7/29/2015 - The Calling' Edit
The children are running around, screaming and laughing, as children often do. The adults are going about their errands, chatting with neighbors, or trying to get their children under control. All seems calm, as is usual in this village. Suddenly, there's yelling from the other side of the wall at the other end of the village, and one of the gates explodes. Jeeps begin driving through the burning hole, and heavy machine guns begin gunning down men, women and children. Trucks begin pouring into the village. People emerge from the trucks wearing military uniforms, and start gunning down the villagers that were missed by the jeeps' machine guns. Some of the adult villagers attempt to fight back with animal-like agility, leaping from buildings and attacking with sharp claws, but are losing more lives than they are taking. With every villager that is mercilessly gunned down, a feeling of sorrow and fear grows stronger.
Joseph wakes from his nightmare, but this one felt much different than the usual night terrors. This one felt like less of a bad dream, and more like a long, forgotten memory from a lost time.
9/23/2015 - Journey's Beginning Edit
All is quiet in the Roughneck camp, everyone is sleeping soundly after a hard days work in the wastes. Slowly, Joseph begins tossing and turning in his sleep. After a few minutes, Joseph finally sits up, and stares blankly into the night. He starts getting his equipment together, which awakes Logan. In a half asleep stupor, Logan asks, "where the Hell are you going so late at night?"
"There's something I need to do, on my own." Joseph steps out of the tent and into the night.
10/12/2015 - The Long Road Edit
The empty wastes stretched on before Joseph. Loose dirt and dust formed brown swirls in the air as the wind rushed through what was left of this world. The empty desolation calmed him. As he followed this old, familiar path, he could not fully understand what it was that was guiding him. Was it simply instincts? Or, perhaps it was old memories that he could not quite come to remember. Either way, Joseph knew he would be haunted by the dreams until this quest was complete.
Just as he began to wonder how long he would need to mindlessly walk this straight path, he saw a bit of wear leading away from the road. It had some overgrowth, but it was not completely lost. It carried on to the Southeast, but that's not what interested Joseph. The worn path called to him, and Joseph felt compelled to answer. As he stepped off of the old road, Joseph knew he was reaching the end of his journey.
12/01/2015 - The Ruined Village Edit
Joseph emerged from the trees into a clearing, dimly lit by a single firelight that stood defiant in the black of night. From the dim orange, he could make out what seemed to be a few ruined buildings scattered about the area. Joseph approached the fire, and noticed an elderly man sitting just at the edge of clear view. As Joseph cautiously stepped closer, the old man spoke up.
"Does it call to you, too?" The old man stated, clear at Joseph, but didn't take his eyes off of the burning logs.
Joseph was taken aback, not only at the sudden comment, but how accurate the man's prediction was.
"What is this place?" Joseph asked, while slowly getting closer to the fire.
"What, this rundown pile of wood? This used to be a village for some mutant folk." The old man continued staring into the fire, as though he were talking to it, rather than Joseph.
"What happened to them?"
"Pull up a stump, and I'll tell you, kiddo."
Joseph found a spare stump in the flickering light, and set it up. As he sat down, the old man began telling the tale of a group of mutants that set up a little village, and for the most part, thrived. Several years later, the Legion began harassing them, trying to peacefully evict the villagers, until it turned to violence.
The whole time, Joseph was entirely captivated. Sometimes, his focus would break from the old man, only to fully visualize the quarrels between the villagers and the Legion.
"...so then they just decided to give up and leave." Joseph was brought back to reality.
"Where did they go? When did they leave?" Joseph asked, attentively.
"When? About a year ago. Why? I don't f****n' know. I wasn't here at the time, I just liked to sit back and watch the fireworks." The old man smiled, and then let out a bit of an unsettling chuckle. The effect was only amplified by the dimness of the campfire.
"Well, if the Legion wanted this spot so bad, why aren't they here now?"
"Last I remember, it had something to do with 'too many lives lost' or some s**t like that. A bunch of military pansies, if you ask me."
