Traveller's Journal

Author's notes on this entry:

I'd like to point out before you read that this was somewhat of a (failed) experiment to find more ways to bring my readers something interesting during the lengthening drought between chapters. Unfortunately, I needed to advance the story to advance these journals and that just meant that nothing more happened with them (I should have seen that coming, I think.)

If you do read the following entries though, they are canon and are, indeed, relevant. Just know that it may be more enjoyable to view them if I manage to write more and compile them at some time in the future.

First Entry – Accounting for the past

I never had a family. My mother died in childbirth and my father was a soldier. He was killed in a bar fight, something about hitting his head just so on a filth stained counter, sending him into a coma from which he never recovered.

So when we were all orphaned by the powers that be, or by madmen, or God, depending on who you’re talking to, I was ready. For me, only the scenery had changed. If only I could remember how it happened…

Some say they watched the world turn, flashing from this to that in an instant. I don’t know if they say it because they’re mad, or if they’re mad because they saw it, but from everything else I’ve heard, I was one of the first to come back. A seasoned veteran of abandonment.

Sometimes I wonder about the order, about why I returned sooner than the others. If I ‘returned’ at all; if my previous existence was anything more than a dream or a false memory.

Maybe it was because I never had anything to lose. I had taken a torch to my life over and over, chasing my friends and lovers out like beasts set loose upon the town until I had nothing left but myself and there was no one left to leave me.

Or maybe it was just chance. I tend to overcomplicate things.

Since then, I’ve watched the world turn again. Watched people rebuild and try and take control. You’d be surprised; their first instinct wasn’t to fight, wasn’t to run. They huddled together, quietly damaged, awaiting the final judgment that the world was bound to pass, every facet of their existences undermined. And when it didn’t come, when they found themselves still living, still breathing, they realized that was the judgment; that they were bound to the world they had created and sent crashing into the Earth; that they were doomed to watch it die slowly.

Or something like that. I believe we brought this on ourselves, but what do I know? Could be, some alien civilization thirteen billion light years away, about as far away as you can get, built something they shouldn’t have. Or maybe some kid down in what used to be Delaware prayed wrong one night, and now, here we are, our world dropped down a dark hole.

God, I say that like it’s some horrible thing. It’s really not. People have lived without modern convenience and without steady comforts and had happier lives than ours. Our existence is not defined by the things we’ve built, or even how we use them. It’s defined by how we approach each moment—whether each minute is a unique entity, separate from all others, or each minute is some extension of the last, where passing moments are a constant struggle against the currents of time and change.

So I look at it like this: yes, the world has changed. Yes, what we’ve built has fallen. But a seed in the soil still turns to a tree, streams still flow with water, and the clouds still drift overhead. And so there is always hope.

Second Entry – Accounting for the Present

I still wake up every day and wash my face with water, running from the tap. I look into the mirror and wonder how anyone ever loved a face like that. I kick the lonely travelers out of my bed and clean with my own hands. I still haven’t found whatever I am looking for in them.

This is what my life has become—a familiar routine, holdover from a world I thought we had all left behind, minus a few comforts. But what else is there? Even if we rebuild the world we once had, what good would it do?

People say that life after the A.I. was better. That they helped us connect to each other and ourselves. So the common thought is to try it again, this time being more careful; as if somehow convincing our new automated overlords to let us re-enslave their lower forms is a feasible approach to regaining the same standard of living we once ‘enjoyed.’

It’s ludicrous. But I have no part in that. Even so I am no better than they are. I wanted to effect progress, to bring about change... I couldn’t. I was too afraid to live alone outside the city. And the A.I. have turned Idest into a magnet for our fear, an obvious cage of the worst kind—the kind where they say “it’s your choice to be here.” But without them, they know you wouldn’t last the week. It’s as if they’ve known all along what would happen and were ready to shepherd each of us to the promised land of minor consolations.

Worse are men like Berin Grates. Opportunists, feeding on desperation and insecurity as they betray their own species. Doing the job the A.I. wouldn’t do openly and spreading sedatives through the masses, so lost and so confused.

Fuck him I have no right to talk. I am the worst kind of human; a hypocrite. But I can’t stop. I can’t fight the darkness, and the drugs are the only thing that keep me alive. I have my reasons—I know the day is coming where I will need to fight. We have grasped another short lived period of complacency, but its end is close and

I can feel the world seeping back in through the haze. And I cannot bear its weight any longer.

Third Entry – Today

I am writing this so I can remember I saw the end approaching.

This morning, two soldiers entered through the eastern gate. One was lagging behind the other; I think he was sick, and he kept pressing his hand against his arm. There have been many soldiers lately, but these two were different.

