Gratuitous amounts of clothes shopping (well… online window-shopping. I can’t afford to buy myself more clothes just yet) has led me into a post-apocalyptic mood. This is in the same world as my modern day fantasy that I am working on (the one where I am at about 21k words so far. Watch this space!) but is a few years in the future. I will try to post up a chapter each week, but knowing me that may not happen. Regardless, I’m going to try it. Here is the first chapter! I stayed up late to write this and need to be awake in 6 hours!
The wastelands of the old United States of America were a curious place. The harsh, unforgiving climate could kill an unprepared individual, primarily through dehydration. The wildlife could kill an unprepared individual, creatures that used to be harmless having mutated and changed into far more threatening visages of their former selves. The locals could kill an unprepared individual, no shortage of bandits and raiders in the large absence of law enforcement who would murder and rob as they desired. More dangerous than the rest, however, were the dimensional instabilities that could kill anyone who strayed to close, reckless usage of magic and the occult sciences by the world’s governments had destabilised the entire planet. However, even in such a hostile environment, the human race trundled along as it always had. People banded together into convoys or settlements. Traders and merchants travelled around peddling their merchandise to those who needed them. Volunteer militias fought back the perils of the wastes, keeping the less physically capable as safe as they can. Human society still functioned, more or less, in spite of everything fate had thrown at it.
“So I told him that if he wanted to leave with his pride intact, he’d cough up double the original fee,” Eleanor laughed as she spoke, taking a sip from her glass of whiskey once she had finished. She was a fairly small individual, a petite woman in her late twenties with tanned, olive skin, chestnut eyes and shoulder length brown hair tied into a messy ponytail. Her voice was soft and well-spoken, her English accent rather out of place in the messy, American wasteland tavern. However, for all of her differences to the rest of the clientèle, she had an equal number of similarities; she was dressed in a pair of fitted black trousers and a ragged grey short sleeved t-shirt lay underneath a black protective vest. Black, leather combat boots adorned her feet and her right hand nestled inside a black leather glove; her left hand was wrapped in a red fabric and on her forehead was a pair of biker goggles. At her waist rested a Colt Python, stainless steel with a six inch barrel. Her demeanour was crude, though with subtle, refined undertones in the way she acted and spoke.
“And? Did he?” Zack inquired curiously, his dark blue eyes meeting hers. He was larger than Eleanor, slightly older too, though he was far from imposing in stature, his head completely devoid of hair though one could tell from his eyebrows that his natural colour was not that different from Eleanor’s. Unlike Eleanor and her well-spoken English, his Minnesota accent not too alien in what used to be Colorado, though nobody paid any attention, too busy with their own companions, alcohol, problems, or all of the aforementioned items. He wore brazen, metallic armour from his neck down to his feet that looked like it had been largely cobbled together; well cobbled together, but cobbled nonetheless. He had a sawed-off shotgun at his hip and a tan Scar-H slung across his back, both of which looked used, but meticulously maintained.
Eleanor grinned as she placed her glass down on the counter. “He almost threw the money at me. He was a desperate man indeed.”
“You know his reputation, right?” Zack warned, swirling his scotch and peering at the bottom. The glass was dirty, old drink stains along the bottom, though by the standards of the wastes it was not of Zack’s concern. “Jameson’ll come after you like a man possessed. He’s got the resources to just throw hired goons at you until you’re dead.”
Her grin did not fade as she shrugged. “Don’t care,” she replied crisply, holding her now empty glass up to get the bartender’s attention and ultimately refill her glass. He was a fat man in a simple, hooded coat and white slacks that looked like they had seen better days, even by contemporary standards. “I got to punch that arrogant son of a bitch in the face. I can die satisfied,” she continued as the bartender walked by to fill her glass again. She pulled a small box of hand-loaded shotgun shells to the bar and slid them across to the bartender with a smile. “Should pack enough punch penetrate most armour and severely mess up any trouble makers underneath. Just keep giving me your empties and drinks at your bar and I’ll keep you stocked up.” The bartender took the small box with a grunt and walked off in the other direction. Eleanor faced Zack once more, his expression far more serious than hers.
“Ellie,” he started, his tone dropping to a sombre one, “if you keep being as careless as you have been, you’re going to drive yourself to an early grave and leave your kids without a mother.”
Eleanor froze up at the words, staring into her drink. It was not a subject she wished to discuss.
“Ellie?” Zack pressed the matter, though he was met by an angry glare from Eleanor.
“They already don’t.”
An awkward silence hung over the pair like a bad stench as they both faced the bar again.
“I got another job lined up, you know?” Eleanor eventually broke the silence as she took another sip from her drink. “Some nut-job is holed up in a house to the west, near the ruins of Denver. Being paid to put a bullet in his head.”
“What has he done to piss your employer off?” Zack inquired quickly, eager to avoid another awkward moment.
“Apparently it’s a rogue wizard. I reckon it’s just some asshole with a hard-on for fire.”
“What did,” Zack started, though he bit his tongue. “What if it really is a rogue wizard? Do you have a plan?”
“What are you planning on doing?”
“I plan on putting three bullets in his head.”
