That evening the sky had changed its skin from puke-yellowish to shitty-brown and begun showering us with some principally new kind of crap, a bit like overcooked hair of an albino rat. But my detector seemed to ignore this nuisance, so AK and me strolled with our helmets off, chatted, stuffed ourselves with that loathsome moonshine from "Dark Corner" - you could refuel a Humvee with it, there's more solar in it than alcohol, although where the hell would you find a Humvee nowadays? And then, all out of a sudden, that wonder flies right into us - a hound, big, black, full of pedigree, and it's not aiming at our stinky throats, no, it's wagging its stupid shaggy tail and whining from sheer happiness! For all i know it must have been the last dog in the world, those tiny stray mongrels have all been wiped out, not that there was much meat on them, and the background did the rest, those poor buggers can't hold a dose, go bald and rot on their paws in week. And now - this! Then AK, the sucker, goes shitnuts, pulls his beloved cannon - that's how he got his nickname, they say he sleeps hugging his gun, and it's a big question whether they have anything, you know, serious between them two, kidding, kidding - and launches a burst from the belly, spreading shreds of dog fur over, like, 10 meters of cracked concrete. I shout: "You fuckhead, are you out of your fucking mind, it was tame, i could break its neck right here, or slice it open, and what have you done, what the hell did you waste half a clip on, you bloodshitter?!", and he grins: "I don't give a fucking damn, i have more ammo now than i could spend even if i shoot every prick like you! You want my AK? Take it, i've got a stock of those, too, like, enough to fill a lorry!" Well, even a dickhead like him would understand i wasn't going to get off him after a statement like this, so he goes on confessing: "Once upon a time - that is, coupla days ago - i went to the fourth crater, the furthermost, you know, you can grab a lot of stuff there if you don't mind grabbing a few Roentgen, too." I think to myself - what a bloody moron, another few of those forays and his balls will shine in the dark like them glowshrooms, no need for a flashlight anymore. He must've read it on my face: "What" - sniggers - "too chickenshit to go hot yourself, but still want my stash, heh? Go suck, there is no stash!" I snap: "Don't fuck with me, you itchy ratcock!" And he keeps braying: "You just listen on, that's no Junkard's heroism for you!" Junkard had once fought a pack of electrocats for and old storehouse and won, and got too proud of himself to ever sober up. I bumped into him recently - one foot in the grave, face all bluish and not even overhanging, more sort of flowing and forming icicles, like concrete in the craters, where it hasn't yet dissolved in acid rains. And that storehouse, by the way, must've been stocked before the Third Big Bombing, it was so old you couldn't tell where the cans ended and their contents began, and all that was mixed evenly with cat shit and radioactive dead cat. "So," - continues AK - "as i was passing through the Park, just where we'd strung that fatcunt..." Here he shuts up briefly and gloats like a decomposed rat, clearly recalling life's little pleasures. Not so little that one was, i must say - we were also strolling like this, the two of us, already loaded with some proper booze and all, through the Park - it's a strange place, the Park, overgrown with some weird crap, maybe crystals, maybe 'shrooms, it munches up the background, so you can take your rad-suit off and enjoy - when that bitch ran just there in front of us, young and fresh, like, 14-15, just what i like. What smartass let her out to jog like that on her own i don't want to know, it's his problems, right, finders-keepers! Anyhow, first thing she tried to show some speed, but i wasn't into marathons - lifted a boulder and sent it smack into her bony spine, i've always had a good aim, ask anyone, though some won't answer on the account of being dead. Well, she flipped face down, and then all she could do was say "Welcome!" Mind it, the bitch wasn't too clean, of course, but healthy, no scabs anywhere, what a rarity nowadays, and smart - didn't wriggle overmuch, only murmured something pitiful while we took our turns. Like, i remember, some three years ago i pinned down that other cunt between the first and the second craters, hell knows what was she looking for in that dump, maybe for a good screwing, well, she thought she knew some karate or whatever shit and decided to practice it on me. I had to soften her every second bone with a lead pipe until the bitch finally calmed down and spread her legs, and then only