We walked that long way. The air in the Land-of-the-Dead was thick. I held my machete- Baby, in my right hand. She was Nusteel and indestructible. Baby had saved my life more times then I could count and I counted on her like I counted on Chirp.
Since the radiation, pollution, and wars had turned the Earth into a carcass of what it had been, you had to be ready at all times.
Ready for what you could see and wary of what you could not. Because even beneath the sands of the Wasted Waze all manner of deadly creatures awaited to feast on man-flesh. I also kept my eyes open wide for any sign of value, such as discarded tech. The Earth may be nothing more than dead carrion, but like any good scavenger, I always managed to find some meat on the bones.
We slowly approached the group of abandoned buildings Chirp had found, and I stood watchful under the shadow of the nearest one.
We were about two meters out from the structure where Chip had spotted the life signs. The building stood three stories tall with a few broken stained glass windows and a missing roof. It looked as if it had been bombed.
“Well, just don’t float there, garbage can, what the hell is in there, Chirp?”
“chirp-I don’t fucking now. Only that it alive.-chirp,”
He didn’t finish. Not everything in the Wasted Waze was necessarily alive, at least not in the way that we thought of life, so I understood what he meant by alive. But, that didn’t help me if whatever was in there wanted to kill and then eat me. Or vicea versa, which was also typical these days.
“But we are not in the Waze anymore. Those things aren’t supposed to be able to live past the border. So what is in there? Is it human? Is it Tartari?”
“chirp-Well…it’s hard to tell-chirp.”
“You want me to risk my life on hard to tell? You’re supposed to be a genius robot intellect. You’re more like a floating wet nurse.”
“chirp- Says the man who was naked on his back two hours ago howling at the moon, that’s rich. Look, I’m still purging all the radiation from the Waze. And it isn’t like you’ve updated my software, in like years-chirp.”
“How the hell am I supposed to update your software when we’re fighting sand tribes? For fucks sake give it a rest already, you’re worse than my wife.”
“chirp-No wonder she left you. I’d board a ship leaving for space to if I had to listen to your bellyaching all day-chirp.”
“You know what Chirp, at least I got a dick, o.k? You wouldn’t know what to do even if you had a wife and real emotions instead of simulated ones.” I whispered to him violently so whatever was inside the building could not hear. I hoped.
chirp-You got a dick. Great- not like you ever fucking use it-chirp.”
“You know what? You-- are a dick. You know that? Now, can we get back to work, please? Can you tell me anything about what the fuck is in that building, before I commit Hari Kari, please?” “
“chirp- I believe it is pronounced Ha-Rih Kah-Ru-chirp”
“You know what Chirp? Fuck you. I’m going in.” I lifted my blade to my lips and said a silent prayer to the Great Writer. Hopefully he was paying attention- for a change. “If I die, that shits on you on brother.” I began to proceed, slowly.
chirp-Wait you idiot. Don’t go in there like that. Use your brain.E-stick.-chirp”
“I only have six left.”
“chirp-If that is a Tartari, then he won’t be alone, and he will kill you, then eat you. If you are lucky. Better safe, than eviscerated neh?-chirp.”
I nodded, it was an old saying.” Better safe than eviscerated.” I repeated. At that very moment, a dark shadow passed in front of the broken stained-glass windows of the building.
“Hey!” I yelled out impulsively. “I know you’re in there. Come out with your hands up where I can see them. No one needs to get hurt. I am not your enemy.” I lied.
I slid Baby back into her scabbard, laced on my back. I pulled out an E-stick from the bottom of my ruck. Chirp was right. I wasn’t about to risk my life and fall into some Tartari trap- I programmed ten-wide- Not like last time. When the electronic dynamite stick blew, the kinetic blast would kill anything in that building. I walked to the nearest stained-glass window and kicked it open. I tossed the E-stick inside as hard as I could. I ducked into the fetal position, next to the wall, under the window sill with my hands over my ears and counted. I felt the blast three seconds later. Bits of crumbling dust fell from the top of the windows onto my head, the walls shook as if waking up from a bad dream.
I stood in front of the large wooden door, still standing up and I kicked it in. The door fell apart and ran into the building with a deadly-what I hoped was a deadly and terrifying- scream.
Chirp-Chirp came flying up behind me. Chirp spotted it first and flew past me.
“chirp-Well, well, well I’ll be damned-chirp”
In the middle of the floor, surrounded by tiny blood slivers shooting out from its neck, was a headless black cat-turtle with a busted green shell.
The force of the kinetic explosion, which had originally been developed for off-shore mining and underground drilling operations, had blasted poor Mr.Whiskers head clean off, popping the blood vessels from the inside out. Its hard-green shell was blasted to pieces. II grab the poor thing by its tail, blood drained down to the floor in a single, red, thick, line. The operative word was red. As in red blood, meaning it wasn’t fully irradiated, that meant it was edible.
