They had come to El Dorado for help. Whatever sickness they had, it was beyond their means to cure. It ate at them, their strength, their ability to protect themselves. It was Whilma’s idea, and as the Front Man, they had taken to it without question. Rosalie was the only one that Whilma would allow to accompany her, and not just because they were inseparable, fast friends since childhood. Her gang bore the Blue Thunder, and they were charged this year to keep it safe, until the next time when a Battle of the Bands came together, and the responsibility given to another group to guard it. They needed every single person they could to insure its safety. They found an old building, and did the best they could to secure it, and then they left.
During the trip, Rosalie kept fighting down the dread that overwhelmed her everytime she let herself think. She thought about the green veins she helped Whilma cover each night with makeup, the horrific reminder of the Raider that had split Whilma wide open a year before. Being this sick reminded Rosalie of their mortality, and she feared for her friend. They did not find the help they sought. Doctors had looked at them, trying to assess their ailments. A moment later, a Natural One fell upon them, yelling “purge and burn!”, and she faded from the world.
She awoke some time later, the horrible dream of the Gravemind fresh upon her. If there was any consolation, it was that the disease no longer affected her, and that she didn’t encounter the zed of her dear friend. She traveled back with reckless abandon, to look for the the rest of the band. She was the Front Man now, and they needed her leadership. As she rounded the corner of the trail where the building stood alongside it, she was reminded of an old proverb.
“Out of the frying pan, and into the fire.”
There were Raiders, everywhere. Some were curiously on the ground rolling in a frenzy, holding their heads and screaming. Others where in a mortal fight with a few standing members of her Band. And the rest...the rest were bashing aside the weakly flailing limbs of her friends. The rest were taking their crude, rusty weapons and slashing at exposed throats. She watched, transfixed in horror, as one of her lovers had his head bashed in, repeatedly, until the flecks of blood that covered the weapon were tinted grey with the color of his brain. She wretched, and that movement made her aware once more. Aware that there was no hope here, and that the Blue Thunder would be lost, possibly destroyed, along with her entire band. She did the only thing she could do. Rosalie ran back the way she came.
He looked at his notes. They had taken years to put together, and he had spent the better portion of his life digging up every last secret from musty rotting remnants of books, trading drugs and whatever he came across for any relic from the Pre-Fall world. He had done many things he wasn’t proud of, and had worked with many different groups over the years. The Keepers had been his longest stint, but in the end he didn’t stay. His drive wasn’t about collating data for simply the sake of having it, or cherishing it. He needed to uncover the truth of the past, and remind what was left of humanity of what had befallen them.
The weather was very pleasant, serene white clouds floating across the white sky. The breeze fluttered through his hair, threatening to tear loose his notes that laid arrayed around him. Here on the southern end of the Broken Coast, there weren’t many tell tale signs of the civilization that had once flourished all around him. Nature had come and taken over the ruins and remnants of that modern, safe world. He had discerned that there had been great empires near at war with another for many years near the time of the Fall, but a standoff had occurred, and while there were brief conflicts, it had not been anything like the great “world wars” that had come before.
That is, until the Fall. The doom of humankind. The rise of the unliving, that existed with an implacable hunger and purpose, to devour the living. And so, the stand off the great empires had abided by ended. In desperation, they threw their armies, their technology, their great winged machines with bombs, the massive floating cities that pounded the shores with powerful explosions, and even the legendary “ICBMs”, some sort of hell-fire that could obliterate a city teeming with millions of people. Millions of people. That thought, frankly, was incomprehensible to him. Here on the Broken Coast, teeming with more people that anywhere else in the Wastes, he had seen at most a few hundred at a time. Millions? The numbers still eluded his comprehension. He could only compare it to the countless blades of new grass that now began to pepper the landscape with green after the brief rains.
That civilization, with its myriad of traditions, religions, and cultures. Gone. And now, humanity started to come together again, in small towns that had survived the initial waves of Zed and Raiders that fell upon it. To rebuild a society, perhaps to try and claim the legacy of the civilization that they only wore the broken, shattered remains of. He knew the truth of it, or at least in the direction it lay. Once upon a time, people only lived one life. Once upon a time, they measured life by the number of contraptions they owned, and the houses they bought and lived in, and the caravans that they drove. Once upon a time, people stayed dead, and didn’t come back to terrorize the living. Then the fairy tale ended and the new reality, more horrific that any story he had come across, erupted over the calm thriving concrete jungle that had been tamed by man. The Broken Coast was named because of a huge upheaval of the earth itself, that violently shrugged off the hellfire rained down on the City of Lost Angels.
He packed his notes carefully. He had already made copies a dozen times over, but he couldn’t be careless with the information he had gathered. He noted the dozen or so zed that had tried to climb the extreme slope of the hill he had rested on. The dead things, these things that should not be, were a painful reminder of the truth he had only briefly touched. For humanity itself is what caused this, they somehow were responsible for the countless zed that roamed across the Wastes. He shuddered, briefly seeing the past civilization like a ghostly image under the canopy of rusty junk and overgrowth. Maybe the Keepers of the Word had come across more information in his wanderings. He would have to check to see. Off in the distance, he saw the glint of the sun off the old solar panels of El Dorado, the City of Gold, the City of the Sun.