Wasteland Chronicles

Collection of short stories taking place in a post-apocalyptic Earth, following numerous characters.

Chapter 1

Waking Up

He opened his eyes slowly.
He allowed them to adjust to the candlelight, however small, and waited for his vision to clear. He sat up in his bed. The blanket was worn thin, and the floor was cold and hard. He had barely slept.
The stranger stretched his legs out and, with a croak of struggle, got off of the floor. He leaned his head to one side, then the other, listening to the tiny cracks it gave off as it moved. He looked around and grunted, the room hadn't gotten much prettier overnight. The paint was still stripped. The walls were still boarded up. And the water pipe continued to drip onto the floor. He grabbed his bag from the corner and knelt down. He unzipped it slowly, so the zipper wouldn't get stuck again. He carefully rolled the blanket up and placed it neatly in his bag. He zipped it back up just as slowly, and throw it around his back, sliding his arms into the straps. He walked to the door. Or rather, he walked through the hole where the door should be. He made his way down the creaky hallway, and stopped at the front door. He didn't know who owned the house before this, but then again, he didn't want to. He took a deep breath, sighed, and opened the door,

The sky was grey. It was the kind of day that didn't cast a shadow. He stranger stepped outside. He lowered himself from the porch a foot at a time, allowing his shoes to sink into the soft dirt of the lawn. He opened the metal fence out front, and slowly squeaked it back into place. He walked down the street. He saw a small trail take off from the main street, a dirt path. It had to be dirt, the stranger thought. There hasn't been rain in...well, there hasn't been rain in a while. Not since this all started. The stranger lost count of the years.
The stranger shrugged his shoulders and chose the road less travelled by, stepping onto the dirt path.

He soon found himself in a thick brush, not necessarily a forest, but close enough to where the stranger didn't care for the difference. He came across a small tree with yellow berries hanging heavily from the branches.

"Don't touch the yellow berries." The stranger said to himself, and he passed on.

He eventually came across a dying tree, with a small, blue berry hanging on its sole branch. The stranger though to himself, and, deciding it was safe, snatched the berry up and tossed it in his mouth. The berry exploded as his teeth crushed it, blue juice rolling down his chin. He smiled, then quickly regretted it. No use for smiles now, he thought. Not anymore,

He continued down the path until he came to a forest. He looked around him at the scenery. Dying trees and purple plants. Best to stay clear of both, though. Purple fern was known to be poisonous. Purple trees, too. Hell, everything purple was deadly now. He looked down at his shirt. Purple. He'd have to get a new one soon.
His thinking was cut short by a loud scream. It was weak, but it was loud. The scream only a dying woman could generate. He looked around. The scream came again. Behind him. The stranger unslung his rifle and ran off in the direction of the scream. The scream continued to come and go as the stranger weaved through a maze of green and purple. The screaming stopped briefly, as did the stranger. Then both picked up again.
The stranger came to a small clearing in the forest. In the middle of it, a small figure was on her knees, head down and weeping. The stranger approached. The woman was clothed in a a dirty white dress. Blood spattered down the front. Hr feet were bare and red from running. She kept her head down, though the stranger could tell she knew he was there.
He finally got to her, and kneeled down beside her.

"You alright, miss?" He asked.

The woman stopped crying. There was silence. Then a small hum came from her. The hum grew into a chuckle. It grew into a laugh. Pretty soon she was laughing hysterically, and her bloodshot eyes came up to meet the stranger's. her teeth were yellow and tarnished. She continued to laugh.
The stranger was going to leave when he felt something cold rest against his head.

"Don't ya move now, ya hear?" A raspy voice shouted from behind him.
"Put that gun down, an' drop that pack ya got there. Ya follow me?"
The stranger put his rifle gently on the ground, and swung his backpack to the ground.

"That's a good ol' boy." The voice said. It whistled.
Several other figures came from the forest, behind purple leaves and dead trees. They all carried guns.

"Look what we got here, boys!" The voice behind him said.

