Authors: Nick S. Thomas
15 YEARS LATER: Wasteland
By Nick S. Thomas
Copyright © 2015 by Nick S. Thomas
Published by Swordworks Books
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
What if you woke up one day and everything you ever knew had gone? The only people in sight want to take everything you have, including your life. The cities you used to visit reduced to uninhabitable ruins. There appears no law and order, nor government, or organised society. Worse still, you don't know how it got this way, or who you really are. Any friends or family you may have are nowhere to be found. Are you a hero, a villain, or perhaps a nobody? All you have is a handful of photos of who might be a wife and a daughter that you don't remember, and a will to live. What do you do?
"What Order is he from?" a coarse and poorly educated thug called out.
To Zed it sounded like a muffled dream far in the distance. His head felt sore, and his senses were dulled. The overwhelming sensation was that of an unrelenting sun beating down on his face and the boiling rock he lay on.
Where the hell am I?
"Just kill him, and then let's get out of here!" yelled a whiny female voice with a Jersey twang, but with the rough tone of a chain smoker.
Zed wasn't awake enough to take in what she had said, and it still felt like a dream. He tried to open his eyes, but the light was too much. He felt someone grab his clothing around his chest and pull open his jacket violently. He heard the threads snap as several buttons were ripped from the garment. Zed had no idea where he was or how he had got there, but he knew he was in serious trouble. He forced his eyes open, and the light assaulted his eyes. His only saving grace was the little shadow his attacker gave him.
Before he could make out the man's face, he was hit by a disgusting smell. A mixture of old sweat, gasoline, and foul breath. It was almost enough to vomit.
"Get off me," he muttered.
He meant it to be louder, but his mouth was dry, and he was barely able to get the few decibels out that he managed. His eyes were just about adjusting to the environment and getting into focus to see a dirt-ingrained clenched fist heading right for his face. It caught him completely by surprise as it landed squarely on his nose. The impact smashed the back of his head down against the rock he had awoken on.
The impact dulled his senses and caused his vision to briefly blackout. The dull thud echoed in his ears. It almost sounded as though his skull was splitting on the rock. He felt his upper body being lifted up once more in preparation to smash him down again. He knew he couldn't take much more of this. He didn't know why he was being attacked, but the severity of the situation was really kicking in.
His body stopped mid air, as it reached the apex and his attacker was happy his head was high enough to finish him off. It felt like the end. He didn't know why, but he didn't seem to have any fight in him. But in those last seconds, some survival instinct buried deep within his soul seemed to wrestle control of his mind, and without even knowing it his right hand shot upwards and grasped his attacker by the throat. The man still drove his head down to try and split it open, but could not get any strength into it as Zed kept his head raised and his arm locked out. His shoulder blades still struck the rock hard, but he held on for his life so his attacker could get no strength into the throw.
Zed's eyes were wide open now as the adrenaline rushing through his body brought him back into reality like a shot, and he gasped as the wind was taken out of him. His attacker was dressed like a homeless punk who had been drifting across state for years on end. His clothes were ripped and worn out, but he wore a thick steel nose ring that hung down over his upper lip. His hair was shaved into a short Mohawk and looked so crudely done as to cut his scalp in many places.
Who the hell is this guy?
The last thing he remembered was a lawn party behind a perfect white picket fence, the sound of a child's laughter, the sizzling of meat on the barbecue, and a cold beer at his lips.
How has it come to this? How
have I even got here?
None of it made any sense, but he was brought back to reality from his attacker's fists once again smashing into his face. He was gasping for air, as he grew weak. Zed's grasp around his neck was clamped like a vice. He never remembered having such strength, but the psychotic attacker seemed completely unable to free himself from his grasp.
Another fist struck into his face, and he tasted blood as it seeped out from his nose and mouth. He could see his attacker was getting weaker and going a little pale as he was starved of oxygen. It was a horrible sight, and yet somehow he took pleasure in it. It was an alien feeling that made him feel a little sick, but he didn't let that stop him.
"What do you want from me?" he asked.
No response came as the man still struggled against his grasp. He grabbed Zed's hand with both of his and tried with all his strength to prise them off his neck, but to no avail. He reached down for something on his body and pulled out a knife. It was a fixed blade kitchen instrument with just four inches of sharpened edge. It was black with dirt and old rust, but its point and edge glistened where it had been recently sharpened. He stabbed forwards towards Zed. He had no time to do much, no room to manoeuvre. All he could do was put his left hand in the path of the thrust to save his body. The blade pierced his palm and passed right through so that the point came out close to his face, and his own blood dripped down onto him. He'd had enough. He let go of the man's throat and quickly snapped the back of his fist into his face to disorientate him.
That was just enough to make him lessen his grasp on the weapon a little. Zed grabbed the index finger wrapped around the grip and snapped it back until it broke. The man screamed in agony and let go of the blade. Zed quickly drew it out, causing his own blood to spurt out from the open wound. He thrust the blade into the man's chest so that it drove deep. He rolled and came up on top of his attacker until their roles were reversed as he drew the blade out. Blood was pouring from the wound, but he did not hesitate to plunge the blade back into the man with five more unrelenting and brutal thrusts until he was finished.
