Wheels Keep Turning

Looking down at the still body, Pryce is fully aware that what this man had been in life was a scav. Not only because of the look and smell of him but also due to the way he carried himself.

No doubt said scav had hoped to get inside the lodge, loot it for all its worth, then split for wherever he calls home. Yet, unlike many scavs it seems this one is alone. Pryce, the grey haired man with a cleanly shaven chin, could take guesses as to why that is seeing as scavs aren’t exactly common up here in the hills. At least from what he’s seen. Not that the survivalist is from around these parts because he’s not. He’s from further north.

Looking down at the bloody remains, the survivalist wonders what the scav would’ve thought if he’d seen what was inside the lodge, because no, it isn’t sealed tight. It’s open, on the other side, and has been picked through well enough.

If Pryce were to guess he’d say the picking wasn’t done by just one group but instead by several, likely over the years since the end came. It isn’t surprising. It might be to a scav for they only take what they find locked away, abandoned.

In that way scavs are like thieves, except thieves steal what is currently in another’s possession.

Pryce, being a survivalist meanwhile, catches a good amount of what he consumes, has gathered some useful items and tools over the years but does not believe in society or hoarding what others have left behind. Sure, some of it might have a value to someone but to him it is hindrance, unnecessary weight.

In fact, the only reason he is up here near this lodge and the dried up lake is because it is a good place to lure people not like him, which from his experience is most souls who continue clinging to life. Yet, this latest recently deceased soul is not one he lured. Rather, he simply laid in wait. Having heard them coming, he hid in a hole he’d dug and covered himself with a mat of detritus no one, except those like him, would pick out as suspicious or noteworthy.

Waste not want not, the survivalist thinks dropping into a squat beside the battered body that he took the life of. It’s an act for which he feels no remorse. Much like the scav wouldn’t have felt any if their roles had been reversed.

Nevertheless, the likelihood of their roles having been reversed are slim for scavs do not accept nature. They are perhaps the least accepting of those who can be found out in the ruins of the world. Yet, they are not alone for there are many others who continue to rail against the truth, desperate to cling to a way of life, vastly simplified, that has long since ceased to exist.

Rifling through the corpses pockets, Pryce isn’t enamoured with the meagre offerings contained within. Save for the key. It is without doubt for whatever mode of transport that brought the scav here, for they never travel without a ride. The survivalist, on this matter and this one alone, doesn’t blame them for nor does he.

The difference is however, his home is his ride. It is not a simple means of transportation, but his entire world. You may now understand why only useful items are retained and everything else cast aside as if they are worthless items of trash. That is because to be fair items which cannot aid Pryce are exactly that.

The survivalist imagines that the scav had a place to shelter in somewhere fairly close by.

Rising back to his full height, Pryce cannot say he is interested in discovering said scav shelters locale, and not only because he might have friends, who will, before too long, expect him to return. They’ll be waiting a long time if they are. Though, scavs never wait for their kin. They talk a big game about camaraderie but that is all it is, talk. At the first sign of trouble, what they term as unwinnable odds, they split with the sort of speed you might expect if you watched a rat scurry up the inside of a drain pipe. Not that drain pipes exist any longer, and if they do it is only the remains of such things.

A snarling smile flickers onto Pryce’s cracked face whose lips are pale, eyes grey and growing cloudy, hair matted but tightly pressed against his scalp and peppered with dirt a reddish brown colour.

The dirt will not remain where it is for long. Not because the survivalist will make efforts to rid himself of it. Rather, because the dirt never remains anywhere for long, in his experience. Instead, it has a tendency to keep moving on. Not that he is bothered by that for it saves him the effort of having to continually dust himself off.

With key in hand the survivalist circles round the perimeter heading the way the dead scav had come. He’d been watching them like a hawk as they’d approached and made sure to keep silent so as not to alert them to his presence, which had clearly worked.

