Through notes that Clark left on computer terminals throughout Zion and in his duffle bag, a sort of autobiography unfolds, beginning with the war and the loss of his family to the bombs. Clark's tale details how he waited out the worst of the radiation, then set out into the light once more, adapting to the new flora and fauna as it, too, adapted to this new world. It mentions him helping others survive, as well as raining vengeance on those who would butcher innocents. It shows him becoming "The Father," his life ending with the rebirth of a group of children into the Sorrows tribe and Clark unwittingly immortalized as their deity.
The First Years
Before the Great War extinguished human civilization, Randall Dean Clark (born February 5, 2053) served with the United States Army, deployed in recently annexed Canada. Witnessing the atrocities committed in the name of the American people, he was sickened by the criminality. But Clark was more than a soldier. He took pride in his survival skills, often running off from Salt Lake City to the wilds for days on end, much to the dismay of his wife Charlotte and son Alex. He was just returning from one of his camping trips on October 23, taking the scenic route along State Route 77. He was an hour from home when the Great War happened. His truck just stopped, as did the Chryslus in the next lane. Clark recognized the EMP and covered himself. The first warheads descended upon the city within a minute. The bombardment lasted just seven minutes, but Clark counted thirteen separate nuclear missile detonations.
He grabbed his pack and rifle, mercy killed an old couple in the Chryslus who were blinded permanently by the flash of the explosion, then started walking back to Zion. After five days, he reached the canyon, taking shelter inside Fallen Rock cave. USGS equipment left behind and a spring in the back of the cave helped him survive the first horrific days. Though at first everything seemed alright, a black rain came on October 31, irradiating the land. By November 2, the radiation levels got so bad, Clark couldn't go within 15 feet of the entrance of the cave without his Geiger counter detecting lethal levels of radiation. So he waited, until either his water or the radiation went away.
The situation continued into 2078. After two months of surviving inside the cave, the radiation levels were still lethal, contrary to his Army training, which said 2–4 weeks were enough for it to clear. With his clean water supplies running low, Clark took to mopping condensation off cave walls and wringing it into bottles, trading calories for water. His only solace was that the USGS food stockpile was holding well, but that was the only one. Clark was alone, and if there was the slimmest chance of finding his family alive, he would happily brave the radiation just to see them again.
Things changed on January 8. A massive windstorm ripped through the canyons, lasting two whole days. It cleared out the radioactive fallout, dropping the exposure level by 500 rads by January 10. Five days later, Clark risked taking a peek outside. It was snowing. The snow glowed green. This meteorological phenomenon aside, by January 28 radiation levels dropped low enough for him to risk exposure outside of his cave shelter and even drink from the cave stream as long as he took radiation drugs.
But even with a supply of water, Clark was alone. There was nothing else alive outside.
Clark took things slowly, carefully. Camped out of Fallen Rock and Two Skies caves, he slowly ventured out throughout the canyon. By 2083, he had a well-established camp at both locations. While his food stocks were still holding (although they were still plentiful by the time of the Courier’s arrival), he started to implement fresh fruit into his diet. Contrary to his early impressions, nature survived the nuclear holocaust and was slowly recovering. By May 5, he already identified a long list of surviving plants, with harmless nodules and mutations caused by the radiation. He carefully foraged, taking as little fruit as possible to enable the plants to survive. By May 7, he identified another sign of life: clouds of stinging flies in one part of the canyon, with a mutated dragonfly-sized creature feasting on them.
The real revelation came on May 19, when he spied a bighorner family: a ram, ewe and a single lamb. For the first time since the War, he saw large animals, and a family no less. Though they were changed by the radiation, they remained healthy and fertile. Clark knew he could now add animal husbandry to his list of activities. But he also knew another thing: it was finally time to go home.
