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Urdowyr—Chapter 8

8. Harmonices Mundi

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• • •
Hank unceremoniously dropped the three dead bi-zhom at Urdakh’s feet.
Urdakh said something in a very surprised tone.
“What? They weren’t heavy.”
Urdakh peered at Hank from underneath its cowl-like hood, mulling something over and assessing the human. (Now that Hank was standing right next to the alien, he could see that its garment was made from some kind of scaly white reptile-hide.) Then, arriving at a decision, Urdakh drew out its bronze hunting knife again and offered the blade to Hank, pointing at the downed game.
“Uh… why don’t you do that,” said Hank, refusing the knife. “I’d probably just make a mess of it. You know, slice open an organ I’m not supposed to, something like that.”
Urdakh answered in a reproachful tone and then, grumbling under its breath, set to the business of field-dressing the bi-zhom carcasses.
“Great,” said Hank. “And while you’re doing that… I guess I’ll work on the fire.”
The human started looking around for stones, gathering them together in a small pile near the kindling-heap that Urdakh had made. Every once in a while, Urdakh would pause what it was doing to glance at Hank curiously, and then go back to butchering the animals. Hank, meanwhile, selected a large stone that was flat enough to dig with and made a shallow fire-pit, which he then ringed with most of the remaining stones.
“There we are,” said Hank with a laugh. “Just like camping in the Rockies back home.” He started breaking shrub-branches in half and heaping them in the middle of the pit in a small pile; then he arranged several more sticks in a conical shape on top of those.
By the time Hank was done with that, Urdakh had already made expert work of the bi-zhom, having removed and cast aside the entrails and turned the carcasses over to drain. The alien then said something to Hank and pointed at the rest of the unused firewood.
Hank gestured at the kindling-pile. “You need some sticks?”
Urdakh nodded, uttered a sharp word of reply, and made a “give me” motion.
Hank picked up several branches and passed them to Urdakh, who remained seated on the ground next to the freshly-dressed bi-zhom. While Hank watched, the alien began sharpening the sticks one by one with its knife.
“Aha. Roasting spits. Gotcha.”
The sun was well behind the mountains by now, and they were losing the light quickly. Hank was eager to get a fire going; but the only rocks he had at hand were soft, like sandstone, with none of them even remotely resembling flint. “Oh well. Work with what you’ve got.” He tried striking two of the rocks together and got plenty of noise but no sparks.
Hank looked up in surprise when Urdakh said something in a mirthful tone and started laughing at him. Though the human had no means of understanding precisely what was said, he got the gist of it: you’ll never make a fire that way, dumbass!
Hank offered Urdakh the two stones. “I’d like to see you do better!”
The alien said something softly. Then, from underneath its cloak, Urdakh produced a very full, very heavy-looking hide knapsack; opened a flap; and began rummaging around in its contents.
“Oh, of course,” said Hank. “You’re a hunter; you’ve probably got a tinderbox in there, don’t you?”
But instead of a tinderbox, and very much to Hank’s surprise, Urdakh withdrew from its pack a different instrument entirely. It was about the size and general shape of a pocket-flashlight, metallic, with faceted gemstones set into the side. Hank watched in fascination as Urdakh held the object about six inches away from the firewood, depressed one of the gemstones, and—bzzt!—a visible red laser-beam instantly ignited a small blaze. The dry branches caught quickly, and pretty soon a cheerful campfire was crackling away in the pit.
“Holy crap!” said Hank. “That’s… okay, wow, so maybe your people are a little more sophisticated than the Bronze Age.”
Urdakh held up the device and said, “Eskai ten-vâh!” with a merry chuckle.
Hank held out his hand, palm up. “Hey. Can I take a look at that?”
Urdakh responded by clutching the fire-starter closely to its chest. “An-skâ! Ten-vâh ko-tlû-akh!”
Hank grimaced and backed off. “Okay, okay. Sorry, forget I asked.”
Urdakh gave Hank a wary look and then stowed the instrument back in the knapsack. Then the alien took out its knife again, went over to one of the bi-zhom, and started cutting away strips of flesh, putting them on spits, and setting them to roast over the fire.
Hank, meanwhile, sat back and prodded a finger at cuts on his midsection. Most of them were shallow and already clotted, but a couple of the wider gashes still bled. “Hey, Urdakh?”
The alien finished what it was doing and gave Hank a questioning look.
