– Very well, it’s decided. – From the tone of voice, you are quite convinced that Dommie adheres more to fear of angry Galvax than real conviction – we wait for the Rave and we join them. May the Healer protect us.
You stand on the road to wait, but wait is very short. You feel them miles away. First a whisper, then a squeaky noise that makes the ground tremble and overwhelms you with unique feelings: drums, brass, vibrant notes of guitars. Rhapsody is coming.
The band has few elements, but the vehicles are full of people as well as amplifiers: half a dozen vans and trucks rearranged to be at the same time home, carriage and stage. Instruments you’ve never seen before dazzle you with their chromes and flaming circles spread mixed heat to strange and inebriating smells. The Colorful Musicians greet you with stunning strumming while their vehicles adorned with the Guitar brand in the circle on fire slow down approaching.
On the tallest and greatest stage, a beautiful woman shows off in a disarming way: a minimal dress that leaves little to fantasy, long, loose hair that whirls in the wind of the engines, a guitar in hand that sounds masterfully shivering. Stop playing and fix you. Okay, you’re convinced she’s actually staring at Galvax, but you will not impress.
Salute the girl and tell her your destination. She smiles and caress the strings, producing a note of triumph.
– Of course you go to Rad City, guys. EVERYBODY go to Rad City! It will be a pleasure for us to give you a ride: a doctor is always useful, and the big guy looks pretty useful! About you … well, I hope you know how to handle a shocker, dude! Com’on, get on board: The Bikini Kill Speed Wagon doesn’t wait for anyone!
You climb on the short metal stairs leading to the first floor of the van, where the Musicians welcome you with packs on your shoulders and passing bottles and cigarettes. They are all thrilled to let you see their instruments rearranged, to talk about their music and to listen to their latest compositions. Afflicted with such a reception, drink and smoke without restraint: in a matter of minutes music and psychotropic substances have the best on your body that until now has just known hungry. Start laughing and singing, while perfect strangers hug you and giggle. A tiny, tiny part of your brain continues to shout not to trust them, but it’s overwhelmed by the momentary frenzy.
Suddenly, everything gets more confused, your head turns, you feel you have to get stomach and the world suddenly gets dark …
– Wake up. Wake up, stupid! You have to see this.
Acid flavor in the mouth. Heavy eyes. A migraine as you have never experienced.
Sunlight strikes you like a knife while the person you’re vaguely aware of being Galvax shakes you like a puppet.
Resume more or less your brain: you are completely naked. The good thing is that, at least, you are not the only one. It seems that suddenly wearing clothes has become illegal, in the Vastness. Galvax is the only one who still wears his full armor, and as far as you know he didn’t touch a drop of alcohol and smoked anything.
“Stupid idiot,” he says, “I hope you had fun. Your shocker and your possessions are surely in your pocket to someone more awake now.
Try to answer, but every word turns into a barely restrained gagging.
– Perfect. You are really the best. Hurry up to find a pair of pants … we’re no longer in nobody’s land.
He’s right. Now that you can keep your eyes a little bit open, you realize that the landscape has changed a lot: the ground has become damp, so that the stage wagons get fatigued in the mud.
All around, smoke and tents fill the horizon. See men and women wandering in the warm sunny morning, wrapped in strange furry dresses and floral silk. They have … something weird … but you don’t understand what.
Only when one of them passes really close to your vehicle and you can see it in his face, you understand.
The grazes and sores on his hooded face leave no doubt: Mutants! Like those who destroyed your outpost and killed your father! The hangover disappear in a while and scream at Galvax what you’ve seen, just to get a shoulder-lift and a look of sufficiency. Other than that, your friend passes a pair of used pants. They are not yours and you don’t want to know who got them, but they just fit as well.
– But can I know where the damn you lived so far? Of course they are mutants, idiots. We are going through a camp of the Saints. Have you ever heard of the cult of Saint Curie?
You fixed him with mouth open. Yes, Dommie had mentioned it to you (by the way, where that opportunist dwarf was hidden?) but you did not want to examine in depth, be like ad inept. Your big companion shakes his head and decides to help you understand.
-they are the dominant religion now. They worship radiation as a gift of heaven, and this damn Marie Curie as their prophetess. Totally fool, completely, I tell you. But they have a vast follow up, especially among the mutants and the desperate. I imagine that it’s an incredible joy for them to feel part of something sacred.
I formulate a comment more or less understandable that the warrior seems to dislike this religion.
– I don’t hate them, but it’s not for me. I would have preferred to cross the territory of the Inner self combustion, they can be for me. But I have to say that they are quite, we are traveling for a day and a half without any hassle … how do you say? Ah yeah, you slept for a whole day. Again, congratulations.
