Young Writers Society

The January 2023 Review Day Begins In...

[ Click here for more info ]


18+ Language

Wasteland; Chapters 3 and 4

by VagueFairee


Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.

CHAPTER THREE

Red dug around in the back of the truck. It seemed like they got here a bit too late and some other scavvers made off with the best weapons and drugs. Someone even made off with Phoenix's pants.

“Alright, so, not off to the best start,” he mumbled to himself. He pulled a small knife from his boot and sliced into one of the front seats. He’d worked with the Burned Men enough times to know where they hid their stash, and sure enough, he managed to pull out a small paper bag full of white powder. Hopefully, this would get them somewhere.

“I still don’t see how we can’t take the truck itself,” Dimitri said. Red crawled out of the truck and stood before the other man. In the daylight, he could get a better look at him. Dimitri stood a foot taller than Red, with a chiselled nose and small, pouty lips. He looked like one of those superheroes from the old comics, minus the little curl on his forehead and the bulging muscles. Not to say he was a twig by any means, he did have some muscle, probably from farming. He had the tone to his arms and legs that implied a lot of physical labour. Also, wrapping around his arms were the most detailed and striking tattoos Red had ever seen, images of flowers, old world symbols and faces that were drawn with excruciating detail. He didn’t know where in the hell someone could get tattoos that beautiful in the wasteland, but he wasn’t about to ask for directions. Besides, he didn’t have the body to carry tattoos well. Freckles, scars and bruises, yes, but not tattoos.

“I told you, we’ll piss off the locals,” Red said.

“Take the skulls off then,” Dimitri said, regarding said skulls with a sneer, “It would help make it look less tacky.”

“And ruin the aesthetic these guys had going?” Red gasped, pushing the back doors shut.

Dimitri narrowed his eyes at Red. “Is everything a joke to you?”

“Most things.”

“Right,” Dimitri sighed, then put his hands on his hips, “Could we sell it? The truck?”

Red tilted his head at the vehicle in question. The truck was pretty banged up, with a couple of dents, some blood caked on the wheels, a broken windshield and, again, the skulls decorating the hood but… Yeah, it seemed to have driven okay when they arrived.

“That’s a good idea. People are always looking for scrap. And a working engine would sell for a pretty penny.”

“Okay, so where can we sell it? There has to be a town around here somewhere.”

“Oh, Copperhill is just twenty minutes awa-”

Red stiffened. Copperhill, the settlement he robbed only the day before. He was fairly confident no one saw him get up to anything devious, but… Still, it was a risk going back.

Dimitri sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Please don’t tell me that’s the town you robbed.”

“That’s the town I robbed.”

“For fuck’s sake.”

“Hey, I didn’t know I’d need to go back to get shit. I wasn’t planning on-” Red gestured at Dimitri, “All of this.”

“Then maybe don’t work with bandits in the future?”

“The bandits weren’t the problem,” Red snapped back.

Dimitri glared at Red, his eyes flashing briefly. Red took a step back, then stumbled over something. He glanced down, finding the body of the bandit whose neck Dimitri had snapped with just a thought. The dead man’s glassy eyes stared right through him. That sent a chill down his spine, reminding Red of who he was dealing with, and what he was capable of.

“In case you forgot, you’re alive because of me,” Dimitri said coolly. He turned away from Red, who sagged with relief. Right, yeah, no more pissing off the mutant.

“Okay. Copperhill it is then,” Red said, climbing into the driver’s seat. He really, really hated driving trucks, they were clunky and awkward and he could never steer properly. But he hated dying more, and he couldn’t guarantee Dimitri would spare him if he kept annoying him. Dimitri got in beside him. Red revved up the engine and got them moving towards Copperhill.

Despite his wasteland wanderer status, he did actually quite enjoy his time in the settlements scattered throughout the land. The only one he’d never been to was Forgotten City, mostly because it was so far away and due to their own armed forces, bandits weren’t as active in the surrounding area. Red knew vaguely where it was meant to be, and he also knew it was a city built within the subway stations of the old world, which meant they weren’t looking for a city in the “traditional” sense. Maybe someone in Copperhill would know more.

