I snapped awake, lost as to where I was for some moments, a beeping noise from some strange machinery having disturbed my catatonic sleep. Oh yeah, my futuristic avatar and the travail of staying alive. After much cogitation I think I've figured out what my secret stash of mysterious garbage is trying to communicate. The glittering band of metal I can fit around my wrist with the numbers clicking over is some kind of dating device and it says we're now in the year 2107. The ragged clumps of paper the Chief calls "dirty fucking books" and has forbidden any of us to keep have finally yeilded up to my curious perusal the amazing tale of what has happened to our world in the last 100 years. I'm stunned to realise how we came to be here, scrabbling hard for a living amongst the dusty mounds of trash that stretch to the horizon and beyond and which the Soothsayers name in whispers as The Wastelands.
I've spent countless hours of study, hidden in my underground bunker away from the glaring sun, the choking winds and supicious eyes of my fellow tribals, flipping the strange objects back and forth, and finally the arcane letters, numbers and pictures have fallen into place to inform me of who I am and where I've come from. I have long been adept at deciphering the signs and messages littered about the poisonous wastes and, while the Chief has found this talent suspect, the tribe has benifited greatly for I have led the way to buried, hidden caches of foodstuffs and helpful objects in our daily struggle to survive this dangerous, tumultuous landscape. I was given 'Leaping Wolf' status as scout and scrounger and thus had the freedom to secrete the wondrous things that took my fancy and, sneaking off when others were busy with their rituals of rooting and rutting, I long contemplated the meanings I was sure were bound within those weird fabrications.
It's been such a long struggle to stay alive, thru cunning and strength I've made it to my fourteenth year, the hallowed hair has grown in my groin and I have gut-wrenching feelings of longing and displacement I can't explain except that it must have something to do with my rite of passage into adulthood that is to happen on the next full moon and for which all the elders seem to be overly excited about. Every year on my birth moon I've been inspected all over, prodded and squeezed, and the Soothsayers have exclaimed their satisfaction at my growth and progress, applauding my musculature and plumpness, spoiling me with treats of foodscraps where others have been made to go hungry, making me feel special and excited about my big day forthcoming for which they have prepared me all my life.
It's a tough ritual they warn, from which I may not come forth the complete being, able to continue and increase the strength of my tribe, but I feel that now I have figured out the history of our existence this knowledge can only improve my chances, I can see the future more clearly and thus prepare my journey where others have been dazed, ignorant and handicapped. For it seems calamitous events have beset my race of humankind, the much revered and oft told legend of the "lost civilisation" was the very thing that had brought about all the world's downfall and reduced us people to the life of apes, living off rotting detritus, carrion and superstition.
Human industry had enduced wild climate change that wrecked the cities with hurricanes, floods, tornados and droughts, then earthquakes and decay brought the mainifold concrete and glass towers crashing down; there were wars fought over religion, water, food, resources and territory, even intelligent machines battling mere flesh and blood till unimaginable weapons of mass destruction were detonated and whole societies were destroyed; plagues of vicious beasts and deadly viruses were set loose to ravage the left-over populations; and to finish us off poisonous materials had polluted the environments and distorted the human genome, artificial compounds and leftover wastes of a greedy science ran amok so that only a mutated race of beings once known as humans now lurked and hunted amidst the mountains of rubbish folklore has reverently called "the once was consumer's paradise."
I have been singled out for special treatment all my life, fussed over and fattened up, as I am radically different from my fellows because I have five digits on four limbs, two eyes and well-formed genitalia and fit the desired ideal according to the Soothsayers blue-print of archaic human physical perfection they keep as backdrop to their altar in the tumble-down church of their crazed religion. My father is the Chief, of course, for only he, the Strong One, near physical perfection himself, has been allowed to mate with the women of our tribe. And he has bred many malformed children, most of whom have not survived to dance under their Moon of Sperm-Giving, many mysteriously disappearing before they even made it to their big day. They were the weak, the soft, the caring, who preferred to play and fuck instead of fight and kill, such were some of my beloved brothers and playmates, swallowed by the Void, and not one of the Sweet Smilers ever returned from the Hades of Manhood. I pretended nastiness to stay alive, coldy observing the ways and wherefores of sub-human behaviour, outsmarting their constant surveillance.
For those who survived to keep the Tribe intact were the strong, the brutal, the viciously ruthless, misshapen and freakish but seemingly able to defeat the ogres of the Ordeal to become adult warriors for the Cause and thus protect The Family from it's enemies, other tribes and beasties that live to hunt us. The Chief himself has eleven toes and fingers which he tries to hide with ragged gloves and mouldy boots never taken off, but the Soothsayers hiss to each other their disatisfactions about his divine unfitness, and since my birth he has caste a jaundiced eye upon me, jealous of the Soothsayers awed predictions that one day I will lead the tribe and consort with the women to produce the perfect human once again able to rule the world and bring us back to civilised bliss and freedom from want.
