It’s been different since Al joined our little commune. He’s a quiet man, more liable to watch and listen than give advice or comment.

He can shoot the shit with the best of them when the time is right, but to work with the man is a different experience entirely.

He didn’t comment often, and when he did it was an idea or angle I hadn’t thought of before. Man thought outside the box, for better or worse.

He asked about cutting down the forest. Not the whole thing, just the spaces between the houses. It would give us better access, better sight lines, and we could use the wood to fortify the perimeter.

He wanted to build a fortress, like Michilimackinac.

Not a bad idea, really. We’d control the road, and the amount of traffic it gets would make a trader like Al salivate.

But it would also attract Scavengers. The more we had to use the guns the less effective they’d be. Our strength would jump off a steep cliff eventually.

Michilimackinac went up in a fireball. Twice.

Still, I talked about it with Anna later after dinner. She had made tea, a blend she had come up with out of the herbs we had up here. Evergreen and Lavender. It’s actually pretty good.

“It’s not a terrible Idea.” She mused. “We could protect the road, provide shelter to people at night, and the trade wouldn’t go unmissed.”

“What, like a toll?” I scratched the back of my head. “Feels kinda greasy to charge a toll for something that was free the day before.”

“Not a toll, silly.”

This had become our little ritual since we’ve been up here. Our quiet moments together just before bed. No distractions. No phone, or TV. Just us. Lately the conversations have grown more serious, but they’re indispensible.

“But people need stuff — food and water mostly. Both of which we are blessed with a plenty of, and that blessing is ours to share.” Her eyes glinted as she sipped her tea. “For a price of course.”

I chuckled. “Can’t build a fortress out of wood though, Scavengers would burn it down just for fun.”

She shrugged. “Dig a moat.”

I was seconds away from sipping my tea and had to put it down because I was laughing too hard.

She laughed with me, and soon she put her cup down too and cuddled against my chest, my arm around her.

“Is something bothering you?” She asked.

I paused, caught off guard by the question. I hadn’t been expecting it. “The fights are getting too big, too close too home.” I said. “I don’t want to bring that too our door.

She looked at me with a curious expression as she sipped her tea, like she was trying to see into my soul.

It used to make me uncomfortable, this look of hers. When we first started dating something about it grabbed me by the throat until I had to look away. I’ve opened up to it since then. I like the connection we have. I let her examine me.

“I don’t either.” She said finally. “But, really, it’s already here – or did you forget I had to shoot someone already?”

That hit me like a hammer. I had forgotten. With everything that’s been going on it completely slipped my mind.

I need to do better.

“I…” I couldn’t find the words. “I.. I’m sorry. Are you okay?” It was pitiful, and I knew it.

She cocked an eyebrown and gave me the tiniest of shit-eating grins. I think she was mocking me. “Bit late, but yeah. It was what had to be done, but we can’t let it be who we are.”  She put her hand on mine. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Where this ends up for us, the future we’re creating for Evangeline. I feel like the line between us and the Scavengers is blurred and easy to cross. We need to be careful, and a little more organization could help that.”

I’ve been thinking about what she said. What is the difference. In war, it’s easy. You shoot at the people shooting at you. The lines are clear, it’s us or them.

But now…

What’s the difference between “us” and “them”?


Whew! New chapter out and I’m actually staying on schedule for once! What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments I love getting constructive criticism from you! 

And, as always, Happy Reading, 

-E. Maciorowski

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