Iron Wasteland

Following the accidental launch of every nuclear weapon on Earth after a computer virus crippled the world's systems, humanity has been decimated. With enough warning for people to enter special shelters throughout the world, the human race managed to endure.
For a hundred years the human race remained in the bunkers, until, when it was deemed safe enough to leave, they left them, reading to rebuild the human race. But in a radiation-filled world, dangers await around every crumbling corner.

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4. Chapter 3: Stories

Daniel jumped up onto the barstool – despite Kendrick’s insistence he didn’t – and prepared to listen.

Sniff barked and then curled up at the bottom of the barstool, as if wanting to listen as well.

‘Good dog,’ Daniel said, smiling.

Smith also smiled at the dog, and then at Daniel. ‘So you want to hear about my journeys, do you?’

Daniel nodded and leaned across the bar. ‘I would, yes.’

‘Very well.’ Smith took a deep breath and started his story. ‘My journeys started nine years ago, not long after getting out of the bunker. Being cooped up in there made me yearn for adventure, and I was sure the world would be a strange, alien place once we were out. I wanted to find out how much of the world had changed.’ A dreamy expression appeared on Smith’s face and he smiled. ‘In the bunker many families had pictures of their ancestor’s in pre-fallout areas: tropical beaches, snow-capped mountains, and even under the sea. They were amazing. But I knew I’d never see them.

‘When the bunker finally opened ten years ago, I was one of the first out. You know what it’s like when you leave the bunker. Big ol’ barren landscape spreading here there and everywhere with a few remnants of old civilisation sticking up out of the ashen sand.’

Daniel nodded. ‘And the strange animals…’

‘Yes, the strange animals. You know, when we came out, there were these…cows I think they were once called. Well you know what? They were all bony, with blood red skin. I think the fallout turned them carnivorous, ‘cause about three of them charged at us, and I’m pretty sure they wanted us dead. Probably would’ve killed us if there hadn’t been some soldiers in the bunker with us.’

He looked at Daniel’s shocked face and smiled.

‘Oh yes,’ he continued. ‘We had a military presence. Been training people since we went into that damn bunker, apparently. I got a bit of training from them, but apparently I wasn’t soldier material.’ He scoffed. ‘They’d sure think differently now though.

‘Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes. Out of the bunker. Well, we killed these three creatures, and some scientist guy – from the military fellas – told us they were safe to eat. So that’s what we did. We ate the cow-things. After a few days in the area, the military guys decided to set up a form of base, like a little town, using the bunker as a basis. So for a year we salvaged and built, making a small town up there. The soldiers used some old radios to contact the old government but, of course, there is no old government, so they got nothing.

‘This made them go a bit funny. They set up their own miniature government with the army in charge. They issued curfews and started executing people. It was horrible! So, one day, I decided to leave. I took what valuable things I could fine and started heading south, away from the “death town”, as I call it.

‘Well, on that journey I met many other wanderers, and we traded, went our separate ways. One day, I met this fellow who had a big old rifle.’ He patted the gun on his back. ‘He had no ammunition for it, and was looking to trade for ammo or a new weapon. I had ammo, but the only weapon I had was an old rusty machete. Telling them man that was all I had got me the rifle, and I never saw him again.

‘And I continued trading with people, getting ammunition and weapons, and even this hat. And I’m glad I’ve had ammunition and weapons, trust me. There are mutants and raiders out there, as well as a few radiation-crazed wanderers. It’s no easy life, but I’ve been travelling so long now, I don’t think I could ever settle down.’

Smith leaned back in his chair and finished the brandy, fixing Daniel with a jovial look.

‘That’s really, really cool!’ Daniel exclaimed. ‘So you’ve killed people? How many?’

‘Too many for my liking,’ Smith replied, his mood becoming darker. ‘Listen, boy. It’s no easy feat to kill a man. You may think it is, but it’s not. You’re safe here, in this town. Those wastes of reddened sand…you don’t want to go out there. It’s unforgiving, and you’ll probably die pretty quickly.’

Sniff whined under the bar, and Smith reached down to comfort him.

Daniel watched the wanderer for a moment, and then smiled. ‘Are you headed to another town next?’

‘I should think so. Why?’

‘Well…’ Daniel paused at looked down at Sniff, who was now a bit more relaxed. ‘Can I go with you? I want a tiny bit of adventure in my life, and I’m not going to get it here.’

‘Look, kid, I don’t think…’

‘Just to the next town. Please.’ Daniel sat impatiently, and saw Sniff was also gazing at Smith, as if awaiting an answer as well.

‘Got any family here?’ Smith asked.

‘No.’

‘Fine. Just to the next town, though. No exceptions. I’m leaving tomorrow at dawn. Be ready.’ Smith stood up, taking his bag and gun with him, and headed to the town’s “hotel”: a rundown place called the “Mouse and Flea”.

Daniel watched him go and ruffled Sniff’s fur.

‘Finally, Sniff. We’re out of here.’

Sniff barked excitedly and licked Daniel’s hand.

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