Joseph got up from his stump. "Well, that was a great story, but if there's nothing here but stories and ruins, then I should be going. But while I’m here, would you have anything you’re willing to trade?"
The old man continued to stare into the light. "Sorry, all I gots is the clothes on my back, and this fire."
"Oh. Well, good luck out here." Joseph began trekking back the way he came, into the trees. A few steps later, the old man spoke up.
"When you get back there, things will be MUCH different."
Joseph wheeled around, only to find darkness. The moon was full, and he could see that there was no campfire, and no old man. He jogged to the spot, and found no evidence anyone but Joseph had been there recently. Nature had retaken this clearing long ago, and the only path was one that led from the forest, to where he had spoken with the strange man.
Confused and frightened, Joseph ran back into the woods, hoping to get as far away from this place as quickly as he could.
01/01/2016 - A New Life Edit
The crosshairs rested on the deer’s sternum. It was too preoccupied with an anthill to have heard the two coming. He slowly exhaled as he pulled the trigger. KRACK! The sound echoed through the forest, as the deer collapsed to the ground with a soft thud. “See? I told you it wasn’t that bad,” she said with a smile. Joseph took a moment to appreciate her beauty in the morning light peeking through the breaks in the canopy above. Her pale skin shone like the moon on a full night, and her hair like the trees of the rad marshes.
“I still prefer my bow,” Joseph replied, handing Luna the bulky rifle.
“You’re starting to sound like those mutants. Next thing you know, you’ll be saying things like, ‘all these advanced weapons are the reason the world fell apart in the first place.’”
Joseph was slightly annoyed by her mocking tone. “You have to admit, it kind of was.”
“You’re serious?” She stopped in her tracks and looked at him with a slight tilt of her head.
“Let’s just hurry up and grab that deer before a pack of wolfapines show up, or worse.”
“You always worry.” Luna threw the rifle over her back. “You should think positive, once in a while.”
“If you consider the worst possibilities, you’ll be better prepared for when they happen” Joseph stated in a matter-of-fact tone.
“I still think you’re over react-“ At that moment, a pack of 5 wolfapines emerged from the woods and positioned themselves between Luna and Joseph. The wolfapines growled aggressively, and their quills quivered, ready to shoot.
“Just back away, slowly” Joseph whispered to Luna, cautiously taking a step backwards. As they backed away, two of the wolfapines began tearing at the deer. The remaining three stood their ground and continued to growl at the two humans invading their hunting grounds. After walking several feet, the animals stopped growling, and Luna and Joseph were able to safely turn around and return to their camp.
“Don’t say it” Luna said, as she put the rifle back on the wall.
Joseph took off his belt pouch. “Say what?”
“You know damn well ‘what’.”
“I told you so?”
Luna sighed. “Yes, that. If we’d have been a little quicker, maybe we’d have gotten that deer before the wolfapines.”
Joseph walked over to Luna and held her tight. “Don’t talk like that, it wasn’t our fault. Things like that happen in the wild. And besides, we still have plenty of food to last us the rest of the winter.” Luna looked up at Joseph with a smile, and then rested her head against his chest. “Now come on, let’s get to bed. We can try again in the morning.” With that, Luna wrapped her arms around his neck, and the two joined in a deep, tender kiss.
01/08/2016 - Animal Edit
Joseph awoke to a jingling sound just outside their small shack. The light shining in through the window suggested it was early morning, so Luna wouldn’t have been awake yet, let alone outside by herself. Joseph rolled over and laid his arm over her side of the bed, only to find it empty. He felt that something was off, so he sat up and looked for his equipment, and found that most of it was gone, as well as half of the valuables that the two had kept lying around the shack. After a quick look around, he managed to find his revolver, stuck it into the back of his pants, and stepped out of the door. The morning sun momentarily blinded Joseph, but after his eyes adjusted, he looked to the direction of the noise. Whatever it was, it had already crossed the hill, so Joseph jogged to the hill’s crest, and found Luna walking away with all of the missing equipment loosely collected in a bag on her back.
