Chapter 2: Getting Oriented
A million things are going through my mind at this point. Who dropped the bomb that has destroyed the city? What city is this? Who is the man staring back at me on the broken piece of glass? The confusion is so surreal. I know I am not crazy. I know things and skills that I would have had to learn, but I don't remember learning them. How is this possible? It had to be related to the giant cloud dwarfing the city. I have to get myself oriented, find out where I am and find out where I need to go. I take a look around. Everything is destroyed, and there aren't many buildings remaining. Though through the rubble there is a maze that goes through the destruction. So I will still have to navigate that.
I look down, maybe I can find out something about where I lived by checking my surroundings. Much of everything here is destroyed as well. Not much left. I find a burned photograph. It has a credulous, middle-class family on it, at least from what I can see. They are white, so I know it's not my family. I keep digging through ash and rubble. The ash is thick. It covers everything and I can't even get to the floor. Was the floor here grass? Was it wood? Who knows? I hear a distant siren going further away. I look up to see if I can see lights or anybody else that may be able to help me. Nothing. Just the giant mushroom cloud and an orange haze over the sky.
I wonder who did it? Was there a war going on? I continue digging through the ash, moving foot by foot; or butt length by butt length through the remains. I am now using a piece of wood as a shovel to get through the filth a little quicker. I feel something heavy slide off the wooden board. It's a pistol. I grab it and eject the magazine; at least I haven't forgotten how to do that. It's loaded. It's in surprisingly good shape. Maybe it's a testament to the... I look on the pistol more checking for where it was made. I spit on it to clean off some of the dirt. I wipe and wipe. The... Italians! I guess that's a testament to the Italians. I tuck it into the back of my coveralls. I try to stand up to move over a bit and I step on something squishy. It wiggles a bit and I lose my balance, falling over. I see it sticking out of the ash with my face level with it now on the ground.
I begin to cough, scattering the ash away from my face and try to gain a little focus. It's a hand. A hand?! I sit up and start to dig the person out. "Hey, buddy! you alright?!" I yell attentively. I pull his head out by his arm. His face is gray and he looks old but he is not. He may be in his young twenties. But the soot and ash in his eyebrows give him a wrinkly, gray-haired look. I shake him a bit trying to get a response. I feel his neck, no pulse. His body is cold. Hell, the first person I met, and he's a corpse. I really hope my luck gets better than this. I check him for a cell phone or anything of value. Patting his chest first I hit something sharp and metal. I brush it off and it shines a platinum silver. A badge. What the fuck?! A cop? Why was there a cop at my house? Am I even at my house? Was my neighbor a cop? Man, this shit is confusing. I check his utility belt, it has a broken radio on it, no gun though. The gun that I have must be his. I do find one more magazine on his belt, it is empty. I take his belt which also has a baton and a utility knife. I wrap the belt around my waist. When pushing his body aside I notice there are empty shells on the ground. He had been shooting, that explains the empty magazine.
This just keeps getting stranger and stranger. Not only was there a cop nearby, or in my house, but he was shooting at somebody. Who? This is just entirely too strange. I continue my path across his body. Walking down what I think was the street in front of my house there are two cop cars. I stumble little by little closer to them. They are in pretty good shape for the most part but the lights are not working. The road doesn't show much resemblance to a neighborhood. I can't tell if I lived in the ghetto or a middle-class neighborhood. Though judging by the look of that family, I am halfway positive this is yuppie-ville. I get to the Charger and try to open the door. It's locked, of course. I take my half-assed crutch and lean against the hood of the car. I swing the big wooden staff at the window. My arms vibrate deeply as the wood makes contact with the window. It doesn't shatter. I take a deep breath and pull back and swing into it again. The painful vibrations flow through my finger and hand bones again. Why the hell is this window so hard to break?! Getting a nice grip, I choke my hands up on the stick. I Ken Griffey the shit out of that window. It shatters. Thank god. I reach in and pop the lock.
I sit down in the cop car, I look back and forth. No keys. It has a button to start, what the fuck is this? I press it. Nothing happens. There is no keyhole! How the- What...?! I don't spend any more time trying to contemplate why the hell this car has no key before I start searching the car. There is a shotgun in between the seats, though it is locked in and I'm not sure how well I could do with one foot and a two-handed weapon. I pop open the glove box. Nothing but bullshit and paper there. I try to start the radio, no power. No response. I wonder why there is no power? I don't even want to begin to think what kind of effects that bomb is having on the environment right now. I find a cell phone! Awesome! I press the button and it shows up but says "Enter Passcode". Fuck! I don't suppose he made it 1-1-1-1? Entering those numbers brings disappointment. In the top left, I do see that it says "No Service". So it wouldn't do me much good anyway. The back is gated off, nobody in there. I stumble out of the door only to get to the next one. Fuck the stick this time, I pull the gun and slide to chamber a round. I aim at the window then pause. I bring the gun down and turn my head focusing on the side door panel.
