John, his friends and his family are on the run...
Hello! Here is the third installment of Hell on Earth. Please enjoy and leave a positive comment or constructive criticism, whatever suits you.
A thin, lanky form walked up to me. “Hey, John! How’s it goin’?”
I laughed at him. “Nothing much! What about you, whitey?” He was the jokester of our little gang; it’s obvious in the comical way he walked and dressed. He wore hiked up sport shorts and a shirt a little too small for him. Lightning blue shoes were his pride and joy… of a sort. Just him being in the room made everything comical. I loved the guy to death… in the typical brotherly fashion. “We’re going to cards tonight?” We walked together downtown, street lamps were just starting to light up the cool night.
He looked at me with a stupid grin wide on his face, “Of course! And I heard that you invited a lady-friend? Tell me who’s the unlucky woman this time.” Remember how I said I loved the guy? This is one of those times where I want to strangle him, and throw him off a cliff.
I still graced him with an answer, though sour. “She’s the new girl. You know, the one for some reason everyone picked on?”
He thought for a moment, “Oh! That Goth/Emo/weird one.” I can imagine his neck in my hands…
“Hey, take it easy, she’s human. So are you… at least I think so. There’s no way on Earth that someone can stay as white as you. You’re paler than my notebook paper!”
“If there’s such thing as white superiority, then…” He ran ahead and pumped his fist in the air, “I AM THE LEADER!”
I walked up to him and smacked him upside the head, “In your dreams!”
He snarled… of a sort. It’s kinda hard to be intimidating when you’re that guy. “Hey! John…”
I snapped out of my daydream. It was Alex. She looked at me with a concerned face. “Are you okay? We need to keep moving… at least that’s what your father said.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Let’s go.” I started walking once again. Ever since we left the house we’ve seen nothing but waste. We picked our way through the rubble until it started getting dark. Dad stood alert and he stopped the group.
“We can stop for the night here, we move again in the morning.” I remember a time when he wasn’t so anxious. In fact when we all weren’t so on edge…
“Well, now. Who’s this?” Mom didn’t really direct the question anywhere; it was just her mocking me in her motherly way. I brought Alex home, along with a few others, but that didn’t stop her from trying to embarrass me in every way possible. Big mistake. “You aren’t John’s new girlfriend, are you?” Dad’s voice rose up from the basement. “Wazzat? John’s got a girlfriend? Does he have condoms?” Mom started busting out laughing.
“Come on Alex, guys, before my parents get any weirder.” She blushed and followed me, and so did Mike. We always stuck together. The others, well, stayed behind to make fun of me with my parents. We walked into the spare room that acted as the entertainment room, and mike immediately started setting up for an all-night gaming session. Alex and I sat down, on the loveseat. I swear to god if my parents come down here…
“All set! I’ll just get the guys down here and we can start the night!” Mike started to run upstairs. Though he had a small runners frame, he was by no means agile, let alone an athlete. I imagined he was going to have a tough time convincing the others to come down. My parents were masters of seduction… of the words, mind you. And they were such an odd couple, so it was kind of a rarity to see them together. My mom was a nurse, working at a local hospital at the time. She was kind of a heavier woman, but she almost made it into the Olympics… or so she tells me. The truth is kind of evidenced in her large thighs, for she says she was a shot-putter. My Dad, he’s much stranger than Mom. He was a small guy in his younger years, minus the calves. He has massive calves. There is just no other way to put it. After training in the Police Academy for a year, though, he developed quite the physique. If me and Dad were to stand next to each other there would be no visible difference… except he has salt and pepper hair, and it’s getting saltier by the year. His accent is what gets people. It’s funny when he tries to say ‘mail’, or ‘squirrel’. When they’re together, not many people can leave before my parents are done with them. So that just left me and Alex.
“So,” I decided to break the tension that was building, “how do you like school.”
She turned to me and smiled, “Better now that you’ve involved me in your little group. You’ve got some interesting friends.” Then she started to blush, “Your parents are weird.”
I laughed, “I know. I’ve had to live with them for 16 years.”
She made a queer face, “We’re in the same year, but how come I’ve never seen you in any of my classes?”
Oooh, tough question. Easily answered. “What classes do you take?”
“Psychology and anatomy, etcetera, etcetera.”
“Standard math and English?”
“I’m in the advanced classes… and art. I hate the advanced classes, so by conclusion I’m almost failing. I love art, so I’m kind of passing. And I happen to be awesome in both categories.”
