A post-apocalyptic tale of fire, hope, and miles of open road.
It had been three days since the world had ended, for all intents and purposes at least. The three longest days of his life Peter thought to himself. He thought it had begun with a number of explosions, he now knew they were gas tankers, and even the underground tanks at gas stations. Those had been the worst, he had walked by, no, near a Seven Eleven, now reduced to a crater that was still smoldering, earlier. He had been there just five days ago, buying a six pack of Corona for him and his girlfriend to split. He hadn’t heard from Beth since the explosions.
She had called him to ask if he knew what was going on and to tell him that she was going to come home. The last sound he had heard on the other end of the phone, right after he heard her start the car, was another explosion. His ear had rung for a good hour after that, but no, he had to move on, he couldn’t think of that.
He passed hollow bits and pieces of metal as he walked down the road, that piece might have been a fender, that one a side panel on an SUV. Some of the parking lots he passed still had cars that were whole in them, but no one dared to turn them on, no dared to get close to them. A sound of metal scraping against metal made everyone jump, hands moving to the weapons they carried by their sides. A woman, maybe twenty-five, appeared off to the side of the road, pushing between pieces of two hulks, one of which might have been an F150, definitely the King Cab edition. She was crying, the tears smearing the dirt the caked her face. She approached cautiously, her hands clutched to her chest.
“Please,” she said between sobs. “P-please.”
“Hold on lady,” Sam said, a knife in his hand. Looking around, other people had their weapons in their hands as well.
“You hold on,” Peter countered. “Ma’am, if you will just stop there, I’m sure we can talk, and no one will get hurt.” This did not help the woman, whose dirty hair might have been blonde, but for now was matted with what looked like blood and soot. Her crying began to get heavier, her sobs louder. But she did stop. “What’s your name, miss,” he asked her.
“S-S-Sarah, with an H,” she stammered out, trying to control her sobbing.
“Well Sarah,” Sam began…
“With an H,” she added, clinging to something of her own.
“Yes, with an H,” Sam continued, “do you have any weapons with you?”
This was the fourth survivor that Peter, Sam, and the rest of the group had encountered, and after the first one had seen them and opened fire without asking questions, it sounded like a smart plan. The group, for indeed that was what it had become, consisted of himself, Sam, Julie and her young son, Kyle, Zachariah, and Amy.
“No, no I don’t.” She said, and the dress she wore did not offer many, none in fact, places to hide anything.
“Well Sarah, with an H, where are you coming from, and are you alone?” Sam asked.
“Yes I’m alone, and I was at TWU when,” she started crying again. Peter approached her, causing the rest of his group to tense.
“It’s ok, can you tell us what you saw?” Peter’s voice was low and soothing, or at least he hoped it was. He figured that her story was going to be the same as Sam’s, same as Amy’s, but he, no, they, they needed to be certain.
“Wednesday afternoon, about two, stuff started blowing up, gas stations, cars on the road. My Ethics class, we all went to see what was going on, and after everyone saw the smoke, they all ran to the parking lot.” She had been fine for the few seconds this had taken, but as she recalled the next bit, her sobs started again.
“It’s ok,” It was Amy. Those were the only two words he had heard her say.
“Well, my car was in the shop, so I had walked to class, so as I was walking back, I heard more explosions, coming from the parking lots, and as I got there, I saw Emily get into her car, and it went up in smoke and flames.” She forced the last bit out, but Peter could tell it was cathartic, her breathing became easier, her crying lessening. “One of the cars must have blown up a power line or something because I watched the school building go dark, for about a minute, and then the backup generator kicked in, and the next thing I knew, the school was raining down on me.”
Sam looked at Peter and nodded. “Gas generator.”
“Well, you come with us Sarah with an H, I’m Zachariah.” He held out his hand, an innocent gesture, which she shrank from.
“It’s ok, we haven’t shot you yet, we’re not going to.” Peter said. He saw the look of relief wash over her face.
“They did, they shot at me.” She was looking over her shoulder. “Yesterday, they shot at me.”