Saturday, August 2, 2014

Frybread, Cheese On Top

Occasional snowflakes drifted down from a blue sky as the trio headed back out on Ford Parkway toward the bridge and the Fort beyond.

I guess this is that blizzard Gary's going on about,” Ben said.

Terrifying,” Amanda said.

Down past the Petco near the bridge, Ben brought their small convoy to a complete halt, raising his hand excitedly, then pointing up the side road by the Petco.

A small dog of indeterminate heritage sat in the middle of the road, head cocked, staring at them.

Hi, puppy!” Ben whispered, his voice high and elated. “Hello, little friend!” He parked his bike and stepped off it, crouching and reaching a hand palm-up toward the dog. The dog began to bark and jump around in place.

Answering growls rose all around them.

Ahhh... we need to go,” Travis said.

Angry dogs!” Amanda said, and shoved forward on her bike, trying to move at a walk to not set them off any further.

Another dog came forward around the side of the building, body low to the ground, face pulled back in a snarl. The original smaller dog cocked its head again, then ran behind the snarling dog and mirrored its stance.

A much larger dog stepped out of the broken Petco doors, hackles raised, upper lip pulled back in a meaty, drooling, sneer.

Angry horse,” Travis whispered.

Ben backed slowly back onto his bike and slowly moved the kickstand up. “I think, when I say go, we... we take the hell off.”

Ready.” Amanda was already several feet in front of them.

Travis counted at least fifteen dogs inching forward from hiding places and inside the store.

Go!” Ben shouted, and off the humans went. Within seconds the dogs were bolting after them, some snarling, some perhaps just having a good time chasing bicyclers with their friends.

Keep Amanda in front, she's too heavy and she'll fall behind!” Travis said, referring to her trailer full of canned goods.

Fuck... you!” she managed, pedaling harder.

One of the bigger dogs came close enough to snap at Ben's trailer. Travis slowed down enough to end up alongside Ben and allow his trailer to nudge the dog. The dog sat down, tilting its head, as they continued away from it.

The other dogs caught up quickly, swarming past the sitting dog, and it joined the pack at the back. Within moments they were snapping at Ben's and Travis's legs, bikes, and trailers.

They're not trying to bite us,” Ben said.

Oh, I think they are!” Travis yelled, shaking a little one off his shoe.

No. Pedal faster.”

Fuck... you,” Amanda said, but they each bent lower and put everything into a burst of speed that took them onto the bridge. As they passed over the river, the dogs slowed and stopped, some sitting on the bridge, some standing vigilantly, some turning back completely.

They kept going until they were well out of sight of the dogs, then pulled to a stop at the Pergola Gardens; the gardens were on a smaller road that would connect with a bike trail that led all the way past Coldwater Spring and to the Fort itself.

Amanda's too heavy,” Ben said, catching his breath and sipping water from his Camelbak.

Fuck you,” she muttered around the Camelbak straw in her own mouth.

Ew. You're like a sister to me.”

Travis finished cleaning up the scrape from the small dog's teeth, when it had nipped at his foot. “Yep, it bit me.”

They weren't trying to attack us,” Ben said.

Oh, shut up, he probably has rabies now,” Amanda said.

Unlikely,” Travis said matter-of factly. “You look for rabies when a mammal behaves strangely and in unexpected ways. You can expect dogs to chase bicyclists.”

I think they were protecting their territory. And their food source,” Ben said. “They stopped chasing when we left their territory.”

They're holed up in the Petco,” Amanda said. “Makes sense, but we'll have to warn Gary, especially if he's bringing Benjamin through in a cage.”

We'll have to watch Travis for signs of werewolfery,” Ben said solemnly.

Or we could just kill him now,” Amanda said with equal solemnity. “Before he turns.”

A crazed beast in the night, driven by hunger and LUST.” Ben made a face of fear and horror.

That's you,” Amanda said.

It's time to go,” Travis said, pulling his sock back in place. “Let's get to safety first, you two can misbehave after that.”

No fun,” Ben muttered.

