“I’ve been walking these wastelands for a long time, you know…
And I’ve never heard the same tale twice.
You see, people are unstable. They would always fabricate what they truly see.
I had to ask myself … Why? It became very clear after I met her… The truth isn’t interesting.
The truth doesn’t satisfy nor justify our needs”
It’s been 8 years since the Falldown… a tough 8 years might I add. Being a merchant isn’t easy in the wastelands. Bandits are spread wild everywhere, looking for the smallest chance to attack any moving thing, let alone an RV full of goods.
It happened to us many times, and we’ve lost some good people over the years. But we do what we must to survive. Though 4 months ago, things got a lot worse … The sun was gone, and the moon just stood in its place, unwilling to move on. It seems that even the universe has lost hope in us. Now we had to travel the wastelands disoriented. And just like any other inevitable crisis, people need to adapt. So they started using neon lights everywhere as signs… It was a bit annoying in the beginning, but you get used to it.
Though my condition as a merchant compared to other people in the wastelands is very good. I sell all kinds of supplies, food, medical equipment, and irregular items… but let’s not dwell on that. I’m just glad to be one of the few lucky people living in this temporarily inferno. Anyway, usually when we travel for long distances, we light up a fire, and stop to rest. Sometimes we run into friendly faces, other times the opposite. But there’s this one encounter that I don’t know what to make of… Jude.
It was a long day of endless walking, our vehicle crashed in the middle of the road to the capital, and we had to continue all the way on foot, which was very far away from Redwood, the town I came from. We took as much as we could of the goods we had, and left a bit for bandits to take, we couldn’t make any risks for them following us. We followed the neon signs to the capital.
It wasn’t the dense darkness or even the mindless bandits that I and the people were afraid of. It was the Gravedigger. An individual feared by all across the wastelands. Some says he’s a demon from hell, wanting to bestow his revenge on humans. Others say he’s god’s punishment for our sins. I never hear one story. The Gravedigger’s tale always changes from one person to the other.
He just massacred an entire caravan of merchants in cold blood two weeks ago, which made us very… Uncomfortable while travelling. We kept walking in fear of encountering this mythical legend everyone’s talking about, until we saw the Capital shining with its neon lights from afar. We felt relief in that, and decided to rest for the time being…
Me and a couple of the guys gathered what little wood we had, and started a small bonfire, while my wife made hot coffee for us. We lived in the road me and wife, she wouldn’t want to stay alone in Redwood. That’s why I always let her tag along with me. We sat down in the middle of nowhere, soulless breeze and silence. All of us gazing into the lonely fire, as if it was calling to my desolated soul. I keep thinking on how long am I to live in this lifeless world? What would happen to my wife if I passed away…?
I guess it all doesn’t matter. We’re all going to die one day or another. I needed to focus on the moment. Which was coffee and getting a bit of rest. As we finished our coffee, we were ready to crash unto sleep. But it’s not as easy as laying down and closing your eyes. In this silence you can’t help but listen to the smallest of sounds… And I heard something. Out of panic I grabbed my backpack and took out my berretta, my wife was pretty scared and kept asking what’s the matter with me? She kept saying that there was no one out there, even though deep inside her she knew there was, she just didn’t want to believe it. Fear is weird… It manipulates our thinking, and makes us unstable. I raised my gun in the direction of the sound. But in this dense darkness, you could barely see yourself. Suddenly we heard some words.
“Hey, you can lower your gun. I’ve got a little girl with me”
I couldn’t take any chances, so I had to ask for proof. And they let up some kind of circular flashlight they had, looked like a lantern. And there was indeed a child, accompanied by what seemed to be some sort of hunter with a gas mask. They approached slowly, and I took down my gun carefully, and asked.
“What do you want?”
And the hunter replied.
“We were on our way to the capital, and saw your bonfire. Is it okay if we rest with you?”
I looked back to my wife, she said silently. “There’s a child, they can stay…”
So I had to take a leap of faith, and make a risky decision
“Alright” I said. They reached our little bonfire, and the hunter took off his mask… Or should I say, took off her mask. It was a women with red tied hair, even though the hair wasn’t that long. She was wearing a dark green trench coat with sewed in gun holsters from the inside, a metallic shoulder piece wrapped around her with a blade on the back, bandaged right wrist, and black leather gloves in both hands. The little girl wore a long sleeve blue shirt with normal jeans. She had long black curly hair, and looked like a 14 years old. She was also holding a gigantic bag on her bag… But judging on the coat the women was wearing. That bag felt like a tree leaf compared to how the coat was filled with heavy things. So I just skipped the part where I asked why she was making the girl hold all her stuff.
“Appreciate it” said the women when she reached us. They both sat down, and my wife gave them what little coffee was left. Everyone was already asleep by that time, except for me, and my wife. I tried to spark a conversation.
