Red Desert 2

Rangle Ditmouth only wanted one small favor from life: to gain a sense of stability.  It wasn’t much to ask for.  He was abandoned when he was twelve and learned to live on his own, but he never felt confident.  He was always dependent on other people to tell him what to do — but, eventually, the people he met always abandoned him … until he met Ransumm Rotobar.  For the last seven years his life was stable under the protection and abuse of Rotobar;  but, now, he was being ejected, forced to leave the stability he had known — ordered to go on a Quixotic quest for the mythical Harlequin-beat Angel.  Rangle felt abandoned — he had never seen Rotobar so determined to cut him off by sending him into the Red Desert where Harlequin was rumored to exist.  The Red Desert was so damaged and destroyed that normal life-forms were unable to survive.   Ransumm gave the young servant a week’s supply of provisions, a breathing-bladder and a telegraph device — he booted Rangle out the door and yelled, “In one week I expect to see you with the Harlequin — don’t come back empty handed.”

The Director called for silence and explained in a conspiratorial voice,  “when the music stops, you must freeze — that’s how we play the game.”  Rangle had to pee.  He had been playing this game for hours and the Red Desert was closing in.  He felt claustrophobic.  Rangle wasn’t certain how he entered the  game and he didn’t know where the Director came from or anything else about him.  He vaguely remembered crossing-over into the Red Desert — that was easy — no one seemed to care about people venturing into a “dead man’s paradise.”  On the other hand, Rangle knew the problem was escaping from the desert and returning to the city.   Snipers protected the border.  People trying to return were picked-off like trophy animals — it was always hunting season.   At first glance the desert appeared lifeless.  A frosty glow of green and red phosphorescence hung in the poisoned air like frozen fire.  It was dry and hot.  His breathing mask and leather suit baked the heat into his thin body making it difficult to move.  The Director and crew seemed to materialize from dust particles in the air.  A stage set was quickly erected with cameras and blinding spotlights.  Rangle was introduced to the other characters and given a role to play in the game.  The Director shouted, “when the music stops you must freeze.”

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