Authors: William Allen
WALKING IN THE RAIN
Surviving the Fall
© 2015. All Rights Reserved.
This is a work of fiction and no part of this story is intended to depict real persons, living or dead, or any actual locations. The use of some place names is purely fictional and any similarity is purely coincidental.
Dedicated to Afentra Allen; a wonderful wife without whom none of this would have been possible. Maybe someday I’ll be able to convince her to read this story.
And my great thanks to TJ Reeder, WJ Lundy and Dale Power. All three are great authors and even better people who inspired and encouraged me to finish this project.
The sound of a disturbance in the house woke me from an exhausted slumber. My pistol found my hand even before I rolled off the pallet in that dark room. Selected for its isolation in a mostly undeveloped subdivision, the house had already been looted and trashed. Perfect, I decided, for a single night of sleeping under a roof. The last few days of rain had left my gear soggy and in need of attention. Now, my plan wasn’t feeling so good.
Working by feel, I quietly packed up my little camp in the wrecked laundry room, my ears straining for more clues. What had woken me was the clatter of some aluminum cans I’d stacked haphazardly around the broken front door, designed to act as a low tech alarm system. Over the hammering of my heart, I could make out booted footfalls as multiple intruders proceeded deeper into the house. Through the closed inner door, all I could tell was more than one but less than five. I had a self imposed bag limit of no more than three bandits or looters on any given day, so this was probably a good time to boogie.
Finished with stuffing my backpack, I slid closer to the side door leading out to the garage. My fingers slid along the bottom of the door jamb until I felt the rubber door stopper wedged in place. A similar rubber triangle sealed the door leading back into the house. From experience, I knew the little stoppers would hold in place where a deadbolt might fail. They’d saved my rear before and I was always careful to pack them for the next use. As I continued my prep for a hasty retreat, my ears picked up another sound and I froze.
A pathetic whimper, followed by the unmistakable smack of a hand striking flesh, all echoed in the space of a heart beat. My blood began to simmer and my anger overrode good sense. For the better part of two months I’d been on my own, surviving in this brutal new world and my brain already held a lifetime’s worth of terrible images locked away. The sights, sounds and stench of death dogged my steps and once again, I had reached my limit.
As I sat there in the dark and stuffed the last half dried sweatshirt into the backpack I heard another pitiful cry. Whatever else happened tonight, and though it might cost me my life, I decided some sorry piece of crap was about to pay the price for ruining my sleep.
The flimsy wooden door opened without a sound and I found myself nearly blinded by the pearly glow of the moon shining down through the kitchen windows. The moonlight was a surprise since I was bedded down before dark, and the last few nights had been stormy and overcast. Once my eyes adjusted, I found I could see quite well as I made my way further back into the house with soft footed stealth.
I found the intruders gathered in the master bedroom at the back of the house. A quick peek around the door frame showed three large forms arrayed in a semicircle around a fourth, tiny shape cast down on the stained and discolored mattress. The girl was malnourished, naked and rolled up in a fetal ball as she apparently tried to cover her exposed flesh. One of the men laughed, a low dark chuckle, and stepped closer to the bed.
I shot him first.
Three shots total, one each to the back of the head or top of the spine, and each report of the 9mm pistol sounded like thunder in the enclosed space. It was murder, plain and simple. The men went down like dropped bags of laundry, and two of them continued to twitch after hitting the floor.
Since I was low on ammunition, I had to forego the follow up shots, the double tap as my father taught. Always take that insurance shot, and make sure they are 100% dead. Instead, I had to settle with slashing their throats and despite the extra holes I’d put in their heads, each man still managed to gush a torrent of blood out through the fresh wound.
None of the blood or piss or shit stink bothered me, not anymore, so I went about my business. I even managed to do the job without getting much blood on their boots, but their shirts were too far gone to salvage.
For throat cutting and other mayhem, I used a chipped and bent old butcher knife salvaged from a restaurant somewhere up north. With a nine inch blade and a curved handguard, the thing looked scarier than the short “survival” knife I used to actually cut up and process animals. I did not mix the two. Sort of like keeping kosher, I thought wryly. Don’t use the knife for cutting human throats to also cut up your dinner. Humans are filthy animals, after all. Yep, I was adapting fine to this new world.
“Little girl, stay still. I won’t hurt you, alright?”
That got a frightened nod, and a few sniffles. She was laying with her knees drawn up to her chin and her arms crossed over her tiny boobs.
As soon as I made sure the traumatized naked girl wasn’t going to shoot or stab me, I began stripping the bodies and salvaging their gear. I found three handguns, two revolvers and a big semi automatic pistol, along with three spare magazines. Also, I dug about fifty rounds of loose ammunition from the pockets of the dead men, along with a couple of folding blade knives and what I thought were silver coins. Just a few dimes and quarters, but I took them anyway. Two of the men had sheathed knives on belts and I took the knives and belts to examine later. Everything had a use, for trading if nothing else.
I found a pair of long arms, a lever action rifle and a pump shotgun, propped against the inside wall of the room. In the darkness I couldn’t make out much detail, but both of those were certainly going with. Piled up in the nearby corner I found three packs bulging with interesting shapes. Two were daypacks, like I used to carry to school as a bookbag, and the third looked like a genuine camping backpack. I hoped they had more ammo in the bags somewhere.
“What…what are you doing?”
