Out of the Badlands: Part 1
I walked out of the badlands. I wasn’t worried about radiation anymore, but the roving gangs of nutcases and cannibals that had so characterized the first few weeks after the Terrible Day were still an unknown factor. I wasn’t entirely helpless—the fact I was still walking was proof enough of that—but I was starting to get crazy, just talking to myself. There had to be other people out there like me. There had to be survivors who wouldn’t kill and eat me on sight. A secondary concern—that I might find a man who wasn’t interested in killing me, but who might make me wish I were dead—was unfortunately the kind of risk I had to take if I wanted to be around anyone ever again. Anyway, I wasn’t entirely defenseless where that was concerned. Before the T.D., I’d invested in a couple of those female condoms with nasty teeth in them. I’d had to import them from overseas. Supposedly, they have to be removed at a hospital, and we don’t have any of those anymore, so any man who had the bad judgment to try to stick it to me was going to be in a real predicament, wasn’t he?
My feet hurt, and I’d been coughing endlessly from the dust for nearly as long as I’d been on the run, but now that I had a plan of sorts, I didn’t mind too much. I had hope. Hope was better than no hope. Hadn’t I always said that, back during the days of civilization?
A telltale dry stem sticking up from the ground caught my eye, telling me where to dig. I paused, crouching in the blazing sun, feeling it beat down on the back of my sun-leathered neck as I put my digging stick to work. Hidden below the hard baked surface of the earth lay a treasure, a tuber full of precious water. Out here, if you can’t find them or something else safe to drink, you die. Fortunately, I used to take an interest in woodcrafting even back before I knew it would save my life. It was a curiosity, and people thought I was some kind of a super-prepping freak. My stick bit into the earth efficiently, and in a few moments I found and was unearthing a root the size of a small melon. Standing, I tucked it into my pack. I still had water in my canteen, and it wasn’t the best time of day to grate up the root, anyway. For that, I needed the cool of the evening. I continued on.
I paused often as I walked, listening, looking and smelling. Out here, I was likely to smell another human before I would see one. We humans don’t do well without fire, and depending on what you’re planning on eating, cooking is the difference between feeling full and spending two days sicker than a dog. Somewhere out there, probably on the outskirts of a smaller town, I expected to find other survivors. Whether we would survive each other was yet to be seen.