“Where are you going?” Joseph yelled just loud enough to get her attention. In response, Luna turned around and pulled a pistol on him. Out of instinct, Joseph pulled his revolver and aimed it at her.
“Just let me go, and I won’t have to shoot you.”
“What are you talking about? You’re just taking our stuff and leaving me here with nothing?” Joseph could see tears beginning to form in Luna’s eyes.
“You were just supposed to be a mark, nothing else.” Luna’s voice became unsteady as the tears started rolling down her face. “It wasn’t supposed to end like this.” Her grip on her pistol began to soften, and Joseph took this as an opportunity to get closer. As soon as he took a step, Luna brought her pistol back into position and aimed right at Joseph’s head.
“So all of that talk about starting a new life here was just a lie? This whole time you were just playing me so you could rob me?” Joseph’s vision began to blur as tears formed in his eyes.
“No, not at first. I really believed we could be together, but then I remembered why I approached you in the first place, and it’s been tearing me apart!” Luna’s voice became a craze of sorrow and pain.
“It’s not too late! Just put our things down, and we can forget any of this ever happened! We can go back to the life we talked about!” Joseph pleaded through streams of tears.
“No, I’ve made my choice, and I know what I need to do.” Luna firmed her grip on her pistol, and closed her eyes. Joseph knew what was about to happen, and closed his, too.
Bang! The whole world seemed to go silent. When Joseph finally opened his eyes, Luna lay motionless on the ground, and the trees behind her had a slight shade of red to their trunks. Joseph threw down his revolver and rushed to her side. He didn’t bother trying to wake her up, after seeing the hole where her eye used to be.
“I killed her,” Joseph whispered to himself, “like I’m some sort of animal.” He cradled her head in his arms. “I’m sorry,” Joseph sobbed, quietly. He looked down at her lifeless body. In the morning light, her pale skin shone like the moon on a full night, her hair like the trees of the rad marshes, and for once, she looked calm and peaceful.
01/13/2016 - The Dead Zone Edit
The sky grew more foreboding as Joseph approached, but he didn’t care. He just wanted a place to be alone, where no one would find him. He had heard stories of The Dead Zone, a place so swathed in radiation that very little lived there, save the horrors that were born from it. It was a place few people ever returned from. “Someone would have to be crazy to follow me here”, Joseph thought.
The thunder grew louder as Joseph ventured further in, and the sky turned to an ominous green. He wasn’t concerned about making a camp, or surviving out here, he just wanted to keep walking until everything was alright again, or all the pain ended. Joseph’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps behind him.
“What are you doing all the way out here? You know what they call this place, right?” said the familiar voice amidst the roaring thunder. Joseph turned around and saw that his suspicions were correct. There, standing in this barren land, was the old man from the village.
“What are you doing here? Are you following me?” Joseph prepared to draw his pistol. He wondered how the old man managed to find him, and why.
“They call this ‘the land that God forgot’, or, at least, more so than the rest of the world.” The old man continued walking, seemingly ignorant to Joseph’s aggressive stance.
“I’m here on my own business, and it’s none of yours. Now answer me, why are you here?” Joseph watched the man with hawk’s eyes as he walked right past Joseph, and stood at the edge of a cliff, looking out across the endless wastes.
“You know you’ll die out here.” The old man looked over his shoulder at Joseph. “Or is that what you’re hoping for, to die alone, where no one will find you?” Joseph was shaken by the truth behind the man’s words.
“You don’t know anything about me, so stop pretending you do.”
“Oh, but I know much about you.” The old man turned to face Joseph. He looked right into Joseph’s eyes, despite clearly being blind. “I have been watching you for a long time. You may think you lost everything back at that shack. You may think that was where your story ended, and this is just the epilogue, but you are sadly mistaken. That was but the beginning of your tale. The rest of your story is back at that small town, so get going.” Joseph wondered what the old man would do if he didn’t go, but as soon as he opened his mouth, the old man spoke up. “And if you don’t, I’ll make you what you think you are.”
