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Author Topic: The Degenerate  (Read 9868 times)
Posts: 89

« Reply #30 on: March 02, 2016, 05:44:10 PM »

C6 - Mongrels.  James contemplates killing, and the three run for cover again.  Unedited.


James sat in darkness, working.  A small fire before him.

The night air chilled, but that was not unusual.  The Milky Way, with still stars in the quiet woods above them cast a tapestry of light across a smooth swath, making a fibreless, etheric blanket as soft as could swaddle a baby angel.  Dry mountain air set unstirred about them.

The fanciful play of low flames case glows at James, and changed him.  His face, under hood, made figures in the changing lights, cast off a cheekbone or brow to set a mood in his countenance and evoke the apparitions from his demeanor.

The fire was low as James kept it.  Walls of banked soil reflected its warmth and muted its most direct light outwards.  To softened eyes it made the forest glow.  The others slept warm on the heated earth, as warm as any had been in some time.  There was no blanket for them.

There were dark thoughts about him.  Little flames danced in the reflections of his eyes, hypnotizing him, growing so much more the hypnogogic by the hour.  He scratched placidly at piece of silicon with the edge of a small rock to score a line across it.

To kill, or not to kill?

Darkness and light cavorted on the surfaces about him as children at play.  His thoughts made as much a kaleidoscope of his moral presence as the many saturations about him.  In the physical world light and dark never exist in pure measures.  Not anywhere humans live.  But James had never known in such circumstances.  Never had to choose.

At last the circuit board was scored.  He snapped it across the groove between his knees, as silent as he could.  Mabus stirred scant behind him.

He was Aikidoka.  A student of the art of peace.  A practitioner of non-violence in the face of conflict.  He had been taught never to attack or kill, nor hardly how.  But such ideals come easy in a peaceful society.  They had never been challenged before in desperation.  He had never set his own life at risk.  Never seen his those close to him in peril.  Now he had to choose.  He swallowed the horror of seeing Irena charged the day before.  Would I have killed the woman to protect Irena?

He picked up a large rock before him and set it in his lap.  The rock was cold and course.  The silicon chip was a right triangle now, and he began to work its angled edge against the rock.  Something he had learned to do as a child with sticks in between baseball practices.

At his feet lay the angle iron, a clumsy piece of steel most of three feet in length.  It was its cumbersome shape that had set him to thinking.  It was adequate perhaps for a bo—a small stick used in a variety of fighting applications.  A blunt tool, not ideal for dispatching a foe quickly.  Well enough in his hands if he practiced with it a bit.  The sword-saint Musashi was famous for his use of dull swords in a dual.

But the gap between his training and real world applications suddenly became a gaping chasm of missing terrain.  If Irena had been caught in the hands of two or three of these degenerates, what would he have done?  Or Mabus?  It more than even Randori had prepared him for. 

How many years have I pulled my punch on my partners?  Where exactly are the vital organs?  What does it feel like to bring a weapon down against a human skull?  How do tissues, blood and bones effect the strike?  These picture-thoughts brought a weight to his bones which he had never felt.  A realism he had not known before.

He imagined the bo a sword.  A katana.  With a big rock by daylight against a larger stone to mash its angle flat, cold forged on a prehistoric anvil of granite slab.  To set a slight angle in it, backwards, and wrap straps of cloth along the tang, tsukamaki style.  Then sharpening the belly edge, ha, on stone as he did now, with a blunt edge aft, or mune.  To kill quickly if necessary, or to spare life by virtue its non-lethal side at his discretion.
A memory deep within his psyche began to surface.  It was of an aikido seminar with a visiting instructor when he was about fifteen.  He did not remember the man’s name, who had spoken to them on the nature of killing, but he had heavy Asian accent.

“Da man who not grapper with a choice to killing.  This man is not a human being.”  He saw the old man wagging his finger loosely across the room at all the children in the class.  “For myself, I am absolutery convince.  To kill anodda person, anodda human being, you will be back again for odder lifetimes.  Reincarnate.  You cannot reach enlightenment if you are killing.”

It seemed unfounded.  Yet is was foolhardy to toss away the opportunity for enlightenment for reason of mere carelessness.  These made him grapple.

But the real question was practical.  Am I skilled enough not to kill? It was a true question of martial virtue, of his skill of training, befitting legends of storybook martial artists who had refined their skills in a lifetime of journeys, perils and adversities—and attained wisdom.

There was no answer for him.  Not now.  No more than he could hone an iron sword in a single night.  He must wait and let circumstance aid his choice.  But resolve at least in what he might do now.
Because I do not know, I will not hesitate.  But if it can be done, where it can be done, I will seek the way of peace.

Words from a small book in The Art of Peace resounded through his mind in his own voice then: “A warrior is always engaged in a life and death struggle for peace.” 

This resolved him.  For the first time, James truly felt like a warrior.  A warrior with purpose. 

I will seek the way of peace.

Some miles away, a long howl rose into the night sky.  At first he thought it was a scream.  Then another.

Within minutes, several more went up, until it sounded like a whole pack at hunt.  Mabus came up slowly on an elbow, listening.

“Wolves?” James asked.  Then barking and the muffled sound of some frenzy.  One yelped in a high pitch.

“I don’t think so James.  Sounds like dogs.”

“A pack of dogs?”  Irena was waking up.

“If they’re missing their owners James, I’d assume so.  Consider they may all be wild now.”

“Would they attack us,” Irena asked.

“That’s a possibility we should keep in mind.  That’s miles away, but there’s no telling where they could go.  We’re probably ok tonight.”

“We need to get out of the woods tomorrow” said James.

Mabus waited a moment, smelling the air and listening far and away.

“You want me to take a shift James?” said Irena.

Posts: 89

« Reply #31 on: March 02, 2016, 05:45:05 PM »

Irena was huddled over the fire, watching the stars, when the first fade of sunlight began to color the night sky blue above her.

She was used to being cold, but this was a sharp cold.  It was the cold of a thousand needles drawing the heat in her blood up into the atmosphere.  But at that moment, she did not feel cold.

For every needle there seemed an hundred stars, spread as liberally across the sky as days on the earth.  She imagined each as little eyes, from little friends watching over her in the sky.  It gave her warmth to think of the stars that way.

A small twinkle across from the way caught her reluctant gaze.  Two small eyes reflected the glow of the fire.  Irena shuddered, and then relaxed.

James had told her about the cats.  He said it must be a family nearby, out for a night’s hunt.  It set her nerves off every time they came around though.

She began to hum to calm herself.  The quietly sing a few verses from an old song she used to sing with Mom.  She sung to the cat.

Lady make the stars
come down on me,
and shine on me
like memories.

the grace we knew,
before this world
was born.

And shine like gentle
remind us that
we’ll be alright.

Then the eyes were gone.  Irena felt cold again.  She bundled herself up in her arms, and could see a bundle of grass tied up neatly next to Mabus—she knew not what for.  Something made on his shift, perhaps.  It could have been—

There were the sound of slow footsteps before her where the cat had been.  Her nerves went on fire, and she tried to calm herself once more.  It’s just a cat.

The continued in slow bursts, making a circle around the cat.  When she realized how the cats had hardly made a sound before, her heart began to beat like a jackhammer inside of her.

She was frozen.  Unable to move.  Unable to scream.  Her body tremored in its place.  Her pupils as wide as two black moons.  She needed to say something.  Needed to warn James and Mabus.  But she couldn’t.  Couldn’t move her body.  Couldn’t budge her jaw.  Couldn’t make a sound.  Her blood felt as if it had been lit on fire.  Her chest was a steel cage.

There were footsteps behind her.  Everything in her vision narrowed into a white tunnel, as she realized in desperation that she was failing her post, again.  Only this time it might be her last.

“eeeeeeeeeeeeeeh.”  It was all she could squeak from herself.  It was hardly enough, but it was enough to set the two of them upright.  Yes!  She thought.  Wake up!

A dog behind them began to bay.  She listened to it for an eternal moment in horror.


She was as stiff as iron.   Her brother’s touch released her from an involuntary game of freeze-tag.

“We need to move,” said Mabus.  “If anything out there heard…”

“I agree,” replied James.

Irena tried her voice.  “Where?”

“I’m thinking of the cabins down the road,” Mabus replied, shouldering the rifle.  “And hope there’s better doors on it than this cabin.”

James picked up his pack and shiv.  Mabus was at the coals, stomping them out by the boot.  Then he let his eyes readjust to the moonlit forest, looking about them in every direction.  He motioned them down to towards the cabin where they followed him further down the road.

The solo scout, that half-baked hound, kept at their tails.  It moved alongside them at a distance and closed up on them from the side until it was almost in front of them.  Mabus aimed his rifle at it.

“Move.  C’mon!  James, watch our rear.”

Each was doing well not to tip over rocks and debris on the road.  James started watching aft, by motions of turning circles, so as to keep his footing and pace—sort of an Aikido movement so well engrained in him it had become second nature.

“Down this way.  There should be another cabin.”  The mutt-hound bayed again.

“C’mon!  C’mon!” Mabus commanded in a whispered shout.

“I can’t see!”  Irena was doing her best not to stumble on dark obstacles.  James grabbed her hand and felt his way through the trees.

There was another house there.  A small single story wood-frame home with space for an attic, and the doors broken in, just as in Ted’s cabin.  The thing looked haunted in the darkness.

Damnit!  Mabus cursed to himself.  He was at the door looking carefully inside from several feet, making a visual sweep with his shotgun.

“Mabus, behind us!  Two of them!”

Sure enough.  Behind them two more dogs by clear moonlight were weaving their way through the trees on their tracks quietly.  The first dog yipped to take their attention and it moved closer in on them.

“It’s a pack hunt.”  Mabus dropped his grass bundle to the ground and reached for his pockets.  He was cool in his motions.  Carefully unrushed, he took his flint to the dry grass he had woven into a torch on his watch.  “Eyes up you two!”

