Saturday, November 12, 2011
Posted by Jonathan Martin
After her proclamation, Sam had tried questioning Anna Maria about it, but either she did not know or she would not tell him, brushing him off with a terse “All in good time.” He had spent the rest of the day wandering the store, looking into the cubes, browsing the wares that people were selling, everything from forks, knives, plates and bowls to bullets, to blades. Someone was even selling pet reptiles, but with the winter, he had admitted that they probably would not survive. He had questioned some of the people about their lives before, and after the event, which they called The Burning.
An older man told him that he had once been a banker, and had been on his way to White Sands when he had stopped for food, and had liked the place so much he had not left. Another man, who was trading canned goods, most with missing labels, ‘Chef’s Surprise’ he called them, had been a professional boxer. He was missing three teeth and proceeded to tell Sam how he had lost all three. On the last aisle of cubicles, he ran into a woman that looked familiar. It turned out she lived in the apartment next to him back in Mesquite before the troubles. He spent an hour talking to her, without getting her name, and learned that she had arrived the week before and was still trying to fit in as well.
Despite his status as a ‘savior,’ he had been forced to sleep in his car the first night. As Anna Maria put it, he had not yet earned a spot in the community.
As the doors to the store were shut on him, he had called out to the guards. “What do I need to do to earn a spot?”
“Contribute.” The large man with the broken nose said.
The car had been uncomfortable, but he had been aloud back inside at dawn, and partook of breakfast again, this time it was pancakes and scrambled eggs. Anna Maria had said a prayer before the meal again, but had not said anything more about him. As he finished his meal, he tried to hand the plate to a young boy who was acting as a waiter. The plate fell to the floor with a loud crash, scattering pieces in a ten foot radius, and bringing all conversation in the room to a halt.
“Sorry!” Sam said nervously, and bent down to pick up the pieces, when he stood again, a small dark skinned man with a salt and pepper mane and a thick handlebar mustache stood before him. “You must replace the plate.” He said with a high pitched voice and a thick hispanic accent.
“What?” Sam croaked.
“It is our way, you break a plate, you replace a plate.” The man squeaked.
“Sam, Alfonso, come over here.” Anna Maria called from her place at the head table.
Both men complied, and as they approached, the two people who were sitting directly
across from Anna Maria gave up their seats, taking their half finished plates of food with them. Sam took the hint and sat down, as did Alfonso.
“He broke a…” Alfonso began but stopped when Anna Maria held up her hand.
“I was here, I saw. Sam, do you acknowledge that you broke a plate?” She said in a soft tone, keeping the conversation between the three of them. The rest of the rooms volume level had increased, but not near to the level it was before the plate had shattered.
“Yes, I broke a plate.” Sam admitted.
“Sam, we have limited resources, and we do not see a real end in site to those limits, so when a plate is broken, it needs to be replaced, to ensure that their is enough for everyone to use.”
“I understand. What you’re telling me is it is my responsibility to replace the plate?” Sam said quietly, respectfully.
“Yes.” She nodded.
“Then may I ask your leave? I have something I need to do.” Sam responded, pushing his chair away from the table and standing up.
“Good luck, Sam,” Anna Maria said.
Sam left the building, nodding to the guards as he went. Hopping in his car, he quickly checked its contents, even though he was certain everything would be there. Theft was not tolerated at the Bazaar, regardless of which side of the door you lived on. Slowly, he pulled out of the compound, telling the gatekeeper that he would be back before the supper bell.
He sped back east, towards the quarantined town he had been in a few days prior. He pulled up in front of the Kountry Kafe again, and was pleased to see that it still looked as it had the last time he was there. I might be in luck he thought to himself. Grabbing a shotgun and a pistol from the backseat of the car, Sam got out and crept up to the glass door he had previously broken. He paused and listened, but heard no sounds, other than his heavy breathing. Slowly, he stepped through the door’s frame, and winced as the glass underneath his feet crunched. Something in the kitchen awoke and snarled. A dog burst through the double doors and launched itself towards Sam. Instinctively Sam leveled the shotgun and quickly pulled the trigger. He was met with a yelp before being bowled over by the weight of the dog. Thick saliva dripped onto him as the dog whimpered, a large hole in its chest. Mercifully, Sam shot the beast in the head with his pistol, and the whining ceased.
He replaced the pistol in its holster at his hip, and stepping around the dead canine, Sam walked towards the still swaying double doors and slowly pushed one open, his shotgun held ready. No other noises greeted him, and slowly, he pushed through the doors, into the restaurant’s kitchen. Stacked to one side of the kitchen, was the rack of plates he knew would be there. Sam counted the dishes, there were eighteen plates and twelve bowls. He looked through the kitchen again, and caught site of the dishwasher. He opened it and found three more plates and two bowls. He slung his gun over his shoulder and grabbed them and set them on their respective stacks before picking up the entire rack and carrying it out to his waiting car.
Sam looked around the deserted street and spied two more buildings he decided to check out. He approached the first one, its red white and blue pole outside signifying that it was a barbershop, and peered in the large front window. Nothing inside moved, so he tried the front door, which opened when he turned the handle. He looked around the shop, grabbing two pairs of scissors, plus a case of shaving cakes, as well as two shaving kits he found in the drawers of the individual stalls.
Smiling at his fortune, he tossed his new treasures into his car and, grabbing more ammo for his shotgun, headed towards his last stop in town. A small, four story boutique hotel “The Abernathy” sat at the end of the street, and Sam decided that untold riches could be found within. He was still a block away when three figures, two men and a woman, came out of the building, two shotguns and what looked like a lawnmower blade between them. They made a low moaning sound, much like the one he had heard the dog make, and then began a stumbling run toward him. One of the shotgun wielders fell to the ground when his head exploded, Sam quickly bringing his own shotgun level with the next ones skull.
The two remaining Others began a zigzagging coarse towards him, and they were almost upon him when he managed to drop the one waving the lawnmower blade wildly.
Sam turned and was met by a clumsy right hook from his final adversary, catching his still turning head right below his right ear. He swung the shotgun around, but was unable to get enough force to do any damage. Dropping his own weapon, Sam threw a right of his own, feeling something crunch when he connected with his foes cheekbone. The Other took a step back, but Sam pressed his advantage, jabbing with his left hand and throwing another right towards the woman’s face. “I thought you couldn’t touch me…” He growled at her.
“No,” she responded, “Graham just said we couldn’t kill you.” She smiled, and Sam’s left fist connected with her jaw. She spat out two teeth. Blood flowed freely down her chin, and it only seemed to anger her further.
“Yeah, but I can kill you,” Sam said, both arms extending forward, pushing the woman away from him. She stumbled backwards, giving Sam time to unholster his pistol and pulled the trigger twice. The first bullet caught her in the chest and the second one damaging the remaining teeth in her mouth.
“That was impressive,” said a fourth figure, emerging from the shadows of The Abernathy’s doorway, but Sam missed the declaration, having decided that the trip into the hotel was not worth the effort. He sprinted back to his car and just caught the figure in his rear view mirror as he sped back towards The Bazaar.