Amos slouched over the large rock and makeshift can-opener, eating a can of beans, as he awaited the punishing sun to stir the remainder of his party from what seemed like a hibernation. “I shoulda known better than to expect these gingerly dust-coated kids to get up by daybreak, but alas!”
Amos chalked up the delay in movement, motivation and mobilization of the Drifter mass to a latent fear of the recondite circumstance. Was it fear? On the sheriff’s part it certainly was. Something in the air gave rise to the unspoken agreement that everyone was equally shitting their pants, in unison. The sheriff felt more anxious than fearful of the near future. Thankfully, the Sheriff had those such as Caleb, who were slightly longer in the tooth. “Alright Drifters! It’s time for this collective to skedaddle!”
his authoritative voice put some pep in the groggy cowboys. “Get your shit now because we’re leavin’ in 1 minute. Embarking to Port Rose from this town is approximately a day’s long travel. You can rest when you’re dead!”
Like shuffling schoolchildren gathering their stuff at the end of the school day, the Drifters lazily packed up the last of their supplies, put on their gear and dusted themselves of the adhesive desert sand.
As the Drifter team slowly but surely filtered out of the entrance of Happy Alex, Amos led the group out, some on horseback and others on foot. Doing a quick head count, the sheriff approximated twenty-something Drifters of varying degrees of sociability. In the Wasteland, learning to speak so that your victim lets their guard down is a useful ability, so the fact that the Drifters were busily chattering away for once did not surprise Amos. They were simply sizing up their competition. At least this journey wouldn’t be boring.
Heading the pack, Sheriff Williams and the band were now on the outskirts of the town atop a rocky hill. They were now entering Happy Alex, in reverse. The trek many of them went through to arrive in the town concluded here and yet simultaneously commenced here as well. Passing the milemarker San Pedro cactus standing atop the rocky formation leading into Happy Alex, Amos turned around once he reached the cactus and bid his town farewell, perhaps forever. He had spent his childhood there, left it for the call of the wasteland, on which he was tempered and developed. Then, as irony would have it, the need for stability overtook and Amos once more settled in his town, only to once more disembark today. “Everywhere is good, but home is the best, ain’t it? Sorry, Mr. Alex, but you’re going to have to fend for yourself for a little while, just like everyone else in Filgaia.”
Sheriff Amos half-waved and bid farewell to the town over which he guarded. “Guess this here badge doesn’t mean anythin’ anymore outside here...”
plucking the star badge from his lapel, Amos dropped it on the ground before him, stripping himself of any title besides Drifter.
Ahead of the tall cacti lay a rickety bridge, sprawled out like a wooden carpet - the same bridge many crossed to enter the town proper. The bridge, barely wide enough for two people and lacking any guardrails, funneled everyone into a linear formation.“Be careful, everyone.”
Amos gave them a light warning.“If you could not push me off, that would be just great.” “Watch it!”
Amos was already exasperated.
Had everyone perished on this bridge, Amos would have turned back towards his town and resumed his post as sheriff immediately, but somehow the congregation managed to cross the wooden platform without a single casualty. After the bridge obstacle was tackled, the Drifters were now officially in the Wasteland. Taking a deep breath of wilderness, the sand scratched against Amos’s lungs and brought further motivation. “Just out of curiosity, how many of y’all have ever been to Port Rose?”
A figure in the distance began advancing towards the congregation. “Better late than never”
lightly taunting the somewhat imposing Drifter male heading towards them. Converging at a point equidistant between the man and the Happy Alex retinue, Amos shook the male Drifter’s hand once they reached each other, indicating that the ex-sheriff recalled the Drifter’s face or perhaps his D-list notoriety in the Wasteland. “Orean, if I’m not mistaken?”
Amos tried to clarify. “I’m Sher…I’m Amos Williams and we were just headed this way actually. Go on, introduce yourself guys,
” he spoke at the Drifters. “I hate to make you turn around. We’ll fill you in on everythin’, but as it stands right now, our short-term goal is to reach Port Rose. You ain’t injured, are ya? We got someone with medical experience if the need arises. I hope you got some rest before coming here, because it’s about a day’s trek Northeast from here. I have a contact there who may be of much use to us,”
somewhat hurried, Amos adjusted Mjolnir’s strap and pointed in the general direction of “northeast.” His rifle was surprisingly lightweight, but it was often misbehaved and so Amos was required to strap it down, lest it wander off like Nicky’s hat.
Removing a crumpled map of the desert, Amos observed it with some confusion and uncertainty. “Aw shit, which way is up on this map?”
He scratched his head. “Oh wait, nevermind. I think I figured it out.”
He was accustomed to using the stars as navigation or simply wandering where the wind took him. This mechanical approach to travel was almost certainly more reliable than just “winging it” but in this case, Amos was not simply spreading his wings, but was soaring. Amos had others with him - others he had to protect. That’s how Amos assessed the situation in his head, anyway, although on some fundamental level he acknowledged the Drifters were fully capable of taking care of themselves.
With newfound gusto and a new ally, Amos adjusted his ten-gallon hat to shield his eyes from the eastern sun and his Drifters set off eagerly towards the horizon.