Zildjan alone in the Desert
“When I came to, out in the desert of the LOD (Land-of-the-Dead), the ground was burning my back. The dust, yellow, thick, was clawing its way up into my ass. I was naked, too hot for clothes and too tired to move. So I just lay there like a corpse, waiting for better to happen:
“Ohhh, how many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man? The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is a’blowin in the wind...”
I sang-shouted. I had been singing for hours.
I think. I had many moments like this, when the waking world just broke down around me and I needed to chill.
The red sun blasted U.V rays into my skin, roasting my black flesh with more and more radiation. I didn’t care. The machinations I had made on my genes had made me very long-lived. Not quite immortal, but death by old age would be a very long way off.
coming for to carry me home..
“chirp-Oh, for Gods sake, I wish someone would carry me home. You do realize you can’t carry a tune in Mechanex suit, right? And, in case you care, those aren’t even the actual lyrics for the song, so shut the fuck-ee up!-chirp.”
My best friend, my Minder-bot, whom I had named Chirpy when I was just a little kid. Chirpy was a white metallic orb about the size of a human head. He had been silent for the last few hours- as this latest bout of crazy finally began to wash over me.
Chirp usually let me rant and rage for a while, then when he saw I was coming out of my reverie, he would start talking again, trying to bring my brain back to reality.
“You shut-up Chirp,” I told him, it wasn’t my cleverest come-back, but it was all I could think of at the moment. It was actually a good sign. My walking-black-out of crushing depression was starting to recede and the world was beginning to come back into focus.
“chirp-Nice rejoinder. Are you, still seeing them?-chirp.
Motherfucker. Why’d he have to bring that up? The irradiated desert sands had been playing tricks on my mind more than usual lately, he knew that. The dessert had been showing me dead things, watching my reaction as the dead things got up and started walking around like everything was O.K . Friends from the past covered in blood and shotgun blast to the chest, would stare at me in the middle of the night, with grins like Cheshire cats and eyes glowing like Tartari. The desert laughed silently at my wandering, mindless pain, loving every minute of it. To taunt me even more- haunt me harder- the mirages of my daughters would turn into piles of swirling sand as soon as I tried to touch any of them.
“Arghh…Arghh…Arghhh..” I bellowed through my beard. “Damnit! Dammnit! Don’t say that! Don’t you say that! I am not too crazy!” I yelled at him, as he slowly floated over me.
“chirp-O.K. O.K calm down -Chief Not too crazy. Maybe you should put on your pants?-chirp.”
Fuck him, I continued to screech like a monkey. Truth was, I saw much more of the dead then any of the living, and he was right, I was going mad as a hatter.
“These shapes Chirpy, you don’t understand. They form into people. Sometimes, in the dust of the Wasted Waze, right before the coming of Dark- the shadows of the dried bones we find rotting in the ground turn into curls of my daughter’s hair, right before my eyes. I still hear them Chirpy, the sounds of my kid’s feet as they run to play in the Argo. Sometimes… I can even hear them laughing.”
If a robot could sigh, I know Chirpy would have.
“chirp-I understand Zildjan, it is all very sad. And the fact that they left you here is even sadder. But you know this is no place to rest. Even here, within sight of the Land-of-the Dead, the start of the quote- un-quote- safe zone, it is not anywhere near safe-chirp.”
“It is ironic, don’t you think, that the immediate area past the Wasted Waze, the only area where humans can still sustain life, is called The Land-of-the-Dead?”
He ignored my silly question. “chirp-When the Dark comes Zildjan, we need to be far away. We have to find cover and safety and you need to find food and water-chirp.”
“Why? I won’t die.”
“chirp- Yes, you will-chirp.”
“chirp-Put on your clothes and get up-chirp”
“Fuck off, eh Chirp-Chirp?” I responded in Pidgin, the guttural every-language of the empire.
“chirp-Goddammit you piece of shit, get up! I see something-chirp.”
“chirp- Very articulate, two kilometers out you fucking faggot...to the East, there’s movement. Could be something, could be food, you are hungry aren’t you?- chirp.”
At the mention of food, I sat up and looked into the distant horizon. All I could see were abandoned vehicles, synthetic trees, and the usual barren landscape. The fake trees, reaching upward with the empty grey branches, reminded me of bronchial tubes, passing oxygen into the lungs. Real trees had been extinct for a century.
“Fuck yeah I’m hungry. And you shouldn’t curse fuck-face. Not polite.”
“chirp-Neither is your mom-chirp.”
It was my turn to say something nasty back to him, usually something about his mom being an automatic toilet that people could take a shit in, but I wasn’t in the mood. Not with my stomach growling at the mere thought of food. All I had eaten for days was partially de-hydrated and mostly rotting pig-bot jerky, and I was almost out.
I could not see with my naked eye whatever he was looking at, so I grabbed my goggles and took a closer look. Then I saw it. Two kilometers due west, a series of standalone buildings. I must have missed them in the morning, when the dust clouds were at their fullest.
“Shit in a bucket.” I couldn’t believe it. I felt like Christopher Columbus discovering land after months lost at sea. We hadn’t seen man-made structures, including buildings or homes or anything close, for multiple weeks.
This could be it, we could be near home, finally.
Expending far more effort that I would like to admit, I got myself up, and put on my clothes. Pants, socks, shoes, mail shirt, machete, razer-rang, dual action Repeater Rifle, throwing stars. I slipped on my ruck sack. It was full of tech, knives, explosives and an artifact of alien technology from a dead world- given to me by my dead lady-friend, Lora Mason.
“C’mon brother. It’s lunch time.”