Of course, we didn’t put up much resistance as the raiders came rolling into our little town. They didn’t even need to fire off a shot, although they did so anyways. One of those idiots was leaning out the side of their stripped-down Jeep, firing an AK-47 up into the air like he was Rambo or something.
What an idiot.
We, of course, instantly had our hands up. What are we going to do, fight back? We’re farmers, not mercenaries! And it might be the Wild West out here, society collapsed and every man for himself, but we have a healthy respect for many things still.
For example, none of us is much inclined to replace our internal organs with chunks of hot lead…
They had two cars – the Jeep, as I mentioned, and what looked like the world’s most battered SUV. The thing was missing its roof, for god’s sake! Four or five raiders in each car, all of them armed to the teeth. I suspected most of it was for intimidation – ammo’s as precious as gold out here – but it did the job.
They came pulling to a stop in the dusty little town square, right in front of our big communal town hall. ‘Course, it’s also a schoolhouse, church, and meeting room, seeing as how it takes a lot of work to put up a building when it’s all done by hand. The gasoline’s long gone, or being hoarded for plowing equipment.
I came strolling out of the hall as soon as I heard the gunshots. “Howdy there, folks,” I greeted them politely as they all came piling out of their dirty cars, doing my best to ignore the guns. “What can we do for you here?”
The leader was pretty clear – he had a red bandana and a pair of those old Aviators sunglasses covering up his face. “What the hell does it look like, old timer?” he shot back at me, his voice filled with barely controlled rage. “This is a damn raid!”
“A raid?” I raised my eyebrows, tried my best to look surprised. “Friend, I’m afraid that we’re nothing but simple farmers, doing our best to survive. You won’t find much of value in our little town, although we’d be happy to provide you and your friends with a hot meal.”
The man jabbed his rifle at me. “Watch it, old man! You might have white hair, and get respect around here, but I won’t hesitate to shoot you.”
I shrugged, but kept the slight smile on my face. I knew that my words carried the ring of truth, and as I waited, I think it began to sink in to the leader of the raiders as well.
After a long, uncomfortable minute, the man jerked his head at a couple of his associates, also toting their own big guns. “Go poke around,” he ordered. “See if you can find anything worth grabbing.”
The men looked a little angry that they had to do this menial labor, and I saw one of them open his mouth to complain, but the leader raised his gun threateningly. The other fellow hastily closed his mouth and they went trooping off.
I placidly watch them disappear into the fields around the little gaggle of buildings.
With his men dispatched, the leader turned back to me. “Now, why don’t you take me inside this building of yours,” he said, his tone making it clear that this wasn’t a request. “And no sudden movements, or I’ll cut your spine in half.”
I shrugged, not rising to this threat. “Follow me, son,” I said gently, and headed back into the town hall.
We pushed through the doors, moving towards my study. The man was still hefting his gun when I glanced back at him, despite my disarming smile.
Inside my study, he poked around, sidling up to the large plant in the corner. “You farmers sure like your plants, huh?” he asked, prodding it with his gun.
I winced. “I wouldn’t agitate it, if I were you,” I warned him, but the man was having none of it.
“Agitate? Screw this damn thing!” he bellowed, lashing out with one foot at the base of the large plant.
The foot didn’t come back. With lightning speed, the tendrils of the plant lunged out, wrapping around his ankle. The sudden jerk threw the raider off balance, and he went tumbling down to the floor, the gun knocked from his hands by the hit.
I slowly strolled over and used my foot to push it further away from his grip, just in case. The plant had already managed to advance up the man’s legs to his thighs. He stared up at me from the floor.
“Please, old man,” he begged, confused and disoriented. “Please, it hurts!”
I turned away. The plants injected a mixture of paralytics and hallucinogens that kept their victims from fighting back, but it still wasn’t too pleasant to see. Instead, I bent and picked up the fallen gun, and then strolled back outside.
Out in the circle, the other farmers were already emerging from their fields, carrying the rifles of the other raiders. They looked at me, and I just shrugged. “We’ll put them in the back with the others we’ve collected over the years,” I said.
“And the vehicles?” asked another farmer.
“Drain them of the gas, and then we’ll burn them outside of town. No point in keeping them, they’re useless to us.”
The men just nodded and turned away, no one hurrying much. We weren’t in any big rush. There was never any danger.
We were just simple farmers, tending to our crops. But in exchange for us nourishing them, they watched out for us in turn. It was the great circle of life.