In a distant future the world has fallen to ruin. The once great cities have fallen; humanity struggles to survive against the odds. Riley has spent his entire life traversing the Wastes. He has never known friends or cared for others, till now. Together they stand against a tyrannical adversary in an attempt to escape oppression.
The dust hangs amongst the wind. Years ago the air was pure and clean; now too much will kill you. Most stay clear of the Wastes altogether; despite this, the allure of money drives a few individuals from the safety of the settlements; artifacts from the old-world is can be quite valuable. Well, not any more. After years of Wastelanders scavenging one is hard-pressed to find anything of real value. The older folks back in Haven remember when everything ended. If you are interested and willing to spend a little cred to get them drunk enough, the old bastards disclose tales of vast cities made of glass and metal, of steel canyons expanding as far as the eyes could witness. Every so often one fills your ear with stories of how we use to travel to the stars. None of these tales matter anymore, since the bombs hit almost everything is used up. The nuclear fallout killed most anything that previously existed, turning this once vibrant land into dust covered badland. The vast wasteland seems to expand forever, who knows how far it actually goes. As a kid I heard legends of the lands beyond the Wastes, but they are just stories. Ironically it’s these tales that keep most people going; out here all you have are your dreams.
The sound of my boots echo on the broken road; years ago, everyone transported themselves overland. Now in the dust all one finds is death, a tomb, the landscape is dotted with burned-outbuildings and crumbling roadways. Forever a memorial to a world that died long before I was born, humanity ended in flame long ago. There is nothing here, except hopelessness. After a while my mind start to drift filled with thoughts of my own mortality. Without the scorching sun beating down on me, a constant reminder I have yet to leave this life, perhaps I would have given in long ago. The world is hot, even at night back home the inhabitants find it hard to escape the heat, as a Waster there is no hope. The gear doesn’t help, sweat runs down my face, impossible to wipe away, the mask prevents this simple task. One comes to hate the retched thing.
If you listen to what one finds dripping about the lips of old men like drops of whiskey, you might start to believe in the legends of distant lands. No way of telling for sure, most people have never ventured far enough outside the safety of the compound to find out, myself included. Wastelanders are raised on stories of the areas left untouched by nuclear fallout; a paradise on the other side of the mountains. In the Wastes a person only has their thoughts. Often I get lost in my own mind, wondering if anyone ever dared venture over the Rockies. Most cannot even survive back in Haven behind the walls of the colony. Who can fathom what waits up admits the harshness of the unknown? Oh well, no point in thinking of ideas beyond the grasp of this life, legends are just rumors spread about by drunken fools. The closest thing to lush is to the south, an area called the Golden Coast; well it used to go by that name. The Brotherhood of Man rules there, a collection of corporations and government figure heads controlling everything. From the stories spreading through the settlements they control every aspect of a person's existence right down to the finest details.
Now that the thought crosses my mind; life under their rule is not such a bad way to live; heck I'd take anything over having to travel these lands. Usually they stay clear of this place; what could they possibly want out here? The only possible choice for a person who wanted to escape the Wastes is to head south, to them. This would require surviving the radiation zone, and besides even if you did, the Brotherhood shoots anyone who comes near the border. Oh well just a thought, not worth dreaming of. This is the life I live; no choice for me but to accept.
Out here, when my mind drifts from boredom. Often I think of the sun. How the warmth would feel against bare flesh. Sometimes I long to pull everything off; allow the sun's rays hit to me. Since I was a kid, we were told the bombs had destroyed something called the ozone layer. Except for a few old survivors, no one understands the meaning of it all, but one thing is clear, too much sun is bad. Wasters spend our lives covered from head to toe in thick jackets. Masks filter the air, protecting us from the radioactive dust blowing throughout the Wastes. The mask and the sand obscure my vision, out here the city barely visible. Back in Haven the elders refer to it as Seattle, a testament to the destructive nature of man, I don't care; all I know is I need to find something of value for Hyde, or I won't eat. This is why I now find myself heading towards Seattle, alone with only the rhythmic breathing of my mask to keep me company.
