“Are you clean?” demanded a dark clothed figure, pointing a black pistol toward a black haired boy standing across the hall with a Browning shotgun pointed back.
“Yeah! Are you?” the boy replied.
“As clean as I can be,” the dark figure chuckled and slowly lowered his gun.
The boy pursed his lips, but lowered his gun as well. “Have you seen my sister?”
The dark figure tilted his head. “Kinda chubby? About yeigh high?”
The boy nodded.
“I haven’t seen her, but my friend just found someone with that description,” the figure said and put the safety back on his pistol as he put it away. He picked up a rod off the floor and tapped the railing next to him.
“What are you doing?” the boy hissed. “You’ll draw the dead right to us.”
“We’ve already been shouting. If they were coming for us, they’d have been here by now,” the other guy snorted, then held up a hand and listened to an echoy tapping response. “Alright. Sounds like Ekua’s got your sister. Let’s go.”
The boy blinked in surprise. “How did you…?”
“Morse code. Come on.”
Wednesday, September 8, 16 Post Apocalypse
“We’ve been walking for days! Can’t we find a car or something?” Maybelle grumbles.
Maybelle Wilflower is an eighteen year old girl with shoulder length black hair that’s tied up in a half ponytail to keep it out of her face. Whenever she can, she uses vodka or peroxide to lighten the tips of her hair, for fun. She has suntanned peach skin with light freckles, and blue eyes. She stands at a curvy five foot, four inches and keeps her body covered from the sun -and prying eyes- with homemade, patchwork clothes and lost-stuff armor.
“As soon as we find one with gas, we’ll use it,” Matt promises.
Matthew Rickerson is a twenty-seven year old man with dark auburn hair that falls to his shoulder blades when it’s not tied up, and skin that’d been darkened by the sun. At six feet tall, he’d broadly built and strong from years of experience and practice. He’s always covered in almost full body, mismatched armor made from whatever he can find.
Maybelle snorts and shoves her hands in her pockets. “Where are we going, anyway?”
“To the next district,” Ekua told.
Ekua Roarer is a tall, nineteen year old black woman with a waist length mix of well taken care of dreadlocks and coils, which are usually tied up off of her neck. Striking hazel eyes are generally hidden behind sunglasses, piecing together her warrior-punk armor style.
“Why couldn’t we have stayed back there, in the mall? Outside the districts?” Maybelle inquires.
“Because we’re running out of supplies and winter’s coming,” Ekua answers.
“We could’ve stayed there for winter. It was covered enough,” Maybelle insists, glancing back toward the mall already days away.
Matt rolls his eyes amusedly and rubs her hair. “You’re probably right, May, but we need supplies. If you really hate it in the district, we’ll come back out.”
Maybelle narrows her eyes. “Promise?”
She sighs. “Fine. How much farther?”
“Another day,” Matt says and watches her frown. “There’s an old rest stop up ahead. We’ll stop there for an hour or two.”
“Will that be safe?” Ekua asks.
Matt shrugs. “Probably.”
Maybelle smiles and stops complaining, walking ahead with Matt while Ekua drops back next to Edison.
Edison Wilflower is Maybelle’s six years older brother, at twenty-four. He has fairly wavy black hair, reaching the lower nape of his neck, suntanned and freckled skin, and blue-green eyes. His legs lift him to an average five foot ten, and his skin hides beneath the same kind of patched up clothes and lost-stuff armor as his sister.
“You’ve been awful quiet for a while. Something on your mind?” Ekua asks.
Edison shakes his head. “Nothing to talk about.”
She nods and respects the quiet between them, although she doesn’t leave his side. He can’t find a reason for her to.
Desert sands patch here and there in the grassy wasteland around them. Every so often, they pass by a grove of trees and Edison wonders again why Matt avoids them. He’d once told Edison that he isn’t afraid of the dead in trees like that, but he still refuses to let them venture inside. He says that he just prefers the sunshine. There’s no reason to persist, so Edison and Maybelle let it go.
Around the time the sun is highest in the sky, they make it to the rest stop Matt mentioned. After a brief, basic perimeter check, they settle at a picnic table so Ekua can make food. Matt decides to see if any of the cars work, leaving his gear at the table. The first car he goes to is an old green sedan with aged off bumber stickers and a Baby On Board sign.
Matt jimmies the driver door open and unlocks the rest from there. A foul smell comes from the inside of the car, so he lifts his mask from his neck over his mouth and nose, then gets down to his knees outside the driver door so he can reach under the steering wheel. Wires are already everywhere.
“What’s he doing?” Maybelle asks as she watches Matt mess with the car.
“Probably trying to hotwire it. See if it starts,” Ekua answers.
Maybelle nods slowly.
“How does he know how to do that?” Edison wonders.
Ekua shrugs. “You’d have to ask him. I’ve only known him for a year.”
Maybelle scoffs. “Come on. You guys don’t know anything about each other?”
Ekua glances at Matt. “He doesn’t really talk about himself that much. I’ve asked him personal questions before, but he always avoids them or changes the subject. And he never asks me anything personal. I guess it’s just his boundaries.”
