I’m not sure how long we traveled for exactly. Seems like a couple of days to me but it easily could be more. Or less. I wouldn’t be completely shocked if someone (who would that be?) told me it was just two days and one night. Martialla and I took turns sleeping, you know, because we had stuff and didn’t want to be murdered and/or robbed by the people we were escorting. Which meant that really neither one of us slept much at all. It’s hard to get some decent shut-eye when you’re worried about being surrounded by a horde of potential murderers.
My hand/forearm on the side where I hurt my wrist has gotten crazy swollen and so tender that I almost scream when a stiff wind touches it. Now it’s completely numb. That’s a great sign for my continued health right? My hand still works but it’s like trying to operate the radio in your car with thick winter gloves on. Or it’s like trying to dial the phone by controlling a marionette, which I have done.
The horse people and their friends didn’t try and kill us or take our stuff while we slept, but they should have. That’s the fucked up thing that I realized. They absolutely should have bum rushed as soon as they saw us, taken our car and all our food and water and weapons and tools. Their forbearance in this situation makes no logical sense. This is the state of nature, there’s no reward for moral behavior. If a lion has a chance to eat a baby hippo and it doesn’t do it, the momma hippo isn’t going to bring the lion something to eat later to make up for it. You just missed out on a meal.
When the chips are down it’s dog eat dog right? We’re not part of these people’s clan or tribe or moiety or whatever they have going on, not robbing us blind doesn’t do them any good because we’re not them. Whereas ripping us off, on the other hand, would help them significantly. And if they did steal our stuff, it would behoove them to kill us dead to make sure that we didn’t come back for revenge.
It makes me wonder how society ever even happened. The first caveman that was smart (or whatever) enough to consider being nice to another caveman was dealing with an immoral monster who would use that to their advantage right? So how did it ever catch on enough to become a thing? The concept that we’ll all be better off overall if we don’t constantly crack each other’s skulls open is pretty esoteric when you’re coming from a wilderness survival situation isn’t it? How did it happen?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy they didn’t murder us as soon as they could, but it’s puzzling.
We did see a couple scouts for the Invincible in the distance sitting on their scrap cycles and watching us. So maybe having us as escorts did the horse people some good. Maybe if we weren’t there, they would have attacked the survivors. Dunno.
One of the wrinkly leaders told us that only the Invincible that make a kill while “mounted” on their machine get to put the fist symbol on it. The stripes and dots and other paints on their vehicles all mean other things, various kinds of killing and maiming and stealing. The red paint is reserved only for the bumpy-headed ones, who are the elite, and the other colors are for associates and mutants and whatnot. It was way more detail than I could remember even if I wanted to. I suppose it pays to learn everything you can about your enemies.
They told me that Duke Eagle “the Vain” is so called because he has a mirror. Seems like a pretty low bar for vanity, I wonder what they’d call me if they knew me better.
I wouldn’t say that I was excited when we spotted Bosstown, but I felt something approaching the human emotion of excitement. From afar it looked like an actual town sort of, a shitty one, but better than anything we had seen so far. There was a tic-tac-toe pattern of muddy (and other stuff than mud I found out) paths that you could call streets if you wanted to be nice, and clustered around them were a couple hundred buildings. Most of them were made from brown-grey mud bricks but here and there we saw shacks rigged up out of a patchwork junk that you might find in a construction dumpster. Not sure if those were the good ones or the bad ones.
I do know that the worst ones have to be the tents and dugouts in the mudflats around “town”. For miles around in all directions there’s just mud. To the north the mud gets mottled grey and to the south it turns more rust colored but it’s all a vast field of mud. Why would you make a town in a mudpile? The mud is why the town is here. They’re mud farmers or gatherers or whatever you want to call picking up mud as a career. This mud is the “good kind” that you can turn into stuff. The mudders gather up the good mud and bring it to town where the townsfolk turn it into things that they trade with other settlements
That’s why the survivors of the convoy came here, because anyone can come here and be a mudder. They always need more mudders. As long as you bring in the mud you get food, enough to stay alive to get more mud. They’re not technically slaves, not that technicalities matter anymore, but unless you “strike it rich” and dig some old tech out of the mud there’s no way out. Other than working yourself to death or disappearing in the mud one day.
I know I’ve said this like three times before, but seeing that giant mudhole and all the ghastly looking people slogging through it, that’s when it really hit me that my world is gone. I keep thinking that the scales have fallen away from my eyes (that’s an expression right?) but then I see something even more mournful.
As the survivors of the battle dispersed (seemingly instinctually) into the mud fields, the wrinkly elders came to thank us profusely. It made me a little sick to my stomach. A couple days ago they were driving to a place to do a big trade deal and then go home and now they’re here, probably to toil until death, and they’re thanking us? It was a bit much.