The lieutenant wrote down every detail, every nuance. Minister General Ike had expressed that it was very important that he did so, and seemed to know what, when and where things might happen. His hands shook while he wrote, as his frustrations and feelings of helplessness struggled with his duty. While the strength of the Fallow Hope waned, other religions grew stronger in its stead. Ike’s base of operations was always on the move, harried by the aggressive actions of Raiders of late, and the zed that came out of the what the DJs who went by the 91s called “the Clover-field”. He had sent patrols to stem the tide of the zed from time to time, but he had recently pulled the troops back because of his current losses, at the Minister General’s request. He took a deep breath, and asserted calm cold control of his ire. He would need to assess the loyalty of Fallow in the region, and plan where he could send the clergy to gather more to the faith. He knew of some loyal in El Dorado, even in the midst of the rest of the Fallow that still seemed to waver on the edge of heresy. As the Saltwise back home would say, any port in the storm.
She moved silently, among the craggy edge of the massive concrete road. The DJs that claimed this area as their own had settled down for the night. She liked coming out here, alone in her thoughts, and far from the sounds of the sea. Here, there was another sort of sound, of a hundred thousand voices that had lost the power of speech moaning in endless despair, hungering for the flesh of the living. The moon was waning, shedding very little light on the shapes in the darkness below. Still, you could see it if you looked. The huge mass of the undead, milling about in a huge crater that the road still managed to span. Her mother had once told her the story of the time before the Fall, when the road was strong and caravans of all sorts had zipped along the road. This particular part was called a cloverleaf, where two main roads came together. She supposed that’s why the DJs called the pit far below her the Clover-field. Or maybe it had to do with the singular massive zed that claimed the crater as it’s own. Her friend Eli was convinced an old Telling Visionist play told of it’s coming, like some sort of prophecy - and said the crater was named off of that. It stood there in the mass of shamblers that brushed up against it like ocean waves against the pier she called home, seemingly an enormous statue erected with the might of the Pre-fall world. Suddenly, the roar of a tank grabbed it’s attention and it moved, and took a ponderous step. The road she nestled on swung gently as the force of the impact traveled up the steel and concrete remains high in the air.
Cursing under his breath, the Genjian fired another silent volley of the paint into the horde of zed. A tank had sensed him from his perch in the tree that he had carefully selected, and had bellowed in rage, charging him. With the ancient remains of the road far above him casting massive shadows onto this pit of zed, he used its cover to disappear in the darkness and backtracked quickly and carefully. Coster had told him there was no more ammunition, and he was almost out of the paint markers he was allotted that he used to mark the ones that were headed up the particular path that he was watching. This path was the beginning of the Drive Thru, the one the Herder Raiders occupied during the spring months, luring a great many of the zed in the Clover-field to the settlement of El Dorado. Yet even without the Raiders leading them out of the pit, the amount of zed that wandered down the path was staggering. Coster had seen a great opportunity to make some money, and help out the only settlement open to travelers on the Broken Coast. But the shipment hadn’t come, and so the paint marking guns were pulled out and used instead. He was soon joined by others of his unit, as they moved silently and quickly from the painted forms of the zed horde.
The young boy, his will making him unseen to others, watched the enormous zed move slowly by. He knew it was hunting him, and had been for months, like so many others before. He kept his distance, but did enjoy the cat and mouse he played with it. He kept it from the houses of the farmsteads and from El Dorado itself, because it had a weird effect on the electricity and the light that people made with it. And he did like having light around, even in the distance, when night fell. It made him feel like old Santa was coming again, when the lights were twinkling in the darkness of the cold winter months. His head snapped up, as he dropped from his reverie to his immediate surroundings. He could feel the rumbling of the earth as some of the zed that followed the dark one, dug into the earth and vanished. Most of the time they just walked on the surface, next to it. He was too far for them to notice him, so there must be something that had grabbed their attention to make them burrow into the ground. He heard it then. A faint noise of something wheeled, but not with a sound of a motor that DJs would use, or the smell of Texas Tea burning into the air. Kind of like a wagon, being pulled.
Lucas pulled his R2 unit behind him, keeping close to the shadow that the trees offered. But not too closely. He had left El Dorado in the middle of the Trade Weekend, and when the sun had set, was walking past the area he had avoided coming into town earlier that day, that was filled with a green cloud of noxious gas. He didn’t see the gas this time, and that was close to his undoing, as he started to follow the path the bright moon had illuminated. He saw the sign then, on an old piece of wood. He remembered his lesson with Old Ben, who had taught him how to read, and mouthed out the words that were painted on it. The Swamp. Beware of poison. Beware of zed. Beware of the path. He felt a slight tug on the handle of his R2 unit. He whipped around quickly, as it had never done that, hoping to see the lights and beeping sounds that came from an R2 unit from the stories of old. Instead, he realized that the wheels of his R2 unit were sinking slowly into the marshy ground around them. He pulled his own feet clear, and then ripped the unit from it’s own precarious perch. That’s when it had touched him, a tendril of growth in the dense foliage around them. A wall of vines and vegetation was slowly moving to close the path he behind him. He grabbed R2 and ran.
So he continued on. He has promised the TV priest, the one with the helmet made up of wires that clearly were shaped to gather the Signal, to come talk with him the next trade weekend. He knew he could not stop for long, so he would keep to the road and cover of darkness, sleeping when he could. As he was leaving the environs of the town, near the tunnel that many called the “Gate to El Dorado”, he felt the ground shake beneath him. He thought about investigating, and then remembered the things that could dig under the ground. He grabbed R2’s handle, and ran, the unit bouncing off the road as the little wheels hit bumps and stones in his haste. After he had put in some distance, he laughed out loud, remembering the times that Victor and he had run from trouble, before he had found his R2 unit and his calling. He remembered the day that Victor had left for the Sainthood, becoming a Postman, and heading out to the wastes. He knew it was Victor’s namesake that drove him to do it, but still he wanted to join in the adventures of his friend, away from the relatively boring area where they grew up. To do something meaningful with his life. In part, that’s what had driven Lucas to El Dorado, hoping to come across him on his paths through the wastes of the Broken Coast. He hoped that the person who he had given Victor’s postman bag was right, and that his friend was still alive somewhere. His hand reached into his pocket, where he fingered the ring that he had found in the bottom of the bag. He had kept it, the family heirloom that Victor said was a curse. He pulled it out, now curious as to the word that was engraved on the surface. Still new to reading, he sounded out the name out loud.
In the quiet of the night…. under the light of the full moon... slowly.