Friday, July 25, 2014

Chapter 2



July 5th  

I saw the Preacher Guy again last night.  He’s got a family of street people he looks after.  I was still in the city the first time I ran into him.  He scared me back then.  He’s not harmless, that’s for sure, but I know now he isn’t so bad once you get pass the whole Freddy Kruger thing he has going on.  Saw a bunch of sparklers on a roof yesterday.  Didn’t get what they were doing until I finally put two and two together.  Little kids, sparklers, date … he must have been trying to give them some normal good times.  Good for him.  I can’t imagine what it would be like for a little kid to be bit and quarantined.  Or maybe their parents got bit and didn’t have anyone to send them to outside of the quarantine areas.  Or worst … maybe they are just forgotten by their families and Preacher Guy has been collecting them to take care of them or something.  Whatever it is that’s got to be tons of suckage. 

Noticed that Preacher Guy has some man that acts like his LT now.  I think he was in the military or something but he’s like young.  Well sorta young, he’s 20 something I think.  It’s hard to tell ‘cause he wears a patch over one eye.  Today I got close enough to see that he has a scar that splits his eyebrow and disappears under the patch.  He tried to use it to scare me but I just stuck my tongue out at him and kept on stuffing my cart with coffee and stuff from the office supply place he caught me salving in. 

 

After a minute of not being able to put me in my place he sighed, “Geez you’re a real brat Kid.  How old are you anyway?  You shouldn’t be out here alone.  No one should.”

“Old enough to know Preacher Guy wouldn’t put up with any pervs in his family.  And smart enough to figure he probably even sent you after me to try and get me to join up with your group.  He’s all save the little children and junk.”

That shut him up.  Then he leaned back against the end cap and really looked at me.  I could tell he was still alert for any sick people but he was determined.  “His name is Dylan.” 

I shrugged.  He was gonna try and sell it to me since he couldn’t scare me into joining.  Those people that ran the run-away shelters were the same way.  Only then he surprised me by being different after all. 

“You must have a good place if …” 

He’d already aggravated me, his digging for information just aggravated me more.  I told him, “Stop treating me like I’m stupid or something.  Preacher Guy – or maybe you – already tracked me at least once.  I can tell the diff between a well person and someone infected you know.  The infected sound clumsy or run into things like they have a stigmatism.” 

Trying to bluff and ignore that I’d caught him out he said, “Not all of them.” 

“Yeah.  All of them.  Except for the Inbetweeners and there aren’t too many of those because usually when people get infected they go over real hard and fast, like in a couple of hours, max.” 

He surprised me again by really listening to me instead of blowing me off.  He asked, “How do you know this?” 

Shrugging I explained, “The group I used to hang with got infected.  I saw it all.  Including an Inbetweener.  His name was Tommy but even he eventually went all the way over to the dark side.” 

Cautiously he asked, “You immune or a carrier?” 

“Immune as far as I know.  You’re the first person I’ve talked to since Tommy and by then he wasn’t really talking.  I thought … anyway … I lied when I left a message for … just … just go away already.  Tell Preacher Guy … Dylan or whatever he wants to be called … thanks for the invite but I don’t play well with others.  Not to mention trouble follows me around whether I want it to or not.”  It had been so long since I talked to someone that was half way making sense that it took a while to stop the words from falling out of my mouth. 

Finally when he realized I was wound down he asked, “That why people call you Jinks?” 

Rolling my eyes I told him, “Not Jinks … Winx … W – I – N – X.  I’m not explaining it except to say my family started it because I was crazy about this cartoon about fairies when I was a little kid.  Now leave me alone already.  I’ve got work to do.” 

He sighed.  “Trust me, I would if I could … er … Winx.  But Dylan …”  He shook his head like he was as irritated as I was at the situation.  “Why did he pick me to be your babysitter?!”  He stopped, muttered something else I couldn’t hear and then said, “Look, you were spotted taking freezer food.  Dylan doesn’t want you to get sick.” 
 
 
“Oh geez,” I griped.  “I’m not going to get sick.”

“Are you stupid?  Because they’re going to turn the power off any day now.  All of the meat is going to rot.” 