“She your daughter?” I asked
“No” She said “I found her on one of my jobs”
“Well…What do you do then?” I asked, which is stupid of me. It’s pretty clear she’s a Headhunter.
“I hunt people down… Not the brightest profession, I’ll admit” was her answer. It’s not wise to usually trust a Headhunter and invite them to sit with you, I mean they’re basically killers for hire. But there was this aura around her that was peaceful… So she continued. “I was on my way to the capital, got some business there. But the poor girl got tired, and we saw you”
I told her that we were on our way to the capital too, to deliver our merchandise. I even went as far to tell her to crash in with us for the time being, and we’ll continue together to the capital when we wake up. But she refused, saying that she was only resting for a small time so the girl can catch her breath. Which lead me to the temptation to ask about the Anna even more. You don’t get to see a contract killer caring about a little girl that much, not to mention that she stumbled upon her while “on a job” So I started by introducing myself
“Name’s Nathanial… But you can just call me Nate, and this is my wife Natalia”
“I’m Jude, little girl is Anna”
We sat down in awkward silence for a bit…
“You said you found her on one of your jobs… How exactly?”
She took her final sip of the cup of coffee, and looked at me.
“Why do you want to know?”
“Why not? I mean we’re sitting here in complete silence, we might as well talk about something”
She looked at Anna for a second, put down her cup.
“Fair enough…” And she started telling us her story.
About a month after the moon and sun stopped, hunters were almost not needed by anyone, except for a few rare occasions. People no longer travelled in the darkness, it was too risky to do so. Not to mention the whole Gravedigger guy… Who I don’t really believe in. So I figured I should broaden my space of professions.
I started accepting random errands from some big names in the capital. It was their usual dirty drill, deliver me this, and deliver me that. A couple of wet work in the process too. It was nothing I haven’t done before. So, one day in the capital’s market place, a guy named Johnathan reached for me. He sent a bulky guy named Dave. Baldy looking dude with a big structured body, and a face of deformed rhino…
He said that this Johnathan guy wanted to meet me in an old bar near the capital’s outer parameter gas station, and he’ll fill me in with the details himself. I was like “Sure, another day, another errand” So I set out to this bar a couple of hours before the meeting, figured I should be there early. That way, you could get the client’s trust fast… even though they shouldn’t trust anyone.
Stumbled upon a couple of bandits on the way to the gas station, they looked as if they wanted to attack me, but as I got closer they ignored me for some reason. But I killed them anyway… Not ashamed of what I did, maybe we’re not that different. But at least I have a code when it comes to getting a job done. I do it for the money, and I won’t kill innocent people. These are hungry savages, the world doesn’t need any more savages.
So I reached the gas station early, about 1 hours before the meeting was supposed to take place. The place looked deserted, I was surprised by how the bar was still running. Bandits would have taken the place apart and killed the bartender, who’s an old man… try to figure that out.
Anyway, I open the rusty door. Bells ring, and I walk in slowly without taking my guard down. I mean, this might end up being a trap for all I know.
But nothing, just an old bartender holding his chin with the cup of his hands. Giving me a very bland lifeless gaze, as if he knew I was coming and wanted me to be done quickly. I went for the closest table, and sat down… Silence filled the room for a bit. But then he started talking.
“Whatever it is you’re gonna do, you better watch out for yourself”
He didn’t really strike me as the type of guy who would say such a thing. Which got me curious to ask
“Why should I?”
“You must be out of your mind lady… Didn’t you hear about the Gravedigger massacre last week?”
I didn’t really care about what happens around the wastelands, only what I do mattered to me. So I asked “What happened?” And he continued.
“A whole family was butchered in the capital, right inside their home by the Gravedigger. They say his eyes were red as blood, fangs coming out of his hands, and black smoke all over him. He only left the child alive… Poor thing. That’s why you have to watch out for that demon”
I guess most people would bail on the job after hearing such horrifying gossips that people seems to believe. I simply took out my notebook and started writing the bartender’s description of the gravedigger. It’s a hobby of mine to do so, because it’s never the same. Hellish demon with fangs and fire breath, a ghost of vengeance with many faces, an undead that bathes in the blood of his victims. It goes on forever, never the same description or tale. I find it fun to write those descriptions down… The bartender snapped when he saw me write in my notebook.
“I’m trying to talk to you goddamit… You know what? Screw it, want anything to drink?” He said.
“Just water, please”
I wasn’t much of drinker. Actually, I don’t remember the last time I consumed any amount of alcohol. Which I think is a good thing in the state of our world. Drinking makes you vulnerable, except if you’re hopeless and just waiting for your clock to stop. So the bartender brought me the glass of water, a cold glass of water might I add. It was surprising, it’s hard enough to find normal water. Consider yourself one of the luckiest people in the wasteland if you drank cold water. I took the first sip, and felt its soothing and swift movement through my throat. Felt good… really good.
