Bounty

by Jun the Writer


I managed several miles from the tower until it was nothing more than a shape in the horizon looking back. Nights are longer in Earth that wasn’t Earth anymore, and its cold. Very cold.

I had already pulled up my hood to cover my head and ears, and still the chill got to me. I walked slowly; my hands grasping my rifle firmly, ready to shoot. I walked like a cat on the desert ground, making sure I didn’t make a sound.

It was unnerving – sound and smells everywhere. I could tell there were bleeders about by their smell, but they didn’t move much in the night unless you goad them too. Scrappers were scuttling around, probably picking at the bleeder’s skin, and I could hear rompers with their distinct call moving about in the distance. The thing that flew down the sky was the one I was worried about – if something as big as that was roaming the desert, I’m screwed if it decides to snatch me up.

Finally, I managed to make my way to the place where I was to take Amira. Obedon – small outpost in the middle of the desert centered around a spring. It was only then that I noticed that I hadn’t taken a drink for a while. I reached for the canister in my backpack, but it wasn’t there anymore.

A sentry saw me and flashed a light towards me. “Hold up.”, the man said. He pointed his rifle at me. The flashlight nearly blinded me.

“I’m supposed to meet a guy named Samedi here.”, I said, shielding my eyes. “I’ve got a delivery to make.”

“Samedi?”, the man asked. The fucker was still aiming his flaslight at me, not caring if it was blinding me or anything. “What’s your name?”

“Stan. I’m the courier he hired a few days ago.”

“I see.”, the man said. “He slung the rifle over his shoulder, and turned to walk into the town. “If you’ll follow me, then.”

Obedon was a shanty town, but was larger, better looking, and had working electricty unlike the others I’ve seen so far. And good clean water. I could smell it. The man must have noticed this because he three water bottle at me and had me drink. It felt good. Nice, clean water that didn’t stink of the desert air.

“Water here is good, innit?”, the man said proudly. “We got a working purifier that cleans the water from the oasis.”

“How do you get electricity running?”, I asked, wiping the water off my mouth, “Do you have a generator or something?”

“Yeah. It’s larger though and it’s dug right into the ground. It doesn’t make that much noise that way.” The man lead me into a larger house that had metal girders and wooden boards that was probably reinforcement for its façade. It must be an important place, I though to myself.

“Samedi’s here. Go on.” The man left, probably back to his post, and I stepped inside.

The inside of the house wasn’t anything exceptional – except the lights. There were windows letting in the cold air in, but it didn’t feel that cold inside at all. I turned around and saw a boiler turned heater that was humming and generating some heat. I heard footsteps and my hand slowly reached for the rifle slung on my back.

“The courier, I presume?”, a voice said, breaking the silence. The man stepped out of his room and motioned me to sit on one of the beaten up couches. He was older and was wearing a thin undershirt and pants that had a leather pad and a bandolier covering the chest not unlike my own. He walked with a visible limp and I waited for him to sit down before sitting down myself.

“Y-Yes.”, I stammered. “I lost the package. Someone stole it.”

“Oh?”, he said. I didn’t feel any anger in his tone. In fact, it seemed like he was surprised more than anything. He leaned back on his chair and crossed his arms. “Well, the bounty’s still up. Can you track her?”

“Of course.”, I replied, “It was only fair that I tell you.”

“Ran into some trouble?”. he asked. A man entered the house – probably one of his servants. He was holding a tray with two glasses of water and some cooked thing that smelled good. “And if you’re going to ask, it’s fried romper. It tastes good.”

I tore a piece of the fried flesh and ate it. It was rubbery to chew but it tasted real good. The water, of course, was clean and tasted just like real water should.

“Bleeders.”, I said, wiping the oil from my mouth, “A group and a big one chased us all the way to the tower back south. We took a rest and woke up just a few hours ago, and she was gone.”

“That’s a shame.”, he said. He took a piece of the fried romper and took a small bite out of it. I felt embarrassed at my own crudeness. “I’m sure, however, that you can track her down.”

“I will, but I need help.” I sat my rifle beside me on the couch, and he took a good look at it for a while. “I need to know if you have an idea who might have taken her.”

Mr. Samedi stood up and stared pacing about the room, drinking from the glass. He stared out a bit through the window and turned to me with a discerning look about him.

“Only folk here I know are us and the small settlement near the east.”, he said. “There used to be roving gangs here, but they didn’t last long after the first few nights. Those who survived probably left a long time ago.”

I set my plate aside and stood up, slinging my rifle back  my back. I took one last sip of water and made my way to the door.

“So you’re heading off?” I nodded and smiled at Mr. Samedi politely.

“I want to ask something first.”, I said, my hand on the doorknob.

“Go ahead.”

“I saw a thing a while ago; came down from the sky. It nearly knocked as it flew up from where it came. Do you know what it was?”

Mr. Samedi’s face turned from a smile into a worried frown. His eyes darted out into the window and back to me.

“How big was it?”, he asked whispering. His face was close to mine, and I could feel the nervousness he was holding in his throat.

“Real big. It scooped out a ten foot bleeder in its mouth like it was nothing.”

His eyes widened, and he choked the words, “Angels. It’s what they’re called here.”

“Angels?”

“Yep. They’re far from holy though. White like sand and with wings that could block out the moon.”

“Can you kill them?”, I asked. I adjusted the sling holding my rifle on my back.

“No one’s ever managed to. A few have tried, but no one’s been successful.”

“Well.”, I said, opening the door, “I’ll get Amira for you, if the bounty’s still open.”

“Of course it is.”, Mr. Samedi replied.

“Alright. Maybe I’ll bag me an angel, too.”

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