“The only time I remember seeing someone siphoning gas was when Otto tried to do it in the Simpsons,” Will said. He was carrying a black backpack over his right shoulder as he walked towards a patch of trees just off the highway. The air was quiet. The birds were soundless, along with the bugs. It was their time to hide, before the drum shook the nightmares loose.
“Oh yeah? Don’t remember that one, but how’d he do it?” Shawn said. He walked behind the tall, lanky twenty-year-old with his own backpack, like they were going on a safari.
“Probably before your time,” Will said.
“I’m only forty, dick head. I know what the Simpsons are.”
“Well, Otto used a hose and his mouth to siphon it out,” Will said quickly.
“Yeah, he had a mint, but he used it first.”
“We don’t even have one of those, but since you’ve watched it happen, we’ll let you try first tomorrow.” He said.
“Thanks,” Will said.
They reached the trees spiking up like lavish pillars in the bright, country grass. The prairie had gone wild since the drum started, just like all the other plants. The depression of the apocalypse had made Shawn suicidal many times, but it was hard to suppress his smiles at the flourishing natural world. The monsters and the plants were connected, but understanding this relationship was a distant second to simply surviving the night.
“There aren’t a lot of trees here,” Will said. The blip of forest was nothing more than a scar of bark on the surrounding fields on either side of Highway 94.
“It’ll have to do, we don’t have a lot of time, it could start at any second,” Shawn said. He pawed at the stock of the rifle harnessed on his left shoulder. The monsters made him never keep the safety on.
“We should just go back to the car,” Will said.
“No way. They for sure noticed us driving down the road. We’ve probably been the only moving car since the damn thing began. We’re safer off to the side,” Shawn said.
“There’s no cover.”
“Well, if they find us that’ll be least of our concerns,” Shawn said.
When they entered the woods, Will immediately pulled a small garden shovel out of his backpack and started to dig a hole. He had to hack layers of vine and flower away from the shallow pit with the edge of the spade. Plants choked out everything, including opportunity. After about ten minutes he had enough space to shove his backpack into the ground. Shawn was doing an identical maneuver just 15 yards away. The monsters were smart. If you left signs of movement or occupation, they would scour the area for your location. A random backpack sitting next to a tree would be a red flag for their golden claws.
“What time do you got?” Shawn said. He was sweating into his uniform and bullet proof vest.
“Almost 7:20. They’ll be here any minute,” Will said.
Shawn jammed his pack into the dirt and hastily covered it. The air smelled sweet, like freshly baked cake. This was a sign they’d be appearing soon. The evening light was quiet and still. The wind didn’t dare move as the monsters stalked from one world to another.
“Get to the center of the trees and cover yourself. I’ll stay on the edge with the gun. If you here it go off, just run and don’t look back. You got my home address. You know to take my letters to my kids, if they’re still alive,” Shawn said. There was a tall maple on the edge of trees he’d picked for his hiding spot. Shawn crawled over to it and threw a tarp over his back like a blanket. In the dark it would conceal his body well enough. He would taste vine and dirt all night. His chin just was inches from the ground. Will and Shawn had not shaved in months and both men were sporting wild beards that constantly picked up debris.
The fading sunlight looked orange and peaceful against the tide of green just sitting off the highway. Then, the light seemed to shake and the shadows grew. It was like someone was pulling on them from some invisible chain, a phantom connection to an unseen hell. The bubbled shadows of the trees, clouds, and broken cars widened and stretched. There was a sizzle of energy somewhere and the shapes snapped back into their original forms.
The drum had started.
It was hollow and distant, but also near. It wasn’t loud enough to drown out your thoughts, but not quiet enough to be forgotten. It was the perfect nagging nightmare.
“Good luck,” Will whispered from the trees. Shawn propped the gun into his shoulder. A few bugs had crawled into his shirt, but he ignored them. There was a crashing of glass somewhere between the damaged cars. The monsters were nearby, but he couldn’t see them. They mixed perfectly with the skeletons of civilization. Shawn wouldn’t move unless one of the clawed forms approached their trees in a murderous glide. You only engaged them as a last resort.
Shawn felt the trigger with his finger. He didn’t need to guess.
The safety was always off.
HERE is part one of this story. Going to continue to experiment with this plot. If you want to learn more about the main narrative this flash fiction is derived of, The Greenland Diaries, you can read the first ten days for free in a sample. If you’re interested in purchasing a book through my store, I do offer two books for $25or three books for $35 with free shipping. Click HERE for my store. You can also find my books on Kindle by clicking HERE. Hope you enjoyed the story and thank you for reading. Take care!