Creative

The Ahavah VI: Outlier

Read part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, and part 5 here.

1

How the hell did I end up here, I thought to myself, as I watched one of the men in our group put the muzzle of his pistol to the back of the old man’s head and pull the trigger.

The old Kazakh had committed the one crime that our group could not tolerate: he had refused to hand over his woman, submit to our boss, and join our group. For that, his brains were turned to grey mush by the small-caliber pistol shot, which sent the round careening about inside his skull like a murderous ping-pong ball.

“Moshe, grab the old woman out of the house,” Sanzhar said to me. I nodded grimly at the young Kazakh man, a boy really, who served as one of the two lieutenants in our group. I served under Sanzhar, which was better than serving under the older and more ruthless Nurislam. Nurislam was a sadistic asshole, even by the standards of this group, which was saying something.

“Hurry up before her wailing angers me, Moshe.” Sanzhar always sounded calm, even before he unleashed terrible violence, which he was known to do, on occasion. I jogged to the door of the house, and went inside to drag the old woman out before she incurred Sanzhar’s wrath. It was a miracle she and the old man had survived The Sickness and its aftermath for so long. I tried to be gentle with the woman, and offered her comforting words in my broken Kazakh, hoping she understood that we meant her no harm.

You see, this was my role in the group. I collected up the women and children and delivered them back to the compound on the hill, where they were assimilated into our collective property. There they would cook, clean, provide comfort for the men, take care of the children, and do whatever else the group demanded of them.

They became slaves. But they got to survive. That was something.

2

Joining the Dizel Uldar, as we were known by the locals — it meant “diesel boys” as far as I could tell, given my poor Kazakh — was a package deal. If we came upon you, we held you at gun point, gave you a speech, and offered you the chance to join us. The “package” part came in the form of protection and resources for you, in return for which you provided your women and children (if you had any) to become a part of the collective property of the group.

You had to agree to those terms in your submission to our boss, Balga, which was also part of the deal. You agreed to do what Balga and his lieutenants commanded. If you refused any of those conditions, you received a (usually) quick and (sometimes) merciful death and the group took your women and children anyway.

Such was the life of a survivor in Gagarin City, Kazakhstan, in the post-Sickness world. It was cruel. It was barbaric. It hardly counted as living at all. We all did what we needed to do in order to keep living, although sometimes I wondered why we even bothered.

Again I asked myself, how the hell did I get here?

I knew the answer, though. I asked more in exasperation than for any other reason. I agreed to join the group when they came upon me shortly after The Sickness started. I was a stranger in the area — a 22 year-old wayfarer who had been vacationing in Moscow when things started to go bad. I had been visiting my sister in Gagarin City, and when she departed, I stayed in the region, traveling up to Moscow to enjoy being a single twenty-something in Russia for a few weeks. That’s when people started getting sick and dying.

I knew early on, somehow, that The Sickness was going to be bad, so I travelled back to Gagarin City. I’m not sure why. My sister had left and there was no one there for me, but it seemed like the place I should go. I had no friends or family anywhere close by, and I did not know what else to do. It seemed my only option at the time. The Dizel Uldar found me shortly after I arrived, and I had been with them ever since.

That was years ago, and there I remained. I was a prisoner of my own stubborn will to survive.

3

I did try to preserve my humanity, though. That should be known. Maybe that should be written on my tombstone. I did the best I could not to become a monster. That is probably how I ended up with the job of Pacifier of the Captured Women and Children. I refused to use them like some of the men did — I could not stop them all — and I made sure they made it back alive to the compound, and the relative safety and protection of our walls and numbers, and the other captive women and children. They at least had a chance when they arrived back there.

Our group was made up of about 50 men, and probably two and a half times that many women, children, and elderly. Our compound stood on the high ground of Gagarin City, and was a diesel fuel depot and service center before The Sickness transformed it into a citadel. Hence our name, the Dizel Uldar.

