Murkland: Return to the Magic

My name is Rusty Sprocket. I am a survivor living in Murkland. The toxins have been wearing off in the desert that changed our world. Those that got changed though can’t exactly change back. The Murkland Mercantile Company (MMCo) owns all of Murkland and controls the money. I trust them because they seem to have the same goal in mind as I do. Try to save this world from its post-apocalyptic destruction… with the idea that our own personal survival is still the most important.

Normally, I write every single day to keep this journal up to date on daily living in Murkland so that future generations can read what it was like for us now, that way this struggle to survive can hopefully be avoided for future generations. I guess the problem with that idea is that I was too young when the apocalypse happened. I’m not actually sure I was even alive. It’s not a detail that is brought up too often in conversations. People tend to avoid what brings them down.

Or maybe it really was so long ago that no one really knows, because the people that cared and knew what happened are dead already. I’ve read books that have managed to survive, sneaking them from the library when I was little. I know there are bombs that could have done this. But really I’m just sidetracking as much as possible and trying to get you caught up with whatever you may not have read in my previous journals. Just the basic information you know.

Okay, deep breaths. I’m actually writing this about three days after my last one instead of daily. I’ve done a lot lately. I am so much calmer and comfortable with my chance for survival now that I have a steady source of income and a guaranteed place to sleep safely every night.

I’ve even been able to scavenge some wood that I turned into a little house for bees. Yes… I was reading my survival guide again and got the idea from it. I thought it was brilliant. I’m not a fan of honey. But I know other people are, and I can make money off getting it to the Vardo Brothers. I’m sure that will be a big seller for them.

The Vardo brothers are my business partners that have made it possible for me to relax more. I’ve been saving up quite a bit of money now and I’m incredibly excited. Since I started working with them a week ago, my founds have doubled, if not tripled, and I’m not nearly as stressed as I was. I collect fish, fossils, gems, artifacts, flowers, food, whatever I can find, the rarer the better. I get it to them and they pay me what they call a supplier fee. They’ll then mark up the price a little bit and drive to other locations in the desert to sell what I’ve found.

The reason I haven’t been writing is also partially because of him. I mean them. Shoot.

I’ve been thinking a lot. You see, yesterday was love day. It just had to happen while I was already struggling over these thoughts.

When I first moved to town, I met and made fast friends with Gash. Most people don’t seem to like him and the other mad mudders, I don’t think they’re that bad. In fact, I think Gash is my best friend now. But my neighbor and good friend Jeep told me he had a crush on me. I didn’t believe her right away.

But I’m starting to think she’s right. He’s really defensive of me if he sees me with anyone else that he doesn’t get along well with.

Some of those people are the Vardo brothers. At the moment, the biggest threat to him seems to be Rain and Storm…. He. I don’t know how to explain it. I’ve been going over there every day to drop off things I’ve found, or to check on their garden. He and I have been getting really close. He’s surprisingly fun to talk to. I know he’s older than me. But…

I think I have a crush on him, and I have no idea how to tell my best friend. He hasn’t exactly come out and said if he likes me or not, and I don’t want to hurt him if he does. I know he hates the Vardos… So, I kinda left. I decided to take another trip out to Granite Falls. It would let me escape the heat of the desert and cool off my thoughts. Double win!

The long trek to the Falls gave me time to think. As I moved up in elevation it got colder and colder. It felt wonderful. But if I was going to be able to stay up in the mountains for even a day I was going to need to get warmer clothes on.  I had plans to find as much as I possibly could for the twenty-four hours I had a pass to be on the grounds for.

I had my collecting basket all ready to fill up with everything I could possibly find. I didn’t plan to wander so far, but sometimes when I have my eyes set on something, off I go in concentration.

A blue light danced in front of me. It felt like the last time I was in these woods. Like it knew my thoughts were troubled and I needed to find peace. Perhaps I was going to get to see the moon place again. I cleared my mind and followed the blue light.

