Walkabout, Episode 2, The Town

Walkabout, Episode 2, The Town

A Story by J. R.
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The continued adventures of Hyde and Anne

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The lonely highway had led them to a small town. A bent and rusted shopping cart lay on its side in a vacant parking lot.

The sky was blanketed with gray clouds that seemed to suck the color out of the landscape. A faint echo of thunder rang out in the distance every few minutes.

“It looks like it’s going to rain.” Hyde said, watching the sky.

An empty store sat on the street corner. A hanging sign read “GRIFFITH’S USED BOOKS”. The glass windows were curiously still intact.

The town was as still and quiet as a tomb. A school bus lay in the middle of an intersection, stripped of its wheels and the door hanging open. Above the bus dangled a traffic light with all the lights shattered.

Shards of broken glass and plaster fragments covered the pavement. A charred and bloody teddy bear lay in the street, its button eyes staring out at the world mournfully.

Hyde sat down on the fractured curb of the sidewalk. Anne took a seat beside him. 

“Hyde,” She said, taking a hold of his hand.

“What?”

“Where will we go if it starts to rain?”

“We’ll figure something out. Don’t worry.” Hyde said, watching a lone ant crawl around the pavement.

The two siblings stared at the empty town for a few minutes; a profound sadness welled up in Hyde’s chest.

“Hyde,” Anne said, breaking the silence. “Are we good people?”

Hyde paused for a moment. His mouth felt dry as sand.

“We’re trying our hardest to be good. That’s all we can do.”

“Okay.”

They felt small droplets of cool rain fall upon them.

“Let’s go.” Hyde said as the rose and went off in search of shelter.

 

 

They came upon a modest two-story house. The red brick was cracked in places and the paint was almost completely stripped off the door, but other than that, it was remarkably well preserved.

Hyde grabbed the doorknob and twisted it both ways.

“It’s still locked.” He said, surprised.

He sat his pack on the ground and pulled out a length of stiff wire and the red handled pocket knife. He bent the wire delicately and precisely and inserted it into the keyhole.

He twisted the wire around in the lock with the knife blade serving as a tension wrench. He carefully turned the instruments around for a few minutes until the lock was opened.

The door creaked loudly as it opened.

The house’s interior had dark, plum colored carpeting and eggshell wallpaper that was peeling off in places.

Hyde closed and locked the door behind them.

The rain was pouring down outside as they laid their packs on the floor.

“Are we going to be safe in here?” Anne said as she looked out the window.

“Yeah, we’re safe.” Hyde said as he lit a candle in the living room. The candle gave off a meager yellow light, showing the portraits of who Hyde assumed where the owners of this house.

They went over to the cupboards in the kitchen. They were empty save for a single, home-canned jar of beans and a box of crackers that crawled with little black weevils.

Hyde sat the can down on the floor and began opening it with some difficulty.

Hyde took a whiff of the jar’s contents.

“It’s still good.” He said.

They ate the beans straight from the jar as they watched the soft rain come down.

“When we get there, will there be other kids my age?” Anne said as she shoveled another spoonful into her mouth.

“Oh yes, there’ll be lots of boys and girls there for you to play with. You’ll have lots of friends.” Hyde said in between mouthfuls of beans.

“That’ll be good.” Anne said as she dug around in the jar with her spoon.

 

 

They finished up their meal and resumed searching around the house.

Hyde had found a stack of paperback novels in a hall closet, most of them were murder mysteries, and a few others were fantasy stories with loincloth clad strongmen engaged in battle with great, lumbering monsters on the covers.

A pile of coupons and newspapers were neatly stacked and bundled in the garage. A red muscle car was up on blocks and drained of gasoline. Well-worn tools were lined up on the racks running along the walls.

Anne took out a small bag of walnuts from her pack and took a heavy monkey wrench from a moldering old workbench. She sat the nuts on the concrete floor and began cracking them with the wrench in quick, precise motions. She splintered open one walnut and offered it to Hyde.  The walnuts had an earthy, bitter taste that seemed to linger in their mouths.

Upstairs were two bedrooms. One was painted in an earthy yellow that brought to mind fields of wheat ready for harvesting and had a double bed. The sheets were gnawed by rats and the mattress creaked whenever any sort of pressure was put on it. Next to the bed was a mahogany nightstand with a reading lamp with a broken bulb. Inside the nightstand were a bible, a calculator, and a notebook with yellow, creased pages.