Will was watching for them from the Round Tower. He pointed them to the red doors at the front of the Fort, and ran to let them in, since the vehicle gate was again blocked by barrels.

He started to introduce himself when he opened the door, interrupted himself mid-word, and waited instead until everyone was safely inside and the door locked.

Will Aubrey,” he said, holding his hand out to shake each of theirs in turn.

Ben Graham,” Ben said. “And this is Amanda Johnson and Travis Green.”

Are you guys hungry? My mom's cooking. Wild rice soup with Spam in it. And she made fry bread.”

I am always hungry,” Ben said fervently.

Eve was sitting up in the dining room, now converted into her kitchen. Over the last couple of days as she'd recovered, she'd had Kat and Will bring in various pieces of furniture she thought would help her manage the house better, and had traded out some of the more delicate furniture from the commander's house.

In the now-a-kitchen, she had the yellow hutch from the basement pantry, a long narrow table next to it to use as a work surface, a wood bin in front of one of the built in hutches, and a battered looking table to eat at with benches and space for Val's wheelchair at the end. A sturdy chair sat near the fireplace, and it was here that Eve awaited them, still looking tired and a little sickly, but upright, cooking and directing traffic.

Will waved to his mother, then directed them into the parlor where Val and Katrin were playing; Katrin was playing paperdolls and Val was playing run over paperdolls with Hot Wheels. Here was set up a bookshelf for all the books Will had brought over from the gift shop and the few books, mostly Dresden Files and Katrin's Warriors books about clans of cats, that they'd brought from home; a wing chair for Eve and a rocking chair for Val, and a couple comfortable padded benches. There was a bin for toys near the door, pillows on the window ledges for the cats, and a few small tables for playing cards or doing crafts. Camp lanterns stood on the mantel, as yet unlit since cool winter sunlight was streaming in aplenty.

My sister Kat and my brother Val,” Will said, gesturing. Eve came to the door of the parlor, dressed in modern clothes but with an old fashioned calico apron covering her from throat to shins.

Hello,” she said, shaking their hands warmly. “You must be Gary's friends.” Travis felt a a moment of absurdity; all this introducing and welcoming very much like a normal afternoon Before, as if the world outside weren't mostly gone or turned to biters and death.

Hi,” Ben said, with his characteristic open friendliness. “You must be Mother Eve.”

Our glorious leader,” Travis said blandly.

She raised an eyebrow at Travis as Amanda stepped forward. “Hi. Amanda Johnson, student teacher, friend of Gary's, I don't know these two idiots.”

Eve Aubrey. Mother of the Brood – Will, Val, and Katrin. And those two cats being lazy by the fire over there are Cassiopeia and Leah.”

Aww kitties!” Ben cried, and ran over to meet the pets.

Where should we put our stuff?” Travis asked Eve.

Anywhere you like,” she said. “The whole place is currently empty, except for the commander's house. If you want an opinion, the basement here is nice – it's got several rooms and a big kitchen, but no bedrooms. It would be easy to designate bedrooms, though, and put something to sleep on in there. Or the officer's quarters, off on left there.” She gestured. “They already have beds.”

Beds hard,” Val said. “Need a shushins.”

Cushions,” Katrin corrected.

Five shushins.”


Go ahead and figure out where you want to set up,” Eve said. “And we'll eat when you're done. And call Gary and let him know you're safe,” she added, her tone befittingly maternal for the one Gary referred to as the Mother.

On it,” Ben said, taking a short break from rubbing Cassie's soft, pure white belly. He pulled the walkie talkie off his belt and pinged Gary.

I need to sit back down,” Eve said with a soft, apologetic smile, and Will hurried to help her back to her chair in the kitchen.

Mom's better, but she is still a little sick from being bitten by the zombies,” Katrin said in explanation. “It's not catchy.”

Should we do anything?” Amanda asked.

Nah,” Kat said. “Will gives her ibuprofen and stuff.”

All right, Gary's up to speed,” Ben said. “Let's find a landing pad and get back for dinner!”

Frybread cheese on top!” Val said happily, and ran over one of Katrin's paperdolls with his Hot Wheels.

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