A full day to sleep. What the hell did you drink, exactly? And where’s Dommie? And at this point … how far is this famous Rad City?
While you’re questioning, the caravan slows down. You get sneaky to see and notice that the road ahead of you is blocked. From an armed crowd. Very very bad.
In the midst of the tide of men and mutants there is a woman: she wears a long kimono decorated with white and black cranes, on which stands the flower of Saint Curie. She wears a fur coat on her head, white once, now dirty with time and mug. His hands and his face, the only visible parts, show embalming and suppurative sores, and his lips are green, you don’t understand whether for a colored lipstick or a singular mutation.
When he speaks, he has the voice of a breaking branch.
– Musicians. I, Katya Shutendoji, reborn in the Gamma Embrace of the Saint, I greet you! We have allowed you to cross our territory and you have not caused any problems. I’m so happy! However, I thought that it would be unfair to let you pass without offering a chance to feel the touch of our Saint. You are men and women of art, but how can art be without the divine? One of you will offer himself to the ecstasy of the Gamma Kiss, knowing in this way what means and wants Saint Curie?
Bikini responds: she wears only a pair of shorts and a little shirts, and her hair and tricky makeup show that she too enjoyed the last nights . His voice is carefree but steadfast, as she speaks to the sanctified with what is clearly a discourse repeated many times.
“Oh you who speak in the name of the Holy One who protects and blesses the Vastness, I thank you for the secure road that you guarantee to this caravan of humble Musicians! We respect your cult, and many already remember the magnificent Curie in their songs. If any of my own wants to be blessed by you, be it! Life is too short and painful not to be able to choose religion!
A laugh shakes the vans, but not for joke: in fact, several Musicians come down from the wagons to form a row in front of Lady Shutendoji, kneeling down and continuing to repeat a niche at the same time pleasant and disturbing: “She wants us radioactive”. The woman approaches each of them, whispers and kisses their forehead with her emerald lips. Men thank her and come back on the wagons, some crying, others laughing, all singing.
One part of you is fought on whether or not to join communion. Sure, they are disgusting mutant, but there is a kind of spirituality and love in all this. If even members of Rhapsody can accept these blessings, then … then perhaps …
– HERETICS! SHITTY MUTANT! PREPARE FOR THE DOOMSDAY!
The cry from the loudspeakers invaded the incense air as a thunder: suddenly the peaceful procession is attacked by dozens of fanatical red dresses that shake shockers and torches.
A lot of torches. Some come near the embers to the mouth and spit flames, with which burn the desperate there. Their clothes are smeared by the red symbol of a flame, and are led by a huge priest with a amplifier to the mouth and a chainsaw in his hands. Continue to scream while he kills.
– The worship will never reach Rad City! You pay for it now, for poisoning our water supplies!
Madame Shutendoji responds with a laugh at the rival’s challenge, pulling out of her long sweater a chain mace.
-Don’t understand, idiots! We didn’t poison you, but blessed you! Now in your veins there’s the sacred Gamma! If you can’t accept the joy of the mutation … you can die!
The two start a lethal clash while the Cult Executor’s are responding to the fire. Panic breaks up: so far you have been involved in a lot of assaults and raids, but this is … a struggle of ideals.
– Musicians! This is not our battle! Defend the Convoy!
At Vate’s order, all members of the Rhapsody rely on tools and bottles to arm themselves. At the moment, however, no one seems interested in attacking you, too much interested to fight each other.
The worst thing is that you can’t understand who is right: if what the hoodie-man says is true, the Saint Curie worship has poisoned dozens of people … but at the same time, you see them while protecting children and mutants from the fires of the flames. The Inner self combustion fights for purity, but their zeal seems to you unknowingly and terribly.
Galvax does not have your moral dilemmas: laughing with joy, leaping from the chariot and running towards the Ardent, doing gestures that obviously recognize them, they welcome without any problems. And goodbye to what you thought was your only friend.
While you are still wondering if is or not the case to follow him, someone touches you a shoulder. Your reflexes make you turn around ready to kill, but there is only Dommie. The A-Doctor is back … and for the first time, his grin is replaced by a mask of terror. Shudders and sweating bullets.
– Please … please … conceal me! They can’t get me! What they do … what they do to those like me …
Slightly moves one of the bands on his arm. Below, you see a disgusting excrescence throwing pus.
– It’s so little, I know … but it would be enough to condemn me! I don’t want to burn! Please don’t let me burn! Let’s run! They will win, and then it will be our turn! Rad City is near now … we’ll go together!
TO THE NEXT CHAPTER