Clark prepared for the expedition for a year, finally departing on April 10 from the canyon. He reached Salt Lake City after 15 days of dodging radiation pockets and foraging. He hoped to find his family's home and bury them properly. But the warped landscape of craters, misshapen skeletons of high-rises, and brick mounds gave no hope. Everything was scorched clean. Clark turned back, scavenging what he could. He gave tracks of human presence a wide berth and returned to his solitude in Zion. He hated himself. Hated himself for scavenging, instead of finding his home and dying there, as his family did.
But he did not. And he continued on, leading a solitary existence. Eleven years later, he finally found companionship, or rather, it found him. A group of 28 Spanish-speaking humans (11 men, 8 women, 9 children) wound up in Zion on September 20, 2095. Clark watched them closely, without revealing himself. Not speaking Spanish himself, he kept his distance, watching over them like a guardian angel. It became quite literal in November when one of the Mexican survivors broke his leg while hunting bighorners. Clark intervened, first drawing the other survivors to his position and then providing them with a bottle of antibiotics to fight off the infection caused by the compound fracture. By November 15, he saved the man's life, all without revealing himself to the group. They thought it was divine intervention. Clark knew otherwise.
Moving to Stone Bones cave over the winter, he watched the Mexicans live in the canyon. They survived the winter with ease. What they did not survive was the coming of the newcomers. Vault 22 dwellers entered the canyon, driven out of their vault by the fungal parasite infesting it. With over one hundred men and women, strong discipline, tactics and firepower, the small band of Mexican survivors posed no threat to the dwellers. They hit the survivors' camp on February 11, killing all the men and shooting down women and children that resisted. The remainder was taken to the main camp of the dwellers and penned in like livestock.
Clark was desperate to help the Mexican survivors. Over the next two days, he surveyed the area. The Vault 22 dwellers were organized well, with patrols and sentries set up along all approaches into the camp, except for the stream. The coughing among the dwellers puzzled Clark, but he ignored it as he prepared to save the surviving Mexicans. He went into the camp on February 14.
What he saw snapped something inside him. The Vault 22 dwellers killed and ate everyone they took from the Mexican survivors' camp. Clark retaliated, waging a brutal war of attrition against them. With his rifle in hand and all the explosives he could use, he ambushed the dwellers where he could and booby-trapped bodies and weapons he could not take. By the end of February, he killed 24 dwellers in a cold, merciless campaign of vengeance. In the ten days it took to accomplish this, he only suffered one wound: a 10mm steel jacket round through the thigh, which missed the femoral artery. Though he remained unseen by survivors, he was forced to move camp when on March 2, a small patrol nearly uncovered his camp in the cave when one of their men was caught in a deadfall trap. Panic fire almost hit him. After he disposed of the intruders, he moved camp to Cueva Guarache.
Victory came ten months later. After losing more than eighty members of the group to Clark and sickness, the dwellers gave up and fled the canyon, after eating their dead for nourishment. Clark was victorious, but his vengeance was not satisfying. Four days after they left, he found a person who opened another chapter in his life: Sylvie. She was a part of the Vault 22 expedition, but broke off from the main group, to avoid further mistreatment at the hands of the males. She stepped into one of Clark's bear traps by accident, allowing Randall to find her and he nursed her back to health. He taught her about life outside the Vault. And Sylvie, she wanted to learn.
For three years, they led a happy life. But in September 2100, terror entered Clark's life as they discovered Sylvie was pregnant. Becoming a father again at 47 scared him. Sylvie did not know about Charlotte or Alex. She was happy to bear Clark's child. But Randall felt he failed once. He did not want to fail his second wife. He traveled to Toquerville, to gather what medical gear, medicine and books he could find to ensure the child came into the world unharmed. He wanted to do it right.
Clark studied and prepared himself diligently for nine months, until the time came for the birth, around March 2101. Although he learned well and put his skills to use, he failed. Michael, his son, was a breech birth. Clark was unable to turn him and performed a Caesarean section, but it was too late to save him or Sylvie, who never woke up from anesthesia. He buried his second family south of the Zion Narrows. He was with them this time. Clark gave up. He went back to his cave and on March 5 decided to commit suicide.
