Saturday, December 10, 2011
Posted by Jonathan Martin
The woman’s warning was a week old, and both Peter and Jud sat, sipping coffee beside the morning fire on the back porch. Steam rose from the hot cups, fogging up Jud’s reading glasses, as he read an old dog eared spy novel.
“You know, I used to love going into town and grabbing a new book, and sitting out here on cold spring nights, reading and drinking a cup of hot chocolate. I think those days are over for my life.” The old man said, removing his glasses and letting them rest on the table beside him.
“If you would like new books, there are plenty in some of the nearby houses. Before we leave, we can always go get you more.” Peter replied. He used to read a lot too, but he did not see much point to it now.
“Yeah, but what about the chocolate?” Jud chuckled.
“Well, there is that, you’ll have to figure something else out.”
Jud put his book down and took off his glasses, chewing on one of the earpieces. “You know, you have one obol for each of us, right?”
“What did you, wait, how did you…” The myriad of questions in Peters head, struggled to come out all at once.
“I saw it.”
“You were there?” Peter scanned his memory of that day, two weeks prior, but could not remember seeing any trace of the older man.
“Well, no. I did not see it like that. About a week ago, I had a dream, and watched that man drop those coins in the snow.”
“Do you know who that man is?”
“No, but I know he has a part to play in all of this.”
“Ok, do you know what part?” Peter felt like he was playing a game of twenty questions.
“No.” Jud slipped his glasses back on his face and peered back at the book, looking for his place on the page in front of him.
“What do you think the obols are for then?” Peter asked.
Jud sighed, putting down the book again. “I don’t know. I mean obols used to be placed over the eyes of the dead to pay for passage across the river Styx, could they be for that?”
“That’s not exactly true,” Brian said, closing the sliding door behind him as he stepped out onto the porch.
“What do you mean?” Jud asked.
“I mean it’s kind of like how Christ was nailed to the Cross. For the longest time, it was depicted one way, but that way is wrong. We know that now.” Brian smiled as he pulled a chair up to the fire.
“Ok then, what were the obols for?” Jud asked quizical.
“Oh, you had the reason right, but they were placed in the mouths of the dead, so the birds didn’t take them.”
“Oh, that makes sense,” Peter looked out into the snow. From the back porch, he could see the snow covered fields of Jud’s farm stretching far into the distance, the flat planes broken only by a small dip where a frozen pond now sat. “Jud, hand me the binoculars!”
Jud did so, and squinted, trying to make out what Peter was looking at. At the far edge of his vision, a line of dark shapes trudged through the snow. “What is it?”
“People, I think I see a dozen.”
“Others?” Brian asked reaching for a nearby gun.
“I can’t tell yet, but they’ve seen the smoke from our fire.” Peter said, lowering the binoculars. “Ok, Brian, I know you just sat down, but go rouse the others. I want everyone awake when these people show up.”
Brian exhaled deeply but did not argue, disappearing into the house.
“They’ve got to be others, or at least doing more of his work, like that woman.” Jud said taking the binoculars from Peter and looking at the distant group. “I mean, why else would they be out in this cold.”
“I don’t know.”
“There’s thirteen of them, two are smaller, possibly children, but they’re all wrapped up pretty tight.”
“And they’re heading east. Everyone we’ve encountered so far have been heading west. Where are they going?”
Amy opened the door wrapping her bare arms around herself, her thin t-shirt offering no protection from the biting cold. “Brian said there are people coming.” Her teeth chattered in between words.
“Yeah, but we have time,” Peter said. “Go get dressed.”
“Are you sure?” she asked.
“Yes, go before you make yourself sick!” Peter ordered, standing up to refill his coffee cup and to make some more. He scooped some snow into a pot and set it to melting on a spit over the fire.
One by one, the other members of the household joined Jud and Peter on the porch, each pulling up a chair by the fire.
Periodically, Peter or Jud would pick up the binoculars and look at the group, which had now moved close enough to distinguish the individual people. “I still can’t tell whether they’re Others or not.” Jud said, handing the lenses to his son.
“Or whether they’re men or women.” Zach added, the binoculars up to his face. He looked over at the rifles that leaned against the wall, counting them.
The companions waited in silence as they new group moved ever closer. They sipped their coffee, and put a large pot of oatmeal on the fire to cook.
Finally, the new people were within shouting distance and Julie sent her son inside with Rocky. “Keep him safe,” she told the dog, patting his head.
“Hello!” Peter shouted as Zach leveled his rifle at the closest person, still unsure of whether it was a man or a woman.
A muffled reply came back and Peter shouted “What?” in response.
The figure stopped and raised it’s gloved hands to it’s head, loosening and removing the hood, revealing a balding man, the few wisps of black hair that remained clinging tightly to his head.
“Hello!” The man shouted back. He appeared unarmed, but there were at least two shotguns strapped to the backs of others in the group. “Can we approach?”
“What do you need?” Peter asked.
“To share your fire and rest for a few.”
Peter looked at his companions, his eyes asking their opinions without his lips moving. Aubrey and Sarah nodded, while the rest of the people merely shrugged.
“Ok, but don’t try anything stupid!” Peter answered and raised his own weapon as the bakers dozen of new arrivals approached.