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Something From Nothing

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The moment the sun’s rays stretched out over the horizon, Max was on his bike and on the road. He let the air rushing past him and the rumble of the engine drown out voices in his head. It only sometimes worked.

He passed other cars, other bikes, keeping his distance. He found other towns, stopping just long enough to barter for water, food. He just needed to keep moving. Sleep was restless, his nights as violent as some of his days. It didn’t matter though whether his eyes were open or closed, all he saw were limp bodies with dead eyes, all he heard were cries insistent and gripping, all he smelled were fumes acrid and choking.

He knew he was running. It’s all he ever did, it’s all he knew how to do anymore.

Every once in a while though, he’d stop. He’d turn off his bike, run his fingers through his hair. He’d stare off at the distance in the direction of the Citadel and let the silence settle in.

He knew that togetherness… attachment never worked out well for him. He knew if he stayed too long something bad would happen to them. It always did. So he kept running.

He stopped at a small settlement perched on a cliff late one afternoon where he had been able to safely get what he needed several times before. As he was leaning on his bike, holding a jug of cool water against his forehead, several people walked past him, packs in hand, their voices raised animatedly. Three men, two women, all with long hair and tanned weathered faces. One man who was shorter than the rest had turned around to face the whole group, his hands waving sporadically.

“I’m tellin’ you, he tol’ me they’re well-armed, but no way that band is gonna be able to break through that wall.”

“It’s a new wall, Jaxon, I’m not even sure it can be called a wall. Any sorta good rig could bust right through it. Flimsy.”

A second man punched the short man in the shoulder, laughing smugly. “Just like you.”

“It’s green, full of water, ‘snot something you can’t try to get a piece of,” one of the woman said, speaking up.

Max followed the group with his eyes, a bead of water from the jug trickling down his forehead.

“Well why ain’t we tryin’ then?”

“You gotta rig? Don’t think so. Just that piece of junk.” A small scuffle broke out in the group. Max watched as three people had to hold the woman back.

“She ain’t no piece of junk,” the woman growled.

One of the men laughed derisively and the woman broke free, ran forward and punched him, causing him to fall to the ground hard.

“Enough! Save it. We just gonna stick with the plan, an’ wait for them to do all that fighin’ and then come in at the end and grab the scraps.”

“It’ll be more than enough for us,” the third man said.

“How far is it then?”

“East,” another said, gesturing to the horizon. “Not that far. Day’s worth of driving maybe?”

“Not bad at all.”

“Nah.”

Max continued to watch them, his hand clenched behind him on the seat of his bike, his knuckles white. He stayed still, his face not betraying how fast his heart was beating, until they were out of sight. Then, in a second, he was on his bike and gone.

There was no stopping, no rest, no nothing. He just drove, determination set into his bones.

After hours, long after his joints became stiff, his hair full of dirt, he saw the smoke first. Smoke mushrooming up to the sky. Then the Citadel came into view.

Whatever had happened there was over, just small fires burning from the broken husks of rigs and other vehicles.

As he approached, Max hardly dared to let himself hope these raiders had failed. It looked that way, but he knew that victories could be deceiving. Nothing could be won without a price.

He heard shouting in the distance. He slowed as he approached the wall, and stopped, raising his hands into the air, and stepped off his bike.

His eyes couldn’t help wander to a portion of the wall that had collapsed, bodies strewn among the rocks. He scanned the top of the wall for any familiar faces, but didn’t see anything but War Boys.

There was more shouting that Max couldn’t pick up, as hard as he tried. His fingers, although his hands were still in the air, twitched, missing his gun.

He had no way of knowing, other than what he had heard in the past couple of months, if Furiosa was still in charge. If the wives were still there. He had heard rumors during the times he had been around other people. Rumors of a fearless woman, a city that was overflowing in water, gifting its people food and safety. But that had been some time ago, and after this attack, nothing was certain.

Finally, the half-burned door, set into the wall, began to slowly open.

