We started off down a dusty road towards the gleaming metallic horizon. Few of the things we would have expected to see along the way appeared in front of us. But heading into the arid western plains, the odd kangaroo bounded along the fencelines as though to urge us to speed up, away from the peril we left behind.
The old truck that we were driving in was riddled with bulletholes and rust. It hummed along at about 50km/hr, but at least it had a roof on it and it being pale yellow in colour did a reasonable job of reflecting the searing heat from the reddy purple skies above.
Several crumbling blackened remains of buildings that were once bustling with life served as a reminder that this was not a tourist route, this was a highway not to be loitering around on taking pictures.
I was lucky enough that my travelling companion Lucy had an antique camera, probably from the early 80’s that her grandmother had lovingly passed on at her 21st birthday. Much to the muffled laughter and squeals of delight from the other kids that were there. Kids for whom the idea of having a separate camera at all wouldn’t have occurred to any but the most ardent photographers. But who was laughing now, you could travel days, weeks even before happening across mains power. And then pay a small fortune to plug in to connect with one of the other isolated communites far away across the salt plain.
Were there still large bustling cities, cut off by now larger tracts of ocean, on other continents that still resembled the places we grew up in. A metropolis not infected by biological disease and the horrific devastation of the nuclear fallout? The eastern seaboard of Japan followed Chernobyl somewhere in the Siberian wilderness, then Delhi, and a large part of the Californian interior were also comprimised, not by war but by the stern hand of mother nature.
All of this geography mean little to Newt, whose education was limited to the practicalities of survival and an innate sense of humour sorely lacking in the frontier towns that he passed thru. If only he and Lucy had something more to give to the survivors they encountered on their journey. More than just a few essentials that might keep these poor souls going for another week or two, perhaps a month if they were lucky. But they sang folk songs from the old country, some which their new brethren were happy to sing too. Lucky that Silvie and a beautiful voice, one that gave people a sense of belonging to something ancient and grand, even if the remote chances of their culture surviving grew dimmer every day.
The last town they visited was one of those places that was once undoubtedly very beautiful, with huge lake behind the township. It would have been beautiful on a blue sky day with birds and fish and teeming wildlife in the water and on the muddy banks, but not now that the sky was such a foul colour, more like the colour of the earth all reds and yellows, a wafting grey cloud that swirled around inviting no one outside to play under that hot beating sun.