When Max Rockatansky left the Citadel, he never had planned to return. He’d thought he’d just keep wandering this wasteland until the journey or the solitude that came with it either killed him or healed him. So far, it had did neither the former nor the latter but when he came upon the Citadel he felt that was going to change, for better or worse.
At first he didn’t even recognize it as the Citadel, not until he’d seen the mark carved into the rocks above the now freely flowing waterfall. The mark of the late Immortan Joe. Max couldn’t help but feel a little shiver go up his spine as the memories of that whole event flooded his mind. It was all playing like a movie in extreme fast forward, everything coming to him at once with too much force. Everything was suddenly too hot, too loud, too-
Max was jolted back to reality with the sound. He turned to look at the dog beside him and smiled. He’d found Dog, or rather Dog found him, out in the middle of nowhere after he’d passed out from heat exhaustion. Dog had woken him and then kept pulling on him to follow. Max followed Dog and was lead to a little oasis of water which Max was desperately in need of.
He thought Dog would stay behind when left but instead he followed and had actually turned out to be a helpful companion. Dog had seemed to have learned when Max was having nightmares or hallucinations and it was as if he was trying to pull him out of them.
Max reached down and petted Dog then turned back toward the Citadel. From where he was standing he noticed a little settlement around the base of the waterfall and a group of people walking around the outskirts. Guards, he assumed.
He paused for a moment, debating about what to do next. It’d been so long since he’d been there. What if it wasn’t as he’d left it? What if she wasn’t there? What is some new group had taken it over?
It was a risk he’d have to take.
So Max made his way down toward the little town. As he got closer, the small group of three guards barely paid him any attention. They looked over at him and that’s when he noticed one was a member of the Vuvalini and the other two were former War Boys.
They didn’t approach him, merely went back to their patrolling and so Max just headed into the little town. It was almost more of a marketplace than a town; many people had little stands set up in front of their little tents or huts with various items laid out on them.
A lot of them shouted at Max to come buy their items but he just continued on, looking at everything around him. This place had obviously developed into something better and he got the feeling that a certain group had something to do with it. He wondered where they all were.
As he was distracted with his thoughts, Max ended up colliding with a small child who running around, knocking it to the ground. He looked down at the child and noticed it was a War Boy.
“Sorry,” grunted Max as he held his hand out to him. The boy stared at him a moment before taking it and standing up.
He continued to stare at Max and Max was beginning to feel a little anxious, wondering what to do.
Suddenly, a woman’s voice cried out for the little boy. He turned around at the sound of his name and that’s when Max noticed a familiar face coming toward him. He was never good at names but if he remembered correctly her name was Cheedo, one of the wives.
“Thank goodness, I found you,” she said when she reached the little boy, “Don’t wander off from the group.”
The little boy nodded then he turned and pointed to Max, never saying a word.
Cheedo looked up at Max and after a moment of staring recognized who he was. “Oh my goodness, it’s you. It’s Max!”
The minute she said his name questioning shouts of “Max?” started ringing through the area as people began surrounding him and Dog. When they approached him they all looked at him in awe as if he was some kind of magical being. Max tried to take a step back to get away from the madness of the crowd but there were only more behind him.
Max had never really been one for large groups but after being alone for so long it had only gotten worse. He was getting overwhelmed and seeing faces of the dead on those in the crowd. Their chants of Max were not filled with excitement but with spite. They kept approaching and Max felt as if they were going to kill him.
Thankfully, they disappeared when a stern voice shouted out, “What’s going on over here?”
Immediately, the crowd began to part and a familiar face approached Max. Her hair had grown out just a little bit and she wore a newly made mechanical arm but she was still instantly recognizable. A face he would never forget.
“Furiosa,” he whispered out the name running through his head.
Furiosa stared at him in surprise for a moment but then her face softened into a smile.
“Welcome back, fool.”
Max quietly made his way toward them, Dog at his heels, hoping to not interrupt. But the minute he came into view of the Dag, she looked over at him. Furiosa turned to look at him and motioned for him to come to them.
“So it is true,” began the Dag, “You returned.”
Max just grunted in reply as if to say “Yep.”
“We all wondered what happened to you after we returned to the Citadel. You just suddenly disappeared.”
“...I’m not one for goodbyes,” he began.
“Well it’s good to see you again. Will you be here long?” asked the Dag.
Max didn’t respond for a moment, trying to figure out what so say, but thankfully Furiosa saved him from having to answer.
