As the wind whipped through the arid planes of what remained of Amarillo, Texas, on the outskirts of the small community of survivors a figure appeared in the distance. Jeremy Smith’s boy Kyle was the first to make out the figure of the man in the distance, running to the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Lodge, their converted town hall and lawman’s office. Kyle reports to Constable Rogers that there is a man, approaching town from the East.
“Is it the Roamers?” Rogers asked.
“Can’t tell, but there’s only one of them.”
Rogers grunts, telling Kyle to go find his dad and tell the others to hunker down until he gives the signal. Roamers don’t come around by themselves, Rogers thinks to himself. Is it a new chieftain or an envoy, sent to ask for more tribute?
Rogers fastens his belt and holster to his waist, taking the revolver from the gun case behind his desk. He loads the chambers of the gun and tucks a few bullets into his pockets, pins the tin badge he found at the old Sheriff’s Station, and walks out the door toward the entrance to town.
As the figure gets within a hundred yards of Rogers, he squints and cocks his brow. In the distance, he can see a man, about mid 30s and average height and build. The man is wearing blue lycra spandex with a pair of red athletic shorts over them. Spray painted on the chest is a diamond rhombus with a T centered within it. A pair of snorkeling goggles minus the snorkel and a red cape complete the man’s odd ensemble, as Rogers stands in wait, thumb tucked into his belt just in front of the handle of his gun. Oh god, Rogers thinks to himself. What wasteland madness is this retard bringing in with him?
“Are you the law of this town, Officer?” The stranger asked, stopping a few feet in front of Rogers, bringing his heels snapping together and flinging a salute to his forehead like an overeager toddler meeting a cop for the first time.
“Name’s Constable Rogers. I’m the town’s lawman and representative.” Rogers said, eying the man up and down for weapons, finding him to be completely unarmed. “Mind telling me who you are and what you’re doing here?”
“Never fear, goodly lawman Rogers!” He exclaimed, thrusting out his chest, his fists on his hips. “Turbo Guy, paragon of the wastelands and last true superhero of the Apocalypse! I come to offer hope and salvation to those in need across the wastelands, and punish the wicked!”
“Oh…” Rogers replied, relaxing the hand by his gun. He rubs the back of his neck. Great, now I got to worry about Roamers and this lunatic, Rogers thinks to himself. “Listen, you seem like a nice guy—“
“That’s Turbo Guy, paragon of the wastelands and last true—“
“Yeah, I got all that. You see, now might not be the best time for you to be in town.” Rogers said, putting a hand on Turbo Guy’s shoulder, leading him like a lost child in the opposite direction of town. Kyle emerges from behind an abandoned sedan, where he had been hiding and eavesdropping the entire time.
“Are you a real superhero?” Kyle asked. Turbo Guy smiles and ducks under Rogers arm.
“Why yes I am, junior citizen!” Turbo Guy boasted. “I was caught up in the middle of the blast when the bombs fell, but I survived and when I transformed from mild mannered comic books and figurine manager, Jeff Turbinsky, to TURBO GUY.”
“Do you have any superpowers?” Kyle asked.
“Well,” Turbo Guy said, a conflicted tone to his voice. “Some of my powers have yet to manifest themselves, however, I have superhuman bravery and a superhuman commitment to setting wrongs right. No evildoer has escaped my justice!”
“So you can help us with the Roamers?” Kyle asked.
“Ok, I think that’s enough,” Rogers said. “I think it’s time Mr. Turbinsky—“
“Whatever,” Rogers replied waving a hand dismissively. “I think its time for you to be on your way.”
“Very well.” Turbo Guy said. “I shall wait outside of town for these rapscallion Roamers to reveal themselves, so as to limit the chance of civilians being caught in the crossfire.”
“Fine,” Rogers said, taking Kyle by the arm. “So long as you keep it out of town, doesn’t matter to me.” He turns and walks back to town, pulling Kyle in tow. “Just another dead lunatic out in the wasteland.”
After Rogers herds Kyle back to his father, warning him to keep a closer eye on the kid, he walks over to the Highway Patrol saloon, an old DPS station converted into a pub and watering hole for the town. Rogers buys five cigarettes on credit from the bartender. He lights a cigarette and takes a long draw on that first blast of nicotine in his system. He had just quit when the first bomb fell. He joked to himself that the apocalypse forced him to quit quitting. Fact of the matter was, the end of the world was just a convenient excuse.
As the sun sets, Rogers keeps an eye on the outskirts of town, wanting to make sure he saw the Roamers coming into town and keep an eye out for their newest “protector.” They came to collect tribute towards the last of day light; they may be murderers, thugs and rapists, but they were punctual and regular to a fault. Rogers found a folding chair and made himself comfortable as he smoked.
After cigarette number three, Rogers spies Sally Henderson, her dirty blonde hair and stocky frame a singular sight among the women in town, walking down the main road to the Saloon. Sally heaved a large, packed duffle in front of his feet. Rogers leans forward from the chair, nudging the empty air of the half full bag with the toe of his boot. He looks up at Sally with a sigh.
“That’s all we could put together,” Sally said. “Until we get the irrigation system working again, we aren’t going to have enough to feed ourselves, let alone those monsters.”
Rogers can hear the venom in her voice, knowing it was not solely directed at the Roamers. Rogers did not enjoy giving so much of their crop, medicine, and salvage to the Roamers, but he didn’t have many options. The Roamers were well armed, and what they lacked in numerical advantage they made up for by not being a scared group of mothers, children and elderly men. And the few men he had capable of putting up a fight were either too chicken or untrained.
“I’ll make it work,” Rogers said. “Thank you, Sally.”
