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Water Got No Enemy

Hey, all. This is a story I've actually got out there making the rounds at various mags. Hope you like it. I prefer unsweetened, clear and definitive feedback. Stuff like "s'okay" or "I didn't like it" without further explanation don't help me grow as a writer. Neither does negativity. I look forward to your input and contributions - Chang

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.



By Charles Terhune

The ghost of his severed tongue haunted Mute Dee’s mouth. The missing tongue haunted everything about Mute Dee. You could hear it in there the way he hummed all the time like a spook in one of the shadowy, half-drowned hotels along the dead shorelines. When he opened up his mouth to shout or eat it was like a grave dug up by corpse thieves. His silence let an inner agitation, at his tongue being forever held, rise to the surface and add to his shivering in the cold metal of the wrecked vehicle we sat in.
We were hiding out in the skeleton of an old dinosaur powered SUV. Mute Dee and I, smack dab in the middle of the deserted highway in the cold and the rain. There was no fire for heat or cooking on account of how it would attract attention out here in the middle of nowhere. So we sat there shivering in some old clothes and field gear we’d been wearing for over a week. Waiting. It smelled like animal piss, our piss, our shit and rust with a little mud thrown in. I began to understand why Southlanders smoked. Spring was wet and dreary as usual, with rainstorms hanging out over most of the state for the last month. Water sales would be brisk at the Waterworks in Portland this year. Tankers from the Southlands and even Texas would be lined up off the coast way out into the ocean for months. As nice as it was to know the reservoirs and rivers would be full of liquid money, it still sucked. I thought about the mixed blessing of another beautiful May in Maine as I sat there with a shaking Mute Dee and his mouthful of dead dreams.
The old SUV had been there for decades, left for dead by its owners or from a firefight in one of the last Gas Battles in the 60’s. We in The Greenery had been using it as a hideout and safe house for the last 10 years or so. It was so hard to believe that less than one hundred years ago people drove around in monsters like that all the time. Once there was a time when there was oil and gasoline to spare. You’d see one of these hulks now and then being pulled by a horse on the roads outside The Greenery. It kind of stopped you in your tracks, yet another ghost of things past. This one we huddled in was a wreck, hardly rust held together by paint, good for nothing but cover and barely even that. It’d been fitted up to hold a couple of us snipers for long stints. A prep crew came through posing as scavengers and reinforced the walls and frame, fitted it out with bulletproofing, welded a couple of seats in and then dug a tiny latrine. A little bit of the rain still came in through the left passenger side, which was now the roof. Even the promise of big rewards for our success hardly made up for the intense, biting boredom.
Mute Dee got very still for a second and then shivered deeply, his eyelids fluttering while his hands trembled. Then he barked like a seal in his empty-mouthed version of a laugh and dug out his pen and notebook. “Shh!” I said to him, knowing it would hardly make a difference. He was getting another prophecy and writing it down. The Progressor, who was the one who ordered his tongue cut out in the first place, said Mute Dee could write down all he wanted. Which Dee did with a vengeance. He wrote with the same frenzy and speed like he used to speak. I barely remembered his voice. The Progressor cut his tongue out when he was six. After he accidentally prophesied in front of some spies from down South.
“Why the hell are we sitting here all this time?” I whispered partly to myself, partly to Dee and mostly just to hear a voice. There was no sound but the rain drumming on metal, some wind whipping through pines and a crow or two calling out for something dead to eat. “I wish whatever was coming down would come already! I’m fuckin’ bored, man!”
“Uuuu!” Dee groaned, sounding just like an old tree creaking in the wind, tapping his notebook and then scribbling in it. I looked over and in the dim light saw he’d written down “Delivery! Somewhere around Thursday May 20! Near noon! Old Exit 36.”
“Thanks for the bulletin, Dee,” I muttered. I was glad Dee remembered the time and place of where we were. I had barely any idea what time of day it was with the sun being obscured by clouds. Dee kept all his mission notes in codes only he understood, except for the stuff I needed to know, as a result of the incident for which he lost his tongue. I was never privy to much information, really. The Progressor usually gave all the information to Dee. Then Dee, his favorite and only grandson, wrote it down while somehow managing to convey even less information to me. If I was lucky I only got a time, place and little else.
I rifled around in my bag for some of the multi-grain cubes I had left. Our food was low. I knew we had at least another day out here with the nearest food stashes more than ten miles away. Unless I wanted to go hunting, which meant possibly getting killed by someone hunting for humans. Even such stinky, unwashed, foul flesh like mine would be a feast for some of the cannibals out of Buxton or Hollis.
The Progressor had called Dee and me into his office back at The Greenery about a week before. I didn’t go in there too often, mostly when I had been in trouble a couple of times as a kid. It was still creepy. You’d go in there and it was coldly silent, with old TV’s and computers giving you back a funhouse reflection of yourself from their vacant screens. Books lined one wall in a little alcove off to the side. The Progressor’s desk, always piled high with all sorts of papers and strange artifacts, was near the fireplace. The walls were covered with pictures of The Progressor in various stages of his life. In one was a little kid with his family on the beach; there was one of him at about sixteen with his father, both guys short and muscular, posing on a beach; another of him in military field gear, in some desert somewhere in front of a cave or an altar. And then more recent ones of him at The Greenery, but without all the white hair and wrinkles he had now. The only sound in there might be someone yelling or talking outside breaking the silence of his office. There was a clock ticking somewhere in the darkness and the creak of the Progressor’s light footsteps across the old wood floors.
The day we were dispatched, I stood back near the door while Dee went up to the Progressor’s desk. He waited quietly (how else would he wait?) until the old man was done writing and looked up at him with a smile. The Progressor beckoned him over. Dee knelt by the desk while his grandfather spoke just slightly higher than a whisper in his ear. I pretended to look out at the duck pond while turning my right ear towards their conversation. I couldn’t catch anything but the slight rustle of the old man’s words and his grandson’s occasional grunt of acknowledgement. When they were done he spoke to me.
“Mr. Sabbatini, step up here!” I jumped when he spoke to me and walked over to his desk slowly. I stepped right up to the front and looked him in the eye as best I could. He seemed to like that as he smiled at me.
“You and Dietrich are going out to the highway for a little bit. Out near Scarborough. You are to set up and wait. Dietrich’s got a list of all the things you will need and a req. form for rations you can pick up at the Store on your way out.” I tried not to flinch at the mention of the Store. “He’s got all the instructions as usual.”
“Yes, sir.”
“You think you can handle that?” He said with a smile. I couldn’t tell if he was messing with me or not. Always testing, never certain, I thought.
“Yes, sir,” I ventured.
