The Bravo Trip

This story is based on the events of a Dystopia Rising event, put out by the amazing Eschaton Media. If you haven’t checked them out already, you should. No really. Go look them up. The game is amazing!

Also, the songs quoted are
1 – Delta Rae’s “Bottom of the River”
2 – Tool’s “H”

**********

Heat. Oppressive heat. Only instead of the heat coming from the forges of the assembly line in Motor City, it came from the unrelenting sun shining down. It had been a few years since Jeanie had last been in Motor City. She had almost forgotten what this kind of heat was like. On top of the never ending heat was this overwhelming emptiness. Open fields. Quiet. No noisy forges. No chattering of the different gangs. No screaming Yorkers. No where near as many trees. Just open space and emptiness.

This was where everyone lived? Cadence, Slink, Honey, Sal, Dorito? This was where they all lived? Empty, quiet, and scorching? This was Lone Star? Was this what Bravo would be like when she arrived? Jeanie shook her head. She could never live here. Visiting was hard enough. Nothing was right. It was calm, yes, but not peaceful, like the farm. There was a breeze but it didn’t bring relief. What would Sliphox think of this place? Would he be okay with the heated breeze that refused to help or would he miss the cooling breeze of Ripton?

It was so different here, so off putting, that it was almost difficult to think. Almost, but not quite. In between cinder attacks and the many raiders was time to think. The thoughts would often wander to the nasty heat or emptiness, but they would never fully leave the farm, the reason she was here, or the strange feelings that she had now.

Things were easier before the gravemind, before emotions and deals, before freedom and love. Things were easier in Motor City. They were awful but definitely easier. The rules were clear, effortless to follow. The situations were simple to understand. Listen. Follow orders. It all works out. Only, now everything was different. Now there were strange emotions to deal with. Now there was knowledge that could not be forgotten. Things were confusing. The answers were no longer straightforward. Things were no longer, what was the phrase everyone else used? Things were no longer black and white? That phrase was just as hard to understand as the rest of this. Of course things were not black and white. Things had color. Why did people say they were black and white when they weren’t? People didn’t make sense.

Jeanie reached into her bag and felt the four bottles inside. They weren’t as cool as normal due to the Lone Star heat, but they offered a hint of respite. Still, the Iron could not drink these brews right now. They were for Cadence. They were to be shared. Hopefully, they would fix everything. Cadence liked hooch. He liked Spirit Walk. Maybe he would look at the bottles and not be so angry anymore. Besides, he had been the worst kind of angry. Not the normal Yorker-yell-at-everything kind but the kind that would mention over and over what you had done wrong. The kind that kept reminding you of how you failed.

Luckily, the Bravo trade meet was in a few days. Luckily, she would get the chance to make things right with Cadence.

**********

The brew was cold. Cold and sweet. It was the first time she had a bottle of Spirit Walk instead of Shisha. It was interesting to notice the differences between the two, aside from the obvious. One was warm. This was cold. They had similar tastes, similar but not quite the same. The Iron glanced over at her Yorker companion, sipping at his glass of the hallucinogenic brew. He had suggested the library. It was quiet and in the back of the saloon. No one would bother them here and they would be able to experience their journey without anyone interrupting or getting hurt.

“Slink doesn’t like when I do Spirit Walk,” Cadence had mentioned. “I tried to kill her.”

But right now, they were quietly sipping and chatting. Out of the way of everyone else.

Hold my hand. Oh baby, it’s a long way down to the bottom of the river.

Ruth? Jeanie went quiet as Ruth’s voice began to sneak its way into her ear. There, in Bravo, so far from Ripton Falls, Jeanie could still clearly hear Ruth’s voice as she dropped her head onto Cadence’s shoulder.

“Jeanie, you have to share what you’re hearing.”

Oh baby, it’s a long way down, a long way down.

The Iron didn’t answer. She didn’t want him to get mad at her.

If you get sleep or if you get none. The cock’s gonna call in the morning baby.

“Venomous voice, tempts me, drains me, bleeds me, leaves me cracked and empty.” Jeanie turned her attention from Ruth to Cadence. He was muttering. Mumbling. His words… they… It was hard to describe. A shiver ran down the Iron’s spine. His words were right. They said all the things that Jeanie was thinking and hearing.

Check the cupboard for your daddy’s gun. Red sun rises like an early warning.

