And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow-
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?”
“Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied-
“If you seek for Eldorado!”
The Wagon train, if two wagons, a herd of horses and two cows could be called a train rolled down the pitted leaf and debris strewn road that had once hosted 18 wheel trucks and wide variety of personal vehicles. The light morning fog hung heavy over the fields to either side of the road reducing the world to a shadowy mysterious place where anything could lurk.
The wagon creaked and swayed as it rolled through misty morning, its Driver, hat pulled low over his face, had a rifle close at hand. Hard, dark eyes searching for threats as his mind mulled over the problems he faced.
Driving a wagon took little skill as far as Darius was concerned, he held the reins loosely as the horses plodded down the road, the sound of their hoof falls muffled by the mist and leaves that covered the road.
He shifted uncomfortably, trying to lean back in the too hard seat in hoping that would lessen the steady throb of pain from his ribs. Like most men who had rodeo’d pain was something they were used to and Darius had always had a higher pain tolerance than most. But it seemed the last few years he had begun to feel the aches and pains a little more than he once had.
I am honestly getting tired of being in pain, he told himself. The older I get the more things seem to hurt worse. He thought with a mental shrug and a lop sided smile. Some people had it a lot worse than he did. He knew that at some point he would either be dead or find that he would have to spend his elder years huddled beside a fire in pain and dreaming of his youth and youthful women. You know you probably will not live that long, he told himself. With luck I will get thrown from a horse and bust my head open long before that becomes a issue.
He glanced at the open atlas on the seat beside him, their goal circled in red, White Mountain in the State of Kentucky. Elevation 1127 feet more or less, assuming he was reading the elevation correctly. If nothing else happened, they would be at their destination tonight or first thing tomorrow morning.
Of course they would have here much sooner but Lee had insisted on slowing their travel times to give Darius more time to heal up which had ended up adding four more days to their time. Then there had been the inept band of thieves who had attempted to raid them, using rocks and sticks. Then life had once more thrown a wrench at them when the Van had developed a flat tire putting paid to any plans they had about reaching the mountain yesterday. Instead, they had spent the entire day searching for a replacement tire for the Van.
Luckily, they had found three intact tires on rims, in an old barn, that had fit the lug pattern of the Van. Once the tire had been changed, they had traveled as far as they could in the few hours of daylight remaining.
A horse loomed out of the mist ahead indistinct at first then growing clearer with each step.
Travis, Wearing an old faded Boony cap, a stained sweat shirt and faded jeans, waved as he turned his horse to ride along side the wagon beside Darius.
“You look like a pioneer heading west,” Travis teased. His riding skills had improved in leaps and bounds Darius thought feeling a stir of almost fatherly pride. Travis chuckled, then pointed out into the woods. “I swept the road for two miles or so ahead then cut through the woods and took a look at the old pastures on both sides, didn’t see much, and the road is clear enough, nothing that will slow us down at rate.” He said then smiled at Darius. “By the end of the Month you can retire old man and let me run the show.”
“Don’t get full of yourself kid, the minute I can sit in the saddle, your back on this seat. Splinters and all.” Darius warned the kid who grinned then turned his horse and rode ahead with a Jaunty wave of humorous disdain.
Darius pulled the battered cowboy hat he wore down lower on his head, feeling a little apprehensive. This was exactly the kind of weather to stage an ambush, the mist would make it hard to see any one lying in wait along the road, bandits were not all that uncommon these days and Dutch’s crew was out there somewhere as well.
Odds are they will hit us on the mountain, like us they had to have seen the lights and any one with half a brain these days would head for any place with electric lights. So the mountain is probably where any fight will occur, he told himself.
Despite his belief in where the attack would come he wasn’t going to take chances.
He had already paid the price for being careless and taking chances and wasn’t going to allow it happen again by becoming so enamored with his own opinion of where the enemy would attack that he got shot up again.
The sun rose higher the mist slowly faded leaving a bright clear morning and a deep blue sky dotted with fleecy clouds.
The road, what was left of it ran through a wide hollow between two tall tree covered hills. The forest had reclaimed huge areas of old pastures and lawns, and had grown thick along side the road. Through gaps in the trees Darius caught site of old fields and collapsing homes. But there was not a single sign of human life anywhere he looked.
It was beautiful country, he thought and normally the forested rolling hills, high ridges, Rocky knobs, rock chimneys would have drawn his eye in appreciation for their wild beauty.
But today like the last three days, it was the mountain that kept drawing his eyes, what was really up there? He knew that Lee and the others all had dreams of finding food, or some kind of miracle technology that would make life a little easier. Or even a group of scientists just waiting for some wanderer to come by so they could share their miracle technology that would restore peace, power and hot showers. I personally would settle for a working toilet and a shower.
Darius didn’t know what was up there, but he suspected all they would probably find is some solar power set up that had survived the years. That was far more likely than anything else he could think of.
They rolled through a town called Hestand. The homes and business were scattered along the roads, most sat in the middle of old fields and Pastures. Nothing here was what once would have been called modern, but they had been well-built, comfortable homes and once popular double wide trailers.
There wasn’t much of a town any more. What fires hadn’t taken, years of neglect were claiming. Everywhere he looked were sagging roofs, broken windows and collapsing porches. a long stretch of road had been washed away through the center of town.
They made camp in front of an old church, classic Americana, the clabbered sided walls covered in old peeling white paint. The pride of the Church, an antique piece of Stain glass had been broken by falling tree limp that still lay in the window frame. The steeple sagged to one side and would no doubt come down during a storm in the next few years.
Once they had camp set up, Darius entered the church. It was like stepping into the netherworld. Darkness hovered in the corners of the old sanctuary, hiding from the beams of light that spilled through broken windows and holes in the roof.
It was musty inside the church with the smell of mold, and something that set the hair on the back of his neck to standing on end. Underneath those other smells, was the rot of the undead, a foul putrid stench that would never be forgotten by those who had survived. It lingered here in the ruined house of God a reminder that hell on earth had come once and could possibly come again.
Frowning and on edge he took a few steps into the building and stopped again seeing the bones that littered the aisles and were scattered on the pews. Human bones that had been gnawed on by animals. He ignored the tiny skulls he saw, even now some things were just not worth contemplating if he wanted to stay sane. He had no idea how many had died here, and he wasn’t going to count the skulls to find out.
Darius turned and walked out of the gloom and unburied dead into the bright light of day and the fresh crisp scent of fall that hung in the air. As he gazed across the old parking lot and across the crumbling road to the field beyond he took a deep breath to drive away the smell of must, mold and old death.