My sisters are mostly kept alive to slave, rut and give birth to monsters, who die or thrive according to their fitness, while my ugly brothers are trained to hunt, scavenge and fight off the Others who would live off us. Few survive to adulthood and the Great Feast of Death and Resurrection held every mid-winter moon is joyless and cantankerous, The Family is small in number and composed of the cruel and cadaverous, always bickering over precedence, in food, honour and sex. But for all their misshapen disgruntlements I miss many of my childhood companions sorely, there were some who made this harsh life more bearable with their smiles, hugs and fondlings. Down into the dungeon church they go to attend the secret rite of passage in their honour and they don't return, not strong enough to withstand the Ordeal, gone on to a better world I'm told.
The Chief, the Elders and Soothsayers all, in united croaking voice, refuse to answer my questions as to what goes on in the dark dungeons below, and are much aggrieved as to my critique of their foul beliefs. For the central icon in their Religion of the One True God is a dead corpse tied to a stick, a bleached-white skeleton with arms outstretched as if in benediction of the Wastes. He is the Ruler of the Universe, the One God Death, from which all come and to which all go, no matter what or whom.
And I have wailed into their crabby faces, but what of beauty, fun and adventure in a world so awesome it contains stars and moonlit nights, and bright-hued flowers that grow from desert trash, and melifluous songs that can't help but flow from hearts relaxing in a rare cool breeze and lush morning sunlight, with sweet water that parches a thirst and smiles from fellows when a new-found treat is shared, that life in fact is wondrous and moments of happiness can be snatched from all the filth and gloom. And this has also set me apart and caused the tribe to cast suspicious glances upon me, as maybe I am not quite right in the head nor the perfect speciman of manhood that they hoped for. My birth moon waxes lurid in the sky and my life's great test approaches, I gird my loins and sharpen my wits, for I am determined to rise from the dungeon's depths and win a marvellous life in this wild world of the Wastelands, for all that the odds are aginst me.
Yet right up to the week before my special moon waxed full the Elders told me of their love and honoured me with extra food, caressed me with affection and felt my plump limbs, all the while cackling and drooling in appreciation of my prowess. To be worthy of the honour of adulthood I must place upon the Altar of Death the carcasses of our most vicious enemy, the giant man-eating Rats that hunt us in the night, the tribe will feast upon this meat in celebration of my Grand Arrival and I am sent off into the Wastes with much bally-hooed expectation. Armed with bow and arrow and a spear of jagged metal, I set off with my trusty hunting dog, Butch, leading the way. I'd rescued him as a pup, for tho declared an abomination with his two malformed heads and jaws full of razor teeth, he was perfect for taking on the grotesque, intelligent Rats and, being the stronger, I had trained him to take on several at a time and tear them to bits in merciless, unyeilding battle.
Using both his snarling heads to sniff out the trails and rank recesses where the gruesome beasts thrived it was not long before we came upon one of their noxious nests hidden amidst a yard of car wrecks. For all their abilities to plan attack and defence strategies, we surprised a family of Rats huddled over a screaming victim, ripping apart and devouring the hapless human they had caught in one of their clever traps. We quickly dispatched seven of them, my arrows killing three straight off, Butch ripping apart another two in a fury of flying fur and snapping teeth.
Their leader confronted me with a brave malevolence shining from his beady, Rat eyes, his alpha male status denoted by the ragged white lab coat and the weird head-dress of twittering machinery he wore, colourful wires flaring out and plugged straight into his brain. Respecting his alpha rank, I took him on in one on one combat, ducking the swipes of the scalpel he thrust at me and stabbing him thru the heart with my spear. I strung the corpses on either end of a pole which I heaved over one shoulder and, with Butch lapping up the blood dripping in my wake, I set off back to Home and the loving embrace of my family.
It was expected that I'd be gone for several days to garner the prize of seven meaty Rats, and only return when my appointed day was dawning, but having achieved my goal so quickly I was eager to arrive early for the feast of one of my step-brothers, who was also ripe for passage into manhood and for whom I felt a dear affection towards. He was a darling, always sharing with me what he had and keeping me warm at night, snuggled tight against me, and I hoped so badly that he would be strong enough to win thru. The Family considered him particularly abhorrent and treated him badly as he was covered in fine hair and had a tail extruding from his butt like a monkey, but for me he was a delightful companion, I found him cute and funny and I always helped him when he was trodden down.
He was given the first day of the full moon for his ritual while I was honoured with the second and it was strictly ordained that they were to be seperate, secret ceremonies, only to be witnessed by the Elders and Soothsayers. But I was curious as to the details of the Ordeal and thought that if I got a sneak preview of the process it might forewarn me of what I might have to overcome. And perhaps I could help him also to stay alive.
