Sunday, December 18, 2016

FREE FRIDAY FICTION : Welcome to the End : Part 10 -- Back Out

A couple of days late with the next part of our story. Sorry about that. Life, you know. We are starting what I've been mentally considering the second part of the overall tale. Hopefully you get to learn a but more about Mac and a bit more about Caroline. As always, if you're enjoying the story, tell others about it. Share the tweets. Share the links. Also, if you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

OK, now to the story.

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Welcome to the End//Part 10:Back Out


Caroline approaches me as I’m putting stuff into my pack. The wailers stayed mostly quiet last night. I was up before dawn to relieve Walter only to find him sleeping hard in the chair.

The sun is up now, but the clouds are only letting a bit of its light break through. These clouds aren’t really clouds at all. They’re dust kicked into the atmosphere when the rocks made their impact. We all keep waiting for them to dissipate, for it all to fall back to Earth in a storm of rock and gravel and dirt. It hasn’t yet, but it will. First good rain, I’ve predicted, will kick start it.

“Where you headed?” Caroline asks. I’m finishing packing my pack, dropping a flashlight onto the top in case my trip takes longer than expected.

“To my apartment,” I say as I cinch the top of the bag closed.

“Need company?”

“You want to walk all that way?”

“It’s something to do.”

“That bored?”

“Well,” she says, “I’ve ridden all the rides here. I’ve won all the games.”

“Shut up,” I tell her. “If your mom is OK with it and you can get your pack together in time, you’re welcome to come. But it’s not going to be much more exciting than staying here.”

I’ve grown tired of the clothes I’ve got on. I’ve been back to my apartment one other time since the collapse. I grabbed a handful of things — a few shirts, some pants, a couple personal things. But I need more. Everything is starting to stink. Plus I have other gear that I want to grab, that could be useful. Travel writers, at least the kind I was, have lots of camping equipment. Why I didn’t think to get it sooner is a little puzzling to me. I don’t think I ever thought I need to set up house with it, but here we are.

Caroline’s eyes light up. “Don’t. Leave.”

I make no promises and give her five minutes before I slowly start walking to the entrance to Fair Park that we all are using, one that makes the Texas Star the focal point of the whole grounds. Now, with all of the trees torn apart and knocked over and the museum buildings nearer the entrance all destroyed, the Ferris wheel is spotlighted even more.

My walk to the exit is slow and methodical. The truth is, I wouldn’t mind the company, and Caroline is pretty good company. Quick footsteps approach from behind me.

“Mac Attack! Wait up!” she calls out. I turn, and she’s trying to shrug her pack more securely onto her shoulders. Her machete is in her right hand.

“Really?” I gesture to the machete.

“What? I’m being careful.” She drops into a squat position and puts the machete out in front of her. Her eyes squint as she struggles to find a look of intimidation.

“Let’s go, ninja warrior.” I pick up my pace. “Put that in your pack. Let’s pray we don’t need to get it out again.”

We head down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It’s a six lane street with a grass median dividing the middle. We are staying on the grass. One thing you learn quickly is keep to the middle. Keep a nice cushion of open space on either side of you when you can. Easier to see things coming. Sure, it’s daytime now. Wailers aren’t going to be out. In theory, but better safe than sorry.

“What are going back for?” Caroline asks.

“Stuff.”

“No kidding? Because I thought maybe it was for things.”

“I’ve got some more clothes that I want to grab. And there’s some camping gear I want. You’re carrying the stove.”

“I am, am I?”

“You can go back.”

“I guess I’m carrying a stove.”

Caroline picks a rock up off the street and flings it far out in front of us. She has a good arm. The rock skips across the road and bounces into a mailbox. The ping of metal rings, and we wait for something else. Wailers? Maybe. I don’t know. But nothing comes.

“You have camping gear? Stuff worth going back for? Like a tent? A sleeping bag?”

“Well,” I tell her, “there’s a stove.”

“Yeah, yeah. But besides that.”

“The usual. A tent. Some compact gear that can be stowed in a pack.”

Caroline drops off the curb and walks down the middle of Martin Luther King. “Why do you have it all? You some kind of outdoorsman?”

“Something like that.” Most of the buildings lining the side of the street have been taken out. “I was a travel writer for a bit.”

She’s treating the divider lines as a balance beam, placing heel to toe with her arms shot out straight from her sides. “For magazines and stuff?”

“Mostly, yeah.”

Caroline jogs back to the median and takes a spot walking next to me, although her attention is elsewhere. She keeps looking off into the neighborhood. She senses something, and I’m trying to tune into her channel.

“Where’d you go?” she asks. “They ever send you any place fun?”

“Europe. South America. Wherever someone paid me to go I went. I’d backpack around and write about my trip. The people I’d find. The things I’d see.”

“The people?”

“People are fascinating.”

“I guess,” she says then pauses. “What would you write about me?”

“Oh, I don’t want to play that game.”

“Come on. I won’t get my feelings hurt. I’m big enough to handle it.”

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