The night was dark, but we didn't bother. We moved on, without sleep. Out there, creatures looking to tear your throat out. Walking kept us away from them. Walking made us think of other things. The caravan run, and finishing it. The hope that Eve will hold her son again. The hope that Mark will return in one piece, so his family wouldn't worry. The hope that Decker and Tristan reach the Boneyard, far away from the wild wastes. The hope that these people are safe. We thought of those while walking.
That night seemed like forever. We were running out of rations; the caravan didn't seem to get any from the town once it was raided. For the safety of the group, I had to propose a new plan. "What's this thing packing?" I asked to them. We were moving, just as the sun was coming up. Took for a while for them to respond, since everybody's tired.
"Canned goods. Consumable plants. Salted bighorner meat..." Eve stopped for a while to catch her breath. Clearly, everybody was hungry.
"... purified water..."
"We need this. We need all of this." Decker, who had been walking more than sitting, interrupted Eve as he looked at the brahmin differently.
"We need to eat all of this, or we're gonna die."
Tristan silently said "Dad" with a tone of concern.
"We have to finish this run. We'll find food on the way..."
Eve seemed to be the only one still looking forward to finishing this.
"We'll take an alternate route. One nearest a settlement. This'll be our food."
Eve looked at me, disappointed.
"It's our survival, or their food. We're in the middle of nowhere. We're miles from Arroyo."
I explained it the best I could to Eve. Her look seemed to change.
The path continued on for miles. Our stomachs were empty. We were all exhausted. I reached for the pack, grabbed a few waters and some Cram, and started passing them around.
"Eat, but don't stop walking."
I opened the can. I know how it tasted like, but it was better than nothing.
We ate, while moving. The sun was finally setting, after an eternity. Everything was going good.
Or so I thought.
"No. Not this early." Mark was looking from a distance, as he dropped his empty can. He saw two or three of those mongrels, sitting down. They howled.
Decker dropped his can and reached for his rifle. "Threatening us. They're threatening us! Those bastards are attacking agai--" Before he could finish his sentence, our brahmin let out a harsh cry. We were scattered by the sight; a wolf had stuck its teeth on its body.
"Shoot it! Shoot the damn thing!" Decker unloaded his rifle onto the brahmin, hitting it instead of the wolf. Everybody was panicked. And because of this, the wolves went right under our noses. I shot whatever I set my eyes on. I managed to at least shoot one and take it down, but I started to miss right after.
Mark ran for the brahmin, which was struggling to get up, in order to pull the wolf out. The thing had already gnawed on its insides. As the it pierced through it, the brahmin's pack fell apart. Food was scattered.
"Leave it, Mark!" I shouted, as I continued to fight the rest of the pack. They seemed to be phased by the gunshots I've caused.
But Mark didn't listen. He grabbed the wolf by the body; he didn't know it was on a bloodlust. The wolf struggled, as Mark lost control. The thing bit his arm.
I wanted to help, but I was too busy. Tristan was fending them off her machete. Decker was still trying to shoot, but found himself reloading more of the time. Eve spent her rifle shots wisely.
The wolves had grown to five by this time. We were surrounded. The one I thought I put down went back up, though it didn't move as fast. The rest were still agile.
"We can't win this!" I shouted. I kept observing the wolves. They seemed to have joined in the brahmin ravage. Mark, by then, distanced himself, curling his arm to his stomach while he held a pistol in the other. He had just put down one wolf on the head. "We need to move! Let them have the brahmin!"
I started to run, hoping that they'd follow me. Tristan ran shortly after me. Then it was Decker, followed by Mark. Eve looked at the brahmin, which was now buried by half of the wolves, then started following us.
Our only food, stolen from us by the wolves. They're just animals, but they seem to be so much more. They live to hunt. To kill. We were powerless; lacking energy, and numbers. We could've easily died down there, the way the wolves were attacking.
We ran a considerable distance from them, hoping that the brahmin had distracted them from us.
"What now, huh!? What now!?" shouted Eve. "Our only food, gone.... we could've taken them all!" She was still angry from earlier.
"I can take five of them... I can kill them! Why the hell did we run?"
Decker was helping Mark nurse his bite wound. "You're tired, Eve. All of us are. We could've been as good as the brahmin. We could've died."
Eve shook her head, and turned away from us.
"It was our only choice," I told Eve. "We've gotta keep moving. They might still be fixated on all of that food..."
"Fixated? Then now's our chance! We go right back over there, and kill them all."
I looked at Eve. She's out of her mind. I walked up to her closely. Had to look up a bit, since she was taller than me.
"We. Keep. On moving."
I looked at the rest of the crew. Mark was sweating as he wrapped his wound, being helped by Decker. Tristan was looking down, covering her mouth. Her cheeks were shining against the sun's rays.
I waited for Mark to tend his wound, so that we can cover more ground. I don't know what to do. Where to go. I'm hoping another caravan picks us up. Hoping that a group of raiders coming from a successful raid crosses paths with us, so that I can kill them. Hoping that a traveling merchant bugs us to buy his stuff. I hoped for safety.
The sun had fully shined. We continued to move. Everybody hasn't had sleep. The canned food we ate carried us all through this, but it feels like it's not going to last. At this point, I'm hoping for anything. A banished wolf, so that we can eat it. A mole rat. But the wasteland didn't give us anything. All we got was dust.
We'd been walking since daylight. The sun's starting to go down again. Decker didn't seem to look good; he'd sway left and right at times. Tristan made it her job to hold on to him, so he can walk steadily. But in truth, everybody was tired.
