For part 1 go here

Mad Max: Edge of Transcendence

I was six hours into my journey south to the flatlands, gas is going to become an issue soon and I was most familiar with the mountain ranges of the Appalachian and Smokeys. Also, I had not gone on a stock run in some time, supplies were low, food, water, gas, and I still had a long way to go to get to the hideout where Ashanti was stationed according to the map I had inherited from her now-dead husband. I also had no idea what to expect or how to even approach the situation. Ashanti was a spy for The Last Outpost, there is no way for me to know if she is even using the name, though I had a picture and a good idea of a face to look for. They may not take me. It may be a fight, and of course, it could also mean that I blow her cover and get us both killed in the process…..So many IFs…..Too many.

Reaching into the console, grabbed one of the five ancient cassette tapes and popped it into the surprisingly still working cassette player in the dash and continued on for a bit while I came up with some sort of plan. It wasn’t much longer before I came upon the crop. A crop is what I called areas of the road that were cluttered with destroyed or abandoned vehicles. Luckily It was Summer and I still had daylight on my side. Crops, just like gas stations and the supermarkets of old had become ambush spots for pirates and raiders lying in wait to pick the bones from the hapless scavengers. In other words, one has to assume that they are ALL dangerous as fuck or risk getting a surprise boning up the ass by jackals worse than themselves.
I stopped the car and got out. I raised my hand cannon, well alert. I kept the sawed-off in its holster as I began surveying the area cautiously. So far, so good. I went back to the car and grabbed the 5-gallon gas can and a hose. I knew there were a number of things that could go wrong. I could still get jumped by pirates more skilled, younger and faster or just plain more desperate than me. That was one. Then there were the possible different grades of gas which may or may not be worth a shit depending on the quality and how long the vehicles have been sitting here dormant. It may be the scene had already been picked clean, which would mean I was screwed anyway, or the fact that while my engine could run the crude based shit, it wasn’t built to do so and I could well fuck my engine to Hell and back and end up hoofing it the rest of the distance anyway. Crude based gas was one of those, worth risking your ass in a pinch that could leave screwed in any case alternatives. I always stayed on the lookout here and there for a small bottle of engine cleaner to add, just in case.
I opened the tank on a nearby car and inserted the hose and I began to blow to generate the suction from the pressure. Just as I had given it up for empty or bottom of the tank at least, a familiar and nasty flavor reached my tongue and I spit while inserting the other end of the hose into the gas can. It made the smell of gasoline strong and brought back memories of junior high school when huffing gas to hallucinate was such a fad while you ate your brain. Just then I heard a noise and quickly pointed my hand cannon it’s direction. A squirrel scurrying away at the sudden movement set my mind at s much ease as it was capable of these days.
My can was almost full…..Great about five more times of this process should do the trick.

A few hours pass as I toil and eventually manage to fill my gas tank. Deeming this crop a good or safe harvest, I decided to take a closer look around, gun still at ready in case. One can never be too careful in this day and age.
Up ahead there was a breach in the guardrail, looming over I saw an overturned semi with a busted open back end and the word Wal-Mart on the now rusted trailer. I moved down to investigate, there was no one in sight and I saw inside the trailer, busted pallets, boxed furniture of cheap particle board and electronics of little use to anyone in this world that had grown accustomed to a very different form of living, but in the back, I spotted something of use. Cases of canned goods had been thrown about as that truck had crashed and not all of them had been pillaged. I found over seven càses of store brand sliced potatoes, peas, carrots…Shit, that dumb asses would have left thinking that magically they could go get a Big Mac the following day…..Paydirt.

On my way back to the car, something caught my eye in the passenger seat of a Nissan Accura, a bag that I took a mental note of as I carried my haul back to replenish supplies. Returning to that Nissan I threw my elbow into the driver side window with force and reached in to grab the paper bag. Removing the contents of that bag I would find a quart bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey…And it made me smile. I think I’ll tuck that away for later. As of now with a decent stock of food, first aid kits, a full tank of gas and now a bottle of alcohol my focus then turned to how the fuck to get around this mess without having to double back for miles only to risk hitting another such spot which may be either less fruitful and more dangerous. I opted to go off-road to get around the mess. It was a risk, one that could leave me stuck in the rough and back at square one or it could pay off despite the lack of 4 wheel drive…….Hell, EVERYTHING in this world has a risk factor now…This is no different.

I decided to take another sideroad into the mountains themselves risking once more getting a car that has no business being on such a path stuck or worse. My gamble paid off and I came into an open field near the top of the mountain. I kept myself armed just in case, as I got out of the car and looked around. Looking down I noticed the ground was covered in very distinct sprouts that I recognized as wild onions. This will make a good base camp for about a week while I prepared and restocked for the journey ahead. I set myself to gathering maybe 150, 200 wild onions all told. Leaving my goods in a pile I decided to go ahead and further survey the area looking for other natural food sources and hopefully a spring. Luck was on my side in both of these searches as I found a suitable patch of safe, edible mushrooms, patches of wild strawberries and finally a spring with ice-cold water dribbling from the ground behind a patch of stones. I marked the location and took my haul back to the clearing so I could grab some water bags I had previously made out of the trunk of the car, then I went to collect my water.
This was how I spent my first four hours in this new safe space. On my second trip, I noticed a family of deer grazing in the forest…Tomorrow I thought.

