Post-Nuclear War. This is a World that has no idea what is beneath its surface...
|[Introduction] This is world where slavery is wide spread and your life is nothing but a metal tag around your neck. A world where scavanging metal is a way of life. One where knowledge of technology is uncommon. A world that has no idea what is beneath its surface...|
There were sounds.
Were they words? Is that what they are called?
Sounds, noise... voices. They were voices.
What were they saying? Is that the word? The process of trying to tell one something. To say. To express oneself in words.
Concentrate. To come to focus.
“Watch, he is learning already.” Watch. To observe. To look attentively.
Learning? What is learning? Take off the suffix. Learn. To acquire knowledge. Facts. Truth.
Who is speaking? Can I touch you?
“Observe his face. He is confused, but coming to know things. He is computing, in a sense. Soon he will learn to use his sight and voice. It usually takes a day, but we are trying to speed up the process. We've been able to speed their growth until they reach maturity. They halt their development physically while their mental capacity has no limits.” A deep voice. Male. Use full sentences.
The deep voice belongs to a man.
That sounds more appropriate.
“Sir, how long do you think it will be until he opens his eyes.”
That is the same voice, but it is coming from a different direction, from my right. That is strange, it is definitely the same dialect and tone.
“Soon. He will realize what you are saying and then start to figure it out for himself.”
I will 'figure it out'? I will understand, he means. What must I understand? I must open my eyes. My eyes will help me see, they will help me have sight. How do I--
“Ahh!” My arm comes up on its own to cover my eyes. It is bright! I think I like the dark better, there is no pain in the dark.
“That was faster than the others, by an hour and 36 minutes.” That was the voice from my right. I am faster. I think this is a good thing. I cold feel the man touch my arm and move it from my face.
Is that what I look like? There is no shape, I was expecting things to have a form. I want to close my eyes. It causes me pain, it hurts, to keep them open.
“Blink, son. Things will come into focus soon.” This voice came from my left. He told me to blink. To close my eyes and open them again in a process to produce moisture. I blink. How do I turn my head? Concentrate.
My head turned. The act surprised me. Surprise: a completely unexpected occurrence. It was easier to do than I had first figured.
He called me 'son'. Is he my father? Did he beget me? I try to look at him closer. I blink like he had commanded and soon his form began to change. He was young, dark hair, and small of stature. I look at the other male to my right. They are the same. I looked at my father again and tried to calculate the differences. No differences. They are identical. Twins?
“Well,” my father sighed. “I guess we should test him before he learns to put up too much of a fight.”
“So soon? He has only been awake for less than two hours.” Awake? Was I sleeping?
“You saw how fast he developed in his chamber, you have born witness to his ability to learn quickly, and yet you propose that we wait? Until when? Until he learns to fight back?”
Fight back? I will need to fight? A strange feeling boiled inside of me. Should I have fear? It was too late, I was already afraid. I looked back and forth between the two of them and when my father caught the look in my eyes he said a word I was not familiar with. He expressed it angrily and began to move quickly.
“Now, Thirteen!” Thirteen. Thirteen is a number. But he used it as if it was a name. Thirteen was what the man was called. But Thirteen is a number. Am I a number? But I have no numerical value. I was panicking. My thoughts became overwhelming. Think. Concentrate. I tried to move my arm again, as I had done before when I covered my eyes. I felt something halt its movement. I looked and saw my father was tying down my arms. Panic. That is what I am doing. I am panicking. I want to be calm, but why is he holding me down? Why should I be afraid?
Thirteen had something in his hands. He was fumbling with it. He was afraid too. There was a bright flash. Brighter than when I first opened my eyes. My head slammed back. It had been impacted by something. Something...
To come to focus.
I couldn't focus.
My eyelids are falling.
They are heavy.
It is dark again.
There is pain in this dark.
I am scared.
|Desolate. That's what it was. It was desolate. The sky was dark and thick with haze, and even though it was mid-day there was no sight of the sun. The small light in Boil's hand was all the had to be able to look at the engine. His hands moved quickly as he tinkered with the greasy scrap metal in front of him. He was almost done, he was sure of it. It was humid and that wasn't good for the engine, too much moisture. He rubbed the stubble on his chin and pushed his hat off his head to use it to wipe his face and neck. |
Worse than a desert it is, he thought as he pulled out a hose and began to clean it with a rag he had had stuffed in his boot. He looked up at the dank sky, Not a bird be in sight. Not even them scavengers would be flyin' around these here parts. He was still grumbling when he felt something smack the back of his head.
“Stop growlin' to yerself, Boil. It be gettin' on me nerves.” Track glowered behind Boil with his large arms crossed over his chest. He wasn't a very patient man, and they didn't have time for Boil to be distracting himself with his thoughts.
“I ain't got no light to be seein' with! An' I ain't growlin' to meself, the machine be hearin' me.”
“The machine ain't be havin' no ears, Boil.” Track pointed out as he surveyed the pile of scrap metal that helped them go from one point to another. Track didn't really know if it had ears or not. He knew directions and he knew how to drive it, but Boil knew how it was inside and out.