“Good!” He looked at me for a minute longer and I tried not to waiver. “Let me see that hand.” I pulled my hands out of the pockets and slowly raised my right hand to a “hi” position. I’d have felt more comfortable dropping my pants in front of him.
“Shame I had to do that, isn’t it?” he asked. “Kinda sorry about it, too. Wasn’t sure you’d turn out like you did. An asset… instead of a little asshole.”
“Yes, sir.” As old as I was it was difficult not to break down all over again then and there in his office nine years after losing the finger.
“What’s the rule, though?” he asked, nodding at my hand. He knew it as well as I did. He wrote all the damn rules at that very fucking desk.
“’Greedy piglets get a warning. Greedy pigs get slaughtered.’” He dropped the smile and nodded his head.
“You got it. Those times are almost over. I’m beginning to see some light these days. Dee tells me of good fortune coming soon. Go on with Dee now and I’ll see you both in a while. Big reward for you boys if you get this one right.” He leaned back and Dee headed out. I followed right behind him.
I was six years old and starving. My mom and I found The Greenery right after some raiders from Massachusetts had burned us out of our house in the Siege of Free Dayton. I’d been there at the Greenery three days and was eating everything they put in my sight just like any malnourished six year old would. When I found out you didn’t need money to get food at the store I figured it was free. I went down there as soon as I could walk again. I rushed in with a frenzy and grabbed some bread, cheese and a jug of lemonade. The storekeeper shouted at me. I panicked and ran. I was running away from the storekeeper when I was caught on the store’s porch by an old man and two big guys in field gear. The old man looked at me with a sad smile.
“You’re new here, aren’t you?” he said. I barely nodded, trying to keep from pissing myself there on the steps. He had a face partly kind that seemed to grow sad.
“What’s your name, son?” he asked.
“Wiley… S-S-Sabbatini,” I barely managed to whisper out of my frozen lungs. The old man laughed at my name.
“Wiley, huh? Like the old coyote. Always searching never catching. True embodiment of ‘No possession only desire…’ Well, Wiley, I’m kind of the man in charge here. They call me ‘The Progressor.’ Funny name, I know. Wiley, we don’t like stealing here. Not a lot of food to go around these days. What we got we have to keep track of so everyone gets their fair share. Even little kids like you. We have to learn the rules early or we don’t learn at all. So when someone steals food, do you know what the rule is?” I shook my head. I’d been there three days, two in a bed recovering from a twenty-mile hike through the forests. I didn’t even know the name of where we were.
“This is the rule: ‘Greedy piglets get a warning. Greedy pigs get slaughtered.’ You’re very lucky you’re still a piglet.” He waved a hand and the men behind him grabbed me so quick and so hard I forgot to hold it in and pissed myself. They swore and dragged me over to the corner of the stoop where a hatchet was half buried in the old boards. I thought I would die right then and began screaming for my mother. She was in a coma and wouldn’t ever come out.
The old man wrenched the hatchet out of the wood as one of the burly guys held my hand down flat, barely using two of his tree-limb sized digits to hold my tiny fingers down.
“I’m sorry, Wiley. I hope you’ll understand why someday.”
It seemed to be over before I knew it. And then the pain flooded through my whole body. The old man wrapped a handkerchief around my four fingered paw and carried me himself to the infirmary, shushing me gently and telling me everything would be alright. A little over a year later I’d see him do something slightly different to his own grandson, carrying him to the infirmary just like me after he’d cut out the boy’s tongue.
I never went into the Store again.
I was rifling around in my bag for food, trying not to notice my missing pinky at that particular moment. “Man, I cannot wait to get back, shit, shower ‘n’ shave and see what Jonquille’s gonna do to reward me after dinner.” Jonquille was Dee’s cousin, the Progressor’s granddaughter and the most beautiful thing I’d seen since my mother. She was sixteen with long brown hair, sharp blue eyes, long runner’s legs and a body I was beginning to know in secluded encounters near the Greenhouse.
Dee pointed to my crotch with one hand and held up the thumb and forefinger of the other way too close together. He squinted at the space between fingers and then laughed his open mouthed guffaw like a lobotomized seal.
“Least I can fucking say someone’s name, ya dumb mute fuck!” I half regretted saying that. Dee frowned and held up his right middle finger and his right pinky. Flipping me the bird and reminding me of his grandfather’s mark on me. I launched on him then, nailing him in the cheek with an elbow as I landed on his chest. All professionalism eroded and we were just two fourteen year old’s fighting because we were bored out of our minds. We wrestled noisily for a bit, me swearing at him and punching him and him groaning at me and kicking me back. This was typical for us. I stopped when I heard an unfamiliar grinding noise in the distance.
I stood up, one boot planted on his writhing chest as I looked out through a peephole drilled through the floor of the junked Yukon. Far over the ridge, thick greasy smoke rose in a wide stream.
“Diesel! Truck! Big-ass truck!” I hissed. No need for cover now that the truck was noisily barreling down the highway. Dee grunted furiously as I stepped off him. He rifled around in his bag for the chargers as I put a clip of ten arrows in my shotbow. I cocked it a few extra times as I watched the behemoth poke its head over the ridge. I grabbed the small pair of ORACLE’s from around my neck and clicked them on. They whined quietly gaining pitch as they awoke and the lenses filled with graphics. I put them to my eyes and the binoculars gently wrapped in on my sockets and blocked out all external light.
I’d seen moving, functioning trucks plenty of times in movies shown at The Greenery. There were plenty of dead wrecks all over the state. We used to play on a couple The Greenery had rusting away out near the stockpiles. But I’d never seen one in its natural environment on the highway. We’d seen pictures in lectures and briefings and they looked big. But the one coming down the highway…
This one was not only functional but in amazing shape. Whoever owned it had the money to keep it looking pretty damn showroom. The cab was black and shining even in the gray spring morning. I couldn’t see into the driver’s compartment because of the tinted windows. A pair of white flags snapped in the wind over each headlamp. Those told me it was a mercy mission, but I didn’t buy it. This was a monster with something to hide. It got four or five miles to the gallon, if I had to guess. It spread across two of the four lanes of the crumbling highway, its aktif-wheels gripping every spot of blacktop equally like a gecko on a tree. This was one of the last Volvo Lode Cruisers ever made. There might have been a hundred in the whole world, most of them in the States. And only one or two groups had them those days. And this one wasn’t from the Canadians.
“Got the charges, Dee?” I shouted. We didn’t need to whisper anymore, as the truck certainly couldn’t hear us. Anyone in the woods’d be focused on the truck. I heard Dee make a double grunt for yes and patted his head. The Volvo came closer, traveling pretty fast for those times; someone so eager to burn that much diesel fuel had to be doing so for a reason. About a hundred yards ahead of us were two piles of old cars piled up about fifteen feet high. A team posing as scavengers from The Greenery dragged ‘em down by horse on an old flatbed and left them there. And soon after we arrived at the exit, Dee and I went out at night and filled one with a few pounds of dynamite. Wires ran from the pileup to the jersey divider and all the way back to us. And into the detonators clenched in Dee’s itchy, nervous hands.
