The Master

The line about running away or staying to fight popped into my head and a story formed around it.

A young boy, Sam Chambers, is orphaned and left alone in a post-apocalyptic world. He meets someone who teaches him to survive and use the similar and particular parapsychological gift they both possess. They form an alliance and gain an enemy, and somewhere along the way, become like family.

But not all is as it appears, and sometimes trust can be misplaced...

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2. In the beginning

 

I remember bits and pieces of my old life.  I was only about 7 or 8 when the war started, and then things went completely to hell.  I can barely remember going to school and having friends, eating at a table with my brothers, and sleeping in a warm comfy bed.  I had a bicycle that I was pretty good at riding, and I could skate and rollerblade a bit, and I liked to watch television.  I don’t remember the tv shows anymore, but I remember a few movies I watched.  Especially the ones dad liked so much.

Then everyone got nervous and we weren’t in school anymore.  Something big had happened down south in the big cities, and it made everything bad.  Dad said there wasn’t enough food, and I would cry that I was hungry.  He would yell at me, and I would cry in my room, alone in the dark. 

Oh yeah – we’d had electric lights before, but now we were in the dark all the time.  No tv, no movies, no lights.  No cold food or frozen dinners.  We ate things out of cans or heated over a fire we would light in the back yard for those first few days.

And then it got even worse than that.

My brothers and I heard mom and dad talking in hushed voices about the threat from the east and that they were advancing northward and westward toward us, taking over everything.  He said he’d heard that the government was going to nuke everything to turn them away, and we had to get away now.  They would be here in days, and here was where they were going to set off the bombs.

I didn’t know what it meant, but mom and dad spent the next few days gathering everything and driving it somewhere.  They came back to sleep at night and listen to the battery powered radio very quietly in their room.  Then mom would cry and dad would try to comfort her.  But if I cried and he heard me he would come in and yell at me to shut up and grow up, I needed to be a man now!  I wasn’t very happy.  But now that I am older, I can understand him a bit better.

After a few days of their trips away and back, we were all loaded into the car.  They wouldn’t say where we were going, and they never told the neighbours either, except for Mr. Jacobs.  He was old though, and he probably forgot by the time we were gone 10 minutes, so I don’t really know why dad said anything to him.  Maybe he needed to say goodbye and that was the safest way to do it and feel OK about it.

I remember us driving out of town and seeing lots of marooned cars, and in the sky behind us was a lot of black smoke in the sky, scattered across the horizon.  I asked dad what it meant, but he just turned up the stereo and never answered.

I was actually looking out the back window when the first bomb went off.  It was super bright and hurt my eyes.  I closed them and ducked down, and then dad started swearing and speeding up, mom started crying, and my brothers and I all ducked down and whimpered.

Then there was a deafening roar, and the car swerved.  Dad swore some more, barely audible over the sounds of wind rushing and screaming in my ears, and the next thing I knew, it was quiet, and I was alone.

I don’t know where I was, or how I had gotten there, but I was alone in a field of charred grass with nothing else around for as far as I could see.  My family was gone, and I never did find any trace of them.  The car was nowhere near me, and there weren’t even any footprints out here in the wasteland that surrounded me.  The sky was black and oppressive, seeming to press down on me no matter where I looked, and I didn’t know if it was day or night.  It was cold for a few days or weeks or something, after that, and I hid myself in this old house I saw way off in the distance after two days of walking in what I thought was a straight line away from where we’d been.  It took me a long time to get there, and luckily, there was a basement that had canned food, lots of bottled water and other things to survive on.  I ate and stayed there for a while, from what I remember, just eating and surviving. 

There was a book about Artificial Intelligence that I remember reading in that house, that explained programming logic and that kind of thing.  I can remember some of the pictures, but I don’t remember anything that it said anymore.  I think I read it, trying to understand it and how to program.  The language made it seem a little like my Lego Robot I’d had.

I also don’t remember much of anything after that except waking up under the whipping of the Slave Captor, and backing away, wishing something would fall and hit him, and my wish came true when the beam above him gave way and crashed down on his head, knocking him out cold.  It took me only moments to get to my feet and start running, trying to figure out how to get out of that labyrinth of caves.  When I found the entrance, there were more Slave Captors outside who looked at me briefly as I tore out of there and down a rocky incline, away to freedom.  I’m sure they followed, but I never looked back as I ran and stumbled and rolled down that hill and into the dense forest below.

I was a bit older than I can remember being before, probably around 12 or so – I’m only guessing, because for a few years I was pretty much on my own, scavenging in the towns when and where I could, sneaking into places and stealing what I could, mostly avoiding other people.  I had a fear of them that I didn’t understand, but anytime I saw someone, I ran in the other direction as quickly and as far as I could manage until I was hidden.

No matter how hard I tried, the years between reading that book in the abandoned house and waking up under the whip of the slaver were gone.  I had no recollection at all aside from my fear of people.  I had a knack with simple machines, it turned out, but I had no memory of anything before my life as a lonely kid trying to survive.

And then that stupid AI walker started chasing me, reciting my name as it chased me down.  “Sam… Cha… Chambers!” it would yell at me, the voice unit in the thing apparently damaged.  The voice came out surrounded by static and would fade between too quiet and too loud.  I guessed I must have been partially responsible for the damage it had sustained.  Why else would it be chasing me around?  The head was dented, completely caved in on one side, and the left arm was broken off between the elbow and shoulder, metal fragments twisted, broken and blackened as though it had been on fire when the arm was lost.  I don’t remember ever seeing an AI walker before, so when it started saying my name and walking towards me, of course my first instinct was to turn tail and run as fast as I could!

The thing tracked me down about 5 times over the next few years, and each time I narrowly escaped its clutch.  It even had a compartment in its abdomen that was open as it reached down to grab me this one time, which kinda freaked me out.  I don’t know if it was trying to capture me or eat me.  I never stayed long enough to find out its intentions and just kept on running.

And that was when I met the Master and I stopped running away from people – for the most part, at least.

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