Hearing Travis laugh he turned towards the camp and had to smile as he saw Adam walking around on his hands, holding a ball between his feet. Lee was sitting on a log he had dragged up, sewing a pair of leather pants together. Anna sat on top of the Van, keeping watch, occasionally using the binoculars that hung around her neck. Noah sat beside her, working on a new bow stave with hand tools.
Adam was only the second little person Darius had ever met, the first had been a rodeo clown and far from normal regardless of his height. Adam was as he had explained to Darius a few days ago, a midget by definition, under 58 inches and normally proportioned. He wasn’t abnormally short, people like Darius were just freakishly tall he had explained then grinned.
Darius might argue a little about the use of the word normal, Adam was solid muscle, wide shouldered, a narrow waist with thick arms and legs. He was more like a fire plug with an attitude.
It didn’t really matter to Darius what Adam was, short or not the man had skills and was a good guy to boot. But all of Adams off hand cryptic comments about Lee’s experiences during the years of the walking dead had Darius all mightly curious.
Retrieving his guitar from the wagon Darius went and sat beside Lee, who glanced at him then nodded a greeting. “so what did you in the circus” Travis asked Adam who was now juggling knives.
“A little bit of everything to be honest. I grew up in a circus family” Adam replied as he juggled faster. “over the years I did a Strong man act, sometimes Helped with the clown shows, set up the big top, worked with the animal trainers. But I started off doing acrobatics and trapeze work.” Adam said then sent each knife flying into a tree trunk nearby. “knife and axe throwing too.” He said with a grin.
“I remember my folks taking me to a circus when I was little, I loved it.” Travis said softly. “cotton candy, I miss cotton candy.”
“I miss a lot of things, but the smell of cotton candy is not one of them.” Adam said as he walked over and gathered his knives.
By the time they had cooked and eaten dinner, talked a little about the world before the dead and their dreams of what was to come. The last band of lingering light that lay across the horizon was fading into a silver and cobalt night sky. Darius played his guitar for a little while. Exhaustion was setting in, it had been a long day and he wasn’t fully recovered. He cased his guitar and yawned hugely. “I think I am going to turn in, Travis hobble the horses and put them on a line for the night if you don’t mind.” He said rising to his feet.
“I think he is milking his injuries to get out of work” Travis said rolling his eyes, then chuckled.
“just wait till tomorrow, I feel a case of weakness coming on.” Darius replied as he spread his bag and blankets out underneath the wagon.
It was just before dawn when Darius awoke. A light mist barely seen in the silvery blue light of Predawn covered the ground. Quietly and with only a few winces and a gasp of pain or two he made his way over to the fire pit.
Adam lay wrapped in his sleeping bag, a much patched and battered looking bag that had been cut in half and had its bottom sewn closed to fit its owner. Darius stirred the coals up out of the ash and slowly added twigs and blew till flame erupted. It hurt to sit on his knees and it hurt even more to bend over and blow on the coals but he ignored the pain.
Once he had a small fire going, he mixed up his chickory/dandalion concoction and placed his blackened and battered tin coffee pot in the coals beside the fire. the fire felt good, he thought as it chased the chill away from his bare torso.
He looked up at the sky, where a few stars still lingered. Glittering like jewels just out of reach. He rocked back on his heels and gasped from the pain that flared in his leg, not smart, he told himself.
At least I am not wearing my spurs at the moment, He thought chuckling. His Grandpa had often shared old cowboy wisdom and one of the main ones had been “Boy, never squat with your spurs on” his grandfather had been full of old sayings, about everything from the cowboy code to theft.
He smiled thinking of another one and how it applied to what they were going to do today. “boy careful is a naked man climbing a barbed wire fence” Darius smiled suddenly. Funny I never really noticed that almost every sentence from him started with either Boy or Son, except when he was pissed off at me for some stupid stunt like the time I rolled his old truck into the stock pond and he had to drive Roy Stockton’s, the ranch foreman, Chevy into town. His had been a Ford family and his grandfather driving a Chevy had been like inviting Satan to Sunday lunch.
Those moments when his grandfather had been pissed, had usually resulted in the use of his entire name followed by a carefully chosen string of expletives that blistered skin and left no doubt how angry his grandfather had been.
Still smiling softly at the memory he gazed up at the mountain, today we find out what’s up there.
“Your going to tear the stitches out” Anna said quietly from behind him. He twitched in surprise, not having heard her approach.
“Some one had to get the fire going.” He replied as she sat on a rock near the fire and stretched out her hands towards the flames. For the first time since he had first seen her she was dressed in Jeans and a long sleeved mans shirt. Both were faded with age, patched and carefully mended.
“True and if you had torn them out and bled to death the rest of us would be very warm. From the fire and digging your grave.” She said brushing a lock of errant hair from her eyes. She absently tucked it behind an ear, dark green eyes watching him intently. He was struck again by how attractive she was but gave no sign of it. Not the time or the place and she aint more than twenty two, maybe twenty three.
Not that age mattered much these days, in a land where people were scarce you married who you chose, who you could catch or who would have you. The Zone and some of the places around the zone, still held to old standards or at least close to the old standard of a minimum legal age ranging from 16 to 18, in one place he had been it had been 20. That was pretty stupid in his book but there you go. Other places were not so picky in fact they couldn’t be picky. Not with populations heavily slanted to one sex or the other or a even of ages .
He ridden a scout mission for the Zone into Georgia to check out a Reactor that the Navy technicians were looking to take parts from in attempt to get the reactor North of Sullivan working. He had passed through a town where population was oddly mixed, A little less than half of the population had been forty to fifty year old men, with a handful of women over 18, and the bulk of the population were young girls, most 15 to 18. they had been students of an all girls school nearby when the dead rose.
To say he had felt a little creeped out meeting a fifty-year-old man with a fifteen-year-old wife was an understatement but till Darius’s arrival those people had seen no one else from outside their area since the dead had risen. They had believed they were all that had been left of the human race and who could blame them for that belief.
They weren’t the only group of survivors who had adopted new social rules to cope with the end of the world. That had been the one that he had seen first hand that bothered him.
He could understand why it had come about, personally, the idea of marrying a kid repulsed him and to be bluntly self honest, he had been extremely lucky to have ended up with something like a normal life with plenty of people of all ages after the dead had stopped moving
He had no idea what had become of those folks. When he had been there it had been three years after the dead had finally stopped moving, a total of five and half years of being cut off from any one else, he thought. He had wondered how they were getting along now, but had never returned.