Hank pointed to his wounds and said, “I need to clean these. Can have some more water? More tzêh?”
Urdakh seemed to understand what Hank was getting at. Muttering something in annoyance, the alien fished a scrap of cloth from the knapsack, used the waterskin to dampen it, and passed the cloth to Hank.
“Thanks,” said Hank. He started washing the cuts and murmured quietly to himself, “No antiseptic. Here’s hoping the bacteria on this planet don’t like living in my bloodstream.”
While Hank tended to his wounds and the meat roasted on the spits—it gave off a savory smell that had the human’s mouth watering—Urdakh finally took the opportunity to rest. The hunter sat down by the campfire opposite Hank, pulled back its hood and removed its cloak.
Hank finished with what he was doing and commented, “I think these deeper cuts will heal just fine. No need to cauterize ’em with your laser-doohickey—” He stopped speaking abruptly when he glanced up and finally got a good look at Urdakh for the first time. “Huh. You’re a girl.”
• • •
Intellectually, Hank knew that had no real basis upon which to guess at the gender of the alien sitting across the fire from him. Urdakh might very well be male; or a member of a species with only one gender, or even three or more. But to his prejudiced human eyes, she was undeniably feminine in appearance. She had long hair, black and wavy. Her face sported full lips and high cheekbones. Her figure was concealed by a form-fitting tunic or dress made from hide that went down to her knees; but Hank was pretty certain that she had hips and a bustline that were just a bit wider than her waist. In fact, the adjective “Amazonian” came unbidden to his mind.
That said, nobody would ever mistake Urdakh for a human woman. Her skin was green; her eyes were downright unsettling, with yellow irises and blood-red scleras. She had two little tusks jutting up from behind her lower lip, and when she grinned, Hank could see that her upper canines were actually fangs. A series of ridges ran up the length of her flat and upturned nose; once they reached her forehead, they became bony protrusions that almost looked like a row of tiny horns. She had long, black claws on both her hands and feet (and she wore no shoes or sandals of any sort). It was her legs and feet that Hank found strangest of all: they were digitigrade, so that when Urdakh sat on the ground and scrunched her legs up beneath her, it appeared to the human as if she had a second set of knees that bent the wrong way.
A digitigrade biped didn’t make much evolutionary sense to Hank, but then again, this planet did have weaker gravity than Earth… so what did he know? Maybe Urdakh’s species had evolved to favor speed over endurance.
More than anything else, though, Hank was astounded at the apparent similarities between Urdakh’s species and his own. Sure, she clearly wasn’t human; but she was definitely some kind of hominoid-equivalent. (That said, just from looking at her, Hank couldn’t help but compare Urdakh to a green Klingon. Or maybe some kind of space-orc.)
Urdakh had been tending to the meat, turning the spits to ensure that it roasted evenly, the whole time that Hank stared and contemplated. Now she judged that it was done; she took some of the skewers for herself and offered the rest to Hank, along with a lengthy string of words in a conversational tone.
Hank waited for the meat to cool before pulling a hunk off the spit. After the day he’d had, it smelled absolutely fantastic. “This’ll be the first thing I’ve eaten all day,” he said. “Hell, as a matter of fact, it’ll be the first real non-astronaut food I’ll have had in about two months.”
Urdakh looked at Hank curiously and said something before tearing into the meat with those fangs of hers. Then she made an “icky” face, gulped the mouthful down, and took another bite.
Hank laughed. “It’s that good, huh? Bet you were really out here chasing after those gator-bison.” He tried a bite of the bi-zhom. It was very tough, but the flavor wasn’t actually all that bad. “Chewy,” he said with his mouth full. He swallowed and added, “I can’t believe I’m gonna say this, but it really does taste like chicken.” Then he gave Urdakh a frank look and said, “Anybody else here starting to feel like the Stargate movie was a goddamn documentary? …No, just me? Alrighty then.”
Urdakh said something back, but Hank didn’t know how to respond, so he said nothing. They finished eating in silence.
Hank sensed the mood growing tense again once they’d finished. He patted his belly—now pleasantly full—and sighed with contentment. “Ya know, that’s the best food I’ve had since I left Earth. Wanna know what my last meal before blastoff was? Pepperoni motherfucking pizza. God, I miss pizza…”
As he rambled, Hank yanked off his boots and turned them upside-down. A downright obscene amount of sand and dust poured out of them. “Long day,” he commented.
