Day 230: Going it alone


“Fine! Screw you! I don’t need you anyway.” I yelled at Warner’s retreating back. “You and your rules and your physical prowess and your survival expertise!” I coughed and spluttered, throwi All Warner did in reply was raise a hand, middle finger stretched into a final word. Then, he was over the crest of the dune and was gone.

I blinked in the sunlight. I didn’t think he’d actually go. We’ve been travelling for weeks together and he’d stuck with me through all of that. We separated from the caravan on day 5. Then Clarissa had died of heatstroke. Marnie ended up being bitten by Agkistrodon Piscivorus. The cottonmouth viper to most other people.

We just kept losing them. One after another, until it was just me and Warner. Him with his expertise. Me with… Well, anxiety and an urge to lash out at things.

Which brings us to today. Brings us to five minutes ago, actually.

“Tully! Will you stop trying to get yourself killed every thirty seconds and work with me?” Warner had yelled. Actually yelled, too, not his usual soft grunt.

“Well, sorry. Not all of us spent years living in the desert because we had no friends.” This wasn’t the first spat we’d had. It was the last.

He punched me in the jaw. “I don’t have any friends because they’re all dead.” He stepped back, staring down at me sprawled on the floor, shaking his hand in surprise. That’s right, I’ve got a really solid jaw. “Now, I’d rather not have a waste of space like yourself joining them, so how about you shut the fuck up and do what I tell you!”

It was the first time I’d seen him snap. He’d been so composed throughout this thing, ever since the crash. But now?

He kicked me in the ribs, breaking at least two of them. “Perhaps if you stopped whining for thirty seconds, I could keep you alive but no! You insist on fighting to die every goddamn second!” He was using kicks as punctuation. It hurt. “You know what, fuck this. Die out here, seeing as it’s what you’re aiming for.”

“Warner…” I tried to get up and he put me right back down.

“Fuck this. And you. I’m done.” He turned around and walked toward the sun.


That brings us up to now. I’m sat, in a desert, about to die from a variety of interesting ways.

Go me!

The Idiot in Tin Foil




Day 223: A scene that takes place in extreme cold


“This was your genius plan?” I yelled, my voice muffled by the thick scarf over my nose and mouth. “Hide on the fucking ice?” I reached up with my mitts to pull the drawstrings of my hood tighter.

Hodge didn’t even turn around, he just kept trudging forward across the white expanse. My goggles would fog up occasionally as I breathed, heaving breaths that shook my whole body. Trying to get across this place was going to kill me.

“Hodge! Where are we even going?” The thirteen men following us would be far better equipped than we were.

“Somewhere safe.” Two words. Two gruff words that just about made it over the howling winds.

Safety. That was something that had been missing from my life ever since I met Hodge, three weeks ago. We’d met at the Blackfriar’s Pub in London after conversing online. A forum for conspiracy theorists.

Turns out it was less of a theory than we first thought…

The Idiot in Tin Foil


Day 194: A rationalisation of bad behaviour


The glass shattered as the baseball bat slammed into it, a spiderweb of cracks emanating from the epicentre before the the myriad of pieces fell to the tarmac. The legend “Manny’s Electronics” disintegrated into a field of stars, casting light like a Jackson Pollock onto the surface of the pavement.

“Welcome to the break down of society, kid!” Albert said to me, beaming through his beard. “You see, when society breaks down, all that is left are the basest urges. The urge to steal, to rape and pillage and do whatever the hell you want. The only urge that remains is to survive, to thrive in the new world. You see,” he said as he leaned into the window, pulling out bundles of wires, digital cameras, anything and anything that he could fit into the backpack, “you’ve got to consider it this way. When you take away the rules, the only thing that’s left… Is the urge.”

He whistled as he plundered, raising a mammoth hand occasionally to scratch beneath his eyepatch. He’d lost the eye in the first few days of the rioting, said it had been one of the baton rounds that the police had started firing wildly into the crowd, trying to slow that inexorable tide of people.

The good old days, back when it had been police with non-lethals. Back before they’d brought the army in and ordered them to use live ammunition. It only took a quarter of them to obey the order and it meant that everybody knew somebody who died that night. I’d got away, somehow. I never even saw Jonathan get hit, but I’d been scared to begin with.