He poured himself a cup of ‘coffee’ then offered Anna some. She shook her head and began to set out the things she was going to need to cook Breakfast.
“Please tell me its not Anna’s turn to cook” Adam grumbled from his sleeping bag.
“You can starve if you like” she stated.
“I might live longer starving to death. If you have rations, eat them Darius” Adam said poking his head out from his sleeping bag. “Vultures wont even touch her food.”
“I can cook if you want, I’ve been here long enough I should take a turn.” Darius offered. Then took a sip of his coffee watching her over the rim of his cup.
“Oh be my guest, I hate cooking anyway” Anna said stepping away from the table and motioning for Darius to take her place. Besides I am tired of listening to Mini me complain about my cooking.”
“My Stomach, and my throat thank you Darius” Adam said sleepily then pulled his head back into his sleeping back.
“Is your food really that bad” Darius asked as he got out some of his own supplies to add to the meal.
“Worse, Actually” she said with a laugh. “before the dead the only thing I had ever learned to cook was Mac and Cheese, I was pretty young back then. Till I met Lee and his people, what I called cooking was making sure any meat I ate wasn’t raw.”
“And she didn’t do a good job of that.” Adam said from his sleeping bag, his voice muffled.
It was amazing how well these people got along, Darius thought as he got to work fixing breakfast. Pre dead breakfast might have been fancy, but these days not so much. by the time he was pulling the bacon out of the skillet, the rest of the group had awaked and gathered around the fire eager to consume a breakfast of Cornbread, oatmeal, bacon, a little of the grits Darius had horded along with fruits and hard cheese made in Porters town.
“Better than the burned water and soggy rocks Anna makes” Adam muttered around a mouthful of cornbread.
“Its not that bad” Lee argued.
“no her food is usually worse. Stop defending her.” Noah said with a grin as he wiped bacon grease off his plate with cornbread. “I miss eggs” He said. “back at the house, we have chickens, fresh eggs every morning. Should have brought a few chickens with us for eggs”
“You would whine if the best looking woman in the world offered to sleep with you” Lee said as he patted his normally flat stomach .
“Sadly the best looking woman in the world happens to be my sister which is a bit gross to think about.” Noah replied. “No offense Anna”. Anna just gave him a put upon yet indifferent look of dismissal.
“A bit?” Adam asked. “and your talking about my wife you pervert” He turned to Anna. “you need to ask Darius how to make Cornbread. This stuff is to die for, I wish I had eaten it before the dead.”
“You can learn how to cook for yourself” Anna said as she rose and went to wash her plate. “and thank you Darius.”
“no problem,” Darius replied. “Once we check the mountain out, I will go hunting. With some fresh venison I can make you a stew that is just this side of heaven.”
After Breakfast, Darius worked the horses, giving Lee and Noah time to get acquainted with the mounts Darius had chosen for them to use today.
Working the horses at least let him get a little exercise and limber up some before they headed up the mountain where an ambush surely waited as well as what ever threats the facility up there might offer. he tried to ignore the fact that his injuries limited what he could actually do with the horses, so he gritted his teeth against the pain and did what the could.
As he worked, he thought over the best ways to deal with Dutch and his crew. He didn’t have the supplies to make more than a couple of pipe bombs, but did have enough ammo to cut a wide swathe through the gang.
He didn’t realize how much his emotions were showing on his face and in his movements.
Travis leaned against a tree trunk watching Darius as the older man worked with the horses. Darius was already covered in sweat and dust and it looked like he had healed up a lot in the two weeks since being hurt. He was no where near a hundred percent though that would take weeks longer. .
“He is an odd man” Adam said. Travis turned his head to gaze at Adam who had come to stand beside him. “If he doesn’t slow down and take some time, he might end up on his back again.” Adam said.
“Probably, to be honest I haven’t known him more than a month and half or so. But he is the most determined man I have ever met.” Travis said.
Adam shrugged slightly watching the Cowboy work then said. “He is friendly enough but, I get the idea that he is impatient.” Which was an understatement, since Darius had become mobile; he had done as much as his body allowed resting only when he had to. “ The Impatience seemed driven by more than just being eager to get better.” Adam said. “And at the moment he looks angry”
“I guess he is” Travis said noncommittally.
“Travis, anything he does will affect my friends and I. So if there is something we need to know I would appreciate it if you spoke up” Adam said getting right to the point.
“All I know is he plans on going to pay Dutch and his crew a visit once this is out of the way and I think he is going to ask you to go with him to meet his friends so he can pay you with extra supplies. That’s all I really, half know.” Travis replied.
“Why did you start traveling with him?” Adams asked changing the subject abruptly.
Travis stood there thinking for a minute before he answered. “at first it was because I wanted to learn a skill and figured I could get rich by learning how to find and catch horses to train and sell.” Travis said then pointed to the wagon. “see that Wagon, He got that wagon and most of those supplies just from Trading two horses plus tack. If I had that kind of wealth I could ask Ursula to marry me.
But you know its not just about that now, in a really short time he has become a real friend to me.” And maybe more, Travis thought but didn’t’ say it. In a whole lot of ways Darius had become a father figure to Travis in the very short time they had known each other. Travis hadn’t had any family since the day the dead had stripped his family away leaving only nightmares and restless nights.
“Goals are a good thing, so are friendships and if I am not mistaken He is going to need your friendship very soon.” Adam said watching the Hunter who was lost in concentration as he finished working the last horse. The man was grim faced and was gazing not really at the horse but some where only he could see, it was a look that veterans used to call a thousand yard stare.
Travis had a hundred questions, a couple of them were, wanting to know what Adam was driving at, had Darius said something and many more but the question that came out was “why do you care?”
“Why? It’s been ten years since the world ended and in that time I’ve met more self centered, Anti social, violent sociopath’s than I ever thought existed. Finding a man who basically takes a strange kid under his wing with no other motive than to teach the kid something worthwhile and treats him like an equal is even more rare. The last time we met a man who had taken a kid under his wing, we hung the sick SOB from a tree.” Adam paused searching for words then shrugged again.
A thought struck Adam as he watched Darius. “Lee was like that when I first met him,” Adam said then chuckled for a second as what he had said struck him. “ He wasn’t a pervert sorry, I was thinking about the Hunter and Lee.
Lee had spent a long time alone and was unable to open up to any one much less himself about what haunted him. He was scared to get close to any one, afraid they would be cursed like he was.”
