My face hurts. In fact, everything does. I feel like I’ve gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson and lost. At least I have my ears in tact… for now.
A lot has happened this last day or two. Already it feels far longer than that. I returned to the AEGIS camp where I met Claire on my return to Arklay and was met by two men. The first had a clipboard and lots of questions (and a sledgehammer) and the other shadowboxed and glared and yelled at me, all in the name of training. Or induction, I think. The training came soon after. Dom, the one who yelled (and reminded me of every war movie/TV show featuring a general or major in it) called me out to the pool behind the camp tent. When Claire told me they would train me I expected… actual training. I was punched in the face, the second I missed and the third knocked me down. In fact it knocked me out. The back of my head is still swollen a bit from where I landed on the dry pool floor. Made sleeping last night difficult trying to get comfortable. Oh that reminds me, I have huge news on the home front, but I really should finish my train of thought first. Easily derailed now. Pretty much sums up life in general really. But anyway.
After “training” Dom took me to a Bar, Coaches, on the promise that moonshine would ease the pain. I think it was his way of saying sorry. I know he’s got rules and protocol but I’m starting to see why the group or platoon or whatever name there is for them is so thin. Maybe I’m just too used to having someone else do the punching for me. God I miss Kane and Doc…
I met some new faces at the bar though I didn’t catch all their names. There was a man named Shadow (after taking shelter with the MC as long as I had nicknames aren’t crazy to me anymore), two ladies behind the bar, and another lady that arrived after us with I think a Cajun accent. Maybe. I’m not sure but it sounded exotic. I guess we really are a melting-pot of a society now in many ways. Anyway one of the ladies behind the bar gave me stew and the other water. They were both so good I had finished almost as soon as they were set before me! I can’t even remember the last time I ate anything so filling. It was almost like a real old-time home cooked meal… save for the sounds of groaning and gun-fire echoing in the streets outside. Dom directed we go back to the AEGIS tent – but first we made several stops in places where he collected what looked to be cash. He told me that the S Mart store was looking for people to work there. Needing money myself and seeing how much he had I jumped at the chance and signed up immediately. After reading a few papers on the counter, I followed Dom back outside and back down to the water’s edge and into the big green tent where the two soldiers remained ever-present on sentry.
Inside the tent Dom he handed me a bottle of moonshine. It hit the spot. Reminded me of other people and other times. I fell asleep in the tent. I woke up in the early hours and unable to go back to sleep took my bag in hand and went to S Mart. Without any real idea what to do I read a little more of the papers available and found a scrap of cloth which I used to start wiping down the shelves. I was near scared out of my skin as a man emerged from a back room with a box in hand and looked at me like I had grown a second head. After some back and forth he introduced himself as Ridley and turns out he’s the store manager. He told me how things worked and I watched a transaction take place before I took my leave and left again. I felt like a dumbass, and a lost dumbass at that.
Figuring a walk would clear my head I strolled the woods not too far from civilization and found a few interesting items to shove in my backpack and keep for later. I don’t know why I’m suddenly salvaging random crap but it seems important somehow. Someone has to save it and remember the remarkable achievements made by man through all this chaos and death. Maybe I’m just looking for something to fill the void with my family all gone. I walked the woods for a long time. I walked as sore as I was from the beat down/”training” and found myself back at the hospital. A man out front with a gun and shock of red hair and beard met me with what I can only regard as disdain or skepticism. I’ve seen enough attitude to know he was best avoided. I guess he has a right to be jaded or whatever but I sat inside away from him just the same. My battered face was throbbing and my head felt like it was splitting at this point but there was no medical staff around to see me. I waited. I dozed. The man wandered the grounds with his gun and left. I left soon after. I returned to the woods without anyplace left to really go. It turned out to be the best decision I’ve made since returning.2