• Published 24th Aug 2016
  • 2,717 Views, 83 Comments

Shooting Towards The Moon - Gray Compass



Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same. Sometimes you just don't know what the hell is wrong with the world.

  • ...
9
 83
 2,717

Bedford II

"And... Welcome to Bedford." I proclaimed as we drove into the urban perimeter. Bedford was one of those negligible towns that folks often pass by while heading somewhere else, the sort of place that makes anyone from the big cities ask themselves 'what sort of people live in this scrapyard?'. Well, people like me do. People with unicorns in their backseats and shit like that.

"What is this smell?" Luna asked, sniffing the air like a dog.

"It's the old pet food factory; it smells different each day of the week." I said, remembering my school years, when my friends gathered to make bets on what smell would bug the town the next morning. After a while it became quite predictable, but sometimes the factory released some exotic odors that'd surprise even us; the smell connoisseurs. "Today is Thursday, so it must be lamb and vegetables." Luna made a disgusted face as we passed in front of the rusty-looking factory, with those greasy brick chimneys that could be seen from practically anywhere.

"You get used to it — actually, you won't. I don't expect us to stay long enough in this town for your nose to make amends with the smell."

"That's good to hear." She said, leaning back on her seat.

We went down the lengthy Madison Street, which was one of the three major streets of Bedford. Keep in mind that 'major' is a generous adjective to describe any street that isn't just copy-pasted suburban houses with overgrown lawns. Everything we could possibly need was on Madison Street, and it would be easy-peasy to get things done if it wasn't for the crowd of gas-masked soldiers patrolling the place.

"Shit."

Assembled in the middle of the street was some sort of border checkpoint and all cars were funneled into a line. The good news is that there were more tractors than cars in Bedford, so it was a short line. Bad news is that we'd get inspected anyway.

"Alright Luna, here's where your so called spell will be put to the proof. I don't think these guys are looking for unicorns, but I'd stay very, very quiet if I were you. If we pass them, we are free from this hell." I said, glancing at the backseat to find Luna curled in a corner.

"They are not from Borealis." She said.

"How do you know they're not?" I asked — although I was quite sure those fellas were as clueless as us regarding the situation.

"Todd... you would recognize a Borealis officer if you saw one. I just hope you never do."

The line moved on.

I lowered the window as we got to the checkpoint, and one of the gas-masked soldiers pointed a flashlight at my face.

"Documents please." His voice escaped amidst a coarse breathing sound.

"Here." I handed over my driver's licence, looking at him and at Luna. We remained frozen in our places as they moved over to pass those squeaky geiger-counters all over the truck — I hoped to god Luna wasn't radioactive. Few things could be worse than a radioactive invisible unicorn.

As far as we were concerned, none of them had seen her. That was so until one of the soldiers opened the back door and bumped against 'something'. Luna let out a gasp of surprise and crawled to the other side of the seat.

"What was that?" He asked, pointing his flashlight at the seemingly empty space.

"What was what?" I pretended to be confused. I saw his eyes squinting behind the mask. "Anything wrong, sir?"

The man paused for a couple of seconds — possibly pondering if he had indeed felt a presence there, or if the incessant hours of repetitive action were finally eroding his sanity.

"All clear." He concluded, closing the door and returning my license. "You have three hours to leave the town. Anywhere north of Gravity is out of the evacuation zone."

"Thanks, I'm going to Corning." I said, trying to sound as normal as possible.

"That'll be better. Have a nice day." He nodded.

"You too."

I rolled up the window and drove away, not stopping until the checkpoint was out of my field of view.

"Jesus, that was close!" I let out a nervous laugh.

The sound of my voice started to fade into a very welcome silence that embraced the interior of the car. It was just me, Luna, and the humming of the engine. My world had been compressed into that truck, all the relevant remnants of my existence were now contained into a single moving chunk of space. That was a shocking, but comforting realization.

No more past — just the solid grasp of the present time — and a vague idea of a future that refused to sink in.

"Where is Corning?" Luna asked, bringing me back to Madison St.

"It's a town some twenty miles north." I said. "It's just a possibility, to be honest. It was the first name that crossed my mind when we passed by those guards. I thought about taking us to Des Moines, but it's far too crowded. We could attract unnecessary attention."

Luna divided her focus between my words and the store signs hanging from the buildings; they seemed to interest her a lot.

"Besides... an old friend of mine lives there. He's a good guy — tinfoil hat insane — but good." I noted.

He was James. Truly an oddball; one couldn't deny it. "He knows about this sort of stuff, I mean. He could help us track the video guy."

