Braving Zone

Nuclear fallout has left most of this area abandoned. Humans stop living here because the remaining radiation was simply too strong. Big box stores and public transit hubs now covered in overgrowth and surrounded by mass graves. The only people who come out to these areas are the scrappers. They call this area the brazing zone, an area even experienced scrappers stay away from. An area over run with mutated plants and animals. If you come out this far, you're ready for a fight or death. The radiation is simply too strong, too close to the initial blast. 

I'm not a scrapper, I've only used a gun once before but I'm out here alone. There's supposed to be a mass grave that hasn't been robbed yet. It should have what I need if I'm lucky. I need a great gift and there's nothing in the city grounds that'll do.I've searched for weeks within the walls and found nothing, so I'm willing to risk my life out here. Without it, there is no life worth living that I can return to.

Most streets are void of any life beyond the plants that have overgrown any remains of society. Despite the rumors, I don't spot any mass graves. The dark sky and haze make it hard to see some areas, but you can't walk past a mass grave and not notice. The neon still burning, hooked into the power grid forever provide an ominous light to the area that is filled with no surprises beyond the lack of surprises.

A K-Mart, the last chance before I need to return and decontaminate. The inside of the store was raided and broken down long ago. If any food remained, it's become nothing more than a base for mold now. Indistinguishable from the dirt and grime. Plenty of cleaning supplies, funny how those are always last to go. Even the toys and clothes have all been removed. Thew jewelry counter doesn't give me much hope either. Glass smashed in, blood dried in some spots, all of it gone. I drop to the ground, and activate my flashlight hoping something is left behind.

I spot it beneath one of the display cases, but I'm unable to reach. I can't seem to move the display case enough with just my strength either. I can create a lever and move it, I just need a bar and fulcrum. I break off piece of wood from a packing pallet in the back as my bar. For the fulcrum, I take the remains of a smaller display case. It doesn't take long before the wood snaps beneath the weight, but it moved the display case just enough for me to grab the gold ring beneath it. This is it, the perfect gift. This is exactly what I needed. I'd love to find another so we could have a matching set, but I don't have time.

I need to return in the next thirty-six minutes, otherwise I'll begin to suffer the effects of radiation poisoning. I tuck the ring into one of the small storage compartments located on my thigh and make my way back at a hurried pace, trying not to breathe heavy and put to much pressure on my air compressor. I stop only as I come face to face with a reindeer. It's massive antlers glowing a bright red, lighting it's vision. In the past, a reindeer wouldn't have caused panic, but this is not the past.

My heart began to race as it tapped at the ground with a hoof. I knew what was coming next, and my legs were powerless, unable to move as the beast rushed at me. There's no doubt in my mind that it has made meals of people similar to me visiting here. That's why this is called the proving ground. Even the most tame of animals have been driven mad by the radiation. I feel it's head slam square into my chest, I hold onto the antlers as it tries to bite at me. If I let go and fall it'll eat me, but I can't get my gun from here. My back slams into a wall, my vision goes blurry for a brief moment. Again, it rams into the wall. I don't feel my grip loosen as I fall to the ground. I reach for the small pistol I brought with me. It packs a punch but it doesn't do much good if I'm seeing double. I fire four quick shots before the guns forced cool down. I try to stand and run before the deer rams into my chest. I'm powerless beneath it as the hooves slam at my helmet. My visor cracks as I continue pulling the trigger with nothing. I'm too close to miss now. Finally a short flicker of light passes from the gun directly into the reindeer. It panics and flees but is far from dead. For now, I'm safe, if I can make it back.

I focus as hard as I can on my wristcomp. I've got 17 minutes of oxygen and a little less than a mile. I don't know if I'll make it, but I have to go. My only hope is that Surya accepts the ring and gives me his hand in marriage. I send a quick message, apologizing if I don't make it, and sharing my location. If I don't make it, he'll know I loved him.

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