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You Are Still Alive? Well, Shit

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You Are Still Alive? Well, Shit
December 1st, 2022

Alexandra Brown \\ Art McCarthy \\ Juan Rivera

Отредактировано Juan Rivera (2023-01-07 20:13:14)



"The fuck with the smoke, man?" The angry voice from outside his small improvised workshop made Juan stop for a moment with his hand holding a soldering iron handing in the air.
"¿Y qué esperabas, pendejo?" He mumbled mostly to himself, then shouted back: "Get lost!"
However, several seconds later, Juan realized that the angry voice outside was probably right: the air of the small room was thick with smoke, and it was a miracle he had not suffocated yet. Or perhaps he had been suffocating slowly but, immersed in his work, as usual, he had not been noticing it. Anyhow, it was time to take a break and stretch his legs.
Juan turned the soldering iron off, put it aside, and walked out. Today was the first of December, the fall was coming to an end, and he could feel it in the air: it was maybe ten degrees outside, the leaves were falling all around, and the sky was milky-white. Juan hated this Canadian winter sky, white as a shit of paper without a single shade or dark line. It did not harbinger snow; it did not harbinger rain; it was just making the world all around look like an unfinished picture where someone had been too lazy to paint the background.
He did not like Canada. At all. Then again, there would have been enough fingers on one hand to count the things he did love.
Long walks were one of them, so he walked out of the narrow passage at the back of the port to the central road and decided to stroll to the main gates and back. Not like there was much to see in the land filled with shipping containers and makeshift sheds, but he could take one more look at what was still working and what needed repairing. One could never be too vigilant when it came to keeping a place functioning.
That was how Juan thought about it: not keeping people alive, but keeping the small camp functioning. For him, the value of the lights in the streets and the hot water in the taps was not in the fact that someone could use them but in themselves. There was beauty in the generators humming, electricity running where it was supposed to, the batteries charging and discharging in time, and every machine doing just what it was supposed to do. The people were just a nuance in this idyllic picture.
He walked slowly among the low concrete buildings and mountains made of giant metal blocks, mostly empty inside by this time until he found himself near the gate. It was closed, of course, and three guards on top of it were meant to demonstrate that it was supposed to stay that way. However, right now they were bent over the rails of their narrow passage, looking outside and arguing among themselves. Something akin to curiosity sparked at the back of Juan's head, and he climbed up to see what they were looking at.
The two figures coming slowly in their direction did not trigger any response in him at first. Until they came closer. Until he could see their faces. Until the response did come.
"¡La hostia! ¡El hijo de puta está vivo! ¡Y la chica! ¡Cabrones! ¡Malditos cabrones!"
He was mumbling all of this not sure if he was glad to see those two alive or not. The two ghosts from his early life which was still giving him nightmares despite the fact that he had been living in a nightmare for several years now. The two reminders of all the ideals he had betrayed and all the dignity he had lost. The two tough as nails bastards who had survived everything.
"Do you know them?" Someone asked.
Juan lingered with an answer, then nodded slowly: "Open the gates. On my responsibility."

Отредактировано Juan Rivera (2023-01-09 16:12:43)



"Tell me, lass, that my old eyes are liying to me." McCarthy breathed irritably. "Please." he added, looking at the figure above the gate.

When the world collapsed, the army, with its strict organization, discipline and the habit of holding on to the end, which was ingrained under the skin, lasted a little longer. Even when no one gave orders, soldiers, who left on the streets, tried to maintain order. The main task, as it was not surprising on the threshold of the apocalypse, was to protect people from people. Ironic. But in the army, they were prepared for that. So colonel McCarthy managed the base and tried to support his guys to the last, gave them a goal, a job and a reason to wake up in the morning. After a while, there were too few of them left to be able to organize their own settlement, and there was no local population left. The last of them decided to move north. They were driven to harsh lands not by a romantic desire to conquer snowy peaks, but by radiation spreading from the south.
Ten people crossed the Georgia border, and the two of them reached Vancouver together. Someone was carried away by illness, someone decided to stay in a cozy house in the forest - not the worst decision. Art and lass, apparently, just got used to walking, moving, to a goal somewhere beyond the horizon. Over the past two years, colonel has increasingly wondered why. But the Lord remained silent. Until a familiar silhouette appeared above the gates of the settlement that got in their way. If McCarthy's faith had not been so strong, he would have thought that God was making fun of him.

"I won't say I'm glad to see you, Rivera." – Neither his eyes nor his memory failed the Colonel. "But I'm not surprised you survived",– McCarthy allowed himself a grin. – "Since you're here, the settlement has electricity and tequila. However, I'll survive without the first one. Who's in charge here?"