I was tired and it was near dark as I finished cleaning up my haul, cutting the green from the wild onions and washing them. Digging out a can of sliced potatoes and a can of sliced carrots that I decided was going to be tonight’s dinner I then went in search of a sandstone of suitable size. Taking the can of potatoes and turning it upside down I began rapidly rubbing the top against the rough sandstone, stopping periodically to blow the tiny metal shavings away and starting again until I had broken the can’s seal and pushing the lid inwards effectively rung out the juices leaving only the potato content. I threw away the lid and began plucking out the slices one at a time. A bland dinner, for a bland time when beggars couldn’t be choosers, but tomorrow I would change that. In the morning I would go hunting, that was when the real work would begin. After my meager dinner of cold sliced potatoes and carrots along with a couple of wild onions and strawberries as dessert, I got into the driver seat and let the back down as I closed my eyes for the night and prayed for a quiet sleep uninterrupted by threats both without and within.

Like clockwork, my internal sense of time saw me rise before the sun and I again popped the trunk, this time to grab my quiver of arrows and compound bow. I would still take the firearms as a safety measure, but you never hunt with those, not anymore. Not only could the sound of a gun going off attract the attention of those who knew it meant that someone was protecting something of value, but ammunition was also a rare commodity meant only to be used when there was no other choice unless you wanted to learn how to make your own bullets…Fuck all that. The best armed were the mountain survivors and the pirates…And considering that you are never at an advantage with raiders and pirates that left your only trade option being the mountain survivor groups who were comprised mainly of militia members and the families that had tolerated their paranoid asses. They valued ammunition above all else but the life of one of their own. It was a trade-off for a loner like me. I could force them into a trade by threatening one of their own, but I valued the safe passage my discretion had earned me among their members.

I went to the spot where I had seen the deer the day before. Looking for their tracks to get an idea of their movement. I saw many, some from the day before and some that were older. Continuing to examine the ground I had noticed that of the older tracks I could tell they were varied in age themselves, meaning this was a fairly high traffic area for them. It looks like all I would have to do is wait and they would likely be back. I stood up and began surveying the area looking for a high spot that would still give me a good vantage point of the tiny clearing, I found it in a tree ten yards away. The tree had a branch that was sturdy and thick that I found easy to saddle and most importantly it was easy to climb up to. From where I was I had a straight shot into the little clearing. Everything was perfect.
As the sun came up more, it’s fiery orange tone gave way to normal bright sunlight and I sat there watching as the light bounced off of leaves and passed its beams in between them. A part of me loved these moments. They were peaceful and when you could allow yourself to fall completely into them, it became easy to forget what the world had become. Judging how the light changed while I was sitting there I figured that not long after midday the clearing would be in the shade which was likely when the deer would come back. It had been shaded when I saw them the day before. Nothing to do until then. Nothing to do but sit and sweat as the heat was rising along with the sun.
I was counting the ways that my ass was getting numb sitting here in this tree when sometime after three in the afternoon by my judgment, seven deer entered the tiny clearing. I pretty much had my pick, but my eyes locked onto an eight-point rack and the massive buck it was attached to. Quietly taking a few deep breaths to steel my nerves and steady my hands, I knocked an arrow and took aim. One shot, I let the arrow fly and it tore into the side and the heart of the deer that had jumped in shock like it wanted to run off but instead, it fell to the ground dead. The other deer scattered which was fine by me, I had gotten what I came for, no more, no less.

I dragged the deer back to camp and grabbing a bag from behind my driver seat that held all of the sharp tools that I used for butchering I started the process of gutting the deer being sure to set aside the various parts I would be putting to use such as the stomach and the bladder to be processed and converted into new water bags. If the bladder was full I would use the deer’s own urine to aid in removing the hair from the hide once I removed that. Any excess fat I would melt down into oil that I would use to waterproof my guns. Before all was said and done almost every part of this animal was going to be used including the brains as a curing agent for the hide tanning process, though that was my least favorite part, I’ve long since gotten over the disgusting tactile feel of squished animal brains but the Goddamn stink of it could make a maggot puke. Having taken out the innards I then took a rope from out of my bag and tied off the deer’s hind legs. Finding a nearby tree with a low enough branch to allow me to work quickly I slung the other end of the rope over and began hoisting the deer carcass up and tied off around the tree. Taking one of my sharpest blades I started splitting the hide and working it off the body. I had roughly four hours of daylight left. Thoroughly cleaning the parts would take most of that time which meant I was going to be working throughout the night by my headlights cutting the meat. I would be left to hope I wouldn’t have to shoot a coyote or bear that may happen along my prize.

The sun was rising again as I let what little was left of the deer which was mainly just skeletal remains to the ground and dragged it some distance from camp. I was exhausted having been up a full 24 hours already. But there was no time to rest, I had to set up to begin the cooking and smoking process. Once I got that started I could risk a few hours of downtime.
I set myself to collecting wood and stones to build my smoking pit, as well as a separate fire to begin canning the stew and frying up a few steaks as I also had not eaten since the first night I had come to this spot. By midday fires were blazing smoking jerky, steaks and chops and the small pressure cooker was sealing the box of small Mason jars in fours with deer stew made from my hunted and pillaged goods. I would get to the nasty business of tanning on the following day right now was all about preserving the all-important food source. I was going to be another day or two doing that alone. I would start the tanning process the next day because that was what was going to keep me here the longest.
I cut a few wild onions and salted up three tender sirloins to throw in a pan on the fire. I opened twelve more cans of potatoes and carrots and peas by way of sandstone and dumped the contents into four more Mason jars adding the cubes of deer meat, some cut up onions and a few chopped mushrooms. I had a laugh as my arm started cramping up…..All this shit I have and I never thought to seek out a basic can opener. That’s the way it goes in life, isn’t it? You are always missing the one thing that can make life that much easier. Back before the pandemic, it seemed we had lived in an age of instant gratification and that one thing we ended up missing was sheer common sense, hence why the world fell to shit after that, I think.
I ate my steaks and started four more jars of stew while I set the previous ones aside to seal as they cooled, each making a popping noise as they did so and I checked in on the smoking pit, adding some wood chips as I pulled open the teepee of deer hide that I used as the tent. I collapsed to the ground by the car and leaned my head back finally allowing myself to doze off. I would wake up again in a few hours to check on everything…

