A Beginning in the End pt. 21

Arabella                                                                                                               2020/1/6

I was so shook up last night that I couldn’t write about what happened yesterday until now. I still do not know if it was not my mind playing cruel tricks on me. All reason tells me that there cannot be another living human here. It has to be my sick mind messing with me, it has to be.

But then again, what if it is not? What if he is really here in this town with me? I feel like a coward and an idiot for running away yesterday but I couldn’t help it. An all consuming fear overcame me when I laid eyes on him, a terror derived from the possibility that he was not actually there, a potential truth I was not willing to face. I don’t think either my mind or I will be able to survive the disappointment if he is nothing more than an illusion. I will break.

Never-the-less I cannot leave matters as they stand. Despite the fear I must go back downtown and try to find him. It is all or nothing now and I just pray that for once it is not all in my head.

Later

Just as I said I would, I went back to the main street, took a seat on one of the benches still intact, and waited. I sat there for several hours, time dragging as the sun leisurely sailed across the sky. My fear increased with every changing shadow and as afternoon descended it slowly took my hope with it.

I remember rising from the bench, the tears pricking at the corner of my eyes and a sense of utter betrayal and despair encroaching on me when something moved in my peripheral vision farther down the street. I almost didn’t dare to turn, I didn’t want to know. I took my time, my heart racing on the precarious cliff between ecstasy and despair.

The world stopped. A short way down the street stood the man, young and tall with messy, jet black hair. Dark eyes watched me, set in a face defined by a harsh world. That same world had dictated the svelte build of his body, muscular but lean.

I froze, unable to move as the figure approached me, afraid that if I so much as breathed he would vanish. Those dark eyes locked onto mine. I quelled the urge to run again but only with great difficulty. It seems ridiculous but it took everything I had to remain where I stood. My entire body began to tremble at the possible presence of another human being. I hadn’t seen or heard from another creature like me in so long that, contrary to all expectations, I was honestly afraid.

Ye,t even in my fear, I saw as he stopped in front of me that he was a truly handsome man, rugged from living in this harsh world but none the less he had natural good looks that had managed to survive their fair share of circumstantial cruelty. He wore what appeared to be military clothing, not too old judging by their condition. Some of his hair was pulled back in a short ponytail that left the rest to messily frame his face.

His eyes were penetrating and thoughtful, trying to infiltrate my mind although I am sure identical thoughts were rushing through our minds. Both of us were attempting to discern if what was before our eyes could possibly be more than a broken psyche.

Disbelief and curiosity were apparent in his every aspect. I could barely breathe under his intense gaze and yet almost without thinking I reached out and brushed my fingertips against his cheek. His skin was cool under my touch. I felt him shudder, almost start at the contact. I couldn’t help but nearly start as well . In that moment we both realized that we were either hopelessly insane or the other person actually existed. More than anything, more than being truly convinced by our senses, I think we both chose the only option we could, that reality was what we saw and felt.

I withdrew my hand and opened my mouth so speak but no sound emerged. My voice had died in my throat. In the end it was he who spoke first, revealing a deep, baritone voice.

“My name is Logan,” he said, his voice strained and odd from a period time of disuse, “what is yours?”

It took me a several tries to bring my own voice into the air. “My name is Arabella,” I finally half stammered.

Another moment of silence passed between us before he said, “I can’t believe I’ve found another living human being.”

“Me either,” I said, the excitement of finally speaking to another person breaking through the relative shock of the situation. My heart began to race as it dawned on me that I was no longer completely alone. I was not the last human alive, this man called Logan survived with me.

“Is it just you?” he asked, momentarily diverting his eyes from mine to glance around.

I nodded in solemn regret. “It’s just you and me,” I said. “I’ve been on my own for months now.”

“Me too,” a melancholy frown moved bent his mouth. “I was afraid that I was the last man alive. I had begun to suspect that I was doomed to wander this broken land alone until I die.”

“I have been feeling the same,” I replied as a smile crept onto my lips for the first time in a longer span than I cared to calculate. “What are you doing here? Can you not find a safe place to stay either?”

He shook his dark head, “I’ve been wandering since the world fell. This is the safest place I’ve found since the last military stronghold was decimated.”