An ornate wardrobe lay on the other side of the room. Inside was a row of coats and jackets. Hyde dug his hands in the pockets of a brown leather bomber jacket and pulled out a wad of dollar bills and a key.

Hyde pocketed the bills and the key and followed Anne into the other bedroom.

The room was painted lavender with sea green trim. An oil painting of a horse galloping through a field hung on the wall in a tarnished brass frame. Anne had taken a fur overcoat from a little white armoire and was wearing it as she proudly posed and twirled in front of the cracked full-body mirror that stood in a corner of the room.

A video game console lay on the floor with the cables frayed from where the rats had been chewing on them. A little bed with indigo sheets sat eternally waiting for its vanished owner to sleep in it.

They slept that night in the double bed. Neither of them could remember a time when they had slept so comfortably.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sky was clear as glass the next morning, with the sun shining bright and harsh.

 

“Hyde,” Anne said, gazing up at the ceiling.

“What do you think happened to the people who lived here?”

“I don’t know, “he said, half awake.

“Do you think they’re still alive?”

“Not likely.”

They groggily rose to their feet and dressed themselves. The clock on the wall was stopped dead at 12:15.

Hyde pulled the key out of his coat pocket and turned it over in his hands, studying it intently

“What’s the key for?” Anne said, fastening her jeans.

“I’m going to find out.”

 

Hyde patrolled the house, using the key on any lock he could find in the house. He eventually found that it went to a small gray door in the back of the house.

The locked door  led to a dark stair case spiraling downwards into oily blackness.

Hyde flicked his lighter and slowly clambered down the creaking wooden steps.

There was another gray door that led to a basement that reeked of mildew and rot.

Hyde scanned the basement; the only light was the meager orange glow of his lighter.

There were shelves lined with cardboard boxes. A push broom lay against the wall, dust collecting on the gnarled bristles.

Hyde slowly took a step further.

There was a bb gun on an old barstool and a box of vinyl records.

 

Hyde stepped further and nearly retched at what he saw.

 

On the floor were two dried out bodies, one was a woman and the other was a little girl.

Another corpse was on the opposite side of the room. It was a man’s body, resting in the man’s dead, dried out hand was a semi automatic pistol, a small key identical to the one in Hyde's hand lay next to it. The body was slumped over, revealing a large hole in the back of its head.

The smell alone was enough to make Hyde’s stomach turn.

Hyde raced back up the steps, fighting every impulse in his body to vomit.

Hyde hastily locked the door behind him and threw the key onto the floor.

Alarmed, Anne ran over to her brother.

“What was down there?”

“Nothing.” Hyde said, stuttering slightly

“Then why did you run?”

“It’s nothing, Anne. Let’s go.”

Anne eyed her brother suspiciously

“There was a body, wasn’t there?”

“Three of them,” Hyde said, shuddering upon recalling the image of the bodies.

Anne’s eyes widened in shock, Hyde felt a bitter tinge of guilt from telling her what he had seen. “Why did you make me tell you, Anne? He thought to himself.

They gathered up a few more things from the house before they left. They packed their bags full of clothing, most of the garments were slightly too big for them, but it was better than nothing.

They took a box of ammunition which would make good fodder for any traders they might come across, as well as a saucepan and a few plastic bottles. Hyde had wrapped the stock of his rifle in electrical tape found in the garage.

 

 

 

As they walked away, Anne looked back to see four travelers, two men and two women, go inside seeking shelter, they were carrying plastic shopping bags full of vegetables and bottles of spring water.

 

 

 They continued on through the town. An emaciated black cat skulked around a parking garage. An empty pill bottle stood upright on top of a metal garbage can.

A filthy nylon raincoat lay wadded up outside a bait shop. A school building sat in ghostly solitude, as they passed they could swear they heard echoes of laughter and running feet in the empty playground.

They wandered until they had come across a bronze gate, green with age. The gate was left ajar and a row of glossy feathered crows sat on the rows of ornate metal.

Behind the gate was a vast graveyard. Rows of stone markers with unrecognized names continued on as far as they could see. A rabbit picked at the grass in front of a marble cross.

They wandered about in the silent expanse when Anne pointed out a humanoid shape in the distance.