I woke up sometime around six in the evening and checked all my processes. I opened another twelve cans of vegetables and prepared another four Mason jars before deciding that it would be wise to return to the spring and replenish my water source that I had used most of in the process of cleaning and cooking. It was near dark before I had returned dragging all my water bags on a bundle of branches and saplings that would chop up and use to keep the fires burning.
I cooked up another three steaks and going into the car, broke out the bottle of whiskey I had found on the highway. The moon was rising overhead and I could hear a pack of coyotes in the distance howl. ” I’m sorry,” I said aloud after the seventh swig from the bottle of Jack started kicking in. This was a mistake and I knew it was going to be, but we all have our vices and mine wasn’t the alcohol so much as holding onto something that was dead and gone for me a long time ago. “I don’t know if you’re actually out there anywhere Jenny Lynn, but if you are…Heh heh first off you should know I haven’t heard the sound of my own voice for three days so I’m a little rusty with things being as they are. You know I can’t remember a day that we were together that I didn’t tell you I loved you…How much and now it seems like it was never enough”…The emotions that I normally kept bottled up began to free flow like diarrhea of the mouth and I knew it would cost me, but still, I continued. ” I think that’s because the one time that I knew you needed to hear it most…I wasn’t there, because I wasn’t supposed to be…..But I never got over that. Never stopped feeling like I had let you down when you needed it most.” My eyes were welling up as my voice and the crackling fire cut through the silence of the night. “I’ve lived in shame of that ever since. I had finally found you after the worst part of my life and you brought me back…Every day you brought me back a little bit more…..And I wasn’t allowed to be there with you when you needed me most.”
Sometimes even grown men cry themselves to sleep…We’re all human. That night, talking to the empty air was another breaking point in the shit I keep myself too busy, always on the move in order to survive…I tell myself, but in reality, even I know I’m just trying to outrun facing something that has already happened and can’t be changed and as much as it rips my insides out……It’s how I keep e everything that was dearest to me close by…A welcome haunting.

I was sitting at my computer……This one again. For the most part, I am generally grateful that I am too exhausted to let my mind wander into the light/dark places of my memories in sleep…I hardly dream or at least hardly remember when I do, but when I do, man it’s a motherfucker. This was a memory I knew by heart and every time I opened the flood gates I knew what would happen. ” Darius Martinez. 12 years old. Was last seen in the Green Heights area in Massachusetts. If you see this child or anyone on this list of missing children you can contact your local FBI office or turn in your tips to the missing children cyber tip line at 1 800 The Lost.” I clicked off the camera and began uploading my video to my YouTube channel dedicated to updates on cases of missing children. I took a bite of my sandwich as I began the process. “And here I was going to fix dinner.” I heard from behind me. “Yeah well, I got tired of waiting,” I said with a mischievous grin on my face. “What are you eating anyway?” Jenny asked. “THIS? This is a delightful combination of peanut butter and honey.” I replied. “PEANUT BUTTER AND HONEY?…Did you ever come off the streets? What are you five, and living in subsidized housing?” I started laughing, her sense of humor was always one of her strongest assets. “Would you like some Sugar Smacks with your peanut butter and honey? Perhaps some commodity cheese?” She said as she moved in and wrapped her arms around me. It felt so real…How cruelly our minds play tricks on us as it replays scenes from our past. “Heh heh heh, Funny you should ask that. I was a kid when I saw this fine recipe in a movie and it just sort of stuck with me.” I answered. “How goes the good fight?” She whispered into my ear sending shockwaves down my spine. “We recovered one today safely,” I said proudly. “Strange hobby mister.” She jibed. “I just want to do something that matters to people,” I said. “I know, it’s one of the many reasons I fell in love with you.” She replied, tightening her grip in a hug that if I could freeze time I would let last forever.
In a flash, we were both in bed and I was holding her. Not this one…..Why does it always have to be this one? I helplessly wandered. “Do you love us?” She asked. “You mean like you and me? I would think by now you would know I really don’t mind us so much.” I replied, gently kissing her behind the ear. “Well what about you, me and……..

I felt the tightness in my chest begin to take hold even in sleep. Natural instinct saw me come alive instantly screaming even while I pulled my hand cannon out and pointed it into the empty night. everything was surfacing again, all the pain, all the rage. repeatedly I threw my fist into the side of the car for lack of having a target to shoot screaming all the while. Then came the tiny voice in my mind asking me why I was letting myself go through this when I had the answer in my hand and I pointed the cannon at my chin. I was gripped by a poison I had no antidote for and the only way out of it was death and I knew so why?…. Why not just do it and bring an end to all this misery? My grip got dangerous on the hair-trigger of my hand cannon as another voice entered my mind…It was my own. “I’ll do it.” I had said. I would take this intel to the Last Outpost even if it blissfully killed me and I threw the cannon away with a shriek and fell over staring at the moon and star overhead on a clear night through the blur of tear-filled eyes. I screamed my agony out into the night and the peaceful and serene setting I had made my home for the next few days even as I knew my home was gone…I had not been back there in years and never cared to see it again…

I wasn’t able to back to sleep and for a multitude of reasons I felt like utter shit as the sun came up. My first sizable batch of smoked goods was done and I stoked the fire and reloaded. I had another day of canning and another two days of smoking what goods I had. I checked in on the sinew I had drying. That was surprisingly one of the most versatile parts of the deer. It could be used for anything from stringing a bow to a little known use as being excellent suture thread as it absorbs easily into the skin. With all of these things checked and prepped I turned my attention to the nastiest task yet, the tanning process. If I were a betting man I would have placed everything on the notion that before this process was even halfway over I was going to regret hitting the bottle the night before having to do that shit…I would’ve won too.

