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Renderosity Wordsmith Contest 3rd place: The Zone

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Renderosity recently announced the winners in its Wordsmith Contest. Third place prize was awarded to Rokket for "The Zone."

First and second places were awarded to Goldenthrush's "The Skyling Queen" and MoNeart's ode to Poser.

View Rokket's profile here.

To continue the success of the Wordsmith's contest, Renderosity added a writing category to its annual Halloween contest, Generation Horror Wars. Create a written piece about the theme -- choose two or more generations of horror and have them battle it out, Universal Monsters vs. Modern day Slashers, Freddie and Jason team up against Saw, the possibilities are endless. The winners will be published here.


The Zone

It was total hell in those last days before the fall of the government. I mean, we could all see that it was going to happen. The government had gotten too big, was too much into everyone's business; telling us all how to live.

Between the equal rights for every living (and some non-living) thing on the planet, and the political correctness; the government had put too much money and itself into too many useless programs. An implosion was imminent. And it came. The ruthless countries we had gotten huge loans from surrounded us like vultures waiting for us to cry for help. It was cry that never came.

No, instead the country defaulted and a period of violence erupted. There were those who fed off the government and relied on it for everything, they were the most violent. When you have very little and it gets taken away, you react in one of two ways: you go find a way to earn some of it back, or you take it from one who is weaker than you. You can guess what these fine folks did.

In the end, the country was divided up between the haves and the have-nots, as would be expected. There were those who accepted a government with fewer laws and regulations, and one that was truly for the people, by the people. The old system had failed and left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.

But there were those who wanted nothing to do with government. Anarchy was a much preferred system. So it came to pass after the end of the violence that the country was broken up into zones. Most of the United States was uninhabitable after the violence. What was left was broken up into zones. Many chose to live in the Law Zones. In other words, they were under the control of rules and regulations and laws of a smaller, much less powerful government.

The rest of them were the lot who wanted nothing more to do with a government that, in their eyes, was corrupt and ineffective. They moved to the Lawless Zones. And you didn't go there unless you were strong enough to survive it. We were always taught growing up that these people were savages. They were not to be trusted, and were better off under your tires then in your circle.

The Lawless Zones were small, and in many ways resembled the reservations that Native Americans were given. But the populations were much larger than the Law Zones. There were many more people tired of the old system than were willing to abide by it.

There truly were no laws in those zones. In a lot of ways, it was like the Old West. They governed themselves, but there were some small government interferences that were allowed. One of them was a unit called Peace Keepers. They were just that. They were not police, not military. They didn't have a badge and they didn't uphold the law. They kept the peace. As long as they did only that, there were no problems.

But even in a so-called Law abiding society you have misfits. You have those who don't see eye to eye with either side. And then things will happen.

In a Lawless Zone near what used to be Yuma, Arizona there was a unit of Peace Keepers who took offense to cartel in the making who was profiting from the sale and distribution of a fancy new drug they had created called Xoom.

Understand this, it was totally legitimate as long as they were only distributing in the Lawless Zone. No one is really sure if they had gone outside the zone, but it is known that folks from the Law Zone who would venture to the other side for a taste of Xoom.

The Peace Keepers raided the cartel settlement and pretty much wiped them off the map. Nothing was confiscated, no evidence was collected, and no one was arrested. Everyone was killed and the settlement was burned to the ground. This started another period of violence in that Lawless Zone. If you were a Peace Keeper, you had better not venture in that area or you would die.

But someone had to patrol it. It was usually the new guys. They were 'randomly' selected from drawing straws. There were two rules for patrolling this Lawless Zone. One, you go in unarmed, swiftly, and at night to use the cover of darkness. And two: you NEVER go in alone.

I was the new guy. And on this particular night my random turn came up. I knew it was fixed. Straws weren't drawn, they were handed out. But I didn't care. The idea was get it over with because then I wouldn't have to do it for a month.

I was partnered with a guy even newer than I was. I was a transfer from Old San Diego. I had been on the job for a couple years. This kid was brand new. He was still wearing his INITIAL ISSUE fatigues. He looked nervous and scared, like he wanted to run and go puke his guts out. And, he was literally vibrating like a Chihuahua. I was starting to wonder if maybe I wasn't going to make it tonight.

We stood by our lockers getting dressed in our tactical gear when the sergeant came in to address us. He was your typical old salt, mean and crusty, and would tell you over and over again how no matter what you did, he had done it better. He looked us up and down and we finished dressing.

"The FNG's are getting younger and younger, ain't they?" He growled as he looked at my new partner. I said nothing, but a couple of the older guys in the locker room snickered.

