Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan – Episode 05

Disclaimer: This novel contains adult material including sexually explicit activities, references to child rape, strong language, extreme violence, and violence against children. This work is not suitable for minors. Reader discretion is advised.

Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan
Episode 05: Beelzebub The Blazing

After a restful yet eventless slumber, I found myself pulled into the waking world once more by the shrill cry of a young woman.

“Rise and shine, ladies!  We’ve got a world that needs saving!” 

As I shot my eyes open, I was met with my crimson-clad savior from the other night, Zedaki, looking down at Jack and I from our borrowed beds with a smirk on her face.

“C’mon, if we’re gonna be leaving today, we may as well do it bright and early.  I whipped up some breakfast for the two of you in the conference room.  When you’re done, come see me in the courtyard… which is what we call the parking lot.”

“I appreciate the thought, Zedaki, but I do not require sustenance,” I said as I removed myself from my bed.

“So, you can survive a bullet to the head and you don’t even need water to live.  You got any other powers I should know about?”

“Currently, no.  But I hope to accumulate many within the ensuing days.”

“Heh.  In that case, come with me.  But you, Jack, enjoy your breakfast.  You could really stand to get a little meat on your bones.”

“Y-Yes, Zedaki,” Jack said with a yawn.

Zedaki then guided me out of the makeshift bedroom and repurposed break room, its table sporting two plates of cabbage, green beans, and assorted grains, before we returned to the repurposed hardware store.  

“So, we need to move the car, the ‘Blazing Beelzebub’ as Jack called it.  I could do it myself, but—”

“Why let an able body go to waste, especially when it does not experience fatigue like a normal human?”

“Not what I was going to say, but sure.  Let me pull the break and we’ll start pushing.”

After a brief walk to the crimson vehicle, we did just that, pushing it forward and throughout the barren halls of this desolate store.  It was a simple process, but like with all bouts of physical activity I have embarked on these past few days, it brought me despair on at least some level.  I would have once been able to perform such a feat by my lonesome and move five times as fast.  But now Zedaki had comparable strength to me.  Fortunately, as I began to stew in such self-loathing for what had been stolen from me, Zedaki redirected my attention by continuing our conversation.

“So, are you planning on bringing miss Crowbar along with us?”

“Yes,” I replied, “I promised that I would allow her to travel with me.  It is the least I could do after she saved my life.”

“Oh, so that’s how you work?  Somebody saves your life and you grant their wish?”

“No.  I simply repay my debts.  I have kept very few debts throughout my life, yet I always make sure I pay them.  In Jack’s case, that means allowing her to travel with me until I find all of my children, as we agreed on.  In your case, you will receive a proper town along with numerous statues dedicated to you.  Though I must admit I never fully understood such a desire.  Likely due to my lack of any true mortality.”

“Um, I was kidding about the whole statue thing.  I really just want a place I can live in comfortably till I croak and homes for the people of Madeco.  I mean, they’re not all great people, but they’ve been through hell and a half.  They deserve some happiness.”

“I agree.  I am unsure how exactly I may help once regain all of my abilities, but I will do whatever I can to help your people.”

“Thanks Miss Q.  Shame about those who are beyond help.  Few things are more upsetting than burying those you tried and failed to protect after some twisted fuckwad turned their innards into rotting giblets.”

“I understand.  I’ve lost more than just a few people who were close to me.  Far, far more than just a few.”

“All right, I won’t pry about your past unless you wanna tell me about the wars you fought or whatever.  Though, from what you told me, at full power you would win pretty much any war.  Like, ever.”

“Even in victory, war is wrought with loss.”

“Did you wake up on the wrong side of bed, or are you always this melodramatic?  Anyway, I think this is far enough Abi.”  Zedaki commented as we reached the asphalt center of Madeco.

“Understood.  Also, please refrain from calling me Abi.”

“Um, okay.  How about Gale?”

“Please, just Abigale.  Quinlan is also fine, though, you don’t seem like the formal type.”

“Whatever floats your boat…  Say, if you want to get some clothes that, you know, fit you, there’s a section in the clothing store that should work for you.  It’s near the back of the second floor.  Oh, and take this.”  Zedaki explained before tossing me a rechargeable flashlight.

“Thank you, Zedaki,”  I said before departing from my eccentrically dressed companion-to-be.