Travis’s gaze sharpened as he saw Adam shiver and something very much like fear flickered in the mans eyes. “in the end the only thing that really saved him was friendship. I think Your Hunter is the same way, his problems are different but I think he needs a friend or… a son to make it through.”
Darius finished with the horses, walked to the back of the wagon where he stripped off his dirty clothes and used a little of the water to wipe himself down before pulling on some clean comfortable clothes. He had never been all that modest, most of the cowboys and cowgirls who rode in Rodeos weren’t. Though you could say every one had their own degree of modesty.
So unlike other people he hadn’t really noticed or cared that one of the first casualties of the apocalypse was modesty. The vast Majority of survivors had been crammed together for two years with no privacy, and human nature being human nature they had ended up seeing and doing many things with other people around that they would never have dreamed of pre dead.
But today as Darius turned wiping his hair with a towel his shirt unbuttoned and found Anna sitting on a stump watching him, he felt a little self conscious about it. She had obviously seen far more of him over the last two weeks than just a bare torso, in fact just moments ago she had seen pretty much everything. And not a bit of that rationalizing mattered as he felt his face heat and knew he was blushing, he grunted a greeting then tossed the towel onto the back of the wagon and began to strap on his weapons and gear.
Thankfully she said nothing to him, because he had no clue what he might have said in return. It would have ended up being some idiot jumble like, yeah Sex with you would be hot, but I can’t, I want to but I cant because I have this really hot woman waiting for me that I think I love only I don’t know if I do, and yes your really hot and sex… anyway her name is Bekka and I think I love her and she would castrate me, torture what was left then kill me slowly for having what would probably be great sex…. And why did you just slap me.
Yep that’s about how that conversation would go. Something about that woman just gets me tongue addled. I need to live by another one of Grand pa’s rules. ‘never miss a good chance to shut up’
It all boiled down to a couple of things, I do not know what I want. I’ve liked Bekka since the moment I first laid eyes on her, and I really want to give that a chance and of course now I keep finding myself attracted to every woman, and knothole this side of the Mississippi. Okay not every woman, he thought remember a couple of them that gave him the shivers.
And I am pretty sure the only reason Anna makes me a blithering idiot is simply because she is female, attractive and close by and because I have been alone for a long time.
Once he was dressed and kitted out, he went and saddled the horses that he, Lee, and Noah would be using. Saddling his own last and trying to ignore the sharp bursts of pain from his ribs and the low mutters of pain from many other spots as well. Travis hovered nearby ready to help if he needed it, but acting busy trying not to look like he was hovering nearby ready to help.
Darius was half amused by the younger mans antics but said nothing. His thoughts were focused on keeping the pain away and making his body do what he told it to do with out protest. A battle he was losing, but no one could have told by the calm, almost serene look on his face.
Once he finished saddling his horse, he stood there holding the reigns watching as Lee swung into the saddle of the Sorrel from Darius small herd. He smiled and rubbed his jaw showing off the now neatly trimmed blond beard and mustache. He had even cut his hair into something more or less like fashionable hair cut. A hair cut given by a blind barber, missing two fingers using dull scissors.
He looked a little nervous on the back of the Sorrel but not much and he sat the saddle like some one who had ridden before. Darius had broken the Sorrel himself. He had been one of those horses whose resistance was more show than substance and it had taken to the saddle faster than most.
Lee gathered up the reins and smiled at Darius. Like Darius He rode western, both reins in one hand, leaving one hand free. it had become really popular in the last decade or so of the old world for people to ride with a rein in each hand like they were driving a cart. Of course those people hadn’t been real cowboys, raised working cattle and rodeoing either.
Darius drew in a deep breath of cool morning air, savoring it. He loved the fall up in this part of the country. Some of the trees already had leaves changing color. Soon the forest would be a splashed with red, silver, and yellow amidst the green. Back in Texas, where he had lived there really hadn’t been much of a fall. It just went from hot to warm, with some cool nights in the fall. The cottonwoods lost their leaves, and the pines stayed green. At least there had been a few days of cold during the winter. Winter the one season that God should have banned as being pointless and a pain in the butt.
Anna stood off to one side, watching quietly. Her dark eyes focused on Darius more often than not. He said nothing to her, to be honest he wasn’t sure what to say. better to let her make the first move in conversation.
Taking a deep breath and preparing himself for pain, Darius climbed into the saddle, hiding the pain he felt or trying to. nothing could have stopped the low gasp that escaped him as he settled in the saddle.
“You sure your ready for this” Lee asked looking ten years younger with his beard trimmed and his haircut.
“Ready as I will ever be” Darius said, watching the muscular, usually confident Noah awkwardly mount the horse he would be riding. The younger man sat the saddle like a man waiting to find himself airborne. “relax Noah, horses can sense when your scared of them.”
“I am not scared of the horse, just gravity.” Noah said taking up a rein in each hand. “You can stay here and Travis can come if you want.” Darius offered.
From over by the wagon, Adam began making chicken sounds. Noah shot him a glare that should have peeled the remaining paint from the van but didn’t. Adam only grinned back.
“if he wasn’t married to my sister I would stuff him in a pet carrier and bury his tiny ass.” Noah muttered then grinned. .
“the last resort of a desperate man, short jokes.” Adam laughed.
“Keep it up Hamster date, you cant hide behind my sister for your entire life. oh wait you can, your small enough.”
Adam laughed again as he slung the rifle he carried across his back and waved as the three men rode out of the camp. Noah clutching the saddle horn with one hand, uncomfortably aware of how high off the ground he was and how big the horse under him actually was.
“what the hell is this place” Possum asked himself as he studied the dead man through his binoculars. The dead man in question, Formerly Dana Wilmont, was impaled on a spike that had been mounted on a arm that was attached to a tension device. The instant the device was tripped the spike came swinging out impaling who ever was standing there.
Possum had spent two days now creeping around the perimeter of the fenced off property, finding all sorts of booby traps, ranging from mines, to pits with spikes in the bottom. Not to mention the weirdness factor.
All along the fence, were crosses of every size and material. Some of them were even made of gold and covered in Jewels, worth a fortune in the old world and no doubt stolen from some large church or museum.
All along the fence line, especially around the gate were human bones, the skulls had been taken and piled up just inside the gate like some kind of obscene trophy.
“don’t bother to ask for volunteers” Quigley said with a sharp unseen shake of his head.
