Whelp. It was just a matter of time. With me traveling through all these doors, it was bound to happen eventually. Still, it’s really hard to take in and believe, but . . . I finally ended up in a fucking post-apocalyptic hellscape!
Okay. That might be a bit too harsh. Everything still seems to be here and in one piece, for the most part. But I can hear occasional explosions in the far distance, and the smoke plumes tell me there are some pyromaniacs out there having fun. And I know they’re all fucking dudes doing it. I’ve seen a few people, all with that deer in the headlights look, and don’t fucking touch me or come closer vibe, mixed with a healthy dose of please, I don’t wanna die!
And just when I thought I’d made a terrible mistake . . . Well, I already knew this was simply the next in a series of mistakes, and had serious thoughts about getting the heck out of this hellhole – see what I did there? – I run into Jo Prendergast and her gang of truly awesome women. [Break]
Location update. We finally made it to the next town, it took forever. It’s been at least a week of serious traveling, lots and lots and lots of farking hills. Scout acted like it was farking nothing. Stomping up an incline with so much confidence that she almost ran into a mountain lion. Yuppp. She backed away from it with the same amount of confidence. Speaking of almost pooping ourselves, bathrooms have been particularly rough this part of the trip. We’ve been doing this a while now. I’ve got my routine down. Even my pooping. Though I need to make sure I’m far, far away from the rest of the group. It’s just that the ground is a lot more rocky and hard to dig a hole in. Not that Scout cares, she barely goes behind a tree and makes us all move away unless we want to hear things we really don’t want to hear. Jee-Hyun . . . Er . . . Jee Hyun . . . I’ve never seen her . . . I don’t know if she pees, or when, she probably does it late at night when we’re all asleep. Or just intimidates her bladder till it evaporates.
So I’m happy to be in a town again, somewhere where we can fake civility and go in the premade holes of the bathrooms that once be, even if every toilet ever is backed up for eternity. But also, no running into mountain lions when trying to do your business. But before we even made it inside the building we ran into a very strange woman named Monica.
As if the blatant arson and triggering of various ordnance in nearby towns wasn’t enough, I swear I’m hearing growls from the nearby hills that might just be a fucking mountain lion.
How do I know it’s a mountain lion?
Well, what else could it be?
No! Don’t answer that.
That’s why I’m creeping around town like I’m expecting someone to jump out and point a machine gun at my face. And that’s when I see the small group of women
I’m hesitant at first. These women look like they’ve been through a lot. They look tough. They look . . . Badass. I assume Jo’s the leader because she’s the first person I talk to, but nothing against Jo – she’s great and all – yet it doesn’t take me long to realize why she’s hanging out with the others. Elliot is knitting a scarf and seems really chill, the sort of person you really want around when the world is ending and you’re trying not to lose it; they also know a lot of stuff, seem to have an answer for everything. Very useful.
I get along with Scout right away. She has a great laugh. Tough as nails. The kind of person you want with you in a dark alley, because whatever shit is going on there, she’s got your back and front and makes it so you don’t have to worry. Someone else might think her kinda crass, a little over the top, but she’s my kinda of gal. She also has an answer for everything, whether you want one or not.
Then there’s Jee-Hyun. She doesn’t say much. Next to nothing, actually. A handful of kinda murmured words. But the way she looks at me; studies her surroundings. I’ve seen her type before. Back in the Ostium Network. Smart. Really smart. Brilliant. And calculating. If Scout is the person who deals with any shit coming your way, Jee-Hyun is the one who can get you out of any bind or problem you’re stuck in. She’s a Houdini and a sharp-shooter and the one who can make a weapon out of anything, all rolled into one.
A hot McGuyver if you will, not that he wasn’t easy on the eyes too. And then there’s Jo Prendergast. The chronicler. There’s got to be one. When it’s the end of the world, and only a few remaining souls traveling the roads, eking out a living, with the will to carry on and keep going; to live to tell the tale; there’s got to be someone to remember the story. Record the events and happenings for posterity. To make it so everything’s not completely forgotten. To provide the details for anyone else who comes along, who wants to know what happened. Also you can be ready if you get stuck in the same situation again.
Don’t worry. The significance of all this is not lost on me. Jake is a chronicler, just like Jo. He’s been doing the same thing from the very beginning, recording and preserving the tales of Ostium, and what he did there. What we did there. So we know and can remember and can refer. So others can know too. Steve did the same thing, even when he was Dave . . . Especially when he was Dave. He thought he knew his past, what’d happened to him, but obviously wasn’t completely sure. Not to mention the deal with his parents disappearing on him. So when he set out on a new journey, a personal journey and a physical one, he needed to record it. So he would know and remember and be able to pass it on to other people.
And then there’s me. Who wanted more than Jake doing his recordings. Who wanted to start her own daily journal . . . Well, maybe not daily, but it was definitely a “dear diary” situation. And it started with me even before Jake, back in the Ostium Network. The entries I would record every night after a long fucking day of work and learning. And when I was all alone in Ostium, I know for a fact doing those recordings are what got me through all that, and what ultimately led me to figuring a way out of Ostium and back to the Rock. Would I still be stuck there if I didn’t have those recordings?
