Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cain's Blood

This is the main bathroom we use,” Ben told Tammy, giving her the tour. She'd arrived just before dawn and had been waiting patiently just outside the front gate, knocking every now and then. Ben had found her, since Travis was nowhere to be found, not even already at Eve's mooching breakfast in that chaotic, welcoming kitchen. He'd figured out who she was pretty quickly; when she went by another name, she'd been mentioned enough by Gary, though Ben had never met her.

So now Ben was showing her around. She'd stowed her things in one of the barrack rooms, the one closest to the little Fort store.

This is the grey water barrel. We flush the toilet from it and we fill it from the shower water or wash water, et cetera. There's the shower, it's usable, we fill the camp shower with the hand pump. You can heat the camp shower up near your fire or in the window so it gets sun. Just... watch it if you put it near the fire. Eve's melted two now.”

Got it,” Tammy said. “Don't melt the camp showers. Don't bathe in the grey water. Don't flush the clean water.”

Well, that was simpler. I should make a sign,” Ben said, and grinned at Tammy. “Ok, come back to the commissary and I'll get you a camp shower and some food. Eve generally feeds people, too, but then you have to give her some of your food to refill her pantry.”

Eve was here first?”

No, a man named Joe Raymond was here first. He was killed. Not by Eve,” Ben added hastily. “Eve is our Glorious Leader.”

She's... kind of quiet for that, isn't she?”

She didn't assign herself that name. Gary appointed her. Travis, Amanda and I are her right hands. So she's like an octopus of some sort.”

I'm not trying to take her job,” Tammy said, her smoker's voice wry. “Just usually the Mad Max leaders tend to be way louder and way crazier.”

It's ok. Gary trusted her, we trusted Gary, so she's the boss until she says she's not.”

Trusted?” Tammy said, sharply.

Ben's usually grinning face fell. “Yeah. Gary's here, but he's passed.”

What do you mean, here?”

Gary lay in a large wooden box, far bigger than a regular coffin, on the bottom floor of the Hexagonal Tower, several floors below ground level for the Fort. There were arrow-slit windows here, as the Fort was built along a cliff, and this tower clung to the side of that cliff. Gary was tucked between two of the slits.

He's in here,” Ben said, unnecessarily. Tammy took a lighter out of her narrow-strapped purse and lit the candles set over the top of the box, solemnly.

Why...” she gestured at the whole setup when she finished.

Ground's frozen. Can't put him in the river – we don't know where the body will end up and we need the water. Didn't want to take him out of the Fort and risk him being eaten or us being attacked. So Travis and Eve – who has a creepy knowledge of body handling, by the way – figured this out. Gary's wrapped in a white sheet, then we put him in a barrel in the fetal position. The smell was not so nice by then. We filled the barrel with lime – Eve says it may preserve the body more than dissolving it. As I said, creepy. But he's in the lime, then we wrapped the barrel in plastic bags and duct tape, several times over, then surrounded the barrel in this box with more lime. Come spring we'll bury the barrel out by the chapel.”

Across that little bridge outside the Fort?”


Tammy lit a cigarette. Ben instinctively waved his hand at the smoke and she smirked a little. “These things will kill ya,” she said. “Don't pick the habit up.” She took a long drag.

No worries,” Ben said. Tammy looked around, noted the materials for more grave boxes stacked along a back wall. In carefully organized piles were wood, barrels, and bags of lime. Small coffins were stacked beside the barrels, Tammy could see at a glance they were too small to have fit tall, stocky Gary. There was a wood box filled with other materials as well, Tammy could see some plastic sheeting sticking up a little, and a long table in front of all of it. She glanced back at Ben.

You're prepared,” she said.

We're working on it. We weren't set up to handle dead,” he said, and she could see the pull of grief for Gary in his eyes. “All right, let's go to the commissary and see if Travis is around so we can get you some supplies.”

