March 3, 2013

After the Fire

This is a sort of rambling attempt to create my own little slice of post-apocalypse survival literature. I'm not promising miracles, but a semblance of plot will emerge at some point, I promise.

It was quiet today. The cat was happy for this, as it presented a relatively safe hunt today. Scrounging for food was always a feline specialty, but the bigger cities were getting emptier as time went on, and soon the cat would have to draw on older instincts, and go out into the wilderness to hunt. Coming up to an opening in a partially collapsed wall, the cat stopped, picking up a tantalizing scent: blood. Looking out the hole, the cat did not see any other scavengers, a promising sign, meaning that, hopefully, the kill wold be untended.

The cat then moved swiftly, hunger outweighing judgment. Over a small heap of rubble, across a small room, and along a broken wall the small cat raced, until it found the man, face down in a pool of blood. Here, the cat paused. It could see no wounds on the corpse, no indicators of how he died. It eased closer, sniffing carefully, trying to catch the sickly sweet smell of a poisoned death, but the smell of the blood was overpowering to the hungry creature, drawing it in still closer. As the cat sized up a good place to start its meal, the man's hand came up, quick as a striking snake, and grabbed the cat by the neck. His other hand came around, grabbing the top of its head, and snapped the cat's neck in a single, sharp twist.

Drew worked himself up to a sitting position, and examined his catch. A scrawny thing, but it had a decent amount of meat. He'd have a decent dinner tonight. He moved aside a stone, retrieved his gear, and headed into a nearby building, which looked relatively intact. If he wanted to get a fire going, it was best to have a couple walls to hide the light. Ammo was getting scarce here, and he didn't want to have to fight off any of  Spooks, if he could help it. Having a roof was important, too, because having a Dynasty patrol drop in on him would certainly mean capture or death. Sweepers had already gone through the city, so he wouldn't have to worry about those patrols, at least.

Finding a suitably concealed spot, Drew set up a campsite, and set about getting a fire started. The cat made for a surprisingly filling meal, and he boiled down the skin and the tiny amount of fat he could glean into a thin oil. It worked well as cooking fuel, and the occasional pocket of survivors often used it to grease the functional machinery they had. He hated the way the stuff smelled, but it had uses, and these days, you couldn't really cast something aside because you didn't like it.

With dinner out of the way, Drew looked outside, and saw the sun starting to dip awfully low. He wouldn't be able to get out of the city before the night. Unhappily, he trudged back to his campsite. Digging through his gear, he pulled out a few coils of wire, a couple of bells, and two small crossbows. He didn't have many quarrels left for them, but he couldn't sleep without them primed. He busied himself for the next half hour setting up alarmed triplines, and two traps covering the doorways into the room. He set his bedroll deep into the corner of the room, set his pistol at his reach, and slipped his knife into the pocket he sewed into his pillow. One last sweep of the room, and he settled in for a few hours of uneasy rest.

Deep in the heart of the city, silent, shadowy figures darted about in the darkness. They shuffled around the empty, rubble filled streets, searching for unwary prey, squabbling with each other over scraps. They ate, fought, killed, and died, all in darkness and silence. Few ever saw them and lived. The ones that managed came back with crazed tales of ashen white skin, large, luminous eyes, and a sort of utter silence that can only really come form the dead. They made no sounds, be they vocal or respiratory. Many thought they were the ghosts of those from the age before, come back in rage for the transgressions that burned the world.

They haunted Drew's sleep, but thankfully, none of them managed to work their way up to his camp. Maybe camping out on the edge of the city wasn't so dangerous. As the sun crept over the shattered towers, Drew packed in his gear, and started out of the rubble and into the sticks. Maybe he'd find a roving trader or two. Some extra bullets would be nice. Fresh water would be better.

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