Boil smeared his hands on his already greasy shirt, “I be done. Don't go trashin' it again or else next time I won't be fixin' it. I'll be sittin' back and watchin' you try an' fix it!” He slammed his tools in his pack and stalked to the back of the vehicle where he sat and gripped the bar in front of him. It was a piece of art in his eyes that he himself had made. Two large wheels were on either side of him in the back and there were two smaller wheels in the front. There was a bucket for him with room for a few travel items. It also held the tank so Boil could just fill it as they went, without having to stop. A seat was in front where Track sat and the engine sat between his legs where they reached the pedals up by the wheels. Four large bars encased them, in case Track ever decided he wanted to make them flip, which he did often.
Track smoothed back his long hair and tied it back with a strip of cloth that was around his wrist. He kicked his helmet up from the dirt and caught it between his large hands and placed it on his head. Cracking his knuckles he got behind the wheel turned the screwdriver as he pumped the gas pedal. The engine roared to life and Track let out a deep rumble laugh in return. Turning around in his seat he clapped his hand on Boil's shoulder then quickly buckled himself in and slipped his goggles over his eyes.
“Grip tight!” He bellowed as he slammed his foot down on the pedal without a glance back.
The loud din and cry of the market reached Track's ears as they arrived at their destination. They climbed out of their seats and Boil used a large chain to lock their vehicle into the gate. Track tossed him the screwdriver, which Boil quickly hid in his pack. Track slipped off his helmet and tied it to his belt. They entered the gates, their bag of scrap slung over their shoulders, ready to go to the highest bidder. Track muttered under his breath as he felt the push and pull of the crowd that surrounded him. He hated markets. If they didn't help him bring in the coin then he would have nothing to do with them. He was made for the open horizon and not for the enclosed, rank centers where people made their trades.
Track looked over the heads of those who were bartering, begging, and stealing and found Boil already trying to auction off one of their finds. He had to keep an eye on him at all times. More often than not they lost money in the market because of Boil's curiosity. In his mind he was making things better, but to everyone else he was breaking things. He called it “tinkerin'” but to Track it looked like he was just taking things apart. Boil did well when they were scavenging, he found many things they could use and has been able to build things out of them, but it might take him days or weeks to do. When he started doing it in the market he usually was stopped before he could figure anything out and they would be required to pay for whatever the owner thought he damaged.
Track didn't like to tinker. He learned through watching, not through touching. You can tell a lot about a person from watching them. Like the man by the grain barrels, he wasn't really looking to buy the grain, he was looking at the wheat-man's wife. Iffy that be, he thought, she ain't even much of a looker.
Another figure caught his eye, a man sitting in a booth carving a stick. His cloak was clean, and hooded, covering most of his face and hair. He had a cough that reminded Track of an old man who was fond of his smokes. Track stepped closer, grabbing Boil's collar as he went and dragged him along. Boil started to kick and sputter, but soon got his footing and trudged along. He knew better than to fight Track.
Track set down his patched-up bag and watched the man a moment before he spoke, “What you be carvin', old man?”
The man looked up at him, his clear, gray eyes shining from under the shadow of his cover. “I am carving what you see,” he stated. “Do not take up my time asking questions that do not need an answer.”
Track sneered. The man's speech was too good to be shaving walking sticks to sell in the market. He had a buddy that did that and he couldn't put two words together because all he did was carve up wood. To handsy for them smart types.
“Maybe yer just not listen' to me question rightly. I know you be carvin' a stick, but what be the wood? It ain't like the others.”
The man stopped what he was doing and set his whittling knife down. He brought the staff forward and handed it to Track. “Good eye, young man, I apologize for my first words. You are right, it is not the Bissel wood of these parts, but a different growth from another part of the land. It is a harder wood; a very rare wood.”
“Where you be getting' a wood liken to this?” Track asked as he turned it over in his hands.
“Honestly, I don't know. A man brought it to me yesterday. He looked to be of great wealth and is paying me a high coin purse for one of my staffs.”
Track huffed in indignation. “What be a man like you doin' in this here market anyway?” He tried to peer under the man's hood, “You sound of the schoolin' type.”
“That I am, son. But I like to bide my empty time with whittling. It calms me, and I enjoy doing it.” He said this simply. Even though Track didn't like how he looked, he did like how the man spoke. Most people were afraid of him, and didn't talk to him; much less try and cut him down in their first sentence to him. Track's large, muscular stature and dark features usually made them walk in circles around him. But here was a man who had no fear, he had strength, even if it was of character. And in Track's mind, strength was to be respected.
Track tossed the staff back to the whittler. "Me name be Track. Who you be?"
"I am just simply an old man. What name I had has long been lo--" The mans words were cut short by a burst of racking coughs. His figure shook under the cloak as if it was frail and breaking from the power of his symptom, but soon his fit subsided. “Pardon me,” he excused himself and then went on to finish his thought. “I mean to say, I no longer have a name that is known.”