“Aw! You’re one of those people?”
“Is that a racist comment?” I chuckled to let her know it was in good humor
“No, it’s just I have to study really hard for everything!” She looked thoughtful, and then a devious smile crept onto her face. “Why don’t you tutor me?”
I was taken aback, and raised my hands, “My parents, for one thing. I’ll never hear the end of it if you stay late at night for hours in my room.”
“I can deal with it.”
I struggled a response, “But…”
“Nope. It’s decided. I’m stayin’ tonight. Besides, with the issues I’m having with my family…”
“What issues?” I must have stepped over a boundary, because she was immediately silent. It took a moment before I got a response.
“…Well, my parents are getting divorced. They’re getting close; they’re just deciding what to do with me. I was gonna save this for later, but I might need a place to stay. Do you mind if I stay here when it gets tense?” How to respond to that?
Now it was me who was hesitating. I must’ve taken a while, because she was starting to look very worried. “I don’t mind. It’s just my parents you need to deal with. If it’s a green light then you can sleep on my bed while I sleep on the couch out here.”
She smiled a huge smile, it made me feel warm. “Oh! Thank you! I’ll ask them later tonight!”
“Ask us what, John?...”
“John, it’s time to wake up.” My hand was gripped around the handle of a tomahawk. It was a gift from my grandfather, one of many bladed weapons I earned when he deemed worthy. I was happy I salvaged it and a few other choice pieces before we left. So when I saw it was Mom who woke me, I let go of the hardened wood and slid it back underneath me.
“How far are we now?”
“Still not very, we’re going to have to travel a ways before we…” Everyone froze when we heard a strange cry echoed in the distance. It was very misplaced, because last night we saw no one for hours after we left.
My Dad was the first one to act. He stood and brought the rifle up to his shoulder. “Stay here,” He muttered under his breath, “I’ll check this out.” He took one step outside the room before he stopped dead in his tracks. A little girl, about six or seven years old, stepped out into the open outside the ruins we lay in. Tears streamed down her face, only barely washing it of the dirt and blood that smudged it. She held a little teddy bear in her arm, and wore a tattered dress also covered in filth.
My dad lowered his gun only a little, then it snapped back up. He swept the area for anything else. When he saw nothing, he jogged out to the little girl and held her hand. He quickly brought her to us and she was quiet. Everyone was. It was eerie. After a while she took her free hand and wiped her face. “Have you seen…*sniffle* my sister?”
I was the first to respond. “No. Are you alone?” She nodded yes.
She looked around the room, “Are you those mean people?”
Mike answered, “You mean Raiders, little girl? No, we ain’t them. By the way, what’s your name?”
My Mom tried to sound as comforting as possible. “Well Sara, what happened to your parents?”
She started bawling again, but quickly recovered. “Those mean people showed me how they make people sleep. I tried to wake them, but they’re too sleepy. They’re even bleeding where they got shots from the mean people. Then they grabbed my sister.” She looked in danger of crying again, but she was hushed by Mom.
I looked at Dad, but he gave no reaction. He spoke up, “Where did they say they were taking your sister?”
She looked up at Dad, and slowly thought for a second. “They said… She needed help… at the Hospital…”
Alex’s eyes were tearing up, “We’ve got to help her!”
Dad snapped his attention to Alex, “And how do you suppose we do that! I won’t put my family in danger!”
This time I stepped between her and Dad… and boy, did it hurt like hell to stand, “Dad stop! If Sara’s sister was me, what would you do?”
I caught him off guard, and he was silent for a moment. “Fine, I suppose we can look for her sister… But we can’t exactly go in guns blazing, now can we?”
I was stumped at how we were going to get in, too. It was Alex who came up with the solution. “Sneak in.”
Dad turned back to her, “That’s crazy! That… just… might work. But we can’t go in looking like this.”
Mike scoffed at the question, “That’s easy. Disguises. We could find and ambush one of those slaver parties and take their clothes. We can even wear weapons openly because I’m sure every one of those Raiders is flashin’ a piece. If you get one that already has slaves even better. Barter with ‘em so you’ll set ‘em free as long as they help us free the others. Since we can wear weapons we could also sneak weapons in for the slaves. THEN we can gun-blaze… What?” Everyone was looking at him with jaws dropped. He smiled smugly, “I’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout this all-day yesterday. What else am I gunna do?”