Urdakh threw away the last of the roasting-spits and then pointed at Hank’s bare feet and said something in a tone that sounded almost—accusatory.
“Yeah, I’ll bet mine look just as weird to you as yours do to me.” He wiggled his toes and enjoyed the feeling of the cool night air on his aching feet.
Urdakh rested her chin in her hand—the gesture was so humanlike that Hank actually felt a lump of pure, homesick emotion form in his throat—and said thoughtfully, “Eskai nâh ro gûlgh, Hen-kah?” Even though Hank heard her utter his name, he got the distinct impression that she wasn’t so much addressing him as she was talking to herself about him.
He shrugged. “No idea what you’re talkin’ about, Urdakh.” Then he decided that it might be nice now to have a little fun. “How about some tunes?” He took out his iPage, unrolled it, and touched the screen, which caused it to light up as the desktop and icons appeared.
Urdakh’s eyes widened in shock. “Ten-vâh nêh!” she exclaimed, pointing at the computer.
Hank quirked an eyebrow. “You’ve said that word before.” He held up the iPage and repeated, “Ten-va?”
Urdakh nodded. “Ten-vâh ko-tlû-akh!”
“Huh. Is that your word for technology, I wonder?” Hank touched the icon for the music player and swiped open his classic rock folder. “Now let’s see here. What should your first taste of the classics be? Sabbath? Too hard. Queen? Nah, too weird… Aha! Perfect. And thematically appropriate.” Hank touched the icon to queue up “Wayward Son” by Kansas.
At once, the melodious strains of electric guitars and keys filled the still night air and echoed across the steppe. Urdakh was startled at first, but soon enough she realized that the ghostly, artificial noises were coming from Hank’s “ten-vâh”.
She crawled around the fire and peered at the glowing screen. Hank swiped back to the desktop and then touched the icon for a text-editor and started typing. “I figure,” he said by way of explanation, “if I want to learn your language, I’d better start compiling a glossary of all the words I’m learning from you.” He quickly typed in the small vocabulary that he’d acquired so far. “If I get a good, working dictionary built up, maybe my translation algorithms will be able to go to town. Then we can hold a real conversation.”
By now, Urdakh at least recognized that the music coming from Hank’s iPage was, in fact, music. She said something to Hank, her voice filled with wonder.
Hank chuckled and said, “Yeah, rock’n’roll is pretty fantastic.”
• • •
Over the course of the next hour, while Hank’s playlist cycled from Journey to Rush to Zeppelin, he and Urdakh made a game of trading words. He would point at something, say the English word for that thing, and Urdakh would give Hank the alien word for it, which Hank would then add to his ever-growing glossary.
This continued until, at some point, as Hank was idly switching between apps, Urdakh reached out and caught his wrist to stop him from swiping away from the desktop. Hank looked at her questioningly.
Urdakh tapped the claw of her index finger on the screen, indicating Hank’s desktop image. It was a close-up photograph of a little blonde-haired girl, maybe four years old, in adorable pink overalls. The girl was kicking a rubber ball; behind her stood the frame of a woman, presumably her mother; but the image was carefully cropped so that the woman’s head was entirely out of sight. Urdakh asked Hank a question.
Hank stiffened and pursed his lips. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “That’s—that’s my daughter, but we don’t need to talk about her.” He wrenched his hand free and quickly swiped back into his music player, stopping the Who mid-“Baba O’Riley”. While Urdakh watched curiously, Hank rolled up his iPage and said, “No offence, but we’ve only just met.”
Urdakh said something in what sounded to Hank like a flippant tone. He didn’t like it. He shivered; it was getting really cold now. “Swingy temperatures on this planet,” he griped. “Boiling hot all day, freezing cold at night? Planet Shitstain just gets better and better.”
Urdakh went back over to her side of the fire, where she once again got into her knapsack; this time, she pulled out a hide blanket. She said something sharp and commanding, picked up her white cloak, and tossed it over to Hank. Then she stretched out on the ground next to the fire and curled up under her blanket.
Hank easily caught the cloak, understanding what Urdakh was saying: use this or you’ll freeze to death during the night. “Thanks,” he said. “Just, you know, please don’t murder me in my sleep or anything, m’kay?” He lay down on the ground, spread the cloak out over his body, and all too quickly fell asleep.
• • •
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submitted by Ivan_the_Unpleasant to HFY

