Alexis sat at the bar holding a chipped glass and swirled the clear liquor as he sighed. With a sudden movement he lifted the glass and threw his head back, downing its contents in one swallow. Gasping he placed the glass against the table and tapped again. As he waited the few moments before the glass was filled again he wiped his other hand against his sleeve, leaving a smear of blood that he stared at blankly. The filled glass was emptied again. Alexis snorted and a moment later stood feeling recovered. Stumbling slightly he made his way back to the surgery, hoping to finish the job.
Josef waited patiently for Alexis to return. He gritted his teeth when a wave of pain
threatened to overwhelm him. The surgeon
had told him to press a bundle of white cloth into the wound on his leg while
he went for supplies. That was minutes
ago. It felt like hours, but without
options, Josef waited.
Finally the door swung open. Alexis carried nothing new but strode confidently to his patient and, after dipping his hands in a bowl of steriliser, pulled aside the swabs and Josef’s hands. A brief spurt of bright red blood splattered his face and the ceiling without dissuading him. He resumed exploring the wound, clamped a perforated vessel and expertly bound it with a ligature. Accompanied by Josef’s pained grunts Alexis flushed the wound and quickly stitched torn flesh. Sighing he shook his head, turned and made his way back to the bar. There would be more injuries to treat.
The West is
lost. Your hopes are dead. There is no paradise beyond the War. No matter what you say. The world is ended. Forget your dreams and forget the lies
whispered at fireside. I have been
West. Further than most. Further than you. It is gone.
The untouched land is narrow there, and grows ever narrower the further
you go. I travelled those paths years ago seeking your dream. I found nothing but death and decay. Nothing but the folly of man and the unending
power of Nature’s revenge.
You wish to travel that way still?
Best would be if
you stayed here. Here where at least we
can wrestle life from the bitter ground.
Here where there are few people to taint our path. If you must go you would best travel but part
of the way. Stop at a place I visited
It is a place where a miracle did happen and every day they lived knowing they could survive only if the miracle kept happening. They had Machines. Working ones. From the days before. How? I cannot say. With miracles there is no how. There is just to rejoice and hope.
And hope is all that remains.
To get there? Follow the rumours. Follow the caravans. I have a map, but you have not the trade for it.