Saturday, February 25, 2012

Harnessing the Spark - #34 (Chapter 17 cont'd)

Link: Harnessing the Spark - #34 (Chapter 17 cont'd)


Installment #34 of the on-going online ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE horror novel

CHAPTER 17 (part 2)

Alex walked to the edge of the door and turned, placing her back against the frame. She crossed her arms and leaned toward the opening, stealing a glance at Joshua, still brooding in the sunlight. Nick walked towards the front door of the cabin. Nick started through the screen door but Alex stopped him with a hand on his bicep. “Wait, Nick,” she said. “I do trust you. You know that, don’t you?”

Nick turned to Alex, never meeting her eyes, nodded once and continued out onto the porch. Alex turned back to smile at the rest of us as we each made our way out through the door into the crisp air beyond. I heard Alex behind me before I felt her hand on my shoulder. She didn’t say a word, just walked in step with me. I reached up to my shoulder and took her hand in mine. I turned around, holding her left hand with my right and gripping her shoulder much like she’d done moments before to Nick. She opened her mouth, then closed it again. I assumed the words escaped her. In that moment, I understood completely. The moment hung between us. I simply leaned forward and let my forehead rest against her lips. Alex had always been one of my closest friends, but faced with inevitable doom and the hint of death right around the corner, human nature kicks in we tend to hold onto the few shards of home that we do have left. Alex wrapped her arm around me and we hugged. I felt safe. For whatever was falling apart around us, in those few seconds, I forgot everything else and just enjoyed the solidarity and comfort that being close to a friend offered.

“I love you, Elphie,” Alex whispered into my hair behind a smile.

“I love you too.” I pulled back from the embrace and gave her hand one last squeeze before I turned and headed down the stairs. I made a promise to myself before my foot hit the grass. From that moment forth, I would never miss the opportunity to tell someone that I cared about, just what they meant to me. Whether or not they wanted to hear it, I was going to let my heart do the talking. Watching the world collapse around you does things to your head. You sift back through all of the pointless and trivial fights. You consider the friends you’ve lost and the friends you’ve let drag you down. You think about all of the poor decisions you’ve made and the selfish things you’ve let run your life. You look at all of the sleep you’ve lost worrying over problems that, now, staring into the face of despair, have no weight whatsoever. I vowed to put everything else aside and focus on one thing, my family. I looked around as I made my way to the gravel path. There, under the sun, facing the apocalypse, I was surrounded by my family. The only thing that mattered.

Nick motioned towards the ATVs and directed Dave to the back of the truck to grab the silenced Winchester. Nick looked down at my hands then up again, “Browning still?” he asked.

“Yeah.” I pulled the Hi-Power 9mm out of the back of my jeans and showed him the handgun nonchalantly.

“You need ammo?” he asked. I nodded and returned the pistol to my waistband. “You need a holster too. I should kick your ass for just shoving it in your pants. This isn’t ‘Boys in the Hood’ ya know.” He shook his hand and turned to Dave at the truck. “Dave, grab Elphie another clip too.”

Dave heard the request, acknowledged it with a raised hand and opened the tailgate back up to grab what I needed. Before he could back out and close it up again, I was behind him waiting. “Thanks,” I said with an outstretched hand.

“What?” Dave asked as he handed me the clips.

Apparently, I’d looked as if I was about to say something… which I was. The words were right there, ready to break through the wall of denial I’d spent years building brick by brick. Dave was more than family to me. I knew it. Everyone knew it. “I don’t know,” I said.

“It’s ok. Don’t worry, this won’t take long.” Dave smiled, patted me on the back and walked over toward his ATV. I stood there, watching him walk past, kicking myself inside for losing the nerve to tell him how I felt. Jo scooted back on the seat and let Dave take his place at the handlebars.

“You coming?” Nick called, waking me from my own thoughts.

I looked up at Alex now sitting on the steps, clutching Joshua’s arm and laying her head on her shoulder. Had she seen my failed attempt, spurred on by her own admission of affection and caring? Her smile was innocent enough not to give away the complexity of her understanding. She waved. I waved back.

The moment passed.

Nick turned the key and started the four-wheeler as I climbed on and held onto his waist. Dave and Jo sped ahead of us as Nick slowly brought our ATV up to speed behind. I laid my head on his shoulder and let the sun warm my cheek as it peeked intermittently through the treetops. The gravel kicked up by the front tires pelted my jeans while the airborne dust coated my face and throat. I buried my head into Nick’s neck and ignored the rest, just happy to have my brother.  Nick twisted in his seat and attempted to talk to me over his shoulder. “How are you doing back there?”

“I’m fine!” I yelled back over the rushing wind.

“Fine?” He asked, turning his head back and forth with each few words. “The world just ended and you’re fine?” I felt his chest shake with a laugh following the last words.

“I still can’t wrap my head around all of it! Is that better?”

“I know!” he replied. I could barely understand what he was saying but it was nice to just talk with my brother.

“How is your arm?” I asked, suddenly remembering the hidden wound.

Nick looked straight ahead for a moment. I tapped him on the ribs, waiting for his reply. “You know, I have thought about it at all.” Nick turned back to the road and twisted the throttle, narrowing the growing gap between the two ATVs. “It doesn’t hurt. In fact…” Nick’s response was broken by a curve in the path calling his attention back to the road. “I honestly don’t know. Maybe it’s adrenaline?” I squeezed his chest and started to reply, but he beat me to it. “I still don’t think I’m infected!”

“The others can’t know!” I shouted over his shoulder. “There’s no telling what they’ll do if they find out! You could end up like one of these bodies in the dining hall! I’ll stand by you no matter what! You’re my brother Nick! I love you!”

Nick reached up with his left hand and laid it across my hands on his chest. “I love you too, sis! I don’t know what I would’ve done had you not come back to the house! I don’t think I could go through this without you! Losing mom and dad made me realize you’re my best friend!”

The ATV came to a stop about 20 yards from the Dining Hall. Jo and Dave were already climbing off of there’s on the other side of the path. “Listen to you…” I whispered, “getting all sentimental and shit.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “Must be the sleep deprivation.” He turned towards Dave and Jo, “Are you guys ready?”

“Yes,” Jo said. “I’m the smallest so I’m climbing up top.”

“Just hold on a minute,” Dave said.

“No Dave, she’s right,” Nick said. “You have the Winchester?” he asked Jo.

Dave turned to face Nick, crossed his arms and offered up the best “what the hell are you thinking?” look he could muster.

“I know, I know… but trust me,” Nick said. “She’s on our side. Elphie, you go around the west side and watch the other entrance. Just make sure no one breaks through. I’m going to the front door.”

“I’ll go around to the other side and make sure Jo doesn’t fall off the roof.” Dave turned and followed Jo around the corner.

Nick turned to me. “Elphaba, don’t do anything stupid. Let Jo take the shots.”

“Of course,” I said to myself as I made my way through the thick brush alongside the cabin.

next installment coming soon…

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