Sunday Archive: The Walkers, Part Two
Mason Selano was a driver. It’s what he used to do, back when the world was crumbling. Now he moved supplies down from the mountain outpost and kept the whining maggots in the city alive. That was the worst part about the apocalypse – all the soft-bellied, spineless wage slaves grouping together, never learning a thing. Mason would have preferred to be alone, but that just wasn’t an option. They were a people under siege. It would have been better if everyone had died, leaving him to wander the Earth. That was a recurring dream he was having before things got ugly. But no such luck in this new world. Once in the community, these maggots wouldn’t stand a loner. They’d think he was turning into a Walker, or cooking up some other nefarious plan like those kids back in 14 who blew up the water tower. They were hung from the smoking ruins. Amazing what maggots could do when they freaked out. He hung at the bar most nights, keeping to himself but at least he was in the public eye. Let them know your eyes aren’t clouded and you aren’t building bombs in your sink and they’ll leave a man pretty much alone. Pretty much.
His heart sank when he saw two of the black suited Council guards outside the door of his four bedroom house. He walked past them without an acknowledgement. What the fuck, right? Let them shoot him in the back.
Inside, sitting in his favorite chair, was the grey haired Councilor Anderson. He smiled and nodded at the Republic’s glorious leader.
“Nice place Mr. Selano.”
“I put the original owner in a bag, carted her away to the fire pit.” Mason replied grimly, crossing to the glass bar on wheels that he had found in the upstairs bedroom. It was stocked with all the top shelf stuff, probably a few grand worth of booze sitting on the three frail shelves. That was one good thing about the apocalypse – every man was a king.
“Well,” Anderson said, “Those were difficult days.”
“Got a house out of it.” Mason said, pouring himself three fingers of scotch. “Before the migration, I was living in an apartment half as big as this living room. I could piss, make toast and answer the door without getting out of bed.”
He sat down in a chair facing Anderson. “I didn’t vote for you, Councilor, so I can’t imagine why you’d be in my house.”
Anderson nodded, smiled, then raised his stupid, bushy eyebrows, “We need you, Selano. We need you to make a run to the Pacific Union.”
Mason shrugged, “You have your boys, why do you need me?”
“Eighteen months ago, our doctors developed a cure for lorimiasis. We’ve been producing it since and, now, we have sufficient quantity to distribute amongst our own people and the people of the Pacific Union. We intend to launch a coordinated offensive with the Union to cure the Walkers in the wilderness. We’ve already taken out a healthy chunk of the Northern camp. We’ve reclaimed nearly 300 people and they are currently being brought back to health, both physically and mentally, in a forward position outside Cheyenne.”
Mason took a drink of the scotch. That’s about all he could think of doing at that moment. Anderson’s words rattled breathlessly in his head. “Reclaimed?”
“They’re alive. They’re Human again. After years of running around out there, they’re in pretty bad shape…and, thankfully, they have no memory since they were first infected. But they’re alive.”
Anderson nodded, “It’s the new world, Selano.”
Mason felt like shouting out. Jesus, he hated these people. He hated the old world… Now a cure could bring it all back and he felt like dancing and singing. No more Walkers, no more fascist pockets of paranoia, no more running scared. Still, though, there was a catch, right? Oh, yes, there always was.
“I still don’t see why you need me.”
Anderson’s smile faded, his bushy brows knitted down around his little piggy eyes, “The Walkers are tightening their grip.”
“Yes…?” That wasn’t news.
“They’re gearing up to destroy us. Their first job is to cut off communication between the Pacific Union and ourselves. Last month, they took the junction down at Albuquerque. Wiped out everyone in the community down there. They surprised us on the monthly run three weeks ago.”
Anderson nodded sadly.
“So with your drivers gone, you’ve come to me. Why?”
“Because you’re a sociopath, Mr. Selano. You have serious issues, and a fierce determination to stand by them. You’re also a racer, and a criminal. You know how to shoot, kick, scratch and speed your way out of any situation. You were an outlaw on the highways a decade ago. Can you name anyone else in the Republic better suited to evade the Walkers and get the shipment through?”
“Everyone here is a spineless egghead, Anderson.”
“That’s right, Selano. We’re lacking the criminal element. The deviant minds. In these times, that’s a disadvantage.”
“You’re asking me to go on a suicide mission to California…to save the world?”
“Tell me, Selano, how long do you think we can last? They cut off I-70 to Utah, they’ve closed in from Wyoming and Kansas and now they hold Albuquerque. How long until they’re outside your door?”
“Soon enough, I suppose.”
“The Walkers don’t care if they take down a former wage slave or a low grade rebel like yourself. You and I are equal in their eyes.”
Mason finished his scotch. He stared at the bottom of the glass for a few, long minutes. There was nothing particularly on his mind, except for the thoughts of adventure. Finally, something to break up the day. Get him off of the mountain supply run. Hell, get him away from paranoid central. And, of course, the bastard was right. There really wasn’t much of a future.
He looked up at Anderson, “Do you want a drink, old man?”
