What the Old Man Did 19

July 7, 2012

I woke slowly, relaxed, like you do when you know where you are and feel safe. Muted sunlight filled the room. I was on a thin foam mattress on the top floor of our little glass house as we called it. Lying there, I drifted back over the last three weeks. Toni was not there. I presumed she was out hunting for food. My last foray those three weeks ago had attracted every critter for miles. They still milled about the blown out bank building. It made it relatively safe to move north for scavenging.

I heard the door cycle. It was Toni. She flopped down beside me, smiling.

“Find anything interesting?”

“Two things. But you’ll have to get up to see them.”

“Hmmm. Not really interested right now.” I reached for her, pulling her close, kissing her. She chuckled.

“There’s a little girl next door you know!”  I loved her now, and I was far more attached than I had ever been to anyone but my parents.

“Ok, let’s see your treasure.” She got up and put on her clothes. I wondered if it was wasted effort. Being clothed I mean. Of course we still needed protection from the sun, wind, etc. And it could get cold here. Last week there was snow, but the weather here was far more moderate that other places I’d been. I got up and dressed. We peaked in on Sarah, who was still asleep, then moved downstairs to the ground floor. The woman from the tunnel still roamed around the outside of the building. We’d agreed not to kill it, but Sarah never came down here anyway. My questions about their biology were many. I’d watched this one at night. I had never seen what they did at night, always avoiding the dark in my travels. But this one seemed to just stop when the sun went down. Like the children in that church near Cleveland. And the cold and weather didn’t seem to bring much if any reaction beyond some response to noise. I saw the things skin show signs of deterioration and that made me wonder if they had an immune response or any remodeling response. Perhaps when they fed they became rejuvenated?

I looked away. Toni was pointing to what appeared to be a brand new childs wagon. With wooden stake sides and fancy big tires.

“Wow, nice find,” I said. I saw that next to it was a large stack of canned goods and cans labeled as “pasta.”

“Find a restaurant?”

“Better. A restaurant supply store. Lots of stuff there. It looks like a lot of it is still good.”

We had not roamed to the south at all after the debacle there. But I always wondered what it would be like to run out of things. No more toilet paper, say. Or sugar. Looking at the stuff she brought back, I noted some coats and hats and that same itch in the back of my mind came back. I watched her bend down and pick up a case of something. I watched her arms flex. She had a certain efficiency in how she moved. I’d always put it down to a lucky gene pool.

The thing outside had stopped and was looking at us. At her. It just stared. I moved to the glass and it saw the movement. Then it started to move, coming to the glass and clawing at it.

“I’m getting rid of it,” I announced. She said nothing and I turned to see her moving toward the stairs. I was going to call after her, but thought better of it. I went to the shelter downstairs and grabbed the silenced rifle. When I came back up it had started moving again. I used the pass card hanging around my neck to open the door. It slid silently open and I moved out, cautiously. It struck me then that Toni was always quicker at this. Exiting I mean. She didn’t pause. I put it down to brashness or that she was just quicker at assessing the danger than I. I’d stopped harassing her about it long ago.

I turned the corner as the door shut. The thing wasn’t there. I crouched and spun around. Nothing. No way it could have disappeared anywhere. But it had. I reconnoitered the perimeter of the building. Slowly. Suddenly I spotted a piece of cloth fluttering on a low limb of a tree ahead. I moved closer. It sprang at me from around the tree. A month ago, I would have died, but not now. I squeezed off two rounds in succession and it went down. Coming out of my astonished revery, I glanced around and moved back to the door. Waving my ID, it opened. I sat down inside, thinking.

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