I had sacrificed two of my Mason jars on the day I killed the deer to empty the bladder into during the cleaning process, with all the meat yielded by my prey and the still plentiful stock of canned goods I had found in the Walmart truck on the highway that I had neither enough stewing meat or jars to make deer stew for using meat from the same part of the neck for jerky, the jars were more expendable to me than any of the water bags. Add to that a man will die of thirst long before he starves to death and the decision is a no brainer. Practicality counted for everything in this world now and that went double for the loner nomads like myself who had to make damn sure they watched their every step in these chaotic times.
I took a scraper and a jar of deer piss and went to work removing the hair sending a small cloud of flies scattering. The smell was pleasant I would tell you…..If I were lying my ass off and for those who have never had the honor of being covered in the coarse hair of a deer, that feeling wasn’t all that great either. After the hair was removed from the hide I dug a small hole by hand and putting the hide in it, I began filling the hole with water…Now came the fun part. Shooing away more flies I uncovered the brains of the deer that I had removed and as the smell hit my olfactory nerves a sudden signal fired to my alcohol-laden stomach and I turned away projectile vomiting…If only I had been a betting man and anyone else had been around to wager with. Readjusting I took the brains in hand and went to work rubbing and squishing them into the hide. Once more before the deed was done I puked, I would follow that up with a second dry heave as there were no more contents in my own stomach to eject, but I would finish my work regardless.

With the nasty work done I checked once more on everything being done and decided to go hunting for something else reaching into the pocket in the back of my passenger side seat, I pulled out a half-full shampoo bottle and a bar of soap I kept wrapped up. I was betting that the frequency with which the deer had appeared in that one spot meant there must be a water source other than the spring I had found somewhere nearby. An hour into my search I found what I was looking for by following the deer tracks this time. It was a small pond, not more than four feet deep at most. Stripping down I got in. The water was cold as fuck at first but it would feel good soon enough, there were no more functional Hiltons, not in this world. In this world, you had to live with the dirt and the grime until you found or made a suitable water source to get clean. This world reminded you what it meant to be a human animal in every sense of the term and no bullshit could save anyone from it. I could explain to you exactly what that meant when came to having to take a shit in the wild, but I think this alone will suffice for the sake of some resemblance of civility.
When done I moved back to shore to dry in the sun which I would have to do thoroughly to brush off the sand as best I could before putting on the same raggedy-ass gear I was wearing before I cleaned up. Indeed in this world, everything was about give and take. I would make my way back to camp and start another round of pressure-cooked stew. There was never a shortage of things to keep one busy, not anymore.

Tonight’s menu was deer ribs and water. After finishing I checked again on everything before leaning back in my driver seat and reluctantly crashing. I was in no hurry to repeat what had happened the previous night so I forced my mind to be quiet. At some point, I was going to have to balance all of the work with rest which was always hard as fuck to do when on your own, because every task is on you.
Again I awoke before dawn and went to gather more wood for my fires. I would be finished canning by midday and allowing everything to cool, counted thirty-two jars of stew with three of my seven cases of canned goods left, I had used all of my wild onions and mushrooms and still had some berries left, I would finish smoking everything else the following day I figured. I returned to the spring and again refilled my bags. All was going well. Once the food prep was done I was going to have a few days of downtime and rest while the tanning process finished.
As I was wrapping most things up on day five I decided to finish my bottle of whiskey that night…..Fuck it. Only that night was meant to be in celebration. After another cold bath, this time hand washing the rags I wore too and another hearty meal I reached into the glove compartment where I kept my tobacco and rolling tubes, I rolled five cigarettes by firelight and then laid naked on the hood of the car staring up at the night sky, a bottle of whiskey in one hand, a cigarette in my lips and hand cannon next to me, because you could never take peace for granted.
I watched a number of shooting stars overhead, the nights were always so much more clear now without the light pollution. I dared to ask myself the question. I had to after five days of relative peace. I had the knowledge, why not just stake a claim to somewhere like this mountaintop. Why not just live in peace for the rest of my days? The answer was always the same, I had in me a God awful restlessness. I’ve had it ever since I dropped that phone receiver with the doctor still on the line and walked out of my house never to look back….”Careful” I warned myself, in that train of thought there be ghosts well adept at calling the monster out of you…

I awoke covered in early morning dew, the whiskey bottle now mostly empty, most of it spilled out. My head wasn’t pounding, but it was still spinning. Checking on the hide and sinew before grabbing clothes off of the branch I left them hanging on and heading back to my driver seat in the dry interior of the car. I would crash again in blissful emptiness and awake sometime after three by my figuring, not hungover but really just more relaxed. Getting dressed I checked on everything again. Most of that final day was spent toiling with the punchout list, a carpentry term for the small detail list of loose ends when completing a job. Things like oiling the guns, especially the new ones acquired from the cult members I took down at the creek and looking over the map for the journey ahead. I would sleep peacefully one more night.
As morning came a week after my arrival I took everything down and stored it away. I dared to take one more look around at what had been my peaceful sanctuary for a full week and wondered again to myself why I didn’t just stay and let the world do whatever it felt it needed to in order to reclaim its own balance. This time I had more than a ghost and the senseless restlessness it caused me. “I’ll do it.” I had promised. With that single thought, I got in the car and fired up the engine. I still had miles to go before reaching the camp where this Ashanti had been stationed. I pulled out from the clearing without looking back, that was a habit I had grown all too accustomed to as I roamed these wastelands of a once-great nation.