He glanced at Dimitri, wondering what was so important in Forgotten City that he had to get there in a hurry. The truck veered to the side and Red cursed under his breath, gripping the wheel and turning so the truck kept to a straight line on the old, broken road.

“Wow, you weren’t kidding when you said you couldn’t drive,” Dimitri said.

“I said I couldn’t drive trucks. Everything else I’m fine with.”

“Of course.”

“Alright, if you’re such an expert, you can drive next time.”

“I can’t.”

“What?”

“I can’t drive. I never learned.”

Red frowned but he kept his eyes on the road. He wasn’t going to crash again. “You never learned how to drive? So, what was your plan? Walk to this place? You said before that you were in a hurry.”

“I didn’t think it would take that long.”

“So you also went off not knowing where this place was or how to get there?”

“Look, I didn’t plan this, alright?”

“Obviously,” Red said before he could stop himself. The image of the dead man flashed again and Red tightened his hold on the wheel.

“Just drive,” Dimitri muttered, turning away from Red so he could stare out the window.

The rest of the drive passed in silence, and when they rolled up to the entrance of Copperhill, Red shrank further into his seat, hoping to God he wasn’t recognised. The city was surrounded by the crumbling debris of the old world and wire fences. Guards patrolled the outside perimeters, and when they saw the bandit truck they instinctively aimed their guns. Red stuck his hand out of the window.

“We’re not bandits! We stole this truck!” He shouted.

Dimitri flinched. “Why the fuck would you tell them that?” He hissed.

One guard stared at them curiously, his face hidden behind an old motorcycle helmet. He wore the typical guard armour, a tactical vest with a dark undershirt and pants, but his vest was adorned with various medals, one being in the shape of some kind of bird. Red swore under his breath. This wasn’t some lowly grunt, he was a sergeant. The sergeant slowly approached the truck, rifle held steady in his hands. Red’s heartbeat picked up speed, hoping he hadn’t been on duty yesterday when Red stole their supplies. The man stopped by Red’s door and regarded the two men quietly behind the cracked visor of his helmet. Red caught a glimpse of the bird medal and saw the name, “Harkness,” written across it.

“Step out of the truck,” Sergeant Harkness ordered. His voice was harsh and raspy, like he’d spent his whole life gargling sand.

Red climbed out and stood before him. Dimitri hesitated, before slowly following Red’s lead. Sergeant Harkness patted Red down, finding his knife hidden in his boot and the cigarettes in his hoodie pocket. Red thought that was the end of it, until Sergeant Harkness pulled out the bag of drugs, and he mentally kicked himself for forgetting them.

“What’s this now?”

“That was in the truck. You know the Burned Men deal in drugs,” Red said.

“And I don’t want their shit in my city,” Sergeant Harkness tossed the bag to one of his men, who fumbled a little before catching it.

Well, there went another potential source of income. This day was going swimmingly.

Sergeant Harkness jabbed a finger in Red’s face. “I’m only gonna warn you once. If I catch you selling here, you’ll be making excuses through a mouthful of broken teeth. Do I make myself clear?”

Red swallowed thickly and nodded. Honestly, he was just grateful the guards didn’t seem to recognise him from the day before.

“Good. Now you, get over here,” Sergeant Harkness gestured for Dimitri to approach. He patted the Wraith down, though Red thought the whole exercise was pointless. If Dimitri wanted to kill someone, he didn’t need a weapon to do it. The sergeant took a step back from Dimitri and gave an affirming grunt.

“What’s your business in the city?” He asked.

“To sell this hunk of junk,” Red said.

“We need supplies to get to Forgotten City,” Dimitri added.

The sergeant stared at them, the helmet masking whatever expression he wore. When he finally spoke, there was a softer edge to his voice. “Long trip. Better make sure you’re up for it.”

He turned on his heel and gestured for the other guards to resume their patrol. Right, so, the conversation was clearly over. Red glared at his back before motioning for Dimitri to get back in the truck. “What a dick,” he muttered.