But that feeling didn’t last long. Bells rang, door opened, Johnathan enters. Dave was with him, and it was time to discuss business, even though I didn’t expect him to come early. He sat down in my table with his friend, and the bartender asked.
“Johnathan, Dave, what can I get you gentlemen?”
But Johnathan looked like he was in a hurry.
“No need Josh, thanks”
He then reached out his hands to that green satchel of his, took out a map, and laid it flat on the table. It looked like a drawing an engineer would make of a building or something. He starts talking “Listen to me carefully, a guy named Ethan has stolen shipments from us, and I don’t take acts like this lightly. So what I need you to do is to enter his warehouse, kill the bastard, and destroy all cargo crates. Don’t leave anything behind, it is critical that you take it all down”
I just sat there, emotionless for a minute. It was a pretty simple job. Enter the warehouse, kill the big head, and destroy every single cargo. So I look at him and say “Consider it done”
I was expecting a sigh of relief from him. But nothing… And he continued “My friend Dave will accompany you, to make sure you get the job done”
I’m a lone wolf, I loath working with a partner, it’s just not the way I do things. So I refused and made it very clear that I can only do this job alone.
“You don’t get to set the rules here, lady. You either do this my way, or we go our separate ways”
I had no choice but to accept, because I needed the money. But that wasn’t the main reason, something about this job seemed off, and I was curious. I wanted to know why the hell there is so much stress to such a simple job.
“Alright, finish the job and then I’ll reach out for you, give you the money, and pretend we never saw each other”
I stood up, and was ready to head out. But Johnathan was whispering some stuff to his friend, soon to be my “companion” I don’t like the whole untrustworthy situation that was happening. I just hoped that I get my money after this job. Because if I didn’t, things were gonna get ugly. We got out of the bar, and went back to the capital to get prepared. Dave got us a vehicle to take us to the warehouse since it was pretty far. I took a sniper with me, a dagger, a handgun, kerosene canister, and my thermal goggles gas mask with me. Pretty lite gear compared to other jobs I’ve done. Dave took almost nothing, only a small gun, and made it very clear that he doesn’t want to get involved in the job. He’s just gonna helm our transportation. Which pretty much made him useless as a companion, but that’s fine by me. I didn’t want anyone in the first place.
We took off, and it was a pretty long ride. Rides like this gets you thinking … looking at the soulless wastelands. “Is there a chance? Is there hope for us here? Or are we all destined to die alone in a forgotten world?” But thoughts like this lead to nothing. Only thing it does is shift my main focus. Getting soft in this world will only get you killed… So no more depressing thoughts. I’ve been alive for so long following this rule, might as well stick to it…
We reached the warehouse from afar. Dave stopped the car and told me that he can’t get any closer. I got my gear ready, and my gas mask on.
“Why the gas mask?” Dave asked
“Intimidation” I answered as I turned on the thermal goggles which make the mask eyes area glow red in the dark.
I got out of the car and walked straight into the warehouse. But it would be suicidal to just open the front door and go guns blazing. So I took the ladder from the backside of the warehouse and entered through a broken window into the upper level of the building. Scanned the lower level quickly and counted 3. One of them was Ethan. I tried to get a look inside the small room in the upper levels but I couldn’t. So I figured maybe it’s Ethan’s office and since he’s already downstairs, no one’s gonna be inside.
I position my sniper and take a deep breath…
Clean kills. I went to check on the office and it was empty, a tainted desk and a couple of chairs. Now all I had to do was get rid of all the cargo, and I’m done. I went downstairs, and there were 3 crates in total and one big container.
“Leave nothing behind” I remembered. So I took the kerosene canister and poured it over the crates. And shot it with my gun, letting them blaze. And only the container was left, I opened it up to finish what I started…
and there she was… Sitting in the corner of the container, singing…
Then I heard a sound of a gun clicking, and it was Dave pointing his gun at me.
“You really didn’t have to open it. Make a choice, and make it quick” He said.
I looked at the little girl singing… a sight like this is not something you see every day. Looking at her, I knew I just couldn’t do it. I got my dagger out pushed Dave’s hand fast and shoved the dagger inside Dave’s throat without hesitation. I couldn’t leave her here, so I took the girl. She held my hands firmly. We got out of the warehouse, and I saw one of Johnathan’s men running like there’s no tomorrow. He stopped for a moment and we shared a small gaze.
