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Gunman (part 6)

 
Joe Spivey's picture
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Many Years Ago.

Even having slept in a derelict, roofless house that night, Baka woke up the following morning in a good mood.

The man, Scott Moreland, had looked so sorry that he had scared her by approaching her like that. But he was a newcomer, like she had been, still was in fact. He was still learning that there were things, everyday things, like coming up to someone from behind and tapping them on the shoulder to introduce yourself that you Just Did Not Do. Not if you didn’t want to suddenly find yourself fighting for your life.

Scott had apologised, had kept on apologising until Baka started to see the humour in the situation. Yes he was a stranger. Yes, he was a man. But… aww just look at those eyes.

Baka dragged herself from her bedding cocoon and grabbed the little cloth bag with her soap and personal stuff, along with the piece of broken mirror she had found exploring the cellar of a long abandoned house. Going into what had once been a bathroom she set up the shard of mirror against the cistern of toilet and sat down with her legs crossed in front of the bowl. She let her mind wander back to the night before.

“You really shouldn’t creep on people like that you know.”

Scott’s face looked pained.

“I know. I actually do, really. I nearly got my stupid head blown off doing exactly the same thing to a guard in Midway. If he hadn’t had a premature discharge I’d have been running naked from the cloner desperate to find my clothes before…”

Baka tilted her head.

“Premature discharge? Were you and he…?”

It took a second for the double entendre to register on Scott’s face.

“No! I mean his weapon… No! His gun… Argh, no!”

Despite herself. Despite her feelings. Despite what had happened all those months ago, Baka found herself laughing.

Scott’s shoulders slumped and he closed his eyes. Baka took pity on him and got control of her laughter. There were a few moments of silence between them. Then Scott opened his eyes and looked at her.

“I’m not very good at this. Talking to women tends to make me fall over my tongue. Can we just pretend that the whole me creeping up on you thing never happened? Will you let me try again?”

Baka’s breath caught in her throat. Goosebumps rose where primal fur would have stood on end. For over half a year Baka had kept men at way more than arm’s length. Rebuffing advances. Ignoring crude innuendo. Avoiding them like you would avoid a rattlesnake. But…

“I…” The rejection, the putdown, the polite decline. Whatever it was going to be died before it left her lips.

“…Sure.” It was barely above a whisper, just loud enough to be heard above the distant party noise. “I’d like that.”

Scott’s face broke into a grin bordering on the overjoyed. He lifted his shoulders and stood up straight against the firelight.

“Hi. My name is Scott. I really want to thank you for staying with me on our recent journey north.” The formality left his voice. “I know you couldn’t see it under my mask, but I was scared to death.”

Baka and Scott sat by the pond. They talked about the trip. About Lost. About New Flagstaff and lots of inconsequential things. To each other they appeared  to be nervous, well, unsure. Like two fourteen year olds on a first date. They never talked about themselves. They never touched. But they did arrange to meet again the following day.

Baka rummaged through her little bag for her soap and her toothbrush. Still smiling to herself she washed her hands and face in the brackish water of the old toilet bowl. It was amazing that the old cistern still functioned long after the taps above the broken basin had long since seized solid.

The warm fuzzy memories of the night before stayed with her as she carried out her ablutions. Baka used her shirt to dry herself and then reached for her toothbrush and the little tin of homemade tooth powder. Used sparingly it might last her a month, more if she followed the advice she had been given to cut it with soot, but the thought made her nose wrinkle up. Still smiling to herself as she remembered Scott’s face in the flickering light of the bonfires, Baka lifted her head to brush her teeth in the mirror.

The look of contorted fury that screamed silently back from her reflection made Baka throw herself backwards across the floor. She stared in terrified disbelief as her own reflection mouthed hateful epitaphs at her from behind the glass. Baka staggered to her feet, falling forward even as she turned for the door. Fear drove her muscles. She fell through the doorway and slammed the door closed behind her, holding it shut with both hands pressed hard against the peeling laminate.

It took long seconds to overcome the shock of what she had seen in the mirror and even longer seconds before she could gather enough wits to realise that nothing was coming after her. Baka got her breathing under control and stood back from the door, staring at it and ready in an instant slam the door closed again should it start to open. But it didn’t, and there was no sound from behind the thin wood.

Baka quickly gathered her things. She thought about fetching what she had left behind in the bathroom but that held the possibility of catching even a glance in that mirror. She would get new soap. Make new toothpowder. It wasn’t worth the risk of seeing, whatever it had been, again.

Baka left the building and, making damn sure nothing was following her, headed for the stable.

Comments

Hyle Troy's picture

( I was enjoying the description of the warm fuzzy feelings.. then   wuff!   ...   wonderful read !

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

Engel's picture

(( I think it's the environment - blasted landscape and lack of material things. Make us see find meaning in other people. And I agree with Hyle... that ending was sobering up. ))


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