“quick, like a bunny!” he half-whispers.
“what’s that from?”
“Fear and Loathing. Don’t you remember?” he asks the girl.
She sighs audibly going to great lengths to make sure the exaggerations are noticed. “I miss that movie. I miss any movie. I definitely miss Johnny Depp. I’d even watch him in late era Tim Burton films! Even Dark Shadows! Ooooooh, I’d love to watch Gilbert Grape.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know Tim Burton didn’t do Gilbert Grape but that movie is awesome. I’d even watch 9th Gate right about no—“
He interrupts her with hiss. “You don’t want to do this, do you?”
“What choice do we have?”
She knows what needs to be done. Of course she does. But that doesn’t make what she’s about to do seem any less daunting. That’s the way this world works. In a way, she supposes that’s how the world has always worked. Fighting to survive was always a part of the equation, right? But, now it was so much more of a literal take on things rather than a euphemism for trying to make it in a society that, by definition, always put a whole lot of people in the tar pits. A system like that can’t sustain itself forever though. Not really. Eventually when you take all you can from those beneath you, when there’s absolutely nothing left to take, things get messy. To say the least.
Things are pretty much beyond messy.
They need food. It has been a couple days since they had anything substantial to eat because they’ve been in the woods. It’s always safer in the woods than on the street or in a town even if all they have to eat is a few berries, mushrooms, and some dandelion shoots. Maybe a rabbit or squirrel if they’re lucky enough to catch one. Which… well, to be honest, neither of them likes to do. She always cries. To be fair, though, she cries a lot these days. Point being, they’re in the woods more than anywhere else. Alyssa, who never camped a day in her life. The irony of it all, situational as it may be, really isn’t lost on her.
After a few days of scraping together what they can gather, staying on the move, and having zero protein, though, the two of them were forced to leave safety and take some risks which brought them to this place, a smallish town near where they grew up. Over the last several months they’ve traveled from NYC where the food ran out quickly and looters turned murderous in a matter of days to try and go back home to find their families. Or, at least, where home used to be. They’ve been getting closer and closer to where their parents are in hopes of reuniting with people they trust and trying to build something like a normal life again. That’s the plan anyway.
The hope for now, she can't really call *this* a plan per say, is to scavenge enough from this town to get them through the last bit of their journey. There might be food here. There might be nothing. It's a gamble, and a dangerous one at that because there’s definitely some Others. They heard them talking loudly, unafraid of who might come up the road, unconcerned about danger which meant these Others are the danger. If you can be that unafraid in this world, then you’re the thing to fear.
The two of them have been watching in the shadows for a bit. There were a few Others guarding the road’s entrance into the town but mostly they were goofing off. Because they don’t have to worry really. Because they’re armed. If they’re going to make it into this town to do some scavenging they’ll have to be quiet. And quick.
They move from the road looking for a way in elsewhere that might not be guarded and find it through a backyard. They’ve done this before but only out of necessity like tonight. There’s no way they’ll make it home in this cold if they don’t get some food. Real food. A place like this with Others is going to have the food stockpiled in one building which is stupid, of course, in case people like Jamie and Alyssa come through, but it’s the way it always is. When you are the danger, when you’re the thing to fear, you stop being as cunning. You stop believing in anything except brute force.
The two of them stick to the shadows searching for the stockpile aware that it might be guarded but often it’s not. Just the main roads to town are. It's just a game of trial and error when it comes to what you'll find. Maybe this time they’ll be lucky and find it completely vulnerable. If not, they’ll move on and brave the cold another night. By tomorrow, they should be home.
If they can pull through…
There are no longer motion detector lights to worry about. The power grid went down in the first few weeks after the stock market crash and the government shutdown. So, moving through yards is ideal. Most of the dogs have probably either been eaten, starved to death, or moved on, but every now and then Others have used them to help guard their camps, so the threat is there but it’s small. Neither one of them could survive a dog bite though. They haven’t seen any antibiotics in a town in ages. As long as they stay quiet and there are no dogs, they should be good. And if they’re captured? Chances are good they’ll be part of the stockpile of food. At least that’s the way things have been going. The less food is available, the more people are willing to do whatever it takes. This isn’t going to be easy.