The truck kept coming, completely unaware of us and what was about to happen. Dee kept an eye out from a hole lower down while I kept the ORACLE’s firmly on the truck. As it rolled down the hill I could finally see the trailer: a giant liquid container. Old HAZMAT stickers were flapping in the wind along the sides and tops. The silver of the container reflected the bright greens of the spring woods alongside the highway. Someone put those stickers on poorly to try and make it look inconspicuous. Those tires and that reflective shine didn’t fool me.
In forty-five seconds it would reflect orange fire.
“Steady…” I said. Dee slapped the metal frame in front of him in acknowledgement. “And four… three… two… ONE!” Dee jammed the bars down and sent the magic to them.
The pileup exploded as a ball of fire erupted out from the center. The old wrecks all reacted differently to the fiery explosion under them. Some simply disintegrated and were absorbed by the explosion. Others flew apart in the air. A couple flew almost whole across the sky. I remembered to pray that one wouldn’t hit and kill us both.
The truck crashed through fire and smoke, the aktif-wheels working with the brakes to stop on such short notice. It screeched and slid along the slick highway for a few dozen yards until coming to a noisy and uncomfortable rest about ten yards away from us. Dee and I kept quiet, watching.
The truck sputtered and squealed, steam brakes and hydraulics complaining as they were released and refilled. The cab’s passenger door shot open as two big guys in armored field gear jumped out with heavy rifles, hunkered down and began scanning the area around them. Not only did they have money for gasoline, they had money for bullets: big shots in Vacationland. No wonder the Progresssor sent us out to wait for them.
I watched the pair of men spread out in a careful formation, covering the truck as they moved closer to the second pile of wrecks. They moved briskly like wolves over the highway, eyes no doubt scanning every thing around them. Smart, I thought. They know we’re here somewhere. But where? The woods were thick and dark on either side of the highway for miles in both directions. They were sitting ducks, but knew anyone in the woods couldn’t be as heavily armed as they were. Or were they? They weren’t taking any chances.
I watched one of them approach the second pile up cautiously, then signal to his partner. Scrabbling sounds emerged from within the pile, as if something inside were furtively trying to remain inconspicuous. Taking the bait, the soldiers both stalked about four meters closer to it. Then the first guy counted down with his right hand. Four fingers. Three fingers. Two fingers.
I smiled when he got to that last finger: his right pinky.
The cars exploded as the first shots hit the rusting pile of metal. To lure them close, we’d trapped a couple of squirrels and put them in a cage in the middle of the pile. Then we loaded it with some ordinance. We’d used a precious ten gallons of gas for that one, plus some more TNT. Into that pileup we poured shards of whatever we could find from around the highway: glass, metal, nails, plastic and rocks. We looked like any other scavenger you see along the road all the time. The soldiers were instantly hit with flaming shrapnel (and vaporized squirrel) and were probably dead before they hit the ground. If not, the impact knocked them out for a while. They were effectively neutralized.
The cab’s passenger door hung open this whole time. I couldn’t see inside because of the damn window tinting. We waited for a few slow seconds. Dee and I were pretty good at that by now. We barely breathed as the smoke swept all around us as old cars burned once again. Finally something inside the cab stirred.
A guy dressed in black armored field gear stepped out near the edge of the passenger door. He carried a sleek long weapon of some kind I’d never seen before. I hoped to capture it so I could look it up when we got back to The Greenery. This one was definitely a bodyguard, not military like the two dead guys. Private hire or probably a mercenary. He hung out near the door for a moment listening to the sounds of cars burning and disturbed, complaining crows and then said something back into the cab.
“I’m not going to wait in here, you fool!” came from inside the cab. “Your people assured me this portion of the highway was safe! ‘A clear shot down to the Garrison!’ they said! The intel you have down there is pathetic! Jesus Christ! Yes, I said his name in vain! Do you work from the old Rumsfeld School of Intelligence?! I used to see those ads in my comic books when I was a kid! Idiots!” The man in black ducked his head and slid out the door, standing near the front of the cab. He waved someone back into the interior... who then came out anyway.
A bald, thin man climbed down from the inside of the monstrous cab. His field’s were clean, boots shiny and showroom. Obviously a management dude of some sort. Possibly executive but probably not judicial, though you never knew. Looking closer at his pale skin and beefed-up smart-glasses, I pegged him as a desk jockey: Administrator for Military Science Division. Whoever he was, he definitely didn’t belong up here in Maine.
Dee snickered and blew our cover. I swore under my breath and popped out of my spider hole in the SUV’s husk. I squeezed off a few arrows and ducked. Muffled groans and the sound of boots grinding on pavement followed the soft pops of alloy tipped arrows piercing their target.
“Freeze!” I shouted. After a single tense second, I peeked outside.
The bodyguard’s left thigh had sprouted a couple of small slender arrows with bright feathers. He struggled for a moment gripping the carbon shafts but the neurotoxins were quicker than him. Armor’s good for heavy weaponry but useless for good old 6th century tech. He squeezed off some rounds aimlessly as his knees hit the pavement. What an amateur.
The Thin Man stood there and looked like he was messing his tailored field pants. Dee popped out and aimed his shotbow at the Thin Man. I was pretty sure there were only four men in the cab, but I asked God to confirm it. No reply as usual. Dee had both the hotline and the receiver to our higher power.
We slowly climbed out of the SUV’s skeleton and jumped to the ground. Thin Man stayed put as his bodyguard rolled on the ground and moaned a bit.
I drew a lumpy yellow baseball from my bag and threw it at the tires of the truck. It exploded on impact and sticky yellow glue spread all over the tires. A chemical smell of bananas and yeast spread into our noses replacing smoke and burning metal. In seconds the mess ballooned to foot-thick strands binding the truck to the surface of the highway. The truck was going nowhere. I’d never seen this type of nano before. Amazing. I’d have to try it on Dee sometime.
“Oh, shit!” Thin Man said as we approached. His hands immediately went up, shaking. “You’re not gonna eat me, are you?”
“Anyone else in there?” I shouted at him, ignoring the question. “Answer me!”
“A kid! Damn! A god damn kid! What’re you doing, kid?” The thin man shrieked at me.
I put three more arrows in the bodyguard’s right calf for emphasis. He sprawled on the ground and screamed through the fog of poison in his bloodstream.
“I said is there anyone else in there?”
Thin Man shook his head and held his hands up higher and wider.
“N-n-no, it was just us four! Jesus, kids, you’re fucking up here. We got a bunch of milk here in the trailer for a hospital down in Boston. Kids like you are gonna die because you held us up. Just let us go and we’ll forget it. We’ve got nothing else but the milk. Really.” He shook noticeably. His accent wasn’t Boston, not even New England. More mid-Atlantic. New Jersey or Philly. No, Maryland. Baltimore, maybe, or…
“Long way from The City, aren’t you, sir?” I said, bulking up my voice. It still cracked sometimes when I got excited.
“Oh, c’mon! Please, for God’s Sake! I run a hospital down in Boston. Yeah, I grew up in The City, so what? Moved up to help out America. G-get her back on her feet!” Old party lines sounded even older coming from the mouth of a shrill, stick thin bureaucrat. I gestured at him with my shotbow. He backed into the cab and smacked his head into the door. One hand shot up to his clean-shaven head and came back with some blood.
