Friday, March 3, 2017

FREE FRIDAY FICTION : Welcome to the End : Part 20 -- Bodies

Part 20. 20? Yes, 20.

Welcome to the End//Part 20 -- Bodies

Caroline puts her hand to her mouth and I gently guide her down another block. I still have my gun out. The wailers aren’t visible, but they aren’t gone. We walk quiet for a few blocks then see another body, this one in worse shape. Whoever he is, he went down fighting. We pass wide, on the opposite sidewalk and Caroline finally speaks.

“Who are these people?”

I don’t have an answer for her, as much as I’d like to be able to give her one. I don’t really think she’s expecting me to actually say anything. We turn another corner, to head back toward Fair Park, and things only get more gruesome. Three more bodies, or what’s left of bodies, and there are more past that.

Caroline begins to cry. We stop walking, and I put an arm around her. She rolls her head into my chest and her whimpers turn to sobs. This is all a little overwhelming to me, I can’t imagine what it’s doing to a teenager.

The only way we escaped this same fate was magic. Literal magic. Our little lean-to shelter was nice for a moment, but it had barely been keeping us protected from the elements. Without Caroline’s magic bubble we’d be out here dead in the wet Dallas streets. I whisper a thank you into Caroline’s ear and can feel her nod her response into my chest. Her crying has calmed and she turns away from me.

“Let’s get back to camp,” she says. “But let’s find another way.”

I agree and we turn back and start walking through Deep Ellum. It’s an old warehouse district that’s turned into mostly come-and-go nightspots and restaurants. And, apparently, it’s where many of Dallas’ survivors headed to when they had nowhere else to go because the number of bodies here is worse. They are all over the streets. Numbers in the dozens down each block. We do our best to avoid passing as many as we can. Somehow that feels respectful. Not to pass. To avoid the temptation to gawk. It feels like the right thing to do. Plus, it helps Caroline stay calm.  I also try to distract her with conversation.

“So when you said you weren’t really into the magic thing and your mom told me that you never really took to it, was that some organized campaign to lie to me?”

She smiles, just a bit.

“I’m not into it,” she tries to tell me. “But I know some stuff.”

“Just small stuff? Like how to make a candy bar appear out of nowhere. Poof up a hall pass for a friend at school. Or to create an impenetrable, hard-shelled dome of light.”

“Yeah, stuff like that.”

“Why didn’t you two want to tell me.”

“The magic thing doesn’t always go over well. Some people want candy bars and hall passes. Others want nothing to do with you. I didn’t want you -- we didn’t want you or anyone to cast us off on our own. We had an agreement to not say anything to anyone or do anything that would pull back that curtain unless we just absolutely had to.”

“Basically what your mom said when I asked the same thing.”

We walk in silence, passing fewer bodies than we had before. Fewer, not none. Caroline cuts a wide path around them whenever we come upon them, and I just follow her lead. The number of bodies is surprising. I want to bring it up to Caroline, say that I didn’t know this many people were still alive, or at least around Dallas. I figure that it’s best not to say anything. Still, I’d assumed that because the people I knew about were gathered in little pockets, like at our camp or at the one in Mesquite, then that’s all there were. I hadn’t considered that some would just huddle up on their own. Keep their heads down and try to survive. It adds a layer of sadness to all of this that we are seeing now. Bring these people into our camp and we could have had something of a little society. A community at least. Strength in numbers.

I think back to what J.R. said he heard, about the church in Oklahoma. It feels like a better idea now. At least it’s a proactive one. Trying to build something. Trying to build numbers, build strength.

People like Caroline and Maggie would be valuable in a society like that. They’ve kept me alive so far, and that was the real truth. I’ve had two moments since all of this happened that I shouldn’t have survived. Two moments when the wailers should have gotten to me, but they didn’t. And that’s only because I stumbled into these magic ladies’ camp early on. Dumb luck, destiny, or providence -- I didn’t care.

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