I couldn’t decide whether he was yanking my chain or not.  When he got a case of stuff off of a top shelf and started splitting it with me rather than just taking it like he could have I decided maybe it was no skin off my nose so I spilled the beans.  “My mom and her sister grew up on their grandparents’ farm.  They taught … look, you know what canning is?” 

It was his turn to be surprised and I laughed when he accidentally pulled a case of candy over and he wound up wearing Swedish Fish.  He looked disgusted for a second before shrugging and popping one into his mouth.  “Yeah, I know what canning is.  You know how to do that?” 

“Yeah.  Besides you know there’s no electric where I am.” 

“There’s no …”  He gave me a suspicious look.  “You aren’t living at that bed and breakfast?” 

Now I was confused.  “Are you being silly to try and get information out of me?” 

His face kind of closed off.  “So you aren’t living there.  Do you know who does live there?” 

“Why?” 

“Because they claim you are living there that’s why.” 

“Well I know them but I don’t live with them.  Why would they say I do … unless they were trying to protect me.”  With that I pivoted and ran.  I might have made it too if a stray infected hadn’t picked that moment to stumble through the automatic doors.


I pulled out my bang stick from animal control but it saw me and charged.  He had me by the throat before I could get set.  I didn’t even have time to be scared before Mr. Eye Patch pulled the guy off of me and scrambled the Infected’s brains with a letter opener through the base of the skull. 

I was getting up and backing away but he said, “Help me disable the blasted doors.  There’s more coming down the street.” 

Sometimes you have to pick the lesser potential enemy.  I asked, “How many?” 

“Dozen at a quick count but there could be stragglers.” 

“Well isn’t that just hunky dorey,” I said as I helped him use some broom sticks as braces to keep the doors from sliding open. 

We moved deeper into the store because if they saw you a glass door wouldn’t stop them.  He was quietly speaking on some walkie talkie thing while I pushed the nearly full cart to another section of the store. 

Eye Patch hissed, “What are you doing?!” 

“Trying not to waste time,” I told him calmly.  “I’m not going to get as much done as I had wanted to obviously so I might as well get done what I can.” 

“Get back here before they see you!” 

“They can’t see me.” 

“You can’t know that.  That’s not one way glass.”

 
Giving him the look I thought the comment deserved I told him, “Sure I can.  I told you when people get sick … You know you act like you don’t know anything about Infecteds.  How long have you been on the street?  I mean you act like I’m the know nothing but you don’t exactly seem …"

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

I gave him a thorough look over like I should have before.  “Vet?” 

He nodded. 

“You were in a rehab center.” 

Cautiously he nodded. 

“For your eye?” 

He was irritated at my questioning but nodded once again.   

“So you probably weren’t in-patient.  Didn’t have any place to go so wound up at one of the temporary Vet shelters.  Where you met Prea … uh Dylan.” 

He nodded even more cautiously. 

“So you really were homeless, just not on the street.”  It took a moment but he nodded one final time. 

I shrugged and decided he might be OK after all.  “That’s cool.  At least you have a good reason.  I did the stupid and ran away.  Aunt Trudy was nice and everything but some crap happened and I was an idiot.  Tried to go home once but couldn’t handle it.  But it was too late by then anyway, one of the other kids from the pack I hung with had gotten the plague.  I think he was sharing needles.  It grew like Topsy from there.” 

“It did what?” 

“Grew like Topsy.  My dad used to say that.  It means it went fast and kinda crazy.  At least I think that’s what it means.  That’s what I mean anyway.” 

He eyebrows lowered and he his lip before saying, “You don’t sound like a street kid.” 

I shrugged.  “Yeah, I got that a lot.  Probably because I wasn’t one.  I just thought I could be one and got smart before I got into drugs or turned into a whore.  But I’d burnt all the bridges I had and was stuck.” 

He nodded.  “That’s what Dylan thought.  But back to your living arrangements.” 

I huffed an irritated, “Not that again.” 

“Yeah.  ‘Fraid so.  But knowing about the Infecteds I suppose take precedent.”

