Tuesday, November 16, 2010

American Apocalypse IV - Chapter 1 - by nova

I was alone. I was okay with that. I had a mission. Find Carols son. I had a deadline. I knew how long I was going to be gone. At the rate the Horde was moving I would need to set aside two weeks just to catch up with them once I found the kid. I pulled out the t-shirt Carol had given me. It was a Transformers t-shirt. "Nice" I thought. It was Bumblebee. Too bad it wasn't my size. I would have worn it. I smiled to myself and thought of another kid with an Optimus Prime toy. "Shit always runs in cycles" I told myself. I was sitting there, reluctant to move, knowing I had too, but unable to get off my ass when I heard them coming.

They were quiet. They just needed not to breathe so hard. Nothing was there one second, the next I was looking at five big dogs. They stayed back about ten feet while Woof walked up, sniffed, looked me over, and then sat down about three feet from me. He was smiling. I like that in a dog.

I looked him and the rest of the pack over. All of them were males and none weighed less than 90 lbs. I recognized the usual breeds, Rottweilers, Woof the German Shepherd, and one I didn't recognize. Somebody's mutt. Looking them over made me glad I wasn't going to be cleaning up after them.

"Woof. You've put on some weight. Looking good Dog."

He was too. He still had the scar and a couple more had been added. All of them were scarred. One of the Rottweilers had what looked like a bullet wound scar on his flank.

Woof didn't say the same about me. It didn't bother me. I understood. He wasn't the talkative type. I tossed him the t-shirt. "Sniff that up. That's who we're looking for." Each dog came up, sniffed, and went back to his place after Woof took a couple sniffs.

"Okay. Lets go to work then." I told them. I grabbed my pack, stuffed the t-shirt into it, and started headed back towards the town I had found Carol and her friends in. I needed my bike. A truck would be better. I also needed to talk to a member of the Brethren. I needed more information. The clock was ticking. I didn't think we had left anyone alive who had seen me. If someone had, that was fine with me. I could use the exercise.

Me and the dogs had made camp a couple hours later. I found a place by a stream so we all would have water and unrolled my bag under a tree. I didn't bother to eat. I had nothing for the dogs and it didn't feel right to eat in front of them. Feeding them was going to be interesting. Even if Freya could drop us some bunnies from the sky it would still take about ten of them to feed these pups and they would probably consider that a snack.

The next morning after we been walking for a little bit a rain began to fall. A cold one at that. The summer had not been as warm as it usually was. Wearing a vest and carrying a bunch of crap made me very okay with that. I stopped, stripped above the waist, and let the rain wash away some of the stink. I would have gone completely nude and walked on but the occasional thorn bush, nettles, and ticks that made that impractical. Just thinking about catching a thorn bush between the legs made me wince.

That was one of the many things I learned after I became homeless. The woods are not Disneyland. Nor are they as benign as your backyard. You had to watch out for poison ivy. I remember one girl who wiped her ass with a handful. That was pretty funny. You had ticks. You had bushes that scratched you up. The temperature was always was too hot or cold. Never just right. Water that was safe to drink was a constant struggle to find. It took me all of two days to figure out why all of the relatively sane homeless carried gallon water jugs. Living full time in the woods was a bitch. I had seen two people just break down and start crying because they couldn't deal with it. This was before things got really bad too.

A lot of times like now when I was walking but hadn't gotten into a distance eating rhythm I would rehash old times and places in my head. At first, when I first started doing a lot of walking I thought "Hey. No distractions now!I can do some seriously deep thinking." Nope. Never happened.

Right now I was trying to figure out how to do this. Go get my bike and go into town or just go into town then get my bike. Big decisions like this occupied a lot of time when I had it. Or should I camp and go in the next morning? I decided the hell with it. I would just go in. I had at least four hours of daylight left. Maybe I could get invited to dinner. Maybe they would have dessert. Something good. I was still thinking about apple pies I had known and loved when I began getting close enough that I was going to have begin looking for an observation post. I skipped the ones we had already used. "Never use the same places and never use the same route twice" was what Max had taught us.