It all started with the protest. That’s a generalisation of course, as tensions had been growing for months, if not years. General Keenan’s death. The taxes, all to fund King Cadwaller’s war against the Arrogan. The food shortages. The backouts. Everything piling on top of one another until, as expected, it all came tumbling down.

The protest built to a riot. The riot had escalated and become a battle against the council. Then, in no time at all, it was an all out war. Bodies piling in the streets because nobody could get close enough to clear them away.

“So, Danny my boy, now is your chance! The government lies behind that thin green line along with all the laws. This world is yours!” He passed me the bat as we walked past an intact window. Designer clothes, somehow missed in the last few weeks. “You want it, boy, you take it.”

I hefted the bat in my hands, feeling the leather handle rubbing against my palms. “Do it, Danny. Smash the glass.”

“Do it.”

“Smash it! Now!” He commanded. THis was a man who was going to end up one of two things. A leader, or dead.

I swung the bat and watched as the glass, along with the life I used to know, shattered.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer. 

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. 

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 176:Your first fight


vintage-grey-airplane-plane.jpgI’ve been fighting my whole life. Everybody has.

It’s the world we live in since the Hammerfall Protocol. Colcannon proposed the idea back in the early nineties and they actually built it.

God damn Julian Colcannon. It turned into one of the ugliest words around after they actually commenced Hammerfall. You can say what you like about somebody’s mother or their sexual preferences, but if you call someone a Colcannon you’d best be prepared for a punch to the throat.

The bombardment only lasted thirteen minutes, that’s what we’re told. It levelled everything. Everything became rubble and dust. The fields and lakes were poisoned, the land itself was pummelled into a new shape. Everything my family had every known, taken away in thirteen minutes.

As you can imagine, food and resources became scarce. Everything is a fight for survival. That’s the world I was born into.

Mum never talks about how she survived Hammerfall.

Dad didn’t.

I was eight years old when I was out scavenging. I’d gotten away from everything else at this point by running. A lot of running. But this time I was feeling cocky. Mum had let me go out scavenging into the New Forest. I’d never been so far from Lakeside, but she’d told me that I was growing up now and had to learn to fend for myself. I was thin and wiry and in no way prepared for a fight.

Especially when I found the plane. It had split into three sections, two of which had been ransacked and only the barest skeleton remained. But the tail was still waiting in the deeper in the woods. It must have been.

It was. I found it after a couple of hours searching and there it was in all it’s glory. Pretty much intact, all the panelling. Mum told me we needed more metal and there it was. I’d marked its location on the map mum had given me and was about to start heading home when I heard them. Three of them, cutting through the woods towards me all yelling to each other.

‘Look, what’s that?’ One of them shouted. They’d found my plane. They started talking to each other about it, how they were gonna be rich when they traded in all the sheeting.

That’s when I made my move. I had a branch in my hands, bark rough against the soft skin. It was a really satisfying thud as it connected with the first guys head.

The other two rushed me as he went down. The first guy sent me to the floor with a shoulder to my chest, knocking all the air from my lungs. The second guy started kicking me while I was down, his boots thudding into my ribs, my arms, my legs as I curled into a foetal ball. The first guy joined in quite quickly.

Hey, you asked for my first fight. Not my most successful one.

I’ve got no idea how long that lasted. It could have been seconds, it could have been hours. All I know is that eventually they dragged me away to the edge of the woodland and stole my map. I was bruised and broken, but managed to make it back to town, hobbled and lame.

Mum screamed when she saw me. She wouldn’t let me leave the ramshackle hut that we called home for six weeks.

She sure as hell didn’t let me scavenge again for a long time.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 160: Tell the story of a time you lost an argument


nature-field-countryside-house.jpg‘Dammit, K, you are not going back out there!’ He brought the rifle up to his shoulder, leaving me staring down the barrel. For a .306, it was looking wider than the proverbial tunnel. No lights at the end of this one though.

‘Flick, one of us has to. We both know it. Why the hell am I the only one admitting it?’ I reached towards the barrel, to push it out of the way, but he just brought it up tighter. First time he’s ever held a weapon without the damn thing shaking and it’s pointing at me.

