The Story (#1)
It was the sand that I remember best. Every day and every night I felt it beneath my feet, in my eyes, in my ass. After a only few weeks on The Floor you came to hate it. Once the weeks added up to months you would loath it, and by the end of the first year you either lived with it or went mad. You never got used to it.
The Floor was the desert; the worst one. It was flat, featureless, and dry. Even the sky offered no solace; it was the dull color of rawhide because it was polluted with horrible gases. The air could make you choke and gag if your lungs weren't adjusted.
We were riding out there on the first day of work (except it wasn't work like you were going to your job; it was closer to slavery) and most of us were sitting in the backs of different kinds of pick-up trucks and a few less people were driving DPVs and there were people driving everything else: ATVs, cars camouflaged with cheap spray-paint, and motorcycles. The people who used these last three were a big minority.
I was sitting in the box of a pick-up with six other men. One of the other guys was a fellow named Carson Joules and I can't remember the names of the others.
He was a kind sort, but he was also real sharp and talented. I mean it. To this day I don't think his eyes ever missed anything, and if you talked to him you got the feeling that he was listening to every single word you said, and that he was storing them in his memory in case he needed to play them through his head again. There's nothing wrong with a fellow who listens, but Carson Joules was still spooky sometimes.
I liked him, though. A few years on the floor, and it might be that I came to love him; I don't know. I had met the guy shortly after the Quelnine soldiers had captured and recruited me for what they called "civic duties". He had been captured too, but unlike most the guys (women hadn't yet been recruited) he didn't have the stink of fear wafting off him. He was always calm, and he knew everyone else was afraid of being sent away or dying in the War or being enslaved. He tried to help when he could and made sure he never made things worse. He cared -- you could tell.
I had known him for a month when we rode in the back of that old truck towards The Floor, and we had actually become pretty good friends (or at least as good of friends as we were able to be, given our different natures). I was scared shitless, but if he was then he was doing a damn good job of hiding it.
The wind had begun to turn bad and one of the guys in our vehicle had already blown his groceries off to the side and sand was blowing into our faces so that we had to squint and look down at the floor of the truck bed, while our asses balanced on the thin sides. There was just a bad feeling, too. Something that went beyond the air and the sand. It felt like we were going to our doom. Maybe we were.
The other guys were all talking uneasily, and me and Carson sat quiet for most the time, looking at the sand -- damn it was a bad place -- but after we got closer to our destination Carson Joules leaned over to me and whispered "Look Dan, whatever you're you're thinking; whatever you may start thinking, don't try to run."
I told him that I didn't know what he was talking about, which was bullshit since I had had the urge to do so ever since the wind turned odorous (and there was that feeling).
"If you try to get away, they will shoot you dead before you can make it ten feet," (he said this as though he hadn't even heard me) "even if you did somehow make it out of their shooting range before they noticed you missing --which would be impossible, Dan, you must know that -- we're at least at least fifty miles from any kind of civilization. You would dry up like a prune."
He stared at me with one of those stern looks, the ones that ask "Do you get the message?", and I got the message. I still hated him for delivering it to me, though; him and his damned green eyes that I sometimes couldn't quite meet.
I'm glad now that he said that, though.
He nodded up ahead. "Looks like we're already at their base anyways."
I followed his gesture as was shocked at what I saw. There were two rows of monstrous steel quonset huts (for some reason I remember making the connection that they were the same color as Carson's wiry hair), and then off to the side there were a handful of small brick buildings covered with sand and dust. Around the perimeter was a chain link fence taller than two of the quonset huts stacked on top of each other and it was lined with curls of wire that looked like it was razor sharp (I found out later that it was) on the top and middle. The fence was in the shape of a perfect circle.
There were twelve stone pillars that were watchtowers at the edge of the circle, spaced like the numbers on a clock.
"Yuh," I said (and my heart was thumping real fast). "I guess we are."