Sally leaves with a huff. After her son had a rough spell of fever and exhaustion, she understood better than anyone that their town was constantly on the edge, creeping closer every day. Every drop of food, water and medicine they gave the Roamers brought her son and every survivor of Amarillo closer to death. Rogers knew that, but he was just doing triage in a hospital full of dying patients.
Rogers observes the Roamers coming over the horizon, a cloudy tail of dust and dirt flicking into the air behind them. He gathers the duffle and heads towards the city limits sign to meet them. As Rogers surveys the west Texas desert, Turbo Guy is nowhere to be seen.
The Roamers jeep screeches to a halt only a few yards from Rogers. Rogers stands motionless, squinting and coughing as the plume of dirt breezes by him. The engine of the jeep dies down, and the door juts open. A sunburned man, dressed in a tattered duster with spikes and bones on the shoulders and lapel, steps out. He removes a pair of tinted goggles, dust rings formed around the pale circles of skin like a reverse raccoon. He gazes at Rogers, flashing a toothy smile of yellowed, sharpened teeth, one lone dead tooth along the top left row providing a black kernel among the yellow buds in his mouth.
“Well, now, Lawman Rogers,” the Roamer Chieftain said, approaching Rogers, arms out stretched. “I’ve been telling these boys, ain’t no one I trust more to deliver what’s owed me than a good ol’fashioned lawman. Gimme.”
The Chieftain holds out a beckoning hand to Rogers, waving his fingers expectantly. Rogers drops the duffle’s handles into the Roamers hand. The Roamer lifts the duffle up and down, a quizzical expression forming.
“Now, I ain’t the kind of man to go and call a officer of the law a liar,” the Chieftan said. “But I can’t but help noticing this bag is much lighter than I was lead to believe it would be.”
“It’s the best we can do.” Rogers said, staring blankly at the Roamer. “We’ve had production issues and equipment breaking. We’ll make it up in the next tribute.”
“Well,” the Chieftain said, rubbing his chin. “Maybe that could be alright. Tell you what, I’m reasonable: I’ll let you make up in the next one, provided I get a little interest for providing such a grace period. Maybe some collateral, if you will.”
The Roamer slides his eyes down to the revolver on Rogers hip. Rogers had been issued the gun when he first swore in as a deputy. He remembered the oath he had swore to uphold the laws of the land and protect the innocent. On more than one occasion, that revolver had saved his life. Rogers unbuckles the belt, coiling it around the holstered revolver. He holds it out to the Chiefain, his toothy, yellow smile growing as he watched Rogers strip himself of his authority and dignity before his eyes.
“Not so fast, evildoer!”
Rogers mouths a curse under his breath, as the voice of the wasteland hero rang out from behind a car. At first, the voice sits there, unaccompanied by the body that it was attached to, until a flushed Turbo Guy stumbles out from behind it. Quickly hopping to a heroic pose after gaining his balance, Turbo guy’s cape catches on a snag in the metal frame of the car, revealing a long jagged tear.
“I believe that gun belongs to a man of justice, and those supplies to the good people of Amarillo!” Turbo Guy shouted, his hand outstretched and palm facing towards the Chieftain. “And you are neither!”
The Chieftain looks at Turbo Guy, then at Rogers, then back to Turbo Guy, and breaks out into uproarious laughter. The other Roamers, peering out of the windows of the Jeep, covered in bones and leathery masks, joined in chorus.
“Oh, lawman!” the Chieftain said, giggling in delight and surprise. “I know that times are tough and all, but are you serious with this shit?”
“This…guy just got here today,” Rogers explained. “The man’s crazy, thinks the blast made him a super hero. Calls himself Turbo and says he punishes criminals or some shit.”
“That’s Turbo Guy,” he corrected, to an even louder verse of laughter. Turbo Guy advances toward the Chieftain. “And I am going to give you one last chance: give back what you have stolen and leave this town alone. Or prepare for your defeat!”
The Chieftain looks back at his compatriots, and without warning, lands a hard, thumping right hook to Turbo Guy’s jaw. Turbo Guy crumples to the ground, and the Chieftain begins to kick and beat the fallen hero, his crew joining in on the savagery. The Roamers stop after a few moments, leaving Turbo Guy moaning and laying motionless in the dirt.
“Well,” the Chieftain said. “That was fun! See you in a few days for next tribute, lawman.”
He gives Turbo Guy one last swift kick before returning to his jeep. The wheels kick up more dirt as the Roamers skid off into the horizon east of town. Rogers gets to his knees beside Turbo Guy, placing his index and middle fingers on his carotid to check for a pulse. He finds a faint, but beating rhythm in Turbo Guy’s throat. Rogers sighs, then turns and returns to town, leaving Turbo Guy passed out and motionless in the desert. As he walks back to the Saloon, Sally stops him to ask what they should do about Turbo Guy.
“When he wakes up, he’ll head off,” Rogers said, lighting a cigarette. “Best he just leave while he still can. He can’t help us, so there’s no reason we should waste our supplies helping him.”
Uninterested in discussing it more, Rogers goes into the Saloon, grumbling at the barkeep to give him some whiskey. Sally looks towards the crumpled heap of Turbo Guy on the edge of town.
She remembered when her son first tried to stand up with the rest of the town folks against the roamers. How the Roamers had tied up the fighting men that surrendered and beat them, leaving them in the middle of the desert. Rogers never missed a tribute payment since then. Sally notices Kyle peering at Turbo Guy from behind a pile of rocks. Kyle locks eyes with Sally, who points towards Turbo Guy with her chin. They both collect the fallen, quixotic hero and carry him into town.
I hope that you have enjoyed Dark and Silly Books first publication, The Heroic and Noble Tale of Turbo Guy: Part 1, from our short story collection, Stories from the End of Time! We want to bring you more stories like this, so sign up for our email list so you can keep in touch!
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