Oct 28, 2010

The Beginning

Nicholas lay flat on the roof of his RV and used binoculars to watch the men creeping through the woods. A blanket made the scalding metal roof bearable and a hunting rifle lay next to him. The men in the woods wore camouflage and carried assault rifles.
He scanned the deserted parking lot and wondered if they had taken enough ammunition from the deserted department store nearby. He took one more look at the men in the woods before climbing down from the RV and going inside.
The inside of the RV was quite warm despite the open windows and screen door. Grace lay sleeping on the couch. As he crouched down next to her he saw beads of perspiration on her temples and forehead. She was pregnant, and Nicholas was losing hope that they would find anyone with medical training before she went into labor.
“Grace,” he said softly, “We have to go.”
It wasn’t always like this. Before, Nicholas and Grace had worked for a traveling sideshow. Grace was the fire breather. She and her roommate, the tattooed girl, tried to lure people into the “Exhibition of Curiosities” where Nicholas was one of the “Featured Exhibitions”.
They woke up one morning to find they were the only two people left. The other RV’s and vans were empty, and the encampment was eerily quiet. Belongings were left untouched, but there was no sign of any friends or co-workers.
“Why are we leaving?” she said, still groggy.
“There are men sneaking around in the woods,” he said.
“We haven’t seen any other people in weeks,” she protested. “Why are we running away?”
There were times when Grace’s optimism and belief in the good intentions of others was endearing to Nicholas. This was not one of those times.
“I think we need to stay away from these people,” he said.
She gave him a skeptical look.
“Please?” he said.
Grace packed the backpacking pack as Nicholas started the RV and began to drive. Within a few minutes he saw a van coming towards them in the rear view mirror. He sped up and turned off the main rood as soon as the van was out of sight.
Nicholas remembered seeing an RV dealership on their way into town, and he hoped he remembered how to find it, and that it was as close as he remembered. He spotted the dealership, parked, and ducked into the back of the RV.
He motioned for Grace to be quiet as he listened for their pursuers. After he was satisfied that they had probably not been followed, he drew his pistol, and cautiously opened the door.
At first Grace protested when Nicholas insisted on carrying all of their gear, but she soon realized that he was slowing his pace so that she could keep up. She was still amazed at the strength in the bony frame of his body.
They were cutting through backyards in an abandoned suburban neighborhood when they heard the van again. Nicholas quickened the pace, trying to put distance between them and their pursuers.
Grace felt a sharp pain in her ankle as it twisted, and she went down. Nicholas was crouched beside her in an instant. He could still hear the van, and it was moving in their direction.
“You need to get up,” said Nicholas.
He helped Grace to her feet, but as soon as she tried to put weight on the ankle, she almost went down again. After examining their suburban surroundings, Nicholas half carried her to a nearby house.
Once he kicked in the back door, he helped Grace to a sitting position on the floor and barricaded the door with a mahogany dining room table, matching sideboard, and dining room chairs.
He went to the other end of the house, and she could hear him moving furniture near what was probably the front door. She tried to ignore her throbbing ankle and aching back as she strained to listen for any sign of their pursuers.