But they keep moving.
They have to.
Both stop at the edge of the property crouched beside dying bushes and wait. There’s no sign of any Others, so they move on to the next yard. And the next and the next until they reach the center of town. City Hall will be the place. Or it’s usually the place at any rate because for whatever reason most people seem to think democracy still exists and the best place to keep things for everyone to have access is the power center of the town. It’s sad that people still hold onto that kind of shit even while they’re eating other people to stay alive. It isn’t going to make a damn bit of difference in the end when things are already this damn bad.
The closer they get, the more she shakes. This part is never easy. There have been more than a couple close calls in these last several months. And that one time that she won’t talk about with that man…She can’t even think about it without getting sick. She used to think the world was a terrible place as it was. She was mostly wrong about that. It was terrible…it just wasn’t this kind of terrible.
In the darkness against the side of small City Hall building, they wait for any sign of life. They hear nothing, though. Not a crackle in the breeze. No sounds of life on or outside of these streets. Not even a cricket to be heard. Her heart rate should be slowing down while they’re still and lying in wait, but it’s on the final stretch of the race. She may as well be sprinting towards the finish line with her competitor close at her heels as far as her heart is concerned. She’s pretty fucking sure that as quiet as the night has become, the thump in her chest can be heard two blocks over.
This is the hardest part.
They circle the building looking for a side or back entrance if at all possible. A window, a back door…anything that isn’t locked or locked down well. Going in the front is never a good idea. It doesn't even take trial and error to figure that one out. If anyone IS in there, the front entrance will be guarded more than anywhere else. The windows on the ground floor are all locked or maybe painted shut. Either way, they’re not giving them a way inside. There’s a door on the far side though that appears to only be secured with an old, rusty padlock and fortunately, they scavenged some bolt cutters a few towns back…
With the lock cut free, the door opens easily and the two manage to get inside. Just as Jamie suspected, the food was stored right there downstairs in an office to the side of the main lobby. It’s not much food. Some unmarked cans. Beans. Tuna. Dry pasta. Bags of rice. Barbeque sauce. A few scarce packages of peanuts and cheese crackers. They’re only going to take enough to get them through the night. A couple cans of tuna and some beans will do. Maybe a couple packs of those nuts. They start loading up their score when a bright light blinds them both.
“Just what the fuck do you think you’re doing?” the gravelly voice on the other end of the light asks.
They can’t see a thing.
“Hey, Dan! Dan! C’mere. We got ourselves some fresh meat.”
The two of them hear footsteps. Jamie reaches over and squeezes her hand briefly then takes off charging in the direction of the light. “Run, Alyssa! Now!”
She takes off into the connecting office and breaks into the hallway before she feels huge hairy arms grab her around the waist and pick her up off the floor. She hears a thud in the other room and screams “Jamie!” She kicks back as hard as she can connected with what she hopes is a set of balls but feel s more like a meaty thigh. The guy gives a grunt but holds on tighter refusing to let go.
“Babygirl…?” he whispers.
She freezes. Her heart is in her throat as she tries to turn around. “Daddy….?”
“Don’t turn around. Don’t look at me. Don’t act like you know me. I’ve got to get this figured out. Act like you’re passed out or I swear to God I’ll knock you out.”
He throws her over his shoulder. She’s panicking. Maybe she’s having a heart attack. She doesn’t fucking know for sure but she does what he asks because being knocked out can only lead to bad things. She learned that the hard way. At least if she’s conscious she can figure things out. Could this really be her father? This man living with these Others? It sounded maybe like her father… That man called him Dan. Her father is Daniel. Who else would call her Babygirl? Who else would know to call her that? Who else has those gigantic ape arms that would call her that?
