Monday, July 19, 2010
Posted by Jonathan Martin
A week had passed since they had met Sarah, with an H. Peter could not help but think about the things people held on to when they were pushed to their limits. The day after they had met Sarah, they came across a sixteen year old boy named Brian in the frozen food section of a Walmart, a spoon in one hand, a gallon of rocky road ice cream in his lap, and a Winnie the Pooh blanket draped over his shoulder. When they finally managed to get the spoon out of his hand and for him to come with them, he clutched the blanket so tightly his knuckles turned white. Two days after that, they had met Chris.
Their first impression of Chris was of a 90’s grunge rocker, right down to the faded red and black flannel shirt he wore over his Misfits t-shirt and stringy bleached blond hair. He had an acoustic guitar slung over his left shoulder and over his right was a bag full of beef jerky and peanuts. That first night, while they camped inside a vacant house a little ways off the interstate, he offered to play them a song. After everyone decided that would be nice, Chris pulled the guitar off of his back and set down on a green chaise lounge while the rest of the group, now numbering ten people total, sat down, mostly on the floor to listen.
Chris began to play, and after a few moments, Peter looked around. He knew the tune, but could not place it, and by the looks on everyone else’s face, that seemed to be the consensus. It was not until about a minute in, when Chris began to sing, and he only sang the one line, that the song dawned on the group. “And I feel fine…”
“Chris, do you know the rest of the song?” Peter asked.
Chris nodded, and continued to play, not missing a beat, and once the chorus kicked in, once again, “And I feel fine,” this time though, he sounded guilty.
“Chris, that’s ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it’ isn’t it?” Amy asked. “Do you really think that’s appropriate?”
“And I feel fine.” As he finished the line one last time, tears streaming down his face, he flung the guitar against the wall. With a resounding thud, the guitar bounced off the wall and landed on an unoccupied sofa, the same ugly green as the chaise he was sitting on.
Amy stood up and went over to where Chris was, and, sitting down beside him, put her arm around his shoulders and just sat there while he cried. “I get it, Chris, I get it.”
Zachariah, his bald pate reflecting the candlelight, stood up as well, “I’m going to take the flashlight and look through the rest of the houses on this street. The power is out so food is going to start spoiling soon, and we need to start stockpiling canned goods and the like if we are going to make, plus I may find more weapons or candles and batteries. I’m going to take the wheelbarrow that is in the garage. Wish me luck.” With that, he got up and left the house through the garage. A few seconds later they heard the garage door open, and then close.
Zachariah went to the last house on the same side of the street, figuring he would start there and work his way back to the house they were currently residing in. After no one answered his knock, they were still civilized people after all, he tried the front door and found it locked. Zachariah had been a locksmith before that day, and his particular skill set served him well now as he pulled a pick out of his jeans pocket and proceeded to force the tumblers open. Fortunately for him, most house locks were well below his expertise and he had the door open in no time.
Leaving the wheelbarrow on the front porch and walking into the foyer of the two story house he had just broken into, Zachariah swung the flashlight’s beam back and forth, highlighting a picture of a forest road, an old tube television, in addition to a staircase, and a hallway that presumably led to the kitchen. He decided to check upstairs first, and bounded up the steps, two at a time, and after rifling through all the closets and drawers he found, came up with a box of AA batteries, some matches, and a few candles. There was a can of butane too, but he did not want to risk having it blow up on someone, they still didn’t know what had caused the explosions. After climbing down the staircase, walking this time, he set his treasures in a pile at the door and went to look for the kitchen to see what goodies it would hold.
A door at the end of the hallway led Zachariah into the kitchen where the first thing he noticed was the smell of urine and feces, very strongly. He sung the flashlight around the room and had the light not caught the glow of it’s tags, he would have missed it. A small Doberman mix was laying in a corner looking emaciated, but managed to thump it’s tail a few times upon seeing another living thing. Zachariah moved cautiously into the kitchen, the dog’s eyes followed him, but it made no move to stop him. He approached a doorway that he thought might be the pantry and opened it. Indeed it was, and sitting there in the middle of the floor was an almost full bag of dog food, with an empty bowl sitting next to it.
Well, first things first thought Zachariah, as he filled the bowl with the dog’s food and slid, rather than walked, towards the dog. It lifted its head, and wagged its tail again, but that is all it had the energy for. He set the bowl down about a foot from the dog, because that is as close as he dared get, and the dog whined, but did not get up. “Come on guy, you need to eat.” Again the tail wagged, but the dog did not move. Going back into the pantry, Zachariah found what he was looking for and came out with a broom in hand, which he used to push the bowl right up to the dogs nose. This time, the dog lifted it’s head and dropped it into the bowl, managing to eat a few bites before needing to rest again. While the it was occupied, Zachariah continued his search, pausing when he found bowls and a jug of water to give the dog it’s own water dish, which it lapped at greedily. In addition to the mutt, Zachariah found a case of green beans, some HoHo’s, a box of crackers, and some packs of Ramen noodles, all of which he added to his pile at the door.
The dog still showed no interesting in moving, so Zachariah topped off the water bowl, and the food bowl, of which it had finished about half. He set another bowl full of water on the floor, a couple of feet from the first and told himself he would come back in the morning to check on the dog, before he left, and after carrying the two armfuls of acquisitions to the wheelbarrow, proceeded to the next house, one stop closer to being back with his companions.
He approached the front door, this one painted red to match the shutters his flashlight had shone on. Setting the wheelbarrow at the foot of the porch steps, Zachariah planted his feet and knocked on the door. The first bullet grazed his check, but the second shot caught him in his right bicep, with enough force to knock him off the porch, and into the wheelbarrow, tipping it over and scattering it’s contents. Dazed, it took Zachariah a second to come to his senses, and once this was done, he stood up and took off running to the voices of his companions, who had come outside to see what the gunfire was about.
He ran towards them, about four houses down from where he was, and stumbled as he tripped over the gnarled root of a large tree that was growing in one of the lawns he was cutting across. As he lay there, unable to use his arm to raise himself, and nauseous from the pain, circle of light shown on him, and he heard someone, he thought it was Amy, say, “There he is.”
Hands were on him, picking him up, and he lifted his head to see Peter on one side of him, and Chris on the other dragging him bodily back towards the house they had moments before been in.
“He’s been shot!” It was Amy, and she didn’t sound sickened, just shocked. “Lets’ see what we have for painkillers inside, and I will walk into town and get some tools in the morning to take the bullet out.”
“What do you know…” Peter started.
“I used to be a surgeon.”
And that was when Peter and Zachariah both realized how little they knew about the people they had thrown their lots in with.
Labels: Hollow World