We’ve got new problems, now. I don’t have a lot of time, but I wanted to get this down.
I started giving Nate and Ted duties as we worked together over the last couple days. They can both work hard, which is good. I was worried Ted wouldn’t take to manual labour since he was a teacher before, but he seemed to throw himself into it. We expanded the farm to about half an acre. Neither of them complained once. Hard times make hard men.
Anna and Elaina have been working together too. I offered to train her, but Anna didn’t even let me finish the sentence.
“No Elaina is going to be working with me.” she said. She took Elaina’s arm in hers and they both walked back towards the house. “We’re gonna need to keep everything running while you boys play in the dirt.”
It’s probably for the best. The only way I know how to discipline people is shouting and pushups. Elaina’s been doing better. She’s a lot less anxious and twitchy than the first night she was here, but if I really laid into her she might break.
Nate brought up the idea of making a perimeter. He thought we should place defenses along the road in case the Scavengers come back. Not a bad idea. But we don’t have the arms or men for an extended fight.
“What about mirror signals?” Ted suggested.
“We need some way of knowing who’s coming down the road.” He explained. “We could take guard shifts and flash a signal if Scavengers come.”
I thought about it. “Not a bad idea, but I don’t like that it could be undone by a cloudy day. It would be better to have someone keep guard.”
“Spend a day sitting around people-watching instead of plowing dirt?” Nate said with a grin. “Sounds good, I’ll volunteer.”
I chuckled. “What, you getting tired already?”
“Hah, I just don’t want to listen to you bark orders all day.” He winked.
I shook my head. “Kids these days have no backbone.” I mocked him a bit. He took it well. They both did. It was a good change. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to work with people.
I showed them both a back trail to Lakeside End. It’s not a trail, per se. There are no real trails in my woods, but the way is clear. With steady feet you can run almost straight to my house from Lakeside End. The way I showed them goes west, as well, crossing three driveways before your reach the road. It’s a perfect path.
We worked out a system. We’d switch off guard duties. Each shift the guard would be armed with a pistol and a flare gun, but his real goal would be reconnaissance. If Scavenger’s came down the road, he’d run back and warn the rest of us.
I’m a bit worried about arming them. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being paranoid.
It certainly helped in the moment.
We set Nate up to take the first guard shift, then Ted and I went back to the farm. We worked for maybe an hour, clearing space to expand it. We had a several rows of plant sprouting out of the ground already. Potatoes, tomatoes, and beans were all starting to grow, their green leaves spreading out over their little plot of land. We cut down some trees, the hard way. I didn’t want to waste what precious little fuel we have left
Then the gunshots started. They echoed through the woods. I cursed. Eva was nearby. I charged towards her, picking her up mid stride. Ted was behind me and Anna ahead. She opened the door and I ran inside with our daughter.
Eva was crying, asking me what was going on. I shushed her gently, putting her down in the bathroom.
“It’s okay, baby, daddy needs to go. Mommy will be right here.”
More shots. I left.
I grabbed my rifle and the loaded magazines I kept in my closet. Ted was waiting at the door. He looked anxious and concerned. I tossed him my shotgun and a box of shelves. Then I was gone.
I sprinted out the back door and leapt off the porch. Running down the driveway, I slapped the magazine into the bottom of my rifle, and pulled back the bolt. I can run flat out for 10 minutes before it seriously affects my aim.
More shots. They were close, and had moved down from where we put Nate. I forced myself to slow down before I got to the road, and I ducked into the forest.
There were shouts and I could hear boots scuffling along the gravel. I didn’t have to be quiet.
Through the trees I saw them. Nate was walking backwards, holding the glock in front of him. There was someone behind him that Nate was shielding. In front of them, a Scavenger shuffled forward.
He was a brig brute. Hunched over, clutching his side. Blood dripped from a wound to his gut. One of his legs was dragging behind the other one, blood streaming from another gunshot wound. He had to be in immense pain. His face was twisted into a giggling grin.
“Just give me the running rat and I’ll let your soft sopping scalp be.”
I stopped dead. It was so absurd I couldn’t believe he said it.
“Yeah I don’t think I’m the one that needs to worry about a sopping scalp” Nate talked big, but he still backed away from the bleeding hulk. “Run away or I’ll do you like your friends.”
“Run?” the Scavenger almost sounded insulted, but his sick grin only grew wider and more grotesque. “We don’t run. Running is for rabid rats. Running. We are dogs. Wolves. We corner, kill, consume. We gore. We Gnash. We Grab.” His voice was grating. High-pitched, despite his size, it sounded like nails scratching across a chalkboard.
With a sound like a shrieking crow, the man charged forward. He moved quickly for a guy with a bum leg. Nate aimed his gun, but I was quicker. I pulled the trigger twice, and the shots echoed around the trees, punctuated by the soft crunch of a body falling on the gravel.
Things were quiet for a minute.
“Bill? That you?”
“Yeah it’s me.” I stepped out of the shadows of the trees. The road was a mess. There were four bodies, including the big one lying at my feet. The three others we’re laid out across the road, telling a story. They had advanced on Nate, who took them down one by one, trying to wave them back. None of them seemed to have guns, but there was an array of dangerous-looking, tetanus-riddled blades strewn about the dirt.
“You okay?” I turned back to Nate. His hands were shaking.
“I’m fine, better than them, at least.” He waved his gun towards the bodies. That’s when I got a good look at the guy hiding behind him. I knew him.
A young man with sandy-blonde hair and a thin face stood out from behind Nate. Mike Johnson. Al’s son.
“Hi, Bill.” He sounded almost sheepish.
“The fuck are you doing out here?” I sounded madder than I was. Adrenaline was still pumping through my ears.
“Bill, dad’s in trouble.” His voice was wavering.
“Those Scavengers. They heard about all the supplies my dad had stored away and came for it. He’s holed up in the house. He’ll be good for a while, but there’s a lot of them. He sent me out to come get you as soon as they started showing up. I barely got away.” He pointed his chin at the bodies in the road. “I didn’t even know they were following me until I got to the road.” He turned back to Nate. “Thank God you were here.”
He spoke to Nate while I took in everything he said with a sinking heart. We were not prepared for a battle. We couldn’t very well abandon Al, though.
“How many are there?”
Mikey shook his head. “I’m not sure, I was trying to get a count when they spotted me. Over thirty. Maybe fifty.”
“We’re they armed?”
He nodded. “Well enough.”
I hung my head.
So, here I am, trying to gather my thoughts in the last few minutes of peace we’ll get before everything kicks off. Every gun I own is loaded and every magazine I have is full. Nate, Ted, and Mikey are coming with me. Four on forty. We’re going to leave as it’s getting dark. Surprise is the only advantage we’ll have.
Eva, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I couldn’t make it back. You might be mad at me. You might have a right to be. If you are, please understand, I’m doing this because I love you. It would be too easy to be selfish. To turn Mikey away. To leave Al and his family to their fate. We’re already becoming killers. It’d be easy to become a Scavenger. I don’t want you to grow up around that. I want you to grow up in a world where people help each other, where friends back up friends no matter what. Where people work together to achieve a goal. No matter the circumstances, people can still be good. Remember that. People can still be good. That goodness has to start with us.
So I’m leaving tonight to do something good. I’m going to do everything I can to make it back to you. I love you, Eva. More than the world.
Take care of your mother.
Whew! This one took a minute! Sorry about that guys everything has been crazy busy. Next one will be up this weekend! Feel free to comment and let me know how you like the story so far! What do you think will happen next?