[OC] [Starfell] Chapter 5 - Into the Wilderness

Wow, I've been gone a long time. Looks like most of my followers left, and I don't blame them, but if any are still there, allow me to apologize - I have had a very long year, mostly due to a long, drawn out divorce (I came out on top though.). But you're not here to read my story, you're here to read Starfell!

First|Previous

He’d spent too long at the campus. Time had slipped by while he’d been preparing for the long trek to his family’s house.

A pang of guilt hit him in the stomach as he thought of leaving Lucas behind. But he’d questioned everyone he met, and nobody had any information. The stories he’d heard left him with little hope to find his friend. Chances were he’d never see Lucas again.

He absent-mindedly picked through his meager collection of materials, composing a mental list. Two cans of beans. He didn’t have much hope of finding his family, either. Three cans of tomato soup. Nobody knew much of anything. Two bottles of water. He could reuse those...

There had been a pirate radio broadcast from the nearby city of Lowell for the first few hours of Silas’ stay, some kid scared and holed up in his basement. A can of tuna. The broadcast had ended abruptly with the sound of broken glass and screams.

No other media worked. Six packets of sports drink mix. There were no news stations, no radio, no social media, no internet.

A one pound bag of M&M’s. He had virtually no information about the world outside their town.

Multi-tool. There might be thousands of those things roving the countryside. Can opener. They might have only attacked major population centers. Flip lighter. Pocket knife. Flashlight. He wouldn’t know until he left.

He arranged everything in the backpack he’d procured carefully according to weight. He had a lot of walking to do - an imbalanced pack would cause him undue strain.

Shouldering the now heavy bag, he stepped towards the door and steeled himself to walk through it.
He was terrified of going out there. Everyone had tried to talk him out of it, but he was adamant that his family needed
him. But now that he stood ready to leave, he couldn’t quite find it within himself to take that first step.

“Silas, wait.”

“Lily?” He turned around to find her moving towards him at a brisk pace, Matt in tow behind her.

She shoved something at him, small and wrapped in a cloth.

He took it from her, but almost dropped it. It was heavy. He hefted it in his hand, feeling the shape beneath the soft material and recognition dawned on him as he did so.

His eyes widened. “Where did you…”

“Sh,” chided Lily. “Matt had it. You’ll need it.”

Matt held out another object, a small wooden box. Silas took it as well. It was equally heavy, and from the weight Silas knew exactly what he’d been handed.