With my new limited light source, I ventured into the clothing store once again, with the purpose of finding a new outfit.  With little but faint emergency lighting and my own flashlight, it took me some time before I got the lay of this abandoned store and began looking for clothes that had not been pillaged thoroughly, and that fit my frame.  It was a challenge that had persisted for much of my life, being a woman of an unusually tall stature who had to commission clothing from a tailor, seek out a specialty shop, or simply wear clothing intended for men when no other option was available to me.

While none of the clothing in the tall section of this store was quite large enough to be my size, I was able to find three outfits that would suffice for the time being, and I would be comfortable wearing.  None of them were something I would have willingly purchased if I had other options, and none of them had the same formal look I often adopted with my choice of clothing, but I could settle.  

As I made my way out of this former store, I caught a glimpse of a mirror placed on a support pillar.  As I looked at this reflective surface, it occurred to me that I still had yet to look at my face since I woke up four days ago.  I let out an unconscious sigh of relief as I shined my flashlight at the mirror and soaked in my face and confirmed that my face, the most notable aspect of my appearance, was as I remembered it being.  

My skin, my nose, the shaping of my visage, every detail that defined the core and most prominent part of my appearance was as I remembered it, and I let out a small smile as I made this revelation.  While I loathed my appearance during certain parts of my life, it was a constant in an ever changing world, because no matter where I was, and what era I was in, the woman looking back in the mirror would always be the same.  And now, even as the world has been torn asunder, that fact remained true.  Even without my powers, I was still me physically, still reprising the same youthful and attractive features I always have.

Satisfied by what I saw, I turned away from the pillar and noticed another light that was coming through this darkened store, one that was shining directly at my face.  I narrowed my eyes as I looked beyond the light and at the one who wielded it.  A woman, one who looked to be in his late thirties.  She had long curly red hair, a gaunt freckled complexion, green eyes, and had what looked to be permanent shadows cast under her eyes.  She was dressed simply in a well-worn hoodie, a pair of ill-fitting jeans, tennis shoes that looked to have seen far better days.  The woman looked at me with surprise as I shined my light on her, and she immediately began speaking to me.

“So, you’re Abigale Quinlan?”  She said in a confident and deeper voice.

“Yes, yes, I am.  Is there any reason you’re conversing with me?”  I replied with more passion than necessary.

“Do I truly need to state a reason why I would wish to speak to the person responsible for the deaths of billions, destruction of global society, and—”

“I have no memory of the events leading up to the Cataclysm, much less the Cataclysm itself,” I curtly replied.  “As such, I cannot comment on what I did during it, or my reasons.  I understand that I did exponential harm upon the world, and I will attempt to rectify my actions.”  

“Hm.  That lines up with what Zedaki told me when I asked her.  So, how exactly do you plan on doing this?  On ‘rectifying your actions’?”

“I will first need to locate and murder my children,”  I spouted bitterly.  “Afterwards, my abilities will be regained, and I shall be granted enhanced strength and speed, the ability to transform matter into whatever it is I wish, and many other others.”

“With those powers you intend to… do what exactly?  Reconstruct everything you destroyed?  That hardly seems practical.”

“No.  That is not my intention.  Reconstructing everything is greatly unviable, and instead I will create what I can in order to substitute what was lost.  I am aware that this task shall be monumental and will take decades, if not centuries, for me to help restore human civilization to where it once was.”

“Indeed, it will. But if you know the costs of this commitment, why would you ever bother dedicating your life— which I guess never ends, lucky you— on doing something like that?  Why should I, or anyone else for that matter, believe that you would do something so arduous, time consuming, and selfish after you destroyed basically everything?”

“I have done nothing but harm people, likely taking away their livelihoods, homes, families, and friends,” I admitted with more than a twinge of loathsomeness in my voice.  “I demolished towns and caused destruction unlike any other.  Nobody should trust me or believe in my story based on that fact alone.  Yet I have been fortunate enough to receive help from Jack and Zedaki.”

“Are you sure that you can actually change anything?  Even with your ability to change the weather, fly, and… transform matter, do you think you can rebuild everything you wrecked?  Destruction is easy, especially when you have crazy godlike powers.  As for creation, that’s a lot harder for anyone to do.”