I woke up outside a small cottage deep in the woods. I felt peaceful. I’d been too stressed about relationships lately, and now I was feeling better. I don’t know who’s home it is, I never saw anyone. But I was able to use their grill to make some more deodorizing cream before I continued exploring and collecting.

It may seem like a lot of hard work, but in Murkland it is an everyday occurrence really. It’s a part of life to search for whatever you can scavenge.

My twenty-four hours would be over soon enough so I got back out into nature to enjoy the green while I still could before I had to start the long trek back home. This had been just the vacation I needed.

You know… I was kinda surprised at how worried the Vardo brothers were when I got back home. They were pacing in front of their plot of land when I jogged back into town wearily carrying my bag and my collection basket. “Where have you been?” Wolf asked before digging into the burgers that one of them had just made.

“I was up in the mountains collecting things,” I told them with a smile, keeping the true magic of my vacation to myself. I found that every time I went up there I felt a huge amount of peace that was different than what I had here in Murkland.

“Why didn’t you tell us that you were leaving?” Wind whined.

I patted his hand gently. “I’m sorry I worried you. I didn’t know it was that important to tell you where I collect things for you. Sometimes I’ll be taking long treks.

Ice cleared his throat, “It would seem we’ve gotten used to you showing up every evening. I apologize for my brother’s actions.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s nice to be thought of.” I waved my hand, “and it’s understandable with how harsh the desert can be.” I started emptying my collection basket so that they could calculate how much to pay me. When they were done, I pocketed the cash I started to head home. “See you guys tomorrow.”

“Wait!” Sand called catching up to me back in front of their plot.

“I wanted to personally apologize. I’ve found I’ve quite enjoyed seeing you around our home every day. I didn’t realize how much I’d gotten comfortable with it until you were gone.” He looked awkward as we danced quietly to the radio as he got his thoughts in order. “I  know I don’t talk to you much. So I hope I can make it up to you with an apology.”

“You’re fine. Really Sand!” I interrupted his look of disbelief. “I had a good vacation, and as much of a habit as I got into coming over every single day I should have said something. I lost my parents when they didn’t return home one day. I should have known that a slight change in routine is cause to worry out here. Thank you for worrying.”

We danced for a little longer in awkwardness. He didn’t seem to know what to say to my parents being dead. It shouldn’t be a shocker. Weren’t most people’s parents dead these days. Maybe it was just a shock because I am so young still. I think I’ve been twenty for a couple weeks now. I say I think because I don’t know when my actual birthday is, I just say it is the first day of spring because it feels fitting.

Rain and Ice both came to the front to join Sand and I, at the radio. Rain nudged me. “Go home.”

Ice glared at his youngest brother. “She needs to rest Sand. She just walked all the way home carrying that basket just for us.”

I went home… but that crush I’ve got on Rain was back. He had barely nudged me, and he wasn’t really looking at me at all. I sighed and trekked across the street to my plot of land. I don’t know why I was getting a crush on the oldest Vardo brother when I swore I wasn’t going to date anyone at all.

So of course, after a quick sleep in my tent, I was up in the morning daydreaming and trying to make more deodorizing cream on the grill when I caught myself on fire again. I need to get my head back into survival mode. This daydreaming is going to be the end of me. Focus Rusty. Focus. I am going to survive!

First I desperately need a bath. Thank goodness it was Wednesday.

Oh, I’ve just realized it’s actually been almost a week since I wrote last. I’m not doing a great job keeping up on this journal anymore am I. Haha. Oops.

So I went down to the hot springs to enjoy myself and get the ash cleaned off from putting myself out in the sand. I don’t trust the toxins that are still in the sands even though they seem to be a lot less now that years and years have passed since the cause of the apocalypse. I didn’t know I was going to feel worse. Gash and who I think are his family members showed up as well.