“You’re the one who kept drugs in your pocket,” Dimitri said.

“Next time use your magic mind powers to hide them,” Red said as he turned the key in the ignition and started the truck up again.

Copperhill was a city built within what used to be a shopping mall in the old world. Many cars and trucks laid scattered around the parking lot, some of which served as homes for residents. Red was careful to avoid hitting them, even when the wheel got stiff and struggled to turn. He gripped it as hard as he could, biting his lip, and then suddenly the wheel turned easily and he narrowly avoided hitting someone’s caravan. He glanced at Dimi. The man’s eyes glowed briefly before he blinked and the glow was gone.

“Figured I’d help a little,” he said with a shrug.

Red’s mouth popped open and closed in shock. “You mean you could have done that this whole time?” He finally spluttered out.

“Don’t start-”

“No, I mean, could you have driven this with your mind?” Red asked, “Did you even need me for this?”

“Yeah,” Dimi gave Red a funny look, as though the answer were obvious, “My powers take a lot of energy out of me. If I’d tried to drive like this I probably would have collapsed within an hour and died in a car wreck.”

“But you killed all those bandits in a matter of seconds.”

“That’s different. I don’t need to think too much about that,” Dimitri said.

They both grew quiet as that information sunk in.

“Wow. Okay,” Red said. He focused back on the road, but watched out of the corner of his eye as Dimitri shifted in his seat. The man looked as though he wanted to say something, but he never did. Red drove up to the garage, where a tall, muscular woman in a dirty jumpsuit stood outside, taking a deep swig of whatever was in the flask in her hand. She eyed them curiously, her face marred with grease and muck.

“Isn’t that a bandit truck,” she said before Red could say hello.

“Is that what that is? I never noticed,” Red glanced at the truck where Dimitri still sat inside, “We were hoping to sell it. My friend there thinks it’s tacky.”

She stuffed her flask into her pocket and approached the vehicle. Popping open the hood, she peered in at the engine. “The original owners dead?” She asked.

“Yep. Ask my friend. He killed them.”

Her gaze flickered to Dimitri for a moment, before falling back on the engine. She pursed her lips in thought. “It’s a fine engine. I’m surprised they kept it in such great shape considering the rest of the truck looks like shit.”

“Can we sell you the engine then?” Red asked.

The mechanic slammed the hood down. “Nah. I’ll take the whole thing off your hands. But I can’t offer you money. Don’t got any. I can however exchange you something similar-”

“Not another truck,” Red said quickly, “It was a fucking hassle just driving this thing for twenty minutes.”

“Oh, can’t drive stick, can you?” The mechanic chuckled at him, “Look, I’m just about to get lunch with my wife. Come back to me in about… An hour, maybe two, and I’ll have another car ready for you.”

Dimitri jumped out of the truck, watching as Red shook her hand. He waited until she’d entered the garage, out of earshot, before speaking.

“I thought the whole point of this was to get money?” He hissed.

“No, it was to get a car I can drive,” Red replied, “Look, we’re getting the car for basically free. I can see to it that we have a few supplies for the road. Just keep your head down and don’t panic.”

“What are you gonna do? Rob them again? Haven’t you done enough?”

“You want my help or not?” Red narrowed his eyes at Dimitri. He knew he was walking on thin ice right now, but something… Something inside him just couldn’t let it go. Something ugly and twisted inside of him that wanted to snap at Dimitri and tell him he could take his judgment elsewhere. After all, the man was a mutant, so who was he to look down on Red, who was just trying to survive?

Dimitri clenched his jaw and turned away from the smaller man. “Maybe I don’t. Maybe asking you was a mistake.”

“Yeah, it was.”

He’d said it before he even had time to process it. Dimitri blinked at him, and for a split second Red thought he saw his expression twitch, as though pained. The other man sighed. “I’m gonna ask around for directions. Just… Just forget it. Alright? You don’t owe me shit for saving you. Just stay away from me.”

Red swallowed thickly as he watched the man disappear inside Copperhill, swallowed up by the crowds, leaving Red on his own.