“I am aware of this.  However, I remain the best hope for humanity, and I intend to do whatever I possibly can to make amends.  If you don’t believe me, I understand.  From your perspective, I would not even believe myself.”

“Heh… you truly are not what I was expecting.  I never introduced myself, did I?  My name is Vivi Gaimz and… I must apologize, that was needlessly aggressive of me.  The past few days have been very stressful here at Madeco, with that child of yours appearing and dropping our population back to 37.  It is upsetting and, well, you are an easy target for just about anyone.  Regardless of what you recall, you took people’s lives, their homes, their families, and their friends.  It makes it hard for people to simply hear your name without being pissed off, like I was after I heard the news from Zedaki.”

“You do not need to explain yourself, Vivi.  Your reaction is justified and, as I have been saying, I will try to make up for my unintentional wrongdoings as best as I can.  In order to do that though, I will first need to leave Madeco along with your leader.”

“I understand.  For what it’s worth I, and probably everyone else here, want you to succeed on your journey.  I mean, it’s not like you can make things much worse after all.”

Following that, Vivi left me be, and I made my way out of the clothing store with my new outfits in tow.  While my conversation with her was unexpected and somewhat annoying in how confrontational she was, she raised a good point.  For all my talents, my ultimate goal was an extreme one, one that I would likely be spending much of my existence in trying to achieve.  However, I felt it was too early to consider that course of actions, especially when considering that I am unaware of the true extent of my powers.  Destruction on a scale such as this was beyond my powers as I knew them, and maybe, just maybe, with these new powers, I could truly rebuild the world into something stupendous.

Putting those thoughts aside for the moment, I made my way across the parking lot and was soon greeted by Zedaki.

“Hey Abigale.  I just saw Vivi go into the clothing store a bit ago.  Did you meet up with her on your way out?”

“Precisely.”

“Heh.  Sorry if she caused you some trouble.  Miss Gaimz is a pretty reliable person, but she is not the most welcoming to strangers, and seemed to have a major chip on her shoulders about you.  She may be annoyed now, but once he’s living in the proper town of Madeco and can get a decent hot shower for once, I’m sure she’ll peach right up.”

“Thank you Zedaki, but there is little need to comfort me on these sorts of things, and I know that there is much about this world that I ought to improve.”

“But first, you gotta kill yourself another baby.  I getcha.”

“Another four children to be precise, and I doubt all of them are true babies.”

“Oh, right, I guess 6-year-olds aren’t really babies, are they… man, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a real kid.  Not a kid like Jack, I mean a real little guy who grew up after things went to shit.”

“Given the current climate, I would not be surprised if children are uncommon… Do you have any idea what the planet’s population might be?”

“It’s hard to say Miss Q, it’s real hard to say.  I think I’ve only met maybe three hundred people since the Cataclysm ended, but it’s not like this Arizona was super populated or anything to begin with.  There might not be a lot of people here but in, say, California, I’m sure there’s at least a million people.  There’s gotta be.”

“Do you think that my children would have made their way to California?”

“Pfft, like I’d have any bloody idea where your kids are.  I didn’t even know they existed until two days ago.  If they are anything like that bomber brat, I’m sure they’re harassing other communities and gorging themselves on candy bars.  That little turd ate at least three pounds of chocolate.  I didn’t even know that kids could eat that much without blowing chunks.”

“Anecdotes aside, we should concentrate on leaving.”

“Yeah, I was putting a few things in the car.  Some food, water, extra clothes for Jack and I, tools, a couple books, CDs, spare gun, ammo, your backpacks, the works.  We’re about ready to go, but first I need to say goodbye to my people.  They should all be awake in a few minutes.  Oh, and if you want to change, head into the hardware store.  …Or you could just strip here if you want.  These people already saw plenty of your naked body last night.”

Taking that remark in stride, I began making my way to the hardware store, and examined the parking lot as I did so.  It still retained a sort of lived in and organized quality that I observed last night, but there was a curious absence of any of the bodily parts that Zedaki had mentioned finding yesterday.  I could only assume that meant that B-17 further desecrated the remains, reducing them into an unidentifiable sludge that was likely washed away in the rain and into the greyed asphalt I was walking on.

