//prologue teaser //
The wind caught my ship, causing turbulence. It jerked me about so much that I am unsure if I adjusted my course right. Actually, I am fairly sure I did not. However, I landed it fairly fine as always. The landing caused the engine some minor damage. The coal box had a sizeable hole, meaning it couldn’t build enough heat for steam. Making the immediate take – off impossible. Repairs would require some wood, nails and Iron. As well as a bit of sweat equity. My supplies in general on hemp or wood for the engine could use the boost as well. So I started searching for what I needed.
The wastelands are not a pretty place overall. They are all that remain of a once great civilization, or so we are told. Personally I doubt the “great” part of that. They destroyed their world. Using fossil fuels and nuclear energy, Not to mention chemical weaponry. The ruins are all metal and glass building with very little trees left in the wastelands. Some were tall enough to be obstructions in the skies above the filter dome. The stories claim they even used chemicals within their own bodies. Even though they were aware of natural options. Idiocy if you ask me. Still they sure left us a mess in the wastelands.
Mutations and chemical bogs aren’t as easy to dodge as one thinks they would be. Chemical bogs varied in size and shape but were always pools of liquid in places that it obviously should not be. Chemical bogs are a mystery that no one quite knew how to solve. Some looked like water but not all did. I have heard of bubbling sulphur bogs and the stench was supposed to be legendary. However to be honest this was my first trip into the wastelands. The wastelands are home to all sorts of creatures that the gods never intended. Some mutations made sense, however not all did. Some mutations were merely larger, meaner versions of their non mutated counterparts. Some had grown to adapt to the terrible harshness of the wastelands. A few hundred years ago much of the world was wasteland. It took mankind a lot of time and effort to recover what we have.
I landed dead center of the eight hundred mile circle. Each territory had a different size of area that had not yet been reclaimed. Probably a dozen wastelands throughout the world. Each covered in a dome shaped plasma filter. The filter kept the fumes contained. Some believed the mutants needed those fumes to survive.
Luckily my breather survived the crash. After all constant breathing the air in the wasteland can mutate, or worse. A breather is mostly just a small filter. It fits easily over your mouth and nose, filtering small enzymes from the air you are breathing. So those of us who explored the wastes could survive within the plasma dome. Some explorers were helping to reclaim, others salvaging for usable supplies. Then there was me. I am an artist. I scout the wastes to sketch the strange and unusual. Then I sculpt or paint from the sketches.
Preparing to leave my ship felt like I was packing for an extended trip. I was trying to not get stranded in a hard place unprepared. I took care to take anything I might have need of. I also tried to pack lightly as i could, knowing that after a mile or two the pack would grow heavy. To be honest, I was scared of what the wasteland would bring.
The wasteland has beauty in it. The most beautiful spots often hide danger though. The first mutation I ran into taught me that. The most beautiful and exotic flower I have ever seen. It had vibrant purple leaves ending in elongated spines. The center was filled in a beautiful golden liquid. I admit I got too close. Nearly got ended by the beauty that I wanted to draw…Irony I guess.
If I hadn’t turned to figure out where my sketchpad and pencils were, I may have not made it to fix my ship. I may not have made it home. After all, the sketches were my reason for even being here. However as they say..ya live ya learn…right?! So it made me extra careful. I picked my way more carefully across the area. Avoiding anything that I was unsure of.
Although I thought myself alone, it wasn’t long before I realized the wasteland wasn’t as barren as everyone has believed. Some of the mutations there were actually slightly less scary, almost friendly. I saw an mouse the size of a horse who was friendly and curious. I managed a few sketches of him.
I found the most unusual companion there. At first I thought the mutant annoying, slightly scary, and thought him more trouble than he was worth. Now i realize that he likely is why i survived. His guidance across the stark and barren wastes helped me avoid the lethal dangers. If I am honest, at least with myself, I think I fell head over heels in love with him.