From the world of New Beginnings
Brian W. Porter
I sat on the end of the wooden dock that protruded forty feet into the large lake. Trees surrounded the water, early spring green outlining the bare branches, the patterns reflecting in the smooth water. Fish jumped in the dusk forming circles of ripples that distorted the reflections. I considered the events of the past couple of weeks, how idiots somewhere out there in the Middle East desert had let Hell loose on the world in the form of a gas that spread until almost everyone, the whole human race, had died. Whatever had killed most of the human race hadn't affected the fish, or many other animals. Fishing and hunting was good, once I had learned how to shoot a gun, and the six people who had joined me here during the past week found we could live, if we helped each other. I'd taken the job of leader by default, the one who organized chores more than anything else, a job I didn't want or ask for, but I accepted it since I was the first to arrive here. I don't know much about living off nature other than what I'd picked up from books, but Jeff could hunt and butcher, and the others had skills that were useful, so there shouldn't be a problem with living through the next few years, as long as we stuck together. We might want to move later, find a larger community and join in, but for now, while our minds heal, we'd stay here where peace prevails. It was almost dark, and another clear night. I had my sleeping bag near one of the motel cabins, the door open so I could dive inside under the roof if it started to rain. I snuggled inside the bag and stared at the stars, those bright points of light I didn't have time to notice before. It's amazing how many show now that all the outdoor lights went out. I could see the Milky Way, something I'd never seen before while living in town. The Big and Little Dipper were visible, and lots of other stars whose names or constellations I didn't know. It was like it must have been for the ancient Greeks, or the Arabs, or the American Indians. The sky was so beautiful, and the stars were so many that they were beyond counting. I began to count them. A noise woke me before it became light. The stars had moved almost a half circle so I knew it was near morning. No wonder I felt lethargic. A shape stood
over me, two foreshortened legs slightly spread, a body rising above them, unkempt hair visible in the light of the half moon, and the shape of a rifle held by a person pointing at my chest. A voice to my right protested sudden awakening, and then was still. Others must have their own guards. "Who's head of this here thing?" a voice asked. I began to get out of the bag. A shoe pressed down on my chest trying to push the air out of my lungs. I lay back. "I guess I am," I said. "Well, boy," the voice in the dark said, "I guess you were. You got a good thing here, so it's ours now. You got something to say about that?" I was going to wait a bit, stall him until I could get my head together, but Jeff came storming out of the park cabin he shared with one of the girls holding a club. He growled, "If he don't, I do. You can't just come in some place and take over." I didn't think that was the right action. "Oh, no?" the thug asked. He lifted his rifle and pointed it toward Jeff. A shot sounded. Echoes returned from the trees beyond the lake. Jeff's legs folded under him and he crumpled to the ground. His girl ran out of the cabin screaming and slid to a stop on her knees next to Jeff. She listened for his heart and breathing, then slowly looked up at the thug. A wildness entered her eyes, the look of a mother protecting her young. She slowly began to rise. The thug shot her in the shoulder. "Anyone else?" He asked. I had lost my chance. If I had grabbed the thug's leg when his attention first switched to Jeff, the thug would have been off balance and together Jeff and I could have stopped the attack. If Jeff had hidden with his rifle and waited, he might have gotten a shot off that could have saved us. But I was still half asleep and not thinking, and that moment had passed. Now I could only stay silent. I guess everyone felt the same, 'cause no one said a word. The thug continued, "Good. Now I'll give you a choice. You git now, or you git later when we're done with you." He pointed at Ann, an extremely good looking lady whose mind was slowly coming back to normal, as long as she was left alone. I hoped that in the near future we could be closer than we were now, but that didn't look hopeful with Thug's attentions. He continued, "Better yet, you look tasty, bitch. Why don't you come here and take care of me before you all take off. Any of the others who want it, too. Your friends can watch." "Fuck off," Ann said, and crumpled as the back of her head exploded spraying blood and brain cells across the grass. "Jesus, you all are stupid," the thug cried. "If you do what I say, you live. How hard is that? Aw, hell. I can't live with stupid people. Get outta here." We gathered our gear and slowly walked along the entrance road, heads toward the ground. Robert helped to steady Erin whose shoulder obviously caused her pain. She'd have to be treated, but I didn't know how.
As we reached the main road, we heard the thug shout, "And if you show up again, yer dead! Ya hear me?" Yeah I heard him. We'd find someplace else, someplace with a supply of food while we learned to gather our own now that Jeff was dead. We walked along the road toward the main highway, a four lane affair with a grass median that used to carry traffic toward the ocean, and turned toward one of the nearby towns. Occasional trees shaded us from the morning light. After an hour, we were closer to town, a place we'd find a store that wasn't looted if we were lucky. As we crested a hill, I heard the drone of a big motorcycle behind us, an ominous sound when heard in packs. This time there was only one. I turned and looked where we'd been. A lone rider crested the hill behind us, followed by a Volkswagen Beetle. "What do you think?" Robert asked. "Can't be that many, and I still have my gun." He managed to keep his pistol? That was good. I said, "Yeah. That's good. We'll never survive like this, and Dot there needs help, and there can't be that many in that car. OK, you all hide and Robert, keep it handy and we'll see what happens." The two vehicles drove down into the valley, and then I guess they saw me because the motorcycle gunned his engine and flew toward us, and the car hung back as if for safety. The biker stopped close enough for speaking, turned off the engine, dropped the kickstand, and leaned the bike on it as he stepped off. He removed his helmet to reveal long hair and a full beard, both dark and disheveled. He looked dangerous. I guess Robert raised his pistol and pointed it at the biker for the biker raised his hands and spoke quietly. "Whoa, hold it. We mean no harm. I just want to talk to you for a minute." "Who are you?" I asked. "My name is Tony. Those in the car and I are working our way north. I think I might know a safe place to live, but I can't do it myself, so I'm finding others. Can I ask you a few questions, see if you'd fit in?" A groan sounded from the drainage ditch. "What's that?" Tony asked. I told him, "One of my friends was shot by a thug." He might as well know why we were so skittish. I didn't expect the reaction I got. Tony's eyes grew in size. "Shot? Shit!" He made an exaggerated come on motion to the car, then ran in place. The car's engine started, and then it came toward us fast. Tony explained, "One of the people there is a healer. Let her look at your wounded. We might be able to help." The car stopped next to us and the older woman in the passenger seat rolled down the window as the driver opened his door and stood. The woman asked, "What?"
Tony said, "Someone's over there, been shot." A woman in her twenties sitting in the back seat said, "Let me out." "I guess I don't need this," the driver said as he placed something on the driver's seat. "Where are they," The young woman asked as she climbed out of the seat. "Over there," I said pointing to where the others hid. The woman from the back seat ran to where Erin lay. Robert said, "Her boyfriend was killed when he tried to protect us. She was shot in the shoulder. They killed another one also." "Those are the people I'm trying to stay away from," Tony explained. The woman from the back seat said, "The bullet went through her shoulder and missed the bone. That's good. I need to find a few things. Can you start a fire and boil some water while I'm gone?" "Don't have any," I said. "We were going to pick up supplies up the road a bit." "We do," Tony said. We all worked together, and by the time nightfall arrived we'd not only found shelter and food, but helped another person wounded by the criminals who had accosted our group. *** Other short stories, essays, and poetry from this author are available at http://www.scribd.com/Brian%20W%20Porter. *** Copyright 2012 Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs You may share this work with anyone in any way with the following provisions. You must share the complete work, including the title and this notice. You may not make any changes. You may not use this work commercially or accept payment without the written permission of the Author. Any and all rights and credit are held by Brian W. Porter.