Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Fresh Poison Each Week

“So that's my plan,” Ben said, standing over the maps in the room adjacent to the new school room, set in the northeastern barracks. “Well, my ideas, for the week.

All the residents of voting age were present for the weekly meeting, the children having long lost much interest. At this moment the children were playing in the school room, building a sprawling town of Lincoln Logs and blocks. Occasionally Baby assisted in building, but her skill set lent itself better to the continual destruction of the town. Daria sat in, though she couldn't vote. She was able to speak up if she had a problem with or a suggestion for something being discussed, but she was here today in part because she'd been having contractions now and then, no more than a few a day, but enough that she wanted to be near Dana.

“Amanda and Lila to handle school this week. Tammy and Travis to install solar power for the school room, meeting room, and the bathroom in between so there can be heat and possibly hot water for showers, and access to digital educational stuff for the kids – and adults. Eve and Will to haul books and board games to the rooms near the school and meeting room, making this barracks a community area with a couple rooms reserved for residents, when they come. Ed and Ben to keep an eye on the alpha's group. Dana to continue to run the clinic. Et cetera. Until later this week, when the solar set up is done and running with all the supplies gathered from Home Depot, and then Amanda, Travis, Ben and Ed will go set out the traps gathered from the sporting goods store around the alpha's lair in hopes of bringing down the number of followers the alpha has, and maybe also taking out the alpha himself.” Eve pointed at each line of the list Ben had written on the whiteboard as she went.

“Yes!” Ben said, smiling proudly. “Ben is not merely a mighty ranger, but an excellent planner as well.”

Amanda rolled her eyes.

“I'm just really excited about making a library and community room,” Eve said.
“So on the days I'm not watching the alpha, what am I doing in this plan?” Ed asked. “Sitting on my ass?”

“You should get a day to do that, absolutely,” Eve said. “Everyone should. But on the days we're not doing something according to the list, we could use always use more supply runs with the plow and the truck or the snowmobiles and the sledge. Or hunting down at the state park, where you saw the deer run through yesterday.”

“Lila and me have the same day off there, we'll take the snowmobiles out for supplies. And on the third day off, I'll go down and hunt,” Ed said. “And if I get a deer, I'll share half of it.”

“Fair enough,” Eve said, talking over Tammy whispering “stingy bastard” to Amanda.

“I'll do some more fishing on my first off day,” Ben said. “And I'll take Amanda out with me for supplies on the second, if she promises not to be a butthole the whole time.”

“I don't,” Amanda said. “But I'll go with Ben. We can raid the bookstore some more and the pharmacy we've marked on the map there.”

“Keep an eye out for survivors,” Eve said. “Trust your gut, but bring them back here if it's feasible.”

“Aye, aye, Captain,” Ben said, saluting.

“I won't really have days off,” Travis said. “Between the installation, the fiddling, and keeping the quartermaster's place running.”

“Will and I can help with that,” Eve said.

“I am going with Ben and Amanda, if they need me,” Will said.

Eve sighed. “I'm a cool mom. I don't know why my kids don't want to hang out with me. I'm hip. I've listened to the trance music. I know what a pog is.”

“That's probably why,” Ben said. “That whole thing right there. We'll take Will if only to save him from becoming as cool as you.”

“Ok, fishing and helping and teaching,” Amanda said. “That's my proposed week, up until alpha ass-beating time.”

“Fuck yes,” Ed said with satisfaction. He high-fived Amanda.

“I'll help out in the school room and help run the store while Tammy's busy,” Lila said. At this point, while most supplies were stored in the quartermaster's building, weekly supplies were rotated up to the store, and given out according to Travis' strict lists and Tammy's own intuition. Some supplies were “floating supplies”, according to Travis, and could be bartered for with extra chores; Travis included candy in that group, and the kids often did extra chores in exchange for it.

“I don't have any of those big jobs,” Haley said. “I can help move books and games, help out in the warehouse, and help in the store.”

“When you're not in school,” Amanda said sternly. “Same for Will, by the way, Will.”

“I have no idea why I have to know algebra anymore,” Will groused. “Algebra died in the riots.”

“Algebra is eternal!” Travis said.

Ben flicked his finger against the back of Will's head. “How are you going to maintain the electricity if you can't do math?”

“School,” Eve said sternly. “All the collected knowledge of mankind rests on your shoulders, suck it up.”

“Can we vote on it now?” Ed said testily. “I've got a day off to get back to after this.”

“All in favor?” Eve said, though she expected no nays, and this time,there weren't any. Not like the time Ben tried to hand out titles to everyone, though he still used those titles from time to time. “Schedule carried. Have fun,” said Disco Queen Eve.