Dee closed in on the bodyguard and kicked his weapon away from him. He swung his shotbow behind him – safety off – and unslung a knife. Holding it out to show intent to the semiconscious bodyguard. Then Dee frisked him, pulling out a couple of small pistols, three concealed knives and a few vials of what were probably bio-contaminants or aggro-nano. Mute Dee snickered and put the whole lot into his knapsack. Dee then looked at me, smiled and nodded back towards the trailer. I nodded in response and he moved towards the access ladder near the rear of the trailer. Moments later I heard two shots as he finished off the crispy fried soldiers.
“Turn around, Popeye.” Momentarily puzzled, Thin Man did as he was told, huffing nervously and putting his hands on the massive hub of the front wheel. I pulled his hands up around the lower bracket of the rear view mirror and cuffed him. He hung there, toes of his shiny boots barely meeting with the ground. He spun around and sputtered something at me. I frisked him, but came up empty of weapons. He carried cigarettes on him, which I threw behind me. He began to sputter something again so I shut him up with a wave of the shotbow and knelt down near the bodyguard.
The bodyguard wore strange goggles I’d never seen before. They were very sleek, flat black and tightly fitted to his face. They tore off with a sucking noise and exposed his eyes to broad daylight. He squinted and blinked at me through these bloodshot eyes wriggling in pale flesh. Blood began to trickle slowly from the holes where I’d torn the wires out. I looked at the inside of the goggles to see “CHECK CONNECTIONS!” blinking angrily back at me from the display.
“Government issue,” I said. He nodded, shock and blood loss making him nice and docile. So he wasn’t a merc, or if he was had access to some seriously good tech. He held his hands up and together half in prayer and half for cuffs. I smiled. Gotta like someone who knows how to play the game. I cuffed him to the bottom step of the passenger running board.
“Now, I ain’t a fag, but I’m gonna strip you. Then I’ll dress these wounds.” Though this guy was out of it you had to be pretty straightforward with government types, as they tended to be fundies with tight undies. The only men who were ever touching them out in the open were either their ministers or other football players. Or maybe in militia training. Back at The Greenery, no one gave a shit. Least of all Dee and his boyfriend. The Progressor said gay folks were good for keeping the population down naturally, making great art and color choices. I think the last part was a joke.
“Hey, how about you kids come with us. We could use fighters like you.” Thin Man was hanging and twisting around like stringy meat on a windy Slaughterday. His words came out lacking the conviction he was trying to give them. You could almost hear the later double cross in his speech.
“No thank you, sir.”
“Seriously, we won’t hurt you. We respect the fight you put up here. Seriously. Ouch!” He was shredding the skin on his wrists trying to keep me in sight. I’d gotten his bodyguard stripped down to his clean boxers (something I was missing recently) after cutting off his shirt. I cut off the pants around the arrows, feeling proud of how I’d shot perfectly between plates of the armor.
“This’ll hurt a lot, mister.” I grabbed at the first arrow and pulled hard. Barely any flesh came away and not too strong a flow of blood. I’d missed the femoral artery. My aim was getting better. The bodyguard was so out of it he’d hardly whimpered. I quickly removed the rest and pulled bandages out of my pack. He’d walk again, but not for a few months.
A whoop came up from the trailer.
“The fuck was that?” Thin Man said. “What’s he doing back there?”
“Dee found out what you’re really carrying home,” I said. I shouted to Dee to hang on and finished the bandages in silence. “Back to that… hospital.”
“Keep quiet until I get back, okay?” I said to Thin Man. He nodded and swallowed. I noticed his wrists were now bleeding.
I walked back and climbed up onto the trailer. Dee was on top, about midway down. He smiled, revealing the gaps where he’d lost some teeth in intramural fights, some with me.
“Whatcha got, Dee?” I walked over to him and into the access hole he’d opened up.
The weak light of that overcast day barely shone down into the trailer. I could see milk reflecting up at me. But something else was down there in the murky depths. “What is that, Dee?”
“Unh-uh,” he said. He shrugged.
“Wanna go swimming?” I asked him. He smiled and shook his head.
“Go find the release valve.” I thumbed towards the back of the trailer. Dee trudged off and I looked around us. The woods seemed clear and free of onlookers for once. It tended to be pretty quiet here by the border. Those few who dwelled in the forest probably thought it was a firefight between gangs.
I heard some metal squealing and then a splashing sound. Thin Man started yelling about his milk but quickly got drowned out. I watched as the wreckages around the truck became momentarily flooded in white, washing some of the remains of the first two soldiers away. Finally the milk had all drained out. I looked back down into the tanker.
What I could see was definitely not milk. Strange shapes began to form in the gloom. “Mister?” I shouted back to Thin Man. “Those kids’re gonna die in that hospital in Boston. You got some weird fuckin’ crap in your milk here.” I didn’t catch his protests. I bet they were creative.
I was looking down into the seemingly empty tanker. Strange metallic boxes and cases were stacked up inside it. I sat on the lip of the hole and climbed down the built in ladder, lightly stepping on one of the cases. It held my weight solidly. I heard Dee trudge back and keep an eye on me from above.
I turned on my flashlight for the first time the whole week. Batteries were scarce in The Greenery and hardly ever used. My orders were to save it until absolutely needed. I was momentarily amazed at how bright it made the tanker’s interior. I shone the light around with giddy delight. Adrenaline was still flowing through me. Dee stomped on the roof above me in impatience. I took a breath and focused on the objects around me.
It was obvious these guys hadn’t expected being stopped. They’d done little to secure their cargo, barely hiding it even in the milk and not even protecting it with any booby traps or anything. A clear tarp had been sealed down onto the tanker floor, the objects strapped down tight underneath it. These green and gray boxes bore military markings and warning stickers. What they contained was beyond me. I had no idea what they all were but knew why the Progressor wanted them. I saw words like “Molecular assembler,” “DADB Uptake Collection Unit,” “solar cells,” “K-440 particle guns,” “hydro-electric accelerator,” and a bunch of other fancy words. I wasn’t so good at science in school – perhaps because Jonquille always sat so close to me in class – but I knew we needed these cases. There had been talk recently – quiet talk when others weren’t around – of the Progresssor’s making some huge advances in his experiments. Things that would free us up and put us way ahead of the folks down in The City. I could only imagine what these things would do for us in the Progressor’s hands. It was definitely worth sitting in the SUV in the rain with a Mute Dee for two weeks.
I climbed back up. Dee grunted and held out his hands, palms up and query written all over his face.
“I don’t know, but I bet your grandpa is going to throw a party for us.” We slapped hands, shut the lid on the trailer and climbed down. “Big fucking party.”
Dee smiled, his cemetery teeth yellow and shiny.
“This’ll make up for the attack on the water refinery in Portland. And the Boothbay Windfarm bombing.” Dee nodded with gravity. Good friends had died there.