Upon reaching the hardware store, I headed into an isolated aisle, which was to say any random random aisle, and began changing out of my ill fitting clothes into something both better fitting.  I chose to wear a navy v-neck sweater that went three quarters of the way down my arm, a pair of black pants that left my entire ankle exposed, and a pair of basic gym shoes that covered my feet and fit them.. decently.  It was far from the most elegant thing I had worn, but it would suffice.  Plus, based on my current track record this outfit, much like the one I wore before it, would be destroyed in my next encounter with one of my children.

After dressing, I began to examine this store in greater detail, with the slight illumination from windows going a surprisingly long way to brighten up this place, though I still required the use of my flashlight to move with ease.  I perused the shelves for any useful tools I would need along my journey, but failed to find much better than the knife that I placed in my pocket.  Before ending my exploration and returning outside, I further tested out my regained power, and snapped my fingers.  A familiar sensation went through my arm, and a small explosive pop burst through the air.  I practiced it a few more times and then smiled, knowing I had indeed come one step closer to becoming myself again.  Though, this was easily the last ability on my priority list.

I then returned outside to see a group of twenty-something people standing in front of Zedaki, who was easy to identify thanks to her scarlet jacket and hat.  Not wanting to be seen by this crowd, I positioned myself behind a vehicle parked near the store and listened in to Zedaki’s speech from afar.

“—Yes, I know, I am leaving right after I returned, and leaving you all to pick up the pieces after 15 lives were taken by that fucking bomber bastard.  It is not a decision that I want to make, but an opportunity has come up that I simply cannot refuse.  I know that all of you were shocked to see Abigale Quinlan, the woman responsible for the Cataclysm, last night.  I was too.  And as I learned last night, she is currently going on a journey, traveling across the nation, with the ultimate goal of restoring the world to some semblance of its former glory.  To do this, she needs allies, and I have chosen to become one of said allies.  I will help her along her journey, and in the end, all of you will be given better lives.  No longer will we need to squabble around in an abandoned store or ration our food, and no longer will we need to live in the dark all the bloody time.”

“You are free to disagree with my decision, but I will be a companion on Miss Quinlan’s quest.  I cannot guarantee if I will come back as, to be honest, I have next to no idea what I’m going to find, and if I will even survive.  Still, this is the best shot Madeco has for survival.  The best shot humanity has to regain its former glory.  In my absence, I will task you all to coordinate yourselves.  I trust you all to maintain this society and to continue improving Madeco.  Now then, the day is young, and I should begin my journey.  I don’t know where or how far this journey shall take me, but know that I will be thinking of all of you as I face whatever comes my way.”

As her speech came to a close, the people seemed to be reacting to this news in an expectedly mixed manner.  Some seemed to agree with Zedaki’s decision, others were disapproving or disgusted.  At least based on what I could tell from 30 meters away.  As they dispersed and some approached Zedaki, I began trying to channel my senses once again, focusing on the location of another one of my children.  The sensation was very faint, implying the child was far away, and the best approximation I could make was that they resided northwest of here.  After focusing the location, and after the crowd left, I approached Zedaki, who wore a look of worry on her face for a second before adopting a more confident expression.

“I’ve never been one for public speaking, but that went pretty well all things considered, wouldn’t you say?”

“You said what you needed to and spoke with honesty.  Once cannot ask for much more than that.”

“Yeah, yeah… so you about ready to hock your clothes into the trunk and ditch this place?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be.  I have already sensed my nearest child, and they appear to be somewhere northwest of here.  However, the sensation is extremely faint.”

“So you mean to say we’re in for a long drive?  That’s fine with me.At least we have a direction to point ourselves towards.”

“True, things could always be more dire and less directed.  Now then, I believe we have everything we need and simply need to reconvene with Jack.  I did not see her when I was changing in the hardware store.  Do you have any idea where she might be?”

“She is literally right behind you.”

As Zedaki made this comment, I swerved my head backwards to see Jack, dressed in her fleece jacket with her signature crowbar in one hand and a candy bar in the other.

“Seriously Jack?  That’s all you took?”  Zedaki commented upon looking at Jack’s hand.  “We’ve got more candy than we know what to do with.  I know it might be a bit stale, but take what you can get.”  

“I know.  This is all I want.  I don’t really need candy, and know it is not the best for me.”

Zedaki then chuckled before rustling Jack’s short hair, slightly messing up her pixie cut.