“Never thought about it” Possum said. It was true he hadn’t thought about because there was no way either of the two men with him were going to volunteer and he had no way to force them even if he wanted to try, which he didn’t. “but we are going to have to go in there sooner or later. There could be food, ammunition, anything in there.” and then again it might just be empty and the lights were just part of some still functioning solar system that hadn’t crapped out like the rest of Technology over the years.
“Do we really want to kill the hunter” Toby asked suddenly in a very quiet voice. “I mean….”
“I know what you mean, and I generally agree with you. But this was Dutches decision not mine” Possum said flatly. Then sighed and raked his fingers through his dirty sweat slicked hair.
“Dutch has always left the final decision up to you on jobs like this. I think we might want to strike a truce before the Hunter heads on back and starts killing every one. One bomb in the house and he gets most of us.” Quigley said, though Possum doubted Quigley cared about what might happen to the others back in Porters town being much more concerned with actually living another day.
Possum said nothing, and they hadn’t expected him to. That was his way, he would listen and then chew over the ideas and suggestions of the men with him before reaching a conclusion and even when he already knew the outcome he would quietly consider other options on the off chance there might be another and better way to deal with problems and obstacles.
His reinforcements should be here tonight, or early tomorrow and that increased his options but there was no way those men were going to allow him to just use them to soak up traps till what was left got through to the compound. No there had to be a better way, something he wasn’t seeing, something he hadn’t noticed.
“we make another circle of the place, Quigley you’re the best at drawing so sketch out another map as we go, and we can compare it to the others and check any new details we might have caught this time that we missed last time.” with that he led the men back into the woods. it would take them several hours to go all the way around the fenced off area and by then it would be close to dark and time to head back to their small camp where hopefully reinforcements were waiting.
Leaves skittered across the road as it they turned off the crumbling pavement and onto a washed out gravel road. over the years the trees had grown closer and taller, till now the limbs arched over the road twining together to form a canopy that lifted and moved with the wind. Years worth of leaves, fallen limbs and even bones covered the trenches and holes that water had carved.
Darius brought his horse to a stop and climbed from the saddle having seen a sign half covered by Honey suckle and some kind of climbing vine on the side of the road. Drawing the bowie knife he wore on his belt he cut away the vines to reveal. “Wyatts Farm, a USDA/U partner in….” the rest was covered under rust and bullet holes.
“USDA” Noah said sounding disappointed.
“if it was a secret facility do you think they would have just put up a sign saying ‘Secret Facility keep out’” Lee said.
“I wouldn’t be getting your hopes up” Darius warned. “ I grew up in Texas, in Ranch and farm country. There were several farms and ranches that worked with the USDA to develop new ways to operate ranches or grow crops.” His uncle had also mentioned genetic modification of cattle and crops, cloning and other things but Darius had no clue how much of that was actually true or just another stupid conspiracy theory. Either way he wasn’t holding his breath over this being a secret Cache for the Government.
He walked stiffly back to his horse and gingerly climbed into the saddle, then took out his rifle to have it ready in case of trouble.
With the other two men trailing behind him, he rode forward letting the horse pick its way along the road that began to switch back up the mountainside. Halfway up the steep angle began to flatten off to something easier to climb and thankfully the road widened which gave them room to go around the rock falls and fallen trees.
Darius was just about to ride around a bend where a limestone chimney rock thrust into the sky, when he heard a horse shriek in panic and Noah gave a strangled shout. He turned in his saddle and saw Noah hitting the ground and the Roan lunging back down the road aways before coming to a stop.
“Guys” Noah said sitting still as a stone. his eyes wide and dark in a face as white as a sheet. “Rattle snake, staring at my nuts.” his voice trembled with fear and a sheen of sweat covered his forehead.
Darius started to dismount but Lee waved at him to stay in put. “just stay calm Noah, don’t move.” Lee said calmly as he pulled something from a pouch at his side.
Lee walked calmly over to a spot where he could see around the pile of rock and fallen trees that covered half the road at that point. the angry snake that was tightly coiled, the upper third held stiff and shaped like a S, its rattle shaking violently. Lee bent and picked up a large stick with one hand, his eyes never leaving the snake.
With a loud whistle Lee smacked the stick on the ground drawing the snakes attention. Damn it was fast, he thought as the snake coiled around to face him. “that’s it, you just focus on me” Lee said. It was at least six feet long, which meant at worst the damn thing could strike a distance up to four feet. or more with my luck Lee said as he stepped back and let the stick fall. The snake moved towards him maybe a foot than coiled up again.
“Noah do not move, not an inch.” Lee said as he pulled a lug nut from a pouch on his belt and placed it in the cup of his sling. He took another step back, knowing he was about three feet from the edge of the road and a very long and painful fall down a steep mountains slope. The Snakes flat dead eyes were fixed on him, forked tongue darting in and out. It was tense and ready to strike, if Noah moved it would be on him faster than he could blink.
He started the sling spinning, the snake only stared at him, then probably taking the sound of the spinning sling as a threat or challenge the rattlesnake advanced another foot forcing Lee to retreat to stay just out of the range he thought the snake could strike.
“You just keep watching me” Lee said, a tight smile of pent up fear on his face.. “faced worse than your sorry ass.”
Later Darius still couldn’t quite recall the event clearly, one second Lee and the Rattle snake were facing off and then suddenly the snake was halfway to Lee, who calmly let loose the bullet in his sling. The heavy lug snapped out smashing into the head of the Rattlesnake with a crack knocking it to the ground. Lee leaped forward and stamped a foot down on its head then decapitated it with a knife. “well that was exciting” he commented.
“I think I peed my pants” Noah said as he slowly climbed to his feet. the color was coming back to his face but his hands were trembling.
“no thinking about it” Lee said chuckling as the tension flowed out of him. “you did.”
“Great” Noah said looking down. “ at least mighty mite isn’t here to see it” wiped at his pants then gave up. “ I think it came from under that rock, all I know was the horse leaped straight up and twisted around throwing me out of the saddle and there was that damn thing almost between my legs when I sat up.” Noah said as the shakes set in now that the adrenalin was fading.
Darius rode up and dismounted, “Never saw some one use a sling before, that was a hell of shot.”
“it was luck” Lee said with a shrug. “I should have just found a bigger stick and whacked the crap out of it, pinned it and killed it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that aggressive. Most times they will slither off if given the chance.”
“luck? Tell me your kidding” Noah moaned shaking his head.
“Lots of Animals are more aggressive these days” Darius said as he knelt and picked up the dead snake. “well this will add something different to dinner.”