The scav, for his part, had done a decent job at concealing his footsteps. Alas, there isn’t much he could’ve done to mask his physical existence for anyone with eyes would’ve been capable of seeing him. Much like if anyone were out here with Pryce, looking in his direction as he begins to cross the dried lake following the slight indentations from the scavs boots, they would see him too.

However, the survivalist is much more aware of what is and is not around in comparison to the scav. And while they like to think themselves decent trackers, the truth is they lack the proper skills. For one their hearing is nowhere near as acutely honed as his, and if you doubt that then surely the survivalist wouldn’t be the one breathing, now would he?

If doesn’t take long, following the partial tracks, to find the rough area through which the scav must’ve come.

The survivalist is impressed they kept hidden as long as they did. He would’ve anticipated, from prior experience, the scav to have been more reckless. Such is their usual personality flaw.

That suggests to Pryce that this scav may indeed have been working alone. He shrugs not caring one way or another as his eyes scan.

A smirk breaks across his face a short while after when he sets his failing eyes on an outline which does not belong and had not been here previously.

Without hesitation the grey haired man heads for the abominable pile of branches which look ruthlessly out of place, unnatural.

A couple minutes is all it takes him to reach the pile and with a quick backhand knock the withered branches off what is revealed to be a motorbike. It wasn’t what, before laying eyes on the shape, Pryce had been expecting and so he finds he is a tad disappointed having made the discovery.

Still, beggars cannot be choosers and so, having no interest in the bike itself, he slides the key into the ignition and turns it; making sure he doesn’t fire the engine into life.

A third of a tank is what the gauge informs him is contained within. It’s quite a lot better than he would have guessed the needle would reach, which is why he hauls the bike free of the tangled mess that had so poorly hidden it, and starts pushing it back toward the lodge.

His car is on the far side, which is to where he will take the bike and only so he can extract the one item of use in the battered frame of the twin wheeled vehicle, the fuel.

Unfortunately, pushing the bike back to the lodge is not an easy or quick task. Along the journey the chain locks often, hitching, while Pryce attempts to roll the wheels. It leaves him dreading to think what it must’ve been like to ride the machine, and serves as a reminder as to why bikes are not the best transport out in the wasteland. In his eyes it is undoubtedly cars. They have four wheels, an interior, storage and are capable of travelling much greater distances than a bike like this is. After all, dirt bikes are meant for bounding over rough terrain, the sort terrain which surrounds this dry lake as it had been before the apocalypse came and turned the world to a desecrated bowl of dust and death.

With the lake conquered and Pryce beside his car, packed to bursting with useful items, the survivalist goes rummaging about inside it in search of…

He finds what he’s looking for, a length of plastic tubing, and pulls it from under a number of layers of animal skins which he uses to keep the man warm during the cold nights.

In complete contrast to most people, Pryce is not heading northward in search of some paradise, or whatever might be the reason for heading in that direction. No. He is heading south. The thought process behind it is simple. If everyone else is heading north than by heading south he might chance upon more bountiful plains. Or at least what classifies as bountiful in the time after the apocalypse anyway. Not that he thinks about his reasons as he wrenches the cap off the bike’s fuel tank, slides one end of the tubing in and prepares his car; a long, wide estate saloon with chipped blue paint beneath the layers of muck and corruption which stain its pitted surface.

Ready for what comes next the survivalist takes a series of deep breathes to ensure his lungs remain capable of sufficiently inflating, which mercifully they are, and then wraps his mouth around the other end of the tubing. It is at this point he sucks and keeps sucking, hard, until he tastes what is flowing through the tube, fuel.

Quickly he pulls the tube away from his mouth and shoves it into the open filler cap on his car.

A glugging sound can be heard not longer after. He ignores it in favour of the sight of fuel, semi translucent, flowing through the pipe until it begins to struggle. At which point Pryce is forced to get creative, bouncing the bike onto its rear wheel; he holds it in position until less than a trickle beading through.

