S.T.A. L.. K. E. R


1. A Dead Mans Treasure

~~Standing over a dead body wasn’t exactly my idea of fun. However, since recently turning events I learnt not to fuss over dead bodies. I didn’t have a strong stomach, but I knew how important it was to selvage anything that could buy your next meal.
       Quickly, I check the man’s pockets hopping for a small hand gun. With no luck I check his backpack and find it heavy with anomaly artefacts. I almost smile; they are worth more than weapons on the market because of their qualities and strange effects on the human body. Being the main source of stalker riches they are being favoured due to the danger of high exposure to radiation when hunting for them. 
     Placing them in my own backpack, I examined how the man might have died. His head was torn off; it lay a few feet from where I stood with his body. While I ran through the list of predators that could have caused such a large damage, I only come up with two. Snorkel face; so known for the gas masks that clung to them as they ran on all four legs and arms.  They were creature that were once human but turned crazy and animal like when they were exposed by high levels of radiation. And Piggott’s; a cross between pigs and dogs, no one really knows which because of the radiation tens to turn anything seemly normal into something horrible and unrecognisable. Yet, I knew that if it had been the Piggott’s they would have devolved the whole body and dragged it off to feed its pack. So I was left with unanswered questions once again.
    Lately, there had been more and more strange and unexplained killings for the last three weeks I’ve been here; bodies torn to pieces without bite marks or without harsh scratches buried in their skin.
    Turning to my companion I realised what I hadn’t before; Moylan knew the victim and was drenching his face with his own tears. I knew how it felt to lose someone that meant the world to you; it was like a part of you were missing, and that no matter what you said or did could fill that hole in your chest. I can only image now that, to him, the world was evil and had no hope of being good again. That it’s worthless trying to make it better.
   A sharp intake of air was sucked in quickly before Moylan said, “We didn’t even get to finish our card game.” He stood there standing still for a while with his head down whispering his goodbye. I didn’t try to listen because I knew that the words would remind me of how I had looked at my loved one and said the exact same words.
   Carefully, I walked towards Moylan and placed my hand on his arm, trying to pull him away from the body. I led him towards the safety of the Oman Ship, a sort of safe house. It’s old and rusted body held out against the weather and radiation. Oman Ship was large enough to home almost fifty people, making it a good place to trade valuables for food.
      As I drew closer I realised something was wrong. The wind was weak and soon became nothing at all. I looked up at the grey sky and knew that we better head inside before the storm gets any closer. Still holding Moylan with one hand I use the other to check the radiation monitor. My guts turned when I realised it had shot up in the last ten minutes.
     When we reached the ships decking, a man who stood behind the thick metal door shouted, “Holster your weapon stalker!” Not wanting to stay outside any longer than I had to, I shouted, “Are you stupid? There’s a storm out there, let us in!” The man’s face recalled in a frond and opened the door when he realised who it was. Letting us in he closes the door after us and asks us to surrender our weapons. I did, knowing full well what would happen if I didn’t. We would get them back when we left anyway so I wasn’t too angry about it.
       Surveying the area I found that most of the people in the ship were males and were young, no older than thirty. A few girls were slumped against the walls with stale bread held tightly in their dirty hands, some even shaking; short term side effect of being out in the radiation for too long.
      Aware that I’m often regarded as vulnerable, I held my head high, and looked straight into their eyes hopping that my eyes didn’t show my fear of being robed. I was a seventeen year old girl, who didn’t go hunting much before this disaster happened, and who also looked small and fragile, they would obesely think that I’ll be easy to robe. And I guess if I hadn’t had Moylan, who is six feet tall with a large build, next to me I would already killed for my possessions and food. Yet, I doubted that if someone were to attack me, in Moylan’s current state, he would be much of a help. Despite this I still stood close to him either way.
       As often as I had come to safe houses I’ve never been to one that hosted so many people. There were usually twenty people, most of them young because they could adapt better the changed environment then the elderly.
      Somehow, Moylan had pulled himself together as he pulled me towards the trading both, which is a glass panel with a small whole in the wall just big enough to fit your hands through. The tall man that stood behind the panel had his face pinched in suspicion as we drew closer. 
    There were people who coward away from events like this and gave in to the fear that surrounded them, but as I looked in this man’s cold blue eyes I knew that he was not one of them. He was the one who stood above the rest and took advantage of vulnerable people to get what he wanted, and by the look of it, he was used to getting what he wanted. 
   Before either of us could talk the man spoke, “What can I do for you?” I knew that he wanted to take control of the conversation and I let him.
    I took out the few artefacts that I collected from the dead body and placed them on the bench. It seemed almost stupid that they were worth more than something that keeps us alive and gives us energy to live.
   The man reached for them but was stopped when Moylan grabbed hold of it. For a second I thought it was because they come off a dead body, a body that was once his friend. But then he said, “Tell me what you are offering first.” His voice had taken on an authority and had me almost answer without thinking.
      It didn’t however; affect the man behind the counter. Bemused he said, “You don’t trust easily. And I can only image why.” The man gave Moylan a meaningful look and for a second I thought he would cry again, but I was wrong. Moylan just went on staring at the man.
     “Okay. I’ll give you . . .” The man tested Moylan by softly pulling the artefact from his gasp. To my surprise Moylan let him. “Two cans of tuna and four slices of bread, unless of cause you want vodka.” I knew what the man was trying to do; offer Moylan an opportunity while he is vulnerable to get drunk and make a mistake. I wasn’t about to let that happen.
     I pushed the artefact towards the man and said what I should have ages ago, “We’ll take the food.” The man frowned at me as if he didn’t know how I had gotten there but he nodded. Placing them in a cabinet and locking it, he takes out our order. As soon as I could reach them I grabbed them from out of the whole in the panel too greedily. I knew I shouldn’t show how much I hadn’t eaten but I couldn’t care any less in that moment when the dried bread reached my lips.
     While I chewed the bread I picked up my backpack and placed the other food in it, but left out the tuna for Moylan. He took it gratefully and walked to the far side of the wall. Sliding down next to him I eat the rest of my dried bread, while he eats his can of tuna.
     We didn’t talk to each other, other than when Moylan offered his can of tuna to me, I had shook my head; I didn’t want to take something out of his mouth when he had a tough day, and he knew it. He didn’t like that I pitied him but didn’t ask again knowing I won’t change my mind.
     When my stomach was filled, I tried hard to fight against the sleep that I desperately needed and I succeeded for a few hours before my brain and body demanded I slept. Apparently feeling the same, Moylan got into a better position and fell asleep.


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