“You cant be serious eat a rattle snake.” Noah protested.
“Two things.” Darius said holding up two fingers “Yes I am going to eat it” he said folding a finger down “ and Two, it was going to bite your balls”
“I hope it tastes Good and do you have hot sauce” Noah said then laughed at himself.
“Actually they do taste good and I have all the stuff to cook this thing with. Besides I refuse to leave an animal to rot if it can be eaten.” Darius said as he stuffed the snake into a bag and hung it off his saddle.
“ You must have had a field day with road kill then?” Noah called out as he walked back to get his horse.
“Always carried a shovel in the truck just case.” Darius said as he remounted his horse.
Lee barked a laugh and swung onto the Sorrel. “Well its not a wasted trip, I guess since we got dinner.”
“Just hope there aren’t any more of them lounging around here.” Darius said.
Near the middle of the mountain, the road leveled out and ran along the flank of the mountain through thick woods then angled down slightly for two hundred yards till it emerged in a meadow on what he could only call a plateau or maybe a mesa. Darius wasn’t really sure what to call it. What ever it could be called officially it was a large and mostly wooded area that would have made a great, hard to access homestead in the past.
He drew up his horse and stopped just at the edge of the meadow under the shadow of the trees to look over the meadow. The grass looked course and knee high, and thousands of flowers, of red, blue, yellow and white carpeted the meadow. Cutting across the middle of the meadow was a fence with old faded signs. Lee started to ride past Darius to get a closer look but Darius stopped him.
The rusted chain link fence was eight feet high topped with razor wire, vanished into the woods on either side of the meadow. Evenly spaced along the fence were crosses. From what he could see from here, most of the crosses were simple home made affairs, two boards nailed together but others gleamed in the sunlight, a few with the mellow yellow glow of gold. In the high grass animals had worn a maze of game trails.
“Something isn’t right” Darius said softly then pointed to a spot about twenty feet out from the fence. Lee looked closer and saw a narrow pole sticking up from the grass. It was narrow enough and stuck up maybe eight inches above the grass and weeds that it was barely noticeable. And in bad weather or at night you wouldn’t see it at all. Darius pointed again at another spot and again there was another narrow pole about twenty feet from the first one and another one twenty feet away from the that one. They ran the entire length of the fence he could see.
“Wait here” Darius said as he climbed from the saddle. He passed his reins to Noah then moved slowly up the road towards the half open gate and the deserted guard shack.
“Well look at that” Quigley said peering over the top of a fallen log. They were on a slight wooded rise overlooking the meadow and the gate. “it’s the Hunter”
“do not shoot” Possum said quietly.
“not planning to, But maybe a booby trap will get him for us”
“Not that bastard, he has the luck of the devil.” Toby commented.
“at least we know he is here. I want you two to head back to the camp and as soon as the reinforcements arrive Take them to that flat topped rock on the east side, I will meet you there at sunset or shortly after.” Possum said watching the Hunter move slowly along the gravel road, Occasionally stopping here and there to squat as if studying something on the road or along its edges.
Possum still hadn’t decided how he was going to proceed, but he was going to make plans for every eventuality he could think of. And Right now his plan involved letting the Hunter find and disarm booby traps, and if the man was killed then Possum would just head back to Porters Town with the news.
Darius crouched beside a lump of leaves in the middle of the road no more than sixty feet from the gate. From the pile of leaves extended a thin braided cable, almost invisible unless you were close and looking for traps, either end of the cable was connected to a narrow pole to the right and left of the road. what the cable might connect to under the leaves he could probably guess.
Gently he cleared the leaves away, his hands slick with nervous sweat. The leaves fell away revealing that the cables connected to a green metal canister. The writing on it had faded into an illegible mess years ago, but Darius didn’t need to read it to know what the thing was. Some one had mined the road.
Great, just great. I know how to make pipe bombs and a few other childishly simple devices to blow bad guys up with. But disarming a professionally made device?
Disarming it looked simple enough the cables connected to what looked like pull tabs, he thought back over all the devices he had seen in movies, magazines and in the armory on Sullivan island. He didn’t remember this type of mine and even if he had wouldn’t have meant he knew how to disarm it.
But what he remembered was bad enough, some mines could go off from just being moved a hair away from where they had been placed.
Okay simple enough, really cut the cables close to the poles. The poles are painted PVC so they probably aren’t part of some kind of circuit and that should also put me a safe distance away if the damn thing goes off.
Unless the real devices are really under the poles and this one is a decoy… Way to get paranoid, he chided himself as he moved slowly back then over to the pole on the left. his side, leg and shoulder hurt like hell but this had to be done, if not they should leave and not look back.
Some one has something to protect if they are putting out mines though, he decided pulling an old leatherman multi tool from his back pocket. Before he could change his mind, he cut the wire with the multi tool pliers and then exhaled sharply with relief when nothing happened.
I don’t get it he though looking back along the road, every ten feet along the road were solar powered garden lights. Just like the kind you used to be able to buy in any store. Not something you would expect to see along a road leading into a government facility.
Yet there are mines on this road and presumably in the grass out there too, between those poles you can see sticking up. He turned his attention back to the fence and the guard shack and frowned thoughtfully.
Once the road passed between the gates there was a parking area just to the left, where a ford F 150 sat covered in bird droppings and old leaves. To the right of the shack and maybe twenty feet into the facility was a shed that looked like an old weather monitoring station.
“get a move on” he said aloud. The longer he squatted here the more pain he felt. with a sigh he set to work. Twenty minutes later he had worked his way up to the half open gate, cutting cables and marking a path around the minds by pushing aside leaves and debris till the ground could be seen.
He leaned against a fence post, holding his side giving himself time to let the pain fade to manageable levels while Lee, leading Darius horse and Noah rode up to the gate.
Lee sat his saddle looking around at all the bones scattered about the gate and along the fence line, all of them human. “I guess there were undead just stacked up along this fence when the end came for them.”
“Probably” Darius said not eager to get back in the saddle. Just mounting up was going to require more pain. And chances were good he was going to have to dismount again and again to check things out. Walking seemed like the better plan at the moment he decided. “But if there was some one alive in here at the time, why didn’t they move all the bodies. Not even counting the possibility of disease, all those bodies had to have stunk to high heaven.”
“maybe there is some kind of bunker, so the people wouldn’t have smelled it.” Noah suggested.
“Look at the weeds on the other side of this fence, the guard shack is half covered in vines, the gate is half open and has been that way for years” Darius pointed out.