“You guys need this more than I do,” he said unhappily.

“No, we don’t. If they decided to attack us here, we could never hold them off.”

“And we’re going with you,” Matt said suddenly.

Lily rounded on him. “I thought we agreed not to go?”

“Lily, Mom and Dad are dead.”

Silas blinked. Brother and sister. Hadn’t seen that.

Matt saw his expression and spoke flatly in response. “She’s my step-sister. We don’t like to advertise it.”

Silas raised an eyebrow but didn’t speak.

“Look,” Matt said, rubbing his brow. “We have a better chance out there where we can run than sitting here. You can stay here, Lily, but I’m going with him.”

He looked at Silas. “If… If that’s okay with you. I mean you don’t really know me, but…”

Silas frowned and shook his head. “No, I don’t. However…” he hesitated. “There is safety in numbers, and I have no problems with you coming. Either of you.” He looked at Lily. “He’s not wrong. You’re sitting ducks here.”

“He has a good plan, Lily. If we can get his folks and then go to the mountains, then that’s our best chance of survival.”

Lily sighed, placing her hands on her hips. “I guess that makes sense… I don’t like it, though.”

Silas chuckled. “What is there to like about any of this? Look, I was an Eagle Scout. I can keep us alive provided we don’t end up in a firefight. No guarantees then. We will most likely all die in that scenario.”

“You can keep yourself, both of us, your parents, brother and sister alive? All of us? You really think you can do that?” Lily looked skeptical, but there was no harshness in her voice.

Silas weighed the thought in his mind for a moment before speaking. “No. I don’t think I can.”

Lily’s face fell.

“But,” Silas continued, “I think I can teach you enough that we can all keep us alive. Survival is about teamwork, not making one person do all the work. You have to share the load. And my family, like yours, is very likely dead. But I have to go look.”

They stood in silence for a moment longer, staring at one another.

“Okay,” Lily said at long last. “Okay. Okay.” She threw her hands in the air. “I’m convinced.”

She glanced at the objects still in Silas’ hands. “I feel safer near that, anyway.”

Silas nodded, looking down at his packages. “Yeah, me too. I have something else, too… Something I didn’t show any of you.”

Both looked at him quizzically, but he shook his head. “Not here. Let’s go, I guess.”

Taking a deep breath, he pulled his pack from his shoulder and gently placed the still wrapped pistol and box of munitions in the very top.

***********************************************

Whumph!

Silas blasted a hole through a boulder with his odd little egg weapon as Lily and Matt looked on.

“Damn!” they shouted in unison.

“What the hell is that,” Matt gaped. “And where the fuck did you find it?”

Silas held the egg up gingerly between his forefinger and thumb, careful to avoid the divot which operated as the firing mechanism. “On the alien ship in the courtyard.”

“Wait,” Lily said. “You actually went in there? I thought you just said you saw those things inside of it.”

Silas smiled. “No, no I actually went in there.”

She stared at him with renewed interest.

“That… That is… So…” She purred.

“Lily! Gross!” Matt stared at her. “Are you serious right now?”

Silas chuckled. “I just thought it might be useful to have an alien gun. Plus, those things could rip me in half faster than I could blink, so I figured death wouldn’t hurt too much if one was still alive inside.”

“Still,” Lily said, winking at him. “Kind of a turn-on.”

“Lily!” Matt screamed.

Silas surveyed the land behind the now bickering siblings, ignoring their squabble. The sky was gray with smoke, as it had been since that first night. The air was chilled, unusually so for mid-July and there was a pallid cast over the earth, turning everything into a smoky, ashy vagary. They were far from town now, walking among cars on the abandoned freeway.

Many vehicles had been destroyed in the initial panic. Even more had been simply abandoned. They stretched as far as the eye could see. Here and there were scorch marks from where the alien plasma had hit. Downed jets dotted the landscape.