“He’s here now,” began Furiosa before the Dag could question him further. “And while he’s here we should show him what this place has become.”
So Max headed out with Furiosa. As they made their way around the are, Furiosa began telling Max what had been happening over the past 468 days (she’d been keeping count).
“After we came back, the people wanted a leader. Someone they felt could protect them and help them.”
“They chose you,” he stated.
Furiosa nodded. “Yes, but I know that leadership is something to be shared between a group. The Wives and the Vuvalini are extremely helpful with that. The Dag runs the gardens and helps us distribute out equal portions to all the people. Toast has become a teacher, for anyone who wishes to learn, young or old. Capable helps nurse the sick. That’s what we now use these rooms for. The sick, the elderly, and mothers and children. Cheedo, as you saw, helps with the children, especially any orphans.”
“...Like the War Boys?”
“Yes,” began Furiosa, “We wanted them to have a chance to be children. The older War Boys who had already been trained help the Vuvalini with guard and patrol duties. We haven’t had any threats but we would hate for an unfriendly group to try and attack. Thankfully most of those who pass by are just travelers. They come in for water and some supplies. The people have gotten good at trading with them. It’s helped this place grow.”
Max just nodded in agreement as they hopped on the platform to head down to the ground.
The ride down to the ground was quiet but expected from two people who weren’t those up for iele chit-chat.
Finally, Furiosa asked, “How were your travels?”
Max thought back to his adventures over the past year. Mostly aimless wandering around areas of nothing but sand. Very little water. Eating bugs and lizards. A couple of fights with some groups that tried to steal what little supplies he had. “Rough,” was his only reply though.
Dog barked beside him, as if to agree.
There was another moment of silence as they reached the bottom of the platform and hopped off. Then she finally asked what he was sure everyone had been wondering. “Why did you return?”
Max was quiet a moment as he thought about what to say. Then, without a word, he reached into his bag and pulled out an object.
When she saw what it was she looked at him in shock. It was a desert flower, similar to those she remembered from the green place. Granted it was dried up, close to the petals crumbling, but it was still real.
“Months ago...I found it...the plant was dying so I-I picked this off,” he began looking at the flower in his hand. Then he looked up at her. “I remembered...what you said about a green place. Where I found this was barren...but maybe...maybe the earth is healing. One day...maybe you can find another green place.”
Furiosa couldn’t even think of anything to say; she just kept her eyes on the flower.
“...Could you close your eyes?,” he said.
She just tilted her head at him, confused. But she noticed the look of determination in his eyes and so she did as he said.
“My...my daughter liked putting things in her mother’s hair,” he began and suddenly she felt his hand tucking the flower behind her ear; her hair was much too short for the flower to be put in it.. She opened her eyes and noticed a sad look in his.
“Keep this. A symbol of hope...and something to remember me by.”
“You’re leaving?” she asked. “You can all the way here and you’re going to leave this soon?”
Max shook his head. “Probably the morning.”
“Why don’t you want to stay?” she asked after a pause. “We could use you here.”
“...I’m...I remember what you said about redemption…I’m still looking for mine,” he said.
Furiosa just stared at him a moment before crossing her arms. “Look, whatever happened in the past, whatever you did or didn’t do, you’ve got redemption,” she began, “If you keep wandering around it’s not for redemption; it’s to punish yourself.”
Max didn’t say anything so Furiosa just walked up to him and placed the flower in his hand. “I won’t need something to remember you with if you don’t leave,” she began. “Think it over.”
He couldn’t stop thinking about what she had said. He could stay there, be useful, have a life that wasn’t wandering around and asking himself if that location was where he would die. She told him he’d found his redemption and for a moment he almost believed that.
But the minute he closed his eyes and saw his daughter mocking him with his failure to save her and so many others, he knew that he hadn’t yet.
He looked over at Furiosa for a moment then he pulled the flower out of his bag and twirled it around in his hand.
He’d made up his mind.
She picked it up and out of it fell the desert flower, stained with red paint. That’s when she noticed the partially smudged, but still understandable writing. As always, Max was a man of few words as all the letter read was:
Don’t forget about me.
Furiosa sighed and looked up out the window at the endless desert. He would remain out in it until he felt he had redeemed himself enough to enjoy a calmer life, a life he felt he had denied those who haunted him. And when that day came, she would be there, ready to welcome him back as if he’d never left, ready to let him become a part of this little community, ready to show him he’d never been forgotten.
She stared down at the letter and the flower again.
Don’t forget about me.
“As if I could, fool.”