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He walked along a cracked road. The sky shone white with the midday sun. On the road, he threaded his way through abandoned vehicles, refuse piles, debris. His rifle was slung over one shoulder, and the pack strapped to his back. He had been walking for a long time.
He came upon a deserted square, old advertisements still promised happiness and enrichment. The world needed that more than anything. Unfortunately the advertisements could never deliver on their promises. The man continued to walk. He entered a large building and unslung his rifle, double checked it, and kept walking.
Overturned mannequins, piles of clothes, and rotting corpses decorated what was once a bustling department store. Shafts of light cut through the musty dark of the room through the pockmarked ceiling. The man registered vaguely that he was in Sears. He didn’t need any clothes though. He needed food. It was always dangerous coming into the core of the city. Raiders roamed the streets, preying on anyone dumb enough to wander into their sight. The others, people who were not raiders, were worth avoiding too; they didn’t like the man. He used to be with them, but they kept trying to take the pack. “For the good of the group,” they said. But they were not allowed to touch the pack. No one was allowed to touch the pack.
The pack was pink, originally. Now it’s mostly dirt-covered. Before the world was set on fire, Angie wore it every day. I have to protect the pack; it’s all that‘s left. The pack holds everything that is important, and I have to protect it. The others didn’t like it when I protected the pack. They were scared and tried to hurt me. They chased me, and I was forced to protect the pack so much! When I was done there was no one else to bring harm to the pack or its contents. The pack was safe.
The Eaton Centre: they used to come here together. Memory reared its dusty head, but the man shooed it away. The past was dead. The pack was the future.
Picking along the rubble of the building, the man heard a noise and froze.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” a voice called. The voice was soon followed by the figure of a man, armed with a shotgun. Upon seeing the man, the stranger aimed squarely at his chest. The stranger approached carefully; behind him a small boy attached himself to the stranger’s coat.
“You friendly? We need some water. We’re willing to trade, but you can never be too sure with people nowadays.” He brandished his gun. “My name’s John.”
The man nodded. “I’m friendly.” He dropped his rifle.
John let loose a sigh, “Thank God! Junior and I have been hiking for days. We heard there were people here, but all we’ve run into were gangs! If you could point us in the right direction I’d really appreciate the help.” John shouldered his shotgun. The man watched as John opened up a pack of his own. It was much larger than his. “How much water can you spare us?” John asked.
The man’s eyes never left the boy. “Junior, is it?”
The boy nodded.
“You know, Angie would have been about your age. Funny coincidence, eh?”
The boy said nothing. John cleared his throat. “The water, friend?”
The man finally looked at John. “I can give you a full canteen. Probably holds about a half litre.”
John grinned and Junior’s eyes lit up. John extended a hand “Thank you, erm…”
The man neither took his hand, nor responded.
“I suppose you want something in return…. We don’t have much of value, but we can work something out,” John continued. “Are you out here all alone? Where’s the Enclave?”
The man nodded, “The others keep to one of the old stadiums south of here. I keep to myself. It’s better that way.”
“Yeah? Why’s that?”
“People don’t understand me.”
“They can’t see what life’s priority is.”
“Life: there’s only one thing important in it now.”
“And what is that?” the man asked.
“Holding onto what’s left.”
The man chewed this answer over for a moment. John is wrong; the only important thing is the pack.
John checked his watch. He removed some salted pork from his pack and set up a small grill. John offered him some, but the man refused. He told them that he was looking for food of his own before they ran into each other. The man moved to continue his search.
“Wait! The water!” John reached out and stopped him. His hand is on the pack.
Two sharp cracks perforated the silence. The man’s breath slowly came under his control as the last echo died away. He had found food. He had protected the pack. The world was as it should be.
I thought the story was good. i had to read it twice because I got a bit lost in the exchanges at the end and didn't quite know who killed who.
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