Travis ran to the front gate, yanking his jacket on as he went. Some idiot on the other side was blaring an air horn. He whipped the door open, Amanda on his heels, and glared out at the noise-making duo on the other side. Amanda had her pistol leveled at them even as Travis had the door opening.

The man on the other side of the door raised his hands, taking his finger off the air horn's trigger. The petite woman behind him followed his example. Both were completely obscured by their snowmobile gear, the visors of their helmets down and covering their faces.

Travis reached through the door and jerked them both inside, closing and locking the front gate as quickly as he could. “Who are you?” he asked, his voice so calm that Amanda felt a little shiver at the back of her neck. He was furious, she could tell.

Who the FUCK are you and your fucking air horns in the middle of the fucking zombie apocalypse, is what he means,” Amanda said, sharply. She lowered her pistol, but didn't tuck it away.

The man slowly lowered his hands, putting his air horn into the front pocket of his snowmobile suit, half sticking out. He slid up his visor, and the woman did the same. With a big pleasant smile that nonetheless caused a gut feeling of revulsion for Amanda, the man stuck his left hand out to Travis.

Edmund Bender. But you can call me Ed. And this here is Lila, my wife.” Lila raised a hand in greeting. She looked more than a little terrified.

Travis Green, and this is Amanda Johnson.” He shook Ed's hand briskly. Amanda settled her pistol into the holster and held her hand out to shake. Ed only seemed to notice her outstretched hand when Travis pointedly looked at it. Amanda made certain to shake Lila's hand as well.

First rule if you want to stay here,” Amanda said firmly to the couple, “no air horns anywhere inside or near the entrance of the Fort. The biters are drawn to noise.”

Oh, come on, they're all frozen by now,” Ed said, with a big blustery smile, and Amanda fiercely resisted the urge to punch him in his red, jerk face. She glanced at Travis and saw that he did not appear to be reacting at all.

They are not, for some reason,” Travis said. “But we can talk about that more at the evening meeting. Come on, I'll take you to meet Eve.”

You got this?” Amanda said, quietly, to Travis.

His face softened as he looked at her. “I got this.”

Ok,” she said. “I'm gonna go work on the school some more, then.” She leaned up the barest amount and kissed him on the mouth. He was still grinning from ear to ear when he turned back to Benders.

This way.”

The Benders settled in to the officer's quarters nearest Eve's house, the same quarters the trio had used when they'd first arrived. Travis found Ben waiting for him in the quartermaster's quarters when he led the Benders down that way for supplies.

One of those, eh,” Ed said derisively half beneath his breath when he saw Tammy, before Tammy and Ben stood and introductions could be made.

Lila hoped miserably that no one had heard Ed. She hoped they could stay here at least a little while without trouble, but considering the looks Ed had given Eve and his comment - “Nice place you took for yourself here” - to the younger woman as he'd looked around Eve's house, she had a sick feeling things were going to get uncomfortable and it wasn't going to take as long as it usually did.

Oh, Ed,” she whispered, and he gave her a sharp warning glare.

Travis went to the quartermaster's desk and pulled out his notebooks. “I'll get some supplies together for you guys and bring them over. Ben, wanna do the tour?”

I can do that,” Ben said. “Again. Ben, the tour MASTER. Ben was a ranger, manly and alone in the wild, rugged and unshaven, but now Ben is a tour guide.”

Dammit, Ben,” Travis began.

This way, fair maiden and Ed,” Ben said, dramatically. He led them out of the quartermaster's quarters, closing the door behind them with a flourish.

He was never rugged and manly,” Travis said, pained. “Or alone.”

I wasn't thinking he was,” Tammy said, with a half smile. “So Ben tells me you are the Master of Stuff.”

I'm sort of the de facto quartermaster, yes,” Travis said.

I have some ideas about how to help,” Tammy said. “And we can put the store to use.”

Travis perked up visibly, and Tammy grinned.

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