He turned to view the path ahead of them. A helicopter lay atop a city bus, its rear rotors still weakly turning. It had brought some small hope to his group, but they’d searched it and found no viable weapons or ammo.

In hopes of providing a visual deterrent to any hostile humans they might come across, Matt had taken a busted assault rifle, its magazine platform smashed beyond repair. It might fire a few bullets but it was just as likely to backfire.

Among the miles of wreckage which lay before him, Silas could pick out only one destroyed alien fighter, its distinctive shimmer standing out like a jewel among granite.

He thought back to the initial attack and how much human muscle he’d seen displayed in the sky. And yet, he’d only seen two damaged alien ships littered among hundreds of downed human vehicles. He swallowed at the immensity of what that fact entailed.



He touched the pistol which now resided in the pocket of his hoodie.

The cool metal instilled both a sense of gut-wrenching fear and calming reassurance deep inside him. He didn’t want to have to use it, but it was good to know it was there. He also knew that if he did have to use it, he’d be dying moments later… As would his friends. But at least he’d take a couple of those fucking things with him.

“Are we gonna have to walk the whole way?” Matt whined. “I’m not exactly an athlete. I can’t go upstairs without getting winded.”

“Maybe if you weren’t such a little wimp,” Lily laughed.

“I’m not a wimp! I just smoke too much.”

Silas ignored their weird sibling rivalry. He and Kendall and Alicia had never been that way. They’d had fights, sure, but Lily and Matt seemed to intentionally antagonize one another at even the slightest opportunity. Maybe it had to do with being step-siblings.

He scanned the horizon for movement once more before replying to Matt’s initial question. “It’s another ten miles to the exit which will take us North. Once we get off the interstate, I think we’d be be able to find a truck or SUV of some kind which could offroad around heavy debris.”

He turned and looked at his companions. “Ten miles, that’s it. Can you handle that?”

A bead of sweat dripped down Matt’s face. “Ten miles? Ugh. If I die, it’s on your head.”

Silas smiled. “Well you’re probably gonna die anyway, so I’m cool with that.’

Lily laughed, which caused Matt to go off on her once more.

Silas was beginning to regret bringing them along. Lily’s infatuation had already gotten annoying and Matt’s incessant whining was pissing him off. And they were loud.

He pinched the bridge of his nose to keep from screaming before addressing them.

“Guys. Guys. I get this is your way of relieving stress or whatever, but you can please, please please be quiet?”

His companions fell silent for a moment before Matt replied, rather sheepishly, “Sorry. Not really sure how to deal with all this.”

“Look,” Silas sighed. “There’ll be time later to deal with everything. Right now our focus is getting to somewhere that, hopefully, is safer.”

The siblings looked at one another and nodded. “Lead the way,” Lily said.

“Ok,” Silas replied. “So, looking ahead,” he pointed North, “It looks like the traffic is thinning out. The medians are clear. Let’s see if we can find a larger vehicle to get ourselves on the road and moving faster than just our feet. Or off the road, don’t think we’re gonna get pulled over.”

“Can you drive a big rig?” Matt asked, gesturing to a Semi truck abandoned a few hundred feet ahead of them.

“Wouldn’t even know where to start. But I can drive a stick, so that opens up our options.”

“Is anything gonna run?” Lily asked. Every vehicle I’ve seen has been off. You’d think most people would’ve left their cars running.”

“Yeah, but they probably ran out of gas by now. We might need to siphon a bit from other vehicles to get going in one that we actually wanna use.” Silas sighed as he finished speaking. Of course nothing could be easy.

“Yeah, but weren’t those alien jet’s weapons frying everything electrical?”

“God dammit. Yeah, that’s true. We might have to look a little further away from town, away from where the fighting occurred.”

His companions nodded once more and then started forward, settling their packs on their shoulders with a look of determination.

“Let’s go.”

Maybe they would survive this, Silas thought. Maybe.

**********************************************

“Push! C’mon!”

