Home > Creative Writing Exercises, Fallen Earth, NaNoWriMo, Writing > FE NaNoWriMo 2010: Installment No. 3

FE NaNoWriMo 2010: Installment No. 3

June 15, 2156

I’m sitting against a dirt-streaked concrete pylon in the shadow of the old GlobalTech monorail that used to shuttle commuters around the Grand Canyon Province back in the days before the shitstorm struck, the Shiva Virus spread across the world, and civilization hit the big RESET button.

The Gully Dog camp with my ATV and, hopefully, that damned green metal box, is about a half mile away, just over a low cluster of hills.

I can’t think straight. Feverish. My jaw feels sore and swollen. Tooth’s aching like a bullseye in the middle of a target painted on my face. Won’t be able to pull off a scam in this condition. Certainly won’t be able to fight with any clarity of mind should I have to defend myself. Even against a brain-damaged opponent like a Gully Dog, it’d be a suicide mission.

I’m so screwed. What the hell am I going to do? I can’t deliver the goods to Enzo Scarpelli until I recover them from that camp. It’s stupid to try recovering them until I’ve dealt with this aching tooth. I could just try yanking the tooth out myself, but I’m no dentist.

***

Scribbled in the right margin: A tooth-like figure with big eyes and angry squiggles floating overhead.

Scribbled in the left margin and underlined three times: FUCKING AGONY.

Scribbled in the bottom margin: Even soup hurts.

June 17, 2156

I don’t remember much about the last couple of days. Bits and pieces, really; snippets of memory.

Here’s what I know right now:

I’m laid up in a bed in the clinic run by Pat Haskins in Oilville. My mouth feels better. Worlds better! He gave me something for the pain.

Up until a few months ago, Haskins was the sawbones for Depot 66. He moved his practice about the time this woman he calls “One” popped out of the pod and went wandering west. I don’t know much about her, but she must have been something special to snare his attention and pull him here. Now, he’s the chief medic for this town, built amidst the ruins of an old petroleum refinery, run by the gadget-heads.

Somehow, I got here. Haskins tells me that a couple of roving merchants found me about a mile and a half southeast of here, arms wrapped around a big prairie chicken egg, crooning about a skillet. Apparently, they loaded me in the back of their horse-drawn flatbed trailer and took me to Oilville. Nice of them, all things considered. If they knew what I was really like, they probably would have liberated my shoes and garden fork, then left me for dead the way the Gully Dogs had done. But, hey, I’ll take charity when I can get it.

“Fever’s pretty bad,” Haskins said, reading from a ledger he’d opened on the table next to the bed. “Looks like an abscess. Infected. You’ll need a root canal. Antibiotics too.” He flipped the page, then quietly stroked his moustache before concluding: “Closest dentist I know of is Doctor Ames in Picus Ridge. Techs run the place. Sensible folks. Should have plenty of antibiotics on hand. I’m tapped. Expecting a shipment of fresh supplies next week.” Haskins looked me over, then sighed, shaking his head. “Can’t make you wait until next week. Infection like this, it can kill a man easy. I can give you a couple of doses to stave it off just enough to get you on your way out to the Northfields. Beyond that, though…” His voice trailed off into a shrug.

I frowned. “Doc, how the hell am I going to make it to Picus Ridge? I’m pretty sure I couldn’t walk across this room, let alone make the trip north through the Upper Plateau.”

Haskins nodded. “There’s a Rider in town, due to depart for New Flagstaff in the morning. You good on a horse?”

Not really, I didn’t say. Truth be told, I prefer riding around on a machine that doesn’t rely on the care and attention that a horse would require. When someone pops a bullet into the frame of my ATV, it doesn’t whinny and bleed. It doesn’t make me feel like I’ve just subjected it to some cruel torture.

But, what I actually said: “Sure, Doc. Horse. Fine.” It wouldn’t be comfortable. In fact, I suspected that being jostled around on the back of a horse would just amplify the misery. I could expect a long ride with tremendous pain.

“All right, I’ll make the arrangements for you,” Haskins replied. He closed his ledger and turned to leave, approaching the rough green fabric curtain that separated the treatment room from the lobby. But then he stopped and turned back to me. “Hope you’re feeling up to a visitor.”

“Visitor?”

“He’s been waiting since this morning.” Haskins pulled open the curtain.

Into the room stepped a broad-shouldered man with tanned skin, salt and pepper hair, and cold gray eyes, wearing a black leather duster over gray denim pants and a blue cotton tunic. His black snakeskin boots had metallic tips. Middle-aged, grim-faced, the man stood at least six-foot-two.

I’d never met Enzo Scarpelli in person before. I just knew him by reputation. I knew him when I saw him, though. Here he was. I had nowhere to run, and even if I knew of a hiding place, I didn’t have the strength to flee. I couldn’t go anywhere. Trapped!

After Haskins passed into the lobby, the curtain fell back into place.

Scarpelli scowled at me, stopping about two feet from the side of the bed. “All right, Denton, where the hell is my box?” His right hand rested on the butt of a revolver holstered at his side.

Well, I thought, maybe I won’t need that dentist after all.

It was quite a surprise, seeing Enzo Scarpelli dealing with a wayward courier and a lost package on his own. I figured a visit from his right-hand man, Slammer Winstead, would’ve been far more likely. But here he was, real as the end of the world.

“I tried, Mr. Scarpelli,” I said, staring at my hands. I knew it might be futile, that this wasn’t a man who gave much credence to excuses. “Got waylaid by a couple of bandits. They stole my ATV, weapons, supplies, and that box. They left me for dead in a boneyard near Terance. I found the camp, though. I think I was going after it when the fever of this infection just knocked me on my ass. I’m sorry.”

The Depot 66 boss nodded slowly. “I should put a couple of slugs into your brain pan.” He tugged the gun loose of its holster, testing the heft of the weapon in his palm. “You didn’t just get jumped by bandits, Denton. You got your lunch served by Gully Dogs. That’s just plain embarrassing. If I killed you right now, it’d be a mercy.” A taut smile. “So, that’s why I won’t kill you right now. If what Doc Haskins says is true, well, you’re in a world of suffering just now, and that’s not liable to get better for a while. Lucky you, huh?” Scarpelli slid the gun back into its holster. “Draw a map in that book of yours. Tear out the page. Give it to me. I’ll have Slammer and No-Toes deal with the bandits. They’ll even get your ATV back. Come see me when you’re done in Picus Ridge. I’ll tell you what you can do to win it back for yourself.” The faint smile faded. “Of course, if they bring me that box and it’s empty, I’m going to pour every round I’ve got into you. So, think it over while you’re recuperating. If you stole from me, Denton, you better keep running until you can’t run no more.”

I shook my head. How could I convince this guy that I wouldn’t dare rip him off? Would it ever be possible to persuade him that I possessed honor, insofar as it affected my allegiance to the Travelers? I knew the Code. My word was my bond. I don’t piss off allies if I don’t have to. Certainly, I don’t piss off people more powerful than me. “I didn’t steal anything from you, Mr. Scarpelli. I know better. Old LaRue taught me better.”

That drew a raised eyebrow from him. “You trained with LaRue?” At my nod, he said, “He was a sharp guy. I miss him a lot. They ever catch the tea-sipper who took him out?”

“No,” I answered. “Not yet.”

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