Monday, July 14, 2014

Wibbling Away

Katrin stomped around in her favorite black boots. They were off-brand leather moccasin boots with long fur all over the leg part that came halfway up to her knees; they weren't as warm as good winter boots, but she loved them fiercely. There was at least a faux-shearling liner to keep her feet warm today, when the sun was out and quickly melting the snow into slush; and they were pretty waterproof, though she'd managed to get them soggy anyway.

She was making a drawing of Sonic the Hedgehog in the snow with her footprints, across the parade grounds in the center of the Fort. Her brother and her mom were napping, Val curled up with his mother, his belly full of buttered bread and candy. Eve had taken some water, but couldn't get interested in food. Katrin felt as long as they were resting, she was better off stomping around out here in the outside, where she could listen for Mr Joe's truck and run over to let the guys in.

Several time she heard something that might have been movement, and just in case ran to the top of the Round Tower, but nothing was coming up the road toward the Fort. Just to be sure, she also climbed up on to the Half Moon Battery at the easternmost part of the Fort and looked all around. From here she could see a vast spread of the entire Twin Cities area, with black smoke still rising from parts. With her feet here, on the very old stones of a Fort built in a different era, she felt almost like she was looking through time itself.

This fort is all wibbley-wobbley timey-wimey,” she announced to the woods below. “And I, Katrin Aubrey, am a Time Lord.”

Far below the Fort, along the trails, she saw what looked like a pack of dogs running toward the south. At first she mistook them for wolves and shivered, feeling even more like the Fort was a-sail in Time, but when she looked more carefully she could see they were pet dogs, or had been. Before.

Kat slushed back through the melting snow to the front door of the house, and walked in as quietly as she could to check on her family and her cats. Eve and Val were both still asleep, Val's curly hair barely showing from behind Eve as he cuddled beneath the blankets on the side of the bed closest to the wall. Eve's cheeks were red.

The preteen found her cat, Leah, sleeping in front of the fire in Eve's room, and Cassie up in the window in the parlor. She set out a little food for them, just out of gratitude that they were safe, and hurried back outside, leaving a small trail of puddled footprints that would surely have aggravated Eve if she was feeling better.

This time, up on top of the Round Tower so she could both check her progress on Sonic and look for her brother and Mr Joe and the truck, she actually saw the truck coming up from the visitor's center parking lot area. It was moving very slowly and almost unsteadily, and she knew instinctively that her brother was driving.

Probably a mistake,” she said under her breath, and ran down to open the vehicle gate after making sure nothing resembling a rioter was anywhere she could see.

She had several funny things to say planned out to make fun of her brother's driving, but fell silent when she saw Will pull in with no sign of Mr Joe, Will's face stricken and grey.  She closed the vehicle door in silence.

Will pulled up beside the gun shed and parked the truck. He got out very slowly, closed the door and leaned against it, his forehead on the cold metal of the truck door.

Mr Joe?” Katrin asked softly.
There were zombies at the pharmacy. They... they got him,” Will said, his voice thick with tears. Kat ran over and wrapped her arms around him and let him cry for a moment, just a moment, before he manfully stood fully upright and patted her on the back.

Let's get Mom her meds,” he said. “Let's unpack.”

Night fell, and Will taught himself how to make toast in a fireplace for Val and Kat. He placed the bread slices directly on the surface of a hot, dry pan, flipping them carefully with his fingers and only singing himself once. When the toast was done, he fried up a can of Spam and made cheese cubes of the last of the cheese. The last loaf of bread was nearly gone, and Eve was too ill to eat, and more worrisome for Val, too ill to cook.

For dessert Katrin passed around hard candy and bottles of fancy soda from the gift shop she'd kept cool on the little landing outside the back door of the house.

There's a big kitchen in the basement,” she said as Will poked at the fire. She wasn't sure what to do with the used dishes, so she gathered them all up into one of the plastic bins. “It's got a real oven in the fireplace where people used to bake things like bread.”

I don't think we can bake bread – we don't have any yeast.”

Also, remember? You can bake bread in the dutch ovens in the fire – Mom did that at a pow-wow before.”

No yeast,” Will repeated.

We could make fry bread.”

Fry bread!” Val chirped. “I love it fry bread! Make mine cheese on top!”

We're out of cheese,” Kat reminded him.

Oh, no, my cheeses,” Val said mournfully.

Joe might still have some in his quarters,” Will said after a moment, and his siblings fell silent too.

Val finally cleared his throat. “Joe like me have cheeses,” he said firmly.

He wouldn't want us to waste it,” Will agreed. “I'll go see what we can use in the morning.”

Kat tucked Val in while Will emptied the commode out into one of the modern visitor's bathrooms; the one in the building used by the former employees had a shower in it and Will wondered if he could rig something up so they could shower there instead of having to sponge bathe.

You read me story,” Val demanded. “I want Where Wild Things Are.”

I don't have that book,” Kat said. “We left it at the apartment.”

You get me new one?”

I'll try,” she said, and kissed his forehead.

You tell me story. About Sharknado.”

Will checked his mother and gave her another dose of the antibiotics and pain meds, then went up to his room. He pulled the walkie talkie out and pinged Gary.

Young Will!” Gary said through the static just as Will was dozing off, exhausted.

Gary. Hi. We're here. Joe has been killed – the medic. He died today.”

I'm sorry to hear that, man. I'll have three young folks coming your way the day after tomorrow, though, you won't be out there alone long. How's Mother Eve?”

Her fever's going down, I think, but she's still pretty ill. We have the medicine for her though.”

Still not Red Flu?”

Definitely not. She was bitten, human bites are filthy.”

At least it's not like the movies – we don't turn from being bitten. And I do have some good news, for me at least. I saw Benjamin the jerk cat today! I'm tempting him into the apartment with food. I have to be careful because the biters eat the cat food if they smell it, and then they're crawling all over here again. But as soon as I have Benjamin, I'll be over too. I've got some solar power rechargers and stuff like that. Not a lot, but enough to recharge some batteries. And power the radios.” A long moment of silence followed. “Will? Will Aubrey?”

Will snored softly, the sound not picked up by the walkie talkie.

Will?” Gary tried one more time. Katrin heard him as she came in to check on her brother and tell him she intended to curl up with Eve for the night. She covered her sleeping brother up and picked up the walkie talkie.

He fell asleep,” she said loudly into the hand-held device, holding it in front of her. Will snored through the disturbance.

Well, goodnight, fair maiden, and keep safe.”

You too,” she said, giggling a little.

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