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Then There Were Three (part 1)

 
Joe Spivey's picture
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The scrapyard behind the garage on the road heading east out of New Flagstaff hid the sight, but not the sound of the four orphans of the apocalypse as they drove the rusting and burnt out vehicles in imaginary car chases. Roaring engines, squealing brakes and the loud staccato of machine guns were, in the minds of the little gang generally known as The Reading Group, accurately reproduced to accompany the shared images or pursued and pursuers.

Currently, the one being pursued was Finny and she was doing an excellent job of dodging the streams of bullets coming from the lovingly imagined wing mounted machine guns on the rusted, wheel-less relics waiting their turn to be converted into shards of steel by the enormous shredding machine which lurked in the far corner of the scrapyard like a hungry monster, resting after its last meal.

The fact that the four cars the kids were using, were not facing in the same direction, or were even on the same level, as each other didn’t detract from the chase at all. As long as each eight or nine-year-old could hear the four-part running narrative was all that was needed. The wildly vivid imaginations of a childhood that contained very few actual toys did the rest.

This latest chase concluded when Finny, who was getting thirsty from all the sound effects, declared her car was spinning out of control and crashing it into one of the trees of the haunted forest she was being chased through. A break was declared and Finny and the three boys, Casper, Onetooth and Worms, climbed onto the highest, most precariously balanced car in the scrap yard. This was where Finny had stashed their meagre rations of broken biscuits, Union Candy, and bottled water to be safe from the rats that infested the site. Enough food, she hoped, to last them all until four ock-lockers, when tea and some sort of snack would be available back at the orphanage.

Scrapyards are wonderful places for kids to play in. It is a world of grown up stuff you are not normally allowed to touch. The combined smells of rust, and oil and hot, sun-baked metal combine into an intoxicatingly inviting aroma the likes of which they won’t know again until… well, let’s just say they are a lot older. Then there is the danger. Not the screaming panic-stricken fear of something trying to kill you, no. This is the nerve-tingling exciting fear of being somewhere you know you are not supposed to be. Of being somewhere that might just cause you serious injury if you misjudge a leap or brush against something sharp and jagged hidden in the thick tufts of tired grass. And, besides the wonderful smells and the fear tinged excitement, a scrapyard is somewhere fenced off from the outside, it is an enclosed, secret world of wonders where a kid can escape unkind reality and… just be.

Finny and co. were ‘just being’ midway through another bakingly hot afternoon. Carefully sitting, with so much hot metal around you had to do it carefully, on the rusty brown bare steel of the shell of an old car. Here, they sipped water and watched Union Candy slowly melt into hot, rust-flecked goo between their legs. Finny passed the hanky full of broken biscuits to Worms. Worms didn’t even look at the, what was now little more than large crumbs, and shook his head. Finny made a frowny, thoughtful kind of face. Kids seldom refused food. Orphans never did. Worms was both of these so Finny, as leader, was concerned. She tried again, with the water bottle. Worms shook his head again. Finny had thought her friend had looked a bit glum all day. Worms was normally quiet, so she hadn’t picked up on it quite as quickly as she would have done if it had been one of the others. But now, as she looked closer, Finny could see that there was definitely something wrong.

Worms wasn’t like the others. He was ‘in’ the gang, but not always part of it. Worms was more than happy with his own company, or he and Onetooth would disappear together for the whole day. Just as often, Finny and Casper and Onetooth would choose to play in the dump or explore the streets or do whatever but Worms would decide not to go with them and would wander off, hands in pockets to do something on his own, sometimes with another inmate of the orphanage, but mostly on his own. Today, though, he had tagged along with them to the scrappy.

But now, Finny was realising, the four-way narrative of the car chases had mostly been just three way. Worms hadn’t really been getting into the spirit of the thing. Finny took a swig from the bottle, ignoring the bits of biscuit that already swilled around in it. She used this action to look more closely at Worms. The eight-year-old’s normally sallow complexion, was even yellower than usual and there was a sheen of sweat along his top lip. As she looked, Worms shivered. It was thirty degrees, bare skin burned if it touched the metal roof of the car they were sitting on… but Worms was shivering.

Comments

Canni Belle's picture

((For some reason "four ock-lockers" really tickles me))

One minute your calm, the next your shooting someone in the face, then your doing your chickendance. If that is not chaos I dont know what is - Aiid

Joe Spivey's picture

Lol, yes, it amuses me too. This came about because, for the younger kids in our post apoc world, time as measured by mechanical devices means nothing. Like Finny growing up, the city itself let's them know what time it is by what activity is going on during the day. Dinner time, work time, bed time, bonfire time etc, these are the points that mark the passage of time for them. Therefore the terms like 'four o'clock', 'five-thirty' etc mean nothing until they get older. Consequently, instead of four o'clockers, a meal served around four o'clock, we get 'four ock-lockers' which is how the kids hear it and what they have come to know it as, despite not knowing what it actually means. Finny, of course, now has a watch and can tell the time (if she uses her finger to count the 'fives' and the hours). Even so, she has yet to make the connection with 'four ock-lockers'.

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



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