Loner   by Ben McNair


I can’t remember the world I lived in before it all went to shit. I choose not to remember it. I believe that in order to survive what this world has in store for me; I have to forget about the past, ignore the future, and pay all my attention on what’s right in front of me trying to take my life.

All I choose to remember is that the world was quickly spiraling down into another depression. Countries were in debt with one another and tensions were high. Finally, someone shot at someone else and like piranhas to a bleeding cow, it was an all-out frenzy.

It was hard to know who your ally was and who your enemy was. Everyone shot at everybody. Finally, every country launched a nuclear warhead on whichever country they liked the least.

Sometimes, I wish it would’ve just ended right there. We all go in a big, white flash. Hell, it seems so biblical; the Jesus-freaks would’ve loved it. Sadly, there was no white flash, just an ear-splitting noise, followed by fire, fire, and more fire.

Now, we live in a Hell-on-Earth. We fight for survival. It’s all we want.

Chapter I: The Road to Salvation

I was sitting inside a box trailer being pulled by a delivery truck. I was surrounded by cases of water the driver had managed to salvage. I counted ten cases; each holding a hundred water bottles, which could keep a Sanctuary from dying from dehydration for half a year.

Unbeknownst to the driver, I was sort of his protector. I was making sure he delivered the water safely, without consequence, and hopefully without loss of life.

I pulled the hood of my coat over my head and simply listened to the tires bounce over the uneven and cracked road.

Suddenly, the truck stopped moving. We were too far from the Sanctuary to be stopping. I listened as the driver stepped out of his truck and walked around to the back of it. Instinctively, I placed my hand on the handle to my bowie knife.

I waited, ready to kill if I needed to. The back of the truck opened and the driver put both his unarmed hands in as an act to show me he meant no harm.

With my hand still on my knife’s handle, I looked the man in his eyes. I couldn’t see any deception.

“Come now, Loner, I mean no harm. I just wanted to know if you’d rather sit up front instead of back here with the cargo,” the driver said.

I watched as his hands never left their position above his head. I cautiously moved my hand away from my knife and nodded.

“Alright, it was starting to get hot back here anyway,” I said.

I stepped out of the trailer and dropped to the ground. The sun shined right in my eyes and I raised my right arm to shield myself from the light. A couple of hours in the dark can do that to a person.

The driver looked at my right arm after closing the back of the trailer and backed away nervously. I had lost it a while back and it was replaced by a solid metal one. It served well when some idiot needed to be hit.

“Well, let’s get back to the truck before the Bandits realize we’re here,” I said, ignoring the man staring at my arm.

“Uh…, right, of course,” he said, clearing his throat.

We walked on either side of his truck until we got to our respective doors. We both got into the truck and the driver drove away without giving me a second glance.

We rode a couple of miles in absolute silence. I took this silence to look over the man’s cab. There was trash on the floor, and flies fluttered around both of our faces. It reeked inside.

“Sorry ‘bout the mess and the smell. Been in here for two weeks straight,” the driver said.

“No problem, I’ve seen and smelled worse,” I responded.

“I bet you have. Ha! A Loner, you guys are total badasses,” the driver said, laughing to himself.

“Well, it’s nice to know I got a fan club,” I said.

“Hell yeah, some of us lesser people really are thankful for what you guys do,” the driver said.

“Thanks, but then there are the others that hate are guts,” I muttered.

“Fuck those pricks, they just pissy ‘cause of the whole situation,” the driver said.

I somewhat chuckled to myself.

“So, uh… forgive me for asking, but uh… what happened to your arm?” he asked me.

“Bandit cut it off,” I said.

“Oh shit…,” the driver responded.

“Yeah…,” I muttered.

I looked off into the side mirror and noticed that we were being followed by a trio of motorcyclists.

“We got company,” I said.

Company was catching up too.

“Son of a bitch, Bandits,” the trucker growled.

“I got it, just keep driving,” I said, opening the passenger door.

“Where you going!?” the trucker called out to me.

“I’m going hunting,” I responded, pulling out my M1911 pistol.

I climbed onto the top of the trailer, went down on my gut, and aimed my pistol at the head of one of the Bandits. I pulled the trigger and placed the bullet through the visor of his helmet. Pieces of glass and blood sprayed from the man’s head as the bullet traveled through his skull and out the back of his head, but stopping at the back part of his helmet. The Bandit lurched forward and he and his motorcycle veered off the road.