I drop down and crawl over to the door, trying to keep my festering ankle off of the ground as much as I can. I wipe on the side door. Clearing off the dirt, ash, and carbon that falls off the side as soon as my hand disturbs its place. There is a gold badge on the white paint of the car. It's not a shiny gold though, more like a dark and dull gold. It has an eagle on the top of the badge. I clear the words below the eagle's feet. It says 'Police'. I keep going down, revealing a white star. Underneath the white start, it says 'Indianapolis'. Indiana? Am I from Indiana? Why the hell did Indiana just get nuked? This doesn't make any sense. Opening the door I find more of the same in this cruiser. Dead radio. Bolted shotgun, nothing in the glove box. No phone though. So that's a little different. Looking up from the ground I see three bullet holes in the windshield. There was definitely something going on here. The bullets seem to have come from my neighbor's house. You mean to tell my those white ass honkeys were shooting at the police? What in the hell kind of yuppie-ville is this? Maybe I was in the ghetto after all. I turn my head to look where the bullets ended up. They are all encased in the bulletproof glass separating the front from the back. Didn't seem to go all the way through so my guess is there were pistol rounds.
Stepping out of the car I put the weight down on my leg and quickly remember as the pain shoots up my leg and back that I had removed that foot. I fall over flat on my face and the wooden stick I have been using as a crutch now tips over from the side of the police car and smashes me in the eyebrow. Damn! It's bleeding all down into my eyes and shit. Can a dude catch a break? What the fuck? I stare up at the sky trying to remember. Anything. I can't go back very far. I do start to get a little light headed. I think the adrenaline of cauterizing my severed foot is wearing off. This is bad news. I lean my head over to the right and start crawling towards the car. I reach my hand out and catch on a level. I hear a POP and the trunk comes open. The trunk... yes! I reach my right hand out grabbing the ground and pulling myself forward. Followed by my left. The ground I can feel now is an asphalt road. Ash continues to rain down onto it. It is beautiful in a way - like snow. But more... ominous. I reach my hand up onto the lip of the trunk and pull myself up in halfway.
My legs sticking out of the trunk I start searching around for something of importance. A lot of tape, a pair of boots. A hazard sign. Some hazard tape. Some knife shaped tubes, a sexual assault kit and yes! A first aid kit. It is in a black tactical bag with molle slots around it and a big red cross. I grab the bag and let the weight of my lower half drag me down and out of the trunk. I start searching through the trunk. There are some antiseptic wipes, I start with those wiping my wound off as much as I can and cleaning around the edges of the wound. I keep looking the pack, putting aside all the gauze and bandages I can find. I find some antibiotic ointment. Might as well. I cake the shit on. it stings like a mother fucker. I find this small olive package that says "quik clot" on it. My wound is still bleeding so, I figure might as well try this too. Pouring it on, I instantly regret everything. This shit is like sand from satan. It feels like my fucking atoms are contracting. What the hell do they put into this shit! I scream and my head falls back into the bumper of the vehicle. OW! Wait, my leg didn't hurt for a little bit... that's it! I start slamming my head against the bumper over and over. Fuck! My leg doesn't hurt but now I got a fuckin' headache.
I start wrapping the wound up. The festering filth nub I used to have is now a neat gauzed nub. Good nub. It's a nice nub. My head falls back and I wonder what the hell I am going to do. I get a little drowsy. My bleeding has stopped but I still feel like I am going into shock. I look at my hands, they are warm and dry. So I have at least that going for me. What the hell am I going to do? I suppose I should stick to the basics. This is survival. I need to find a way to get food, water, and shelter. I suppose the most important one of those now would be water. Considering the fact that I have already lost a lot of blood.
I prop myself up and start heading down the street more. I will come back to this little area, as there was still a semi-structure of where, what I think was my house, was. Crunching through the ash there is a somewhat rhythm to my walking. Crunch, wood. Pat, foot. Crunch for wood, poof for foot. Crunch, poof. Crunch, poof. Etc. Repeat. I hobble my way down the street, ash is falling down at an angle across my face and chest. The stick digs further and further into my armpit as I find myself putting more and more weight on it, trying to rely on its structure to hold me up.
I am not sure I recognize this street at all. No road signs. Though I do see a structure in the distance. It seems to have been sheltered by another structure across the street that somewhat survived the blast. Or at least the bottom floor did. I look to my left and as the distance grows the buildings get a bit taller. It looks like we are somewhat far from the center of the city. Which looks to be somewhat close to where the cloud is. Not sure though. I recognize as much of this city as I did the face staring back at me in that mirror. I look to my right and see the giant cloud, still looming. It's definitely started to fade out, but it still looks like it's semi-permanent and going to be here for a while.
I get close to the building and it is a grocery store. Thank god! I start to speed up my crunch/poofs. Crunch. Poof. Crunch Poof. Crunch. Poof. I get to the front door, the glass at the front was all shattered out. I step over the glass being careful not slip and cut open my stub again. The tile is a change of pace for sure. The store is in a lot better shape than I thought. I had come only about a mile and a half; an excruciating mile and a half mind you. But the store had two things going for it. It was in a lowered area. The parking lot that surrounded it was higher than the rest of the store. It was closed apparently because there are no cars in the parking lot, and lastly, maybe most importantly, there was a building between it and the blast that just happened to stay intact. At least the first floor did, enough to shield this place from the explosion a little.