because she'd just switched off. "Well, so on that very spot i bump into this old jerk. And i see there's no suit with him! Not just on him - with him, at all, imagine that!" "What do you mean, no suit" - i start getting tired of this bullshit - "How did he get to the Park then, by chopper?" It's our private little legend with AK - as if before the Bombings there used to be that huge metal contraption, like a lorry or a Humvee, but it could fly. Crap, of course, chunks of iron don't fly, and anyway what if you hit a cloud, it would probably melt even the metal and the poor buggers inside would be reduced to bones. Jointy once told me how he found a village a cloud had landed on. He said even he got some goosebumps there, and he's no chicken when he's stoned - decayed buildings, everything softish, sort of half-dissolved, those little bunches of human bones everywhere and each one in its own tiny puddle where all the rest has leaked onto the ground. Still, i like the chopper idea, it's quite something to laugh about. But AK wouldn't be strayed so easily: "Go fuck your chopper," - he says - "you asked me yourself, didn't you, now shut your mouth and listen! There's no protection on him, as i said, no suit, no mask, no gun, nothing, walks with a limp, dressed up for a comic show, like when they slap each other and fall in shit, a flat hat on his head topped with some spooky long thingy, like he's plucked it from the tail of some crazy beast, but instead of fur it's lined with some other type of crap, whatever. I push the muzzle into his belly - he's clearly halfway out to there, it's safer to know i can send him on all the way, any time - and he just addresses me calmly, as if he thought it weren't loaded: "Young man, good gay! Tell me, what is it you desire the most?" How do you like it, hah? Well, it's no big deal to see i'm still a man, not one of those crippled hot freaks with no skin left on them. But now i'm also "young", and the day is "good"! I snap: "Your ass, that's what i desire! What, you're now going to take off your pants?" and he replies: "Really, young man! Pants off - easily, what do i care? But this is not what you actually want. What is it? Tell me, and i shall provide." He got me a bit curious here. "OK," - i say - "give me another AK, just like my own, and five clips!" And then i almost go nuts, 'cause this old fart lowers his head like it's supposed to mean something, kicks the gravel a couple of times with a heel, and i see a barrel sticking out of there! Well, i simply trample the jerk, start digging like a mad rat, and there it is - AK, pretty new and shining, and five clips, fully loaded! Now, i'm no fool, right? "What do you want for the stash?" - i ask, while peeking around - slim chances he's really alone here, but if he is, so much for the deal, my gun is again at his stomach. He pulls a hide out of a pocket, thin hide, well cured, not rat, something else, all covered with tiny curvy thingies, like though chewed by a dozen roaches. "Just put a cross here and press your finger here - and we are done." I laugh in his stupid face: "Whom are you trying to screw here, you clown? Spill it, what's your price?" "Your soul" - he says - "Your immortal essence. The core and the primary code. Nothing else." That spooked me out a little - i heard rad-sickness must have something to do with some primary code, too. "What essence?" - i ask. Now get ready to laugh your ass off - the jerk replies, literally, i'm never going to forget this shit, it's, like, the best joke i've ever heard: "Young man, how shall i put it... Your soul is what you love with and what others love you for." Anyway, once i stopped neighing and checked my underwear to see if i shat myself out of sheer amusement, we discussed the subject seriously, and the old bugger was too bloody nuts to ever say "no". In the end i put a smudge on that hide of his and a cross nearby, just like he wanted. So now i have more ammo than i need, and a shitload of cannons, too. New boots, look, new helmet. And there's more, but that's a secret - you leak it, you're dead meat - i demanded a cunt then, clean one. Well, you know what? Greyman's bitch now runs to me every week or so. I don't think she even likes it much, i'm not blind, it's more like something is driving her. Of course, not a word to Greyman, she wants to live, after all - i hope you want, too, mind it, i warned you! Life, i say, may get very interesting soon - that limping freak, he mentioned he'd be visiting again, said our place was "a land of plenty" - plenty of what, i'd like to know, rotten shit? So you just keep your eyes peeled - maybe one day you'd also get something for that thingy they bloody fucking love us for!