"Why would you want to find that man, anyway?" She asked.

"That man might be our key to the railways. You remember what he said on the video? The thing was right under his farm; he must know something." I replied. "Look, we both have suffered because of Borealis — who knows what else he might have seen. If we find a way to the railroads, we might as well find a way to your sister."

Although the idea of finding her sister seemed at first crucial to Luna, she seemed very uncertain now that we were finally moving away from the suspicious shade of the corn fields.

"I don't think I'm ready to put my trust in somebody we've only seen in a screen." She said. "I need to breathe for a while Todd."

That was the first time Luna had spoken with so much meaning in a sentence. She wasn't too fond of sharing 'feelings' or anything.

"Alright... I guess we can wait for a little while once we get to Corning." I tried to reassure her. "I'll wait as long as you want, but keep in mind that we can't hide forever; at least not if we wanna take you and your sister home."

"There must be a way out of this, after all." I muttered.


After wasting nearly two hours at the gas station catastrophically-sized line, I stopped by Walmart's parking lot to make sure we had bought everything we needed — and it seems like everyone did the same — because Bedford's evacuation forced even the most deeply rooted clans out of their lands.

That meant I've got the rare chance to see some of our local mythical figures outside of their natural habitats.

"You see that guy over there?" I said, pushing a water gallon into the truck bed. "That one with the weird nervous tic."

Luna poked her head out of the window to look around.

"What's the matter with him?"

"Oh well... Where do I begin?" I chuckled. "That's Pepperoni Joe — I don't know his real name — but that's how we called him, anyway. A friend of mine used to do the night shift at this convenience store not too far from here, once per month or so Pepperoni Joe would come just after midnight and buy 'bout a hundred dollars worth of pepperoni sausages, mayo, and wrapping paper."

"So what?" Luna rolled her eyes.

"So what?" I muttered. "Is that a normal behavior in unicorn-land?"

"The name is Equestria — and I've seen worse." She said with a hint of pride.

"Jesus... I don't even want to know. And I thought it was weird enough for ponies to-"

"Todd."

"What?" I closed the trunk door.

"Them..." She pointed with her eyes to the right.

I turned around to face a trio of kids staring at me from a nearby parking spot.

"Uh, who are you talking to?" One of the boys asked.

"Don't y'all have imaginary friends or something?" I said. "I'm talking to my unicorn. Can't you see her?"

"You're crazy." They giggled.

"Yeah, I'm totally nuts."


We were driving through the last block of the northern part of the town, when a red light forced me to stop quite abruptly. A long line of black SUV's crossed the street ahead and disappeared behind the corner. The light turned back green.

"That's something I don't see very often." I murmured. Luna didn't say a word about it.

Not too far from there I encountered the first — and the last — friendly face of Bedford. Stevenson was leaning against his car, staring at an empty space in front of him while the smoke of a cigarette made his face partially disappear every now and then.

"Ain't those some weird days, sheriff?" I said, a little sorry for blocking his patch of sunlight with my truck.

"McRaven." He replied, with one of those far away smiles on his face. "I can't say you're lyin', son. Mighty weird ones." He tossed the cigarette aside.

"Any idea of what's going on for real? I'm not buying that pipeline story."

Stevenson moved over to stand beside my window, random words intermingled with static escaped from his radio. After a long pause during which he stared some more into nothing, the sheriff spoke.

"I wish I knew." He said. "I don't like these people. Not at all. There's a company acting as a law enforcement agency. It's ridiculous to even imagine."

"What do you think they want here, anyway?" I asked.

"The government says some toxic chemical has leaked into the soil. Supposedly, Borealis should be responsible for it, since they've assembled the whole pipeline thing. That might even be true, but I think there's more."

"More?" I frowned.

"They're looking for something big and I don't think it's cracks in the pipes." He paused for a while. "And before you ask; I have absolutely no idea about what it is."

I allowed the silence to settle, as I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel. Luna sighed on the backseat.

"Listen, which route are you taking?" He finally asked, taking another cigarette from his pocket.

"The 148. I'm heading to Corning."

"Well, if I may suggest an alternative — I'd take the old Lake Road all the way up to the J35. Go west from there, it should take you to Gravity, then you can just head north towards Corning. There's another border crossing on the 148 operated by Borealis, and I don't really trust them."

"Thank you." I said, staring at Luna's eyes through the rear-view mirror. "I'll take the Lake Road." I nodded, starting the car again.

"And Todd—" The sheriff said. "Take care out there, will ya?"

For a second I felt as if Stevenson had just perceived the existence of Luna, but I shook the thought away.

"I will sir. I will."