It was a lovely piece.  A neat scepter of grasses interlaced with space for a stone setting into which he had placed a lubricated cotton ball from the cache.  It was a jewel by any measure to him at that moment.  Mabus had learned to make these as he had been earning Eagle Scout, and had refined the practice throughout the years with his boys.  It gave him a strange, callow pride.  The spark set his torch to blaze as if it had been enchanted, which illuminated the trees about them.

The hound quickly retreated, its feet tangling beneath itself.

“Mabus, a floor door.”  James had spoken too soon, but the word hadn’t come to him.  At his redirection, Mabus looked.  A cellar door, almost vertical to the ground.  It was closed.

“Get it open James.”  He didn’t want to waste a shot.  It would be too hard to reload in time to be ready with a second.  But the skinny hound was at them with every trick it knew to garner their attention.  It almost needed doing.  But he hated to kill a dog.  A handsome dog at that. 

“I don’t want to shoot you pup,” he murmured.

Mabus could see its teeth shining in the moonlight.  No. It was nothing more than a domestic dog gone feral by a few months, putting on an unconvincing front at best.  Nothing more than feign of an insecure school bully.  Or more likely, the bullies lackey.  So where’s alpha? he thought.

He had the sure psychological advantage.  That was clear now.  But in minutes there could be a whole pack.  No saying how many there could be.  He held his ground steady with his flaming weapon in hand and hard eyes on the poor whelp of an overgrown puppy.  He felt sorry for it then.

“It’s unlocked Mabus.  We can go down.”

Mabus grunted unapprovingly.  “Better do that.  Alright, you first and be careful.  Irena follow him.”

James did so cautiously and quickly, with Irena close after.  The old man swept the torch widely and grimaced as he looked down the rat-hole.
“Ugh…Not another night underground!” Mabus shouted at the dogs, and descended.  He began to close the wide door above them, careful to keep his flame low.  He saw the rest of the pack beginning to move in from the trees.  One was very large, and followed closely by several others.  “There you are, Alpha.”

He set the door in place by the rope attached to it, tying it hard to a large nail driven into the concrete for that purpose, and called to the kids.  “You ok?”

“I think so,” Irena’s gentle voice called back.  Mabus check the door for play and saw it was heavy and well fitted.

It was dry in that small cellar, and smelled of paint and concrete dust.  The walls were white slabs with rubble on the floors; there were two small rooms connected by an open space in the wall, a water heater, some shelves, a clean pile of wood and some painting supplies.  James and Irena settled in as if it were their home, still panting from the unusual exertion.

“I guess…” said Mabus.

“We’re stuck here.” said James.

“Underground again!” Irena capped them off.  Then she laughed out loud, bemused at herself.  The others started to laugh, when a shuffling in the other room made them alert again.

Mabus moved the torch to it and the rifle to it, already beginning to lose its flame.  He moved swiftly to get between the sound and the kids. 

There was a figure of a young man there, as homeless in appearance as any vagabond Mabus had ever seen.  His skin had the same off-white sheen as the woman from the bushes a day before.  It almost seemed clear.  The creature was slumped at the spine and coiled in the legs.  Its eyes were black marbles, all pupils, but as devoid of life as black plastic.

Deficiency Shen condition, James thought in immediate wonder.  Something from a book on Chinese Medicine he had picked up.  Then in a little part of the back of his brain, was entertained at the irrespective absurdity of his misplaced thought.  And the thought of that thought in strange layers of awareness.

For a moment, no-one moved.  The creature stood there in the light of the flame as if blinded but unable to respond to the bright light pouring into its well-dilated pupils.  Irena was as good as stone, and James somehow relaxed, at ready with the angle iron.

Then it moved.  Mabus watched it in a blinking second and saw it pulse with aggression, began to jolt and stop.  His mind in a razor’s slice compared it to the front of the baying hound; it was the eyes made him catch the similarity.  But he had already started to move too, and his finger was tight against the trigger.  His torch went up and his chest went out, but as soon as the other stopped he began to stop too.

Mabus let out a snarl as unrestrained as a gorilla in heat.  The figure fell backwards to the floor in a sort of shock.  It scampered away up into a hole in the wall they could not see it, as a cockroach caught in the kitchen at night.

Mabus grunted again, in approval.  Irena showed astonishment in her face, and the darkness of her own eyes glimmered in a different way under the light.  Mabus moved across the room and stood sentinel between them.  He looked within.

“James, my torch is going out.  Do you think you could split some wood into small pieces and we’ll build a fire between the walls here?  We can’t risk going outside.”

“Yeah.”  James scooted with his arms over to the wood and started to gather it. 

Mabus handed Irena the knife at his belt.  “Use this knife and grab another piece of wood to use as a baton.  Try to get me splinters that will take light from the torch before it dies.”
Mabus held the gun steady at the cavity in the wall, and looked about.  There he saw not one, but two human figures huddled in an alcove that was either a hole busted in the foundation or an unfinished side of the project.  It made a little rat nest where these two humans huddled, reminding him of gerbils at a pet store.

But that wasn’t all.  They were a man and a woman, of a young, middle age.  Maybe early thirties, though hard to tell in the light.  The young man was unshod and had swollen feet, and each were as malnourished as pictures of soldiers from Bataan death camps.  The woman was holding something.  Mabus tried to see what it was, until he realized it was mostly swaddling.  A mother!

“There’s a man, a woman and a child,” Mabus said to them.  James was working on the sticks as he learned to do so.  It was taking him some time.

“A family,” said Irena, which seemed a stretch on humanizing them, but Mabus understood that.  It was mammalian of her.

James began to feed him sticks, in small piles, which Mabus brought to flame.  In short time there was a steady fire between the concrete foundation frames separating them from the others in that room.  It was well enough: a door against the dogs, and fire against the frightened underlings.

It was little better than the bunker from day before.  But at least it was new and the fire was warming.  There was no food, but…

“How did we end up downstairs again?” Mabus asked.  “Should’ve scouted out a nice upstairs attic instead.  Some nice insulation to sleep on, maybe.”

“That sounds nice” Irena agreed.  “But at least we’re warm!  We couldn’t have a fire in an attic I don’t think.”

“That’s true, Irena.”  Mabus settled in, using his pack for a pillow.

Their neighbors crept from the walls towards the fire.  They moved timidly to it, first him and then she, with baby in tow, utterly abandoned to the fate of warmth.  Mabus watched them fiercely.  It was a sorry thing, and their eyes had no life in them.  It was like looking at the dead.  But despite this, and the lack of communication, their actions seemed to indicate no harsh intention but to share in the warmth of this fire.  So Mabus watched studiously until he felt relaxed with their stalemate.

There was the sound of clawing at intervals for the better part of an hour, and the sounds of dogs increased until their numbers seemed very large.  There were all breeds and sound amongst them, and there were fights as if the pecking order had not been established. 

It was frightening, but Mabus checked and rechecked the door for weaknesses and decided it was the best they could do.  Every time the other couple rushed back to their hole in the wall, and returned as soon as the scratching ended, as greedy for warmth as before.  It wasn’t until the third time that Irena saw what Mabus and James had already seen.  When she did, her face paled, she gasped and put her head between her knees.  The baby this mother held, was already dead.  In time a steady wind picked up outside and the dogs lost interest and seemed to move along.

James, Mabus and Irena were there all day, and sunlight began to show through the cracks in the doorway.  It made small beams into the room that was filled with smoke.  It wasn’t ideal, no it wasn’t even safe, Mabus thought, to expose themselves to this air.  They could asphyxiate as easily as in a camper or car.  So they kept the flames low and hot, as Indian a fire as was ever made—it was so small.  Mabus made them keep the coals hot by having each of them fan the flames in turn.  There was not enough wood to last.

Then they waited, and made a plan to leave, choosing James to scout for them in another subterranean day.
Posts: 418

« Reply #32 on: March 06, 2016, 09:21:54 PM »

  That's some very decent thought in writing,a Good story to be sure! I think everyone is reluctant to comment,due to the current lapse of stories/content to read.I'm thinking nobody want's to get into something then, be let down for the better part of a lonnnnggg time.I think your writing & story is Great,& I will enjoy it, as it is written! Mahalo,it's ono!!!
Posts: 89

« Reply #33 on: March 16, 2016, 07:31:12 PM »

C3.1 (subchapter) – James fights his mind in the underground bunker

Underground and Within

Let’s create something.

It came from within, deep within.
It came from so deep within, they could have been words whispered from miles away, so he did not hear them.  Instead, they resounded like seismic waves until they reached a place near enough to his consciousness that it caused him move a little without knowing why.

It made a chink.  A small crack in the fabric of his world, breaking his confusion in a percussive hairline fracture, and creating space.  The space for something new.

That was good, because James was awhirl in a dismal pool of his own thoughts.  A captivity of sorts.  It was the beginning of madness, he felt sure.  He moved to a place where he could sit.  There was only one thing he had not done to fill the time in this eternal night underground.  There was nothing more to be had in his exercises, in storytelling with Mabus and Irena, his stretches, sleeping long or eating food.  It was his mind most in need now.

The mind.  James did not know what to do.  He had never meditated.  Never longer than to bow in and out of class at his dojo.  The mind.  It was a screaming infant left without a mother or a playground.  An ugly screaming child no one wanted.  And yet, it was his.

I don’t want the damn thing!

Let’s create something.

This time, he almost heard the words.  It was a whisper of wind on a soprano lullaby in the stillness, landing on his skin with the etheric soft touch of a butterfly’s feet.  So instead, it reached him as vague feeling. 

Being so, it struck him with a sense of sudden inspiration.  It organized his will to still his body and to do something he did not know how to do.  He straightened his spine, pulled his feet in towards him, put his hands together in his lap, and became still.  He breathed.  Slowly.