"Well, fuck you too, sir," Juan answered in a raspy, colorless voice of an old man who did not care anymore. He looked at McCarthy face to face and suddenly realized the man must have been not much older than he was. Although, if, back then, he looked older and because of that - somewhat formidable, now he simly looked like crap.
"Electricity is rationed, and tequila is for my personal use only. There are two young lads, they call themeselves veterans and run this place as well as they can. I'm keeping the gears turning."
After saying that, he turned to the woman next to his former lieutenant.
"It's you, right? Alexandra. You were a paramedic. You patched me together back then, in the desert."

Отредактировано Juan Rivera (2023-01-18 00:09:46)



“Your eyes were just fine last time I checked, sir.” Sandie replied dutifully, looking around with curiosity. The gates were reasonably well maintained (and suggested a lot more people inside than their base used to have before they left). And the gates opened, somewhat surprisingly. By now Sandie was used to being mistrusted by strangers (and if she were a little bit less, well, Sandie, she would have learned to mistrust as well). In some long, long-gone life even she would beware armed and ragged strangers, but by now all the survivors looked alike. Well, at least wanderers like two of them.
That was, by the way, the most sophisticated conversation both of them had had in weeks. Their lexicon had shrunk considerably since they had buried John and after Mike had decided he couldn’t go on anymore. They needed very few words to understand each other.
“Lass”, depending on the situation and the intonation, meant “Get up!”, “You’re okay?”, “Do you think it’s contaminated?”, “You look tired, let’s call it a day”. “Sir” could mean “Yes, sir”, “I’m fine”, “No, sir”, or “It’s you who looks tired, old guy”. There were also “look” (“Careful”, “Let’s check over there”, “What a pretty flock of wild geese is flying over our heads, sir!”) and “fuck” (“I think you’re hurt”, “There’s a bunch of corpses over there”, “We’re running out of food or fuel” and “We’re getting the fuck out of here right now!”). Sometimes the colonel would pray, and Sandie would sometimes tell another joke about another guy who walked into another bar, seriously, lass, again, I swear it, sir, that one is really funny! Grunts, “hmms” and pointing fingers successfully covered most of the rest of their communication.
Sandie was tired, and she didn’t judge Mike for wanting to hole up somewhere and have some semblance of stability at last. But that would be just postponing the inevitable, she knew. And Sandie still dreamed of human society and all that it implied: electric lights and running water, hospitals and schools, farms and factories... The future. It is more than one or two or ten people can do.
She looked back and forth first at the guy who met them, then at colonel again. Could it be that they know each other? What a happy coincidence!
“Oh!” Sandie gasped in surprise. “How’s your leg… Juan, right?” She beamed, pleased to encounter a survivor whom she had known, and even more pleased that he remembered her. “I’ve gotten old, haven’t I?” She said, smiling. She was barely over twenty back then, and now every month felt like eternity. “I am a doctor now, by the way. So I know we are not sick. And we’ve been walking from across the border.” Not the whole way, of course, but the convenience of having a vehicle and gasoline available at the same time was not guaranteed on the way... Especially when you were as careful as colonel.

Отредактировано Alexandra Brown (2023-01-18 00:00:07)



While Juan was a certified asshole and was absolutely proud of it, even he could not resist the urge to make a compliment to a woman who had once saved his life. He made a half-smile: "What are you talking about? You look as fresh as a flower compared to this old mummy." He nodded in the direction of the lieutenant, then stopped to think for a moment.
The guards were looking at him nervously from their place at the top of the gates. No one dared to remind him that he was not risking just his own life at the moment, but all of their lives, yet it was written all over their faces.
Juan sighed and tried to remember if there was any procedure for treating the newcomers. A medical check? A quarantine protocol? He should have probably called a medic to greet these two first, but it had not even crossed his mind. Because he knew there was no need.
"Good to know," he answered simply and glanced at the lieutenant again. The man might have been a living nightmare to his soldiers once, but if there was one thing he would never do, it was this. Art McCarthy would have never endangered civilians. If he had known there could be the smallest chance of him being sick, he would have probably already swallowed a bullet. Alexandra was a paramedic, - no, a doctor now, - so she would have probably done the same.
Instead, they came here, and Juan did not need to ask what they were looking for.
"The leg's fine. Come. You can talk to Chris later."
He waved at the guards,  and those, grudgingly, they put their guns down, but when three of them walked through the gates, a young woman in a black mask put almost up to her eyes firmly blocked their way and demanded the newcomers to disarm and show what they had in their bags.
With a clearly visible smirk of satisfaction, Juan crossed his arms and stepped back to watch how the bunch of kinds half his age were about to body-search his old commander.

Отредактировано Juan Rivera (2023-01-18 05:15:39)


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