Urban destruction scene with camera move and flying birds.

Today I’m going to do something a little different from what I normally do on here and give everyone a small taste of my creative writing for a change. I have done this before just not very often and I got bit by the writing bug again last night where I went full on freestyle in what can only be deemed a sort of real world reboot of Mad Max. Today I give you a piece of that opening, call it Chapter 1. This counts entirely as fan fiction I suppose. I hope you like it and I will be giving you more of this tale as time progresses.

The year is 2022 and the world is quite a different place than it used to be. Most of us who are left have banded together in separate groups for the safety in numbers that hiding alone can’t offer…..At least not from the other groups of raiders interested only in taking what others have. A few like who really don’t give a fuck have been wandering the wasteland alone taking in the mess of the whole thing. We never were allowed to get past the social distancing by the time the pandemic of 2020 had ended people had succumbed to a different disease altogether fueled by desperation and anger, the first of the raiders busting into people’s houses. Protests became skirmishes and outright terrorist attacks as the have nots decided that if they couldn’t have electric neither would the haves of the world. The grid went down and the world fell into a shitstorm of chaos that would follow. Even now I place the makeshift grave marker on the grave of the first person I have had a conversation with in almost 2 years…..Poor bastard….Me, not him…That son of a bitch left a steaming pile of thoroughbred horseshit of his own right in my lap before dying. Now…….

2 Days Before.

Found a nice natural gas well traipsing around in these mountains. Green living via necessity while many fought over what refined gasoline was left, the smartest one learned how to adapt engines for alternate and in many cases easier to obtain fuel sources….It’s what kept people like me out of many a deadly fights, that centered around the old crude way of doing things. What had once been gas stations became death traps after the grid went down. Pirates and raiders would keep watch on them for unsuspecting fools, naive enough to think finding a standing fueling station meant God was looking out for them…..Someone certainly was…And it certainly wasn’t God.
In the mountains you’re surrounded by kindling and generally safer in starting an honest to God fire as opposed to eating into your stores of canned heat. In my experience, the mountains housed the better people, not raiders, but survivors and they often allowed loners like me to pass, though it was never without risk, while ruled by better intentions the survivalist tribes were still paranoid as fuck. But today I was alone heating up the spring water for my morning coffee. Alone with my thoughts of life before the world went to shit…..My bad, my company was more dangerous than I thought. For people like me, the still moments can be worse than running into a pack of hungry raiders. I let her image flash through my mind. “Not today Goddamn it.” Stamping out the fire I decide it’s time to get back to the car, back on the move. Just a quick fill up and go, with no destination in mind, but no reason to be late getting there.

A few hours later….

I always found it hard to explain to people what happens between being a part of the civilized world and getting thrust into the natural world. Over time your body becomes wise to the situation and as it does your mind unlocks certain abilities you may never knew you ever had. Concentration at peak level, a sense of hyper awareness to your surroundings as you sleep in the open. And while you don’t necessarily sleep with one eye open you do reach a point when you can be both in a deep sleep, yet mentally aware of every tiny change in the physical world, a sound, a smell can have you up in an instant surveying the situation…..We spent so long trying to teach ourselves that we are something we’re not that when you first experience these things, it feels almost like you’ve gained superpowers when in fact they are just natural gifts that you forgot how to use or never were privileged enough to face anything that made you aware you had them in the first place….. And so it was I KNEW without knowing how I could that something was amiss as I approached the car…..That was when I met him…..Damn him for that by the way. The storm I would learn was coming by the knowledge of that dying bastard put me at a crossroads…..And also in the crosshairs of the type of crazy motherfucker you never want to deal with…One who’s crazier than even me. Not gonna lie I’m a little scared now…..Not gonna lie, I’m a little excited too.

I pointed my hand cannon in the rear window of my car where the sorry bastard knocking on deaths door lay in backseat. “Who the fuck are you and why are you in my car?” I asked. Barely able to raise his head to look me in the eye with his steely gaze he replied with the simplest of requests….”Help me.” He said. Deciding we were still safely tucked away in mountain militia territory I went ahead and set up camp after filling the tank and as I went to work to dress the stranger’s wounds from my stock of medical supplies, he shocked me with his refusal for the aid and told me to save my supplies because he already knew he was dying. Abashed, I could only stand and stare at the stranger. If not for his health, what then had he requested my help for? As night fell and I began to cook insisting that he at least accept a last meal if not medical aid, an old trait passed onto me from family who knew of harder times and would never let even a hated enemy die hungry before putting a bullet in them. He thanked me and told me his name was Madan and asked me mine. I met him with silence for a time before finally saying. “My name is Max.” It isn’t you know, but I had hardly had any contact with anyone, much less someone I knew in almost 2 years and with the world being as it was who was I to give a fuck what I or anyone else called me….We are past such trivial things.
“I’m CIA….or I was before Covid-19 turned the world upside down and everything went to Hell in a handbasket. They still exist you know…The government. They’re the equivalent of a skeleton crew protected by Last Outpost.” I had heard of this fairytale before, but never from someone claiming to be inside. Rumor had it as disease and infighting during Martial Law when the people first rose up took it’s toll on the military they had rounded their survivors up and retreated, content to allow the world to take care of itself, but the knowledge of government that still existed was a twist I hadn’t heard….Apparently their retreat had only been tactical, a way to learn the inner workings of the new world they had been presented with as they plotted to restore order. And so it was that spies had been sent out to infiltrate the various groups and factions of what was left of society. “I never imagined anyone like him could exist.” He said. “It’s like something out of a comic book or bad sci-fi 80’s film. He’s crazy, and he believes this world is better off ending. He even calls himself Lord Nihilist, Lord and Keeper of The Great Empty…He has been cultivating the virus from the dead and tinkering with it. He aims to unleash his new version in order to finish the job. I infiltrated their compound and he has managed to amass his own private army of cult followers determined to see his will done. He is not like the raiders. His mentality is singular and Hell-bent on ending all of humanity.” I struggled to take in what he was telling me. “Well look around, it’s not like we have much else going for us anyway.” I said. “Nor will we ever have the chance to have again if he manages to carry out his plan.” He replied……Did I say damn him? I meant DOUBLE DAMN HIS ASS FOR PLAYING THAT CARD. “What do you need my help with?” I asked. “I infiltrated them and was caught, they’ve been on me ever since I escaped…They finally delivered the death blow when they caught me hiding in a convenience store 6 miles up road. I shook them and stumbled on your car…I meant to steal it, but I can’t….I’m not going to make it. I need YOU. I need YOU to get this information to the Last Outpost. Lord Nihilist, his cult is huge, but not so huge that he doesn’t fear the outpost. They are the only thing that can stand in his way…I need YOU to get what I have learned to them.”