His thoughts spun around him in a vacuum black hole, like little things he could grab onto.  Little movies in his memories and amoebalike feelings in amorphous clouds within his vision with dark space in between, swirling.  The thoughts came faster and faster.

In not two minutes time, it seemed the most he could handle, and he peeked to open his eyes.  The light of Irena’s watch hung there, like a lighthouse at sea, anchoring the drifting boat of his mind.  He sat there a moment, hypnotized by it in a way.  It was enough to recover himself, before he dove back in.


In an instant, there was something.  Something real around him.  It was under him and...

It was water.  Black water.  Black churning water in a black world of blackness.  Above him, the sky was like a lesser black, almost a burgundy black and deeper darkness in all his periphery.

He swam, like a castaway at sea, gulping for air.  The tides assailed him as he struggled against to remain afloat.  Then it picked him up.

There was a wave as large as a ship to his right.  It did not crest, but the wall of would have crushed him.  Instead he resisted it in his mind, like keeping a dream at bay by a sheer power of will.  It did not stop the wave, it only sort of smudged it and stopped it in place.  It was like stepping a few seconds back in time and taking a picture with an old Polaroid, then smearing the ink where the wave was.  It stopped time, but did not stop the reality of the wave.

James’s mind reeled in the space of this time-out, his mind scratching for any solution.  This wave would surely kill him, he felt.  He did not know what to do.  Try to fly away?  Tell the water to be still?  Grab on to the side of a ship?

Each of these met a logical fate.  There was no ship.  He could not fly, not in time.  He did not have power over these forces.  Each time he stepped back in with some new solution, the waves would beat him again.  Each time it became clearer that the weight of the wave was crushing him, had crushed him, would definitely batter him into itself and consume him.

He was afraid to choke.  Afraid of falling into the deep, black unknown of suffocation.  As he fought by will to keep the battering waves at bay, he realized his breathing had become shallow and irregular.  In recourse to his fear of drowning, he began breathing deeply, more slowly, so that in spite of his predicament he could feel the oxygen pouring into his body.  It split his mind in two, one in each world to do so.

In a matter of moments, it seemed bearable.  He was no longer afraid to drown.  With every breath he felt the life giving affirmation of rich air expanding into his lungs and spreading into his body, feeling it saturate him against the grim reality of a swirling black ocean.  Then he stepped more fully into the mind that was here in the waters, and allowed the breathing mind to sink deeper into his subconscious, like a basketball player keeping the ball dribbling in a pass.

Then he let go of his stalemate with the water and let it carry him.  It was every bit as violent as he expected.  His crushed him with tons of water and rolled his body mercilessly through the void of his feelings.  He swirled in confusing patterns as the water battered him again, and again, and again.  He kept himself breathing and waited.

His lower mind began to remind him of the pain in his back, which seemed only appropriate given the brutal submersion he was undergoing.  But he was waiting for something.

In this churning, he sought direction.  Not in anything nearby, but far away.  He was searching for something like land, not with his sight, but with sense.  Feeling outwardly for miles in all directions for anything there.
There was something.  He felt it.  He was sure, but not exactly sure where.  It had a vague direction, as if it were more this way that.  But the waves did not seem to be moving altogether that direction, so he wondered how he would get there.

He began to swim.  Against the madness of his rolling sense, he took small measures in the direction he sought.  Anything he could bring his body to accomplish, in any direction to move towards his destination, and in the lulls between swales he swam as hard as an athlete.  It was as difficult in his mind as it would have been in the real Atlantic.  He choked and spat and swallowed water, but still he breathed smooth and clear and strong.

He was nearly strained to the limit in his back.  He returned to the second mind long enough to see that his back had slumped considerably.  He stretched it straight to ease the pain, and ease the pain it did.  He stretched it tall and wiggled it around to loosen the vertebrae, realizing his time was short for this reason.  He set it straight and stiff and continued a few moments longer.

Land was nearer now.  It had taken his the better part of a quarter hour to get this far.  Was he half way now?  He thought so.  There was a measure in his mind that seemed to tell him so.  A measure he seemed to create for himself—like he could have done it faster but also could not.  It wasn’t fair.  Or it wasn’t right.  Or couldn’t work that way.  Or something like that.  It was his own law unto himself, which he hid from himself under the justification of it all being realistic.

But the waves were not his rule, nor did he control them.  Rather, they commanded him.  There was no stopping their reality any more than a man can squish hard marble between his fingers and make it drip.  The waves he could not stop.  He could only detain them temporarily, though always the waves seemed to win over him.  It was frustrating.

It took many minutes longer than he hoped.  In a dash of sudden hope, he could spring forward towards the island, as if cheating.  He could warp and see the island grow nearer.  Then that invisible self-law would draw him back, and he would watch in silent desperation as the distance between himself and the island grew ever nearer.

Finally, it was too much.  He had not reached the island by the time his back hurt too much for him to continue.  He was straining himself as from hard exercise and was finally at a limit.  He was so close, he had begun to even see a shoreline in the gloom obscurity of his meditation.  And then, he collapsed onto the floor in the semblance of a small unrolling motion.  He was near to panting from the exhaustion of his back and mind, but he continued to breath so as to control the noise and not disturb the others.

Tomorrow he would reach the shore.
Posts: 418

« Reply #34 on: March 17, 2016, 11:12:27 PM »

  WoW! That's some Heavy & Deep stuff!
Posts: 89

« Reply #35 on: December 13, 2016, 06:48:45 PM »

Note - Sorry it's been so long.  Been busy buying a house and getting situation this year.  Winter is here which means more time for the pen, or keyboard.  Visit us at www.sixmilehomestead.com.

C7 - The Truth in Ashes

James could hear the sound of blood pulsing in his eardrums as his lungs pulled hard for breath.  He was panting hard; his breaths making a sort of polyrhythm with the sound of footfalls as they echoed upwards through his cartilage.

It was a beautiful fall morning, as fall mornings go, the air dryer then he was accustomed to.  But that was a pleasant change, so despite his pains he was invigorated.  The air lay fresh with a fragrance of conifers and tilled fields under dewy grain stalks, their fine complexity finer than gourmet ice cream tasting.  He sucked at it with a patient greed, though it burnt at the edges of his lungs.

Sunlight flickered off uncut grasses covered in goldenrod dew, wetting his shoes as he brushed along them.  He was avoiding the brackish waters by pebble-stepping on clods of grass.  But as his feet wicked up moisture with every hopscotch step, he began seeing futility in it, except that the grass tufts gave him firmer footing.  He stopped to catch his breath, feeling the effects of disuse in all the fibers of body.

He considered Mabus’s words from that morning as they had spoken together, overlooking this very field.  He had pointed and said something under the weight of his whiskers that James hadn’t quite understood then.
“Every wild animal knows that an open field is the best place to hide.”

He imagined a predator surveying an open field, casting a quick glance over it then moving its eyes to the wood line, trees and brush taking longer to assess since concealment requires cover.  So it follows to be more thorough in exploring dense terrain, both in sight and movement.

He wanted to recall some of Sun Tzu’s many words on the use of terrains, but could not remember, and so he made his own:  Open fields hide many things; one who is truthful hides the greatest secret.  “Taiho” he said aloud to himself.

It amazed him how the wash cut through the grain field, being large enough to stand upright in without risking exposure, both because of its depth and the verdant shrubbery on its embankments.  It had been totally invisible from where he and Mabus had stood overlooking it hours before.

The course of it was not entirely in the right direction, towards a school building Mabus had tried pointing him towards.  It wandered irreverently, making it hard for James to know which way he was really going.  But it seemed right enough, and he began to move again.

There was little no running water in the gulley, only small stands or tiny pools where the hooves of thirsty animals had left stamped depressions into the mud.  What did stand was unfit to drink, so James passed them despite his drying tongue.   The animals also seemed to like this route.

There was an eerie stillness in the air about him, but it was not an unhappy one.  It was the quiet, post-summer air preceding autumn weathers on the tailcoat of winter.  Snow rabbits, still brown, would be almost at leisure, picking the last easy meals of seeds and greens before burrowing in for the season.  The insects would be well past their mating cycles, preparing, like the rabbit, to hide away inside the bark of dead trees, or in hard soil detritus.   The last of the skyward geese would be taking to flight in small numbers, migrating south again.  Deer and elk would soon be rutting in the nearby woods, bucks and bulls chasing does and cows in turn.

James could feel these things on the pressure of the air, in the height of the sun’s arc, and in the gentle busying of beetles, dragonflies and field mice.  These things and many more seemed to be on the wind itself, entrancing him into a state of mind farther from the conscious one for a time, with all its troubles and worries for himself and his family, Irena and Mabus, and the rest of the world. Nature, inside these riparian lines between the fields, seemed undisturbed.  

It continued this way until he crossed the pronate body of a human body pronate in the mud.  That sobered him, even as it blocked his path.  Here the gulley narrowed tightly as it turned a bend, requiring James to either jump the corpse into a larger puddle of water, or leap off it directly.

Instead, he cut up in a straight line towards the burnt city, not knowing how far it might tangent from his course besides.  He crawled up the embankment, moving carefully.

The field on this side of the swale was burnt.  Several mule deer in field behind him browsed casually.  Farther back was the tree-line with cabins from where he had departed from their trio.  Before him was a large opening in the fire-line.  After a moment of careful observation, he began to jog.

James had done cross-country in high-school.  He was never the best, but it suited him better than other sports when it came to getting physical education credits in high school.  He thought of that then.

A memory of Rodrigo, the team’s best runner, came to him.  On a hot day on a high hill after a particularly grueling run, he had said to James: “You know, if I could not run from this mountain to that mountain whenever I need to, I could not accept myself.  These people everywhere, taking their cars for this and that.  This is not the human way.  It’s wrong.”

James smiled, since he did need to go from mountain to mountain now.  The need for the task seemed to honor his very genes.  He wasn’t sure why that had stuck with him then, or why he had wanted the chance to need to prove himself in such a way.  It released a primordial energy in him that he could not explain which he felt his gut as a deep truth.