“Finally,” said Facecruncher Ed.

“I didn't realize we had this many books here already,” Will said, unhappily, carrying his fourth box of the evening in from the porch after dragging them up to the library from the quartermaster's warehouse. Eve gave him an amused look as she sorted through the boxes. Shelves had been dragged in from the hospital, from various rooms around the Fort, and Amanda and Travis had even spent an evening assembling the ones they brought from the Target next to the Home Depot. There were several comfortable chairs, two writing desks, and a wide table with chairs around it all set up in the first room. In the second, where the board games were stored, there were three smaller tables with four chairs around them; the chess table had been left in the store itself, where people stopped in and played Tammy when she wasn't busy. Oil lanterns cast a welcoming glow from the writing desks, the hearth, and the table in the middle of both rooms. A fire muttered and snapped happily in the hearth in the first room, casting enough warmth for both rooms on this relatively mild evening. 
Near the porch door of the library, Eve was setting up a make-shift card catalog and a loaning center to keep track of what they had and what people had borrowed. As she pulled a book out of the box, she made a note of it on the note card for the card catalog, title, author, type of book. The back of the card she left blank for people to pencil in their names as they checked the book out, then they would put the card in the note card box next to the card catalog, the one she'd painted the words “Loaned Out” on. 
After Eve sorted and recorded the books as they came out, Haley and Daria would shelve them. Daria had made signs for the different bookshelves in her neat bubble script, denoting non-fiction, reference, survival, horror, humor, fiction, science fiction, fantasy, romance, kid's books, and craft and cooking. There weren't enough shelves or yet enough books to need more categories than that. Haley had organized the board games with the kids games on the bottom shelves and the more adult games higher on the shelves, on a deeper shelf near the door that led to the hallway with the schoolroom, meeting room, and bathrooms.

Eve paused for a moment in her work. “This place really makes this seem like a real community,” she said. “Like we are a very small town, something like that.”

Daria sniffled. “I'm so glad we are here. That the baby will be born in a safe place with all these people around. I was afraid she'd be coming when we were hiding in that half-burned out apartment building with Dana.”

Eve hugged her. “I'm glad you're here too.”

“I'm glad I can be the one to haul all these books around while you women hug each other and cry!” Will said, disgruntled. 
“I'm glad you're a big strong man who doesn't complain about helping,” Daria said, sweeping her lashes at him.

Will blushed furiously, stammered for a moment, then hurried out to take the sled to get the last boxes of books from the warehouse.

“Nicely done,” Eve said, raising an eyebrow. “Very nicely done.”

The four worked in silence, setting out and marking the traps with blaze orange ribbons, hurrying to get the entire house surrounded with traps before the sun started to go down and the zombies inside started moving around. The house was a lone building at rest at the end of a long, curving, snow-covered driveway, nestled near the river itself and surrounded by woods. Easy enough to surround with traps.

The group backed off as soon as they'd finished, meeting up near the deer stand.

“Maybe we should have baited the traps,” Ben said in a low voice, worried about being overheard.

“Not this time,” Ed said. “We'll try baiting next.”

“This might induce the alpha to move along,” Amanda said. “That would be good for the fort, but if he does, we should track him and figure out where they've gone.”

Travis climbed up into the deer stand, lifting up the binoculars to view the house lair.

“So far so good,” he said, climbing down and putting his snowshoes back on.

“I really want to bait the traps,” Ben said. “I have some sandwiches in my pack. We could bait a few of them.”

“Jesus, if it's going to help you sleep tonight, fine,” Ed said. “Go on, I'll keep a look out.” He slung his rifle over his back, took off his snowshoes, and climbed up onto the deer stand high in the tree above them.

Ben handed out sandwiches to Amanda and Travis, keeping a couple for himself. 
“Let's focus on the ones away from the fort,” Travis said.

“Good idea,” Amanda said. 
They moved off in their snowshoes, heading for the far side of the house. 
“Go fast,” Travis said. “It's not long before dark.”

They separated, fanning out to each put a sandwich in several traps, hurrying back towards each other afterward. Without talking, they headed back toward the deer stand.

Ed was upright in the deer stand, one knee on the seat, his rifle held up and ready to fire, aiming back toward the house.

“Movement,” he said tersely, just loud enough for them to hear.

“Do not fire that weapon,” Amanda said. “Ed. Don't fire. It will tell them where we are.”

“I told you, movement. Get going.”

“Don't fire until we're farther away, then,” Amanda said. “There's a cave up that way we can take shelter in and defend ourselves from. Give us five minutes.” Ed glanced down at her as she pointed toward the cave and her companions started moving in that direction.

Returning his gaze to the zombie lair, he fired his shotgun.

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