We climbed down and walked back to the cab of the truck. The bodyguard was half sitting up, pale and dazed with his hands clutching the step near the cuffs. He shivered so I covered his shoulders with his wet coat. His eyes could hardly track me without his goggles telling him what he saw. Thin Man was shivering too. The blood had stopped flowing from his raw wrists.
“So what is that stuff in there?” I asked.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! We filled up with milk at a farm in Carabassett and were taking it down to Peabody to a kid’s hospital. The milk’s been fouled for months since the attacks on Amherst.”
“Mister, I’m not stupid. Neither are you. That container’s barely refrigerated. Milk’s almost spoiled. So what is that stuff in there?” Thin Man looked at his hands and then the ground below as if weighing his options. Finally he spoke.
“Medical equipment.”
“Oh, for God’s sake! Do I need to start putting arrows into you now?” I raised the shotbow up to level with his eyes. He stiffened and blanched. “Now, really, what’s in there?”
“It’s equipment… for… hydrogen fuel.” His head hung down. “They’re gonna kill me now.”
“Not if I don’t first,” I said. “Okay, so what’s it do? You’re a scientist, right? So tell me about it.”
“Wait, I’m not a scientist. I’m just an administrator from The City. They just sent me up here from – oh, never mind. They told me what this stuff would do. The DADB Uptake Collector spontaneously takes up hydrogen from regular clean water. The Molecular assembler purifies and formulates the fuel. You have a small fission reactor in there as well. The Maglev assemblies are for levitation and flight capabilities.” He looked at the bow as if preparing himself.
“Guess I’m not as smart as I thought. What the hell is all that stuff for?”
“It’s for a hydrogen powered hover car. A couple hundred miles or so to the gallon, though we’re not sure until we do our own tests. Uh, that’s not going to happen now, I guess. Four foot elevation with propulsion that can bring elevations of a hundred to two hundred feet. Slight modifications can make it into a very fast aircraft.”
I turned to Dee. “That sound like what we’re after?” Dee gave me an “okay” sign with his fingers. I smiled. “Good.”
“Alright, Mister. Let me ask you something else.” I sat on the step between the bodyguard and Thin Man. Thin Man twisted around to look at me. “Where were you coming from?”
“Wuh-wuh-we were coming from Carabasett. There was a base up near there. Old U.S. Military. Doing a lot of research into propulsion and alternate fueling. This stuff was hidden when they abandoned the base in ’29.”
“How’d you know about it?”
“Old records. Seems there was a lot of R&D that was forgotten about during the wars. There were a whole bunch of weird secret projects going on during the Turnbull administration. The President was desperate for some solutions to all the problems and he was willing to do anything to get them. You wouldn’t believe some of the stories.”
“Another time, maybe.” I picked at something on the bottom of my boot. “So, where were you going?” I asked.
“What’s it matter to you?” Thin Man said and then got paler. “Sorry. But does it matter? Look, I’ve got gold and medicine, and some extra diesel in here. How about it? You let us go for that?” His eyes looked expectantly between Dee and me. I shook my head.
“Dee, my guess is they’re headed South. Not Boston. More like New York or even the old Capital. The City.” Thin Man shook his head. “Oh, no wait, there’s the Coast Guard fortress at Seabrook. Maybe there and then a speedcat out to international waters?” Thin Man swallowed visibly and audibly.
“Doesn’t matter to us, does it, Dee?” Dee grunted a “No.” I stepped closer to Thin Man. “Do you know what your problem is, mister? I mean, the problem with all of you?”
“No.” He answered, barely a whisper. He expected me to knife him.
“The Progressor tells us about you all. How you lack vision. It’s always too little too late. You got desperate and came looking for something you forgot. And you thought it would be cut and dried. Only it wasn’t.”
“Oh, shit!” Thin Man said, starting to sweat in the cold, raw rain. “You kids are from The Greenery?”
“You know about the Progressor, then?” Thin Man nodded. “Good. You know how crazy he is? He cut off my pinky finger when I was six.” I pointed at Dee. “He cut out his own grandson’s tongue on account of how he couldn’t keep his prophesying mouth shut. You know he’s a crazy motherfucker, right?” Thin Man nodded. “Then you know how he’s changing the rules, right?”
“What? No. How do you mean?” he said. He looked between me and Dee.
“You’ve been playing by the old 20th Century rules for too long: oil rules.” Thin Man nodded, though you could tell he wasn’t sure why. I looked at Dee as he went back to the SUV and pulled out our twenty-gallon jug of water. He pulled out a small silver canteen and began to fill it.
“See, we learn a lot at The Greenery,” I said as I uncuffed the bodyguard. He slumped down and laid breathing heavily on the cracked asphalt. “The Progressor’s taught us all, but not like the old Party school didacts or something. He makes the teachers think and argue with him. Then he makes us think and argue. When he can, he even gives lectures and holds meeting where we discuss things, argue, debate and ultimately even agree to disagree. One thing we’ve learned and seen again and again is you guys fucked it all up. You spent so much time on things that would kill us all for a few dollars so that you couldn’t see more than a decade or two in front of your faces.”
“What? What’re you talking about?” He forgot to be afraid and became indignant. “The technology wasn’t there for us. We thought hydrogen fuel was decades away. No one knew about the work being done up here. And solar? Forget it! Most panels were able to convert only pathetic amounts. That was even if you lived in an area that got enough sun to make it worthwhile. Windfarms were reasonable but if people felt like their property values would drop then they’d rather be in hock to the Saudis and Libyans. Like it or not we’ve been tied to fossil fuels and limited nuclear because nothing else works as well. You’re being taught an ancient and flawed history, kid – “
“Yeah, but the government ignored even the possibility of research. All that talk about hydrogen research in the teens was pure bullshit: just oil powered hydrogen plants. Oil companies worked with the government to make sure no new development would shut them out. The U.S. Government was in bed with corporations since the 1960’s. And that meant more money for the fat cats. For what? They spent decades denying the environment was getting fucked up because of humans polluting it. So the icecaps began to melt and you finally started to look it in the face but called it ‘natural.’ Then when the sea levels rose twenty feet you ignored that, too. Then the tsunami’s hit in the Atlantic and the Pacific and millions died when you refused to relocate them. Then the hurricanes in ’21 came and flooded the East Coast. Most of us up here got away okay. Most of us.”
“Kid, I wasn’t even alive then –“
“No, neither was I. But I like to listen to the Progressor tell it. I heard how when the oil really began to dry up you got desperate. Raised the prices so high people killed for it. Began to plan an invasion of Canada just for the shale. Then parts of California fell into the ocean in ’36. Then there were all the nuclear disasters out West. Finally the corporations either went bankrupt or pulled out. So finally the government was bankrupt and that was it. The 40’s were not your guy’s decade.”
Thin Man just stood shaking his head. “Kid, you got it all wrong. We’re trying to rebuild this country now. This stuff in the truck will help us restore it. We can go out and help people.” I waved off and ignored his weak words.
“So why hide it in a few thousand gallons of milk?” I asked. Thin Man just hung his head. “Yeah, I thought so.”
“So then you add in general terrorism, the pandemics of the ‘50’s, the Iranian reprisals, the economy shitting the bed, the simultaneous wars in Asia, India and Africa. And the world all came completely apart. So you sit there in the City and pretend you still run it all when chaos is the true ruler outside.”