He needed that energy, as the plowed field was maddeningly difficult to traverse.  The loose soil gave him little firm footing and he lost more energy compressing the soil than to actually running.  He slogged along it, as a mix of dirt and moist soot began to fill his shoes.

He had nearly cleared the field when he caught site of one, then three humans crested a hill across from him.  He was caught in the open.

Posts: 89

« Reply #36 on: December 13, 2016, 06:49:41 PM »

He hit the ground, falling flat as they rounded the hill, finding his face in the thick black soil.  Lying prone would not give him cover, but it saved him from exposing his profile and movement. He crawled quickly to a patch of grass that the fire had not consumed, and then lifted his head, turning on his side to peek over the bristled stocks.

The three figures were quick and fierce, with an unnatural gait, searching the ground around them as if hunting for a lost object.  They were not methodical, and utterly undignified.  From this distance, they looked all hunched in the back as if looking at the ground were they ever did.  One of them knelt in the soil to claw at something James could not see.  The second ran to that one as an unlucky bird to the one who found the worm first.

James did not hesitate.  He crawled on his belly as fast as he could to the edge of another patch of dead stalks where the wind must have played against the brush fire, protecting them.

It was less than an hundred meters to crest of a small hill, covered in the burnt tree stumps, where he might more easily hide, out of the line of site of these scavengers.  Perhaps double that distance until the hill could hide him altogether.  The soot had quickly blackened his clothes, parts of his arms and much of his face.

He tried to catch his breath as he peeked over this new patch in the rough.  The first scavenger seemed to be madly slapping at the ground where it had been digging, as if he were a child paddling wet sand.  The second had returned to searching; the third, James could no longer see.

He let his head fall, taking a few last deep breaths to relax.  Then he removed his backpack, staying as flat to the ground as he could, and began to roll vigorously in place to blacken himself all over.  He wiped black soot on his face and pack.

With his pack in his left hand, the angle iron in his right, he crawled again.  Keeping his entire body low he made himself army crawl the way he had taught himself as a child with his imagination.  It reminded him of the lighter, more carefree days of his childhood.

That made it fun.  It was dangerous, exhilarating, and fun.  Another brick added to an improvised bicycle jump off the neighbor’s driveway.  The cold fear he felt running away from a soaking wet, angry bully.  Peeking at a porno with the other boys in a school closet.  It was that impervious, dauntless courage of young boys on the edge of trouble, testing their mettle against the world.

The bright, cool sunlight only reminded him all the more of those days, and his eyes rekindled a lost twinkle that is the spark of fire in the souls of young men.  The spark of a fire like the sun’s own fire within him, causing the dark horrid entities of his melancholy and depression, those months of cramped and miserable living to slink away rebuked, leaving him fresh and purposeful as this bright fall day, as clean and light as a leave in the wind.  He was grinning wildly.

Soon he had a carefully timed pattern:  watch, crawl, wait.  Watch, crawl, wait.  

He was laughing by the time he crested the hill to a well concealed stand of burnt tree stumps.  He made a straight-line crawl away from their vantage by line of site of those stumps, until he was far enough past them to first raise his hips, then crawl on hands and knees, then crouch and finally run.  He made short time past the hill, where he let himself rest a moment and catch his breath.

He made to a field terminating in a line of tall pine trees which marked the boundary of a small subdivision at the city’s periphery.

Having watched carefully for several moments, he moved straight for the burnt ruins by the path with the best cover.  He ran fast with small steps towards his next point of safety past some trees, point to point to point in shoestring movements of concealment and cover.  A fox run.

There were the remains of a burnt house shortly within the fire-line.  Metal objects and piles of scorched rubble lay in a heap atop its foundation between the rubble of a few standing post beams standing like burnt match sticks.  He slowed little as he past them.

Further in were several isolated houses spaced far enough apart that not all of them had burnt down, though the grasses showed signs of a field fire.  One had signs of a well-staged firefight.  There were earthworks mounded against the fire and some residues of off-white foam sprayed over the side of the house, with its doors and windows shattered.

James continued his slow run.

Burnt trees and homes scattered about the charred wasteland stretched out for miles before him.  Not far away southeast was a small lake.  Water reflected sunlight tossed off by crenellations made by afternoon air currents.  In short time he approached the familiar sight of interstate pavement, the I-57.  It was still jammed with abandoned vehicles and there was—movement!

Something was moving.  It was as if a large portion of the interstate were alive, as if a gray, paved section was melting away into the dirt.  James blinked.  It was too far away.  He followed his curiosity.

It was not until he was very close that he recognized what he saw.  It was large grocery semi-truck tipped on its side, with a section of its hull split open.  The split itself was hardly visible, as waves of gray hair moved in and out of it so thickly as to resemble river’s current.  Little black and red eyes moved amongst thousands of slithering little tails.  Mice had populated to extraordinary numbers in the wake of this unnatural bounty in mere months.

James made his way carefully around them.  The mice about him seemed to ignore him.  One ran over his foot in short, quick leaps.  He made it to where a truck careened off the road and climbed atop it for a better look at the phenomenon.

He watched for a while, almost entranced by the spectacle.  It was a remarkable feat of procreation.  It comforted him, in a way, to envision himself, and all humankind, amongst all the mammals.  Even the holy of men shared these same hedonistic ancestors.  That made sin less, sinful—somehow.  Evolution made immorality beautiful, in a way.  

Then he was off again, past the road heading south, towards the outlying districts of Coeur D’Alene proper; the ruins of a broken city.  It lay flat, leveled in the black soot of desolation.  It was deserted, except where he saw a straggling person, scavenging bird or fray dog.  And he was amazed at the number of cats.

They moved from the places where he walked, slinking inside and out, up and around on, over and beneath the debris of a ruins, being of every breed and color, personality and size of hair.  Their delicate domestication had a moribund fate, expired now by mere months.  They scrapped and hissed at one another in disputes of turf, settling claims of hierarchy and turf in pure feline anarchy.  They were barely feral, as he was.

A half-blind, oversized, one eyed cat with a scabby scar down its cheek lounged on a short brick wall of a ruined home, whined at James as he passed.  James ignored it, as he set his eyes on the heart of the city.


“Well, it isn’t easy to get to.”  Mabus grunted, reaching outwards from the barn loft towards a set of rafters.

“And if you were in a panicked frenzy,” Irena said succinctly, “you might overlook the rope.”

Mabus worked, extending himself with the dignity of a stretching feline over the high drop.  He took a moment to stabilize himself.  

“This is good rope,” he said, as the knot began to loosen to the grip of his thick, wild fingernails.  It fell to the barn floor, displacing a small cloud of dust.  He grunted again, pushing himself away.

“This is a climbing rope.”

“Yes.  Either someone was teaching themselves to rappel, or were using it to hoist hay.  It’s a shame such a good structure…”

He paused, to cock his head.  Irena looked up from the rope she was curling into a spool, first at Mabus, then outside following his gaze.  At first she heard nothing, and then slowly, softly, she began to hear it too.
A high whine, echoed at intervals at some miles away, each time growing louder.  At length Mabus dusted his hands, setting his legs apart.  “Sounds like a four stroke engine.  That couldn’t be James…”

“I don’t think so.  James wanted to be quiet and run back.  I don’t think he—” she sneezed.

Mabus looked over a moment longer, letting dust fall from his whiskers, before descending the wooden ladder.  When Irena had finished curling the rope, Mabus took it over his shoulder.  “You can’t beat good rope.”
They stepped outside together.

For what seemed like a quarter of an hour, the sound grew no louder and the engine seemed no closer.  Then suddenly it was as if the machine had crested some hill and it doubled in volume.  Then it happened again in half the time, followed by the sound of other small engines ripping away in the distance.

The sound colliding off hills with its fortes of sound and pianissimo rests was as near of a piece of music as either had heard in months.  Then suddenly it became much closer and closer still until it crested not more than a ridge or two away from them, to the west.

Mabus had them in cover already, in thick brush where even an ATV might not pass.  When the engines died suddenly, Mabus moved with Irena northwest towards the ridge crest where they might get a view of them.
Soon the engines were alive again, but cut off again shortly thereafter.  This pattern repeated as if someone were searching for something.

“Want to check it out?” Mabus asked.  Whoever that is is being methodical about something.  Makes me think they might be normal human beings.”

“Mm hm,” Irena mummed with a nod.  Mabus lead down the ridge.

Passing an old cabin, the engines started again, this time in a northerly direction, almost due west of Mabus and Irena.  Mabus pulled them behind the walls as the sound of the engines ripping made them seem very close.  He began looking for better cover when the engines once more.  This time, they heard voices faint voices, yelling.

A small deer path cut straight that direction, which pleased Mabus and made it possible for them to move quickly.  Both panted hard, moving in a near half crouch with the unarticulated sound of several men shouting at one another growing louder.  

The men were laughing.  

“He thinks he can just plough the trees over!”

“Screw you!  I’m trying to keep up with you dicks.  This isn’t the motocross, and I’m doing pretty good riding two sets of tracks through the shit you two had me follow.  Did you even think about me being behind you?  How you think you’re gunna get your shit on the back of your bikes if I do eat a tree out here?”

“He’d have to spoon up with you Dan!”

They laughed again.  The two men stood with their backs to the slope where Mabus and Irena squatted, close enough to hear.

“Is this it?  I didn’t come all the way out here to collect lingerie.”

“Oh, you didn’t?  Because it looks like you’re going to need a new set after this ride.  Yeah, this is it.”

The man was covered his front side in mud, with a pair of leather riding goggles now perched on his forehead, leaving their impression in clean skin where they had been.  He was wiping his glasses on the clean backside of his pants.  He made a mud covered gesture to the other two, and turned to adjust something on the ATV.

Mabus watched carefully from behind a tree as the two entered the cabin, and then looked back at Irena inquisitively.