I'm losing hope. We hadn't eaten for far too long, and we hadn't seen any sign of life since we left our brahmin. Nowhere doesn't seem to end. It wants us to die. The mole rats never came. The coyotes never wanted to hunt. Not even radroaches wanted to walk this dust-ridden land. We'll be dead by nightfall.
Thirst. Hunger. My lips were dry. My face was nearly covered in dust. Everybody covered their faces; I didn't. I wanted to get used to this dust. It'll be my bed, for quite some time. Dust.
Decker fell. His daughter tried to haul him up as hard as she could, but she couldn't. Eve and I grabbed his two arms, and carried him by our shoulders. He wasn't looking as good as us.
"We have to stop," Eve insisted. "I don't think those wolves wouldn't be this far into the wasteland. Let's sit for a moment..."
And so we did. We laid down Decker. Whatever we had in our packs, aside from ammo, were spare pieces of cloth. We used it to sit.
Tristan placed her head on her dad's shoulder. "I'll find you water, dad. Wherever it is, I'll bring it to you first thing. Please, just don't sleep, dad..." Water started rushing down from her eye. Too bad it isn't enough.
"I... I think I saw something peculiar a while ago." Mark clutched his wound, as he looked around.
"Some rags. Things scattered around it."
Eve stood up, alarmed, looking at Mark.
"I-I'm hoping it's no mirage...."
The cloth on Mark's wound was growing even more red than it was.
"Come with me. We'll go look for it."
I stood up. "Eve, shoot whatever isn't us." Eve looked at me for a while and nodded. She looked like she won't see us for a while.
I pulled up Mark, who seemed to have trouble getting up. "You sure you can walk?" I asked. Mark looked me as if I said something different. "Fit as a deathclaw."
He led the way, heading south-west of where our makeshift camp was. As we walked, I heard him mumble something I could barely make out. I caught up to him to hear it.
"Not a mirage... not a mirage... not a mirage..."
I looked at where he was looking. I could only see dirt, and a few pale grasses. But as I narrowed my eyes, I could see spots different from the ground's color. I ran toward it, leaving Mark behind.
I could still run. Thirsty, but I still had energy. I ran as fast as I could, chanting "Not a mirage" like how Mark did. I sounded stupid. Running was good. Caught some air while at it. It was actually the best run I've ever had.
Those spots from a distance, it was a pack. Grey cloth, with items inside it. Cans, bottles of Sunset Sarsaparilla and water scattered around it. A miracle.
"Can't believe it. It's not a mirage..." I thought I left Mark back there, but he's faster than I thought.
I could care less who dropped these. Whoever it was, they were listening to my pleas. Now we've got something that'll last us for days. We grabbed everything. I have no idea how desperate we've gotten, but I think the additional weight is dirt. We carried it, as fast as we could, to the camp. Hopefully they haven't been killed.
But things turned when I heard something running behind us. It was the pack. Two wolves, chasing. The rest, trying to run around. "Speed it up! Don't look back!" I shouted at Mark. His speed increased, but not enough of what I hoped. One of the mongrels managed to catch up, and take a bite at his other arm.
I wanted to shoot him. He dropped at least half of what we were carrying. He kept on running, though.
Never thought I'd had both the best and worst run in the same day. I poured all what I could into moving my legs, as fast as I could go. It didn't take long before I was spotted by Eve and them.
She stood up at first. Once she saw the impending doom, she pulled Decker and Tristan up and put away the cloth. I threw her two bottles, hoping that they could down it as soon as possible. Decker drank way too slow. The wolves were catching up.
Just like that, Decker was moving. We were all running. I tried my best to put what I could on my pack. I don't know how much I dropped, and I didn't want to know. We just kept on running. Two were behind, and now three were to our right. They were forcing us to change direction.
We were running. I don't know how long, but we ran. Coyotes would never chase us this far. These things would eat coyotes.
After a while, our speed decreased, as the wolves started to distance themselves. But whenever we slowed down, they would speed it up. We had to keep on moving. Whenever we would slow down, we'd swig as much as we can from the water and Sunset Sarsaparilla we held. It kept us moving.
And just like that, the sun was going down. We ran the whole afternoon, chased away by wolves. We could see them, but from a distance. They were checking our path. I'm starting to think these wolves are humans at some point.
All of the running distracted us from our surroundings. We found ourselves standing in front of a boneyard; a whole ruin of buildings. No light. Just what we needed.
Decker has emptied at least two bottles of water; Mark was wrapping a new piece of cloth on his new bite mark; Eve was helping herself to some of the food we managed to carry; so did Tristan.
Decker, after drinking his third bottle, was observing the boneyard in front of us.
"Damn wolves... they led us here..."
Mark looked at him for a second and went back to nursing his new wound. "Wolves can't do that..."
Decker caught his breath.
"Well what if they can...?"
"Then they're trying to help us. We're sleeping here for tonight."
It was good enough; dark, the towers of stone shielding the wind. No light, meaning there can't be any raiders housing outside.
"You're kidding me, right?" replied Eve, finishing her gecko-on-a-stick. "What if that whole place is a death trap? What if that's the den?"
"We run around it," suggested Tristan. "Sleep outside..."
We have no choice.
"The wolves can pick us off outside. They may still be out there, hoping to ambush us. There might be things we can scavenge in there. Plus, the buildings have walls we can stay in."
I was the first to walk toward the boneyard; shortly after, everyone followed.
Shrouded in the dark, darker than the night. It'll be enough to cover us from the wolves.