Friday, March 4, 2011

Hollow World Chapter 31


Walking down the empty street Graham shivered. Once a royal blue, the now sun-faded, powder blue jersey that had once allowed the previous owner to stay cool while playing hockey now permitted the cold wintery air too much access to his vessels flesh. His skin had become leathery, the wind of the road etching creases on his face. His arms had burned at first, and then darkened. His once jet black hair had long since gone blonde, bleached by the sun.

Graham knew that Peter thought he had started the war. He also knew that the war would begin on his terms, and his terms alone. A group in Albuquerque had shot one of the other Ancients before she could shift out. There were only twenty-two now, another had been too close to a car that had blown up.

As the cold grasp of winter enclosed on the surviving members of humanity, Graham found himself needing to give his troops a break. The message went out for them to find shelter and await further orders. It would do him no good to have half of his army freeze to death before the war even started. His soldiers would gather and care for each other. Care was not the correct word. Provide. His soldiers would provide for each other.

Absently, he kicked an empty can of baked beans, the slimy remains spilling out as it bounced off of the nearby highway sign. Amarillo, Population 14 it read. A toothy smile broke through his cracked and bleeding lips. A large black crow stared at him from its perch atop the highway sign that marked the road as 287.

Stepping around a still steaming pile of excrement, he realized that he was not
as far behind Peter as he thought. And Rocky. What was it they saw in that beast?

He sent a thought out to any of his soldiers that happened to still be within the city. They were to keep an eye out for Peter, but Graham emphasized that they were not to be harmed. He sensed a camp south, at Lake Tanglewood, where about a hundred of his troops were bivouacked, preparing to scatter to find winter quarters. Looking for a route south, Graham continued on. He pushed himself and made the eleven mile trek in just over two hours.

As he entered the camp, he was greeted by rumblings of a coming battle. The camp could sense the nearby presence of survivors at an apartment complex about seven miles distant and many of his soldiers were readying to attack it. Graham immediately took over coordination of the attack, signaling all of his nearby followers to stop their activities and return. A quick assessment told him he had enough weapons, be they guns or blades, for everyone to have one. It took another hour for everyone to return, and as the sun continued its decent towards the western horizon, Graham and his army moved out.

Peter, this is how you start a war, Graham thought.

He, along with the troops, marched at a leisurely pace, arriving as the sky began its shift from blue to red to purple. The last half mile of the walk was accompanied by a rousing chorus of the Barney television show’s theme song. Graham thought that the song fit the mood well. He shifted his position, finding a spot in the middle of the pack as they rounded the final corner, the complex coming into view in front of them.

Eight two story buildings, a ten foot tall, gated fence surrounding them, cast shadows on the ground before them. The first shot rang out, he was not sure if it belonged to his troops, or the group of survivors, but with the crack of that first shot, his soldiers rushed the gated community. Three of his men lay dead by the time the gate had been pried open, but the two men guarding it were dead as well.

The survivors in the compound opened fire as they advanced, accounting for another dozen men and two women. His troops were unable to pick off any of the shooters, who were taking cover in the buildings, popping up to shoot from the windows.

No matter, Graham thought as he sent the order to move one of the remaining cars next to a building. He lost four more men while the vehicle was moved into place. He called his troops back to the gate and then sent a group of six to start the car. Four of them died, but the remaining two martyred themselves, and blew the front off of two buildings, in turn killing two of the snipers. Screams came from within as the flames began to spread, and he sent his soldiers rushing in again.

He found himself another undamaged car and sat inside of it while his men overran the complex. He reveled in every scream and cry as they split the night, and chuckled as the first of the buildings collapsed under its own weight, the second floor tumbling down to fill the cavernous hole that the car had blown in the structure.

It took two hours before he was satisfied that everything was dead. A bonfire made of furniture now burned in the parking lot, giving Graham the sparks he needed to set the remaining buildings ablaze. He threw the first torch into each and soon after, all of his soldiers were tossing burning debris into the apartments.

Black smoke rose into the sky as Graham sat down by the bonfire. The war was here he thought to himself. This is how you stay warm for the winter.

If you read something you liked, didn't like, or just have a question about the story in general, I would love to hear from you. Even if it is as minor as an misspelled word or a misplaced apostrophe, it made it this far so someone obviously missed it.

I take feedback seriously, it is the best way for me to improve and the easiest way for you to help me improve.


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