“They look college aged,” she whispered.

“And college mannered,” he replied.

Irena was opening her mouth to say something, when her chest began to convulse.  Mabus watched as her eyes opened in concern and she tried to fight the cough.  Several escaped her before Mabus grabbed her and covered her mouth with his hand, and then held her until it subsided into weak tremor.

He peeked slowly around the tree to see the man at the bike looking upwards in their direction.  Then the man went back to adjusting his bike.  Mabus sighed with relief.

They both stayed silent and still for a few moments, until the two men came out with a bag and loaded it up to the back of the four-wheeler.  The boys below joked about a few more things before opening up the bikes and continuing on their way.

Mabus set his back to the tree to rest and think.  Irena was silent as well.  They listened to the sound of the engines ripping slowly into the distance.

“Well, we have a few days before James returns and a full afternoon ahead of us.  I don’t fancy sleeping outside tonight, so I wonder if we ought to follow their tracks and see where they’re going.”

“That seems like a reasonable plan to me.”

“I don’t know what else to do.  If James doesn’t see anything promising in town, then we’re going to need to find someplace to bunker down out here.”

Irena nodded.

“I’m worried about winter coming.  If we’re on our own for winter it’ll be worse than pioneering for us out here.  Without food or any other provisions it’ll make for a hard winter.  At least Teddy didn’t leave us empty handed.”  He patted his pack and rifle on his shoulders.

“Maybe they have a camp together.”

“Exactly what I was thinking.  And if they’re sane, it might be our best bet.”

“Yes.  I think we should have a look.”

It was nearly two hours before the tracks joined a major road where they washed into the tracks of many other vehicles.  They had gone mainly north, around a major ridge at the foot of the mountains, crossing a river and passing the remains of many properties.  Mabus had not bothered with these for the time being.

There were many abandoned vehicles and signs of human life, though they encountered very few of the degenerate humans as they went.  They few they did had slinked away into the shadows as they passed.  They well into the hills, higher than they had been at Teddy’s cabin.  Now the dirt road stretched in one direction as it continued higher still.

Irena was following in his footsteps, keeping amused by matching his stride.  He was attuned to the air about himself and in a quiet mood of enjoying the scenery.  When he stopped, Irena bumped into him.

“What is it?”

“I dunno.  But I don’t like it.”

She looked straight ahead, and then gasped.  Mabus looked at her, certain her vision must be better than his.  “What is it Irena?”

“It looks, like a head on a pole!”

“That’s what I thought.”

“Why would they do that?” Irena demanded.

“It’s a get-off-our-property sign.  Get lost.  Go away.  We shoot.”

“That’s horrible.”

“Yeah, I don’t like it.”

“So do we turn around now?”

Mabus sighed.  “Yes, I think unfortunately we do.  You know that warehouse we saw down the ways?  It looked like it could be shut up pretty good.  It might be a good place to hole up for the night.”

“That sounds nice.  I’d like to be somewhere safe.”

Mabus grunted an approval, before looking back one last time.  He took a few steps and stopped and looked back again.  He thought for a moment, tapping his moustache back and forth.  Then he dropped the satchel and pulled something from it.  He tore a piece of his old shirt and opened the tobacco to take some from it.  He placed the small chunk of leaf in the shirt before rolling it up neatly.

“Wait here.”   He walked up the road with the tin in hand to where the severed head stood propped on the side of the road.  He scowled at it.  Then he tied the white shirt parcel to the stick and walked away.
Posts: 89

« Reply #37 on: December 13, 2016, 06:50:35 PM »

Mabus and Irena neared the abandoned building with the last rays of sunlight descending on the forest floor.  The door hung loose on a single last hinge and dirt on the floor entrance.

It was the only door not closed and lock, which made it the only possible fortress he had seen for miles.  The industrial design of the building allowed that with a bit of work it might be made into a fortressed.

He took the torch butt from his pack and lit it with the flint and steel, shoving a new cotton ball into it to help it take light.  Then he handed it to Irena to carry behind him.

“Keep the light to my right.  If we run into anything inside, you lead the way out.  Same way we came.”

Irena smiled excitedly.

“I almost think we’re bound to encounter something in there, so stay behind me.”  Mabus readied his gun in front of himself, cocking the hammer back.  “One shot, so you run first.  Got it?”


Mabus took a deep breath.

A small song bird flew out from the doorway at break-neck speed, arching upwards and followed by a second.  Mabus entered the door, motioning Irena to get him some light.  It split forward into a large brick hallway surrounding a central room, and a flight of stairs to their right.  Mabus followed the hallway first.

A desk and discarded papers littered the floor.  He stepped over them to the right, casting a large looming shadow on the end of the hall.  Irena followed closely behind, keeping the torch up.  At the end of the hall a wooden door stood only slightly ajar.  He peeked inside, hesitantly opening it into a large woodshop.

He unconsciously tried the light-switch.  Before him were large table-saws with cutting tables, a lathe and various industrial woodworking tools.  It had been a well ordered shop, showing signs of recent non-shop use that had left it less maintained.

Movement to the right caught Mabus eye as Irena moved the torch behind him.

“There, Irena.”  He pointed and she swung the light.

Several people stood dazed before him, and he saw several more rising from the floor where they must have been sleeping.  He froze in his tracks before something to his left rushed towards him.  A creature flung itself at Mabus in a mad rage.

The old man square up the rifle and shot without a thought, blowing pellets into the face of his attacker which dropped it to the floor writhing.  Every standing creature in the room stood straighter as more seemed to stand from the shadows.   Mabus did not dare drop his rifle to reload.

Irena began to run towards the hallway, and Mabus followed swiftly behind her.  The sound of tables knocked over behind them was enough for him to pick her up over the fallen table and nearly toss her across it before leaping himself.  His two boots struck hard as Irena screamed.

Another hunched figure stood silhouetted in the doorway.  Then another appeared behind it.  Mabus stopped on his heels.  He looked behind him as the hallway began to fill behind him.  Then without thought he barreled towards the figures in the doorway as if he would tackle them.

The creatures stuttered backwards in surprise and Mabus reached for the wall.  He tore a fire-extinguisher from its mount, using it to bludgeon the creature in his path.  It fell over itself with the force of the strike, causing the second to flee outright.  Irena came out beside him as he set the narrow nozzle towards the hallway.

The last thing either saw was a hallway of disfigured humans screaming as they piled in against him, and were enveloped in a thick white cloud of smoke.  Mabus lay heavy into it for a moment, before turning to put the final blow with the metal end of his tool to the creature now crawling towards them with a line of blood running down its face.  It slumped into the dirt without further sound.  The other was fleeing into the woods screaming, and covering its head and throwing its arms out in turn.

The creatures inside made a terrible sound, as Mabus emptied the rest of the can into the hallway.  Then he let it drop with finality, leaving only the unloaded shotgun again in his hands.  He found Irena clung to him tightly, shivering.
“Let’s go,” Mabus said.  Then he reloaded his shotgun and put a palm behind her and led her back up to the road.  

New cries lit out in turn from the forest around him, as if in the shadowed woods had awoken and an earnest keening had begun.  They were the cries of many tormented souls.  In deep guttural tones of melancholy, one after another began to lose their wails the sounds of the dying on a battlefield.  They sung as if to match the song of their fallen brothers in madness.  It made a sad, terrible wake in the forest.
Posts: 89

« Reply #38 on: December 13, 2016, 06:50:56 PM »


The heart of downtown Coeur D’Alene stood on a hill sloping towards the waters.  This part of the city had not burnt.  A firetruck with its boom extended still craned over the street as it pointing the way west.

There were fewer cats and more of the half-humans lurking about the city, but few seemed much interested in him.  They merely starred out hollowly from city windows or moved away as if banished.   Only one had come running at him up the street, but he had side-stepped it and given it a gentle shove with his rod, and it had kept running as though it had never seen him.

James was careful in how he moved.  Gently, as it were, he sauntered with a ready grace past old window shops on the boardwalk: candy store, cell phones, retail clothing, bars and a restaurant.  Half the windows were broken in and the contents of each store were mostly scattered on the floor and in the streets.

A large rat scurried past James with a statured stride, as if it owned the street.

“Eh.  You der.”

James looked up with his eyes as he scanned the street, almost feeling its corners with other senses.

“You der.  C’mere.”

A man curled into a dark blanket at the entrance of an alley had his eyes locked on James.  He was still and unassuming, with his legs curled into himself.

“C’mere.  C’mere.  Let me see’m eyes.”  The man motioned with a stiff arm.  The man’s wrinkled lips smacked in a way that bespoke of missing teeth.  The eyes were clear and sharp behind his leathered skin.  He stared intently at James.

“Mm!  Where you comin from?”

James thought of how to answer the man, realizing he had moved to him in the alley.  The man cleared his throat with a cough, but kept looking at James with a most innocent curiosity.  

“We came from the mountains.  From a plane and then a cabin in the mountains.  Where are you…?”  The man stared so cleanly and intently at James that he could not finish his words.

“The disease.  God’s plague.”  The man lifted a palm lightly to the air.  “You wanna know about de God’s plague.”

“I.  Do.” James replied.

“Mm.  You do.  An dat’s because you’re pure.  Dat’s why ya want to know ain’ it?  None a dese diseased asks a question.  Not a one.”

“I—ok.  What is it?  What is God’s plague?”

The man grinned widely at him, as if pleased.

“Good question.  I’ll tell you.”

“God’s plague.  Mm.  Is a morality disease.  Cleansing de populous, righteous from unrighteous.  Ain’ no viral and it ain’ no bacterial.  Not like you’d tink!”  The old man tapped a temple with a straight finger.  

“It ain’t even in de mind.  No, not quite.  Not so much as it is affectin de whole being, de whole part of him. You’ve not been touched because, and I say because, you’re pure.”

James shifted uncomfortably.

