When Mandy and Duece returned to the garage, Tony had already pulled out a couple of lawn chairs for them to sit on. Duece was really puzzled at first and asked, “What’s going on?
“Hey man, Zwain has something he wants to tell us. Take a seat, the both of you”
Both Mandy and Duece sat in the lawn chairs. Tony handed them both beers and took a seat in a third lawn chair beside them. Zwain was left to have the whole couch to himself.
Once everyone was settled in Zwain asked, “Now, you know how I claim to be from the future?”
Mandy and Duece were puzzled. Of course Zwain never tried to hide this fact, not that they fully believed him. Slowly they nodded.
“Do you believe it to be true?”
“Well…” Mandy trailed off, trying not to commit one way or the other. Duece resorted to shifting his eyes around uncomfortably.
“I do,” said Tony catching both of them off guard. “As I told Zwain earlier, his lie is too lame to stick to it as long as he has. So I do believe him, man.”
“Look, even if you don’t. I still need to get this out. You may think it’s all a work of fiction, but to me… it’s fact.”
“Hey, if it’s got you this bummed out, then I’m not going to contradict you, ” said Mandy as she jerked her thumb in Duece’s direction. “But you best watch out for Duece.”
“Hey! I’m mature now. I can watch my tongue,” said Duece acting insulted.
Zwain smiled at the subtle role reversal. “Alright, first let me get you caught up to speed. When I was young and growing up with the wastelands, my father opened up a hostel for weary travelers to stay when they got rejected from other towns and villages. Eventually, he turned that hostel into and orphanage…”
For next couple of hours Zwain explained the hardships of the wastelands. Everything destroyed, no real places to live. Scavenging was a way of life. There was no movies, no cars and no telephones. He talked about adopting the kids that were abandoned by their parents simply because they were too much of a burden. About Chris and and his parents, and how they truly believed what they did was better for themselves.
Tony, Mandy and Duece were struck awe by all this. Zwain grew up in this kind of life and yet, before this day, his attitude was brighter and more cheery than all three of them combined.
It wasn’t all bad. There was books and songs and those passed the time pretty well. Zwain was really fond of reading stories that opened up other worlds to escape into. It made the desolate wasteland seem more like a world of opportunity. Zwain also loved to sing to the children. Tony chuckled and muttered something about lung butter which caused Zwain to point and smile at him.
Zwain explained the type of scavenging he did and how his father developed arthritis and could no longer scavenge for himself. Then Zwain got to the night his father died. Zwain’s voice cracked and tears formed in the rims of his eyes. He tried to keep hold them back In front of all his best friends, but the water flowed down his cheeks like tiny waterfalls. Mandy started crying as well causing her eyeliner to run, colouring her cheeks in a navy blue. Duece reached over and put his arm around her, which she accepted and snuggled as tight to him as she could.
Zwain paused for a second after finishing that part of the tale. He was trying to collect himself before going on.
“Shit dude,” said Duece, “That really fucking sucks man.”
Mandy pulled herself from Duece’s embrace and plopped down on the couch beside Zwain, hugging him tightly. Zwain smiled and leaned into her, wiping away his own tears.
“Thanks, but as hard as that night was, I awoke to a new resolve. To honour my father and all that he attempted to do for the wastelands. I was going to save those kids.”
Tony leaned forward, his curiosity in full bloom. “So then what happened?”
Zwain took a big swig of his beer, “That next morning I followed the footsteps. I walked for the entire day, not ever getting thirsty or hungry; or at least not that I had noticed. The trail held up for the next couple of days but then I came upon some bedrock. No footprints would show. So I made a small camp under a dead pine tree and proceeded to check the entire perimeter of the rocks. I was hoping to pick up the trail once again. After a few more days of searching there was a sudden downpour. I kept up my search for a little while afterwards, but didn’t find any more footprints. The rain must’ve washed them away.”
“I’m confused about this blood you claimed was on your hands, dude,” said Tony, “It seems like you did the only honourable thing you could do by going after those kids like that. Who knows what those–what were they– Ravagers? Who knows what those Ravagers would do to them, man.”
“That’s just the start of it. I did start out with the best of intentions. I searched high and low for those kids. I asked around, but most people weren’t talking about the Ravagers: almost like it was some kind of voodoo. I even bumped into Phillip and Jane. They seemed horrified at what had happened, but I saw a hint of relief on their face knowing that they were alive and avoided the worst. Maybe if they had stuck around they could’ve helped fight off the Ravagers together and saved all the kids. It took every inch of my being to not choke them there. The hardships of the wandering the wasteland was slowly culminating into a hatred for all other people. People too fucking scared to do anything about changing the world. More content in the little world they locked themselves into.”
Mandy pulled back a bit at the growing anger in Zwain’s voice. She didn’t completely let go but the hate seemed to emanate from him like a fire. Duece and Tony looked at each other with concern. Duece turned back to Zwain and said, “Geez, how long did this go on for?”
Zwain took another sip of beer. Then he took a couple of deep breaths. He closed his eyes in meditation to try and calm himself. With his eyes still closed he said, “Just over 10 years. I became a lone wolf. I wandered the wastelands offering help to those that needed it; those that I thought deserved it. I was losing sight of my father’s ideals. This world no longer deserved to be helped like he would have. No. It was my choice to pick those worthy of receiving help…”
Zwain paused and collected himself once again. He looked Tony square in the eyes and said, “Then one early spring it happened…”
“What happened, man?”
Zwain sighed and answered, “That’s when I found them…”