With that interaction out of the way, I placed my new clothes into the packed trunk of the car, and proceeded to get in.  Initially, I proposed driving the car, as I was a skilled driver despite how rarely I had need for a car, but Zedaki seemed steadfast about being the driver.  Respecting her wishes, I made my way to the passenger seat while Jack settled her way into the center of the backseat.

Zedaki then drove the car to a specific point in the wall protecting Madeco, one made out of various light yet sturdy metals.  An older man walked over to grab a handle on this section and undo a series of latches, revealing that it was a gate.  Zedaki slowly drove through the gate while thanking the man, saying one last goodbye to him before she began driving along the roughened road, swerving into the ground next to it when things became greatly uneven.  

Following my instructions, Zedaki began heading to the northwest, sticking to the area around the roads in hopes of being able to drive along intact asphalt, and maintaining a reasonable speed as she did so.  She rightfully valued this vehicle as our only real hope of accomplishing our goal in a reasonable amount of time, and was concerned with safety above speed accordingly.  

She cautiously swerved past the desolate husks of buildings that once made up the small desert town that Madeco resided within.  Moving past the ample greenery and protruding stone pillars effectively robbed this town of whatever loose identity it had to prior to the Cataclysm.  As the minutes passed, we eventually escaped the boxy roads of this decimated town and were cast along a wide open road, albeit one lined with abandoned vehicles, assorted refuse, and nature trying to take hold of these ruins.  Zedaki confidentially maneuvered around this wreckage though, allowing us to eventually reach a strip of empty road.

With the steady drive continuing and nothing demanded of me at the moment, I began to take a closer look at this car’s interior.  I took note of the fine finishings applied to the dashboards, the comfortable adjustable seating, the clean gray coating of the interior, and the sleek nature of the body.  It was certainly a very nice way for us to travel.  However, the mere existence of this vehicle was suspicious, and far too convenient for my comfort.  Sometimes, remarkably good things may happen by pure chance, yet many times, the reasoning behind them only leads people to misfortune.  I would have pondered things in more detail, but I lacked the mental fortitude to do so with comfort.

As I continued my observations, Zedaki looked over my way and decided to break the silence that had fallen over the vehicle.

“I forgot to ask earlier, but I take it that neither of you ran into anyone since you started this journey of yours, right?”

“Unless you count a skeleton I uncovered in a basement, no.  We have not seen anyone else wandering, nor have we ran into any other groups or settlements.”  I replied.

“Y’know, I’m pretty sure that most people have started gathering up into little societies or tribes, as it can be hard to survive on your own,” Zedaki began.  “Hell, since everything’s been raided to shit, people pretty much need to start living in communities and start securing shelter, hunting what they can find, and growing their own food.  Though, hunting’s kind of tough.  There are plenty of critters about, but not as much as there once was.  Animal populations were hit pretty hard, and while some of them breed like crazy, their numbers are not back to where they used to be.  Or so I’m told anyhow.  Though, that’s just from what I’ve seen, which isn’t much in the grand scheme of things.”

“That is true.”  I replied.  “Given my abilities, it is entirely possible that the climates across the world are wildly different.  I could have ignored certain parts, while others could be complete destroyed.  However, we have no real way of knowing.”

“Erm, actually, I really meant it when I said that the entire world was affected by natural disasters,” Jack chimed in.  “The Flare Foundation did a survey of most countries to determine the damages.  I believe they said that… the western United States was within the fortieth percentile of their perceived damages.  Whatever that means.”

“Seriously?”  Zedaki spouted.  “So most other countries got it a helluva lot worse than us?  Goldarn.”

“The fortieth percentile means that this section of the nation experienced below average damages in the Cataclysm.  Specifically, less than sixty percent of all other nations,” I explained.

“Oh.  Sorry, I was never the best student, and didn’t really get an education beyond middle school,” Jack melancholically stated.

“I am aware, Jack, and would not have expected you to understand percentiles.”

“Wait a tick, how the hell did the Flare Foundation do a survey of most countries?”  Zedaki questioned.  “What kind of resources do they have there?”  

“I don’t really know,”  Jack began.  “But they have a medical team, a mechanical team, and a lot of food and water.  Even if it is not always the best.”