“I say so because its de higher tings goes first.  Like somebody snipped de good sense from them.  No reason.  No feeling.  Just empty choices.  People doing as dey would do if dere were no laws, nobody watching out and no man judging anymore—which is how it is now.”

“Turnin’ on deir brothers in violence for anyting, dats de violent ones.  De scared ones has always been scared and just runs away and hides.  It’s as if de lesser in a person became de most, and de most in a person became de least.  Dat’s how it is.  Whole crowds a people turning as if dere weren’t anoter one of dem to see dem doing for what dey is.  No justices, no mercys and no compassion.”

“Most people never really served God in life, only de attitudes and beliefs of oters.  Then dis.  God’s plague, de mark of da beast!  If it don’t contaminate ya, it’ll surely bear down on ya till you break and so I says!”
“Only two tings you can do, chosen.  Watch your heart and remember God’s holy way.”

The old man simply watched him for a moment longer, before he seemed to take notice of the angle-iron in James’s hands.  He looked solemn.

“When you meet em in de streets, watch em eyes.  It’s de only way you know.  Da first is da loss of socials—only me and what I want is left.   Complete selfishness.  You might not tell at first if they’re still talking as normal, so watch em eyes!  After dat it just gets worse and worse until dey finds a way to get killed one way or another.”

The old man spit on the ground to his side, as if to consolidate his point.  He extended his hand to James, holding it out to him in the air.  James remained still.

“You help me up, I don’t bite.”  The old man’s dry hand remained in the air to him.

James took his hand and his held his wrist with another, helping the old man up.  He was frail, too delicate to last the winter James thought.

“Dat’s all I can offer you.” He said with sad resignation.

“Where do you live?  I can take you there.”

“Here and der and everywhere as God leads me.”

“Can I help you?”

“Mm.  You have son.  You’ve given me purpose.  You gave me to wait for by God and so I did.  And so I did.  Now it’s done so perhaps I go now another place.”

There was a resolute fatefulness in the man’s composure.  James, sensing the man’s determinedness in purpose let it be, just as it was.  He felt it, in his chest, of a path that was not his to walk, not at this time, and neither for him to interfere with.

This was not the post-industrial twenty first century with prolonged healthcare for the decrepit.  It was neo-tribalism on the heels of twenty-first century society on the same harsh earth that took the elderly in early winter as it had done several hundreds of years before.

It was not the feel-good world of humans clinging stubbornly to life, hiding from death with the illusionary beliefs of an adolescent trying to hide behind their own hand.  There were no social security checks now, no social organizations for the weak nor any prolonged hope for those afraid of dying.

It was a new world, with new rules.  The old rules reborn.  Rules not made by man, but by nature, as it was, as it always had been, and always would be no matter what efforts man had put into pretending it away.  It was the harsh, bitter truth; the truth in ashes.

The old man released himself gently from James’s arm and looked into his eyes once again.  James let him go.

“Blessings, chosen one.  You are well favored.”

“Blessings to you as well,” said James.

The old man smiled, and began to walk away.
Posts: 7714

« Reply #39 on: December 13, 2016, 07:06:35 PM »

Sorry it's been so long.  Been busy buying a house and getting situation this year.  

So you have a real life too Huh?

Posts: 89

« Reply #40 on: January 29, 2017, 08:27:06 PM »

Notes – Still raw, unedited story.

C8 - The Rules of Escape

Irena was short of breath as Mabus hurried her up the hill, a dull panic constricting her chest.  Her throat felt hot and tight.  For how she felt, someone might have socked her in the gut.  Terror was seeping into her as bitterly as bile from a gut wound.

“C’mon Irena.  Quickly now” Mabus hurried her, barely turning to check on her.

She grimaced and resumed the task of trying to breath.  She wondered if something had hold of her throat and were trying to strangle her.  By the time they reached the road, she was gasping for breath.

A human figure broke from the branches below, snapping sticks as it tore through low tree branches.  It screamed.  And the scream hit her with the force of an arrow.  She felt a surge of adrenaline course hot through her veins.

Mabus had heard it too.  He looked back to assess their surroundings.  Only one figure he saw running towards the sounds of the building behind them in an uproar.  Then Irena began to choke and sputter.

He turned to her more scared than in any of the moments before.  She was bent at the waist, gasping for breath.  And then she began to cough.
Spasms began to convulse her chest with only brief respite for a grasping breath.  She was hyperventilating.

In an instant, moments from his life flashed before him.  Images of his dying child with his wife at his side flashed through his mind.  Grief in his wife’s eyes as they cried together in a hospital hall.  The pain of watching her suffer and of his child dying.  Despair at her final, difficult struggle for life.  Moreover, he felt these things course through him.


He nearly dropped the rifle, save for its sling which clung stubbornly to his arm as her caught her in his wake.  “Breathe, girl.  Breathe.  Calm down.  Relax.  You need to breath.”

He put his hand on her chest as if to open it up, holding her with his other arm as she dropped to her knees.  “Breathe baby.  Just relax.  You’re ok.  Just relax and let yourself breath.”

Tears welled to his eyes as held her, chocking for air.  He began to breath in large breaths for her to imitate, as he held her to get her to calm.

“Irena, we’re in a big open field full of flowers.  The sun is shining down on us and it’s a beautiful day.  There are dandelion pods floating in the air.  There is fresh water, with animals all around us.  Deer and squirrels and grasshoppers.  You smell the air.  It tastes so fresh, so clean, so good.”

She choked several times before swallowing half a breath.  “Good girl.  That’s the way.  We’re on a beautiful mountainside with sheep and song birds all around us.  Do you see the sun?  Focus on the warmth of the sun, the wind on grass blades.”  She gasped again.

“Breath baby girl.  Relax and breath.  It’s alright.  I’m here.  You’ll be alright.  We’re ok.   I’m watching over your shoulder.”  Saying so, he did, with tears streaming down his face.

The strange creature had disappeared.  He sat her down, bundled in his arms as an infant to make her relax.  She continued to struggle.  The drops ran off his beard.  He continued in this way to console her gently, combing her hair with his thick hardened hands.  Her breathing began to improve.
“Good.  Good girl.  Just like that.  Just like that.”  He could feel her relax between tremors now.

“There’s no inhaler for you out here Irena so you have to do this on your own.  Just focus all your thought on staying relaxed.  No matter what happens.  You need to relax and breathe.  Put yourself in a field full of poppy blooms and bright sunshine.  Find the prettiest place in the world and go there now.  Stay there while I take care of you.  I’m gonna take care of you.  I promise.  You’ll be ok with me.  I promise sweetheart.”

Mabus could barely conceal his own convulsions now, but he swallowed it hard and sniffed it away, blinking furiously.  Below, several figured covered in an off-white powder began to emerge from the building on all fours, as if blind, and choking themselves.  He heard a stick break in the woods nearby and turned to look about himself.

Irena was in a field of pansies and dragonflies when the sky seemed to get very dark, and then close around her.  She fell limp in Mabus’s arms and relaxed more.  He listened for her breathing.

By the power of necessity, the old man split his mind two ways.  One he bound hard and fast as the watchmen over them and with it he began to make a plan.  The second he loosed to compassion and with his strength gently lifted her.  She was breathing, with occasional coughs and convulsions.

Without a moment to spare, he made a plan.  East was where they had come from, towards James out scouting the city.  He would be gone two more days by their arrangement.  But it was hours away to little more than what he had here and night was falling fast.

His only other choice was north, following the rider’s tracks, past the impaled head into an unknown group of vigilante woodsmen willing to shoot on sight and consider it later, if at all.  It was a major risk upon which he risked both their lives.  He risked them both now in any direction, with darkness slow descending and a hoard of angry half-humans gathering beneath them.

With a free hand he loosed his satchel and managed to pull the white shirt from it. He fastened this to the barrel of his fire-arm, then slung it all back over his shoulder.  He picked Irena up and set his jaw to run.

He ran like a marine with a wartime pack, tilting the weight forward until he could fall forward and catch himself in small steps.  He held her tight as he ran, feeling for the hopeful expansion of her ribs with every step.  He forced himself uphill at a hard pace.

There were more shrieks.  The woods seemed to be filling up behind him.  Something broke from the tree-line to his right.  Another mutated human figure noticed them, and then flung its head back towards the noise.  Mabus saw evil in its movements.

He ignored it, carrying onward as the creature ran towards the commotion below with only one shoe on.  He continued past old pines on the flat dirt road, covered in dust and fresh wheel tracks, wondering beyond his pain if they could be welcome beyond that severed head on a pike.  His stomach turned in grievous knots over the pain of sharp breaths in his tortured chest.

Much of the screaming seemed behind him as he entered denser woods.   Serviceberry bushes between trees of less uniformity marked the end of logged woods and a transition zone to higher woods.  Denser cover here made better cover for a renegade band of survivors in the woods.  Birds flittered amongst the branches in patterns that spelled the end of day.

Mabus stopped finally, turning to look behind as he dropped to his seat, still cradling the small girl in his arms.  He listened for her breathing as he gasped for air of his own.  As the pain subsided to a tolerable level, he ran his dirt stained fingers through her hair, mumming to her wordlessly.
Shouting continued beneath them in all directions.

The southern hills eclipsed the sun, making a halo of them in the dusk dry air of a mountain day.  A sunset cape of copper and violet seemed to hang to this halo, a still soft blanket seated in cotton throws.  But the darkness encroaching this was what he saw.

He lifted her again, no sooner than he was able and began to follow those tracks again.  He had a short distance when a shot exploded in the forest ahead of them. 

Mabus froze in place, grasping Irena up tight as he processed it.  Was he dead?  Had he been shot?  Where could he run?  There was a sound of a thumping behind him and the sound of branches breaking.  He looked back to see the figure of a man struggling for life as a wounded animal.  A second shot exploded and the figure fell still.

