Fissionary

Bryn rummaged through the pile of scrap metal looking for whatever possible materials he could use to repair his Transcender 2000. The outdated model of the laser gun was slung across his back, having being picked up from another heap of unwanted goods. It was an old piece of weaponry, but it was enough to fend off the other scavengers in the backyard of these factories.

He heard the scampering of clawed feet in close proximity and quickly ducked behind one of the metallic containers. It would not do him good to be savaged by those lizards; flesh ripped apart bit by bit. He eyed them silently as they stalked the area. Sniffing the air, one of the lizards turned its scaly head in the direction of Bryn’s hideout. Bryn curled himself smaller into a ball, hoping that his scent would be masked by the stench of petroleum spilled in this wasteland.

Praying, though he did not know to what divine being in actual fact, he hoped that his short life would not be terminated by these grotesque mutations. The creature that was stalking in his direction raised its torso, reaching up to at least two metres tall. It crashed down on the container, reducing it into mere scrap as black fluid poured out of it. The stench of oil burned Bryn’s nose.

The lizard roared in fury at not having hunted down its prey, snorting and turning to rejoin its pack in a speed faster than the blink of an eye. It was yet another close encounter for Bryn, who had lived in this wilderness since birth.

He had grown up as one of these vagrants, without a home or a family. He heard tales of the luxurious life before the explosion, but it was gone now. There was nothing left on this planet except the debris of a forgotten life. When they rebuilt the city, they locked almost everyone out. People roamed the streets, hungry and deprived, while the rich stayed well protected within the city walls. Scavengers like Bryn had only one option when encountering these creatures: to run and hide.

Bryn considered himself as being fortunate, having sustained himself up till now. Many children barely lived past their tenth birthday, often possessing less wit and cunning to escape the grasps of sly mercenaries who sold children off as food to those lizards in this metal playground.

It was approaching night time, Bryn noticed as he gazed at the setting sun. He knew that the factories would soon stop work and the creatures would slink back into their nests. There would no longer be predators roaming about, or snobby city men lurking. Nightfall was when he could roam freely, the darkness a shroud against the dangers of daytime.

Picking through the pieces of metal, Bryn let out an exhausted sigh. He had been futilely sourcing for the core to his gun. He detested days like this, of wasting his time hiding away and sneaking around, but producing nothing. It felt like he was squandering away precious daylight, and there was a definite uncertainty in the days he could last without any tool of defence.

His massive goggles strapped to his forehead made his head hurt. The tool belt hanging around his waist felt burdensome. Flies buzzed incessantly by his ears as he swatted them away. The pulsing heat won several drops of sweat from Bryn as they slid down the sides of his face, slowly soaking his shirt. It was enough for today, Bryn decided.

Bryn threw down the piece of metal he had in his hand and jumped off the hood of the forsaken car. Its unlocked doors creaked in response to Bryn who had bounded off it. Bryn glanced upwards at the tip of the metal mountain he had leapt down from, reminding himself to search elsewhere tomorrow. A gust of wind swept across the yard, whipping through Bryn’s scruffy hair. The pile rocked side to side precariously. Metal clunked as bits of junk fell apart, tumbling towards the ground. A metallic sphere rolled towards Bryn and thudded against his mud-stained boots.

Bryn picked it up and rubbed it against his shirt. The sphere’s exterior was blemished beyond compare. It was just another piece of garbage. He pulled his arm back, ready to dispose of this piece of scrap, when he yelped in pain, dropping the sphere. The sphere had illuminated and was scorching hot. He knelt down to take a better look at the object which was now pulsating in bursts of purple light. It was small, fitting into his palm easily. Pulling out a cloth from his tool belt, Bryn reached out and picked it up gingerly.

The metallic sphere still burned his skin, but it was more bearable through the thick cloth. It seemed that the sphere might have some function. Wrapping it carefully in the cloth, he stuck it down one of the many compartments of his belt. He needed to bring it to the market to find out more.

Bryn walked by the sellers under the makeshift shelter, where scavengers bartered.  He made his way to the man they called the Scholar. He was said to have been from the city, bearing great knowledge of all things and having survived the explosion.

Sitting himself before the ashen old man, Bryn met his eyes. One of them was gone, ripped out by a creature in an unfortunate confrontation. The empty socket made Bryn shudder in unease. Trying to make himself more comfortable, he removed the gun that had been weighing down on his shoulder for the entire day and placed it on the small wooden crate between them.

“Could you tell me what this is?” Bryn took the sphere out from his tool belt and unravelled the glowing purple orb in his palm. The old man’s sunken eye lit up with unnatural excitement. He let out a grin, revealing his decayed yellow teeth.

“Boy,” he replied, his eye not once leaving the metallic sphere, “What you have there is a priceless gem.”

“Gem?” Bryn was confused. He had seen gems before, and this was definitely not a diamond or a ruby.

At last, the old man’s eye lifted his eye at Bryn. Disdain filled his face as he scowled at Bryn’s ignorance. “This,” he pointed towards the orb, “Is a nuclear cell. If you take this to the city, you can sell it for millions, brat.”

Bryn’s eyes widened, bewilderment filling his thoughts. What he had in his hand was no longer just another piece of scrap metal. It was a possible entrance fee to a safer, better life. The old man’s eye met his and Bryn sensed the desperation in the Scholar. The old man’s shrivelled arm shot out to grab the sphere, but Bryn was faster. He had gripped it and retracted his arm. The old man missed it by mere centimetres.

Fury filled his eyes as he snarled at Bryn. “Give it to me!”

Bryn shook his head, knowing that he would not, could not give up his only hope for a better life. Bryn scrambled to his feet, backing away from the man slowly. The old man no longer seemed wise and reverent now. He looked feral, greed and desire clouding his eye as he stalked towards Bryn. Bryn felt small, intimidated by the single eyed beast towering over him.

The old man was merely an arm’s length away from him, but as Bryn looked for a way to escape, he realised that the exit was on the other end of the aisle. Behind him, there was only a wall of scrap metal. His back hit the cold metallic surface that kept him from the freedom of the night outside. An arm ripped his own forward from behind his back, where he was trying to keep the precious orb out of reach. Bryn thrashed and struggled against the old man’s iron grip, but the Scholar’s unprecedented strength allowed him to pry Bryn’s fingers open easily and extract the sphere from his possession.

As easily as he had stripped Bryn of his chance of escaping this vile place, he shoved Bryn backwards. Bryn stumbled and fell onto the ground. He looked up at the thief who had stolen his hope from him. The Scholar fiddled with the gun, his gun, expertly as he slit the orb into where the core of the gun would be. With old wizened hands, he lifted the gun and aimed it straight where Bryn’s heart was. The old man squeezed the trigger without any hesitation and a flash of purple shot from its silver nozzle.

Bryn felt a scorching pain. There was a burning in his heart, where his hopes had soared previously. His eyes wandered aimlessly as his vision blurred. He could see the fuzzy blur of lights in the distance, outlining the city’s buildings and structure. He gazed distantly as city life pulsed in vibrant colours, locked away from him, forever.