With her eyes closed, she can't see where she’s going but she's sure they’re moving back towards Jamie. The Other with Jamie says, “I got this one knocked out and tied up already. Whatcha wanna do with her? Time for a little of the old in and out?” He cackles madly like he’s just made the funniest joke of the apocalypse. Apparently even with a societal collapse, douchebags remain douchebags.
“We ain’t got time for that, Beau. We just ain’t. We need to get her tied up, too, and secure that back door. I told you that lock weren’t good enough and now look what we got to deal with. “
“What we got to deal with is food and playtime…everybody wins. Well, everybody ‘cept them, of course.” He cackles again sending shivers down her spine.
Jamie groans below her somewhere.
“Why don’t you go take care of that door while I get this one situated?” Dan, Daniel…her dad says to the Other.
“Why don’t you go fix the door if you’re so damn bent up on it while I have a little fun with that pretty little thang right there?”
“ENOUGH with the bullshit. You’ll have her here tied up to do what you want with when the time comes. That time ain’t right the fuck now. Get the door fixed, Beau. Now.”
Her eyes grow wide. Was her own flesh and blood father just going to tie her up and let this man do that…do that thing the other one did to her? What kind of hell is this?
She hears footsteps stomp loudly down the hall just before the arms swoop her down and softly set her on the floor. She looks up and inhales sharply, tears in her eyes.
“What…Daddy? What’s going on? What are they going to do to me? What are you doing here? Where’s Mama?”
“You always did talk a mile a minute, Alyssa. We ain’t got time for that right now. He’s gonna be back. And you ain’t gonna be here when he is.”
He unties Jamie. “You and that boyfriend of yours never should have come back home. It ain’t good down here.” He tries shaking him but Jamie only manages another groan. “You’ve got to wake him the fuck up and get gone.”
“But…what are…what about you? What about my mama?”
“Alyssa, your mama’s gone. She’s been gone. I ain’t got time to sit and cry and moan about it right here and neither do you. I can’t leave here. This is all I got. Get out to the edge of town and when shit settles down, I’ll come out and we can talk about it, but then you’re gone and you ain’t coming back, you got it?”
He reaches over then and slaps Jamie right across the face.
His eyes flicker open, then. Searching but not quite seeing, not focusing.
Dan picks him up off the floor while he struggles weakly. Alyssa takes his hand and whispers, “it’s alright, Jamie. It’s my Daddy. Look at him…”
Jamie turns his head and a look of recognition sweeps across his face.
“Shut up, boy. Don’t say a word. We’ve got to get you out of here. Now, I need you to punch me. We gotta make this look like you escaped.”
“You can. And you will. Or you’ll be food. As hungry as I am right now tonight, I can’t see my Babygirl end like that. And I won’t see her go through what I did with her mother if it happens to you. Now punch me, you little shit. And make it good.”
Jamie pulls back and let’s one fly busting Dan’s lip. Blood pours from the split and Dan howls in pain.
Jamie and Alyssa take off to the front. They hear a loud click before that gravelly voice croons, “Now, just where do you think you’re going?” They can barely make out his silhouette in the moonlight but he’s there between them and the doorway.
Dan charges into the lobby pushing past them and tackles the Other to the ground.
“RUN!” he shouts as the two struggle.
They head to the back hoping the lock is still broken, push through…everything they had is still back in that room but they keep going in the shadows looking for a way to cross to the next block trying to stay quiet. Trying to be quick. Like a bunny.
They hear a gunshot followed by a mad cackle and make a run for it.
Thanks for reading another installment of Sunday Confessions with More Than Cheese and Beer. Be sure to check out the other linkups this week and the facebook page for anonymous confessions! And, in light of my decision to possibly enter a short story contest in January...any and all feedback is welcome. Thanks!!