 


 
Anything to keep him out of my business I thought.  “You know that the virus or plague or whatever they’re calling it now affects the emotion part of the brain and makes someone crazy like they are manic depressive on steroids until everything burns out but anger?”  He nodded.  “Well to keep up with that amount of emotion without stroking out – though some of them do that too – Infecteds get hyper-focused … literally.  It’s like they develop tunnel vision.  That’s why they are clumsy; they are so wound up over what is right in front of them that they literally can’t see anything else.  The docs where I was at said that it might be that the plague swells things up around the optic nerves too making figurative tunnel vision into literal tunnel vision.  I didn’t hang around long enough to hear whether they proved that or not.  I ran off when they started quarantining the immunes … by force if they had to.”

He thought about it then shrugged.  “As good a theory as any I’ve heard.” 

We both jumped when there was a howl and scream from outside.  I knew what that meant and from the look on his face so did the guy in front of me.  I rolled my eyes and went back to cherry picking supplies from around the store.  Mr. Eye Patch sighed and spoke into his walkie talkie thingie again.  “Forget coming to pick me up.  We’ve got a couple of brawlers and they’ll draw stragglers from all over the area.” 

 

A woman answered him and said, “I was just about to call you.  We spotted three other groups between us and you.” 

The guy got real quiet and then nodded to himself before replying, “Three?” 

“Roger that.” 

“Confirm.  Three.” 

I looked over and told him, “Ask her what direction they are coming from.” 

After giving me a Spock eyebrow he spoke into his mic.  “Got a direction coming or going?” 

“Roger that.  All moving towards the ‘burbs.” 

At my less than patient eye roll he asked for clarification, “North, South, East, or West?” 

I pulled a city map out of the pocket of the safari pants I was wearing and while listening to the woman’s irritated reply I help up the map with my squiggly drawings.  He made a face and then told the radio, “Have D plot known points on the map.” 

“What for?” 

The guy sighed and replied, “Just have him do it.  He’ll get the picture.” 

He signed off while the Infecteds outside continued to brawl and draw in other Infecteds.  I kept grabbing stuff off of the shelves and thought about how the Infecteds were gathering in larger and larger groups and how they were starting to explore outside of the areas they first showed up in. 

Looking over at my temporary cell mate I asked him, “What’s your name?  Since you saved my life it seems kinda snarky to keep thinking of you as Mr. Eye Patch.” 

The guy snorted, shrugged and then chuffed a laugh.  “You have a couple of screws loose.” 

Shrugging I told him, “Maybe.” 

He shook his head then sighed.  “Westin.” 

“First or last?” 

“Mack Westin.” 

“Lucky you.  That’s a pretty decent name.  Sure beats Mr. Eye Patch.” 

He squinted his remaining eye at me in irritation but then said, “Fairs fair.  You got my name, now I want yours.  And don’t tell me it’s Winx … you already admitted that’s just a nickname.” 

I shrugged.  “Predatorri.  My first name I’ve done my best to wipe from the annals of history so I ain’t telling you what it is.  Call me Winx or Predatorri, preferably Winx” 

“That bad?” he asked trying not to grin. 

“You have no idea.” 

I ignored his curious stare until he asked, “Is that your truck out back?” 

“Yep.  You looking for a ride home?”  I shrugged when he got suspicious.  “Relax.  I saw the kids playing on the roof with sparklers the other night.  It’s not like you guys have exactly been trying to hide where you are holed up.” 

Thoughtfully he said, “So you can’t live too far away from the hotel.” 

“Far enough.  I thought a building had caught fire so I used binoculars.” 

He looked at me like he was trying to envision something then he smiled.  “You’re living some place in the historic district and there are only a couple that have a clear line of sight … can’t be the B-n-B ‘cause you said you weren’t living there and for some reason I believe you.  The Loudon Place?” 

I shrugged. 

“Are you crazy?  That place is a fire hazard and all boarded up.  No telling …”  He slowly realized that his first impression was likely the wrong one.  He snorted and shook his head.  “And it’s all professionally and securely boarded up and the exterior is built like a tank.”  Thinking mostly to himself he added, “And was a flophouse until the historical society bought the building and cleaned it up.” 