Maybelle and Edison nod slowly, then take the food Ekua hands over.
“Matt!” she calls. “Food!”
He taps his foot a few times for OK, but doesn’t leave the car.
Ekua shakes her head. “So, you two. We’ve known each other for a good few weeks now. Feel like sharing anything about yourselves?”
Edison and Maybelle glance at each other. “Like what?”
“How old are you?”
“Eighteen,” Maybelle answers. “I’ll be nineteen in December.”
“Awesome. I just turned nineteen a few months ago myself,” Ekua smiles enthusiastically and turns to Edison.
“Twenty-four,” he says.
“His birthday was last month,” Maybelle announces.
Edison glances at her, catching his eye on Matt over his shoulder.
“Happy belated birthday then,” Ekua tells as he turns back to the food.
“Thanks,” he murmurs.
Ekua starts to speak, but is cut off and they all jump at the loud pop. Matt scrambles away from the car with a frustrated curse and kicks the tire.
“You okay over there?” Ekua calls.
“Yes,” Matt replies and waves. “Just zapped myself.”
Ekua nods. “No luck then?”
Matt shakes his head as he walks over to the table. “Nah. I’ll check the other cars just in case, but they look even rustier than the green one.”
“Where’d you learn how to do that?” Edison asks.
“My stepdad taught me,” Matt replies, sitting down across from him.
Matt nods. “He was a doomsday nut, even before shit hit the fan. He taught me loads.”
“What happened to him?” Maybelle wonders.
Ekua glances up, but Matt only shrugs.
“Same thing that happens to everyone, I figure. He died,” Matt says and takes a bite of the stew, signifying the end of his part in the conversation.
They all went quiet while they ate. Matt finished first, as they’d all gotten used to, and walked away to check another car. Edison glances after him.
“He’s always like that,” Ekua says quietly, earning Edison’s and Maybelle’s attention.
“Avoiding the subject.”
“So I...didn’t offend him?” Maybelle asks.
Ekua shrugs. “I doubt it. I’ve asked him worse stuff.”
Edison finishes off his stew and puts the bowl with Matts as he gets up, walking over to the car Matt is at.
Ekua watches him go, then turns to Maybelle. “So what happened to your guys’ family?”
Maybelle shrugs. “I’m not sure. They died when I was really little. Edison says they got caught in a hoard.”
Ekua nods slowly. “So...who raised you two?”
“He did.” Maybelle nods to Edison, who’s standing next to Matt by the car. “He had some help now and then, from groups we stayed with. But it’s always been mostly him.”
“Hand me the screwdriver from my belt, would you?” Matt asks, making Edison look down.
“Uh. Sure.” He crouches to get the tool from one of Matt’s tool belt pockets and hands it up to him.
Edison nods and stands back up, looking around.
“How long have you and May been on your own?” Matt wonders as he messes with the wiring.
“We left the last group we were with a few years ago,” Edison replies.
“Last group? You guys didn’t have a permanent one?” Matt asks, glancing out.
Edison shakes his head.
Matt taps his foot curiously. “Why’s that?”
Edison shrugs. “I don’t like the districts. That’s where groups usually go. Our last...group was a bad experience. We’ve avoided them since.”
Matt hums. “That explains why she’s so weird about it. We could always find a place to bunk you guys while Ekua and I get supplies from inside, if you want.”
“Would you come back?” Edison snorts.
“Sure we would,” Matt confirms, then sighs and slips out of the car. “This one’s dead too.”
Edison helps him to his feet and asks, “You would?”
Matt nods. “Sure. If you’d want us to. I get it if you guys aren’t really the group type.”
Edison shrugs. “You and Ekua don’t really make a group.”
“True,” Matt chuckles and tugs his mask down as he walks around to another car.
Edison follows. “May and I will come into the district. We need supplies of our own.”
Matt nods and uses his hanger to unlock the door of a slightly bigger, black sedan.
“Why not smash the window?” Edison wonders.
“Too much noise. Plus, if the car works, I’d rather have a choice between having an open window or not,” Matt grins and lifts his mask back up before opening the door.
Edison covers his nose and mouth when the foul smell wafts out. “Gross.”
Matt nods in agreement as he gets down to the ground, leaning against the edge of the front seat, and reaches up below the steering wheel.
“How long have you and Ekua been alone?” Edison asks.
“Ah, she says she’s been with me for about a year now. So, I guess a year,” Matt murmurs with a shrug.
“You don’t know?”
“I don’t really keep track of time.”
Matt shrugs. “Just don’t care.”
Edison nods slowly. He looks back over at Maybelle and Ekua. They’re still sitting at the table, talking about something that has Maybelle smiling. In the back of his mind, Edison envies his sister’s ability to connect with people.
Everyone turns back to the car Matt’s in when its engine sputters to life. Matt scrambles up into the seat, revving a couple times to make sure it won’t die out. He laughs triumphantly and slips out of the car after checking the gas, waving toward the table. “We’ve got a car!”