Sally coughed from the back of the shack, where she was lying on a filthy mattress on the equally filthy floor. We’d been here for three days now and every one of them she’d got worse. It started with her breathing, which was getting laboured. Then, on the second day, her tears ran red.

‘Sally’s dying, Flick. There’s medicine, or doctors or something out there. And one of us needs to go. You’re not going, you need to hold the fort. I’m more experienced, I’m older and so I’m less likely to die. That’s that.’ He was shaking now, his wide blue eyes flashing in the lantern light. ‘Besides, the previous tenants left it in a bit of a shit state. I was going to tell the landlord.’

He smiled at that one, but the rifle still wasn’t moving. ‘K. That’s the whole reason I should go. You’re more likely to live!’

Sally coughed again and moaned in her tortured sleep. ‘Flick! Keep your voice down. Sally needs to rest.’

‘No, K, she needs medicine.’ He lowered the rifle. ‘You’re not going out there, right? At least… Not until it’s light.’

I hadn’t even realised that night had fallen. It came so quickly now that the Winter had arrived.

The Creats were active tonight too. ‘Look, K, let’s get some rest. All of us. I’ll check on Sally in a couple of hours. Go on. You can even have the bed.’

I was dubious, but thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. I waited until he was bedded down on an army style cot that we’d found a few weeks back, waited for that telltale rasp in his breathing, then reached for the door handle. A Creat moaned outside and I brought my hand back as if I had been stung. If the Creats were out in force, even I couldn’t go out there. I pulled up a chair, settled myself in for the night.


Sally’s coughing woke me up. That and the fact that Flick…

He’d gone from his empty military camp cot. ‘Bastard! I looked down at Sally. Our only options, as I’d said, were me and him.

He’d taken the choice away.


The Idiot in Tin Foil


Day 126: Where you wish you were


It’s been four weeks since I found Escala. Fourteen people who made it through the blast, none of them showing any signs of mutation or radiation issues.

Their doctor hadn’t made it.

They had a ritual. Every day, they gathered in what passed for a town square and had circle time. I know, a pre-school ritual turned into a lifeline for these survivors. There was only ever one topic.

Where you wish you were instead of Escala.

Caroline, the woman that would have been Mayor if this had been a serious settlement, always went first. ‘When I was a girl, my parents had a cottage in the woods. We would go there in the summer, spend long days carefree and joyful while my parents held the fort at home. There was my brother, my sister and me. We all had different interests, but that little cottage catered to them all. My sister loved to bake. Not a day went by when the smell of freshly baked bread, or pastries, or pies didn’t float through the branches. There was a windmill just five minutes up the road and they’d always give Annabel her flour for cost. She paid them in smiles and would always take them the last piece. “One for the millers.” Every time Derren went for that final piece, that’s what she’d say. Usually she was chasing him away with a wooden spoon.’ She’d relax into the memory by this point, feeding it piecemeal to the hungry people sat around her. ‘Derren was always out hunting. Papa had given him a bow and arrow when he was a boy, and Derren had taken it to heart. He came back one day with a stag. Struggled back with it for a good couple of miles.’

She shook her head. ‘Derren never trusted guns. They were too loud, too unreliable. But the bow, that was always the way to get things done. He could hit a squirrel from 30 yards.’

She always paused there, to let the feat sink in. It didn’t matter that they’d heard this story so many times before, there was always an appreciative oooh from that captive audience. ‘Me, however, I was an explorer. Mother and Papa always kept that cottage stocked with pencils and paper, and I would explore and make maps. They’re probably all still there, locked up in that tiny little cottage in the woods.’ This is where a tear would make an entrance, if that nights performance were featuring tears. ‘But that’s where I’d be. Safe and warm in my cottage in the woods.’

She sat down to a round of applause. I joined in halfheartedly. I couldn’t understand this town, with their rituals. They were so caught up in the past that they could see nothing of the future, simply letting the time pass them by until another disaster came along.

‘… and that’s where I’d be if I weren’t in Escala.’ That guy wanted to be in the Everglades. The next fancied Birmingham, in the United Kingdom. Not that there was a United Kingdom to turn to anymore. A bunch of fractured states, fighting for scraps, that’s all that was left of that once great nation.