Max slowly lowered one hand, reaching out back towards his bike. His hand gripped the metal, and moved lower towards the gun he had strapped to the side. Three women came out through the door shouting at him, weapons pointed at his head. He quickly raised both hands again, widening his stance, readying himself to fight.

And then she stepped out.

“Put them away,” Furiosa said calmly. The three lowered their weapons and stepped aside for her. She moved past them, authoritative in every step, to Max.

She looked well, but tired. Blood ran down her arm, but she made no motion that she was in pain.  She stopped a few feet in front of him, looking him up and down appraisingly. Max shifted, uncomfortable, but his heart a little lighter. He nodded to her.

Furiosa nodded back, brow furrowed. “Here for a visit?”

The side of his mouth twitched into half a smile. “You could call it that,” he said, his voice raspy from disuse.

They stared at each other, both uncertain of what to say. Now that Max had seen that she was still breathing, alive, he didn’t know why else he was here.

“Uh, how are the girls?”

Furiosa’s face softened. “They’re good. Real good.”

Max nodded, looking away from her piercing stare.

After several moments, Furiosa motioned to her warriors. They turned around and headed back into the Citadel.

She turned back to Max, focusing on him again.

“You need food. Water. Rest. Come inside.”

When Max didn’t answer, but just looked away to his bike, she narrowed her eyes.

“Inside,” she insisted, her voice hard, leaving no room for a fight.

And Max was so tired, especially in these past couple of months, it had seeped down into his bones deeper than it ever had before.

He nodded, and followed Furiosa with his bike through the gate.

 

The girls were excited, to say the least, to see Max. Capable tugged at his dusty hair. Cheedo and the Dag punched his arm. Toast shyly gave him a hug. He didn’t say anything to them, but the small smile on his worn face said everything. As the girls shared with him stories of seeds growing into green and new life, Max watched as Furiosa quietly left the room.

They led him to a hall, full of others eating. The others, once slaves or War Boys, stopped and inclined their heads reverently towards the girls as they walked past them.

Max ate quickly, his hunger overwhelming any need to savor the luxury of fresh food that had been grown in the Citadel.

When he finished, he just sat and let the chatter wash over him. The girls talking didn’t require him to contribute, and he was perfectly fine with it that way. Just like the sound of the wind rushing past him or the roar of his engine, the chatter filled the emptiness in his mind and drowned out the other voices.

A firm hand grasped his shoulder, startling him out of his reverie. He looked up to see Furiosa. She nodded, and Max got up to follow her, grunting a farewell to the girls.

She led him up a flight of stairs. Unease pooled in Max’s gut. He liked being out in the open, where there’s room to escape. But she’s leading him, so he kept moving forward, his eyes on Furiosa’s back.

They walked through a hole in the ceiling, onto a platform, and as far as Max could see, there was green. He had heard the girls talk about it, but to see it for himself, it was a wholly different thing.

He walked forward to the nearest plant, running his fingers across the leaves.

“What do you think?” Furiosa asked behind him.

He continued to look down at the plant, admiring the stark contrast of his yellowed rough fingers against the delicate, vibrant green leaves. The wind picked up, rustling across the plants.

“It’s—it’s... beautiful.”

Furiosa stepped up next to him. She surveyed the plants proudly, like a mother looking down at her children.

After several moments of silence, Furiosa looked over to Max. “I arranged for a mat to be sent up here. It should be here by now.”

She walked along the rows, before stopping suddenly. “Hm, here it is. Figured you’d rather sleep up here than down in a room. And you sure need the sleep.” She looked at him pointedly and with disapproval. “You look like you’re about to collapse, honestly.”

Max nodded, grateful. He followed her, stretching, and pulling off his jacket as he walked.

“No one will bother you up here. If you need something, head down the stairs and ask someone, whoever you find, for me.”

And with that, she left.

Max all but fell onto the mat, laying on his back, curling his fingers around the edges. He just focused on his breathing in and out and listening to the wind continuing to rustle the leaves around him. After several minutes, his mind remained silent, temporarily free of the pain and fear that plagued it, and he turned onto his side, curled up, and fell asleep.