Friday, December 16, 2011
Posted by Jonathan Martin
The question was etched on Peter’s face even before he opened his mouth, “Why Pennsylvania?”
Bill, the leader of the group of travelers, twisted the tip of his handlebar mustache, a nervous twitch that Peter had seen him affect many times in the hour since they had arrived at the house. “We’re headed to Lancaster County, figured if anywhere was still functioning in a civilized manner, it would be there.”
“Why? What’s there?” Peter racked his brain, trying to come up with something, but it was Amy that responded.
“Amish country. I went there for a vacation two years ago, it was beautiful.” She got a faraway look in her eyes for a moment.
“Hey, you okay?” Peter asked, gently touching her arm.
“Yeah, I was just thinking about how nice a vacation sounded.”
“Amen to that!” Zach shouted, raising his cup of coffee to the large group with him.
The new arrivals consisted of a large extended family, Bill, his wife Carol, her sister Jenn and her husband Tom, their twin daughters Jessica and Samantha. They were accompanied by Carol’s mother and father, Jim and Christine, as well as another family, John and Julia, as well as there three grown sons, Brandon, Andrew, and Jonathan. Despite being cold and tired, all seemed to be in fairly good health and good spirits.
“So,” Bill began, his mustache twitching, “Is this your final destination or are you heading somewhere else?”
Jud and Zachariah answered at the same time, “We haven’t decided,” and “Boulder City,” respectively.
Zachariah looked at his father wide eyed. “What? You’ve got to come with us!”
“Now Zach, not in front of our guests, there’ll be plenty of time to discuss this later,” his mother, Aubrey, said.
Zach opened his mouth to argue, but Peter was faster. “Now Jud, it will be safer if you come with us, what if one of you gets hurt? Or what if They attack?”
“Don’t be absurd, they have not attacked us yet!” Jud said, slapping the table had with his open hand. “And besides, we can handle ourselves! We survived for almost a month and a half by ourselves before you showed up!”
“Um, if I may?” Bill interjected.
“What?” Jud snapped, coming out of his seat slightly. He raised his hand again and caught himself, shaking his head as he settled back into his chair. “I’m sorry, do go on Bill.”
“Well, I hate to say it Jud, but you’re no spring chicken, and right now there is safety in numbers.”
“Ok, but what have you seen in your travels? You don’t expect me to believe that there are still roaming bands of these Others terrorizing people. And neither of you,’ he looked at Peter and Bill, “Know what you’re going to find at the end of your journey. How do you know the Amish are even going to be their still? And you, what’s so important in Boulder City anyway?”
“My husband is there!” Julie, who had been sitting silently, watching the exchange, spoke up.
“Dad!” Kyle added.
“And how do you know that?” Jud barked.
“Kyle saw it in a dream…” Julie replied sheepishly, realizing the absurdity of it as she said it.
“A god-damned dream?”
“Calm down,” Peter said calmly, “First off, Hoover Dam is there, if anything is still generating power, it should be that. And besides, Jud tell them what you told me about the coins.” Peter glared at the older man.
“Peter has on obol for each of us.”
“You told him?” Amy asked angrily.
“No, he did not, I saw the whole exchange in a,’ Jud lowered his eyes,”in a dream,” he admitted.
Bill sat silently through the last part of the conversation, but once he saw the resignation in Jud’s face, he entered it again. “Obols? You’ve seen the Pennyman?”
“Is that his name?” Amy asked, followed by, “Who, or what is he?”
“That’s what he’s called now, whether that's his name or not, I could not tell you. He shows up whenever there are dead bodies, drops an obol in their mouth, and then disappears again. Some say he is one of the Others with a specific task, other’s think he is some kind of myth come to life.”
“And you? What do you think?” Amy asked.
Bill looked at the rest of his group, and for the first time since they had introduced themselves, someone other than him spoke.
Brandon, the youngest of the three siblings, chimed in. “We were set on just some man, maybe one of the Others, but when he delivered the girl to that man at the Bazaar a week ago… I mean he just disappeared after that.”
Peter caught the word and took control of the conversation, “The Bazaar?”
“Yeah, it’s a big trading outpost about a week west of here. You should be able to find anything there.” Bill spoke again, nodding at the younger men of his group. “Some guy even has a working electric car. When you leave here, you ought to head there. If for nothing else, they should have plenty of information, but it will cost you.”
“What do you mean?” asked Amy.
“It’s a trading post…” Bill let the obvious trail off.
Sarah walked out onto the patio carrying a large tray. “I made coffee for everyone, well, all the adults.” She said, setting the tray down on a nearby empty piece of patio furniture before beginning to hand out the steaming mugs of liquid. They drank the hot beverage in silence, the only noise was of the children, Kyle and the twins, playing in the houses living room. Julia stood at the glass door, looking in, a smile upon her face, trying to recall the last time she had seen her son with friends close to his own age. That’s why she was going to Boulder City, for her son.
“Ok folks, I think we have stayed our welcome, besides, we still have a lot of ground left to cover.” Bill said, setting his cup down with a plink as he stood up. “Thank you all for your hospitality and the use of your fire. It is good to know that there are still good people out there.” With that he wrangled his group together, shook hands and thanked everyone individually leaving Peter for last. “Peter,” he said as he grasped the younger man’s hand. His voice was low, so only the two men could hear the exchange. “Graham is going to Boulder City eventually. The war is coming. Are you sure you can stop it?”