We stood at the entrance to the cave. Despite our clothing we could still feel the sand hit us as the winds picked up. The desert isn’t the best place in the world to be, especially if a sandstorm begins to pickup. We usually sheltered in caves far from the entrance just like everyone else. It has been that way ever since the war ended. I remember an apt phrase to describe the aftermath of the last war. The next war will be fought with sticks or something like that.
It was partly true. The world was reduced to dust and crumbling skyscrapers. Everything was dying and it was tough to find a tree let alone a stick. Some technology survived, but it was only useful in the right hands. In our case it would be the laser rifles. Slightly rusted, but working. Perfect for defending against dust wargs, but against the bigger machinery they lacked firepower. Energy was precious with these firearms anyway, so if we did get attacked by anything we would need to make our shots count.
Returning to where we stood at the entrance of the cave we noted a strange whistle within. As if there was a cry from its depths beckoning us for help. We knew what was inside was far from human. The wasteland was an unforgiving place, so you best learn what dwells in its caves and dunes. We learnt that the hard way, but after a few years you expect loss. Loss meant learning, and after the monsters we've faced over the years we learnt a lot.
My partner nudged me with his elbow. When I looked at him he had his rifle ready in his hands. I couldn’t see his face. It was wrapped in cloth and he wore thick goggles to protect him from the sand. I was always jealous that he found them before me. I had similar attire, but my eyes were bare and sore. Still, that was just another facet of an unforgiving life that you became used to. Despite his cover I understood his expression well. Let us not make mistakes in this case, it would be last thing we did.
I readied my rifle in a similar fashion. I felt the leather of my glove scrape the rust and the tip of my finger delicately hook the trigger. I had to be gentle; anything could set the gun off. I planned to fix it, but had nothing to repair it with. However, I was already comforted by the weight in my hands and my confidence began to grow into bravery.
“Let’s go.” He whispered to me.
I nodded, knowing full well he couldn’t see it. I didn’t reply verbally, not now. A rumble inside came in response to his whispered words, which meant we were walking into the lions den. Still, swallowing our fear, tightening our grip and assuring our shaking legs that it would be alright, we pressed forward into the gloom.
Slowly we made our way deeper into the cave. Echoes of the monstrous shrieking grew louder. We focused to find the source, but the cave was large and intricate. Finding a needle in a haystack did not compare to our situation. If we were going to be ambushed it should have happened by now, yet we carried on with our hearts still beating.
Suddenly, the shrieking stopped. As if the creature suddenly vanished like a stray thought. We stopped moving and waited. This has never happened before. The screams would lead us to it, give us an edge, but now what? Fear gripped me in that instant, almost as if the creature stood behind me. With a not so subtle flick I turned around, but nothing stood there and I turned back. What a clumsy move, but I needed to know.
A new sound echoed. It was a splashing sound. Something had been dropped into water, but so much water was impossible to find in the desert. However, water is something you never turn down, never. No matter what the risks that canteen full of water decided if you would live longer more than any fire-fight did.
I looked at the shadow of my partner and I knew he was looking at me. He nodded and continued towards the sound. I followed, but kept my distance. Our boots scraped loose sand against the rocky floor, becoming louder as we got closer got the source of the sound. It was an unpleasant crunch. If there was a creature still in the cave they could surely hear the echoes of our approach. All the bravery I had mustered I felt slipping away back towards the entrance of the cave, fleeing.
The cave twisted towards a room with a faint blue glow. We slowed down, but kept moving. The floor ended and a pit began. It was a deep pit and at the very bottom was glowing water. It was surreal and perfect. The contrast of something so alive against this dying world was breathtaking. Now was my chance, I had to take it now or they would never be mine.
I looked at my partner. He was transfixed on the beauty of nature. Without a word I grabbed the elastic strap of his goggles and pulled them off. When he shouted in surprise I placed a hand on his back and pushed. He screamed as he fell, but it eventually stopped as he hit the rugged edges of the pit. Eventually I heard the splash of his corpse hitting the body of water.
I placed the goggles against my eyes. The goggles were still warm. When I had fixed them properly, feeling a tremendous sense of pride, I gathered myself and I turned around. I heard the growling from before, but it wasn’t the echoes from before, this was the source and it stood before me with massive white teeth. Two men can fight it and win, but a single man has no chance.
Like the sands that now covered the world, karma is one of the few things that are endless.