Nov 18, 2010
After the day everyone disappeared, she continued living in her tiny, efficiency apartment. It was familiar, and it was her place.
There were clothes and piles of books on the floor. Her bed doubled as a couch, and her nightstand was a milk crate.
She didn’t consider it looting when she went foraging for supplies at the empty stores in town. No one else was using any of it, and besides, it would otherwise go to waste.
Her apartment was in a house which had once been a single family home, but was now split into two apartments. The downstairs had a front porch, and she spent at least a few hours every day sitting on the porch and listening.
She would strain to hear the sound of a vehicle or voices. Her stereo was never on, despite the generator she had for electricity. She was afraid the music would drown out any sounds made by other people.
Sometimes she turned on her small portable radio and scanned for a station, but they were all quiet now.
Wendy had always enjoyed solitude, but she found herself growing restless and longing for human companionship.
She was perusing the canned fruit at a local grocery store when she heard their voices.
When she hurried outside, she came across half a dozen young men dressed in similar gray clothing. They all had rifles.
“Hi,” she said, tentatively, as all of their eyes fell upon her.
“Why don’t you come with us?” said one of them. She realized it was not a question.
She was afraid to argue with them, or to resist. She allowed them to lead her to a shabby van parked nearby, and she got in the van without protest.
By the time they reached camp it was dusk. She was definitely not the last person left on earth, as this camp was bustling with at least 50 people.
Her captors brought her to another group of young men dressed in all black. She had noticed that her captors, and many of the people at the camp, had a “Z” branded on their left hand.
This new group seemed to be the ones in charge.
“I think Nicholai could use some company tonight,” someone said. She was grabbed by the arm and taken to a young man working on a bottle of vodka. She supposed this was Nicholai.
He hadn’t said anything so far, but something in his expression disturbed her. There was emptiness in his eyes that made her want to shrink away, but she tried not to show it.
“Sit on his lap,” said the young man who had suggested this pairing. Perhaps he was the leader, she thought.
She sat in Nicholai’s lap. He did nothing to either encourage or dissuade her.
He was not a large man. Probably slightly below average in height, muscular but not bulky, and with close cropped light brown hair. She noticed the “Z” branded on his left hand when he lifted the vodka bottle to take another swig.
The rest of the young men drifted away, but she remained perched uneasily on Nicholai’s lap.
“My leg is falling asleep,” he said, finally.
“Oh,” she said. “Do you want me to get up?”
“Yes,” he said.
He gestured for her to follow him, and he led her to a small campfire, where he sat down on a rock, vodka bottle still in hand. She sat down on the rock next to him and he offered her the vodka bottle. She took a swig hoping it would ease some of her fear.
Not saying a word, he just sat there staring into the fire and drinking. She wanted to ask him what the hell was going on, what he intended to do with her, and what kind of insane cult was this; but she was afraid that any of these questions would make things worse for her, so she kept silent.
Nov 4, 2010
Nicholai awoke to the sound of voices outside. They were mostly male voices. There was some shouting, but mostly the tones were conversational. He lay on the mattress and looked at the inside of his van. There were makeshift shelves, made from milk crates, which were filled with comic books. Each edition was inside a plastic cover with acid free cardboard inside to maintain its shape and prevent curling.
The grass was still dewy when he stepped outside the van and started toward the center of camp.
“May I bring you something to eat, sir?” said one of the new recruits.
Nicholai shrugged, and the recruit was off in search of food.
As he neared the center of camp, he passed small groups sitting on the ground. Many of those he passed said, “Good morning, sir.” He did not respond to their greetings.
There was a single table in the center of the camp. The table was covered with food, mostly canned food. There was also coffee, and it looked like maybe even orange juice. There were also plates of cooked meat. He tried not to think about where the meat had come from.
“Here you are, sir,” said the recruit who had approached him earlier. Nicholai was offered a plate of food and coffee (creamer, no sugar), just the way he liked it.
The discussion focused on their current prey.
“There’s only two of them, and the woman’s pregnant,” said one of the men at the table, a muscular blonde of average height in his early twenties. “Should be no problem.”
“Then why didn’t you get them yesterday,” said Nicholai. The blonde flushed, and started to open his mouth.
“That’s an excellent question,” said the man at the head of the table. He was short, with a slight build, dark hair, and dark eyes that made most people uneasy. Everyone went silent when he spoke.
His name was Daniel.
“So,” said Daniel, turning to look at the blonde, “Why don’t we have them now?”
The blonde went pale and began to stammer. He mumbled something about them getting lucky.
Daniel got up, and slowly approached the blonde. “I can’t hear you,” he said.
“They got lucky,” said the blonde, in a shaky voice.
Daniel took a matte black, semi-automatic handgun and pointed it at the blonde’s temple.
“Maybe you got sloppy,” said Daniel.
“Please,” said the blonde.
There was a loud report, and Nicholai felt a warm mist against his skin.
“Somebody clean that up,” said Daniel as he walked away.
No one said anything for a moment.
“Served him right,” said one of the men at the table. Others exchanged nervous glances. Nicholai forced himself to stay at the table and finish the food on his plate. He said nothing.
After breakfast was finished, Nicholai went back to his van for his gear and set out to track the two who were the subject of the morning’s discussion. He knew that he was allowed his position, and allowed to live, because of his abilities as a tracker.
It also helped that he had a reputation as dangerous, which he had gained early on. This was a result of the first mission he was assigned.
Daniel told him to “Teach them a lesson,” and Nicholai was pitted against a settlement of fifty, and the results… The results had earned his reputation as ruthless.
He stayed in the trees as long as he could, then he skirted the empty parking lot and cut across empty backyards. There were clotheslines with sheets hanging on them in one yard, bright plastic children’s toys in another. The only sounds were from birds and the wind.
The RV was parked in a driveway, but he recognized it. The outside was slightly faded, and there was a satellite dish, and a couple antennas on the roof. The man was sitting on the front porch, smoking a cigarette. The woman was not in sight. She was probably in the house.
This man was unnaturally thin and wore a mask. This was the man who had eluded the search party of the night before.
Nicholai watched the house for hours, hidden in the yard next door by a privacy fence and unpruned shrubbery.
The man eventually went inside, and began to pack the RV. It looked like most of what he took was food.
The woman came outside eventually. She was pretty. She had unruly red hair to her chin, a nose ring, and tattoos on her arms and back. She was obviously pregnant.
Nicholai watched them finish packing, get in their RV, and leave before returning to the camp to report on his observation.