As I had walked the dogs had spread out around me in a diamond formation with an extra furry facet bringing up the rear. They moved right along with me considering that they seemed to pee on every other bush and tree. I made a bit of a jag out the way at one point so they could drink from a stream. They seemed to appreciate that.

I found a rise and crawled around to the side of it and looked through a bush. The town was occupied again. My timing for once was good. The team that had done the sweep after we left was leaving. It looked like a handful of people and yet another guy in a robe were staying behind. I bet he was someone else who appreciated a cool summer like this. The last guys robe looked like it was made out of wool.

Everybody stood around the trucks while he said what had to be a prayer. Then they were gone. Woof was sitting next to me helping me watch. This was the first time he had sat this close to me. He needed a toothbrush. I told him "Woof. You're breath stinks. I''m going to have to make some bones for you to chew on." Then I scratched his ear and waited, giving them time too settle down and the others to put some miles under their axles.

I began walking in. I didn't bother to hide myself. Once again they had a watch on the roof. He didn't see me until I had covered half the distance. "Kind of shoddy watch keeping" I thought. I had wondered what I was going to do with the dogs. Somehow telling them to "Sit!" and "Stay!" seemed a little ludicrous. I almost decided to give it a try, just to see the expressions on their faces, but decided it wasn't worth it. "Never give orders that you are not sure will be obeyed" was another of the Maxims we learned. I had never thought about it before, but I was far more reluctant to shoot a dog than a person. Then again, these were good dogs while it was rare for me to run across good people.

I could see that in the clowns gathering to greet me. First impressions are important and they didn't weren't making good ones. It was probably my visceral dislike for men who ran around looking they they were an extra in "Friar Tucks Great Adventure" movie. The two guys flanking him looked competent. This time a couple others hung back and watched. All in all a better response than last time. Even dumbasses learned.

"Hold it right there stranger." This was from the good Brother.

I came to a stop, stood easy, and grinned at them. "Howdy Brothers" I told them. The dogs had fanned out around me and were smiling at them also. I was proud of them. We looked so darn happy and friendly. It didn't seem to reassure Brothers escorts. They were not thrilled about the dogs or disarmed by their happy smiles. Maybe it was the fact that a couple of them were drooling and licking their chops.

Brother said "I got one question for you. Answer it right and we can talk." He didn't tell me what happened if I answered it wrong. My guess it was something bad.

He sprung it on me. "Are you washed in the blood of the lamb? Have you accepted Jeebus Christ as your savior?" He didn't just say this. He had to roll it out like he was announcing a WWF match. "He needed more reverb." I thought.

"Yeah." I told them. "All that and more. I'm from the Colonel and I'm hungry and thirsty."

They liked that. At least the first part. The second part, the invoking of the name of the most holy Colonel, got them moving. I had guessed right. That asshole had some serious weight nowaday.

Brother grinned, and said "C'mon in. I thought someone might be by. You are just here much quicker than was expected." He was looking around behind me. "Probably looking for a vehicle an other people." I guessed.

"Great. I hope you got something to feed my dogs." As we walked towards the main building I added "They'll eat anything you know." I looked Brother in the eyes as I said this and smiled.

We walked and chatted for a minute or two and then he told one of his escorts to show me where I could get get some water for myself and the dogs. He told me "You go ahead and get cleaned up and take care of them animals. I will have someone check and see what we can spare to feed them. Then, come find me and we can talk." He walked away and I and my new escort went off to find us some water.

As we walked I asked him "So whats new around here? Y'all had any problems?"

"Naw. Had some people show up the other day and kill just about everybody in town. Other than that -- it's been pretty quiet."