“Shit. Sorry kitty.” It was just stringy meat and gristly tendons, but out here, you did what you had to do to survive.
I looked around the space, it was a large open area with wooden floors. A balcony on the second floor, with a large structure made of what looked like wooden poles with triangular holes near the top of them.
I looked to Chirp, floating on my left. “What is that?”
“chirp-I believe it’s called an organ -chirp.”
I looked around the space. Now it fit. The stained-glass windows, the wooden floor, the benches laying upturned and haphazardly strewn around the ground. “It’s a church.”
“chirp-Yes. Artemis and her goons must’ve missed this place in one of her pogroms. Or it just somehow survived the purges in the last century. Either way, its impressive to still be here. But now Zill, you must eat. Your body is starving, I’m getting all sorts of warning on your bios-chirp”
I began to break apart some of the wood from the pews, smashing them down to kindling with my boots. I took some fire-in-the-bottle from my bag and sprinkled a bit of the liquid on-top of the wood, I struck a light. The fire roared to life with a ‘whoosh.’
Feeling a little like Vlad the Impaler, I speared the headless cat-turtle onto my machete. Then I wrapped up the kitty in a special cellophane Uhura wrapper, and held the cat into the open flame.
The silver wrapper began to blacken slightly as the heat began to do its work. After a few minutes, I took the cat-on-a-stick out of the flames and unwrapped it. The flames had heated the fur together into a gelatin like substance, which made it much easier to skin. I peeled the gelatin off the flesh and threw it away. Some people would of have found a use for it, I wasn’t that ingenious.
I sat down on top of one of the pews and tried to cool off the meat by blowing. When it was cool enough to not burn my tongue, I began to eat, thankfully. It was ecstasy. When you are starving, it’s not about taste any more, but about life, energy. I felt like a recharged battery. Proteins filled my pores, suffused my cells. Then I felt intensely drowsy, my eyelids weighed at least a hundred pounds.
“Zildjan, no…no…do not fall asleep here. The Dark is coming, we need to find…”
His words trailed off into oblivion.
Love in a desert pool, with my beloved.
“I love your cock sweetie, especially when it’s so deep inside me,” Lora said with a sly smile. Her blonde hair waved in the rays of the yellow sun.
“Me too, baby. Why don’t you suck it?”
She laughed. “You’re such a romantic,” As an answer, she reached her free hand down into the water (the one not lovingly wrapped around my neck) and gave us a squeeze. “It seems kind of busy right now, don’t you think?” I moaned with pleasure. Our clothes lay in lumps near our weapons on the shore. We were in a water hole, near one of the few oasis’s left in the desert. She kissed me passionately. It was like tasting what sugar should have tasted like. Pure, innocent, free.
“Wait,” I took her arms off me.
“Wait for what lover? Not now, you are so deep inside me, I’m about to cum, for you baby, just for you,” Her green eyes glinted and she rolled her head back as she was about to climax.
“No, the sun, something is wrong. It’s yellow…how can that be?”
“Oh silly, don’t you know?” She looked down at me, while I was still inside her.
“Know what?” I asked.
“Your dreaming sweetie. I’m dead, and if you don’t wake up soon, you’re going to die too.” She un-wrapped herself from around me, then she began to rise from the water. Soon her naked body floated above me like a phoenix. She just hung above me like that, mid-air arms open wide, a floating Jesus- prostrate on the cross- waiting for the hammer to strike the nail.
I woke up with a yell. Disoriented, not sure where I was, I looked around. No sign of Chirp.
I stretched myself awake. I felt better, more alive. The food, it must have knocked me out. I looked down at my machete, only cat-turtle bones remained.
“Chirp?” No answer. He must be around here somewhere.
I decided to explore a little. We were in the Holy Land, Jerusalem. The birthplace of all religion. Ironic then that this may well be the last standing church on Earth. Artemis, our last great Emperor, was an atheist. She laid siege to all our religions and domiciles of worship.
How this place was still standing was a wonder. Then, another miracle. Or, maybe another of my hallucinations. Because, as the sun began to drop beyond the horizon and the shadows grew taller, some weird refraction coalesced on the broken stained-glass windows of the church, and for whatever the reason, the sun, our bright red-orange ball, turned yellow.
I had never seen the yellow sun. It was breathtaking. For the first time in my life, I thought of what it would be like to leave the planet, see the stars myself, like the Outworlders. Float through space. See that yellow ball of flames sitting in its corner of the universe, brilliantly, gloriously, shining light in all that darkness. I felt touched by the majesty of an all-powerful God. Then whatever had caused the sun to look yellow was gone. And I was reminded of something from my dream of Lora, but then that was gone to.