He finally slumped over the body in relief and tried to regain his breath. He righted himself and looked at his hands once more. The other man's blood horrified him more than his own. He never remembered harming a soul before, and yet his hands seemed to act in a way that his brain was unfamiliar with. He had shown no hesitation in killing his attacker, but he didn't know why. Any time he had to think it over was soon torn from him.
"Hey, watcha doin?"
It was the woman whose muffled voice he first heard when he had begun to wake. He got up to his knees and rested down on his feet as he turned to face the woman. She wore the pleated tartan skirt of a schoolgirl, but it was dirty and torn, and she looked closer to thirty than thirteen. She wore a camouflage shirt open with the sleeves rolled up, and tall leather boots with two-inch thick soles. Her face was adorned with black make up, and she held a hatchet in one hand. She looked like something out of a horror movie and wasn't a lot cleaner than the body of the man he was lying over.
She looked at him in surprise, before turning her attention down to the bloody mess below him. Her gaze quickly turned back to Zed, and she glared at him with daggers in her eyes. He could see she wanted his blood. He stood up and backed away from the body, leaving the knife still embedded in his victim's chest. She took a few paces nearer so she could get a better look at the body on the ground. There was no doubt he was dead.
From a standing position, he was now able to get a better idea of where they were. He was on top of a rock formation in what looked like the dry dusty barren lands of Nevada, but he couldn't tell for certain. To his back was a fair drop, and he looked back to the woman. She was psyching herself up for a fight.
"I didn't want this. I didn't...I didn't start this," pleaded Zed.
But his words seemed lost on the woman. He could hear footsteps coming from behind her, and another man who was clearly with her scrambled up the rocks. He rushed to the side of the dead man and looked even more stricken than she did. This man was bald and dressed as roughly as the others, but had a deep scar running from his nose, past his eye, and up over his bald head. He drew out the knife from the body and strode forward towards Zed with a war cry so loud and high pitched it was terrifying.
This man came at him with a frenzy the likes of which he had never experienced, and the woman was already following close behind. He knew if he had any chance of surviving, he could only take on one at a time. The scarred man swung a heavy and clumsy thrust towards his head. Zed ducked under and pushed with all his force so that his attacker was thrown off the plateau. He saw him vanish off the edge and smash into a rock before disappearing out of sight, but he didn't have a moment to waste. He spun back around to see the woman's hatchet swinging for him in a strong horizontal arc. He backed off and almost went over the edge himself, but he took another step and spun out and back towards his first victim.
"Why are you doing this? I haven't done anything to you. I don't even know you!" he screamed.
She didn't seem interested. She let out a banshee like scream and charged towards him. It was as if nothing mattered in her existence but killing him. He couldn't understand it, but all he could do was try and survive. She was swinging the hatchet from one side to another. He backed off a few paces when finally one of the cuts clipped his chest and opened up a few inches long. He winced in pain as he stumbled back nursing his wound.
For a moment she stopped and circled him. He had hoped she had seen some sense, but he wasn't so lucky. She was merely torturing her prey. She came rushing at him once again. He threw off his coat and wrapped her arm as she came at him. It quickly entangled the weapon and her arm and brought them face-to-face. To his amazement she head-butted him on his already sore and bloody nose. The pain was excruciating, but he held onto the axe with everything he had. He pulled back and wrenched it and the coat away from them both. But as he turned his attention back to her, she was airborne and descending on him with a punch that hit him just to the side of his left eye. She wore a line of sovereign rings that struck like brass knuckles.
Zed could see another swing coming for his face, and he wasn't sure he could stay conscious through many more like it. He ducked aside at the last minute. That threw her a little off balance as her shoulder went into the powerful strike. He stepped around her and slipped his right arm round her neck to lock her. But she immediately resisted and stamped down on his right foot with her heavy boots. It was enough to weaken his grasp and allow her to drive her elbow into his stomach.
She spun out of his grasp and punched at the open wound on his chest where she could see the blood dripping from the cut. He reeled in pain, but it also made him furious. He had tried everything to prevent a fight, but now there was nothing left but to fight for survival. She swung a heavy right towards him, and he blocked it with his left and delivered a quick succession of three punches to her face. The third came close to knocking her out as her legs buckled and she fell in towards him.
One again he locked her neck, and this time she was too weak to fight it. He held firm as she tried to hit back but to no avail and finally passed out. He released his grip and let her drop to the ground before slumping his shoulders and sighing in relief.
But even as he let himself believe for a moment that all would be okay, the man who had gone over the edge scrambled up onto the top to face off against him. His left shoulder was separated with the bone driven upwards. It was a nasty sight, and yet he seemed to shrug it off. He stood firm for a moment and just growled at Zed. He may be injured, but he looked just as dangerous as before, and Zed was now very aware of how tired and weak he was.
He looked down to see the woman's hatchet not far from his feet. Without a word, he snatched it up. As he got upright, the man was sprinting towards him. Zed drew the hatchet back and launched it with immense force in a straight-line throw. The blade embedded in the man's skull and snapped his head back like he had been clotheslined. His legs flew up in the air as his back hit the ground, and he slid to a halt, the blade still embedded in his head. Blood seeped out over the rock in a growing pool around his body. There was no doubt he was dead.
Zed could only shake his head. He was beginning to feel sick once again now the adrenaline was starting to die down. He never remembered killing anyone before, but then he didn't remember much at all of anything around him.
"Why? What have I done to deserve this?" he asked himself.