“How fucking old are you anyway, kid?” Thin Man asked me.
“I’m fourteen. Gonna be fifteen in a few months.”
“Pretty smart for fourteen, kid.” I thought I smelt a suck-up.
“And I’m one of the dumb ones.” I looked up at the sky for a second. Thin Man piped up.
“Kid, listen! We want to help you out, though. We’re here to rebuild America like it was. Only better! We need you to help us. We could…” I cut him off with a jerk of the shotbow in his direction.
“The Progresssor says those day’re gone. I agree. You guys had your chance, fucked up and now you’re desperate. You’ve been holed up in those bunkers in Virginia and Wyoming for too long. The rules have changed. Oil’s all dried up. And water is king. ‘As it was and ever shall be.’ See what it says over there?” I pointed to a wreck on the opposite side of the highway; a semi that lay on its side, like roadkill. Painted on the roof of the trailer were the words: “WATER GOT NO ENEMY.” Thin Man nodded.
“Oil’s a pretty limited resource. Good for two or three things: burning, pollution and making plastic. Can’t drink it. Can’t wash in it. Can’t cook food in it. But water? Hell, it’s nature’s all-purpose miracle worker. And we have more here than most of the country.”
I picked up the bodyguard’s weapon. Thin Man flinched and drew away from me.
“Now, what’s this do?” I asked, purposely moving closer to him and sticking the barrel in his nose without looking at him.
“Please, I’ve got a son your age. I’ve got a wife. Please don’t…”
“Oh, I’m not supposed to kill you. No orders for that. Gonna follow the orders this time. Hell, if you were from Military Science or R&D, I’d bring you back. Here’s what I will do, though.” I reached up and uncuffed him. He fell to the ground near the bodyguard and got up again on weak, wobbling legs.
“We’re gonna let you go. Right, Dee?” Dee nodded and handed Thin Man the canteen.
“Thank you! Thank you! Oh, shit! I thought you were gonna kill us and take the truck – “
“Oh, but we’re gonna take the truck.” His face dropped and he looked around him into the deep woods. “You can go. We gave you some water, which if you’re smart ought to last you to the garrison at Portsmouth. Only, you gotta carry him back with you.” I pointed to the semi-conscious bodyguard who was lying on the ground. “I think the neurotoxins ought to be gone by the time you get over the bridge into Free Republic of New Hampshire territory. He’ll walk again if you get him to a doctor in time. We’ll stay here and watch you until you get over the ridge down there. I know you’re smart enough not to try any funny shit, either. For one thing, if you and Capt. Underpants here don’t get up to that bridge by sundown something’s gonna jump out the bushes on your ass. A bear or worse.” His face fell even further so I decided to run with it. “See, winter’s tough up here these days. Some folks don’t get to eat much ‘til spring. And even a skinny guy like you’ll look like a meal to them. Even without pants. Drop ‘em!” I gestured with the sleek black gun and his jaw dropped nearly to his chest. I gestured again with a bit more enthusiasm and he undid his belts, trying to pull his pants off standing up. He wore blue silk boxers, which for a moment I considered making him take off. But he fell down and Dee and I stood there laughing while he dragged his pants off over his boots.
“Stand up, Supermarket.” He stood up. “Now get your boy over there.” I pointed to the bodyguard and Thin Man grabbed him by the underarms and began dragging.
“No, man! Shit! You’re gonna wear his legs down to stumps dragging him, ya dumb fuck!” Thin Man stared at me wide-eyed. Dee snickered. “Put him in a fireman hold, you dummy. He’s heavy but you better get cracking. It’ll be dark in about six hours.”
Dee and I watched as Thin Man slowly and poorly hauled the limp bodyguard up onto his shoulders. “Go South, Skinny!” I shouted, pointing with the gun to the highway ahead of him. He began to stumble along, bandy white legs jiggling with loose muscles as he carried his bodyguard down the old highway. Dee and I stood there and laughed ourselves hoarse until our own legs buckled.
Dee sprayed some solvent on the nanogoo covering the tires. It melted quickly, leaving yellow puddles underneath. We ate lunch sitting in the cab of our new semi. It was a quiet feast as a meal usually was with Dee. I thought about what the truck’s cargo meant to us and remembered my first conversation with the Progressor.
It was in the infirmary after he’d cut off my finger. The doctor had stitched up the wound with a silent fury having yelled himself hoarse at the Progressor when he came in with me. Something about his being a butcher and how what The Greenery was doing and stood for wasn’t worth mutilating children. The Progressor just stood there and listened to him like he was listening to someone tell a story with this little smile on his face. When the doctor was done yelling, the Progressor said, “Thank you for your contribution. Now, please heal this child.” And he did.
Afterward, I lay in the bed, dazed from something the doctor gave me for my pain. I was looking out the doorway into the lobby of the Infirmary and in walked The Progressor. I was too drugged up to try and flee, but I tried to get really small into one corner of my bed.
“I know it’s hard, but please don’t be afraid of me. I am sorry about what I did. We have rules, though, and they apply to everyone here. Even me. We’ve all got to answer to the rules.” He sat down in a chair on the opposite wall far from me. He ran his hands through his hair to smooth it, then clamped his hands between his knees. I relaxed a bit. “I’ll stay right here, I promise. Now, what is your name again?”
“Wiley…” I whispered.
“Oh, right. Wiley Sabbatini.” He smiled, nodded and looked at the floor for a few moments. “I remember now. Your mom is here in the Infirmary, too, isn’t she?” I think I shrugged. “Poor woman. We are all praying for you two. You went through Hell and are lucky to both be alive. Those jackals aren’t known to let people live. You were lucky to escape your home like you did. How the hell you got to us is anyone’s guess. Thank God you did, though.” He nodded in agreement with himself. His eyes stayed at the floor as he grew quiet. Then he looked up at me.
“I’m the leader here, like I said before. My real name’s Moses – that’ll seem funny to you some day – but everyone here calls me the Progressor. Some kid called me that instead of Professor and I guess it kind of stuck. I love the things kids say.” He chuckled to himself. “I like it better than say, The Prophet. That’s a little too Mormon-y.”
I wanted him to leave.
“Look, I don’t expect you to understand much of what I’m going to say to you. I hope you might remember it and get it some day. I rarely talk to kids much. I really don’t talk to the adults here, either.” He winked at me and paused for a few moments to collect himself. “Wiley, there are some bad people out there. I don’t know how much history your parents told you about... After the government collapsed – ‘gave more power back to the people’ was what they said – well, people went crazy and took things wherever they could. There were a lot fewer police really so there were no more laws. Some militias formed to protect or to harm. Some resorted to barbaric living. Those men who attacked your family are just one of many groups of people who want to steal what we have. Things went to hell in a handbasket in less than a hundred years.
“People like that don’t want to share or help us with what we’re doing here. They want to destroy us and take away everything we have. Outside of here, people live day to day, only seeing a few feet past their own mouths and stomachs. They have no vision, no higher sense of purpose. Humanity in America is reduced to a style of living barely seen since we were cavemen. Some people say it’s like living in the nineteenth century but it’s more like the fourteenth. And the government sits behind that wall down there in the Southlands and talks about ‘bringing America back together,’ but it will never happen. Oh, sure they talk a good game about God and the people but they’re still just in it for themselves.” He ran his hands through salt and pepper hair then smoothed out his moustache. He looked up at me again.
