Lubos and Vladan are hunters in a post-apocalyptic landscape that may not be as extensive as it seems; by Petr Janecka.
In a parched wasteland dotted with toxic lakes and craters of bombardment hinting at warfare long since forgotten, procuring food bordered with impossibility. Yet somehow, overweight hunter Lubos managed to do so.
"You're a hero." The tribe revered Lubos when he victoriously walked into the encampment, carrying spoils of his endeavour in scavenged plastic bags.
Children cavorted before proceeding to eat with fervour what their mothers gave them. Adults gulped their repasts voraciously, feasting by a bonfire and then dancing in a ritual to appease the gods.
As for Vladan, he sat at the edge of the camp, shunned and mocked, forced to consume sour roots he could scavenge. An incompetent lout deserving nothing but laughter and scorn.
Of course it incensed him. Yet it puzzled him as well. How come that he, a refined man skilled in the old ways, couldn't catch a fish or trap a deer? How could Lubos sprint with flab hanging loose, certainly dragging him down? Or throw with short arms and chubby fingers barely able to grasp a lance?
In truth, Vladan had never witnessed his rival run, which flummoxed him. A successful hunter had to give a chase. Or at least Vladan believed in that although it didn't appear truthful anymore.
Days passed and Lubos continued supplying the tribe with necessities while Vladan haplessly tired himself out in the wasteland, his stubborn will not allowing him to desist and admit his inaptitude.
He hounded the rippling surface of a poisonous pool, poking the target with his spear until it finally ceased resisting. Grinning in triumph, he submerged his hands only to take out a worn grey boot.
He dogged a careering ball of white, a creature quivering in fear. His pace steady and arm straight, aiming at the escaping animal. Direct hit. It pinned the critter to the arid soil, leaving it at Vladan's mercy. Yet much to his dismay, he approached it to see he didn't kill anything, the beast actually being a plastic bag carried by the wind.
However, even such a foolhardy individual like Vladan wouldn't persist forever. After a month, he decided to follow his fellow furtively, intending to learn the secrets of Lubos' craft.
He tracked Lubos' steps, observing his movement, noting his clumsy manner of walk, or rather totter. Could it have been an artifice to fool the prey?
Attentively crawling, hiding behind every withered tree and chunk of debris, Vladan spotted something bizarre on the horizon. A rectangular structure that grew gradually larger as he drew nearer.
Large blocks of letters flashed atop its entrance, yet Vladan couldn't read. Nevertheless, he scented a subterfuge, watching Lubos vanish beyond a door leading inside.
He stopped by the entry, carefully scanning his surroundings, double-checking whether he would fall into a ruse. Yet everything seemed in order. Taking a deep breath and steeling the nerves, he went in.
A baffling sight overwhelmed him. Wooden seats and tables filled a tiled room, with a counter behind which none other than Lubos stood. He was talking to a family dressed in clothes dissimilar to the usual tribal garments, betokening their foreign culture.
Glancing around, Vladan noticed that many people like the mentioned were there, most seated and enjoying junk food resembling what Lubos would bring home. They ravenously gnawed at the meal, fingers and mouths oily, eyes insatiable, prompting the hands to grab more and more.
As soon as Lubos served the family, Vladan marched to him, his mood purely confrontational.
"How can I serve you..." he began his mantra before looking at Vladan, shock paralyzing him for a second. "You? How did you... well, what do you want? Yes. I work here and return with leftovers. The truth is out. I guess you'd learn sooner or later anyway. So what next? Will you expose me?"
"How could you betray the sacred way of our forefathers?"
"You don't understand! You haven't tasted it! It's simply delicious! Here, try it out yourself!" Lubos said, giving Vladan a hamburger.
The slender hunter eyed the comestible with distrust, but eventually accepted it, smelling its unique aroma. A bewildering redolence bringing to mind the taste of heavens and the flavour of gods. Could it be real?
He sank his teeth into the marvel, tearing off morsels bit by bit and rapaciously chewing, feeling as if he bathed in mirth and floated through clouds that cushioned him on his journey to paradise.
He finished the serving, begging for more. Lubos happily obliged, feeding his hungry colleague, who couldn't stop craving the delectable divine gift.
"You know, my boss told me he's always looking for tribesmen because we are different and riveting to customers, which reflects greatly on sales. In exchange, you'd be allowed to carry home whatever leftovers you can."
"Where do I sign?" Vladan briskly replied, face brimming with merriment. His life would change drastically. No longer would they mock and berate him. No. They would praise him. And it turned out true. They glorified him.
However, he cared little for that. Only food interested him. Nevertheless, vast changes had occurred since that fateful moment. The tribe had two hunters. Both fat and none strong.