Having outlived its usefulness, Pryce dumps it, climbs into his ride, fires the engine, checks the fuel gauge to see that it now reads a little ways past half, and then speeds off.

Much like Darrell before him, the survivalist keeps off the roads. His old faithful can grin and bear it the bumpy ride. And while she might not be an off-roader she is capable, with a number of modifications to make her better suited for the job too.

Yes, all of the alterations were done by Pryce, his two hands.

Alas, before long it becomes evident that even the modifications are not be enough for the ride becomes unbearably bouncy. Not wanting to crack or shear anything Pryce is forced to the nearby road. Still, he refuses to drive along it proper. Rather, he skims down the edge, eager to avoid any would be trappers. It’s the name he decided to give those who partake in the practice of laying ambushes on the remains of old world roads.

Why they do it he hasn’t a clue, much like he is unaware what they might be termed, if they are at all, down here. Not that it matters as he barrels along heading for… south. That is all Pryce is heading for. There is no destination more exact than that. He thinks it sufficient enough with his rolling home, which he has to admit he finds to be quite comfortable nowadays. It hadn’t always been but things change, as do people. The changes might be minimal but…

There is a sudden bang. Pryce grumbles under his breath, sure he knows what the cause is though unwilling to stop for it. Alas, his determination does not last for his car soon becomes almost undriveable as a result of the juddering steering wheel, bouncing and wandering rear end which is snaking left to right and back again as if he were driving on compacted ice.

Begrudgingly, the survivalist slows and eases the car to a stop. Out of habit he kills the engine and pockets the key before getting out.

You might think that a weird habit in a world where so many things might be lying in wait to kill you but there are reasons, very good ones. Take a little while to consider and you’ll soon realise what they are.

Anyway, now out of his car, Pryce wanders down the edge of the remains of the road toward the rear. He has his revolver, loaded, in one hand.

Can’t be too careful out here in the wasteland he feels. That is why the grey haired man takes a good while scanning his surroundings. He wants to be sure he’s alone. After all, the last thing he wants is to be fixing, in whatever form that might be seeing as he is yet to examine the damage or discern the cause, a tyre when someone rolls up on you with the only intent which exists out in the world, murder.

Concluding that there is no one else that he can see, though remaining on edge for it is not a definitive answer sadly, Pryce turns his attention toward his tyre. Instantly he spots that it is shredded to ribbons with long gashes across its worn surface. It would be impossible not to see the state it is in. Yet, he cannot see the cause of the damage as yet; save to say whatever did this is not on the ground when he performed that check of his surroundings. So he drops into a squat. His hope is…

Instantly he spies the culprit, a tangled weave of razor wire. Feeling his blood turn cold, which is quite the feat under the heat of the sun, he shifts his mood, fires off a snarl and unfolds himself, returning to his full height.

Stowing his gun soon thereafter, the survivalist pops the boot of his estate and begins a process of fumbling about in search of the spare he knows he has for he made sure to carry one. Well, two but he’s got through one already leaving him only…

At that moment he finds it, by touch only, and hauls it toward him. It isn’t easy with one hand but he manages it while everything else is piled on top.

It would be at the bottom of his possessions. He should’ve made it more accessible but didn’t. It is what it is, he thinks.

Appearing from out of the mound of stuff, the tyre is soon dropped to the fine gravel beneath Pryce’s feet. There the wheel bounces. To stop it Pryce puts his boot upon it, which also prevents it from rolling away. The last thing he wants is to have to go chasing after his only replacement wheel.

Sweat pouring from his brow, the survivalist straightens his back fully and goes about wiping his brow in preparation of the task of replacing the…

A bullet explodes through Pryce’s face, ending his life in an instant. He never saw it coming. The bullet was fired from a quarter mile away.

“One shot, one kill.” The shooter, a woman, mutters aloud before adding, “Hope he’s got something down there in that car worth the bullet I just used on him.”

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