Hollow World Chapter 4Mature

The walk was rather uneventful, although they heard gunfire off in the distance, that was really something that they had grown accustomed to.  They kept their ears open though, listening for more sounds of explosions.  Not one of them wanted to be the first to try to start a car and die in a fiery explosion, so they were letting others make those mistakes for them.  As they walked, they could smell smoke in the air.  Looking south, and west, they could see clouds of smoke coming from both Dallas, and Fort Worth.  North Texas was still burning.

They had to backtrack twice.  Once, to get around a large pile of rubble that had once been a six-story bank, its top floors now occupying space in the street, glass shards covering everything.  The second time, the women came across a pack of dogs, fighting over what may have well been a man, lying in the middle of the street.  The gunfire had become subconscious, almost a white noise, and the occasional explosions, had they not been listening for them, were no longer shocking, just a fact of life.  The snarls of the dogs though, as they ripped whatever it was apart, stayed with Amy and Sarah, and would cause many waking starts in the future.

The women walked into the CVS through the hole where one of the front plate windows had once stood and realized that their chances of finding any food were probably somewhere between slim and none, and finding the supplies they needed for Zach were about the same.  Walking back toward the pharmacy, they heard glass breaking from where the coolers were in the opposite corner of the store.  Looking up an aisle, to where the noise was coming from, Sarah noticed a bottle of beer go rolling across the floor, the top off, the foaming liquid tracing a path on the floor.

Amy looked back over her shoulder at Sarah, motioning with a finger to her lips to be quiet.  Sarah nodded silently and they proceeded toward the pharmacy.  Once there, they discovered that not only was the area where all the prescription medicine kept still untouched, but most of the over the counter stuff was still there as well.

Amy whispered to Sarah to grab a bag and fill it with basics, like Tylenol and band-aids, which Sarah began to do.  Amy began looking for some large size tweezers, as well as a quiet way to get into where the real medication was kept.  Trying the door, she found it locked, and decided that she would need to hop the counter.  Taking the gun from her pocket and setting it on the counter, she hopped up and immediately knocked a display of lip balm on to the floor, making a loud clatter.  She heard another bottle break, and then the noise on the far side of the store stopped.

Sarah’s eyes widened, but she was able to stifle the scream welling up inside of her before turning around and walking fast towards the front of the store.  Amy quickly hopped back behind the counter, grabbed the gun, and stood there defiantly, as a man wearing a white polo shirt and blue jeans came around the back of the aisles.  The shirt was covered in foam.  In one hand he held a half empty bottle of beer, and the other held a revolver.  He looked through Amy, his eyes taking a moment to focus on her, and then the gun that she had pointed at his chest.

“Don’t try it mister, all I need is medicine for my friend.  Someone shot him yesterday, and I don’t want any more trouble.”

The man looked as if he was trying to comprehend what she was saying but was having a difficult time.  That was when Amy noticed Sarah sneaking back up behind the man with a thick metal cane in her hand.  She must have found it at the front of the store, Amy thought.  “Come on mister, go back and drink some more beer, you can have it all.”

The man looked to be considering this before he started to raise the hand containing the beer, looked at it, and chose to raise the hand with the gun instead.  “Lady, the beer ish….that beer ish mine and…..”  he began to slur before the cane slammed down on top of his head, and he crumpled to the floor.

“Let’s get finished in here and get out before he wakes up,” Amy said. 
Sarah appeared near tears as she reached down to where she had dropped her basket when the lip balm had plummeted to the floor.

“You did good.  You might have even saved my life Sarah,” Amy said, smiling.

“With an H.”

“Yes I know, Sarah with an H.  Now let’s get the things I need and get back to Zach so we can save his life too.”  She did not think Zach’s injury was that bad, but wanted to instill a sense of urgency in Sarah.  “Can you get me a couple of bottles of iodine and some rubbing alcohol too, and if they have any matches, we could use more of those as well.”

Sarah went off to gather those few things while Amy looked for some pain killers, something to keep the swelling down, and something to stave off infections.  She settled on a few things, dumped them in her basket, and that’s when she heard gunshots.  They were close by, but they were not inside the store.  In fact, Amy thought, they sounded like they came from back toward the house.

Hopping the counter again, Amy decided to take the revolver from the man, who had not moved, lying where he had fallen.  She went over to the where the food was kept, and found Sarah already there grabbing some boxes of crackers, some cereal, and whatever else she could fit into her basket.  Amy helped her, filling the remaining space in both baskets with more non-perishables, before Amy took Sarah’s arm and said, “Let’s go.”

Amy walked out of the hole in the glass window and started to head back toward the house before she realized that Sarah was not with her.  Turning back, she found Sarah standing at the window, just inside the store.

“What’s wrong?”

“Don’t we need to pay?”

Amy smiled, “No one is here to take our money, and I don’t think paper means that much anymore, come on.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, let’s get going.”

Sarah walked out the window, and they both started the return trek to where Zach, Peter, and the rest awaited them.  Not even gunfire greeted their entrance into the world.  The wind carried one thing with it, and it was not sounds of distant laughter, it was not even more explosions.  The silence greeted them with smoke. The smell was becoming very strong.  How far would the fire spread before it burned itself out?  They had gone about half a mile when they noticed the form of a man bent over another body, in the middle of the street.

“Hey,” Amy called out.  The figure looked over his shoulder, and then looked back at the corpse in his arms.  “Hey,” Amy said again.  As they got closer, they could see that the man was not armed, or if he was, it was hidden by the long coat he wore.  Instead, he was carrying a bag that bulged as it sat on the ground, looking very heavy.  The body in the stranger’s arms was lying in a pool of blood, presumably his own, as he had a few gunshot holes in his chest.  They could not tell who it was, because the stranger’s hands were on his face, one working his mouth, the other cradling the head from behind.   The stranger set the head back down and got up, wordlessly.  He nodded toward the two ladies, picked up his pack and strode off, down the street, heading in the direction from which they had just come.

Amy looked at him, and opened her mouth to say something, but he looked at her and smiled.  The man did not appear mad.  A little on the thin side maybe, but looking into his eyes, Amy could tell that this man knew his place in this new world.  The bag he was carrying clinked as he walked, the sound of keys, or maybe coins, jingling in it.

Sarah had begun to call out as the guy passed, but Amy just shook her head.

“Don’t bother.”

They gave the body a wide berth, the smell of the blood beginning to stick to their nostrils, and made it back to find Chris sitting on the porch, guitar in hand, playing that same song.  Only he had added a line to what he was singing.  Brian was sitting on the porch also, tightly clutching Winnie the Pooh, and had joined him for those two lines, a sad chorus.

“It’s the end of the world as we know it…”

The End

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