“It’s taken me a lot of work to get us to where things are now. Here in The Greenery we live well, but there’s a price for that. We’ve made some tremendous sacrifices and lost many good lives. I’ve seen good friends blown apart by IED’s. Farmers killed just because someone suspected they might have had a few gallons of gasoline stored in a shed. One day you’ll hear people talk about the Invasion of Portland, the Canada Waterline Bombing and many other trials we’ve faced. It’s not to say it’s all bad, though. We’ve made a safe haven here. We have food, clean water and a place to live for those who can abide by our rules.
“We are so close to our goals. I cannot let anything stand in the way of that. Some people say I’m crazy or a monster for what I do. Perhaps they are right. Some say I am no better than the government camps out by the border. You might even think that. Well, Wiley, I know what I am!” He said this last sentence with so much force his voice rose and I shrank back into the bed even more. He calmed down, becoming silent for a minute and spoke again. “We need strict rules when things are as wild and dangerous as they are outside the walls here. I am driven and have a sense of purpose much deeper than what most people have. I’m on a mission. I will see it completed. Even with some blood on my hands.” He looked into his palms and rubbed them together. The Progressor scooted his chair a few inches closer. I sat up a little to listen to him.
“You will learn a lot here, Wiley. We’ve got so many smart people here to teach you. It’s not all school. I will show you amazing things we can do. I think you’ll enjoy it. And at some point you may even grow to like me. But I won’t hold you to that.” He sat back in the chair and stared at me through his wire-rimmed glasses.
“I remember when I was your age. Born in ’99. The twenty-first century was going to be spectacular. I was of the first generation to grow up with computers as a daily thing in our lives. The Internet, satellite TV, cell phones, hand held computers, iPod’s, quantum computing, PSP’s were all a part of our lives. All that technology was there for us and things were only going to get better. Jet packs were gonna be ready for us tomorrow. People talked about the Singularity like it was going to happen any day…
“But even back then ugly things cropped up. The writing was on the wall.” He waved his hand at the wall like he held a pen. “The war in Iraq had gone on ten years by the time I was fourteen, then it became the all out Civil War in Iraq. You had the bombing of Iran and then the Iranian reprisals against us. By the time I got drafted, gas was $18.00 a gallon on a good day and you saw our government just go all out berserk for oil. They abandoned even the pretense of trying to find other sources of energy. It was the end of the addiction. Insanity. We slowly descended into the dark times we are in now.” He shook his head and held it in his hands. Suddenly he looked up again.
“I was hiding out in a cave in Northern Iran after my battalion was ambushed when I had the First Vision. Staring out the entrance of the cave, keeping an eye on the horizon, I suddenly saw this green growth all around me. Not the landscape transformed but I was looking at a green forest with people living peacefully. A voice said, “Behold, Moses. This will be your world. Come and grow it.” Then I saw the desert again. I thought it was dehydration or the reaction to some chemical agents. But when the search and rescue teams came and got me, the medics checked me out. Said I was okay. “ The Progressor shrugged. He suddenly brightened and sat up.
“I was better than okay - I had a purpose! I’d seen a beautiful green place. I saw people working together and building a peaceful community. I got four more Visions after that with each one showing me more. I was shown the abandoned farm in Cumberland where it was, how to get here, who to bring and how to get them here, how to run it. This place you see around you is the result of that vision.” He got up from his chair and sat close to me. I no longer felt the need to draw away from him. There was almost something calming about him.
“Wiley, I saw this place in that cave… I saw myself here in Maine. In those visions our future unfolded before me. We were all living here and I experienced the arrival of every single one of us, from my first footsteps into The Greenery to your arrival and the many more to come. I saw our trials and hardships, our successes and failures. Our wins and our losses were all played out before my eyes. One day we will be free to walk outside the barrier walls and roam all over this state. It will be beautiful, with clean air and water all over. We will no longer be enslaved to rationing, seasonal changes and the whims of nature.
“We’ve been using windpower and biodiesel to generate electricity and run the vehicles. We’re learning so much more from the scientists we’ve brought here. They’re brining us closer to renewable energy. And some other amazing discoveries. We will have cars that run clean and don’t poison the air to get us where we need to go. Ships will bring us goods from across the seas and never sink nor will they spoil the ocean with their fuel – the ocean will be their fuel! We will have light at night not from candles but from electricity provided by clean fuel from our lakes. The world around us will stand at our feet and beg and we will take only those who are pure. All others will be turned away. God forbid if they do not heed our warnings to leave us in peace. We will have weapons used only in our own defense that will make our enemies shiver where they stand. We shall cleanse the world.” He grew silent again, staring out the window behind me. I sat up and looked but only saw trees and a path leading from the infirmary. It looked pretty clean to me.
He rose up from where he sat and smiled at me. “I hope one day you can understand why we need such strict rules. Only when we are free can we hope to return to a normal way of life.” He stood closer to the bed and patted my right foot through the blanket. “I am excited you are here with us. I cannot wait to show you the wonderful world we are building here.” The Progressor stood up and left the room with a wave. I watched him stop and speak to a nurse. The Progressor instructed her to feed me well, but give me an extra helping of dessert for my troubles.
Dee and I watched Thin Man carrying his bodyguard over the ridge while we ate lunch. Dee sat perusing the tablet laptop Thin Man had left behind. I saw schematics and plans for things I didn’t understand but knew were related to what was held in the trailer. When the lumbering shape dropped out of sight, I pulled my feet off the dash and wiped some crumbs off my jacket.
“Let’s get going,” I said to Dee, popping the accelerator button. The enormous engine burst into life beneath us, the exhaust pipes belching filth into the gray sky. “I wanna be back at The Greenery by sundown.”
Dee held two thumbs up and smiled.
“I tell you what I’m gonna do when we get home. I’m gonna drop this off at The Labs and then clean up. And I bet they’ll throw us a nice banquet like they did for Psychoadoukis after his raid on the old AFB in Brunswick. And we’re gonna eat like pigs.” Dee hummed with pleasure and licked his chops. “Then I’m gonna take Jonquille for a long walk through the greenhouse out past the hydroponics. I’m gonna get down on one knee and ask her to be my wife.” Dee smiled and nodded, pleased with the idea.
“Then Dee, you know what?”
Dee made an unh-uh noise in his throat.
“Your cousin and I are going to fuck our brains out.”
Dee held up one hand, middle finger and pinky held up for me to see. I laughed like I had no tongue and gunned the Volvo’s giant engine.
I turned the monster around and began our journey home.