I head to the bottled water. I start chugging the gallons of water they have listed there. It was like the heavens were giving birth right in my mouth. It was amazing. Water, it is truly the nectar of life. I stop chugging for a brief second and some of it splashes all over my chest. I take a deep breath and pant heavily. Oh fuck, it's so good. I take another drink. After my mouth sex with the water, I mosey on down to the pathetic hardware area. I grab myself some duct tape, a tennis ball, a saw, a leather jacket from the employee office that I broke into and some belts. I use the jacket's material to create a nice comfy little holder for my nub. I saw the stick I have down so that it fits from my nub to the ground. I use a copious amount of duct tape to seal the wood to a tennis ball at the bottom. I then use the belts to tie this ugly contraption to my leg. I stand up to test it out. The tennis ball has a nice smooth give. Makes my steps a little more natural than the crunch/poof maneuver. Now it's more of a CREAK/poof. Hm. Not too bad.
I am already pretty tired so I grab what I can and put it into a backpack from the racks. I can't carry much considering the foot situation, but I get enough to last me through the next couple of days. Before you know it I am sitting against the dairy section, drinking a beer. Might as well not let the stuff go to waste. Not sure if I liked this one before, but I definitely like it now.
VROOOOM! I hear the startling noise of a diesel engine pull up to the front of the store. "YEEEHAAW!" yells one of the three men that jump out of the truck. The excited one jumps out of the bed with a rebel flag. Which he props up in the grass by slamming it into the ground. The second man smashes what's little left of the glass there. I open the dairy section and push the metal cart carrying the milk back. I crawl in, I hear them moving around the store muttering something about a young kid. My tennis ball gets stuck between one of the metal grates. Oh, fuck are you kidding me? I'm pulling towards me and it seems to be working against me. It gets tighter and tighter. "Hey Teddy!" yells one of the men. Teddy, a middle-aged bearded redneck with a trucker cap, an army jacket, and hunter orange pants walks over to the other guy. "Check it out!". I pull the tennis ball out and it comes into the dairy fridge with me. I slowly close the door and move the crate back.
Scooting back into the darkness I watch them through the small slits in the dairy rack. They are joking about something as he shows it to Teddy. Teddy grabs a 2 liter of some type of soda. Looks like a knockoff. He starts chugging it straight from the bottle. My heart is racing, a far cry from earlier leaned up against cop car. I see the third guy coming over to the dairy section. He stops. He starts slowly walking to my left. Oh, fuck... my beer.
He picks up the beer. "Hey fellas?" his voice is muffled through the glass. "Any of ya'll drink this monkey shit?". They walk over to him. "Nah man, what the fuck are you on about?" "Yeah, RICKY!?" yells the hyperactive one. "I'm just sayin' this here beer, was sitting on this here floor. And if none ya'll fuckers drank it... who the fuck did?". "There ain't nobody here... look around you..." Teddy retorts. "Who drinks this shit anyway?" Teddy continues. "Monkeys." Ricky finishes, with disgust in his voice. "We got more huntin' to do eh, Rick?" the hyperactive one suggests, getting excited. Ricky looks around the store. He starts walking away from the dairy section.
Teddy shakes his head and takes another swig of his soda. "Ricky, what you on about anyway? Let's just get the dip then get the fuck outta here." Teddy suggests. Ricky looks at the tor up jacket and cut wood I left in the hardware area. "Yeah... let's get the dip." He moves over to the cashiers and they start smashing the glass that contains all the cigarettes and dip their little bigot ass hearts can care for. Ricky then turns around and pulls his shotgun up to his hip. He glares around the store and cocks a shell into his gun. He aims and fires off a shell. It tears through bread and the frozen section sending particles of food and ice flying through the air. He cocks. BOOM! The pellets fly across the vegetables sending cucumbers and lettuce into the air. He cocks. BOOM! Cock. BOOM!. Cock. BOOM! The glass panel next to me shatters and parts of it fly into my arm. His hyperactive colleague screams and shouts and he pumps round after round into the grocery. He loads another shell, before cocking it. Walks over to the beer. BOOM! He blasts the row of beers that I was drinking. What a fucking prick. He chuckles. He tosses the shotgun. "Hey Charlie, catch!" his hyperactive friend, Charlie, catches the shotgun. "WOOO!" Charlie yells. "Fuck the city!" Charlie continues. "Get in the fucking truck, Chuck!" Teddy says sternly.
I am firmly clenching my handgun and my hands are shaking by the time they drive off. I look down and my knuckles are bleeding from the glass. I look again at the glass and my reflection. I still don't recognize my own face. But I do know that if half of this city is at least half as racist as those fuckers, I'm in for a long fuckin' day.