He was used to that.

CHAPTER FOUR

He clasped his cigarette in his hands, taking a long, slow drag as he watched the residents go about their day. Vendors ran their stalls and shouted about their great prices, someone’s kid was crying, guards marched by and not a single one of them even noticed Red standing by the old, dried-up fountain in the centre of it all. This was how Red got away with so many thefts, he was so easy to miss. So easily forgettable. It used to hurt, but he got used to it. He had to. What else could he have done? People out in the wasteland had their own shit to deal with.

He watched as a small, scrawny kid crept close to a food stall. His little hands gripped the counter, and Red vaguely heard him ask for food. The merchant glared down at him and swatted him away.

“Get out of here! You’re scaring away real customers!”

The boy shrank back, and when Red caught a glimpse of his face, he saw large dark eyes brimming with tears on such a small, pointed face. His entire body was as thin as a rake but with a small protruding belly. The kid was fucking starving and that merchant just shooed him off like an animal?

Red tossed his cigarette onto the ground and stomped it out before approaching the stand. “Hey. Give me whatever's on special.”

The merchant eyed him up and down. He was a large, hairy man, with small beady eyes and several gold chains draped around his neck. His lips pulled into a sneer, as though Red were shit under his shoe. “You got cash to pay with?”

“No, I was gonna rob you in plain daylight with guards around. Seemed like a fun idea. ‘Course I’ve got fucking cash.”

The merchant glared at him. “Sorry. Can’t be too careful, sir. Robbery here yesterday, lost almost everything.”

Red glanced at the kid who had crept off to the side, still staring at the meat and bread on display. There’d been enough supplies in there to keep this whole city going for months and yet no one would give the kid a free meal?

The merchant shoved the plate of food in front of Red. It was meat, cheese, some fruit and a crust of bread. Red dug into his pocket and slammed the cash he had left from a previous job onto the counter, deliberately ignoring the merchant’s outstretched hand.

“Hope you choke on it, dickhead,” he said as he took his food and walked towards the kid. The kid took a nervous step back, hands raised as though he were about to shield himself. Red crouched before him and offered him the plate. When the boy didn’t budge he shot him a quick smile. “It’s okay. You can have it.”

The boy glanced between Red and the plate before slowly taking the food from him. “I don’t have money,” he said softly.

“You’re fine, kid. Just don’t eat too fast and make yourself sick.”

The boy smiled up at him, and for a split second Red saw Oliver in his place, with his gap-toothed grin and freckled cheeks, before the boy dashed off to eat his meal. Red took a deep breath. Oliver was dead. There was no point in letting ghosts get to him like this. Christ, he needed a cigarette and a drink. Mostly a drink. Maybe five of them. He glanced over to see the merchant glaring daggers at him. A few residents whispered amongst themselves.

“You got nothing better to do?” Red asked, “Want some suggestions? Minding your own fucking business could be a fun activity. As could giving a starving kid something to eat.”

“One more word out of you and I’ll call the guards,” the merchant warned.

“What you gonna tell them? “Officer arrest this man, he hurt my feelings?” Get fucked,” Red flipped the man off before storming off. He didn’t know where he was going, just that he wanted to get away from the crowds.

He ended up back outside, but this time on the balcony attached to what used to be a restaurant, with the wind whipping at his face and rain starting to trickle down. He dug around in his pocket for another cigarette, only to find he’d had his last one. Groaning, he ruffled his blond hair and slumped onto an old rickety chair. At least it was quiet out here. He watched the fat grey clouds drift lazily by. When they were kids, he and Oliver used to try finding funny shapes in the clouds. They’d be laid out on the hill behind their house, the grass tickling their skin, and Oliver would babble excitedly about whatever was on his mind.

Red wished he could remember what was the last thing they talked about. He wanted to think it was something meaningful, like how much he loved his brother and was sorry he picked on him, that he was proud of him, but more than likely it had been something stupid like whether or not birds had teeth.

“Hey,” a voice sounded from behind him.