But sometimes . . . Sometimes I get the sense we’re all doing this for another reason, these recordings. And here I include all the interesting people I’ve met in my joyriding through the doors of Ostium so far: Thomas and Kalila, and now Jo, and probably whoever else I’m going to run into during these travels. We’re all telling and recording our stories not just for ourselves, or even the people we’re with . . . It’s almost like . . . Like we’re doing it for some imaginary audience out there that’s somehow listening in. I think Jake actually joked about that once or twice. His many listeners, even when he was stuck on an untethered Ostium, he still acted like those listeners were still out there, waiting for the next entry, the next installment, the next episode . . . [Break]
Location update. We need a break, so we’re resting in this cute little house for a bit. Scout tried to body slam the door open, I think she was trying to impress Monica, but Jee-Hyun ended up kicking it open with ease. Not to be outdone, Scout walked in and threw her axe into one of the pillars. So hard that she got it stuck in the pillar. As she was trying to yank it out, Jee-Hyun was like, “No axe throwing in the house.”
Monica is an . . . Interesting person. Not exactly a weirdo but she seems…like she hasn’t been doing this long. Surviving all this. For instance, once we went through the usual intros of I’m not gonna hurt you, you not gonna hurt me? Okay! We offered her a bit of one of our MREs and she farking pounced on it. No one pounces on an MRE, no matter how starving you are. . She said she couldn’t remember the last time she ate anything and would really farking appreciate some grub. Well, she actually said fu- the F word. A lot. Maybe even more than Scout. I bet that’s why she likes her.
Scout found one can of beans and we all got excited about a change of food, even Monica, she’s learning fast. Elliot gutted the stove to make a pretty decent fire to cook the beans on. And as we ate, Monica told her story, and . . . it was farking weird, fellow survivors.
She said she was a time traveler. A farking time traveler!! Now that’s a new one. She was sort of lost. Okay, she said sorta lost but from the sound of it, she’s really, really lost. Going through doors and ending up in different times and places. She never knew where she was going to end up. It was a surprise to her every time. She’s apparently looking for a guy named Jake, who’s also lost. Also going through doors. They’re both trying to find their way back to some place called Ostium, which I’ve never heard of. She also said she was collecting trinkets along the way. Talismans. I’m pretty sure those two words aren’t interchangeable but I have no way of checking. But we all just kinda let her talk. Just nodded and let ourselves have dinner and a show.
I mean, hey, we all gotta tell ourselves something to keep surviving all this, right?
Scout gave a big dramatic yawn which was the signal for all of us to hunker down for the night. She was asleep and snoring by the time Jee-Hyun offered first watch. Monica made it clear she was ready to move on, pulling the classic stand up and look at the door, I’m leaving the party move. Said something about going through another door, sure “time traveler.” She said her goodbyes, gave the sleeping Scout a gentle pat, and when it was my turn, she had some questions for me.
MONICA: Why do you do the broadcasts ? Do you think there’s someone or a bunch of someones out there listening?
JO: Oh I know there are! I’ve talked to my friend Dave, there’s this other woman on the radio, I think I once heard
MONICA: No. Not just them. But others. Lots of others, who are always there. Waiting for your next recording, your next entry. Wanting to know what all of you choose to do next.
JO: Uhhh, I hope not? I kinda get a bit personal.
MONICA: Yeah. It’s fucking weird, isn’t it? I’m not sure what I’m really saying. I’ve just got this feeling. Kinda like you get when you’re being watched. Except this is about recordings. They’re always there, listening to them. Waiting for more.
JO: Okay. Monica. Well . . . It was really nice to meet you.
MONICA: And you, Jo. Thanks again for the food. Oh fuck, I still need to find a talisman from here.
JO: Umm, I’ve got . . . I’ve got this that I know I’m not gonna need anytime soon.
MONICA: A condom? Silky Skin. Yikes. Still in its wrapper. Where the hell did you get this from?
JO: Er . . . We helped out a bunch of sex workers aways back. And they just gave it to me, even though I didn’t want it.
MONICA: Wow. Okay. Are those teeth marks? Now I kinda wanna stay and hear this whole story, but I know I’ve gotta go. Maybe I can find your entry for it somewhere out there where all our recordings go . . .
JO: Okay . . . Monica. Stay safe, fellow survivor.
MONICA: Will do. Thanks Jo.
Location update. Still in the house, I’m having trouble sleeping. Partly because Scout’s on guard duty and she’s been humming “back in time.” But mostly because I saw something . . . something weird when Monica left. She turned back to me. Winked at me, which totally didn’t make me feel anything. Then opened the door and stepped through. And for a second . . . Just a second, Ad oculus, I saw something else. Like metal, maybe a metal wall with a window. And I swear, I saw farking space through that window. Like I was looking through the window of a starship.
Ooof, okay, my stomach hurts, maybe those beans were a little too expired.
Well, talking about it made me feel a bit better. Maybe I can sleep. Catch you on the next frequency, Jo out.