"Yeah" I told him "I know what you mean. We were on patrol. Tracking a group moving west when we got ambushed three days ago. They killed off my team. Me an another guy got away but he died the other day. Some kind of weird ass cult they were."

"Yeah. I think I know who you mean. Some kind kind of Burner goddess worshiping group. They got some girl claiming to have super powers or some such shit. Supposed to be pretty hot looking too."

"No shit?" I replied.

"Yep. Brother Roger, he says the Prophet is going to kick their ass too."

"Yeah. I heard about you guys. Say, you got a radio here? Something I can reach the Colonel on?"

"Sort of. Brother Roger does. We just got it not long ago. It ain't worth a damn." He lowered his voice, "It's a Prick-127. My Dad probably used it."

Here's the water." We had stopped around back of a house that was about a half a block from where we had split off from the Brother. He pointed to a rain barrel then slapped the side. "Yeah, it's about half full. It should be good. I drank from it the other day." He looked at the dogs and said "Damn, them are some big ass dogs you got. Probably feed everyone here for a weekend off of them." Woof, who like the others, had been following me and pissing on everything that they ran across, started growling. As soon as he did the others came on point and joined in. It sounded like a a flock of Harleys idling.

"Woah now. Just kidding. Hey buddy tell them I was only kidding."

"It's all right Woof" I said. Woof looked at me quizzically but shut up. Once he did the others did too. Reluctantly. The Escort looked me, tried to smile, and said "Thanks. I guess I should find something for them to eat." I looked at him and said "Yeah. That might be a good idea." I had unhooked my camelbak and had filled it up during this. I hefted it, and left the water running for the dogs to drink out of. Not the most sanitary thing to do, wasteful too, but I didn't really care. It wasn't like I planned on living here. My escort didn't like it but he didn't say anything.

To kill time as each dog, Woof first, took their turns, I asked him "So what do you do for fun around here?" He laughed bitterly and replied "Yeah. Not a whole lot to do since them devil worshipers ran off with the women. I tell you buddy, they had some hot ones here. We used to run down here when we were in the area. They had this one...shit what was her name...Sheryl I think..yeah, that was it. She'd suck your knob off if you said you would get a note to her boy." He laughed. I knew that laugh. It was the good old boy join in with me laughing and then seal the bonding by saying something like "Ya don't say" or "Damn. That sounds hot! Wish I'd got me some." Instead I dropped down and began messing with my left boot lace. I didn't think he needed to see my face yet. Hoping I sounded casual I said "No shit. What happened to the kid?"

"Last I heard he was about thirty miles east of here at Kid Leader Camp. Say...you probably been there being one of the Colonels top guys an all." I looked over. There was still one dog waiting to drink. Well, I decided to give him a choice of beverages." I reached over my left shoulder, found the hilt of the sword, pulled it, came up pivoting like I was hitting a fastball. I whispered "Freya" and cut threw his right arm at the bicep and buried the blade in his ribcage after slicing through the side panel of his body armor. I think that must have hurt by his expression.

The arm dropped to the floor with a meaty thunk. He actually asked me "Why?" I watched the disbelief fade with his life from his eyes while blood jetted from the severed limb. I stepped back. I didn't want to get hosed by Mr. Stumpy. "Why?" I told him "Because your a piece of shit. That's why." Not one of my snappier lines I will admit but it was true. I doubt if he heard it anyway. Behind and around me the Harley was warming up again. I looked over at Woof and said "Lunch time" and stepped away. I sheathed the blade wet, something I didn't like to do, but I didn't plan on letting the blood dry on it. I didn't worry about him screaming. Woof always went for the throat.

When I went though the door of the main house it was like deja vu all over again. Three guys at the table, Brother in the big chair. The only difference was this Brother asked "Where's Brother Al?" I grinned, and told them "Oh. He's feeding the dogs." Then I killed them. I suppose I could have asked some questions. Maybe sat down and had something to eat with them. Maybe even be diplomatic and learned important secret stuff.

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