Red leapt in his chair, almost knocking it over. Dimitri winced, a small smile tugging on his lips. He stood by the doors, fists clenching and unclenching by his sides.

“Sorry. I knocked on the window, you… Obviously didn’t hear,” he said.

“What do you want, Dimitri?” Red said as he sat again, face hot with embarrassment, “You told me to stay away from you.”

Dimitri frowned. “Look… I think we got off on the wrong foot. I’ve been stressed about this journey and the bandits and taking it out on you. That wasn’t fair of me. I want to apologize.”

Red’s brows furrowed, but before he could speak Dimitri was talking again.

“I’m sorry I said you were just going to rob people, I basically implied you were no better than the bandits but that’s not fair. I mean… I saw you with that kid. Saw what you did for him. And I realised I would either be dead by now or sold into slavery if it weren’t for you.”

“No, you would’ve gotten yourself out of that mess,” Red said, “I was just the distraction. Like you said before.”

“No,” Dimitri shook his head, “You weren’t. Well, yes, you were, but you still saved me and I should have shown a little more trust. After all, you didn’t even hesitate to refuse the job, and you didn’t hesitate to help the kid. You’re a good guy, Red.”

Red’s cheeks warmed and he looked everywhere else but at Dimitri’s eyes. “God, you’re sappy,” he mumbled. Dimitri just smiled at him. Red’s chest tightened and he tried to ignore it, but the corners of his lips twitched.

“Can we still travel together?” Dimitri asked softly. His hands clenched and unclenched again.

Red regarded the other man, he could tell the man needed help, that even with his freaky mind powers, he was still a lost little farm boy. It was a little endearing. Red chewed his bottom lip, pretending to think it through. “Aw, you mean I still have to go to this fucking place? I was getting used to not having to do anything.”

“I’ll make it up to you when we get there,” Dimitri said, extending his hand for Red.

Red glanced at the offered hand, then slowly took it. Dimitri pulled him up from the chair, smiling down at Red. His hand was warm and rough, squeezing Red’s as though afraid he were going to back out at any second. Red squeezed him back.

“I suppose I should mention that I essentially gave that kid the last of my money,” Red said.

“It’s okay,” Dimitri said, “He needed it. But I might have a solution. Uh… Have you ever hunted mutants before?” 


Note: You are not logged in, but you can still leave a comment or review. Before it shows up, a moderator will need to approve your comment (this is only a safeguard against spambots). Leave your email if you would like to be notified when your message is approved.







Is this a review?


  

Comments



User avatar
1168 Reviews


Points: 96740
Reviews: 1168

Donate
Fri Dec 16, 2022 3:13 pm
IcyFlame wrote a review...



Hi VagueFairee! In honour of Review Day I'm swinging by to leave a review for these chapters. Full disclosure: I haven't yet had a chance to read the first two chapters so if I mention something that you've already covered off then please do feel free to ignore me! This is something that can happen quite a lot on YWS - you find that not all the same people review every one of your chapters. A quick tip from me would be to put a very brief (a couple of sentences) summary of what's happened at the top of your post. That way it's easier for a new reviewer to pick up what's going on.

Onto the review...

I thought the dynamic between these two was really well written. They clearly irritate each other, and they have different morals and opinions but I think I can see a sort of grudging respect beginning to form which we all know is the basis for a solid friendship. I think you've set them up quite clearly, and it's already had conflict so we know there's the potential for much more down the line. I can see these two are going to have a lot to work through to get on with each other even though Dimitri now seems to understand that Red is a fundamentally good person, even if his view of the law is less than black and white.

The pacing of this felt good too. There's enough happening with the drugs being confiscated and them having to wait around for a new car to prevent the reader from getting bored but at the same time it feels slow enough to allow us to get to know the characters a little better. I'm not sure how long they'll have to stick in this city, but I'm looking forward to meeting some supporting cast as well, to see how both Dimitri and Red interact with them.

The cliffhanger at the end of the chapter really summed up the tone of what you've written so far too! There's an element of mystery and danger but with an undercurrent of humour that I find really makes for an enjoyable read!