I was embarrassed and exhausted, so I took a nap because I didn’t know what I was going to say to him.

What woke me was a tap on my shoulder and I stirred to see Gash looking at me. “Hey, what are you doing napping in the water? That could be dangerous you know?”

“Hey there Gash.” I responded shyly, “I just didn’t want to interrupt your family time, and I was tired, so I decided to take a nap. That’s all.” I climbed out of the water and we hugged.

“Oh you could have hung out with us, but maybe next time you should nap somewhere a little safer.”

“I’ll try to do that next time then.”

“I don’t know what I’d do if you left us.” He murmured softly.

I decided to climb back into the water so that I could keep soaking off the germs of the desert. I wanted to preserve the deodorizing cream I had as much as possible… and well… I’ve been getting quite charred lately with all the fires I’ve accidentally started.

It wasn’t long before I was joined by Scab, one of the other Mad Mudders. We talked about everyday things. How our survival has been going, plans for the future, the ridiculous heat as summer was sneaking up on us.

Pretty soon our conversation grew as we were joined by another. I can’t remember her name right now, I’ve only talked to her a couple times, but I know it’s something about Pumpkins.

When we finally left the water I was feeling fantastic. It was also time to get back to work. I went all over the downtown section around the Hot Springs and collected as many gems and fruit as I could fit into my collection basket.

Exhausted still, I took a nap on a bench so that I would be safer than sleeping in the water. I kept my promise to Gash at least.

In the early hours of the morning, I walked back past the hot springs and saw Gash waiting for me. “Just wanted to make sure you were okay. I know you were exhausted and I didn’t see you heading back to your plot last night.”

I smiled, “Thanks Gash, I appreciate that.”

He hefted my collection basket and then set it back down with surprise, “Holy cow, I wasn’t expecting it to weigh that much.” taking a deep breath he lifted it again, “Come on I’ll walk you at least part of the way home and give you a break from carrying this.”

“It’s not that heavy today actually.” I grinned.

“Well, you’ve clearly got secret muscles that I didn’t know about.”

When our paths verged towards our separate sections of town I took my basket back and said goodbye.

I spend the rest of the day with a second collection basket scrounging for new things in my own neighborhood. Then, finally, at sunset, I went over to the Vardos with both baskets. “I’m still alive.” I joked after their worry the day before. “I just have to get some sleep sometimes.” I set the baskets down on the yard. “Tada, a new haul!”

“Perfect. We’ll go right through that and pay you. But first, we dance!”

“Oh sure… I can stay to dance for a little bit first.” Honestly, I kind of wanted to just go home and sleep more. But I couldn’t say no to them, and I wasn’t leaving without getting paid.

But all of the brothers were dancing, so getting paid clearly was going to have to wait.

“Hey, you must be Rusty.” A voice said from the sidewalk, and I turned to see another Mad Mudder that I hadn’t met before.

“Yeah, I am. nice to meet you.”

“I just wanted to thank you for being such a good friend to Gash, he talks about you all the time.”

“Oh yeah, of course, you’re welcome. He’s my best friend and I’m happy to hand out with him. Oh, would you thank him again for helping me out today when you get home?”

“Yeah, I will. I’m glad I caught you though. He meant to invite you over to our place. When you get the time I think you should come over.”

“I’ll try to do that soon, I bet it will be fun!”

“So you’re close with the mad mudder’s huh?” Rain asked as I walked back, “That’s interesting. ” He said as we continued dancing. “The other guys are going through the baskets now and calculating how much we owe you.” We hip bumped to the beat jumped and turned around and bumped again. “So what are you doing tomorrow?”

“Oh, I may stay home and take a rest day tomorrow actually. Focus on my garden and finish building my second bee house. I found some more nail scraps that I can use to pull it all together with some scrap lumber from the old demolished houses down the road.”

“Very good. After the haul you brought in today I think we’ll probably be setting up for a sale soon.”