Morning comes and looking out over the horizon I see the dust rise from a caravan…..A hunting party of five vehicles. Something in my gut tells me they are looking for my new found friend. With urgency, I stuff his ass in my passenger seat and fire up the engine. “Which way is this outpost?” I ask. “EAST” He shrieks in agony as I fire up the engine and ride in the direction pointed. It isn’t long before we get spotted and the caravan abruptly changes direction to lock onto us. Dedicated I think to myself. There is no way for them to know I hold the person they are looking for yet on a whim they decide to leave no stone unturned in their search. They are closing. While safer in terms of not relying on standard gas this baby just doesn’t have the ass to outrun those gas-guzzling fuckers…Luckily I equipped this bitch with a few surprises of my own. Never have I been in this situation. Never has the opposing side ever made such a concentrated effort for a single ride and as I gain 5 tails, it dawns on me that I am in the shit now. I pop a release near the visor and suddenly my windshield becomes a bulletproof armored shield as the first of 5 approaches. Slamming hard on my breaks and ducking the hail of bullets that followed, the first of the caravan shoots ahead. Hitting a button on my dash a net of metal spikes fires from under my front bumper and tangles itself in the rear tires of my former pursuer causing their main rear-drive system to lose control as the speed and pressure cause the spikes to rip through their rear tires. I blast right through them as they spin uncontrollably in my path and their vehicle flips….One down.
There was no time to even adjust, the other 4 vehicles were closing in fast. Shots were fired pinging off the armor plating I had installed. Reaching out the window I flipped out a wing plate attached to the driver door as a bullet zinged past my arm. The closest was nearly on my back bumper, the passenger was crawling out it’s window a twisted visage of rugged black makeshift armor and black and white face paint. They were close enough now that even over the roar of the engines I could hear the driver as he half leaned out his own window firing his automatic and belting out an annoying war cry “Li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li, li”
Eyeballing all of this in my side mirror I took a shot with my hand cannon at the extended armor flap. The ricochet shot caught the driver just above his right eyebrow cutting off his war cry as he slumped back into the truck causing it to veer to the right making the passenger who was now on the hood drop to his knees to hang on. The truck had veered too suddenly for the car behind it to change course and clipping the back corner the truck took to the air throwing it’s armor-clad passenger a good 30 feet as it tumbled end over end. It would again get directly in the path of the car that just hit it only this time the car would not be so lucky as it was made to start it’s own flip roll. “HOLY FUCK! I DON’T THINK I COULD DO THAT AGAIN IN A MILLION TRIES!”……No time to celebrate the drivers of the remaining 2 cars deftly swerved around the devastation and was quickly bearing down on me.

“You never answered me back there….Will you do it? Will you get what I have learned to The Last Outpost?” My weak and dying passenger asked. “Now? We’re seriously having this conversation NOW? In case you’re too weak to notice what’s going on here we currently have two of your buddies barking up our asses as we speak. How about you let me focus getting us out of this mess before we cover saving the fucking world okay? These guys are good, their horsepower is better than ours and I’m almost out of fucking tricks here.” I retorted. At that moment both pursuers flanked us, I barely had enough time once I spotted to guns pointed directly at us to duck and again slam on the breaks letting them shoot past us. Sitting up again I saw that one of them was losing control…..apparently shooting while directly across from one another is a poor idea…Who would have thought? I hit the gas aiming to slam the swerving car in the ass to finish the job. While they had the better horsepower mine had the better armor rating and could survive what their fiberglass piece of shit couldn’t. Just as I was about to make contact, the other remaining vehicle took a page from my book and slammed hard on its breaks firing as we passed it. The bullets glanced off the car’s armor and instead of slowing I doubled down and kept the gas floored finally clipping the back corner of the swerving vehicle and upending it. It rode on two tires until it came to the side of the road crashing into the ditch line…..One left.

