“Pull in there.” Gage said, pointing at the abandoned trailer park. William nodded and drove in, parking far enough in to a avoid attracting attention. Gage pulled out the burner phone Eva had given him and texted the only number plugged in.
CHECK He waited for the reply.
Gage turned the phone off and took it apart before getting out of the car. A lone figure appeared from behind one of the falling apart trailers and walked towards them. Gage met him half way and grinned before hugging Ben in a fierce embrace.
“Damn it’s good to see you, Ben.” He said.
“It’s been a long time. How’s our little reaper?” Ben asked, smiling widely.
“Not so little anymore. And salty she couldn’t come.”
“I gathered that much. But it’s better she stay safe.” Ben’s eyes drifted over Gage’s shoulder to the car.
“Introduce me to your friends.”
It would have been roughly a six day walk from the abandoned trailer park to the city gates. Kageyama planned to make it in three.
This allowed almost no time to stop, no meals, no sleep. When he did try to rest, it was only out of necessity, when his footsteps faltered as he stumbled along and he nearly brought himself to his knees, causing the shivering bundle in his arms to wheeze in shock, possibly out of protest.
Then Kageyama would find a safe place to lay for a few, scarce minutes. Curled up in the corner of a ramshackle cabin, tucked away at the base of an old tree. He would gently lower Shouyou to the ground before laying his head on the Vault Dweller’s chest and closing his eyes. This way, if Shouyou stopped breathing while he was asleep, his ragged breaths dying in his chest, it would wake Kageyama.
That only happened once, on their way. Shouyou had been getting steadily worse, and worse. His skin was a sickly whitish-grey, the color of birch bark, tinged with green. His lips were painfully cracked and bleeding, and Kageyama had nothing to put on them, no balms or oils.
The worst were his eyes. Kageyama felt, almost, like he’d been taking them for granted, when they’d been shiny and lit up like Shouyou was plugged into a power source. Now they were dull and filmy, and his irises were ringed a deep, angry red. They were constantly leaking, runny, which gave him the appearance that he was crying, all the time.
When his heart had nearly given out that one moment, Kageyama had been looking straight into his eyes as they stretched wide, as Shouyou had gasped for air before going utterly limp. Kageyama had grabbed the RadAway—the last of his stores—and pried Shouyou’s mouth open with his fingers, jamming the tube down his throat, cursing and praying. To whom, he didn’t know. When he’d felt that faint heartbeat under his fingertips again, he decided he didn’t care who’d answered.
He didn’t know why his world had narrowed down to this one focal point, aside from not wanting to watch Shouyou die in agony in his arms. Kageyama had watched plenty of people die before. But somehow, this was different. Shouyou hadn’t been born into the Wasteland. He should have hated it, been terrified of it. But instead, Kageyama had watched him walk through it with something a little bit like wonder. Maybe he was just too stupid to know any better.
Or maybe what he’d left behind was just that much worse.
Despite knowing that the Wasteland took far more than it gave, he wanted Shouyou to have something a little bit like freedom. Lives were short out here, but he wanted Shouyou to live a little while longer.
When he finally made it to the city, in just a little over three days, Shouyou was still breathing.
This was actually at a job site. It’s sad because I found so much trash here, but also discovered that this abandoned trailer park lot had become a nesting ground for a variety of animals, as I could tell by their scat and the patterns in the depressions of the taller grasses. I also discovered a wetland in the far right. I saddened by the state of the place, the lack of consideration taken when everyone moved, but also I felt hope and strength when I saw nature taking back over, despite the awful conditions.
This was also the report I wrote for about the aforementioned issues, all of which omitted from the report to sound more appealing to the client. That included information on endangered and threatened species I discovered lived in the area after researching. I feel no regret in not working for that company anymore, except that I wish I could save or clean up this area for the creatures that once inhabited it. I say once because the revised report was approved for development. Guess who? Walmart.
This image is just a small window into West Virginia, where this exact thing is happening everywhere. Abandonment, nature tries to reclaim, corporations take over and begin the cycle again. Or, in a more relevant topic, the environment is used for mining, development in technology, men and women lose jobs because of mountaintop mining advancements, communities sicken, lose their ability to defend their land and their mountains because of the large corporations that own the mining companies, communities and nature die.
It’s a harsh reality, but it’s still a reality. Still, despite all of this, despite the overarching sadness that seems to seep through all of the crags of the mountains of West Virginia and hover in the grey skies, one can still find beauty and slivers of hope for the future, if they know where to look.