I shrugged again.  “They ran the crack heads off but didn’t mess with the rest of us too much so long as we didn’t trash the place.  It’s still Spartan but not too bad.” 

“Spartan?!” he laughed, nearly choking on the bottle of water he’d just put to his lips.   

“Yeah Spartan.  If you’re gonna start making fun of me you can walk home.” 

I started pushing the cart to the loading area but he grabbed it.  I was prepared to walk away empty handed – you learn to do that on the streets – but he said, “Don’t get your feelings hurt.” 

“They’re not.” 

“Then why the snit?” 

“Because I don’t need whatever you’re selling.  I just thought we could be civilized about it.  But if you …” 

Laughing again he asked, “What do you do all day?  Sit around reading old romance novels?” 

Well even if I do I’m sure not going to admit it to him.  I started walking away again. 

“Ok, Alright.  Fine.  Let’s start over.  I’m Mack Westin.  You’re Winx Predatorri.  How do you do?  Fine thank you.  My boss has this thing about making sure kids get taken care of.  Oh, you’re not a kid?  I’ll let him know.  And you are doing fine?  Good, good.  He’ll be happy to hear that.  Would I like a ride home?  Well, now that you mention it, assuming you’re serious, I’d appreciate it.  I’ll even help load.” 

He was such a ham I realized that the eye patch, scar, and uber scruffy look was probably the only thing that kept him from looking like a baby faced goofball.  Sort of like Tommy used to look before he got hooked on the needles and then hooked by the plague. 

I sighed theatrically and said, “I guess I did make the offer.” 

We didn’t exactly sign a peace treaty but we did declare a temporary cease fire.  He even helped me load a bunch of stuff into the truck.  Things were tense and quiet as we locked up and left the store. 

 

“What are you doing?!” he yelped as I aimed at and then jumped a curb behind the strip center with the 4x4. 

“Sorry,” I muttered absentmindedly as I wrestled with the steering wheel.  “Just didn’t want to go around front and face that bunch.  It’s not quite a mob but there are more of them in one place than I’ve seen since I ran from the hospital.” 

Thoughtfully he nodded.  “Agreed.  Little warning though next time you plan on going off road.” 

“Back seat driver.” 

He turned to say something snappy then saw I was grinning.  He dropped the grump and merely warned, “Don’t poke the bear.” 

I kept grinning and replied, “Don’t be the bear.” 

We had to go the long … really long … way around because of the other groups of infecteds but I finally got him to the hotel and dropped him off. 

It was weird.  Mack Westin isn’t what I thought he was going to be.  If he was playing me he did a bang up job of it.  Whatever.  He was nicer than I thought he was going to be and I’ll just let that opinion stand until I have reason not to.  Not that I figure I’ll be seeing much of him if any at all.  He doesn’t seem any more sociable than I am. 

I got home – ha, might as well call it what it is after all – and by the time I finished unloading everything it was dark and I was starving.  I opened a package of peanut butter crackers and a bag of granola that I’d picked up at the office supply place.  Not the greatest but it beat eating burgers out of a dumpster.  I’ve done that too and don’t want to do it no more.  Although if I don’t start finding a decent amount of food to hold me over about the middle of winter those dumpster dives I used to take are going to be the stuff of my dreams.  I gotta make a plan and gotta do it fast.  But I gotta watch out for the Infecteds and now apparently all the do-gooders too.  What a pain.  Although the Infecteds are still worse.   

As soon as the sun goes down and there isn’t any light the infecteds pretty much flop wherever they are which reinforces the idea that they have bad eyesight, which gets worse in the dark.  The night time would be better for scavenging but no way am I going to trip over an infected to see if that sets them off.  I’ve heard they are pretty cranky if you mess with their nap time.  So that means all the stuff I didn’t get today I need to do tomorrow.  So I’m off to snooze.  After I clean up my food mess.  I so do not want to wake up to another meece brigade investigating my hair.

3 comments:

  1. coming along very nicely! this should bring out all the moar zombies! ;) thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, you are on fire today!! Thank you again for the chapter!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kathy I am really liking this story Thanks
    Wayne

    ReplyDelete