Cadence started rocking back and forth as he muttered. Jeanie rocked with him, the movement eerily matched what Ruth was singing. Jeanie shifted her head. She wanted to hear more of what Cadence was muttering. Ruth was singing loudly into Jeanie’s ears. Cadence was just barely loud enough to be heard.

“I am too connected to you to slip away, to fade away. Days away I still feel you touching me, changing me, and considerately killing me.”

“That is creepy accurate,” Jeanie muttered her answer.

“It’s from before the fall,” he replied.

Jeanie closed her eyes and continued to rock back and forth. As much as she tried, it was hard to hear Cadence right now. Ruth didn’t want him to be heard right now. He was trying to leave Her. He was a non-believer. He didn’t want to be one of us anymore. Poor, poor, Cadence.

The Lord’s gonna come for your firstborn son. His hair’s on fire and his heart is burning.

“I’m sorry,” Jeanie muttered.

“For what?”

Wait, why was she sorry? She had already told him that he had been right about the need to be careful, about why this was so dangerous to study.

Jeanie. Now there was a new voice. A gentle and worried tenor. An Ascensorite. Her Sliphox. Jeanie, are you okay?

So go to the river where the water runs. Wash him deep where the tides are turning. And if you fall, if you fall.

Jeanie, I think she’s talking to you.

“Sliphox is afraid.”

“Of?” Cadence glanced over at the Iron.

“Of me.”

“Because of her?”

“He thinks she’s talking to me. I didn’t want to be around anyone. I felt sorry for you.”

Hold my hand. Oh baby, it’s a long way down to the bottom of the river.

“Jeanie, do you meditate?”

“Every time I call. I sit with the glow and think about the tenants.”

“This is more like thinking about your thoughts.”

“Why?”

The wolves will chase you by the pale moonlight. Drunk and driven by a devil’s hunger.

“You need to know when someone, when she, is messing with your mind.

Jeanie, she’s talking to you. She’s in your head.

Cadence took Jeanie’s hand into his own as the two kept rocking back and forth. Start with breathing. In and out. Focus on each breath. Focus on how it starts. Focus on how it ends. Focus on how the body reacts to each and every breath. Control it just a tad.

Drive your son like a railroad spike. Into the water, let it pull him under.

Focus on each thought. Focus on the breathing, not on Ruth. Focus on the body. Cadence led. Jeanie listened, followed his guidance. He had been dealing with her for awhile now. He knew what he was talking about. He helped guide Jeanie’s focus outside of her mind til it felt as though she were watching herself from above.

Don’t you lift him, let him drown alive. The good Lord speaks like a rolling thunder.

It was a strange feeling. Looking down at Cadence and herself as they, or was it we, rocked back and forth with hands held. Cadence continued to speak. He continued to guide. He spoke about looking at the thoughts to know which were from Jeanie and which were from Her.

Let that fever make the water rise. And let the river run dry.

A growl caught Jeanie’s attention. She glanced from where she watched Cadence and Jeanie… herself, to the source of the growl. A familiar set of antlers were the first things noticed. A blade gripped in a black paw. Her Sliphox. He was angry. The same angry that he always got when someone tried to hurt her.

And I said, hold my hand. Oh baby, it’s a long way down to the bottom of the river.

Jeanie followed his gaze. Brown curled pig tails. A blue and maroon striped shirt. She was leaned over, singing directly into Jeanie’s ear.

Oh baby, it’s a long way down, a long way down.

“When you look down at your thoughts, you can see when they come from you or when they come from somewhere else,” Cadence explained.

Jeanie glanced at Ruth. The song wasn’t from Jeanie. The song was Ruth’s. The song was from somewhere else. Jeanie glanced at Sliphox and nodded. He lunged with his knife. Ruth glanced to where Jeanie was watching outside of her own thoughts. Ruth grinned and was gone. Sliphox stood and slipped the knife into his belt. Jeanie watched as he planted a kiss upon her own forehead and disappeared.

Once again, Jeanie was just watching herself and Cadence. Once again, the only sounds were from the saloon and Cadence’s voice as he quietly spoke with her. She slipped back into her own body. Back to leaning against Cadence with empty glasses that once held Spirit Walk in front of them. Cadence sat up. Jeanie leaned back to stretch out her spine and then glanced over at the Yorker.

“Well, that was a depressing trip,” he sighed.

Jeanie smiled. It was sad, yes, but it was a learning experience. It was a reminder. It was proof that maybe things could be fixed. Cadence was helping her make things right again.

Now, Jeanie could go home.

 

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