But he didn't do it. He moved to Morning Glory cave and continued his march into the long night. He was a survivor, though he wasn't free of questioning his own sanity. His first encounter with a roaming pack of feral ghouls on August 23, 2108, made him believe he went crazy. He quickly changed his mind the next day, when the ghouls rushed him, snarling like animals. Clark put them out of their misery by September 3. Something he wished he could do for himself.
Ten years later, the 70-year-old Clark found renewed purpose. Around April 2123, a group of 24 children made their way into Zion, setting up camp at the old site used by the Mexicans, 30 years earlier. Clark watched them from the shadows, listening to them. They spoke a variant of English, taught each other stories, learned that they escaped from the School, fearing the Principal. Clark wanted to protect them and thought of ways he could use his skills to do so.
Clark took care of them. Unseen, as usual, he left them gifts: storybooks, weapon manuals, medical books, and other practical items. He also left them notes, telling them to read, learn, settle into Zion. Zion was their reward, a gift to make up for all the sorrows people visit upon their lives and each other. He told them to be kind, modest, but strike out against those who try to hurt them with anger. He became "the Father," a mythical figure caring for them.
But all things come to an end. By January 2124, Clark knew he was dying. It was lung cancer: hacking cough, shortness of breath, bloody spit. He gave away most of what he owned to the children, leaving them one final note: Reassuring that while the Father would be silent from here on out, he would always be out there to watch over and protect them. It was a lie, of course, but it did not matter. Clark, not wanting to die in a place where his body could be found by the children, packed his bag, his trusty rifle, and made his way to Red Gate on January 23. There, under the stars, the frail old man recorded his thoughts. He realized that what drove him on despite his death wish was his memories. With his family dead, their only life was in his memories of them. It drove him on, kept going through the years. And at the end, he saw innocence once more, in the children that settled in Zion.
Randall Dean Clark closed his eyes for the final time in the Red Gate, in January 2124.
Behind the scenes
- The Survivalist was designed by J.E. Sawyer, and his diary entries were written by John Gonzalez. He was conceived as a clever ex-military man without a lot of formal education.
- Sawyer was completely unaware of the Twilight Zone episode The Old Man in the Cave during the production of Honest Hearts. As such, it never factored into his design of the Survivalist.
- Year: 2100
- Year: 2077
- Year: 2078
- Year: 2083
- Year: 2084
- Year: 2095
- Year: 2096
- Year: 2096 (II)
- BEWARE - A VENGEFUL SPIRIT STALKS THESE CANYONS
- Year: 2097
- Year: 2101
- Year: 2108
- Year: 2123
- Year: 2124
- Joshua Sawyer on Formspring: "Finished Honest Hearts and I'm curious, who was involved with The Survivalist's subplot? Also, is it wrong that when I read his lines I hear them said by Sylvester Stallone?"
"I designed the overall arc of the Survivalist, his background, and his relationship with the inhabitants of Zion, but John Gonzalez wrote all of the entries you find in the logs."
- Joshua Sawyer on Formspring May 18, 2011: "The log entries for the Survivalist made him at times seem woefully uneducated. But in order to live under those conditions and seeing his ingenious methods, makes it seem he would be more the contrary."
"John and I thought of the Survivalist as a clever ex-military man without a lot of formal education. The Survivalist is experienced at living and traveling in the wilderness, so he uses his general experience and quick wits to survive in Zion. Some close examination of his rifle also gives clues about his life before the war."
- JES on SomethingAwful.com: "Saint Sputnik posted: The other night I caught an episode of The Twilight Zone called "The Old Man in the Cave," about a mysterious unseen figure who helped a bunch of nuclear apocalypse survivors. I feel like Fallout writers must mainline TZ episodes for inspiration. Confirm/Deny?
I've never seen (or heard of, before seeing that footnote on the Wikia) that episode."