“I have to say, I’m surprised that this Foundation hasn’t been raided yet,”  Zedaki commented.  “People killed and died just to rob from Madeco, and that place seems like an honest to goodness treasure trove in comparison.”

“Um, actually, the Foundation has been attacked several times over the years.  The soldiers are usually far better shots than any sort of raider.”

“The Foundation has bloody soldiers?  How on Earth did Abigale’s kids escape when you’ve got soldiers patrolling the place?”

“Firstly, my children are all granted with unique abilities beyond those of a normal human,” I explained.  “Secondly, nearly all patrols feature some sort of blind spot, or could be broken up by some form of distraction.  Thirdly, due to their small stature, it is easier for children to hide after fleeing, and even if they were caught, they would be able to defend themselves with their abilities.  For example, B-17 was able to defeat those you appointed to protect Madeco and killed a total of 15.  While trained soldiers would have a better chance of defeating him with fewer casualties, I doubt they would have fared much better unless they knew what they were dealing with ahead of time.”

“Um, can we stop talking about the Foundation for now?”  Jack meekly requested.

“Yeah, sure,” Zedaki replied  “I said it before, but I get it, emotional baggage is something everybody has these days, and it’s not right to go snooping in someone else’s suitcase.”

From there, another awkward silence spread across the car for several minutes.  Minutes I spent looking out at the scenery, watching the greenery that had encompassed the few dozen kilometers fade out into a hilly field that stretched out across the horizon, only broken up by the occasional uneven sections of Earth and the omnipresent stone pillars.  I had become strangely used to such sights over the past few days, but I was still beyond disgusted by the fact that this was all my doing.

Thankfully, another distraction came to prevent me from indulging in such bitter thoughts, as Zedaki reached down to the space between our seats and pulled out a disc binder.  A small black case that she flung into my lap before giving me a simple request.

“Play something.  This thing’s got a CD player and I’m sick of sitting around in silence.”

Looking through the binder, I was greeted with a collection of CDs spanning decades, genres, and a variety of artists.  Yet I could only recognize a scant few.  I had fallen out of favor with popular culture in the recent decades, failing to keep up with mass media, and only catching it in snippets when in environments where the television and radio were both on, casually blaring media to any onlookers.  While I might have once recognized some of these albums, my memory was still filled with holes and fragments, robbing me of any confidence I would have in selecting an album at random.  As such, I neglected my duty and lobbed the binder to Jack, asking her to pick something out instead.

She thumbed through the discs slowly and curiously, looking at them with what was either intensity or confusion over the concept of disc-based audio media given her age and the time in which she was born.  After a minute of searching, she finally made a selection and leaned forward to put a blank CD with the words ‘Chao Garden’ and ‘Mecha Yuri’ written on it in a marker.  

It was an experimental electronic album that made heavy use of samples from other media, and had a very relaxing quality to it.  It made for good background music that served to dampen whatever tension was lingering on in the vehicle after such an eventful night, and once its 2 hour run time came to a close, Jack continued to manage the music for the remainder of our day.  The music we listened to included the classic and critically acclaimed new wave album Stop Making Sense by The Talking Heads.  The eccentric In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel, which held similar calming and psychedelic qualities as the prior album, but even more so with its bizarre lyrics and the unusual cadence of the singer’s voice.  Dude Whatever It’s Summer 2012 by Team Teamwork, a mashup mixtape that was both energetic and elegantly arranged, with songs fading well into the next and the tone fluctuating comfortably as the music played.  Along with Road to Jupiter by Wolfgun, a bombastic electronic album that would have served a quality soundtrack to a rousing space epic.

The audio selection continued for several hours while Zedaki led us through idle banter, primarily about the world that was effectively lost through the Cataclysm, along with minor details about her past.  Both her and Jack seemed to be guarded about certain details of their past, which I respected.  As for me personally, I tried to inform them of relevant information about myself, based on the limited knowledge I could access.  It was honestly something of a defense mechanism for myself, as I truly did not want to focus the music playing in the background.  

For whatever relief and entertainment value the albums held, they served as burning reminders of what I had lost.  They reminded me that I lacked the analytical prowess that I had grown accustomed to and could not deconstruct the tracks or album as a whole in as elegant or effortless of a manner as I could have earlier in my life.  I did not want to think too hard about anything, as I knew my sophomoric observations would only bring me despair, but as the conversation picked up, I found myself with no other option.