* * * *
Selano sat in the truck and glared at the hanger doors. In this old airport hanger, it still felt like the old world. A bottle of rum was under the seat, the world inside was musty and hot. Out there, it was spring paradise. You wouldn’t think that Humanity was under siege by hordes of mindless cannibals. As a quaint homage of the past world and, perhaps, the world to come, the truck was equipped with satellite guidance and a fancy computer that had about 20 hours worth of music packed up into it. Selano had told Anderson to stack it up with music from the 90’s and the first few years of the 21st C. Just like he’d do on a cross country haul. Just like normal. Of course, you didn’t have to go far to lose track of the real world. The quarters behind him were packed full of supplies and weaponry. He’d be using those guns, too. The Walkers weren’t mindless zombies like in those goddamned movies, they meant business.
He turned on the GPS and watched the display as it told him to hang tight. All those satellites were still up there. There were people still up there, too. A space shuttle and whoever was on the space station, orbiting forever. Or maybe they had tried to come down and were out there somewhere, running their own little colonies. Or their bones were decorating a Walker warlord’s cave. He found himself lost in the thoughts of those spacemen. He’d like to go up and see them. See what they wrote and said right before they died.
Or maybe there was a cure up there, as well. They were working on it when things went into the spiral.
But the Republic would have heard from other people if they were out there. Like DC and LA. And now DC had been quiet and nobody had returned from the cross country run to let them know what was going on. Anderson even sent a plane out there. They lost contact while flying over Pennsylvania.
The passenger door opened and the Indian Isaac Tallhorse climbed into the cab. Selano was chewing on the nail of his small finger and he glanced sideways at the big Indian. The other man grunted hello and closed the door.
Anderson had assigned him a partner. That’s what he was waiting on. This was too much, though. “What, you’re riding with me?”
“You’re a Councilor.”
“This is a suicide mission.”
“No one else has survived.”
“Then you need the best you can get.”
Selano wasn’t going to push it. What did it matter anyway if a Councilor bit the big one on the way west? Hell, this was Mankind’s twilight. Selano could see the big Indian wanting to die like a man instead of with a huddling group of politicians. Maybe the big Indian was the only other person around who wasn’t a cowering sapsucker pining for their old office cubical. He’d buy that answer. What a waste, though.
“Right,” Isaac said, “Let’s role.”
“Hi-ho, Chief.” He pulled the horn and the guards standing around the hanger doors rolled them open. Selano took the truck out onto the tarmac, with a full cargo of drugs rattling behind him, and weaved around town, picking up I-25 south.
The GPS found its mother satellite and the route was displayed on a cheery map. Selano cranked up the stereo and really leaned into it. With all the supply runs to the Pacific Union, the interstates had long ago been cleared. The hulks of cars, five years dead, lay rotting along the shoulder all the way to LA. Everyone fled the cities in the end, so the Interstates were a mess. But while the Walkers pulled together into tribes, the human survivors spent their time being industrious. Back then, when the bodies were fresh and the roads were blocked, there were many more survivors. There was a community in Louisiana, another up in Cheyenne that, eventually, became part of the Republic. The East Coast was strong as hell, too. They had people from Albany to Atlanta and really did a job cleaning up the Walkers and linking everybody back up. But, one by one, they fell to pieces. Mostly due to their own stupidity. Insane farmers wanting to be president, fighting each other and, as groups broke off from the main society, they were encircled and devoured.
It didn’t rest lightly in Selano’s mind that his mission could bring together the Pacific Union and the embattled Republic and, finally, after three years of falling back, put the Walkers on the run.
“You gonna be able to handle this, Selano?” the Indian asked after about an hour of silence.
“What? The drive? Yeah.”
“There’s a new world in the back of this truck, Selano.”
”We’re saving spineless conformists everywhere,” Selano said out of the corner of his mouth, “Make the world safe to be filled up again.”
“I just want to make sure this hating people nonsense won’t get in the way of the mission.”
Selano shrugged, “Hey, chief, I’m glad for the distraction. I hate these people, but you can be sure I hate the Walkers even more. Anyway, spending the rest of my life exterminating Walkers might be fun.”
“Yeah. If we can’t dose them, we’re blowing them up, right? Push them back, reclaim the world, et cetera et cetera.”
Isaac glared at him, “They’re people, Selano. We’re going to cure them.”
Selano laughed and patted the wheel, “That’s wishful thinking, chief. Do you really think you can save them if a full tribe is bearing down on you?”
“You ever see a person turn, Selano?”
“See, me with the Walkers, I got this thing. Anytime a Walker or a potential Walker is around, I go away. I climb a tree. I hide under a rock. I climb a tree and hide under a rock.”
“I’ve seen plenty change. I was with the cleanup in New York, 09. That was a mess, Selano. But now we can turn them back. Now we can give them their lives back.”
“You kids been doing this for a couple years, right? Bringing them back?”
“How come I haven’t seen any of the…what does Anderson call them? ‘Reclaimed Souls’.”
“They’re in Cheyenne, recovering.”
“A few are fine…”
“And the rest?”
“And the rest have been dead for years, Selano. We’re raising them. It takes some adjustment when the last thing you remember is from a year ago or, damn, there’s a few who turned in 08. Their bodies are in terrible shape, too.”