“Oh awesome, don’t worry, I’ll make sure to keep my promise of watching your plants.”

The next morning I woke up and Gash was outside my tent. Yes, if it isn’t obvious already; I was too exhausted to write after I got home. I was surprised to see him. “I was going to take a day of rest today, and probably come to visit tomorrow. Thank you for the invitation by the way.”

“I’m glad he got you the invitation. I was nervous when he said he was going for a walk up here that he may not run into you.”

“Is that why you came over?” I laughed, “Why didn’t you just ask him?”

“He uhh… he leaves very early every morning for walks.”

“Well make yourself at home. I was just going to make some fruit and then get to work on my garden.”

I heard arguing on the street and saw Rain talking to someone, but I’m not sure what they were arguing about. It did catch my attention though and I looked up and saw his brothers getting ready to move out on their selling trip. I also noticed something that made a pit drop into my stomach.

They had set up pink and white lights on their railings.

I turned as Gash cleared his throat, and then looking embarrassed held out a flower to me. “Oh. thank you Gash.”

“Happy love day. I uh know you don’t have a boyfriend so I thought. Maybe. You’d appreciate a gift from… me.”

I appreciated the gift, of course, it was sweet of him. But my mind went into panic mode. It was love day? I’d seen it from a distance, but I’d never gotten involved. Mostly my experience with it was in books. This was just what I was trying to avoid!! What am I going to do! I know I stuttered my thanks, but I felt so awkward as we sat down to eat the fruit I had grilled.

Then we played a quick match of Don’t wake the Llama. Of course, I lost, I’m terrible at this game.

“Okay, I need to get to work on my garden now.” I laughed with awkward good cheer, trying to avoid noticing the Love Day directions surrounding me at the other lots.

I did some weeding and threw the weeds into the bonfire that Gash had started to keep us warm. I turned with another handful and saw Rain turn the corner and approach us. “Hey Rusty, how’s your day going? I know you said you were taking a rest day, I didn’t realize you would have a guest sorry about that.”

“Oh, I’ve been getting work done on the garden like I said. It’s been quite relaxing. Aren’t you off to sell the goods with your brothers?”

“Nope, I said I’d stay behind and uh… keep an eye on the plot so that you could have your relaxation day. ”

I laughed, “and you got bored over there all alone, didn’t you? Saw the fire here and figured you’d come to say hi?”

He laughed looking relieved. “You caught me. ”

“I also thought you would appreciate this.” He said holding out a flower. Oh no, not again. I thanked him and stared at the two in a daze. What was going on? Does this mean I’m going to need to choose? Can’t I choose no one and not hurt feelings. I desperately need some time with Jeep and Lavender and Dusty. They’ve got to have some suggestions for me on how to deal with this.

Gash left soon after for his trek home, and I excused myself and headed into my tent to relax.

I didn’t expect Rain to follow me in.

I skimmed my survival guide and exclaimed: “Oh that’s a good trick to make the insect repellent smell better!” Then I pushed the tent flap back open and fled to the bonfire.

He followed me back out. Nope, Nope. Nope. I’m not ready for a relationship! “Oh hey Rain, I’m going to head downtown to meet up with the ladies. We’re going to have a nice relaxing session in the hot springs. Have a good night!”

“Yeah you too, enjoy ladies night.”

I quickly walked next door and grabbed Lavender and whispered urgently that we needed to go to the hot springs and grab as many females as we could on the way. We all had a good laugh when we got there.

“At some point, you’ll probably need to just pick one of them you know. Or at least let them know your feelings.”

“But I don’t understand my feelings,” I whined as everyone teased me.


“Come on girl. Get back in here!” That’s Lavender right now. I decided to take the time to write all of this down because I haven’t written in so long. Lucas has been poking me trying to find out what I’m writing for the last couple minutes and whining that I’m not being social. I guess it’s time to set this down and pick up hopefully tomorrow unless I have another crazy week.


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