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Scavenging

 
Jake Grimes's picture
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Jake reached the door and turned the handle. The knob turned in his hand and the lock clicked open. Jake gently pushed the door open and stepped into the gloom of the shattered house. He cast a quick glance out the open doorway behind him, several figures roamed randomly around in the town. Gently he closed the door behind him. He remained still for a moment in the shadowy entrance hallway, allowing his eyes to get used to the dimmed light. When his pupils were dilated enough allowing him to see, his dark shape crept through the shadows. Watching where he placed his feet, making sure not to make a sound.

He found a long time ago that these abandoned towns was a good place to scavenge for tin cans containing food and beverages. Humans and animals tended to stay away from the smell of rot and decay, those that ignored the awful smells quickly learned of the danger that lurked behind the stench.

Slowly he entered the dining room, making sure to stay clear of the windows. Sunlight fell in dusty slants through the moth-eaten curtains. Jake suddenly stopped his progress into the room, a figure stood in the corner, facing the wall. He could see the skin on the figures naked back had shriveled to a leathery tightness, the hair on the back the head was nearly gone. Rags dangled down from one shoulder, doing a poor job on the covering the arm, if what remained on the lower body had ever been a pair of pants they had been reduced to a pair of way too short ragged shorts. Jake loosened his sword in its scabbard, not drawing the sword, he did not want the sunlight to reflect the metal of the blade and risk drawing attention from outside the house.

He steered towards the figure. Only 4 meters away, he thought just as the figure for some reason decided to bang its dangling arm into the wall. Jake stopped and waited, his hand touching the handle of the sword. The figure turned around revealing its hideous face, the skin and muscles on one cheek was missing and left a clear view to its gray decaying teeth. He stared into the eyes of the thing before him, it was like looking into two empty holes, there was nothing looking back. A dolls eyes had more life. They stood there for several seconds staring at each other, suddenly and without warning the thing lunged at him. The sudden and clumsy charge was so sudden that it felt faster than it actually was. There was no tension, no twitch of facial muscles, none of the signs Jake were looking for when facing an opponent. The thing moved without hesitation or warning.
With lighting speed Jake drew his sword, his body a blur of coordinated movement. Jake slashed up and wide, then left and across. The figure started its movement towards the ground, but just as the body’s angle turned, Jake grabbed the body and slowed its progress to the floor, and the head’s impact with the ground was softened by landing on his foot, then to roll across the floor.

He stared down at the body, shaking his head. What remained of rotting organs and intestines were clearly visible. He was not sure if it was due to decomposer that had stopped due to some fungus or bacteria sustaining a virus or something even worse, a failed clone that had not been fully completed. He heard the rumors saying that people were trapped inside, living through the entire existence of that awful life the creature went through. He refused to believe it, it was mere rumors, gossip and a good scare story to share around a campfire.

Jake calmly searched the rest of the house, first eliminating the risk of more former habitants of the house and then scavenging for food or tradable stuff. It made him think of that strange man, Mammal. Sometimes when he went into towns, he met someone that lingered long after he left the town behind, Mammal was one of those. For some reason, he was the one he had in mind, when he would go back to trade. He wondered if he would have anything but the wrecked cars and little chips.

Mammal was a big guy, pale skin despite he seemed to be standing on that road most of the time or crawling through the wreckages of his junkyard. He seemed calm and unafraid, investigative and attentive. But he also seemed dumb, no not dumb. But his social skills left him wanting, the way he held the shotgun and examined it. He immediately picked it out between all the things Jake had, that and the strange dirt he found near Oasis. He had picked a weapon, not strange in these times but the way he held the weapon, seemed very strange. For some reason Jake was sure that there was more to that man than what met the eye. There was one time when Mammal had showed more interest than through the rest of their brief conversation, and that was at the mention of Brink.

He wondered where the one eyed old timer was now, and how the heck he managed to leave Trumbull in a wheelchair. When he thought about it, Brink would probably not have had a hard time finding a traveling companion. This was a ruthless world where it was wise to travel in a group, even better to travel with the little kid who can’t run, the fat guy who will run out of breath or the old man with a limp, or in this case in a wheelchair. Leaves you with more options and better odds, but Jake struggled to not chose and live in a world were compassion and love was a weakness. He just hoped Brink hadn’t been double crossed again or were mad enough to blame Tuki. He had done all he could to try and warn Tuki, she didn’t seem to take it seriously and he only hoped she was right.

His thoughts were interrupted as he spotted a round object that looked like a ball. He cleared what he believed was once a desk from the ball and picked it up. He stared at the ball for several seconds, he was in a state of nostalgia and disbelief. His hand ran across the ball, removing the layer of dust that had settled long ago. It was a globe. He slumped down on the floor, turning the globe while gently running his finger across. The entire earth in his hands, the former world as he knew it, every continent and every ocean was in his grasp. What he wouldn't do to be able to stand before the ocean, smelling the salty water, feeling the cool breeze caress his skin while the golden iris showered him in its golden light. The sound of people covering the entire beach with their towels and blankets, mixing with the sound of a game of beach volley, and through the entire crystal blue water children were playing, splashing without a care in the world.
The thought of his brother and him flirting with the girls and showing off made a smile appear followed by a single tear.

He remained there for the longest time, slowly turning the globe in his hands. In the old world, he had wandered across continents, countries, cultures and learning different languages. He had traveled for so many years, always on the move, never in a hurry. He didn't fly, he hiked, drove or sailed. His traveling had finally led him to the Grand Canyon, to his family.

Finally he turned the globe to the Grand Canyon, it was such a tiny place on that little globe. He refused to believe that this was the only place on that globe people had survived, there had to be other places, more survivors. Humanity had endured so much and he believed that they too would endure this. But none of it mattered, only one thing mattered. He only cared about that little spot on the globe. So tiny he could cover it with his pinky, this was where his brother was. This little spot held all he cared and lived for.

Jake gently placed the globe on the floor, eased himself up and started gathering the fruit of the day’s harvest. Leaving several items in a corner, items he couldn’t carry now but perhaps would come back for. It was time to get back to searching, back on the cracked roads.

((Acknowledgement to Jonathan Maberry))

Comments

Joe Spivey's picture

((Nice read. Good atmospheric writing mixed with meaningful insights and recollections. May I just mention one thing though? These lines here as an example:


'His thoughts were interrupted as he spotted a round object that looked like a ball. He cleared what he believed was once a desk from the ball and picked it up. He stared at the ball for several seconds, he was in a state of nostalgia and disbelief. His hand ran across the ball, removing the layer of dust that had settled long ago. It was a globe.'


The word 'ball' is used four times in quick succession and reduces the impact of the writing. Try something like this:


'His thoughts were interrupted as he spotted a round object that looked like a ball. He moved what he believed was once a desk and picked the thing up. He stared at it for several seconds in a state of nostalgia and disbelief. His hand ran across the curved surface, removing the layer of dust that had settled long ago. It was a globe.'


It just reads easier if you see what I mean. But aside from that little thing it was a good read with my morning coffee, thanks.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Jake Grimes's picture

((Much appreciated Joe, I can see what you mean. I blame the late hour last night hehe.
Please keep that critique coming, I find it priceless.
I'm very happy that you enjoyed it.



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