“Except that its been opened and recently” Lee said leaning down out of the saddle to look at the hinges. “ there’s no rust on the hinges.”
“I be damned I missed that” Darius said moving over to look at the hinges. Sure enough where the hinged pivoted was, the cup and arm as it was called, was not only free of rust, but looked a little shiny like some one had applied a little grease.
“Now that you two have out tonto’d each other, can we get onto the lone ranger portion of todays program” Noah said dryly.
Once Darius had fully examined the gate for booby traps and found one, a trip wire that would might have sent a man on foot falling into a row of spikes hidden in a pile of leaves just inside the gate. He swept the leaves away from the spikes and pulled up as many of them as needed to allow the horses to pass through in safety.
“you need to rest for a few minutes” Lee said as he dismounted. Darius nodded taking the reins of both horses and then leaning against the wall of the guard shack. Absently petting and stroking the neck of his horse with one hand, while Lee entered the shack and Noah waited rifle in hand, still in the saddle.
Neither men had a lot of Ammo, but a single bullet sometimes was enough to drive off danger. But not always, at that point usually, it devolved down to hand to hand weapons. Or for Lee a sling before the enemy got to close then switched to something to stab them to death with.
If the old pacifistic types had survived, they would no doubt be horrified at the result. Men hacked to death, the survivors splashed in blood. They would probably have demanded a return to fire arms if only because it was generally more antispectic in appearance. Darius had never been a pacifist, but he wouldn’t have minded before the dead, and especially since the dead, a world were violence had been removed.
Well its not going to happen in my life time, so forget it. Darius silently told himself. The best you can hope for is build a community that’s safe for the people you lead, and that will mean having to kill any one who seeks to destroy or harm it. One day though the roads would be safe again. Violent men would be forced by law and society to keep a tight rein on their actions. And I will probably be dead by then. He thought watching the spot where the road entered the trees.
“its empty” Lee said emerging from the guard shack. “some one stripped out all the wiring, electrical box with its breakers, everything.”
“Not surprised” Darius said as he ignored the pain and stiffness to stand straight. ‘
“lets go check the rest of the place out.” Darius suggested. “but let me go first.”
Lee nodded taking his reins from Darius.
“Lead on, Tonto,” Lee said with a strained smiled.
Darius, leading his horse started down the old road. what ever this place was, it wasn’t some super secret government facility. He thought spotting more of the solar powered garden lights lining both sides of the road.
Reaching the spot where the road entered the trees, he spotted a string of Christmas lights on both sides of the road, strung from tree to tree. They were solar powered LED lights and would probably last for a several more years.
He couldn’t see the solar panels for the Christmas lights. Most likely they had been placed up in the trees on a branch that allowed them to catch plenty of sunlight. Under the trees only a couple of the Garden lights had been placed, those probably didn’t work well if at all.
He found six more booby traps, from holes with spikes inside to trap and tear at feet, to swing arms made from small trees with spikes on the end and six more mines.
Through the trees, he caught glimpses of buildings and open ground, the road curved after twenty yards and then he got his first glimpse of the place they were seeking.
“What the hell?” Noah said seeing what lay ahead of them.
I have no idea what this place is, Possum thought as he turned his gazed back to the facility that lay spread out below him.
He had spent two days exploring the area around the place, mapping every rise and fall and making note of landmarks before climbing the slope of the mountain to look down on the place.
Like most places in this part of the old US, the hills and mountains were deceiving, from the ground, it looked like high ridges and knobs and mountain tops. Small mountains granted and nothing like the mountains he remembered from Colorado and Arizona. But the truth was this entire area was part of the plateau.
so you could climb three hundred feet up a hill or ridge and find yourself on flat rocky top, the trail down the other side might only go fifty or a hundred feet and place you on a flat area between the hill you had climbed and the next one, after that the hill you could find yourself climbing down a steep hill into a valley five hundred feet down.
It was a jumbled land of heavily forested valley’s, tabletops, flat top ridges and mountains that could and did hide large Valleys at all elevations that had once held towns and farmlands.
The Facility itself lay a hundred and fifty feet below the crest of the mountain, in a large valley or maybe the area was called something else since it really was more plateau formed by multiple hills and the mountain itself.
All this thoughts came and went quickly barely registering with his conscious mind, it was the facility that held his attention.
The road rose up from a Narrow valley, into a widening gap that had once held a town before climbing 900 feet up and over several hills before passing through a heavily forested area of rolling ground that still held the ruins of homes and barns.
The Facility sat in a heavily wooded area surrounded by low hills and a double row of fences. But in the center of the of the place was a huge field that encircled a ring of old trees. In that ring of Tree’s lay a Two story Farmhouse, old and out of style long before the dead came. To the north behind the house were two rows of large green houses, two Large Metal buildings, a large cinderblock building and a low single story brick building that looked like an old school house from the fifties. The roof of the old School house, as he now thought of it, was covered by Solar panels.
At night the place blazed with lights that marked the ring of trees, paths and the road itself. But the lights they had seen from a distance were the ones that lit up the roof and the area around the old school house. Big industrial type lights that could be seen for miles
Over the Last two days as he had watched the place, he had seen at least four people moving around down there. mostly going in and out of the green houses with baskets. If Dutch could take this place and keep the men from going nuts and tearing it apart they, the entire gang would be set for life. Hell if they could keep those folks down there alive and get them to work with the gang, they could expand the number of plants and start exporting crops to the surrounding areas and become like Kings.
He shook his head slowly, No matter what he wanted or what Dutch wanted for that matter, keeping some of the Gang from going on rampages and destroying shit when they were angry was almost impossible. Dutch ran a tight crew, but it still happened no matter how many Dutch had killed as an example in the past.
Conner was a perfect example of that, he had seen the lessons Dutch had handed out and still the man raced off to do something he knew would most likely lead to his becoming a lesson for the next man down the line. Thank God, that small band Connor had put together to go after the Hunter had been almost completely wiped out.
He had no doubts Connor would have come storming in here, killing and destroying things to get to the Hunter. Instead of seeing this as a place that should be guarded and protected if, they ever hoped to live better than scavengers.
In the center of the pasture was an old house, with a large metal building just to the north of the house. Behind the house he could see the roof of a silo and a barn and hazy mountains beyond that.
“What is that?” Lee asked pointing towards a one of the poles that rose up out of the weeds. Darius shrugged as he studied the curving line of poles that looked like they might ring the property. Atop each pole was a bell.