Out here you don't find many people, except for the Wastelanders and Creepers. Who in their right mind would step outside the safety of the settlements spread out across the land? Like I can talk; anyone hungry enough will risk anything for a meal. Finally I make my way into Seattle passing the remains of burned-out cars and buildings. Dust and sand encroach on everything. Imagine the glory of this place, teaming with life years ago before the bombs fell. What types of people lived here? The thoughts they were thinking when the end came? Fixed, I stare into the city, trying to imagine myself walking among its inhabitants; something catches me in the eye, a light.
Headfirst I dive behind a building sending dust flying all around me, bringing a revolver to the ready, “Damn, Creepers!” Wretched creatures, Creepers are what you become when you get lost out here; spend too much time in the radioactive zones, mutants, freaks, dangerous. No movement; I pause a moment to steady myself before sliding around the corner. Quickly I scan the area looking for the creature.
“Where the heck are you?”
Carefully I move forward prepared for the attack, narrowing my focus I see the source of the light, not a Creeper but reflective glass from one of the cars. No threat, heading into the city I notice the glass everywhere. Strange to still find the stuff lying around, can't complain. All I know is this garbage is worth a good amount of cred. Over the next few hours I move between cars, separating glass from the rusted and burned remains of cars and trucks scattered throughout the roadway. Once the sun starts to set I have enough to feed me for weeks. Today was the first time I traveled out this far out, worth the effort; however I won't risk heading back home during the night, to dangerous. Most people dread having to overnight our here, but for the cred this trip is fetching who am I to second-guess it. After some effort I manage to stumble across a building that will provide the necessary safety. Small, with only two exits, but that is what you need. Too many avenues of approach is a bad thing; so it too few. This is what you need to look for. To survive out here you have to be one step ahead. The sun now at my back I set camp, There is enough dry wood to set a fire. The flint and tinder makes short work of the task, something about fire that warms the soul.
The place takes on an almost peaceful air the light of the flame, as if no misfortune ever occurred here. In the waning sunlight the city looks majestic. A piece of the mirror rests in my hand, I star into it. The black mask is reflected at me by the firelight, a cursed reminder of our existence. A thick jacket made of leather drapes down to my calves. Not a single inch of skin is exposed. This is how we live in the wastes. Back in Haven, buildings require purifiers which keep the air from killing us, well, when they work.
I pull off the thick rubber mask off.
“A little dust never killed anyone.”
At seventeen I resemble death, gray eyes sunken, and flesh pale as snow. My dirty blonde hair is cut short; easier to wear the mask. Skin shaven; doesn't seal proper with a beard. All Wastelanders present themselves in this manner, unlike those back in Haven, they eat most days. Except for Hyde with a gut and about three chins, he runs Haven. Guess when you got more money than the entire settlement you can feed yourself every day. Not the Wastelanders though. Almost all starve out here, go crazy, stumble into the radioactive zones, and become Creepers. Why wander the desolate plains? Simple; life doesn't give us any other choice. Some owe money; others just can't hack existence as a trader or merchant. As for me, my parents died when I was thirteen. The day is still seared in my memory; they left the settlement to find supplies. Three days passed before they were found, all torn up, Creepers got them. For someone like me there aren't many alternatives. At first I stayed close to Haven, however as I got older, I headed further into the wastes. Funny, figured I would be dead within a few months. Guess I had the smarts to survive in the wilds. In truth, just lucky, would've been killed the first week out. Roof collapse saved me from a couple of Creepers, got a revolver shortly after. The crack of the fire draws me back to reality. Carefully I stoke the fire causing embers to float up is if they were fireflies. Never seen one, heard the stories though. The only creatures that manage to thrive are the roaches, well them and the mutated animals we hunt for meat.