"You guys have been briefed on what to expect?" We both shook our heads. He grunted in response.

"Don't fuck it up. And if you run into trouble, radio it in so we have record of it and try to get the hell out of there. We won't be coming in after you. You know why."

Neither of us said anything. We just looked at him, then at each other. I finished lacing my boots and grabbed my gun belt. I wouldn't have a weapon in it, but I had an extending baton and a can of OC pepper spray. I didn't feel totally defenseless. I touched the pepper spray just to feel it was there, and was about to do the same with my baton when someone had come up behind me and pulled it from my holster. It was the sergeant.

"No weapons means no weapons, New Guy! Take the belt off."

I sighed and unlatched my belt and let it fall. My partner saw what was happening and put his belt back in his locker. The sergeant handed me back the baton and I picked up my belt and walked back to my locker.

"Keep your wits about you and don't stop to investigate any petty shit out there. That's how they rope you in. You see a couple guys beating a whore, don't stop. She's in on it, and I guarantee you, they ain't hittin' her all that hard."

"What if we see something not so petty?" I finally spoke.

"Ya calls it in and ya keeps moving. We record, we report to our bosses, but under no circumstances do we respond! Got it?"

I sighed again. "Yeah, I got it." I looked at my new partner. He still looked like he wanted to run to the toilet and puke his guts out, but at least the shaking had stopped.

The patrol was twelve hours long. We started at Old Yuma and were to drive through each quadrant of it at a specified speed (as fast as safely possible). If we didn't have to stop and record, then we would finish Old Yuma in about six or seven hours. We were then required to check the desert highways between Yuma and Las Vegas until the shift was over. It started at 2000 hours, or 8PM.

At about 2100, or maybe a little after that, we came upon a group of people standing in the road. We were on a street in the old downtown area, and there were buildings and blocked off side streets in all directions. They had started a fire and had completely blocked off the road in front of us. I was driving. I was about to honk my horn when my partner, who hadn't said a single word at this point, suddenly grabbed my arm.

"We don't want to do that. Back up and find another way around them." The look in his eyes was sheer terror.

I shook my head and then put the cruiser into reverse. I turned to look behind me and start backing up when we were suddenly shaken violently. I heard a muffled explosion. I looked forward to see flames on the hood of the car, and we were suddenly surrounded by a huge, angry mob of bodies.

They started to rock the cruiser and were chanting louder and louder, but it was indistinct. My partner (I suddenly realized I didn't know his name) was frozen in fear, clutching at his seat belt, eyes wide open. It looked like he wanted to unlatch the belt and open the door and run. I couldn't say anything. I wanted to do the same thing.

I started to reach for the radio microphone. Suddenly there was a loud sound like window glass breaking, and the driver's side window shattered into thousands of airborne shards. I could feel my face getting cut. Something solid and heavy had come through the window and it struck the side of my head. My Kevlar helmet took most of the impact, but I felt a white hot pain and my eyes slammed shut as I saw a blinding flash of light.

I instantly thought about the headache I was going to have after this when the object suddenly retracted and then came back even harder and faster. This time, I went out.

I woke up slowly, painfully. The left side of my face had swollen. I knew my jaw had been broken. I could taste the blood in my mouth. I was barely cognizant of what was going on. I strained to open my eyes. The pain grew worse, close to unbearable, but I forced my eyes to stay open and focus. I could tell that my hands were tied above my head. I was seated, half lying on the ground. My tactical gear and armor had been stripped off my body. Even my boots were gone.

I looked to my right. My partner was there beside me. His eyes were still wide open with fear, but there was no light behind them. He was dead. I was alone. I passed out again.

I woke up again. I wasn't sure how much time had passed, but it was now daylight, the sun was low in the sky, so it was early morning. There was no one else around me. I realized I was inside an old warehouse. I was tied to one of the support beams for the roof. My partner's body was gone. There was a very large dog, a mutt, tied to the next beam from me. He was watching me as I looked around. When I tried my shackles, he growled.

I wasn't sure where I was. I knew my jaw had been broken and I was tied up very securely and watched over by a dog who could probably reach me even though he is tied up. I didn't know the condition of my cruiser, but I knew my partner was dead. I winced at the thought. I never knew the poor bastard's name.

I was stripped of my tactical gear and my boots. Probably so that I wouldn't have any protection from the Arizona summer heat if I did manage to escape.

I was in a very bad spot. But I made a decision right then and there that I would do something no Peace Keeper had done before me. I was going to get out of this Lawless Zone alive.


Featured Image is an ongoing column for Renderosity Magazine where we feature the most striking and evocative digital imagery we can find.

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