There was rustling in the woods above him, as of several men running towards him.  He moved to turn downhill to run, when he saw the men moving as a unit, with a certain grace of sound ness with rifles pointed his direction.

“Freeze or be shot!”

It was a voice shouted from the tree-line in the direction of the shot.  Mabus scanned the trees until he saw what appeared to be a dark shape in one of them.  He held Irena, still and standing.

A long scream from made him aware of how silent it had been since the shot.  It was followed by others now more intense than before.  Certainly the woods were alive his vengeance now.  The three men reached him in cautious formation.  He wondered how many more were there.

The men were marked in other ways too which showed signs of having regular minds.  Their clothes, though mismatched and uniform were worn properly.  They moved upright and together, though not in any disciplined way.  They moved as an untrained militia, each man awkward or confident with his stance and firearm bespoke their individual familiarities with the tools, more than common training with them.

The tallest man in the group moved his finger up to reveal his lips, covered by a short scarf.  His covered head and the extended magazine of his rifle gave him nearly the look of a modern jihadist.  Seen in that light, they all looked that way.  Guerrillas, Mabus thought.

“Who’s the girl?” the man asked, using the point of his rifle to point.  How casual that motion seemed to the old man holding her, remembering a primary rule of gun safety:  never point a gun at anything you are not willing to shoot. 

“My daughter,” he said without thinking.

“She sick?  She infected?”  The man asked.

“Asthma,” he replied.  “She passed out.”

The man stared hard at him.  The sounds continued down the road, growing louder and nearer as if approaching them.  Mabus, in a second’s pause, thought on how easily he had called Irena his daughter.

“Where you come from?  Why’d you come to us?”

“We’re from over the ridge a ways.  Followed a few boys out on a four-wheeler and motorcycles earlier today.”

“Damn Erik!  I’ll have him scalped for that.  I told them we could be followed and now we’ve got a mess on our hands don’t we?”

“I don’t mean to…”

“I didn’t mean you.”  The man’s tone had changed, softened towards Mabus.  “You and the girl are fine.  Call in and let them know we’re bringing two survivors.  Let them know!”

The man nearest him picked up his radio with insolent slowness, another sign which Mabus took as to show a general lack of training and discipline. 

They were a vagabond band of anarchist survivors then, a lucky group of quick triggered youth, not half as orderly as his scouts would have been.  The real truth is in camp, he thought.

“C’mon.  Up with us.”

The radio crackled as the man beside him turned the dial.  It opened to a heady dialogue which Mabus could not hear.

“South gate.  South gate.  Yankee-Three, over.”

A quiet voice responded on the radio.

“I know.  Caught an—old man and a girl outside.  Farris says we’re bringing them up.”

The three men seemed to relax about Mabus and Irena, and instead began watching southward where commotion was building.  Screams overlapped light radio chatter as Mabus joined them moving carefully up the hillside.

“…coming up in three.  Yes, bringing him too.”  The man on the radio made a quick, hard yell to the sharpshooter in the tree, signaling him down to join them.  The men’s hard boots trampled pine needles up the hillside, half forgetting their newcomers in the frenzy of commotion about them. 

Their fortress was as impressive and unwelcoming as the impale head below them.  Thick tall walls of rammed earth marked their fortress in the wilderness, palisaded with toothy pine sharpened to points set outwards in nonsymmetrical formations.  The earthen color of these walls betrayed little of either their height or width until Mabus could see the scars of heavy equipment use.  The wall made a spiny square half a city block in length.  He found himself impressed.

The three made a sign to posted watchmen laying low at the barricade gate, received confirmation as a log-work door opened.  They were joined by a fourth man in a camouflage ghilly suite, not quite the same color as the woods about him and a large hunting rifle.  Two men inside ushered them in quickly.

“Is there a doctor” Mabus asked.

The others seemed to look as if seeing him again and then slowly registered his question.  The one called Farris seemed to soothe their anxiety: “It’s alright.  I called in.  They’re survivors.”

The other nodded and looked confused.  “A doctor?  We’ve got…”

“A medic” Farris butted in.  “Trained in wilderness EMT.  Southeast corner, big red cross on his tent.  Can’t miss it.  It’s no hospital but he knows what he’s doing.”

“Can’t hope on a hospital in the wilderness.”  Mabus replied.  The men seemed to like that, and relaxed a little, resuming their chatter and routine.  There was some low-voiced chatter across the camp and everyone seemed busy as if readying for action.  He carried Irena quickly to the tent.

A skinny man inside with round glasses looked surprised when he saw them.  A man lay at a cot in surgical bandages, asleep with an IV strapped to his arm and blood about his clean-cut clothes.

“I was instructed to come to you.  You’re the medic?  My daughter, she passed out from an asthma attack.”

“Alright, bring her in.  Set her down.”

“Do you have an inhaler; she’s still not breathing well.”

“Let me see.  I think so but how about epinephrine?”

“You’re the doctor.”  The man seemed to rise a bit at the compliment.  The man did a quick check for breath and pulse before pointing to a bag full of medical supplies and wagging his finger.

“How certain are you it was only an asthma attack?”  The man looked over his glasses in a way that could have made him look patronizing, but didn’t.

“She got scared.  She was never touched.”

“No phlegm, no mucus contamination?”

“Unlikely.” Mabus said, finding himself surprised at the man’s quick assessment of the situation they had encountered.

“Good.”  He carefully measured and then administered the shot to Irena.

When Irena’s chest rose to full height, Mabus felt himself breathe for the first time too.  A great weight rose from his tensed shoulders.  “Thank you” he found himself saying.

“No problem,” the ad hoc doctor replied, returning to the tools he had been sterilizing over candlelight.
Mabus sat down, exhausted.

“Rough day, huh?” the man asked.

“Yes, rough day.”

The man looked up then, up and out at the sky as if pondering it.  He pulled the tent flap back to look out at the front gate.

“Clark Whitman,” he said, brushing his hand on a pant leg.  “And you might want to grab something from mess if you can bring yourself to it.  I imagine big Joe will be calling fire-line tonight, and probably want you on it.”


“You’ll find out soon enough.  I can watch after her for now.  Follow the center path along the tents in from the gate and you’ll see it.  The cook’s name is Drake.” “Would you ask him for a bit for me as well?” 

He was looking over his glasses again.

“Not exactly hungry but I’ll bring you something if I can,” Mabus replied.  “Thanks for the shot, doc.”

“Anytime.”  The man smiled.  Mabus pushed himself up with a groan and set across camp.

The people were aroused.  Campfires outside dirty tents erected with little order had coals and campfires burning here and there, and men sitting, standing and ambling about, as casually as soldiers on leisure duty.  Some checked rifles and other tools of warfare while others finished the meal, spoons in their mouths.  The well-trod path was mostly mud filled with boot pock markings from whoever had passed last.  In places the path was thrown in with woodchips or a bit of gravel.  Mabus’s passing unacknowledged hinted at how unknit this group of woodsmen still seemed to be.

At mess line several men stood yet for food, one for seconds, of the meat stew brewing and a meager ration of bread.  Mabus stepped in line as the cook finished scolding the one.

“You know I said one half a loaf a man and you can’t trick me with a half-polished bowl you just ate from.  Those food particles are still wet and I could have seen it as well without turning my head ya…”

He was cut off by a yell of “FIRELINE!” from the front of the camp.  The heads of the men turned to look with various hues of emotion at the news.
“Banshees!” someone yelled from a tent afar.  People began to move, putting the last bits of themselves together, shoveling food in their cheeks, tossing dishes aside and pulling coats, gloves or masks.

The two men in front of Mabus stayed in line, so Mabus did too. 

One, with only half a mouthful of teeth began to grumble: “Another long night.”

“Yeah,” the man before him grunted.  “Wonder who the jackass was set ‘em off again.”

“Hell if I know.  Maybe B-team.”

Mabus waited his turn and then asked for a bowl.  The cook, a large, barrel-chested man with an even bigger gut bulged from behind his apron, which was missing a strap, like a single heavy breast from an undersized bra.  He turned from a pan he had been scraping.

“Bring your own bowl,” the man said.  One of his eyes was lazy.

“Clark, the paramedic, asked for a serving.”

The man stopped with a short sound stopped short in his sinuses.  “Paramedic.  Boy can hardly handle a Band-Aid.”

“Tell him to get it himself, and bring his own bowl with him.  I don’t have any to spare.”

Mabus nodded.  “Alright.  Anywhere I can get a bowl for myself.  New here.”

“Maybe.  But…” the man’s demeanor changed slightly.  “You come in with a little girl just now?”

“Yes, my daughter.  She’s at the medical tent now recovering.”

The man lifted an eyebrow on the eye that didn’t work, and licked at something in his teeth.  After an uncomfortable moment, Mabus took his leave.

“Thanks.  I’ll find a bowl.”
Posts: 89

« Reply #41 on: January 29, 2017, 08:28:33 PM »

The man caught him in the awkward moment of taking a step to leave.

“You know, I wouldn’t bring a girl here.”

“That so?”

“You seen any others here?”

“It was the first thing I noticed about the place.”

The cook just nodded his head, still probing his tooth for a food bit.

“Best of luck” he said.

Mabus nodded soberly and began to turn again, when the man caught him awkwardly again.

“There’s a village active, east side of Seattle, not too far from here.  Day’s walk or two—not sure where exactly.  Women and children there.  Haven’t seen it myself but it is active.  Could be more suited to you both, but I didn’t say so.”

Mabus nodded in thought.

“Hold on a min’t.  See if I can find you something.”  The man rummaged for a couple of bowls he found easily.

“Thank you.”

“Tell that snake-oil charmer of a witch-doctor to bring his own bowl.”

Mabus found his way back to the tent with his eyes low, watching everything.  The countenance and postures of untrained men acting in the manner of a loosely organized gang of guerrillas.  Them trading cigarettes for others goods and services in the likeness of a prison camp.  The atmosphere of the camp itself, little campfires sending smoke up into the sky, and the unkempt uniforms of men as haphazardly composed as their clothing.  Their beards unshaved, excepting the medic and cook.

