| 09:03:47 29 October 2012
On forum: 10/06/2011
Message edited by:
The American Zone|
I have been inspired and felt like writing a S.T.A.L.K.ER story. Since they say write what you know, I decided to go with this Americanized version. I think I should say up-front that I do not have any sort of over-reaching plot arc and slammed this out inside two hours with scarcely any planning or foresight. No promises on any updates or anything of the sort. Let me know what you think.
Allergy Alert: may contain nuts or nut products. Consult doctor before use in high altitude climates.
Many know the beginning of this story. In the early 2000s experiments near Chernobyl in the Ukraine resulted in something no-one outside of those experimenting could possibly imagined: The creation of “The Zone”, a place where the laws of physics could be bent and broken in anomalies, mutated animals and men roamed the land, artifacts gave strange and poorly understood powers, and chaos reigned.
Naturally, despite Ukrainian efforts to hide this event and the results, word got out to the governments of many nations throughout the world. Hearing of the benefits to be found in the artifacts and research of anomalies, it was only a matter of time before someone else tried to duplicate the Ukrainian experiments, thinking they could do better, they could control the effects where the previous researchers had failed.
The United States of America was the first to “succeed.” This “success” changed half of the continent to a Zone every bit as alien as the one around Chernobyl. There were many differences, due to the different climate, the differences in how the experiment had been recreated, and who knew how many other little factors. There could be found a greater variety of anomalies and artifacts, both good and bad, radiation was found to be less prevalent, and more of the wildlife and people had survived, albeit mutated, but it was a new Zone nonetheless.
Our present story takes place almost a year after the Zone was created, the event everyone now calls “The Change.” The surviving government has been bogged down in dealing with suddenly becoming a third world country overnight and has been too busy trying to protect its now almost defenseless borders, and thus the common man has been left to fend for himself. Many have never seen anything to show the government’s existence save for the occasional fly over by military planes. It is a different world.
It was a nice day out, and Steve found the breeze of early fall to be relaxing despite the chilling bite of winter’s approach. Still, he eyed the trees and brush warily.
He was hunting squirrels with his trusty Ruger 10/22 Takedown. The squirrels had grown a bit with the creation of the Zone, and specimens over twenty pounds had been encountered, but they still didn’t fare so well against CCI Stinger rounds if applied judicially.
Naturally for more serious prey and predators alike he also had a 1911 on his hip and an AK-47 slung on his back, but for his present purposes the 10/22 worked just fine and saved his more costly ammo.
At any rate, he had to stay alert with or without a friend to watch his back. Even if no other animal or danger lurked, the squirrels sometimes turned on the hunter now. Nine times out of ten or so they would flee like they had before he Change, but now and again one of them would suddenly attack, particularly if wounded, and in rarer incidences that Steve had yet to see personally, packs of them were known to attack as a group. Rumor had it some wild packs had developed a taste for meat, but nobody could reliably say they had ever seen such a thing, so Steve figured that last was total bull.
Unfortunately, no harsh barking and tail waving displays had broken the silence of the last two hours of the hunt, and Steve knew he was going home without any extra weight on his shoulders.
He rounded a tree, looked down and stopped dead, slowly turning to check every direction and quickly reaching down for his 1911 with one hand. Another look and he relaxed a little.
What he had seen was no cause for alarm before the Change, but now had a different portent. It was, in the plain vernacular, a cow patty. Of course, real cows were now on the rare side so to speak. What many of them had become were now referred to as Minotaurs, large muscled beasts with oddly bent and twisted limbs and hair-trigger tempers. Though again they were still herbivores like the squirrels, they had grow far more violent and likely to charge if anything even seemed threatening to them. Bulls were particularly nasty, whereas the females were likely to simply make threat displays unless their young were involved, but either way Steve wasn’t exactly eager to try his luck.
However, in this particular case, a second look revealed that the patty was, if Steve was any judge, at least a week old, with no recent tracks anywhere to be seen. Though he wasn’t safe, never safe in the Zone, it seemed he wasn’t going to have to try to climb a tree in the immediate future.
Easing his hand off the 1911 and back onto the 10/22’s stock, he returned to his slow trek towards home. He had passed through here mere hours before and found no trouble, but those who wanted to stay alive in the Zone always took care whenever possible.
The wilderness remained as he had seen though, typical North American woods, fields, and muddy streams here and there. Much of the area had been farmland before the Change, and he walked past a couple of broken down houses and barns, snaking his way through gaps in the occasional fence, keeping to cover as much as possible, insofar as he didn’t have to crawl to do it.
After an hour or so he picked up his pace a little. Soon it would grow dark, and unlike others in his settlement he lacked any sort of night-vision gear and didn’t fancy running around with a flashlight in the dark. Even if nothing bothered him, he hadn’t planned on staying out overnight and the light fleece jacket he wore wouldn’t be enough to keep him comfortable when the temperature dropped.
