I saw four men on horseback coming over the low rise to the east and, just that quickly, a typical day on perimeter lookout became anything but typical. Now there was a time when that would have been a commonplace enough sight as to elicit little, if any, reaction. That time had been more than five years gone now. That time was before ballistic death had rained down from the skies and made it expedient to express the planetary population using not a ten-digit number but, instead, only six digits...and that was an overly-optimistic estimate.
I probably should’ve bugged out back to the settlement and gotten help but if I did, the riders would be way too far inside the perimeter for us to deal with them without the possibility of taking casualties. If they were on horseback and coming from the east, they weren’t anybody we wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to anyway.
Deacon had been telling us all along the only reason we hadn’t sickened and died like most of mankind was the caves shielded us from the fallout carried on the howling winds. To the east was where the major population centers had been and those had, sure as Hell, been bombed back to the Stone Age. While it wasn’t entirely inconceivable folks to the east of us had survived this long, it was damned unlikely they’d managed to do it and have had the resources to sustain livestock too.
I’d set my helmet down in the shade since it was so damnably hot today. Deacon would have been pissed had he known I wasn’t wearing it regardless of the temperature. I didn’t quite understand what UV radiation was but the helmet was supposed to keep it from frying my head. Snatching it up, I toggled the optic enhancers online and took a closer look at the strangers.
Their clothes were dusty…sweat-soaked but better quality than anything we’d seen in a long while. The saddlebags on their mounts bulged, indicating they had enough of…something…to make it worth packing around. All four carried MIL-SPEC rifles that gave every appearance of being well-maintained and fully-functional. The heat shimmer made it impossible to see their faces but that didn’t really matter. Whoever they were, it was time to deal with them.
They were just entering the narrow pass that would lead them right into our back yard when I depressed the activator switch on the perimeter mines. The confines of the rock walls focused the blast and they vanished in a shower of dust and rocky shrapnel. When things settled down and I got a clear look again, I confirmed they were all down and nobody was moving.
It was a new age of Man when trust was gone and self-preservation was the order of the day. Whoever they’d been, whatever they wanted was now moot. They’d come too close to knocking on our door for comfort and the days of welcome mats were long gone too.
This story was written for the weekly Motivation Monday flash fiction challenge prompt: I saw four men on horseback.