This could go on forever. I remember high speed chases that would go on for hours back when the world was normal. When there were five it was relatively easy for them to get in their own damn way. I just filled this bitch up, I have no intentions of burning all my fuel on this fucking chase. I had to end this. I had to make this a straight fight somehow. My senses were heightened, above even their new normal and I spotted an easily missed turn off. Banking hard right and knowing full well in the mountain regions this could well be a road better suited for 4 wheel drive which along with a lack of horsepower I did not have, I knew our pursuers didn’t either this could well force all of us to come face to face. In my mirror I watched as they overshot the turn off and I knew that may well give us the needed moments to set the stage. Just up ahead there was a turn around spot by a creek and I quickly pulled in and went to work aiding my passenger out and across the creek to a giant sandstone boulder on the other side. There we waited. Along with my hand cannon I had grabbed my sawed off 12 gauge that I had also replaced the wooden stock with a pistol grip. I called it the point and fuck up, for the damage it was capable of at close quarters. Sure enough for long our pursuers came along the dirt road and spotting the car, came to a stop. Four of them got out, all armed….Bad odds. “BROTHER! WHY DO YOU DEFY US?……YOU MISUNDERSTAND. JUST LOOK AT THE WORLD AND WHAT IT’S BECOME!…..ALL LORD NIHILIST WANTS IS FOR US TO FINALLY FIND PEACE…..AND REST….BY LEADING US INTO THE GREAT EMPTY AND THE FINAL SLEEP WHERE NO PAIN EXISTS! COME! LET US TALK!” As I sat observing this asshole and listening to his words I remembered what the man next to me had said. We will never get the chance to have anything again if this Nihilist was allowed to carry out his plan of restarting the virus anew….And improved upon…..The virus…….It was triggering inside me, I knew it the moment the memory of her face flashed before my minds eye……Let it. Let it because at your age four against one is generally a death sentence save for the ways the RAGE often became the equalizer……My breathing became heavy and audible as the tightness in my chest took hold. I heard in my mind what the doctor said……”She’s not recovering….I’m sorry” he said. “I have to see her.” I had replied in desperation. “Again I’m sorry son, that can’t be allowed, not under quarantine restrictions.” I started seeing red as I made the connection between that past agony and this group’s endgame……FUCK WAITING! I stormed out from behind the boulder, hand cannon raised and shot the furtherest to the left square in the face dropping him…..I was met with a hail of bullets but was beyond all ability to care, whether by shit aim, sheer will power, or divine intervention not a one would find it’s mark and I was close enough now that Point and Fuck Up was in it’s element, raising it I plugged one of the face painted bastards square in the chest, blowing him six feet backwards. They had registered that I was in hand to hand range before I did and the remaining two moved in having no time to reload. It was sheer instinct as I kicked the first approach square in the nuts and busted him in the face with my shot gun. The other had grabbed me but I knocked his arms aside dropping my weapons in the process recklessly and taking his collar delivered four fast headbutts directly to his face before driving my knee into his groin and with a handful of hair slamming his face another eight times into a fair sized rock on the ground. Blood gushed and flowed and I could care less when I was in this state. Turning to the final as he finally staggered to his feet, I again picked up my shotgun, but rather than fire I again swung the heavy metal of it’s frame and connected across his face dropping him…….”She’s not recovering.” That was all I heard even as I was half certain the lone survivor of our attackers was begging to be heard. I didn’t fire a shot, I only swung the shotgun at the man’s face repeatedly in a blind rage until there was nothing left but pulp and my arms were too heavy to raise and red dots danced across my vision until all that was left was the useless pain, the emptiness inside that haunted me, tightness in my chest and breathing as heavy now from exhaustion as what had triggered it…..I was another 15 minutes in this state before I realized how covered in blood I was…….The blood of my enemies.

“I saw what you were willing to do. The world is beyond judgment at this point past what we hold each other accountable for. Go to the lowlands in the south at the location I have written for you…..That is where my wife Ashanti is stationed…..She deserves to know what has become of me, but she can also guide you through the obstacles you will face when approaching the Last Outpost. Tell her I love her and that I gave my all to see us all have one more chance.” We sat by the campfire I had built. I was still reeling from my earlier episode and try as I might in the creek I still was covered in patches of blood that never washed away. I am in this now, against my better judgment, but I could not get her image out of my mind. If what this man was saying was true and after everything I had experienced so far I had no reason to believe otherwise…..I had to accept. Some part of me had to accept and chase what most had deemed only rumors. “I’ll do it.” I said……..Somewhere during the night my newfound companion passed on. I buried him not far from our camp, I felt a need to out of respect.

Now….. I look to the items my now dead companion had on his person and I steel my nerves as I look across a valley in the early morning sun. I had been given but a taste of what was to come on account of my choice…..Something in me simply could not let it go……So be it….It’s not like I have had much to live for, for some time now.

I want everyone reading this to stop and picture if you will for a moment what mid-April looks like in the US. Bills have come due and utilities get cut off while everyone is still tucked away in their homes trying to get a handle on the virus situation. This happens because not many can get to work and that little one-time government check of $1200 wasn’t enough to cover the cost of living in America. Panic and anger take over and people here and there start snapping. We’re talking the beginning of civil disobedience as desperation starts prompting people to take matters into their own hands for survival. Now picture if you will what May looks like as more and more people start openly breaking quarantine measures, the virus starts getting worse as the number of infected starts to skyrocket in the face of people’s defiance and looting and other small skirmishes start breaking out. By June places like New York start looking like the images, we all saw in Hong Kong during the protests in 2019.

Times like now are nothing any of us alive today have ever experienced, and honestly, I have no confidence in our leadership in seeing their answer to this crisis. Many states were waiting for the order to come from the federal government and it never came, so the states started taking their own measures to head the problem off while everyone in Washington was trying to figure out what pet projects they could exploit the immediate need for aid to the people to get through and a package was made that many would argue is completely out of touch with the needs of the citizens in this time of crisis. It was with this in mind that I started a petition through which I will link below. It’s clear to me now that the best option for the people is to look out for each other because we can’t trust our leaders to have our interest at heart. Throughout this entire ordeal, there have been things that could have been done that would have already set the minds of the people at ease for the weeks ahead and I fear that if something is not done to effectively do just that, we could be looking at genuine riots in a time when that would be the last thing we need.

