Once a Rose

By Jackie Almasy

The empty howl of the wind blowing through the Wasteland echoed around Bryan Wilks. His tattered overalls ruffled against his tiny body, unable to hide his thinning frame and arms. His tired brown eyes looked at the poorly crafted metal cross before him, tilted ever so slightly to the left. The pile of rocks acting as its pedestal shifted, one of the many little fragments of the earth falling from the top to the ground.

"How long has it been since that day?"

Bryan couldn't think clearly. It couldn't have been more than a week or two at the most though it felt like a lifetime ago. Less than two weeks ago what little childhood he had left was still alive. He could have been exploring more hiding places from the giant ants with Brandice, taking shooting lessons from his father, or watching the starry sky above him late at night.

He sighed, rubbing his eyes quickly to push away the beginnings of tears. Despite the layers of dust and debris on his skin, it could not hide the growing dark circles beginning to form along his eye sockets. It had been days since he had gotten any decent amount of sleep. Days since he felt safe enough to sleep as soundly as he had before all the events that had shaped the rest of his life.

"I'm not gonna cry Dad. I'm a man now. I… I have no time to cry!"

He wasn't sure if he was saying those words out loud in order to comfort himself or reassure his fears but he didn't care. It felt good to talk to anything even if it was the grave of his father.

Bryan kneeled down slowly, afraid to disturb anything of the grave he had spent an entire day on less than a week ago. It had been harder than he thought it would be. He took a piece of metal from Dot's Diner, using the sharper edge to dig into the dusty desert. It took him hours, digging deeper and deeper till his fingers had bled.

He opened his palms, looking down at the brown stained bandages caked with red stains from his fresh wounds. Flexing his palms, he winced slightly at the feel of the constant sting rising to a mild discomfort. He could hear the wounds squish slightly with the fresh blood rising and rubbing against the scarred flesh. The stimpak he had managed to scavenge only did so much.

"Must have been faulty."

Shifting from his knees to his rear, Bryan put his arms on his knees, turning his gaze back to the grave.

"I don't know how she did it Dad. When I told her about the ants, she asked me where to begin looking and told me to hide," Bryan spoke softly, as if still in disbelief.

"I thought she would have told me to get the fuck lost but she didn't. I could hear the gunfire and grenades for miles it seemed."

He picked up a nearby stone, running it along the rough pads of his fingers.

"I didn't know what to think. I thought she was dead. She was gone for hours, maybe even days."

He began drawing in the sand by the edge of a large rock, silently thankful of the small shelter for his art against the wind.

"I thought I was abandoned again."

The beginning forms of a gun drawing began appearing in the sand, Bryan tilting his head to look at it.

"But she did something to get them to turn on each other. The screeching was horrendous, probably the scariest sound I had ever heard. Then it got really quiet."

The handle of the gun began to take shape, connecting somehow to the pathetic artist attempt of the barrel.

"But then the door to the shelter opened and she stood there. Tired and exhausted with a large bandage covering a part of her shoulder and neck. She," Bryan stopped, putting down the rock and looking to the cross.

"She told me it was over and that I could come out. I could smell the amount of blood on her almost. It almost made me throw up."

Bryan licked his dry and cracked lips, feeling the sting of tongue along the rough edges of his skin.

"I told her about Rivet City and she told me she'd be back. Back to see if I have someone there to take of me…But I think she lied."

He stood up now, dusting off his pants as if it could help at all to push off the years of caked on grime and grit. His eyes narrowed, looking out over the distance of the Wasteland before him.

"She ain't coming back. Ain't no reason for her to come back. But I'll be okay Dad…"

Taking one last glance at the grave, Bryan allowed his lips to quiver a little bit. Struggling to control his quivering voice, he gently whispered out.

"I have to be okay. I have no choice now."

Turning to walk back towards his empty house, Bryan reached the entrance of the town before stopping in his tracks. It was faint but something was there in the wind. He could hear a dog barking.

Looking over his shoulder, Bryan squinted his eyes to scan the landscape before him. He listened closely, straining his ears to hear for anything like that again. Maybe it had been a pack of wild dogs hunting its next meal. Hell, it could have been the squealing of gears from a wandering robot.

He stopped dead in his tracks, hearing the bark again in the distance but louder. Whatever it was, dog or robot, it was getting closer. Kneeling down behind a large piece of concrete, Bryan's eyes hectically tried to search for the direction of the oncoming sound. Glancing up, the sudden black shape of a dog caught his eye.

Not like a normal dog he had seen around here, the black and gray fur of the large animal. The ears shifted back and forth nervously, trying to be aware of all the sights and sounds around him. Stopping at the top of the hill, the dog looked over the decaying town in front of him before turning and barking towards the opposite end of the hill.

Bryan eyes widened, seeing a tall shadow appear after the dog. Clearly over fix feet tall, the large padding of armor, boots, and a large shotgun attached to their shoulder became noticeable.

"Fuck! Raiders!"

Preparing to run, Bryan stopped in mid step to the softer sound of a gentler tone. Gazing back, a second form appeared. Smaller than the taller guy, Bryan couldn't believe his eyes as the sunlight hit her face.

"She came back."

How did I do? This story will be about Lone Wanderer and Charon but I wanted to open it with the perspective of Bryan Wilks. This will be a short chapter story surrounding the Lone Wanderer and Charon escorting Bryan to Rivet City to be with his Aunt. While traveling, I want to focus on Bryan's reflections of what he went through, how Lone Wanderer reacts, and how it affects Charon.

Let's see where this leads. Please let me know what you think of this chapter! It has been a very long time since I did anything but short stories so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Till next time,

Jackie Almasy

Fallout 3 is copyrighted by Bethesda Game Studios, Bethesda Softworks, and ZeniMax Media. I own nothing.