He hopped across a small creek, avoiding an area where it looked like an invisible boulder sat in the middle of the stream diverting the water around it. He had no idea what kind of anomaly it was, but considering more than half of the known anomalies were dangerous it wasn’t something to mess with.
Soon the light level began to drop and the air noticeably chilled. Fortunately home was in sight. Home in this case was a small, relatively speaking, set of farmhouses, barns, and outbuildings everyone called the Fort. Back before the Change, a group of “prepper” families had decided to purchase the land and fortify the buildings. They had built several extra outbuildings and facilities, but more importantly had put up a twelve foot high ferro-cement fence around the property and dug several bunkers. When the Change had hit and many other less well-equipped homes and settlements fell, they had graciously allowed refugees like Steve to join their little group provided they chipped in and helped out. There were now over two hundred people in the settlement, such that many had to live outside the original walls in crudely assembled shelters and buildings, cannibalized from farmhouses and barns like Steve had passed earlier.
Fortunately for Steve, he had arrived early and proven more useful than others, so he was permitted a storage locker inside a shed and permitted to rest his head wherever he felt like inside the fence. In the warmer part of the year he hadn’t been too picky, but now with the growing cold he had chosen to roost in the rafters in one of the better weather sealed barns along with several others. True, the animals below stunk, and they had to be careful with fires, but he hadn’t been proven to be THAT useful, and there were plenty of better hunters than he.
Approaching the North entrance, where no make-shift buildings nestled against the fence, he was greeted by the guards.
“Well, look who made it back in one piece,” Todd remarked, waving his hand in a vague sort of hello.
Todd Demoss was usually called Toddy since there had been a surprising number of Todds in the settlement. He had been a teacher in his past life and never handled anything bigger than a BB gun when he had come to the Fort, thus he was armed with perhaps the most common weapon the Fort had to offer to its soldiers, the cheap Mosin Nagant the original families had bought in bulk for exactly this sort of situation. Unlike some others, he had taken well to it, and was an excellent shot. That with his keen eye and ability to cheerfully stand around in the same spot for hours without complaint had earned him a permanent posting as guard. Some said he hadn’t gone more than thirty feet from his post since they had put him there, though Steve had seen him running errands and picking up food from the mess hall and knew it to be a lie.
Steve passed through the man-door and into the cobbled together guard post inside. The families had not counted on needing to place guards at the doors on a permanent basis and thus had needed to construct the guard houses after the fact. Like the others this one had a several bunks and the usual table with board games and such, though someone had pilfered a small wood stove from a nearby farmhouse and attached it to a pipe in the wall, making this guard house the envy of the others who were forced to use burn barrels and the like.
Two men were presently hunched over a chess board, but Toddy and his cohort were watching the door and surrounding environs. Steve didn’t care much for Toddy’s companion. Johnny Q. was quite frankly every redneck stereotype Steve could think of, but his skill with guns and hunting prowess went a long way in the new life.
He stalked over to the woodstove, lightly burning to take the chill off the air. Toddy quietly closed the man-door behind him, leaving open a slot to keep an idle lookout.
“What’s the news?” Steve asked, leaning his 10/22 carefully against the wall.
“Same old, same old,” Toddy responded in his usual cheerful manner.
“Don’t go near theh damn water-tower,” Johnny added through what few crooked teeth remained in his mouth as he fiddled with his.30-06’s action. “Sum Shockers popped up on one end, knocked some numbnuts on his ass when he leaned against theh other.”
“Really? He get hurt bad?” Shockers weren’t usually that bad, as far as anomalies went, but sometimes they could cause serious harm or even kill.
“Naw, just scared the shit out of ‘im. Wish I was there to see it, prob’y funny ‘s hell.” He then changed the subject in an abrupt manner that suggested to Steve a long history of drug use. “You didn’t catch nuttin’?”
“Nope, nuttin’ to catch,” Steve responded, knowing his little dig would pass over Johnny’s head.
“Too bad, I was wantin’ some skurrerel fer suppah.”
Toddy leaned back against the wall, swinging his Mosin around to his front. “Better than venison.”
“Eh, venison is still theh best meat God ever made, even if theh Change screwed theh taste up sum.”
“Then we agree to disagree, mate.”
“City boys, all theh same, don’t know what good food is.”
Steve straightened and grabbed his 10/22. “Welp, I’d better be going. Haven’t got anything to contribute to mess, but my stomach says I’d damn well better take something from it soon. Haven’t had anything to eat since breakfast and some jerky earlier on the trail.”
“See you man.”
“Yah, take it easy.”