We are facing an unprecedented crisis with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many of our states are on lockdown in an effort to stop the spread of the disease, preventing many of our citizens from being able to work and support their families. In this time while Congress is fighting to reach an agreement for some manner of an economic stimulus package to alleviate the stress on the people, we are faced with the question of what happens when we can’t pay our bills. With the current state of panic, the American public is in I strongly urge Congress or the President to immediately make any disconnect of any utility illegal during this state of emergency in order to prevent any chaos that may ensue as a direct result to having utilities disconnected when many are powerless to do anything thing about it as we try to pull together in a concentrated effort to protect our nation. The people are doing their part, we need our government to put aside whatever ideological differences they may have so that they can do theirs. Infuse the utility companies as necessary to allow them to continue to operate during this time, but prevent them from being able to disconnect any service to any citizen during this crisis.

Urge Congress To Make Utility Disconnect Illegal Across The Board During Emergency.

This is meant to be a lighter post than normal, but ironically I seem to have put it off until again I have to inform you that ten hours ago crowds were being broken up on Bourbon Street in New Orleans as the restrictions tighten up in the interest of squashing this bug that has swept in and taken the world by storm. Everyone knows it’s serious when Twitter, which is normally a political battleground between “Conservatives” and “Progressives” has seen most of everyone turn their attention to a far bigger enemy to the world than a reality TV star public official and on some level for that I am grateful. It’s almost like this thing is forcing us to break down certain barriers that have kept us going at each other nonstop for almost four years. As of yesterday it’s been reported that Louisiana has had 77 cases of Corona with a single death resulting from that. Bourbon Street being shut down makes things seem far worse than they are, but I feel it’s important to remind people that these are preventative measures at this stage. I wanted to note this because getting this information out there as fast as this virus spreads is likely to be as important a factor in bringing this historic mess to a close as making a vaccine. Here is the link to that recent news story. Cantrell Tweets Big Crowds Being Broken Up, Hash Tags Bourbon Street As Restrictions Tighten.

That’s it for the spooky news of current affairs. How about something a little more fun? A few weeks back I had decided that it was time to make my presence known on YouTube as I am getting back into the swing of things after a long hiatus and I had a little performance piece in mind when it was brought to my attention that Mardi Gras was happening the following week. Now I don’t know how many out there are aware of the term busking or what it entails, so I will tell you that it is the act of either performing on the street or posing with people for pictures that garner tips from those who appreciate giving them a memory to take with them. New Orleans has always been one of the biggest places for this type of activity and it was my thought to go during its biggest celebration of the year and try my luck at something I have never done before.

Setting out at 6am.

Getting in touch with an old work friend from one of the times I was down here before moving, I managed to get a ride all the way into New Orleans on Lundi Gras, The Monday before Fat Tuesday during the Mardi Gras celebration. Both as I entered the downtown area and I was left, I was met with the very sobering sight of the collapsed Hard Rock Cafe Hotel that’s debris still harbors the remains of two of the workers since there has been no safe way to retrieve them without putting even more lives in danger. It was quite the sight and not exactly what I would have wanted to see first thing as I was rolling into the biggest celebration of the city. I know I said no more spooky stuff, sadly it is unavoidable in life, but I promise, the rest is just good old fashioned fun…..After a while anyway..

By 9:25 am I was on Bourbon Street where I came to realize there were not many people at all. I had forgotten that, between the night before and the early morning clean up of the street and alcohol restock trucks that I would have a bit to wait. My intent in coming here was to make a little money, but not five minutes in I had already given a homeless lady a dollar she had asked for and another twenty minutes saw me cave into the restrooms for paying customers only stipulation of the few places opened that actually had one. Thirty minutes in I was already down thirteen dollars, it was not looking good, nor would it for the rest of the day. My mission failing, I decided let’s just take in the whole experience and not worry about the business aspect. From there the day went pretty well.

Near empty streets during Mardi Gras was not what I was expecting.
New Orleans bookstores remind me of Diagon Alley. They also remind me of what a fire hazard looks like.
Look Ma! Fake White Castle!
The Rarely captured backside of the St. Louis Cathedral, Where artists come to draw inspiration.
The fine window shopping fashion of The Trashy Diva. LOL
The world-famous House of Blues.
There the people are finally. From about 11 am onwards the streets started filling up.
But then I found it. The house in New Orleans, they call The Rising Sun….And that was it, I was RUEENED!!!!RUEENED I SAY!!!! Like the song tells us.
It’s not every day you get to watch a brave elderly lady celebrate her birthday……By riding a mechanical bull. It’s a good thing it was happy hour and I had a few Corona (The Beer of our Neighbors in Mexico, not the virus.) to adjust to what I was witnessing.
One of the many parades.
I could have sworn I had a better shot of the plastic five-gallon bucket drummer. Everyone has a gig in The Big Easy.
The face you make at the end of your half-successful day when an older lady who was a spitting image of Talia Shire grabs your backside and pretends to talk on her phone. Yo Adrian! What the Hell?!?!

So that was my day in a nutshell. I went with a dream of making some cash, left with far less than I came in with, but I saw a side of things that I don’t usually get to see. All in all, I can’t complain. It was a much-needed change of pace to my normal too quiet life. In afterthought, I could have done far worse, I could have come out of it far worse if what happened last night was any indication. And I think it will help to show everyone an idea of the normal we are seeking to get back to. It’s always good to know what you are fighting for.