The pair were interrupted as a tattooed man in a leather vest barged up to the bar next to Eleanor, causing a large amount of her drink to relocate to the front of her vest and trousers. She turned slowly and deliberately to face the man, an irritated expression on her face. He was scruffy, long, dark hair and a bushy beard hid most of his face, though she could make out what seemed to be the man’s eyes and fixed her gaze on them.
“Excuse me?” she uttered aggressively in a bid to get his attention.
He did not acknowledge her, merely ordering a beer from the bartender.
“I said, excuse me!” she raised her voice, grabbing onto the man’s arm. He turned to meet her gaze, shaking her grip from his arm.
“What’s your issue?” he replied nonchalantly.
“I believe you owe me a drink,” Eleanor replied curtly, holding up her almost empty whiskey glass.
“I don’t owe you shit,” the man snarled, picking up his own drink.
“Ellie,” Zack started putting a hand on her shoulder, “let’s just go.”
She pushed his hand from her shoulder. “No, that’s not how this works.” She turned back to the bearded man, her eyes still scornful. “See, you barged past me and knocked my drink down the front of me. Therefore you owe me a drink.”
“I said, I don’t owe you shit, bitch,” the bearded man responded, taking a sip from his beer and looming over her. He was larger than Eleanor, though that was not a feat in itself.
Eleanor threw a punch at the man’s face, causing the man to drop his beer, the bottle shattering on the floor as he staggered backwards from the blow, sending old wooden stools cascading to the side. “I believe that makes us even,” she mumbled, downing the rest of her whiskey and depositing the glass back on the counter.
“I’m going to wreck that pretty smile of yours!” the man yelled as he charged at her, fists clenched and angry expression on his face. Another individual had also started to make his way towards Eleanor, his stride aggressive and his glare menacing.
“Now look at what you’ve done,” Zack muttered quietly, stepping in between the new combatant and Eleanor.
The large, bearded man grabbed onto Eleanor and swung her around with little effort, slamming her down onto the surface of the bar with a dull thud. As he raised his fist, Eleanor brought her right leg up forcefully, kicking the man in the groin as he loomed over her. In that instant he let go and stumbled back again, holding his crotch and staggering in pain. As she got to her feet once again she could see that Zack was having no problem with the additional two that had rallied to the large bearded man’s side, one already out cold and the other pinned under Zack’s armoured gauntlet.
He turned to face the now standing Eleanor and shook his head. “I don’t care the predicament, but that ain’t a place to kick a man. Ever.”
Eleanor chuckled quietly as she approached the bearded man, who was now propped up against a table, his pained expression visible even beneath the mass of hair as he tried to recover from the blow. “Fighting honourably is for gentlemen and wannabe knights. Do I look like either?” she asked rhetorically as she approached the man who was now holding up a hand in submission. Eleanor smirked briefly before bringing a strong right hook into contact with the man’s jaw. He collapsed to the ground, out cold. Zack had ended his fight moments earlier, his eyes fixed behind Eleanor.
She turned to see the bartender, pump shotgun raised and pointed straight at her. She raised her hands and smiled.
“Robbie, baby,” she started with a nervous chuckle, “you wouldn’t shoot a lady with her own ammunition, right?”
The bartender shrugged, his gun still trained on her. “Why not?” Zack’s hand had found its way to his sawed-off shotgun.
“Come on,” Eleanor continued, a friendly smile on her face, “that’d just be wrong, you know?”
“Would it? Do I look like a wannabe knight to you?” he glanced at Zack with a frown, “I need to test out the penetration on these shells. After all, you guaranteed it.” His gaze went back to Eleanor. “Reckon it’ll go through that fancy vest of yours?”
Eleanor turned to Zack and shook her head, her face awash with fear, motioning for him to stand down and take his hand off the grip of the shotgun. With a sigh, Zack removed his hand from the shotgun, putting his hands where the bartender could see them, assuming a non-aggressive stance. “Well? Will it?” the bartender asked again, causing Eleanor’s gaze to snap back around to the barrel of the gun.
“Hey, I said nothing about honour there,” she replied, a smile back on her face, “it just wouldn’t be right. That’s not honour, that’s just right and wrong.”
“Sounds like honour to me.”
The bar went silent, tension so thick it could stop bullets. At least, that’s what Eleanor was hoping for at that moment.
“Come on, the situation’s resolved and we didn’t damage your property. When these poor bastards wake up they’ll want to buy more drinks to soothe the pain, so it’s a win-win, right?”
The bartender lowered the shotgun and shook his head. “You’re a real handful, you know that?” he admitted, placing the shotgun back under the counter. “Just get out of here, I’ve got some clearing up to do.”
Eleanor flashed another friendly smile at the bartender before quickly making her way outside.
“You’re a fucking idiot sometimes,” Zack called to her as the pair made their way outside.
“Love you too, Zack,” she replied sarcastically, pulling her goggles over her eyes as she reached her ATV, a dark blue chassis with a heavy metal box on the back and an engine nestled under where the seat was.
“Are you trying to kill yourself? Really, I’m curious as to what would drive you to do these things!”
“And why should you care what I do with my life?” Eleanor snapped back, getting onto her ATV and starting the engine. The two stared at each other in silence for a moment, the only sounds present were the sounds of the engine and the ambient sound of the wastes. “Yeah, I thought as fucking much.” Eleanor gunned the engine into life and sped away from the bar. She had a job to do, after all.