We still retained some of the priceless fuel, and due to our defensive position on the hill, and given our numbers, we were the strongest group in the area. That was good for us. It meant we got to keep living. We warred with the other groups from time to time, but they were mostly skirmishes when we crossed into each other’s territories. They never amounted to much beyond an exchange of fire and usually, a mutual retreat.

No one wanted to waste valuable ammunition and it was easier to preserve a fragile peace.

The big prize in the area was the cosmodrome. Balga spoke openly of seizing it from time to time, and schemed with Sanzhar and Nurislam about just how to do so. I was sure he would launch a big raid on the facility at some point, as he had launched a number of probing attacks previously. Those were mainly to test the defenses. At some point he would commit resources to an all-out attack. The men whispered about it all the time. I wasn’t sure when it would happen, though.

Those inside the cosmodrome called us Outliers. We knew that. It was as though they considered themselves the last remnant of civilization, and we were the barbarians.

Maybe we were.

All I knew was, I wanted to get inside there to see if I could find out about my sister. Someone on that facility surely knew what had happened to her. She was an astronaut, after all, and had launched into space from there. I had to believe if anyone could tell me if she was still alive, he or she would be located inside that cosmodrome.

4

We were back at the compound, and Balga spoke to me, while Nurislam scowled at me in his usual way. He hated Jews, I thought, or maybe he just hated me. I wasn’t sure.

“Moshe, you are well?” Balga was good about checking up on his men, often by name, and remembered small details about their pre-Sickness life.

“I’m as good as I can be, Balga,” I answered him honestly. “I wish the old man had agreed to join us.” I meant that. I hated when we killed other survivors. It seemed such a waste.

“He made his choice, like we all do,” Balga said. “It’s out of our hands.” His blood was very much on our hands, I thought, although I did not say so to Balga. That kind of moral declaration was not received well by Balga or Nurislam. Sanzhar was more tolerant of my spoken qualms, though not in front of the other two leaders.

“Yes, Balga,” was all I said. At that moment, we all became still, and quiet, as we heard a thundering rumble in the distance. I stared at Balga and watched his eyes narrow. He looked up toward the ceiling and in the direction from which the sound seemed to originate. As one, we all moved outside to get a better view of what was making this alien sound.

Just as we exited the main structure of the compound, we were able to see what was clearly a space vessel approaching the landing strip at Baikonur. Its lights were clearly visible in the night sky, and the noise was deafening and shocking, given that one simply did not hear engines anymore, let alone those strapped to spacecraft.

“My God, that’s a ship,” was all I could say.

“It would appear so,” Balga said, as he stroked his greying beard.

My mind instantly raced with thoughts of my sister. Could it be?

“Call the leaders,” Balga said to Nurislam. “The meeting room in five minutes.” He turned and walked toward his private office and living quarters. Without stopping, he called over his shoulder, “You too, Moshe Harel. Maybe we’ll get to meet this sister of yours, after all.”

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Saltofthaearth
Member
Saltofthaearth

Great story! Being a woman I was moved for those women in captivity being used as “comfort” to the men in the group/militia.

Miche
Member
Miche

You and Luke, man. I don’t know what it is about you guys and the post-civilization survival stories, but you both manage to tell your own versions that feel eerily authentic, like you’ve actually been there and know exactly how it feels. Which… may actually be true….

Mason
Member
Mason

Awwwww yeaaahhhhh, the plot thickens, dimensions expand, possible interactions and outcomes triple, quadruple!

Joni Smith
Guest
Joni Smith

Interesting twist. And yet very much like the real world where on one side a female can be anything she wants including an astronaut, but on other side of the world, you are simply a maid and “comfort” provider to men to be traded at will. I truly look forward to the next installment.

susanh
Member
susanh

Oh my goodness, Fru! You have added another dimension to the story! This is great; I can’t wait (although I guess I have no option) for the next instalment.

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