‘I’d be in Buffalo. My sister lived in Buffalo.’ The young woman across from Caroline said. Her raven hair covered the left half of her face, but her right eye was deep and intense. I often caught her staring at me during these sessions. As if she knew that I was waiting for the moment to say it.

One by one, each of the sheep went up to the slaughter. Cleveland. New Zealand. Ontario. Places and people and feeble reasoning, falling like dominoes until the only one left standing was me. They all looked at me, eagerly awaiting the rehearsed speech about the houseboat on a canal in Derbyshire. They weren’t getting that today.

‘Where would I rather be than Escala?’ I said, rising from my lawn chair. ‘Future Escala. I’d rather be in the town that this town could be. Look at you all!’ I gestured to the group, looks of confusion spreading across their faces. ‘Harold, I know you were a trained mechanic. Now you’re happy to whinge and whine about how nothing can get in or out? There are trucks everywhere. Fix one!’

I saw Harold murmur, fighting to stay in the happy-clappy impromptu town that had a Harold shaped depression inside. ‘But I left that life behind.’ He whispered, barely audible.

Audible enough though. ‘We all left our lives behind, Harold. We didn’t choose to, those lives were ripped away from us. But we have a choice, here, today. Listen to me. Escala has the potential to be a thriving heart, a harbour for those lost souls still out there. But we can rebuild this place into the place it should be.’ I could see that I was getting through, but it was like hammering jelly to a tree.

‘People! What if, when other towns sit and ask where they would rather be, they said Escala? If they sought you out, bringing lost loves and families together. There’s more than enough material for homesteads.’ I could see the raven-haired girl nodding, more enthusiastically with each word. It buoyed me along, getting me swept up in my own words.

Caroline stood up then, taking the wind from my sails. She was an imposing presence and without her, this plan was never going to work. ‘You’re right, Patrick.’ She smiled at me, losing years in the process. ‘We can make Escala the centre of a new community.’

I held my breath. Caroline was one to give orders after an epiphany. She didn’t disappoint.

‘Harold, see if you can get the delivery truck on main street started. Sharon, you and Melanie are to scout the businesses further up the highway. I want everything edible, drinkable and anything that will help us live. Carter…’ Her orders went on for a while. I couldn’t believe that this was all she had needed. The raven-haired girl (I really have to get her name) slipped away, having received her orders from Caroline.

I’d seen the potential in this place as soon as I got here.

There’s only so much circle time anybody can take. Besides, my old life could stay firmly behind me. I didn’t want anybody finding me.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 118: The long-lost roommate


Three days.

That’s how long it’s been since Michael went through.

He’d taken the bag. There were two, one green sixty-five litre rucksack and one shoulder bag. Michael’s had all the survival gear. The fishing gear, the rain covers, the bandages. All of the currency. We called it the live and go bag.

The other one, the shoulder bag. That was the die and go bag. It had the weaponry. Everything we’d collected over the years. Two pistols. Completely illegal, by the way, but we had them. Two rifles. Those we actually had permits for. I was the better shot with the rifle, but Michael could take out five tin cans in a row from twenty metres with the pistols. And ammunition out the wazoo.

That was just our thing. We were prepared for anything. Had been since the start. But this… This was all about the gate.

Four days ago, the gate had appeared in our room. An eight foot door in the wall. Cold flames bursting across it’s flat surface, iron bars sunk into the fiery facsimile of wood. No heat, just turbulence and fury under a thin veneer of ice.

It’s the last place you’d expect for any strange appearance, our shared flat above a chinese takeaway but would you believe it, we came back from The Undercroft after a few whiskies and there it was. Shining, shimmering, terrifying.

We had an argument. I said we had to tell someone. He said we should go through it. It got aggressive. I’d said some incredibly derogatory things about his mother and a duck, he’d told me to roll my opinion into a cylinder and insert it length ways.

Then twenty four hours later, there’d been a hole in the dust. Shaped rather a lot like a sixty-five litre rucksack that was full of food, fishing gear and rain covers.

So I’m sat here. Waiting for Michael. Or I could…

If I let myself think about this, I’ll chicken. I’ll just…

The die and go bag is in my hand already.

Three steps.

Two steps.

One step.

I’ve gone through. Into the unknown.It’s hot. It’s dusty. And the door is gone.