I didn’t see all of what happened, but I’m sure they were detained by the sentry. I left soon after, paranoid from the drugs. I thought they were coming for me.

At home, I freaked out and told myself I had to sober up, had to. I took a shower and tried to sleep. But when I looked out my window to convince myself I wasn’t being followed, I saw the soldiers and a third man whom I recognized as Holden Edwards going into the building across the way. Again, the fear came over me, and it was so strong this time I thought my chest might cave in with panic. So I conceded to my urges and went to the Dragon’s Breath. My hell away from hell.

To my mind, this is where things turned strange. Yesterday, I lost my jacket, the leather one that Vanessa gave me, and all I remember is that I was wearing it in the evening and it was gone by the morning. Today, I was trying to calm myself down with a walk, and I saw that little blond girl, the one with the dog, and I swear she was wearing it.

I was going to ask her about it, but I saw one of the soldiers from the checkpoint again. I thought he was watching me and I tried not to look conspicuous, but then he stopped and did this… strange thing. He had this bracelet in his hand and he pressed it against his lips, like he was kissing it, and he looked around like he was all lost or something. Of course, the girl was gone and I had lost my chance.

But this soldier—I figure he’s mental. All those government assholes have quality gear, but he didn’t even have his face mask on, and the weather was miserable. If not for the fear, I would have stayed inside, without a doubt. But my will cannot match up to my vices.

And this man seemed to share one of mine. I took a shortcut to the Dragon’s Breath and found that John was there (when isn’t he?), hoping to see me for a game of chess. On a whim, I decided to play without the aid of my sticky consort. It was strange and difficult having an almost-clear head for so long.

A little into our game, lo and behold, there was soldier man. I heard him ask for Berin Grates and head into the back room. Most people don’t call him by that name, and so I was sure something was going on when John mentioned that a frightening blonde haired man had been asking for him earlier.

I didn’t think much of it until, an hour or so later, I saw him leaving the bar. Immediately, I recognized him as the big time smuggler named Detroit. I had only seen him once before when he recruited me for some work, but I could never forget that face… he practically runs this town.

I don’t know what they were talking about in that room. I had thought it must be some standard government harassment, but it felt off somehow. The soldier had this troubled expression on his face when he left, and then, on my way home I saw men with guns loading into some of those old, gas guzzling trucks from decades ago. They had this sense of purpose about them, and I get the strangest feeling that whatever they were doing was somehow connected with that soldier.

[hours later – scrawled with hastily with trembling hand]

Jesus Christ. Now I’m sure of it. I didn’t see them leave—I had fallen asleep—but I saw them come back. Only one truck made it, half-shredded with bullet holes, and only two men inside. There was yelling and black spots soaked into the dirt near one of the men’s feet when he got out of the truck, holding his stomach. He dropped to the ground like a felled tree.

They were met by another group of men, also carrying guns. They blasted open the door to Edward’s building and dragged a man out, yelling. I think it was him, because the second man they brought out was one of the soldiers I had seen.

And then… The memories of what happened next are there, in my mind, like a movie I might have watched or a scene I might have imagined. But in no way do they feel like something I actually witnessed with my own eyes. In all these years, the death that I am about to describe counts as one of the most bizarre and horrible events I have ever witnessed.

A blond man, whom I am sure was Detroit, pushed and kicked the soldier into the center of the street. The soldier looked groggy and didn’t put up much of a fight, doing little more than raising his hands to ward off the repeated blows to his face… Every hit still pounds through my mind, as if landing upon me instead.

That fucking sick creep was enjoying himself. He was dancing around the soldier, knowing that no one in the world could do a thing to stop him. And damn it all if there was anything I could do! Huddled up in my apartment, like some scared lamb, that psycho burning himself into my mind.

I have never felt so helpless in my life. Not to the drugs. Not to the world... Only to the will of that freak, some twisted thing that in no way could be called human. The way he pressed that soldier’s face into the dirt, dragging it this way and then that, singing some jaunty tune at the top of his lungs to cement the violence in my mind. The way he took out his pistol and whipped the man’s head until he must have been unconscious.

But I can hardly describe this next part. It is the most surreal thing I can imagine. He kept patting the man’s arm. I couldn’t understand why, and I thought he might be ready to leave, but then he called to one of his lackeys and took something from him. Next thing I know, he tears the man’s arm off and passes it to one of his men like it’s just some piece of cargo.

I don’t know how he did it. But that was all I could take, and writing it down is the only thing that is keeping me sane right now. I can’t even bring myself to see if the body is still there.

Maybe I’m not as suited for this world as I once thought. But if this was any indication, it will all be over soon anyway.

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