Chapter 12 Daybreak.

Sartoris woke with face ground between two boot prints in the mud. The night before had melted into a forgotten memory. He could practically taste the liquor he was sweating out, and his innards felt like a fist full of oil and metal filings. Arms clung straight to his side and ached with fatigue, legs sprawled awkwardly directed to the barrel, remains of the fire smoldering deep within. The group of old men had left, and except for a few scattered people lying barely conscious against the wall, he was alone. The sun had just risen and the sky retained a red tinge. Early enough that anyone else out that night was probably sleeping. He would certainly have preferred to be sleeping.

He fought a long war against his instincts to just lie in place. Eventually, the war was overshadowed by his ailing condition, and he made a quick break towards the toilet areas. He could hardly move, he was still recovering feeling in his right leg and made forward with a dragging limp at first. HE made his way past the mountains of Junk ridge, ignoring the sounds of rustling coming from within. His head hurt, and he had a hard time concentrating and reconciling his path with how he had come in the night before, which seemed so far away. Finally navigating to the other side, he found himself opposite the coops and long narrow corridors, now surprisingly less ominous than the night before. The coops sat in empty rows, old broken feathers sticking out of the wood, and more faint rustling of livestock, deep in the cages, and out of his view.

He finally made his way around the edge and on to the platform, physical capcities recovering with a full stride, and sprang up on to the deck. The chemical toilets stood closed and silent, with a soft slushing coming from the floor and slushing out the pipes.

The toilets themselves were nothing to be proud of. The cheap plastic they had been made out of had been shattered so many times and subsequently repaired with duct tape, super glue, electrical tape, epoxy, and more tape. THe result was a tattered and irregular shaped bowl that was surpringly soft from the layers of tape that had been cobbled on to it. Sartoris did not have time to be picky. Ill spare you the details, or maybe save them for later.

Stumbling back out of the toilet about an hour later. He felt measurably more relieved and at the same time even filthier. A short night of border-line alcohol poisoning induced sleep face down in the mud was hardly restful, and Sartoris while hitting a slight reprieve, was running on complete inertia and welcoming some signs of delirium.

His mind was still so impaired, he could not remember what to do next, and barely how he had gotten there. He stepped down from the platform, and began to slowly walk back to the trading post.

The traveling hermits had revived and put their traps away and were again preparing their morning meals and set up their shops. He continued past their activity and walked the perimeter of the post, examining the walls of the coop, the well, the crops and the sanitation. Such organization was quite unfamiliar to him. How long had he been coming here, when was all this built. He stepped on the platform to the baths, and noticed network of pipes and open ditches that ran to the crops just past him, and stepped up towards the baths.

The baths, because of their nature, had fared better than the toilets. They were made largely of lumber, with small private stalls where people could bring a bucket of water from them well. If they had a bucket. Sartoris didnt he didnt even have his bag.

His bag! He suddenly remembered his elaborate perch for all of his traded goods, and turned back south running directly into the Junk Ridge. He made his way quickly towards the path he had followed the night before, and headed in between two large piles of rubble a debris. Something was out of place, the path the night before had been straight, but here it seemed to curve, he looked behind him and could still see the trading post, but it seemed that the dynamics had completely changed. How did he even get back to the toilets then. He couldn’t remember, the immediacy of the problem and his lack of sobriety and consciousness left him completely drained.

He slowed his stride, cautiously moving around the curve, and taking in, for the first time, the detail of Junk Ridge.