"Well, Old Man it be then," Track grinned. He looked around, “Boil!” he yelled. Instantly Boil was at his side, tinkering with something in his hands. "This here be my good mate, Boil." He thumped his greasy friend hard on the back as he introduced him. The old man said nothing, under his hood Track could see a raised eyebrow in the direction of whatever Boil was fiddling with and Track's eyes followed. It was the man's knife. Track growled angrily at his partner. Boil gasped and dropped the tool as if it were on fire. Stepping away from it quickly he stammered, “I just be lookin' I promise! I ain't be theivin'!”
Track snarled at him and smacked him on the back of his head, sending his cap forward over his beady eyes. The big man bent over and picked up the silver tool and handed it back to its owner. He then grabbed Boil by the front of his shirt and threw him at the mans feet. “What should you be sayin' right now?” He asked, but it was more of an order.
Boil took of his hunters cap all the way and squeezed it nervously between his hands. He swallowed hard and without looking into the old man's eyes his mouth stumbled over an apology. But the man wasn't looking at Boil; his eyes were boring angrily into Track. “You think I should accept an apology from just him?” He spat, “For all I know it was your thought to distract me while he worked through my belongings. If it weren't for his carelessness you would be off making a treasure off of my tools.”
Track's mouth turned into a straight line as he grappled one of Boil's arms and jerked him back onto his feet. His dark eyes narrowed, “I wont be standin' here bein' disrespected. My friend here be curious, rightly, but we ain't theives. You still be havin' yer tool an' an apology from his lips, ain't no reason fer an accusation. We'll be takin' our leave now.” He tossed Boil to the side and commanded him to walk away, which he did gladly. Track reached into his pocket and tossed a few coin at the mans feet. He grabbed a walking stick from the pile and, knowing he had given the man more than enough for the staff, he turned and follwed after Boil.
|They pushed themselves through the throng of people and entered the Red Rag Inn. Dropping his bag and his newly purchased walking stick to the floor, Track collapsed onto a wooden stool. Sheepishly Boil slowly lowered himself into the stool next to his comrade and with deliberate movements he used his slick palms to smooth down his thin, brown hair and placed his hunting cap in his lap. He didn't say a word, and he didn't have to. Track knew he was sorry. Boil was always sorry, but it never made a difference. His curiosity always got the best of them. |
Track slipped his goggles off his head and shoved them into his helmet at his waist. He untied his ponytail and retied the thin piece of cloth around his wrist. He ran his fingers through his hair and sighed deeply. Boil eyed Track closely, his nerves overtaking him. After a moment a rumble came from Track's chest and soon escaped as a fit of laughter. Boil, caught off guard, gawked at him in surprise, but soon he too started to careen with laughter.
Track tapped his friend on top of his head as his laughter died out, “You always be gettin' me in a toss, ole Boil.” He quickly became serious and pointed a large finger in Boil's face. “But now, me friend, you be owin' me a drink.”
Boil squinted at him merrily, “A drink it be, then.” He whistled and soon a small women approached them. Her arms were filled with thick mugs and her wrists covered in thick, wooden bangles. The beads in her hair clacked against one another as she bent over them and placed a vessel in front of each.
“Give me a minute, boys,” she winked. “I'll be back to fill them up right full for you.”
They both turned and watched her walk toward the back where the barrels were. She gracefully set down her load on a counter-top and picked up a clay jar which she proceeded to fill. Her hair went long past her shoulder, unkempt, curly, and filled with braids, beads, and feathers. She wore a bright, cloth wrap that hit her knees and on her feet were the sturdy boots of her people that she never failed to brag about. To Track they were nothing special, just a pair of leathers to cover your toes, but they were treasure enough to her. He felt a sharp nudge on his arm from Boil, who nodded at the woman. “I ain't never gonna get bored of watchin' the way that girl be movin'.”
“Keep ain't the only reason we be comin' here, you know,” Track said as he kicked the bag at his feet. “We still be havin' work to make a coin off of.”
“She ain't the only reason, rightly, but she sure be the best reason,” Boil drooled.
Track turned his eyes back to the empty mug in front of him. “She never give you an eye, why you always be after her?”
Boil sighed and turned around in his seat. “Because she be the only girl who ain't blind to me. It be doin' a mans heart some good to be smiled at.”
Track heard her steps behind them and moved so she could fill their cups. She placed her hand on Boil's shoulder and his face warmed to her touch, “Anything else I can get you two? It's been a while since we've seen the likes of you here.”
“It be nice to be seein' you too, Keep.” Boil smooth his hands over his hair once more and his eyes went soft as he complimented her.
She smirked, “I ain't never said anything about it being nice.”
Track chuckled and Boil's smile grew at her banter.
“Well?” She asked, her brown eyes searching them. “What'll it be? We have a roast boar out back, and a load of fish came in just the other day.”
Track watched Boil cringe at the mention of the expensive meats, and knowing the man owed him a meal and at the same time had a hard time parting with his coin, he ordered the roasted boar. Boil glared at him over Keep's shoulder and ordered himself some venison. Venison was always in stock, it was cheap, and it was always a dry, tasteless, yet filling, meal. After Keep left to retrieve their orders, Boil muttered under his breath about how he “best be gettin' some of” Tracks boar. Track grinned brashly at his mate and took a deep swig of the frothy beer before him.