I was first to stop and think about what we just heard. “That… is perfect. Why are they taking prisoners? I have no idea. But the thing is, is that we would look like them, AND we would have something they want. They’ll let us in for sure!”
Mom noticed first. “Us? You aren’t going, are you John?”
I sighed. “Yeah. I’m going.”
Alex jumped up and yelled at me, “YOU CAN’T GO! YOU’LL GET HURT!”
Dad agreed, “She’s right, you’ll get hurt. But so will anyone willing to go. I’m going, and John you’re going…”
“Hey!” Mike piped up, “What about me?”
Dad chuckled a little. A rare occurrence. “Yes, Mike, you can go too. As LONG as you can walk. And shoot. I know you and John will be watching each other’s backs.” He turned to Mom, “Watch Alex. And the little girl. This might take a while, so I don’t know when we’ll be back. Leave here when we do and leave a trail to where you’ll set up camp. It might take a few days, maybe a month. But we’ll catch up. I promise.” His hand reached into the sheath of guns and pulled the raider’s shotgun out. “Take this. You’ll need it.” He grabbed another gun, a pistol, also from the two Raiders. “Alex take this. I need you to watch out for my wife.” Dad turned to Mom and kissed her, “I love you.” He turned and left the ruin.
Alex looked on the verge of tears. “Hey,” I touched her shoulder, “We’ll be back, okay?”
She surprised me by tackling me with a hug. In that tight embrace, she whispered in my ear, “Don’t get hurt…”
I whispered back, “I promise.”
Mike looked dejected, “Whaaat? No hug for me? What kind of friend are you.”
Alex giggled and gave him a hug. Then Mike and I left the ruin, and we trailed after Dad. Everything seemed easy talking about it, but now we are risking it. Two of us are injured and the last is just past the prime of his life. This is going to be one Hell of an adventure.
A week had passed, and we came along no Raiders. Mike’s back hurt him like hell, I was sure of it because the entire time we walked his face was twisted up in agony. Dad was getting tired as well. We were living off of the scrappy leftovers in ruined houses along the roads. We reached the top of a hill before Dad turned to us. “Boy’s, I think we have to risk getting closer to the hospital. We aren’t getting any luck skirting the city, but I think there would be more Raiders the closer we get to the Hospital.”
Mike opened up, “’Bout time. I was ready to kick Raider ass all week!”
Dad sighed, “I should’ve thought of this before hand. Have you ever killed anyone before, Mike?”
His smile was slowly fading, “No, but…”
“Imagine looking into the man’s eyes. You both know that one of your lives are about to end. You can see the fear of death in his eyes. But not only that, there’ll be blood on your hands. Whether justified or not, you’ve erased a life from the planet. No matter how many sins that man had committed, no matter how many he’s hurt or killed, you can’t wash the blood on your hands with more blood. His soul will live forever with you. You’ll remember the faces of each man in turn, if we have to do this more. I remember mine. He’s not left our family, nor will he ever. His spirit haunts me every moment, even in sleep. Can you live with that guilt?”
The speech had me and Mike stunned, to say the least. I steeled myself and spoke up. “I’m ready. If it is to protect Mike and you, I’ll do anything.”
Mike snapped to and followed suit. “Yeah, you can count on us…”
“Good, because I found our first customers.”
Off in the distance we saw a small trail off people, and they were coming our way.
Dad looked at us both with concern, “You know what to do?” We nodded and ran off in opposite directions. The plan was that Mike and I stay up on the roofs of two houses on opposite sides of the street and provide Dad with cover fire. Dad will take potshots at the Raiders on the move, so that there seems to be more than just us. I held the family rifle, Mike had Dad’s work gun, and Dad readied his secondary work gun. The procession worked its way to us painfully slow, and took a good hour and a half for them to get in position. There were five Raiders, and each had a woman in tattered clothes in tow. The woman had ropes that cut into their wrists and tears streamed down their faces. I signaled to Mike across the street to get ready, but Dad was no-where to be seen. He was supposed to give the signal! Did he leave us? No, that’s not like him. But what if… A single shot echoed down the street. The Procession stopped, but they were a little ahead us so I couldn’t see what happened. A thud could be heard, and I saw that a man had fallen flat on his face. Another Raider rushed up to him, before another crack echoed and he too fell. The remaining two Raiders got the hint that someone ahead was firing at them so they bundled the women-slaves in front of them like a human shield and started firing back… but they were right out in the open for me and Mike. I saw Mike’s hand raise, signaling he was ready. If we missed we could hurt or kill innocent women. His hand dropped and counted down.
