POSTED 08/23/2018 12:39
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The sun was high and intense against the wide yellow desert. The man stood, breathing heavily, clutching his blood-soaked arm, and watched the clear smoke hissing out of the smashed bonnet of the black truck. He had managed to crawl into the driver’s side from the sliding door at the back, which was now a smashed mess. The truck’s cab was as equally messed up: the man behind the wheel was pressed against his seat while the one on the passenger’s side leaned against the door. The third man had his body halfway through the smashed windscreen. They all looked very dead, especially the one through the windscreen. It must have been a really painful death, he’d thought to himself.
Standing now, outside the wrecked vehicle, he sighed with relief. How had he survived this? A dry gust of air suddenly blew against his face, grains of sand sticking to his body. It was then he remembered his nakedness.
Dreading the thought of what he was about to do, he walked towards the vehicle, pulled opened the door and surveyed the dead men. The one on the passenger’s side seemed to be about the same size as he was, so he grabbed the body, straining as he did so, and dragged it against the sand. Getting the trousers off the dead body proved to be a hard task, one that took all of ten minutes, and a lot of cursing and grunting.
Getting the vest off was basically impossible, so he decided to wear just the trousers, which fit snugly, by the way. He looked around, squinting at the harsh rays of sunlight. The road seemed to be too far away, but at the moment had to be his only way. His lips were fast becoming dry and the heat was intense. He needed a shade, and fast.
He squatted close to the dead man and ran his finger against the sign on the vest. He ripped it off and placed it in his pocket, it was probably his clue as to who these people were. Why the masks? He asked himself when he realized that all three men had been wearing masks with bizarre scowls on them. His left hand hurt, so he stretched out his right hand and reached for the mask. It was hard and clasped under the man’s jaw with some sort of rope. Just as he made to undo the strap, he heard a loud stomping noise.
The noise was immediately followed by two loud bangs which seemed to echo on forever. Not again. He quickly ran towards the wrecked vehicle and crouched behind it. He breathed heavily and pressed himself against the jagged side of the truck, not at all bothered by the pain. His arms glistened with sweat which seemed to dry off almost immediately under the heat. He listened, still very much aware of the noises getting louder.
The stomping noises were soon replaced by a distant rumbling, like a storm brewing. He stretched himself up and looked beyond the wreck, towards the horizon. His eyes opened wide at what he saw. He quickly crouched again. Calm down, he told himself, but the image of the spiraling dust clouds in the distance only caused him more panic. There was no way he could beat whatever was coming, whether it was more people to abduct him, or just a regular desert storm. He was still weighing his thoughts when he caught another sound. This one was very different and sounded very close. The rattling and high-pitched humming came to a stop just beside the wreck.
He looked about him, surveying the wreck for any form of weapon, he found none. He gritted his teeth, his heart hammering. In the heat of the moment, he decided to play dead; that had to be his best bet. Just as he made to fall on the sand, a long shadow fell on him. He looked up at the thin man and squinted at the sun ray which fell from behind the thin man, making him more of a silhouette with bright edges.
“What happened here?” the thin man said and moved closer to him.
He was dark skinned and exceptionally tall. He wore a faded leather jacket which seemed a size too big, and a thin jean trouser. He had a black holster strapped to his waist, the gun of which was in his hand.
“Hmm…you’re alive," he said and narrowed his eyes.
Then he jerked his thumb towards the wreck, "those guys in front seem dead enough. What’s your name, boy?” the thin man asked, his white eyes running all over the man sitting quietly on the sand. The thin man had an awkward accent which made the 'boy' come off as 'buoy'.
The man on the sand, still tired and somewhat frightened closed his eyes and tried to remember his name. His mind felt blank, and the more he clawed for images, the more suffocating it felt. He eventually stopped trying to think, and looked up at the thin man. “I don’t know," he said, and meant it.
“Well, boy, I’m sure you must have noticed that storm approaching,” the thin man said and surveyed the wrecked vehicle once more. He narrowed his eyes and wiped his forehead with the gun in his hand. His eyes were back on the man on the sand.
“You survived this, by some miracle," he said and adjusted his belt. "But no way you surviving what’s coming, boy.”
