old Junkman charm, but that just got me a steel-toed kick to the guts. Bruises. Just what I needed. I’m sure someone will find that attractive.

After all that, I was hauled off to the courthouse to await my trial the following morning. Of course, I had to defend myself in court so it didn’t go well. But all this got me thinking. What if someone were to put an official list of the BLVD’s laws on paper? And what if they sold that list for a few tags? And what if that someone was me?

The Prodigal Son

Karma!

The trip back to the BLVD was uneventful, the way it was meant to be. No mutants gnawing at my ankles, no radiation storms, no dehydration induced hallucinations, and most importantly no bandits. The caravan guards were silent and stoic, but Saul Fore kept me company. I’m worried I’ll jinx it, but it’s true! Nothing bad has happened to me in a whole week!

We pulled up to the BLVD’s gates sometime after dusk. The guards greeted Saul Fore like an old friend. They didn’t even rough us up! I guess he’s a pretty popular guy around here.

Unfortunately, we had to go through customs. All my weapons, including knives, had to be shoved through a slot that said “BOOK RETURN.” For some reason, our guards were allowed to keep their shiny chrome rifles. My stuff was confiscated, tagged, and stored in an old bank vault. Saul Fore assured me it was standard procedure. Sure it is.

After a thorough pat down by two guys in S.W.A.T. armor, we were finally allowed inside. The BLVD was a long street illuminated by the alluring glow of neon advertisements. My ears immediately lit up to the slow strumming of a guitar. The sound was coming from a crowd had gathered around the rotting body of a car in the middle of an intersection. I couldn’t say how long it had been since I’d last heard music. I wanted to see what was going on, but Saul pulled me aside.

“Listen boy.” He whispered. “Boulevard ain’t kind to newcomers. Don’t go lookin for trouble.”

I gave him a thumbs up and wandered off into the night.

What’s the worst that could happen?

-Joe Junkman

Unlucky Charm

I don’t feel so good.

I couldn’t believe it. I went through hell and back to get my measly jug of water, but somehow that bearded bushman had beat me to it. So there I was, looking like an idiot in front of the old soldier and his entire army. To top it all off, my arm was still in excruciating pain after being broken in three places.

It would have been nice if Gray had just let me walk away, but he had to go the extra mile to “help” me. The Australian pulled a chrome tube out of an old leather bag and waved it over my water jug. Surrounding soldiers started chuckling as the tube produced a violent ticking sound.

The bushman raised an eyebrow. “I sure hope you didn’t drink any of this.”

“W-why not?” I stuttered. I honestly had no idea what Gray was talking about.

“It’s contaminated. Radioactive. I’m surprised that jug ain’t glowing.”

Unfortunately, I had already drank about two liters before leaving Urmit’s cave. I was literally dying of thirst, after all. When I told Gray, he and the old man just stared at each other for a few seconds. The old soldier called for one of his men to escort me to the fortress hospital.

Half an hour later, I was placed in a bed and put under observation. I didn’t understand. I felt fine, except for my aching arm. Maybe I was immune to radiation or something; that would be a pretty cool superpower. The doctor told me to wait, said radiation sickness gives you a false sense of security or something.

Turns out he was right. A few hours later, I was puking my guts out. I couldn’t even move. Doctor said he had some anti-radiation medicine, but it was going to cost me a few hundred dog-tags. I tried to explain that all of my money had been stolen by a tribe of spider women.

The doctor shrugged his shoulders and said, “Such is life in the wasteland.”

I just hope this doesn’t get any worse.

-Joe Junkman

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 eyebrow 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

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