A cross between a laugh and a howl came from the others. The stranger counted them off, one by one.
One, two, three...
"You punks always fallin for it, ain't ya?"
Four, five......
"Gotta try to be the hero for our damsel in distress, ain't that right?"
Six, seven, eight, nine.....
A howl came from the crowd.
Nine of them. All with guns. At least four of them actually had bullets.
"Lets show this one some good ole hospitaly."
"Hospitality." The stranger mumbled.
"The hell you jus say, boy?"
The stranger sighed. "It's hospitality. Not hospitaly. You all as stupid as him?" He posed the question to the others.

"Why you lil- Tryna correct me? Who you think you is?"
"Smarter than you, apparently."
The cold barrel pressed harder against his head.
He took this as an opportunity.

The stranger sprung up from the ground, spinning to grab the barrel that had been pushed against him. He turned to see that there was a fat old man behind the gun. The stranger pulled the gun down, and brought his right fist to the old man's cheek. There was a loud crack as the jaw broke. The stranger grabbed the rifle and ran off for the nearest tree. Three pops were followed by three bullets whizzing by the stranger's head as he ducked behind a feller tree trunk. Another pop caused a loud crackle as tree bark splintered. The stranger bobbed his head from the tree long enough to get a look. The old man was on the ground, clutching his jaw. Two more were out in the open. Too stupid. The stranger swung around, firing off three shots in rapid succession. On hit the old man, ripping through his left temple. The next hit one in the right lung. The third bullet crashed into the third man, sending him backwards. That's three down. Six more to go. He also noticed that his rifle was gone, as was the woman. Make that seven more. Another pop and the tree splintered more. The stranger saw the glare of a scope from the tree line, and dropped two rounds into it. One made a distinct thwack. The other fell silent. Another pop, another crackle. The stranger ducked back behind cover. He checked his gun. Seven more rounds. That only left one shot for mistake. He peeped around the tree again. Three pops, followed by two crackles and a whistle. The stranger followed the pops, and dropped the three.
Three more.
For a while there was no noise. No pops. No crackles. No whistles.
The stranger was beginning to wonder if they were still there. He peeked around the tree again. Another pop, another whistle. The stranger found him, and dropped him in one shot. That leaves two.

The woman cried out from the tree line
"Please! Don't shoot! We have no ammo!"
The stranger felt relieved, and began to come out of cover when another pop threw a bullet into his shoulder. He jerked back in pain, clutching his bloody shoulder.
"We surrender now! Honest!"
The stranger peeked his head around. He saw the two coming out from the woods. A man and a woman. Both of them had left their guns in the trees. The stranger shot the man in the chest with a satisfying thud. The woman jumped and screamed.
"What the hell! We surrendered!"
The stranger shot her too. She dropped to the ground. The stranger walked back to the clearing. The woman laid there, motionless on top of his back pack. He moved her with his foot, and swung his backpack over his good shoulder. He looked down at the woman, and pulled out his knife.
He cut a long, thin length of cloth from the woman's dress, and tied it around his shoulder. That should stop the bleeding for now, he thought.

He went around the clearing, checking the bodies for ammo and supplies. He managed to find a handful of rifle bullets and a couple shotgun shells. He grabbed his rifle back, and picked a sawed off shotgun up from one of the men,, putting it in his bag. He rummaged through the old man's pockets, and found a small bottle of pills. He didn't know what they were for, but he didn't care. He stuffed them into his bag, and continued through the forest. He came to another paved street.

The houses were torn apart, and the wind swayed the doors open and closed. On the house next to him, in dark red letters, it read, "NO SURVIVORS, GO NORTH."
A body laid next to it, missing most of its head. The war air sent a pungent smell through the stranger's nostrils. He nearly gagged.

The wind blew dust around the street. He took a step towards the dull blue house across the street, when a loud cry came from the forest. The stranger turned around. He couldn't hear what it was saying, but it was a woman's scream.
The scream came again.

The stranger smiled, and turned back to the house across the street.

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