Then he disappeared. since then, I’ve been looking for Johnathan… And when I find him, I’ll give him what he deserves. No matter how cruel we could become, no one is insane enough to do such a thing. We keep hearing people tell fantasy tales about monsters and this Gravedigger figure. But the truth is… We are the monsters we create. And Johnathan was a monster…
If it be your will to speak
Of memories we often shared
Talk to me of days gone by
Think of love and not despair
And when I’m gone, we’ll meet again
As often do the closest friends
So dry your eyes, and lay me down
I tell you this is not the end
My mom used to sing this to me all the time… back when she was alive. We used to live in the capital, almost like everyone else. It’s the safest place in the wastelands. Daddy and mommy used to work together for Johnathan, the same guy Jude worked with. They were trying to get enough money so we can get passage to another part of the wastelands, where there was sunlight.
They were so nice, I never thought anyone would ever hurt them. Until one day they came back from Johnathan’s, and both had a weird look on their faces. They told me to go out for a walk because they had some business they had to make alone. I didn’t want to leave, I was scared. But my mom told me that I’ll be okay no matter what happens. I left the house, and took a walk around the market. I walked in a fast pace because I wanted to come back.
After I finished, I made my way back. And I saw a shady figure walking out of the front door. I have never seen him before. He approached me, put his hands on my shoulders.
“Don’t enter the house, everything is gonna be fine. They’ll take good care of you”
So I sat down and closed my eyes, and kept singing mommy’s song. Didn’t know what else to do. Then Johnathan arrived and entered the house. He was angry, and kept mentioning why the “Gravedigger” would do such a thing. That they were nobodies. Then he noticed me, told some of the men to pick me up.
“She might be good money” he said.
One of them took me back to their shelter. I stayed there for 2 days, then they put me in a big red box. Told me that I’ll be safe here and that if I stayed inside and behaved, mommy and daddy will come back.
So I just sat inside… for days I sat there. They gave me some food and water, but I would always keep hearing noises from the outside and the red box would move a lot. Until one day, the box settled. I still heard some people talking though… one day everything went silent. So I just kept singing. It’s the only thing that made me feel comfortable, Then she came… Jude. She opened the red box, and took me out as her own. I still miss my mommy and daddy, but Jude is nice, she takes good care of me.
They both told us their sorrowful tales, and how our world is still a bad place. But it was nothing that I didn’t already know. Anna seemed like she wanted to say more, but Jude told us that she needs to move on, that she couldn’t waste any more time. My group was already in deep slumber, and me and my wife needed to close our eyes for a bit.
So we bid them farewell. She stood up, put on her gas mask again, and Anna took her hand, and they continued their journey. I looked at them as they were walking…
An angel guarded by a demon with a soft heart.
Sounds weird, but it gives me hope for our world’s state. We slept for the time being, but the sleeping didn’t last long. The group woke up and we had to continue our way to the capital. No gravedigger so far, which is good, and the capital is already close by.
We walked the chilling road to the capital, and reached without harm luckily. We met our dealer in the market, sold our merchandise, and got enough money for both a transportation back to Redwood and for the next batch of supplies.
“It’s rare to see merchants reach the capital safely, you know?”
A guy said to me as we we’re going out. I asked him “why?”
He answered “The gravedigger, of course! I met the foul bastard”
Curiosity hit me again, and I had to ask.
“How did you meet him?”
And here’s the twist…
“I was working for a guy named Ethan, and we had a shipment to carry out about three months ago. Suddenly the gravedigger comes in, butchers everyone inside our warehouse, even Ethan himself. Luckily for me I was hiding inside Ethan’s office upstairs, and when the gravedigger finished sniping everyone from upstairs, I sneaked out and jumped from an open window. As I was running away, we shared our gazes for a second. He had red bright eyes like a demon. And was holding a little kid with him… Poor thing, probably got eaten by him or something”
A monster… … Or maybe just a woman.
I’ve been walking these wastelands for a long time, you know… And I’ve never heard the same tale twice. You see, people are unstable. They would always fabricate what they truly see. I had to ask myself … Why? It became very clear after I met her and heard her tale… The truth isn’t interesting. The truth doesn’t satisfy nor justify our needs.
We made our way out, and as we’re getting into the new car. We heard gunshots and explosions. people started panicking and running outside of the capital’s gates. One of them was screaming
“The gravedigger is here! And he has a demonic minion with him! Run… run and don’t look back ever!”
A demon and his minion… Jude and Anna. I don’t know if she’s a good person or a bad one, hell I’m not even sure their stories are true or not. But one thing is clear… There are no demons or monsters… There’s a woman, and her name is Jude.
I didn’t get to finish my part of the story to that nice man that gave us coffee.
After Jude opened the red box to save me, she reminded me of someone. She reminded me of that shady figure that got out of my house. The one Johnathan called The Gravedigger.
They all had the same mask, and both were nice. People keep calling the gravedigger a demon and a monster. But not for me, The gravedigger was nice to me that day.
And Jude… She’s my guardian angel.
Hope you enjoyed this 😀
Please comment your thoughts and feedback below.
Note: The song Anna sings is from an actual song called:
“This is not the end” By: Clare Maguire.