I was right to conjecture that he’d had dealings with the former military. “This is the safest place I’ve ever been,” I said, sitting down on the bench once more and motioning for him to sit beside me. “These people had a plan and I have a feeling we can be safe here, at least for a little while.”

He sat down beside me and turned his gaze up to the clear sky. “Do you know what happened to them?” he asked, giving me a curious glance.

“I found a journal telling the story,” I answered and proceeded to give him my condensed version of the tragic tale.

“interesting,” he muttered to himself. “This barricade isn’t anything remarkable although it is well constructed. I wonder what really kept them out?”

“What do you mean?” I asked sensing that Logan was a man of vast knowledge where defense and combat against the monsters was concerned. Anyone who had survived so long  had inevitably been through a good deal and had to possess a great wealth of knowledge through sheer experience alone. I know I do.

He continued lost in thought for another long moment before answering, “Granted these people had forethought but with enough time and numbers those things could have gotten through. Yet they don’t even seem to have attacked which is what confuses me. I’m going to take another look.” He leaped up from the bench and sprinted for the barricade. I followed, my curiosity roused and I refused to lose sight of him.

He leapt up the barricade and peered over the other side. “As I thought,” he said after dropping back down, “there is no sign of assault of any kind on the barricade. What kept them out if not that?”

“I don’t know,” I answered unhelpfully, trying to follow his train of thought.

“They didn’t want in,” he remarked, striding away from the barricade and back towards the center of town. “They didn’t actually have any interest in entering in the first place. I wonder why?”

“Is it important,” I asked.

“It might be,” he shrugged, “but for now I think the question can wait. I would much rather spend time with another intelligent creature than try to solve riddles.”

I smiled for only the second time in months. We went back to the house I had taken up residence in and had something to eat. We just talked, loving the sound of each others’ voices and the exchange of rational thought. As night fell we decided that we didn’t want to separate so he took the upstairs bedroom.

I’m writing this before going to sleep happier than I have been in such a long time. This is as close to peace as I think I can get in this life. I am not alone anymore.

 

Dymphna.

 

Operation Hide and Seek pt. 2

Drey ran her finger across the edge of the last crease and flipped over the tiny origami crane. Yes, the drive through was that slow today – reduced to folding up unwanted receipts to keep from losing what little sanity she had left. The kid’s meal bags were already folded, stuffed with cheap plastic toys and stacked floor to ceiling. The dishes were all washed, the floor had been mopped twice, the walls were even scrubbed. Drey blew her hair out of her face and watched the electric blue highlight hit the brim of her visor in the dark order screen. Only ten more minutes left of shift. Then… freedom. For another night.

Bing. Drey turned on her mike.

“Welcome to Burger Bell, what can I get for you tonight?” she asked, working hard to keep her voice cheerful.

“Yeah, thanks, I’ll have, uh…” Drey waited while the nameless, faceless customer placed their order, waited while they drove up to her window, took their money, and sent them on their merry way. The customer was gone when Steve, her manager, came to clean out Drey’s cash drawer.

“Got any plans for the weekend?” Steve asked. He punched in his code and the drawer slid open.

“Nah. Maybe watch a movie, nothing exciting,” Drey answered. She took off her headset and reached around Steve to punch out. “See you Monday.”

“Night Drey,” Steve answered. He gave a wave as Drey headed to the crew room. She spun in her locker combination and pulled out a padded blue motorcycle helmet. She paused a moment to wipe a squished bug off of the painted blue morpho butterfly.

They’d been three – Sparrow, Tigress, and Butterfly. Now she was the only one left – Sparrow with another team, Tigress gone. The last one, with a price on her head too big to ignore, a magnet for any bounty hunter’s bullet. What on earth was she still doing out here? She smiled. The adrenaline was still too much of a pull. She’d always been a fool.

Drey tucked the helmet under her arm and headed outside. The pursuer was in the back lot, behind the building and half hidden in the shadows. Drey swiped her hand over the console and the machine purred to life. A magnificent machine, Meg’s baby, abandoned when she’d bailed. Drey had inherited it, and it was the one thing she still kept kept from their time together. Drey straddled the thousand horsepower engine and took off into the night, whooping with the joy of being young and alive and free.