The thin man began to walk away, his boots kicking off small dust clouds. The man on the sand remained where he was and watched the thin man walk beyond the hissing smoke. He was still aware of the not-so-distant rumbling, and he could swear the ground was beginning to shake.
He still tried to remember who he was, but he certainly couldn't think with that noise getting closer. He quickly got up to his feet, still aware of the rawness of his skin, and ran towards the hissing smoke, where the thin man had gone through.
The thin man clutched his gun tightly and placed it in its holster. He wondered why he'd stopped to check that crash site; the clueless bastard he'd seen a moment ago would be dead in a few minutes, once those nightmares caught up. He glanced up at the approaching sand storm as this thought crossed his mind.
Those guys are relentless, he thought and took out a small blue orb–the reason he was being chased. He shoved the orb inside a small purse latched to his bike. He brought out a white scarf–which in fact had lost all its whiteness–and threw it across his neck, and wrapped it around his nose. It'd help against the dust.
He climbed the bike and turned on the ignition. It hummed and coughed, and the HUD flickered and then came on, displaying various units in a blue shade. The bike coughed some more, spewing dark smoke, and then entered into a steady hum. Cursed thing, he thought to himself as he engaged the gear. Just then, his gaze shifted to the side mirror and he caught a shirtless man frantically running towards him.
If it isn't the clueless bastard, he thought and waited. The storm was getting closer, he noticed, but he wasn't bothered. His focus was back on the shirtless man.
"I see you chose not to die, boy," he said, once the man came up to him.
"I don't know what's going on," the man said.
"And you're not going to find out just standing there," the thin man said and felt the harsh wind blow against them. It had been a good idea, his scarf, but this shirtless man seemed to be getting the worst of it, he thought and watched the man struggle to keep the sand from his face.
He changed his mind, this guy would be dead in a minute.
"Here, cover your face," he said and threw a scarf at the man. He watched the man fumble with it and wrap it clumsily around his face.
The thin man shook his hand and looked behind him. The storm was now too close for comfort.
"See ya, boy," he said and twisted the throttle, spewing more black smoke. The bike rattled and hummed and tore through the sand, leaving behind the shirtless man and the fast approaching storm.
He gunned the bike some more and soon all that was left behind him was a cloud of yellow dust. The scarf around his face flapped as he rode fast, his eyes glanced constantly at the side mirror, seeing nothing but dust, and the man he'd left behind. He sighed and cursed, and then stepped on the brakes making the bike waver and screech to a stop, the engine still rattling.
"Clueless bastard," he muttered to himself. He twisted the throttle hard, the HUD showing the fluctuation in power, and then turned the bike, riding straight for the storm.
He coughed as the dark smoke fizzled away, and watched the bike become a mere speck in the distance. The scarf had a sharp smell against his nose but that was the least of his worries. He was now facing a wall of sand moving at a high speed towards him.
The sight was strange in almost every aspect, the obvious being the three dark shadows, like horsemen, riding in the middle of the storm. A close second was the dark cloud that moved in perfect synchronization with the sand storm.
He took a step backwards and then another, and soon broke into a run. The sandy desert ground slowed his speed considerably, but he ran nonetheless. He had no idea where he was running to, but he had his sights on the wrecked vehicle which seemed farther now.
The wind picked up around him, the sand blinding him. He fell to his knees and pushed the scarf over his face in a futile attempt to keep the sand away. Just then, as the fast winds formed a circular wall of sand around him, his left arm began to burn. He winced and clutched it, his eyes watering from the sharp pain.
The air became thin and he began to gasp. He forgot about his arm and clutched his ears, trying to keep away the harsh voices that suddenly invaded his head. The voices whispered angrily and the sand closed in on him, hitting him from all angles.
He was soon on the ground, his chest pressed against the hot sand. Just as he closed his eyes and was about to give up, he heard a loud bang, followed by another, and yet another.
The voices in his head screeched loudly, making him scream. A second later, the sand fizzled out and the storm disappeared. Grains of sand fell onto the ground and on him. He breathed heavily, his hands still clutching his ears, then he heard the approaching footsteps.
He opened his eyes just as the slow, crunching footstep stopped close to him. He watched the thin man squat close to him, gun in hand and a smirk on his face.
"They call me the Scavenger, boy," he said and looked away, "and now you owe me your life."