And so laying aside the carcasses of my bloody booty I crept towards the dungeon of the Church from which issued ponderous, dolorous drumbeats and hair-raising chants. I had recently discovered a secret entrance to the sacred tombs and plucking up my courage in the face of the One God Death I clambered down the crumbling shaft to hide behind a pile of rotten bones and witness the doings of the entranced creatures cavorting below in front of the altar. I arrived at the very moment when my brother, seemingly stupified and delerious, was laid out upon a slab of stone under the outstretched arms of the grinning skeletal godhead. As the Soothsayers leapt into a frenzy of wails and screeching mumbo-jumbo the Chief, my father, stepped forward and stabbed my beloved brother with a large splinter of black glass, slicing open his chest and tearing out his heart which he quickly sunk his teeth into and gobbled up greedily.
The Soothsayers and Elders all rushed forth and tore at the corpse with taloned hands, ripping lumps of flesh from the shuddering body and stuffing the bleeding mess into their gaping maws. In a few endless minutes my brother was torn to pieces and devoured by those of the tribe I'd long been taught to respect and follow, their faces covered in blood, the gore hanging from their mouths and dripping down their bedraggled chests.
I could restrain my disgust and protest no longer, I shouted out for them to desist from their hideous feast, calling them beasts no better than the smart Rats they denigrated and hunted with murderous glee. The riotious mob froze mid-action, gasping in horror at my desecration of their holy sanctuary and all looked up aghast to where I stood waving my spear in threat. Then with a collective roar they screeched for me to come down and take my rightful place also on the altar of sacrifice. The Chief, my father, ran towards me and yelled that this is what I had long been prepared for, not to usurp his God-given leadership but to be sacrificed for the good of the tribe, that was what my physical perfection and difference had declared would be my fate. For the Lord God Death had decreed in the one good holy book, the Sacred Text of Abraham, that the sons were to be food for the father and it was the Elders who caused the Family to live on, not the young and foolish, and I must do as tradition demanded and come down and give myself over to Death and be devoured, for then the Family would be assured of long life. The old villain crawled on all fours towards me, clambering over the heaps of garbage and ancient bones, his eleven clawed fingers reaching out for me. In blind-fury I gave my reply, I put arrow to bow and shot him thru his warped braincase so that he stumbled backwards and fell rolling to the feet of the stunned congregation all bloodied below.
They shrieked and wailed sing-song laments but as I turned to flee they called out my name, and shouted hallelulyahs, the leader was born to be the Father of the Tribe and life could continue as of old. I was to come down and take my place as Chief in front of the Great God Death, I had performed His will as I was meant to and, like Winter had shorn the world of the decrepit and barren, now could Spring arise and bring on new life to regenerate the Family. I spat in their faces that I was mighty tired of their gruesome ways and besides, it was not possible that I would be their grand Procreator as there was one more way that I was different from them and it was that I loved fellows of my own sex and only wanted such love and company, to breed monsters with monsters was abhorrent to me and I dammed their continuance to the cruel fate they dammed others, to devour each other in the Hell of their own making.
They cried and roared with hatred and disgust, I was the devil incarnate warned of and condemned in the One Holy Book and again they yelled for me to descend to the sacred altar so that they might tear me to bits and rub me into the dust. I pushed at a huge pile of junk and bones that teetered in front of me and it came tumbling down upon them, crushing and obstructing them, bony arms upflung and wrinkled skin flayed open, as I repeated my defiance, swearing I would rather face the perils of the Wastelands alone than belong to them or give them the pleasure of my flesh. I then sprinted back along my hidden passage and up into the scorching sunlight. Butch, my faithful dog, waited there with tongue lolling, and I sicked him onto one determined old crone who'd made it up the tunnel after me, Butch ripping off her crabby face as she raised a shin-bone to curse me.
He then followed me as I ran to my private lair secreted under a mound of steel-girders and office-furniture debris, and there I quickly stuffed into a pack the artifacts I thought might come in handy on my arduous sojourn, some canned and dried foodstuffs, a canteen of water, a ground sheet and jacket for the freezing nights, and then we rushed off, me and my faithful dog, while other tribes-people crawled from their hovels to watch me leave, their eyes popping in surprise at my earnest, scowling haste. I trotted off down the dusty trail that led out of our garbage-heap enclosure, Butch at my heels, and I caste not one glance back at my supposed Home, determined to forget my so-called Family, that people of mutant inbreeds who had renounced their claim of Humanity to satisfy a lust for meat and power.
I shaded my eyes from the dust and glare and searched out a path that led thru the mountains of refuse and filth, mounds that stretched all the way to the horizon, and I wondered what lay beyond, and felt an illicit thrill, that whatever it may be, it could be no worse than the horrors I had grown up with. The Unknown held a certain frisson of promise, a life of adventure and knowledge hard won, and I ran the faster so as to be over that horizon before the dark night crashed down upon me, and on into my life, whatever that would be.