He sat and offered a serving to the medic.  The man set his tools down, took off his glasses, wiped them clean and sighed.  “Meat again” he lamented, “wonder who it was.”

At Mabus’s glance, the man laughed.

A young man with a wiry build and a fatigue jacket too big for his frame, and a bandana knotted for style approached the camp and stood there a moment before speaking.

“You the old man came in a bit ago with the girl?”  He stole a glance inside the tent.

“Me.  Name is Mabus.”  Mabus extended his hand.

The boy rocked a bit in place nervously, and then looked away as if he hadn’t seen it.

“Mabus.  Big Dan asked me to ask you if you would take a station on fire-line tonight.”

Mabus looked at him expectantly.  He caught the boy’s eye for a second before he looked off again up at the wall.  Men were beginning to assemble on the top of the earthen wall as if to protect it.

“He means up on the wall, defending us,” the medic offered.  “Thanks Paul.  I’ll send him up promptly.”

The young man hesitated again, before leaving.

“I don’t know why Dan always sends him to run his messages.”   He lit a cigarette and ran a hand through his hair, unrushed.  “He couldn’t keep a sentence straight to save us all.”

“Dan’s in charge,” Mabus said.

“More or less,” Clark said.  “Seen him?”


“The one with the big Mohawk.  Sort of like—maybe a Polynesian face and build.  Big.”  Mabus shook his head.

“You’ll know when you see him, but I doubt that will be tonight.  He likes to go out in front of the wall with hand weapons and showboat for everybody’s attention.”

Mabus nodded.

“He’s just the biggest cock in the flock and the boys respect him for it and do what he wants.”

“Except you.”

The medic smiled at Mabus.

“Exactly.  And she’s my patient so I get to tell you what to do instead.”

“That’s a good arrangement for now.”

“Just take your rifle and go up on the wall right there and play along.  You can stay within sight of her there.  Take a shot now and then and watch them make idiots of themselves.  Try to keep any of them from having to visit me tonight if you can.  I would appreciate that very much.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Mabus said.

The first shot rang out moments later as Mabus reached the tall wall, and the men hooted quietly in that direction.  Men filled atop the wall where it extended a half mile or so around the camp.  The heavy equipment used to build that wall sat outside and below them.

Beyond, outside the wall, in the path of the largest light in the camp, stood a bulky figure with a Mohawk top with only a few others beside him.  They had clubs and spears and a pistol or two at the belt.  Big Dan stood arrogantly waiting, pointing with no shirt or mask like most others.

A second shot came later and from closer to where he stood.  Mabus turned to watch a figure fall and die in the tree shadows beyond.  Then it was on.

Dark figures moved from the tree lines in small groups, in large groups occasionally, and individually, the way flies draw in to a hot light.  One after another they approached the fortified wall and fell to their final fates.

Mabus worked the .22 slowly, as it demanded, firing, reloading, waiting and firing again at the most effective moments.  The whole time, thinking only of Irena and James.
Posts: 89

« Reply #42 on: January 29, 2017, 08:31:16 PM »


“Irena.  Wake up.”

Irena gasped when she woke to Mabus patting at her shoulder.

“Shh…shh.  It’s just me.”

She relaxed, but her chest shook lightly in the motions of a weak cough.  It was dark and late at night, and nearly quiet in the camp.

“I hear voices.”

“Yes, we’re at the camp.”

Irena’s eyes opened up.  “Where the head was?”  She made a muted cough again.

“Yes, we’ve been here half a night.  How’s your breathing?”

Her chest lifted and fell as if she had tried to fill it and failed.

“It’s kind of har—” she began to sputter again.  The moustache of the man above her caught lamplight and made shadows against the tarp as it made teeter-tottered motions in place. 

“I’m cold,” she managed as her body shivered.  Mabus checked her forehead with his wrist.

“You’re hot.”

“I don’t feel hot.”  Her little frame shuddered again.  Mabus sat a long moment, thinking.

“I had bad dreams,” she continued.  “There were monters trying to get me and I wanted to run but I couldn’t breathe and they kept jumping like frogs trying to get inside of me…”

“Shh…hush.  It’s alright now.  Tell me later.”  She looked into his eyes and saw the intensity in them.  She smiled and relaxed.

“Is James here?”

“Irena, if we couldn’t return to James for a few days, what do you suppose he would do if he didn’t find us there?”

“Oh.  Mmm.  He’d probably just wait and look around for us for a while.”

“He’d wait where we left him?”

“I dunno.  Yeah, probably.  He doesn’t worry too fast.”

Mabus stared out at the stars, a cloud form moving quickly across it.

“Do you think you can walk at all?”

“Mm hm.”

“Irena, we reached the head camp but I want us to keep going tonight.  I found someplace we can go but it will take us all night and most of tomorrow to get there.”

Irena breathed deeply.  There was moisture in the sound of it.  “Alright then.”

“One thing.  Do you remember the rules of capture we read about in the survival manual?  Your first priority upon capture by an enemy?”

Irena searched her memory for the answer and then nodded.  “To escape by any means necessary.”

“That’s right.  Now pretend we’ve been captured.  When is the best to plan an escape?”

“Right away.”


“Well, the first guards that have you aren’t as well trained with handling prisoners.  You have more strength to get away.  And you don’t have to go as far to get away.”

“Exactly.  So you understand that we’re not going to tell anybody we’re leaving.”

Mabus and Irena approached the ladder near the front gate to access the wall.  Irena was wrapped in the medic’s wool blanket, holding her pillow.
“I’ll hold your pillow.  Go first.  I’ll be beneath.”

“Ok.”  Irena’s grasp on the ladder rungs was feeble.  She climbed slowly, keeping the blanket close to herself.

A man looked over from above.  Mabus climbed up behind her.

“What’s up?” the man on duty held his arms close to his chest, clamped for warmth.

“I volunteered a shift tonight.  My daughter didn’t want to be alone.”

The man nodded stiffly in the cold.  His breath was just visible in the cool night light of a burning lamp post.

“Great,” he said, “that mean I get short reprieve?”

“You’re all done if you’d like to be.  I wanted us to earn our place here.”

The man nodded in agreement.  “A good way to start.  I’m sure it won’t go unnoticed.”

Mabus was pleased to see the eagerness in the man’s actions, let him gather his magazine and cigarettes and descend the ladder towards his camp for the night.  He several a several moments to ensure things remained quiet in the camp before pulling out the climbing rope from the pillowcase.

He walked a ways to the darkest portion of the wall, and tied a special knot to it with a loop protruding from it to one of the palisade spikes embedded in the earth, and checked it for stability with his boot.  He attached a carabiner to hit belt loop and walked back to Irena to watch the camp a while longer.

“It’s about three in the morning.  Most of these boys drank pretty heavy after all the shooting so I’m hoping with some luck we’ll get half a day on them.  Not that I expect them to follow us, but I’d rather not take a chance of them bringing ATV’s behind us.”

Irena was staring at the bodies below in the field.

“Alright, let’s go,” Mabus said.

Wrapping the climbing rope around his waist once, he secured it to the carabiner shaft with three loose loops and set it at an angle with his hand, stopping its slide.  His other arm was behind him, holding the rope away from himself.  He carefully lowered himself from the wall until he was dangling, with his whole weight on it.  He pulled it hard a few times before reaching his arm out for Irena.

With careful descents, he released the rope to slide with his feet moving along the wall.  The wooden post he had secured to shifted suddenly in its place.  He held up tight, watching it before moving again.  They reached the bottom with Irena clinging to him tightly.

He tried the rope several times to make it give.  The knot, he had hoped, would loosen with the right angle and motion, but after several attempts he decided to leave it.  He secured the pack from the pillowcase to his back and used the knife to cut a section of the rope away for himself, slinging over his shoulder.  He put his hand on her back and they began to walk into the darkness, as quietly as the woods stood about them.


James awoke the next morning on a swinging metal framework, starring at the vaulted ceiling of a brick building.  He was curled mostly into a ball, shivering slightly and trying not to move so as not to release any of his heat.  Two doves had entered and were making morning chatter with the contents of their rummaging for the morning.  He moaned, remembering what had brought him here.

It was late evening when he had been chased by a band of feral humans half a city block to the abandoned structure of a small theatre.  He had tried to climb a copper gutter to make his way to the roof of the building, only to encounter another set of enraged humanoids resting under a roof overhang.  He had been forced to climb a window on the buildings side, and, with nowhere else to go, make a dubious jump onto the spotlight mountings hung from the ceiling.

It had earned him reprieve from the prospect of running from the night, so he had stayed there enduring the cold and tried to sleep on a lattice of metal as comfortably as might be expected of him.  He made play of it by imagining himself a leopard sleeping high in a tree with perfect relaxation in the jungle canopy, and that had eased his fear of the swaying height of it.

After calling up the fatigued energy to move his body on the prospect of no breakfast, he made another small jump to a brick strut near the far end of the suspended light hanger and crawled out the window again.  A mild fog was upon the town from the waters beneath, and the sun was yet to rise.  He crawled himself safely and quietly higher by way of a fire-escape ladder to the top of the sloped roof where he was alone, watching the lake, birds, sunrise.  There he meditated to see if he could manage the cold in his bones as the yogis of old.

He was twenty minutes when a single faint pop followed by a nearly inaudible crackle sounded west of him.  He looked up to see the sun had risen, and a trail of red light stood from ground some miles away from him.  The light of a signaling flare.
Posts: 7714

« Reply #43 on: January 29, 2017, 08:50:57 PM »

Posts: 418

« Reply #44 on: January 30, 2017, 12:19:34 AM »

  That's what I get for paying attention,I found you have resumed the writing once more,& am enjoying it! It's a Good read to be sure,Thanx for returning & Good Luck with all the New surroundings!
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