Saturday, May 7, 2011
Posted by Jonathan Martin
Peter awoke, the sound of the flames licking at the building in his ear. Jumping up from the hardwood floor he had slept on, he ran to the counter where his pistol was before realizing that the light in the room was sunlight, not firelight.
“You ok?” Jud asked over a steaming cup of coffee. He stood there as Peter gave him a maniacal look.
Looking around, Peter remember the night before, arriving at Zachariah’s families farm, and took a deep breath. “I had a nightmare.”
“I’ll say. Tell me about it.” The older man said as he lifted his cup to his lips.
Peter stared through the man, remembering his dream. “We were in a motel, I’m not sure which one it was, but Graham was outside laughing and the building was on fire.”
“I thought he was protecting you?” Peter snapped back to the living room as the voice broke his reverie.
“From what though? That’s what puzzles me.”
“Maybe he has plans for you.”
The thought had entered Peter’s mind before, but hearing it spoken out loud lent it more credence.
“Do you have more of that?” he asked, pointing at the cup in the older man’s hand, as the smell finally reached him.
“Sure, come on out to the patio. I’ve just come in for some cereal for Kyle. Be right behind you.” Jud said over his shoulder as he headed towards the large pantry.
Peter slid on his coat and slipped into his sole pair of shoes, and stepped out onto the porch, where he was greeted by Amy, Zachariah, Kyle, and Aubrey.
“Coffee?” Offered Aubrey, pointing to a carafe sitting on a nearby table and holding out an empty cup.
“Sure,” Peter said, grabbing the cup from her and reaching for the carafe. “Where’d you get it?”
“After ‘bout a week had passed, Jud and a friend hitched up a team of horses to one of the trucks and rode down to one of the warehouses. Ah there you are,” she interrupted herself as her husband stepped out of the house, a bowl of cheerios in hand. “I was just telling them about how you and James Kennedy down the way went and got supplies.”
“Ah, that was an adventure,” Jud smiled. “I guess I do owe you folks an explanation, now that you’ve given me your tale. But first, Zach, you and Peter come with me, I’ve got something I need to show you. It’ll give the others a chance to wake up.”
Coffee in hand, Zach and Peter followed the old man off the patio towards the barn with Rocky in tow.
"I didn't know what to think of it until I heard your story last night," Jud said.
"About what?" Zach asked.
"In a minute!" Jud snapped as they approached the barn.
Peter could hear a noise coming from inside the structure and instinctively, his hand went to his hip, only to realize that he had left his gun back in the house. Glancing around, he spied a long handled pitchfork and reached for it, only to have another hand stop his.
Rocky paced at the barn's door, growling as Jud spoke up. "Calm down the both of you," he scolded, "or you'll curdle their milk."
"You mean you have cows?" Peter asked.
"Well, yeah. Where'd you think you got the cream for your coffee?"
Peter looked at his now empty cup. "I drink it black." He chuckled.
"Anyways. 'Round here." Jud motioned for them to follow again.
The group rounded the barn, and painted there, on the western-facing wall, both Peter and Zach saw why Jud had led them there.
A white circle enclosing the number eighty-eight resided there, from the ground all the way up to the eaves. A half dozen paint cans, both red and white, lay empty and scattered on the ground. Peter indicated the red cans with his foot, "What are these from?"
"It first showed up six days ago and I painted over it. I came out the next day and it was back."
"Have you seen any sign of Others?" Zach asked, suddenly wary of how exposed he was.
"Tracks, but they leave us alone. Hell, this here," he pointed at Graham's number,
"is probably the first time I've seen any indication of them in a month. Now come on," he started back towards the house, “I have a story to tell.”
They made there way back to the porch, where Brian, Chris, and Julie had joined everyone else, and were sipping from steaming cups of coffee.
“This is the greatest thing,” Smiled Chris, “Where’d you get it?”
Taking his seat, Jud smiled back. “It started back on The Day of Blasts at about 2:47 in the afternoon. I had just come in from the fields to grab a quick snack when I heard what sounded like an explosion. I rushed outside, Aubrey in tow, and saw smoke rising from the highway west of here. The smoke didn’t look that far away, so Her and I went walking, and ran into Jack from across the way,” he waved his hand at the barren field across the road from his farm. ”He was running back towards his place. He yelled something about a tanker truck exploding, but did not stop to elaborate. Well, we topped that hill,” He made another motion, and began to shake his head.
Aubrey butted in, “You can see for miles from up there. All we saw was smoke, just going off to the west. We turned around, and saw the same in the other direction. We went home, and Jud was grabbing his keys when his cell rang.”
“How’d you convince dad to get a phone, he hates them things.” Zach interrupted.
“After I fell and broke my leg last year while he was out in the field, he went out the next day. He never used it, but he had it. Anyways…” she started to continue.
“Anyways,” Jud said, taking control of the conversation again, “It was Jack, he said that his car had just blowed up and not to start mine.”
“How’d he survive?” Amy asked, her doctors instincts kicking in.
“He had some new Mustang with a keyless starter, he pressed the button and it went off, cut him up, but he was okay,” Jud reassured her. “Well, we stayed put for a few days, talking back and forth with Jack, and found out that Gus, of all people, was ok too.” He decided to elaborate after seeing the quizzical looks the rest of the group gave him. “Gus owned the gas station you passed just outside of town. He was out hunting when it all went wrong.”
“After about a day and a half, Jack’s cell was dead, and the battery light on mine was flashing, so we got rid of those and took to getting together every night. The six of us, Aubrey and me, Jack, his wife, Gus, and his oldest son, Gus Jr., tried to help each other out as best we could with supplies. We even went so far as to go into town and break into the grocery store. Finally, we were pretty low on sources for food, so we took some horses from Jack’s farm, hitched em up to my big ol’ flatbed, and Jack, Gus, and I rode down south towards Lubbock. The trip took us almost a week to get down there, and we did not like what we found. The outskirts, where all the houses were, were in ruins, burnt to the ground, almost every single one.”
“That sounds like the work of Graham and his men,” Peter said, thinking back to his first glimpse into his enemies eyes. He had seen Dallas burning, what was to stop Graham from burning the rest of the world to the ground too.
“Well, we had yet to see any of these ‘Others’ as you call them. I mean we had heard gunshots, but figured it was people off hunting, never did we assume it was people attacking people. Anyways, we were getting closer into town when we saw our first signs of real trouble."