The voice was so soft, barely above a whisper. I turned my head to see the young girl looking at me with a mixture of fear and something else etched into her fair blonde features. A smudge marred her left check and I realized it was a handprint. Likewise, the cut on her high cheekbone dribbled a trace of blood. I could tell she’d tried hard to quell the tears that tracked down her face and left a pink tracery on one side.
“I’m just taking things they won’t need anymore.” I tried to pitch my voice softly but the words came out sounding flat. Empty of emotion.
“They don’t need me anymore,” came her breathy, frightened response and I took a second to understand her comment. Was that an offer, or a plea? Whatever it was, I chose to ignore it for the moment. Somebody had to have heard those shots, so I was on short time to get going before nosy neighbors came looking. Or more scavengers.
Heading back to the utility room, I scooped up my own heavily laden backpack and returned to the bedroom to find the girl had moved. She’d wisely stayed clear of the pile of weapons I had unloaded in front of her but she was trying to make some kind of dress or cloak out of the moldy and stained comforter rucked up on the bed.
“Leave that” I said, and dug a long sleeved sweatshirt out of the pack and tossed it to her. The sweatshirt was made to look like a jersey of the Kansas City Chiefs and came in a size XX.
“Get that on for now. The jersey is long enough to cover you until I can get you back to your family.”
The girl looked down, her hands covering her bare chest with the red and white Chiefs sweatshirt clutched tight. Standing, she was taller than I first thought, but painfully thin. I could see her ribs and her thighs looked barely larger than my forearms. She had a fey, wild, beauty about her that made her seem almost other than human. Like one of those elves in the
Lord of the Rings
movies. I had to make my eyes turn away as she lifted the hem of the shirt and pulled it over her head. Against my better judgment, I hazarded another look and then I wanted to punch myself in the eye for looking.
“I got no family left, no kinfolks. I think they killed my uncle when they took me. They beat him something terrible, anyway. If he ain’t dead, he ought to be.” She said the last with a bitter whisper. She took a gasping breath before continuing.
“They didn’t steal me. He was trying to rent me to them. Uncle Kevin only got beat up when he tried to hold out for more food.”
Her voice was still a bit breathy, shocked sounding, and definitely country. Not the same country accent as back home, but still close. I found myself responding with my own country twang coming to the forefront.
“Don’t you have anybody, girl? Friends in the neighborhood?”
“No friends here. Anybody else in this neighborhood would only feed me if I did what those animals wanted to do to me. Girls ain’t worth much unless they are earning their way. If you take me with you, I can help.”
Again, she stopped for a long, considering pause.
“I won’t sleep with you, but I am pretty good at hunting and finding plants to eat and … I got nothing else.”
While I listened to the girl speak, I ejected the magazine on my pistol and replaced the three rounds expended with what I carried in my front pocket. The Ruger P95 was heavy for a 9mm but deadly accurate out to twenty five yards and simple to clean for a semiautomatic pistol.
“Have you seen these guys before? They part of a gang or something around here?” I asked, wondering how deep I’d gotten myself in the shit. At least they weren’t wearing uniforms this time.
“Yeah,” she answered, picking her words carefully. “They have people who will be looking for them before long. We need to get going.”
I almost laughed at her attitude, assuming she was going with me.
“What’s your name?” I asked instead, shouldering my pack and adjusting the straps.
“Amy. Amy Landon. What’s yours?”
“Luke. Please to meet you. Now, we need to get out of here but you can’t go around barefoot. Come over here and give me a hand.”
Amy wrinkled her nose as I gestured to the three dead men but she knelt down and started trying on the boots I had already removed. While Amy was looking for footwear, I scooped up the rifle and the shotgun and the three packs the would-be rapists had discarded. Thankfully, the rifle bore a makeshift sling made of paracord so that went over my shoulder. Snaking my left arm through the loops, I hung the surprisingly heavy packs in the crook of my arm for now. Awkward, but doable for a little while.
I hung on to the shotgun after checking to make sure it was loaded. The extended tube was a nice bonus and when I racked the slide repeatedly I was rewarded with eight shells. I couldn’t make out the loads but this was definitely a 12 gauge. I reloaded the shotgun and turned to the young girl.
Amy found the smallest pair of boots and laced them up tight. They looked like clown shoes even in the scant moonlight let in by the tattered curtains, but the girl did not complain. She would get blisters if we had to go very far but I just wanted to get some distance between us and this place. I asked her to tie the laces together and grab the other two as well, which she did. She then took the two smaller packs from my arm, which was a great help.
“Let’s move,” I said softly and Amy nodded, ready to go as well. We headed back through the kitchen and I led Amy out through the utility room and into the garage. The back door from the house emptied into a high fenced yard, but the side door out of the garage allowed us to creep out into an alley of sorts. This overgrown route extended to the treeline and was bounded on both sides by the wooden privacy fences.
I worried about being trapped in such an obvious shooting gallery but sometimes you traded speed for stealth. After what Amy said, maybe gunshots were not such an unusual sound around these parts after dark. For whatever reason, no one seemed to notice our passage.
“Just a little ways,” I said encouragingly, “and we can hole up for a while in the woods.”
“But it’s still dark, and there’s animals out there,” Amy whispered in protest, fear once again sounding in her voice.
“There’re animals everywhere, Amy. I just killed three of them in that bedroom. Trust me, we will be safer out there for a little while.”
And the crazy thing was, she went with me without another word.