“Hyde! Who’s that up there?”

Excited at the thought of company, he took her by the hand as they rushed over to the solitary figure.

As they drew near, the shape revealed itself to be a man of middle age sitting on a flat square headstone, his face showing a kind of quiet thoughtfulness rarely seen in most people.

His ebony skin was marred by a layer of grayish dust. He wore an olive colored mechanic’s jumpsuit with a nametag reading “SANDERS”. His black leather shoes were caked in dried red clay. His hair came down in long dreadlocks bound together into a ponytail by a rubber band.

He sat there as Anne and Hyde watched for him to move or speak or even look at them, but he remained motionless as a stone carving.

“What’s your name?” Anne finally said, after what seemed like minutes.

“I don’t have a name anymore. People just call me Sanders.”

“Is that your real name?”

“No.”

Anne looked down at the grass and then back up at the man.

“What are you doing here?”

“I should ask you the same thing.” The man kept gazing ahead at the rows of graves.

“Do you have any family?” Anne questioned, picking at a small hole in the sleeve of her coat.

 

 

 

“I have no family.”

“Any friends?” Anne felt an odd temptation to reach out and touch the man.

“No friends.”

“Are you going somewhere?” Hyde asked as he took a half step closer to the man.

“I’m headed east.”

Anne’s eyes light up.

“We’re going east too! Want to come with us?”she said, delighted at the thought of a new person to talk to.

“I’d only slow you down.”

Hyde examined the man and noticed no weapons on his person.

“It’s not safe to travel without something to protect yourself. Aren’t you afraid someone will kill you?” He said.

“Nobody bothers me.”

Hyde had the revolver out and was offering it to him.

“I don’t want your pistol.” The man said, still looking straight ahead.

Hyde stuck the weapon back in his pocket. Anne reached her hand out to the man’s hand before retracting it.

“What’s your story?” Hyde interrogated.

“What do you mean?”

“Everyone’s got a story. Let’s hear yours.”

“I don’t have a story worth telling.”

The man rose to his feet slowly and began walking off.

They watched him disappear in the distance before Hyde remarked “What a weird man.”

They hiked back to the town. Other people were wandering the streets now. A pair of men in threadbare work clothing was loading glass bottles into a truck with the bed piled high with junk, probably traders.

 

A stout matron with strong, thick arms escorted a pair of young boys through the town.

 

The people in the streets ignored each other, each little group of travelers tending to their own personal business.

A man with a long gray beard and bony hands lay on the sidewalk asleep next to a bag with the zippers sealed with a small padlock.

Hyde and Anne locked hands as they walked; within minutes they were out of town and heading down the highway. A tall ledge with red stone streaked with tan rose out of the ground with a rickety wooden fence guarding the edge. A dead tree’s spindly limbs were like bony hands clawing at the sky. When nightfall came around, they came through the threshold of a forest. The sky was blotted out by a network of thick limbs and green leaves. They set up a small camp in a little round clearing. Hyde made two trips into the woods carrying armfuls of dead and fallen branches.

Hyde stacked the wood in a pile and stuffed it with the dollar bills and some straw. Soon after, they had a fire going. The sky was a sheet of oily blackness with the stars shining like scattered diamonds on black velvet.

They sat around the fire as Hyde read to Anne her choice of the paperback novels taken from the house.

She picked out one of the fantasy novels. Hyde read it to her as she listened intently. She absorbed every word and would often ask “And then what happened?” whenever Hyde got to a particularly suspenseful part. He read to her until she had drifted off to sleep. Hyde marked his place in the book with a dead leaf and placed the stack of books back in his bag.

 

They slept curled up next to each other on the ground, a blanket draped over them. A chorus of crickets sang in the shadowy underbrush.


© 2011 J. R.



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Dude, this story is the shizznit. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Great work, excellent pacing, description, everything. Make this a book and I will pay you for it. Like, money. Actual money. Keep doing your thing.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Excellent descriptions, good focus on the characters and their relationship. You have painted this canvas to connect with all the senses, bringing this story to life. Good job.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on January 30, 2011
Last Updated on February 2, 2011
Tags: post, apocalyptic, city, ruins, girl, plants, town, house, hyde, anne

Author

J. R.
J. R.

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I am an aspiring writer who is interested in improving as a writer and getting my work out to the world. . more..

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