“I have no clue, maybe each pole is part of an IED”
“odd” Lee replied as they rode past the poles.
The road, or actually drive way curved towards the house and as they drew closer Darius could see that some one had actually mown the lawn inside the ring of trees.
Darius drew up just before the mail box that had been made to look like a barn with a cow and farmer whirly gig on top. “now that’s something you don’t see every day” he said gazing at the house.
Rising up from the mown line, like some strange Opium inspired Stonehenge, were three rings, the outer ring just beyond the trees were old garden gnomes, with bells taped to the hands or pointy hats. The next ring ten feet beyond were dress makers dummies, mannequins, and even hand carved figures each with a cross nailed or taped to its hands, head or jutting over a shoulder. The third line was more poles. And every where he looked he could see Solar powered garden lights, everything from the small path lights to the tall lights made to look like old street lights.
Spotlights were mounted on the eaves of the old two story house and Solar panels on the roof glittered in the sunlight.
Some one had added what looked like an sheet metal church steeple with a large cross at the top to the roof of the metal building.
“I think we should just turn around and go back, I don’t like this” Lee said looking around intently.
Darius dismounted and started towards one of the Garden gnomes only to stop short as a Old sounding voice rang out. “You might want to stop right there son”
Darius stopped holding his rifle almost casually looking towards the house. The front Door swung open and a thin, stoop shouldered man, with thinning silver hair emerged. He held a Springfield 1903A3 rifle and wore faded and worn overalls.
Darius watched as the man walked a zig zagging path through the yard, seemingly unconcerned with Darius’s presence.
Finally, the older man reached a point about ten feet from Darius and peered owlishly at him through thick glasses. “I haven’t seen a horse in years” the old man said, smiling at the horse for a second then turned his attention back to Darius. “What do you want?”
World peace and a steak dinner, was the thought that ran through Darius’s mind, “we were just checking the place out. We saw the lights and came to see the place. We have stuff to trade too if your interested.”
“If you had come up here at night, you would have been killed.” The old man commented. “ before we go any further, you need to open that mail box and stick your hand inside.”
“whats in side?” Darius asked, not willing to humor this old fart.
“Nothing that will hurt you if you’re the right sort.”
“and if I don’t”
“Then I will have to decide if I need to kill you or send you packing.”
“whats the right sort? And what does it have to do with a mail box?” Noah asked.
“disgruntled former postal worker” Lee muttered, apparently the older man had sharp hearing. He barked a laugh.
“aint nothing in that mail box that will hurt a normal person. So do it, or lets get the dance started”
“Daddy, enough” a woman called out as she emerged from the house. “they aren’t infected.” She was dressed in dress that had been made from something that had probably started life as a drapery.
“None of them start off looking infected do they” the man. “but then they change and they have servants.”
“Daddy the ones that come up here, never stop to talk. They just attack. these folks are being polite and when was the last time one of them was polite.” She stepped off the porch and started towards them, taking the same complicated path the man had.
up close she was a striking looking woman with strong features and a solid build. She gave the impression of strength and being delicate at the same time. her green eyes were flecked with amber and slightly curly honey colored hair fell in to her shoulders.
“Damn it girl,” The man snapped as she came to stand beside him.
“can it Daddy,” she replied cutting him off before he could launch into a tirade. She studied Darius then the other two men for a moment. “I am Dr Lili Sandoval, and this is my Father Gil Sandoval. This is his place”
Darius introduced himself then Lee and Noah as the Gill glared at him.
“look he wont calm down or be happy till you stick your hand in the damn mail box.” Lili said as she stepped over and opened the door to the mail box and shoved her hand inside. “He has gotten a little obsessed with the idea of the supernatural threats,” she said as she reached into the mail box. “Including things like Vampires, and werewolves” she added as she pulled out Garlic bulbs and wolfs bane flowers. “so just touch them and make him happy. Not that garlic and wolfs bane ever stopped the zombies.”
“Aint for the zombies” Gil muttered. “its for them. I seen em lurking around out there in the woods at night over the last week, probing, looking for a way to get to us.”
“What is he talking about?” Noah asked, being the least tactful of the three men he felt it was his duty to get to the bottom of this before it dragged on and revealed the unsurprising news the man was a nut case.
“a group of men and women, infected with something. Makes them look almost like the undead, damn sure act like the undead except faster. Usually you can hear them raising hell up there on the mountain before they attack. Henry found one of their camps a few weeks ago, but it was an old one.”
“infected? With what” Lee asked, looking up at the mountain crest.
“I have no idea, I am not a medical Doctor.” She said with a shrug. “If it had been only one guy I would have guessed leprosy but its more than one, so maybe its some kind of combination of things like, Rabies, and flesh eating bacteria.”
“oh great, check out the mountain with lights you said, it will be fun you said. There might be scientists and hot showers you said. Instead we find a Farm, this is a farm right, being attacked by rabid, rotting nut cases”
“Are you always so dramatic?” Darius asked Noah with a smile and shake of his head.
“Only when contemplating my imminent death at the hands of rotting cannibals.” Noah shot back then laughed at himself..
Darius reached out and took the garlic and wolfs bane from lili, seeing Gill relax slightly he passed them to Lee, who sent handed them off to Noah before Lili returned them to the mail box.
“In answer to your question, yes this is a farm, yes there are a couple of scientists and hot showers here, yes the infected are cannibals, yes they have attacked us off and on for the last few years. But we think they are part of a cult, Henry can tell you a lot more.” She said then turned to Gil, “ are you happy now?”
“Not really that one looks shifty” Gil said pointing at Darius, then cracked a smiled. “I am not insane or that old thank you. Just keep your pants on around my daughter and we might get along.”
“Daddy!” she said sharply.
“Just making sure there aint no misunderstandings.” Gill stated. Then he did something that surprised Darius, he winked
“Take em on back to the house, while I go gather the others.” Gill told her as he turned and started towards the metal building.
From high above the farm a figure crouched on a rock watching the farm below. he lowered the telescope he held, and scratched idly at the open sore on his cheek. Turning at a noise behind he smiled seeing the young girl who stood there. Willowy, with long dark hair, she held the hand of her mother. A woman that had once been well known across the nation. Now her eyes were unfocused, her mouth slack, who ever she had once been had died many years ago drowned by insanity.
The little girl smiled up at the man on the rock, the smile went no further than her cloudy dead eyes. Eyes she had inherited from her father. He knew what was to be done, The Brother hood of the dead would take the farm this time. But first they had to clear out the camp of interlopers.