3… The bead of the rifle at the end of the barrel trained at the base of the neck of the closest Raider. 2… I clicked the safety off and took a deep breath. 1… The Raider’s head suddenly turned my direction and he saw me. Fear spread across his face. 0… I closed my eyes when I pulled the trigger, the kick of the gun registering on my shoulder. Another bang was heard across the street. My eyes slowly opened. Where the Raider’s head had once been was now a lingering puff of red smoke, and his body laid in a crumpled heap below where I was aiming. Blood pooled beneath his body. The realization hit me and I vomited all over the roof. I killed him! I’m a murderer!... But so was he, and those women would have been worse off if I didn’t kill him. I looked up again and saw Dad walking slowly up to the women, gun raised to the sky.
I didn’t hear him, but eventually he called out to me and Mike. We climbed down from our perches and walked to him, but my eyes never left the body of the man.
“John? Are you okay?” He knew the answer.
“Yeah, I guess…”
“You were never ready. No one is.”
He looked to one of the women, “You’re sure your okay with this?”
She nodded. The next half hour was spent stripping the Raider’s bodies and hiding them. We produced three rifles, a shotgun and three pistols. Plenty of ammunition was found along with the weapons. We also loosened the ropes on the women’s hands, enough to allow them some comfort but still look securely bound. One raider luckily had a backpack and we stored all the extra ammunition and our old clothes inside. Then we set off. It took about five minutes before Mike tried to strike up a conversation with the women.
“So, what are your names?”
“Sandra,”, “Vickey,”, “Michelle.” The last stayed silent. She had bruises along her arms and thighs, with a full blown black eye.
I sighed and threw back, “They were just captured, and have been through a rough time. Give them some time, Mike.”
He backed off and stayed silent the rest of the trip. Then Miss Black Eye spoke up, “You look like your father.”
I smiled and trailed back a bit, so I could speak with her. “A lot of people say that.”
Mike yelled from the back, “Give ‘em time?!”
“Oh, shut up!” That induced a few giggles from the women.
Black Eye nudged me, “You’re friend?”
“Keep him close. We’re going to a place where you could’ve gotten lost… before…” She shook her head. “Doesn’t matter. Say, can I use your knife?”
That remark took me by surprise, because I hid it since I salvaged it along with my throwing knives and tomahawk, and I was sure no one knew about them. “Sure… How did you know about it?” I handed the seven-inch long bowie to her.
“I was a pickpocket from before, and I noticed a bulge in your pants that I was pretty damn sure wasn’t your cock.” She raised the bare-blade to her face, and made a small cut below her black eye. Blood started flowing immediately.
“Hey, hey! Why’d you do that!” I quickly grabbed the knife from her hands and put it in a different spot.
“Just watch. By the time we reach the Hospital, the black eye will be gone.”
“Just as sure as your friends libido.” Sure enough, Mike was talking with the other women again. I noticed that they all were about my and Mikes age, maybe a little older. But Black Eye was an older woman…
“Stop.” It was my dad. “Someone’s coming.” We all paused and acted our part. A small group of Raiders were riding in a minivan far ahead. Dad turned to us, “Okay, this is how it’s going to work. I do all the talking, you two shut up. If anything happens to me, don’t worry about it, but DO NOT split up. Am I understood?”
We nodded, afraid to speak even now. By then the minivan full of Raiders had closed the distance and all the doors opened at the same time. One particularly disgusting Raider walked up to us, who was probably the leader. “We weren’t expecting a shipment yet… at least not from you. Who are you three?”
Dad immediately spoke up, “We got sick of this damned wasteland, so we took up Raiding. A group of yours picked us up, called us newbloods. Soon after we were ambushed by a damn group of Soldier-boys. We killed ‘em and got their weapons, but the others died. Brought you these gifts as a sign of good faith.” Dad gestured to the women. “We’re looking to join up.”
The Raider inspected us like we were something dirty in a clean room… I know, bad analogy since everything is covered in a couple layers of shit, but still. “I don’t know… What do you think, boss.”
A Raider that stayed in the car sat up, and he walked out. He was smiling when he walked towards us. “I don’t know either. Very rarely we get such a good father son combo.” He chuckled at his own joke.
Dad looked like he was punched in the gut, “…Samuel?!”
The Raider laughed, “That’s right! Long time no see, eh, buddy?”
Thanks for reading! Like I said before please leave a positive comment or constructive criticism.