Matt and Lily struggled against the back of the beat up Subaru Silas was trying to get running.

“Get it rolling, gotta get enough power to jump the engine, c’mon!”

“We’re trying dude!” Matt complained, his voice straining. “I don’t see you helping!”

“Can you drive a stick? Know how to jumpstart this sucker? No? And, I’ve got a broken wrist you shitbird! Shut up and push!”

The vehicle picked up speed as Matt’s anger got the best of him.

“There ya go!” Silas shouted. “Clutch, key and…”

The engine roared to life. “Yes!” They shouted in unison. “Woooo!”

Lily and Matt climbed in the back seat as Silas hit the brake quickly and revved the engine a few times, watching the gas gauge as it slowly ticked upwards.

“Where we at?” Lily peered over Silas’ shoulder, examining the instrument cluster. “Half a tank? Not bad! But this thing probably gets shit for mileage.”

“These things get great mileage. It’s my car back home, why do you think I picked it out? Same year too, I think.”

“And it’s still better than walking,” Silas chided her. “Don’t insult the good things that happen to you.”

Lily looked embarrassed for a moment. “Sorry.”

“It’s alright.” Silas rolled his eyes. “I think I’m too used to being an older brother. I don’t mean to talk down to you guys. I’m just a little stressed.”

Matt laughed. “A little? I’m glad I gave you that gun, cuz I was thinking about offing myself.”

Lily gasped and hit him in the arm. “Don’t talk like that.”

“Guys stop, come on. Let’s see if there’s anything on the radio.”

Silas reached for the knob but stopped halfway, noticing an orange glow from underneath the driver’s side dash.

“Holy shit, a bit of luck! There’s a CB in here.”

“What’s a CB?” Lily asked.

“Citizen’s Band Radio.” Matt replied, to Silas’ surprise.

“Means we can broadcast and find other survivors with access to one of these things, or HAM radios.”

“You really think that many people have these?”

“Sure,” Silas said. “Virtually any and all big rigs have them, and most taxi companies install them in their vehicles too, plus plenty of people install them in their car just for fun. Truck drivers will often broadcast road conditions, police traps and more, so they’re pretty useful to have.”

Silas grabbed the speaker and clicked it a few times, listening to the faint static over the radio. Reaching down, he cranked the volume up and then slowly started flipping through channels. Hearing nothing, he turned the volume down and sighed.

“Hey Matt, climb up here. I need you to man the radio.”

Matt clambered over the seat and took the microphone from Silas, his hands clammy to the touch. “I don’t know how this thing works.”

Silas shook his head. “It’s really simple.” He pointed to the knob on the right of the radio. “This knob controls the channel. You can see each of them flash across the little screen here as you scroll.” He tapped the screen. “So, what I want you to do is flip through each channel and send out a distress call. Wait two minutes, then flip to the next one.”

“Ok… What do you want me to say?”

Silas’ bit his lip for a moment, thinking. He reached for the microphone again. Taking it from Matt’s hand, he clicked the button several times, hesitated and then spoke with as much conviction as he could muster.

“To anyone listening, I’m looking for any survivors headed north, or willing to head north. We are going to the Appalachian mountains. My family has property out there where we should be safe. These attackers seem to be focusing on the cities. We are armed, I repeat, we are armed. We come as friends, but will not hesitate to defend ourselves if necessary. Our world may have ended, but human decency does not need to. Let us help you. We have supplies and transportation. Please, if anyone is hearing this, please respond.”

Static.

Silas handed the microphone back to Matt. “Wait two minutes, then change the station for me.”

Matt nodded silently, staring at Silas with a perplexed expression.

“What?”

“That was… Hm. I dunno. I just have a feeling I’m gonna be glad you’re on our side.”

Silas smiled. “You guys ready?”

“Yessir!”

“Then let’s go.”

Silas slammed the clutch and revved the engine, ready to take on whatever lay before them.