Overall I think you've done a good job with this one and I'm looking forward to reading more. A small note is that it can sometimes get overwhelming to review longer pieces of work, so you might consider posting chapters individually next time as I find that's more likely to get you more feedback.

Hope this was helpful, and happy Friday!

Icy




User avatar
429 Reviews


Points: 19515
Reviews: 429

Donate
Mon Nov 21, 2022 1:57 pm
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi again VagueFairee! Lim here with another review.

Chapter 3

First Impressions: I thought this chapter seemed pretty ominous in the middle, and then BAM! -- Dimitri is off. It does feel like the characters are having this conflict before I get to know them *super* well, so things seem to be moving pretty fast, but at the same time, I do like that it’s introduced early on. If the problem of Red’s morality for Dimitri and Dimitri’s judgmentalness for Red comes up again, it won’t seem out of the blue. The idea of people building a city out of a shopping mall is cool and creative – just what I like to see in post-apocalypse scenarios! It must be a small city though, even taking into account the parking lot.

Plot: Looking back, I can kind of see how the structure of the plot through these two chapters seems to involve Red and Dimitri slowly losing their advantages. First, the drugs they thought they could sell gets confiscated; second, their truck isn’t being sold for money, and then in the next chapter Red loses his money. I think that’s a good way to put the protagonists at a disadvantage early on so we can see how they overcome it.

Characters: I felt that there was a lot of information being given about Dimitri in this chapter. First, we have a full physical description, which I thought was well-described by the way, because I found I could imagine what he looks like better here compared to other chapters. But then we also have these hints about Dimitri’s prior life (he never learnt how to drive and doesn’t seem to know how to gauge distance between places), his disdain for the bandits, the new stuff about his powers . . . and then he does a big thing like leave Red just one chapter after they started travelling together. That’s quite a lot to take in for one chapter! I kind of wish that there was a bit more space for certain important things to sink in before moving on to the next point. I think that would also give some breathing room for the development of Red’s character in this chapter – his feelings about Dimitri’s comments and his reaction after Dimitri leaves feel a bit rushed.

That being said, I do like the individual elements of the characters you’ve introduced here! It’s clear you’ve thought each of them through and given them strengths and weaknesses that play off of each other in conflict.

Chapter 4

First Impressions: I wasn’t sure what to feel for a lot of the chapter. I felt uncomfortable during the scene when Red was talking to the merchant, and I was also kind of surprised when Dimitri suddenly came back. I hadn’t expected that conflict to be resolved so soon. It also felt like Dimitri and Red made good with each other again really quickly in the end there.

Characters: Red’s feelings in this chapter certainly left an impression. The way he leaves to be alone and think about his brother sort of suggests that’s the link making sense his anger at a kid being left to go hungry, whereas he’s somewhat more apathetic about other things. I thought it was a bit shocking, but perhaps it’s meant to be that way, to show how much it affects him viscerally to be reminded of Oliver, and also to show he has a sense of justice of his own.

Plot: I kind of wish there was more foreshadowing of Dimitri’s quick return? I know these chapters are rather short to pack more stuff into them, but without there being a hint of Dimitri watching the exchange with the merchant, it kind of feels like he just saw it by luck. And then the reconciliation between the two feels like a bit of a coincidence. That could just be me, though.

As mentioned, I do like that Red has now given away his last bit of money, as that escalates the problem that he and Dimitri are in. I’m curious to see how they’ll solve it. I was surprised to hear Dimitri start the conversation about that with “mutant hunting”. I’m thinking there’s definitely going to be a twist somewhere there, but I can’t quite say what it is – so I’m eager to read on c:

Overall

I thought these two chapters showed an interesting glimpse into the lives of people in this setting, and also developed the protagonists a little more. I’m wondering what sort of trouble they might run into next, and how they will get started again on their journey to the Forgotten City.

Hope this helps and feel free to ask for more feedback!
-Lim





Time is money, money is power, power is pizza, and pizza is knowledge!
— April, Parks & Rec