Suddenly, a distant scream was heard in the distance, and Joseph turned his head towards the noise. When he turned back to look at the old man, he was gone. Joseph ran to look over the edge of the cliff, but saw nothing. Once again, it was just Joseph standing alone on the grey, barren plains.
After carefully climbing down the cliff, Joseph pressed deeper into the Dead Zone. “Must have just been my imagination,” he thought to himself, “maybe the radiation is finally getting to me.” He looked up at something that caught his eye. It was a small herd of animals crossing his path.
Some of them appeared to limp on malformed limbs or trip on ones that didn’t belong. They shuffled along until one of them raised its head and looked at Joseph. The two seemed to stare at each other for several seconds before the creature emitted a loud scream that frightened Joseph. It was like a yell of both pain and anger being forced through a mangled maw. As soon as the creature let out its shriek, the others in the group did the same. The chorus of roars ranged from clean screams to various gurgling.” The creatures charged Joseph, and he drew his pistol. He fired into the crowd, and one of them dropped. Most of the creatures continued to charge at him, but a few broke off and began tearing at the fallen creature.
With the animals closing in, Joseph looked around and saw an opening in the cliff side, just large enough for him to fit into. He took one last shot into the crowd, and then bolted for the crevice. Joseph felt like he had run miles before getting to the hole, but he quickly climbed in. A loose rock was just inside, and he used it to blockade the entrance. As soon as Joseph wedged the rock into the small opening, one of the creatures stuck its head in, and began thrashing around violently. Joseph drew his sword and cut off its head, leaving the rest of the opening barricaded. Through what was left, he could see the others either pouncing on the cliff wall trying to get in or eating the one stuck in the entrance.
There was just enough light coming into the cave for Joseph to see that the chamber he was in was only about 5 feet wide, and the cave didn’t go any deeper. Joseph unpacked everything unnecessary, but kept his revolver and his sword close by. He sat down and, for several minutes, listened to the sound of hooves against rock, tearing of flesh, and roaring thunder.
After what seemed like hours, the scraping stopped, and Joseph got up to look outside. The creatures appeared to be leaving, and he felt relieved. He made a pillow out of his softest equipment, laid his head down, and rested his eyes. The cave was hard to see from a distance and offered good protection from whatever lived in this wicked place, but it was here where Joseph’s mouth began to swell and his mind began to burn.
01/28/2016 - Return Edit
Joseph stood on a hill and looked over the small town of Greyfell. He was finally home. He felt fortunate that he had found a caravan that was passing through, and even more that it wasn’t actually going through the small town, itself. Joseph wasn’t ready for his old friends and acquaintances to see what he had become. He resituated his hood to obscure his face.
On his way in, Joseph met an old acquaintance, who was returning as well, with some new friends.They looked like quite the professional unit. Geared up for a fight. They offered Joseph an opportunity that he could not pass up, so Joseph obliged with little hesitation. He was excited to tell his friends, but he also wondered how he would tell them, when he was too afraid to face them. Before he could come up with a solution, a familiar voice spoke up from behind him.
“I told you to come back here, or I would change you.” The old man seemed to follow Joseph everywhere he went. “You know, those back trails are a beautiful place. Very calm and peaceful.”
“Who, or what, are you, and what do you want with me? What’s your name?” Joseph loosened his grip on his hood and began to loosen his pistol from its holster. The old man looked over Greyfell from atop the cliff.
“You know, it’s the darndest thing. I can’t remember.”
“What do you mean, you can’t remember? What are you doing here?” Joseph was starting to become visibly angry.
“There’s a coming storm. Choose your side carefully, and your friends more so.” The old man started walking away.
“Hey, you haven’t answered my questions!” The old man ignored Joseph. “Damn you!”
“Many have.” Joseph drew his pistol and fired at the old man. No effect. Joseph took a moment to aim properly and fired again. Still nothing. Joseph gripped the pistol in both hands, set the old man square in the revolver’s sights and pulled the trigger one more time. The old man kept walking, completely untouched. Joseph hit the side of his gun then brought it back up to try again. When he looked down the barrel, however, the old man had disappeared. Joseph took a quick look around, but found no trace.