***********************************************

“... Please, if anyone is hearing this, please respond.”

“I don’t think anyone is out there, Silas.”

“Yeah, we’ve been trying for hours.”

“Can’t give up. We know there are survivors.” Silas tapped the steering wheel as he spoke. “There were dozens of us at…”

The radio crackled, cutting him off.

“Hello? Repeat, repeat, hello? Is anyone there?”

Silas slammed the brakes, skidding to a stop in the grass, scrambling to grab the microphone from its perch by his knee.

“We read you, come in!”

“Thank Christ,” came a woman’s voice. “I’ve been scanning all day. It’s so good to hear another person.”

“Yeah, same,” Silas said. “Where are you?”

“Hold up there stranger, I ain’t about to get robbed. You can call me Whiskey Angel. What’s your handle?”

“Uh… Prometheus.”

“Champion of mankind huh? That’s a little big in the britches given the situation, don’t you think?”

“Last movie I watched. Not a trucker, don’t have a regular handle.”

“Right. Well I am. You said you’ve got supplies and guns. What do ya got?”

“Well not much, honestly. A few bags of food we’ve salvaged from groceries in cars, a pistol, a few assault rifles and…” Silas decided to keep the egg in his pocket to himself. Didn’t need to make himself a target. “That’s it.”

Whiskey laughed. “Savior of mankind can barely feed himself, let alone deliver the promises he’s making.”

There was silence for a moment. “Still. Company would be nice.”

“What do you have?” Silas asked.

Her reply was filled with bursts of static. “I’m driving a Walmart... as luck would have it, stuffed to the brim with water... fresh produce. Produce... last for shit, but I figure the water would be something... onto. Real bitch driving this… through… this.... traffic… too many damn… almost out of gas.”

“You’re breaking up,” Silas interrupted. “Hello? Hello?”

“Hello? Whiskey? Are you there?”

The trio held their breath as they awaited a reply.

“I think... need to keep driving... sport. You must… very edge of my range.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m under an.. exit one thirty eight. I’m kinda stuck here. Trying.... the median but there’s too many... in the way and I don’t... fuck up my ride.”

“Off one thirty eight or by it?”

“Just past kid.”

“Alright, I’ll be there as soon as I can!”

“Ten four.”

Matt grabbed the microphone and quipped, “Ten four, rubber ducky!”

“Do. Not. Ever. Say. That. Again.” Whiskey scolded. “What the fuck. Really?”

Silas chuckled, looking at Lily in his rearview mirror.

“Looks like we might have made a friend, guys. What do we think?”

Matt shrugged, but Lily shifted uncomfortably. “I mean, I don’t know. Could be dangerous.”

“We have a gun. And don’t forget the egg. A semi full of water could be really useful, too.”

“Yeah… It’s up to you, Silas. We’re just here for the ride.”

Silas’ mind suddenly drifted back to the conversation he’d had with Lucas just two days prior. “You always were the responsible one.”

His heart ached. He wished his friend was here. He acted as though he knew what he was doing, but he really didn’t.

His heart rate quickened as he began to panic. What was he doing out here? The initial adrenaline and shock of the past forty eight hours were beginning to wear off. He could get them all killed. Was he prepared to handle that? What if they died and he didn’t? Could he live with that?

He breathed deeply several times, white knuckling the steering wheel until his broken fingers cried out in agony.

The sharp pain brought relief to his tortured mind, returning his anguish to his body rather than his psyche.

His body he could control, his racing thoughts he could not. He didn’t have time for this. They could all die at any moment.

No time for it. He steeled himself once more.

“Alright guys, let’s get going,” he said to his passengers, pretending to keep his cool. “I don’t know about you, but I could use a drink. Get it? We’re going to get some Whiskey?”

They didn’t laugh.

“Well I thought it was funny.”

Lily pointed. “Silas… What the fuck is that?”
End of Chapter 5. Remember to subscribe in the comments below to receive updates! 

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