“So, Abigale, what sort of music are you into?”  Zedaki asked me while keeping her eyes focused on the road.  “You seem like the sort who doesn’t really listen to anything other than classical or orchestral stuff, but you’re nothing if not full of surprises.”

“I never listened to much music,” I began.  “I paid little mind to entertainment throughout much of my life, and often busied myself with the accumulation and application of knowledge above all else.”

“You still could have listened to some Mozart or whatever while hitting the textbooks.”

“I could have, but I chose not to.  I can read at a rapid rate, and had little need to dilute my attention with audio as I did so.  And when I listened to music, it was more of an exercise to see what was popular and what people were capable of doing with this artistic medium.”

“…Somehow, I’m not surprised by that, ya goldarn brainiac.  What about you, Jack?”

“Um, I was never really into music, I guess,” Jack replied.  “I only really started listening to it when Miss Flare played things back at the Foundation.  And what she did play was… erratic, I guess would be the right word.  She played a lot of songs that were mashed together and, come to think of it, I think she might have played some of these albums before.  Um, what about you Zedaki?”

“Eh, I was never into music for much of my life, and only really learned to appreciate it after I found a solar-powered CD player and a disc shop during my travels.  I listened to whatever I could get my hands on, but never really committed myself to a genre or anything like that.  I was just happy to have something to eat away at the loneliness of existing in these trying times.  Over the years before the Cataclysm, humans have become increasingly reliant on electronics, and I was no different.  Every day I would close things off in front of my television, watching shows, films, or playing a game for a few hours, and… I really miss that.”  

“Just being able to have everything at your fingertips and be able to immerse oneself in entertainment.  Most people had more immediate concerns to worry about at first other than how their phones didn’t work any more, but at the same time… damn do I miss just having my phone, being able to do whatever I wanted to with just an app and a flick of a finger I’ve definitely heard more than my fair share of bitching over how primitive and shitty things are now by comparison, and while survival is the ultimate goal… it’d be nice if I could live long enough to get a new smartphone.  Just to reassure myself that things are okay once more.”

As Zedaki continued her observations, I tried to keep pace with her, but as my mind began working near its subpar max capacity, I found myself recoiling from the conversation due to my pride.  If I had nothing of substance to say, I would rather say nothing, and I did so as Zedaki kept the conversation going while music filled the background.  From discussions of food, school, or various other bits of nostalgia that they clung to.  Jack steadily grew attached to Zedaki as these conversations went on, sharing personal details willingly, while I only offered non-answers and dismissals of how I was above these things.  Being so distant and disconnected upset me… but I found myself with no superior approach to get through this conversation.

As their talks continued and hours passed, I returned to preoccupying myself by looking out at the world.  Eventually, the stone pillars began disappearing from our surroundings and the uneven Earth began to smooth out, at least to an extent.  For a brief stretch, it looked like a normal desert… but then the old anomalies were replaced by new ones.  Greenery left this land, with the dirt being a browned orange and the young trees being replaced with desert fauna.  The stone pillars vanished, but were replaced by plateaus that rose half as his into the air, bearing the remnants of homes on the top of their surfaces, clearly conveying their true origin.  

These plateaus were contrasted with divots into the Earth, forming large and wide holes, many of which had become shallow lakes, but most were merely a half-formed grave for all the homes, refuse, and rubble that filled them.  It was a jarring shift, and while not quite as extreme as what I had seen prior, it indicated just how much things had changed due to my actions, and just how much work would need to be done if I wanted to return to Earth to its former state.


Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan Main Page
Episode 01: Abigale The Awakened
Episode 02: Jack The Journeyer
Episode 03: B-17 The Bomber
Episode 04: Zedaki The Zealous
Episode 05: Beelzebub The Blazing
Episode 06: Marz The Mightiest
Episode 07: Jack The Joy
Episode 08: Ultros The Undying
Episode 09: Punky The Provider
Episode 10: Jack The Crowbar
Episode 11: Athena The All-Knowing
Episode 12: Flare The Fierce
Episode 13: Flare The Fury
Episode 14: Flare The Fallen
Episode 15: Abigale The Almighty
Natalie Rambles About Psycho Bullet Festival: The Odyssey of Abigale Quinlan

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