It’s time to find Michael.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 116: Waking up elsewhere


I opened my eyes, blearily. The Duke of York may have had ten thousand men, but at least half of his company were marching up and down through the crevasses of my brain. Every single one of them was fuelled by tequila and bad decisions. I stared at the crack in the curtains, sunlight stabbing through into my vulnerable eyes.

Bright sunlight, too. Which was odd. I swear it was raining when I went to sleep. Or at least as I was walking home. My hair was definitely still damp. And my clothes were…

Missing. I was stark bollock naked.

I rolled over, trying to ignore the starburst that began just behind my eyes and rolled down to my roiling stomach. I looked at my watch, thankfully still there, solid and shining on my blurred wrist. ‘Half past one?’ I croaked in a voice I’d clearly stolen from Batman. ‘What even happened last night?’ I clutched at the duvet as if it was a lifeline.

‘Good morning, rise and shine and all that nonsense!’ A gruff voice echoed from behind me. I would have rolled over, but after the first wave of nausea I was hesitant to try again. ‘Now, it is time that you found your feet and got out of the beds!’ The English was off-centre, as if it had been run through a translator once or twice and then turned back into English. The meaning was there, just a bit confused.

I was still pondering the language when a giant hand closed around my neck. I was yanked from the bed like a rag doll and held off the floor. I could feel my spine popping as I was turned around to face a beast.

‘Hello Sir! Welcome to The Abbey.’ The creature, with a face that looked like it had been sculpted badly out of clay, yelled at me.I called it gruff before, but it was closer to being artificial. ‘Time for the dressings and the awakening days.’ The creature place me gently on the floor and clomped away. Clomping was the only way to describe it, heavy footfalls deliberately placed, strangely delicate but firm. He thudded away into a room down the stone corridor. ‘Good morning, rise and shine and all that nonsense!’ His coarse voice trailed as he clomped into the next room.

I sat in a heap on the floor, bewildered. The soldiers in my head had all taken a tumble when the creature had dragged me from the bed, but now they were back and drumming their little hearts out. I screwed my eyes shut, hoping to get some clarity.

I got nothing. When I managed to clear the cotton wool from my mind, bearing in mind it was still fuzzy, I slowly let the light back into my head. I saw a jumpsuit, neatly folded on the table next to me, along with a pair of black hi-tops. An odd combination, but one that I can work.

The real question… Where the hell am I?

The Idiot in Tin Foil


Day 113: It’s 2100 and the world is running out of fresh water. Describe a typical day.

pexels-photo (1)

A wet tongue rolled across my face, hot breath blowing into my face with a deep woof. I said something intelligent, like ‘Berglmcshammy’ as my blue, bloodshot eyes snap open. I raised my hand to my slobbery face and stared into the panting face of my German Shepherd. ‘Hero? Get off.’

Another low woof in reply, and I pushed him away. ‘I know, I know. Time to get going.’ My mouth felt like I’d been at Mama Jean’s moonshine all last night, so I could only imagine how Hero must be doing.

At least he’s a shorthair. I met one Watermapper out of Mountainside who had an Old English Sheepdog. Personally I’m surprised the poor creature was still going. Hero put him to shame though. The Sheepdog had completely missed a potential mining site, but Hero had found it. That’s another tick in the box.

I rolled off my sleeping mat and crawled into the morning sun. Felt my vertebrae click one after the other as I rolled my spine. Some people say it’s good for me, some don’t. I don’t care. Makes me feel better. Especially after a night on the ground. I watched as Hero bounded off excitedly into the distance. I hoped it was water this time, though I could do with some breakfast. My stomach grumbled loudly in reply.

The dog came back with a sad looking lump of fur in his jaws. ‘Thanks Hero. Good boy.’ He dropped the sorry mess at my feet and looked up at me with those big eyes of his. ‘Squirrel?’ I said sarcastically. He wasn’t going to realise, he was a dog. ‘I love squirrel!’ I hate squirrel. I fussed him anyway. He had just bought me breakfast.

I dealt with it. Food is food out here in the desert. Skinned it slowly then roasted it over an open fire. Fires were certainly not hard to come by out here. But water was the real reason we were out here. Irwin Johnson, Watermapper First Class. Accompanied by Hero, German Shepherd. That’s what it said on our cards. That’s how much this world relies on water, the people who go find it get trading cards made for them.