Doesn't take long for me to drift off, Can't remember ever having any trouble with sleep. Soon the warmth of the morning wakes me. There’s a lot to admire about the day; no matter how bad life is the sun always shines bright, gives people a sense of hope. Seattle is beautiful, even now. I scan over the city one last time, probably should get back before nightfall. Out of everything the city has to offer one building stands out to me, it's strange but it calls to me; most of the frame has given into the ravages of nature. I can't explain the lump in my stomach, but for some reason I feel the urge to head towards it. That within the walls something worth all the effort waits, I am drawn further in.
All my senses are heightened as I head deeper into the depths of Seattle I find myself taking back by the size of this once great city. How does one begin to grasp so much in one place, years ago every inch was full of life. Now all that remains is the scorched remnants, a constant reminder of the darkness of man. The revolver sits clenched in my hand; after yesterday can't be too ready. The trip through the roadways and ruined buildings is longer than I thought. After several hours I stumble on one of the main roads contenting it all. Once again I find myself drift off into a trance; I dream of what life must've been like here. The city lit up full of all sorts of natives walking the avenues, cars passing by delivering people and goods to their destination, the inhabitants of this city going on about their lives without a care in the world. How could they be prepared for the days ahead, poor bastards!
Something slams me to the dusty roadway; I didn't even spot what hit me, as I tumble towards the asphalt. The sound of scraping metal echo's throughout the vicinity. Despair takes me realizing I have lost the revolver in the fall. Anxiously I look around to find the assailant, to brace myself against the impending death I am to suffer at the hands of a Creeper or some mutated animal. Told you I was lucky, unfortunately it just ran out.
Frantically I search the area, looking for the direction of the attack. Can’t see, my mask is covered in dirt from the fall. There is no attack; I take the opportunity to clear my vision. Beneath me lay the remains of a woman hunched over a small young child. This person had covered the child in an attempt to protect the helpless kid from the blast. Against the urge to run I do my best to salvage what little composure I have, slowly I notice more of them; bodies are everywhere, thousands of them. Statues, people immortalized in ash for all-time, unchanged since the day the bombs fell. Their faces just as vivid as the day they died, fear and sadness surround me. Each one came to this road to escape; only to find death. My mind tries to fight it, but it is useless, I start to hyperventilate. Panicked, I push my way through several more of the bodies and crash into a nearby building. Every part of me is covered in dirt and ash, no human remains.
Until yesterday, I never ventured out to one of the ruined cities. Most days I spent in the outlaying areas around Haven, mostly small towns and rest stops. The need to feed myself and the rarity valuable items to scavenge forced me further into the badlands. You would think I have never seen a body before. Out here you find them sporadically, but not like this. After years of traversing the Wastes I have never stumbled upon the perfect remains of a human. In a way these people aren’t dead, there trapped, the thought chills me to the bone. Collapsed on the ground I try to take everything in for a moment, staring at my hands I study the ash. This was a person, it hits me once again, despite the dangers it presents I rip off my mask and jacket. I need to get as far from this as possible. Exposed to the world I lie huddled in a corner. The rays of sun flicker outside the door; the sky is heavy with ash. With care I wipe off my mask; I cannot live for too long without filtering the air. Each stroke of my hand is a life lost years ago during a war I know nothing about. I shake the ash off the thick jacket, the leather is worn, and the bright brown hide has faded and is starting to crack.
I sit for a moment wondering if I should just give in; walk out to the sun, become like one of the bodies lying dead in the street. Gradually I pull myself back together. I wonder what could have possibly been going through her mind. Did she believe she would protect the child? Or was it the last desperate act of love a mother could give? My rhythmic breathing returns, strangely the sound comforts me. Something soothing about the way the air passes through the filter of the mask; in a way it reminds me I am alive. As I exit the building I notice the path of ruined bodies I pushed and plowed past. An untouched graveyard until now, I shake my head and continue; I can't let the images of this place take control of me. Out here if you lose yourself you die or become a Creeper plan and simple. There is only one choice move forward and don't look back.