“Hold on!” I heard the trucker yell.

Suddenly the truck swerved, nearly causing me to roll of the side of the trailer, and hit a disabled vehicle. It spun around on the road and went in the path of the second pursuer. He couldn’t move out of the way and hit the car. He flew off his bike and skidded across the road on his face, leaving broken pieces from his helmet and smears of blood. He didn’t move.

I pulled myself up to my feet and sighed in relief when I saw the Sanctuary in the distance.

Suddenly I saw more Bandits up ahead. One of them threw a spike strip out across the road. The trucker must’ve not seen it, because he was heading straight for it. I needed to make a decision or get mixed up in a bad wreck.

“Shit!” I swore, jumping off the trailer.

I rolled across the dirt just as the truck hit the spike strips. The front tires burst and the truck swerved before flipping onto its back. It flipped over once more and skidded across the road on the driver side.

I looked up and saw the Bandits approaching the truck, guns out. I pulled out a grenade and tossed it onto the road. Smoke billowed out of it and covered the Bandits, blinding them from view. I pulled my hood over my head and readied my bowie knife.

I ran into the smoke and stabbed the first Bandit through the back of his neck. Blood spurted out of the wound when I pulled the knife out and I quietly put him down on the ground.

“Who the hell’s out there!?” I heard a voice call out.

“Just little old me!” I shouted back, throwing my knife at the source of the voice.

I heard a choking sound and drew my pistol. There was one more that I knew of and the smoke was starting to clear away.

When the smoke cleared, I stood in front of the final Bandit. I had my gun on him and he had his gun on me.

“Heh, this is how it is, Loner?” the Bandit hissed at me.

“Guess so,” I said.

I had nowhere to go without getting shot.

“I’m gonna give you a choice, right here, right now. Put the gun down and walk away with your life. I’m ready to die, been ready for years, but I’d be damned if I didn’t drag your ass down to Hell with me,” I growled.

“Fuck you, Loner!” the Bandit shouted, stepping forward to shoot me.

His chest suddenly exploded as a shotgun shell hit him from behind. He fell over in a pool of blood and I saw the trucker, leaning against the back of his trailer, with a shotgun in his hand. He was bleeding, battered, and breathing hard, but alive.

I pulled my knife out of the face of the second Bandit and looked at the trucker.

“Thanks,” I said.

“No problem, now how the hell am I supposed to get these waters to the Sanctuary?” the trucker asked.

“Maybe we could “borrow” their truck,” I said, looking at the Bandit’s pickup truck.

The trucker smiled bloodstained teeth and nodded. I helped him into the passenger seat of the truck and moved all ten cases of water into the back of the pickup. I got in and drove off toward the Sanctuary.

“Thanks, Loner, knew you were a good man,” the trucker muttered as he leaned against the passenger-side window, leaving a smear of blood.

“I’m not a good man,” I muttered under my breath.

Chapter II: No More Heroes

I drove the rest of the way to the Northwest Sanctuary. It was a massive structure surrounded by walls that were several hundred feet tall and a hundred feet thick. The top of the Sanctuary was a massive dome that sealed in clean, recycled air. It was located in the ruins of Seattle, Washington.

I drove through what remained of the city and veered around the top spire of the Space Needle.

Finally, I reached the outskirts of the Sanctuary’s walls. I stopped the truck and stepped out.

“What… what are you doing?” the trucker asked me weakly.

He had been losing quite a bit of blood.

“I have to get us inside, get you to the infirmary, and then deliver the water,” I said.

I walked up to the massive door.

“I am a Loner,” I said sternly up at the wall.

My voice seemed to echo up the immense walls.

“Loner, voice recognized,” a mechanical voice responded.

The ground began to quake slightly as the doors to the Sanctuary opened. I walked back to the truck and drove into the Sanctuary.

“Here, let’s get you to the infirmary,” I said.

I parked the truck in the middle of the road and got out. I walked around to the other side of the truck and grabbed the trucker, who was starting to get pale. I supported him and half-dragged him into the infirmary.

“I need some help here!” I called out.

A medic ran over to me. He was a man in his mid-forties with graying hair.

“What happened?” he asked me suspiciously.

“Bandits ambushed us,” I said.

“Alright, lay him on the table,” the medic said.

I nodded and placed the trucker on the metal table. I started to move away to let the medic have the needed room, but the trucker grabbed my wrist.