Oh, and if you dig this...

Hey, I thought I'd tell the folks who liked the short story would want to check out the 21st Chapter of the book "Water Got No Enemy." I posted it here. hope you dig it and as always I am eager for commentary and conscious critiques.


- C R T
--------------------------------------------------------------- - music//yoga//blather///and more on a blog no one reads!
"you know, once you've been to fucking detox, the prospect of lolling around talking shit about post

It drew me in.

This is going to be a very good story with a little more refinement. I look forward to reading any more stories you put out. Here are some comments.

I read the first bit of this story, and was drawn in. I wanted Wiley to get some gruesome revenge on the Progressor. When he brought the wonder-car tech back to the Progressor, I could have cared less--the Prog was just another monster in a world full of them. That's not a bad thing for that type of story but I don't know if you intended it.

The dialogue is fast and tight, except for some spots where he's verbally abusing the thin man. Examples: "Turn around, Popeye" "Put him in a fireman hold, you dummy." "Go South, Skinny!" If you're going for callous, desensitized youth, play it up. Otherwise, maybe be less flippant.

I disagree somewhat with hafoc: you should show some more, particularly to emphasize the brutality of the world (like the farmers getting killed for gas), but don't lose the story's focus.

How does Wiley eat if he never goes to the Store? And whatever happened to his mother?

Again, good story. I hope I wasn't too harsh because you should keep writing.

Thanks, Gil!


Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Sorry I got back to you so late. Been sick.

Ass this story develops, I promise you the Progressor will see some kind of karmic retribution. From who or how I cannot say. Just wait and see. ;)

I'll look at the dialogue again with your comments in mind. I think these guys are young and they behave to a certain degree as 14 year olds would. but I will take your comments into mind.

I'm looking at editing/revising/rewriting Wiley's soliloquy. It doesn't sit with me entirely well.

I'll put some edits into this and yeah, I think I'll expand on how Wiley gets to eat and what happened to his mother.

Thanks again for reading!

- C R T
--------------------------------------------------------------- - music//yoga//blather///and more on a blog no one reads!
"you know, once you've been to fucking detox, the prospect of lolling around talking shit about post


The writing is technically very good. No complaints there.

The characters are interesting. Their world is interesting. You have the heart of a good story.

I like it. There's the mindless comment you didn't want. :D

Problems-- please don't let me get you down. It is not my intent to hurt you or anyone.

You do a lot of exposition. Telling and not showing. What you show, mainly, is that the Progressor is a monster who mutilates little kids and then drafts them into his military. I don't think that's what you intended, but it's what shows most strongly.

The necessity the Progressor feels compels him is left to flashbacks, lectures about how the oil companies manipulated everything, put down alternate forms of energy. How the government started wars in Iran and Iraq to grab oil. How that made the world the hellhole it became. It's all told in, well, telling. This isn't as effective as showing and it doesn't have the same impact as showing.

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing that you really want to convince people that oil-greed is a great evil and that the war in Iraq is wrong. If my opinion means anything to you, I think you're right. A statement of political convictions doesn't usually make a very compelling story, though.

It might make your point better to leave out a good bit of the detail. Instead, show a few small and local incidents that let your reader know the state of affairs without having to read the detailed explanation. That bit about farmers massacred because they might have had a gallon or two of gasoline hidden away-- that's good. You could work in an incident or two like that, show it happening, and people would know that this hell the world has become was the result of the collapse of the oil economy. Given that, they're smart enough to get the message that overdependance on oil is bad, wars to seize oil are bad, and so on. Your readers are smart. They'll figure it out.

I apologize for finding fault-- please, the writing really is good.

Hafoc, First off: Thanks!


First off: Thanks! I really appreciate that you took the time out to read it. This is the most important thing to me.

Don't worry about my feelings. I've heard worse, I've said worse, and I'm sure worse is to come. No worries! I appreciate it.

It's funny, but I don't feel the need to compel people that oil greed is bad - I think the evidence is clearly there! I think I was using that stuff more to support what had created the world these guys live in. I agree with you it's heavy on the exposition - I was reacquainting myself with exposition in fact! So it was an exercise in it. I do think that needs retuning.

I'll take your ideas under consideration. I think they're very good.

Again, I really appreciate your reading and even more the critique!

- C R T
--------------------------------------------------------------- - music//yoga//blather///and more on a blog no one reads!
"you know, once you've been to fucking detox, the prospect of lolling around talking shit about post

old school

Traditionally tne short story is the peak of SF.
This one seems to me to have all the neccessary features of a good short, creates a world, brings characters to life, poses and solves a riddle. Excellent!

Thanks, adamx! - C R

Thanks, adamx!

- C R T
--------------------------------------------------------------- - music//yoga//blather///and more on a blog no one reads!
"you know, once you've been to fucking detox, the prospect of lolling around talking shit about post