Fiction: Post Apocalyptic Sci-Fi set in SF, Part 3
By the time the peaks of Devil’s Teeth start to loom on the horizon, the sky is a thin strip of pink and red being squashed by a dark block of purple. Getting closer to the cliffside settlement, the orange plastic fences point me towards the shoot. The buggy aims down the narrowing path as I bring my sail lower in the wind, buzzing the tops of the metal fence posts.
Zipping past, a hand-painted sign that says “SLoW YoUr RoLL” in curving, ornamental letters.
“This should put a bur in his britches,” I think. “Hope he’s on duty.”
Approaching the gate, flood lights flash on.
“STOP YOUR KART!!!” Yells a group of rangers shouts from the gate. I oblige them, pulling the kite hard to stern, skidding out the back end of the buggy.
A single silhouette marches out from the gate, shoulders raised, grumbling visibly like an angry trash panda.
“Who goes there?!” He yells.
“Yo mama!” I respond.
There’s a moment of a pause, and the floodlights shut off, and I hear: “Fuck you, Zephyrson!”
“Fuck you, Curveball!” I yell back as the outline of my old ranger friend becomes clear against the dimming horizon. Loose ends of his turban flap in the breeze, square shoulders above the triangle of his mirt (kilt, man-skirt, call it whatchu like).
Unclipping from the kart, I hop off and bring my sail out of the sky, hovering it above his outline. He grabs it, folding it like the seasoned kimmie he is. Wrapping the lines in a neat, tight figure eight, I make my way towards him, mechanically. He asks: “How was your trip? Hasn’t been wind for days.”
“Long and slow,” I say, taking the kite from him and rolling the lines and bar into it. “Almost nothing until nearly sundown. I camped two nights but hadn’t even made Cruz Station. And that was pedaling most of the way, or fighting between Boreas and Apeliotes.”
“The bickering brothers,” says Curveball, knowingly. “That’s a long haul from Catalina.”
“But Zephros returned at sun down,” I says. “And here I am.”
“You must have been hauling-ass in that wind with this twelve-meter, eh? I wouldn’t have gone above a ten, myself.”
“Heh, well, you know me.”
“Yeah. You’re a nut.”
We walk back to the kart and I pull out the towing lines.
“Here,” says Curveball. “I’ll take one. You’ve got to be tuckered out.”
A carabineer appears in his hand and he clips a tow line to the cord that runs between the shoulders of his ancient, modified military jacket. I attach the other line to the grommet on the back of my duster and we drag the buggy through the gate and into the parking lot.
“I have to go on perimeter patrol,” he says. “But I’ll see you later. You playing at the Shammie tonight?”
“We’ll see if Suds has room on the line-up. I’m just getting in and it’s mighty close to curtain time.”
“Alright, well I’ll pop in and see if you’re around. And don’t come zooming up to my gate like that, you crazy bastard!”
I wait til he’s a little ways out and then I yell: “No promises!”
I see him lift his arm in that old, familiar gesture: a single finger towards the sky.
Old Kris saunters out of his little cabin, a crooked pile of driftwood and canvas in the corner of the lot. He’s wearin’ his weathered, red coat. He says the jacket is from something called a “val-aye” that used to park “kahrs” in the old times.
“Hey there, Zeph,” says his gravel voice. “Been long time. Ain’t seen you in a twomp o’ Sundays. Yah been aright?”
“Yeah, aright,” I says. “You good these lately?”
“Can’t complain but sometimes I still do. Well, say, you checkin’ any sails in or jes’ the buggy?” He asks, writin’ out a little ticket for muh buggy storage. “What are you flyin’ these days anyhow?”
“Oh, hell, Kris, It’s changin’ all the time. I’m just checkin’ the one light wind giant. Keepin the rest of my quiver at Deska’s place.”
“How’s she doin’?” He asks. “She don’t make it out this way too often.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what, how about I tell you how she is on the way out of town? I ain’t seen her in months. Say, you don’t ever run into her at the Shammie?”
“Shucks, I hardly ever make it out to the Shamrock. Too far out there.”
“Far out! It’s in the dead center o’ town.”
“Well, it’s pretty far from main camp and farther still from my post and lord knows it’s hard enough to get away from here. Anyway…Make, size an color on the kite if you please.”
“Peter Lynn, Charger 19, red and white. Well, hey, see if ol’ Jasper won’t cover you one of these nights. Come up and see me play. I’ll buy you a round.”
“That’s mighty kind of you, Carlos. I’ll see what I can do. Here’s your claim ticket for the kite and one for the buggy. We’ll square up while your headin’ out. And hey, Carlos,” he says and leans in close. “A couple of Blackaller’s boys came around askin’ about you.”
“Whadya tell ‘em?”
“Just that we ‘spected you for the festival, nothin’ else really.”
“Well, that’s just fine. Thanks Kris,” I say and turn away. “Thanks.”
With my quiver in a bulging canvas bag on my back and a guitar in each hand, I stroll off through the dusty streets. It’s just after dusk, the sounds of nightfall rattlin’ ‘round the camp. Wood being stacked and chopped, fires startin to crackle. Folks callin’ for supper; spoons clanging and scrapin’ ‘gainst pots and pans; the far off yips of coyotes.