I could have been a miner, down at that new lake they’d found beneath Tartarus. At least then I’d get to settle, instead of gallivanting across the waste all the time. Could have been a trader with one of the caravans running from the desalination plants on the coast. But instead, I’d fallen for the propaganda and joined the Watermappers. Those damn posters, Lord Kitchener and that stupid finger of his.




I’ve seen a lot of the world. Most of it is sand, pitted with sad little settlements that are wilting in the heat. Occasionally, there’s darker sand. I saw the remains of a tree once, that was fun.

But I’ve gotten off track. We saddled up for the day after the tasty, tasty squirrel. I placed that beaten up helmet back on my head and started the engine. The bike was definitely due for a clean out tonight. Sand gets everywhere. I let Hero have a few sips of water then raised the bottle to my lips. It was going to be a hot one. We could do with finding something today.

Hero dived into the sidecar and looked up at me. ‘What?’ His eyes seemed to be screaming at me to go. ‘Alright, alright. Stop nagging.’ And we set off across the sands.

Me and Hero go way back. First day that I’d entered the Mappers Academy, I’d been hit by a streaking missile of fluff. He couldn’t have been more than eight weeks old, but he packed a punch. I’d picked him up and looked into those big, brown eyes of his. ‘I’m not getting attached to you.’ I’d told him.

I’d lied.

Hero’s tongue lolled out of his mouth in the breeze. If he barked, it was once for a water source and twice for a foreign scent.

He woofed, once.

‘Woof right back at you.’ I told him. I checked the POC, the wrist computer that showed two things. Active sites and recently flagged. It was one of the four essentials of the Watermapper. POC, Shotgun, Radio and Dog. That’s right, even the bike isn’t essential. It’s just easy because fuel’s cheaper than water.

POC showed a site nearby, flagged by Pentecost. He was from Olympus Settlement, one of the best Watermappers in the world. Definitely worth checking out. I gunned the engine, rolling us across the dunes toward the site.

That’s when Hero barked twice. Officially, that’s a foreign scent. Any Mapper worth his salt knows what it really means though.

Raiders. Waterchasers. There’s a society of them out here, living as nomads. They’ll do anything to keep the Mappers away. I looked down at Hero, breaking the shotgun over my arm as I did so.

‘Come on then, Hero. Let’s get them, boy.’

The Idiot in Tin Foil


Day 105: Comfort

Have you ever experienced it? The warmth, the smothering? We chase it, we hunt it down. We seek the person that provides that comfort to us.

It’s not my fault that I haven’t found it yet. I just want to feel the warm embrace… I want to feel accepted. I’ve spent too long chasing it, only to have it slip away. It’s hell out here in the wastes. I just want someone to hold me.

It’s been months since I saw a living person. Thousands of corpses, but not one living soul. Occasionally I see the mutated pigeons… Damn those things can fly. I saw one carrying something… Must have been the size of a classic Mini Cooper. It’s almost as bad as the cockroaches…

You know you’ve strayed into the bad regions when you see the Roachmarks. The half melted rocks from the mating displays, the thousands of trackmarks when they stampede, chasing down some poor sap who got caught in the wastes. I’ve seen the people who survived the attacks, poor bastards missing limbs, eyes… I saw one little girl who got caught in a swarm. Lost her parents, poor mite, then lost her arms. She’s lucky Mustang was kicking around in the area.

Nobody should ask why Mustang was in the area. I know, but I ain’t telling nobody. Fair to say, it ain’t for the faint of heart. But he found her, brought the poor lass back to Revelation. Those goddamn roaches and their acid.

That’s the problem with this whole damn world. The troubles came. They call it the troubles as if it was a mugging in a park. Global Thermonuclear War and they call it the troubles. It’s not a goddamn scuffle in a park.

I just want comfort back. I’m sick of this world. I want my old world back.

Many thanks to Quintessential Editor, who’s lighthearted postscripts in our correspondence came up with the acid roaches and the car-rier pigeons.  Excellent writing tips and light-hearted looks on life. Honestly, check out his blog here.


I should also probably mention the Fallout series of games… That stuff’s amazing. 

The Idiot in Tin Foil