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Dead Wood

Dead Wood

A Story by Armes
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In post-apocalyptic southern England, Will struggles to care for his elder sister, Lucy, and his baby brother, Oliver. When a group of mercenaries arrive nearby, Will's dedication is put to the test.

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                 He stood on the edge of the porch, looking toward the broken road. “Don’t go into town, Lucy.” Will’s handkerchief itched against his sweaty neck.  “Mercenaries came in last night. They’ll be looking for trouble and who knows what they’ll find.”

                “We’ve ran out of food for Oliver,” she said, holding their baby brother. “I have to go into town" to the Centre"at least to pick up some more powder. We can get other food tomorrow.”

                The land before him was barren. Dust formed into whirlwinds and traveled along the ground. The sky was gray with dirt and debris. The porch, riddled with bullet holes and stripped of paint, creaked beneath Will’s weight as he turned to his older sister. Lucy sat on a rocking chair behind him, Oliver sitting on her lap. She was only fourteen.

                “But, Lucy, the mercenaries"”

                “I’ll avoid them, I promise.” Lucy didn’t even look at Will, but kept her eyes on Oliver, who was playing with a wooden toy.

                Will looked away. He wasn’t pleased, but he knew she was right. Lucy was calm, always composed and it sometimes seemed to Will that she didn’t understand the gravity of their situation, but he knew she did. She always knew. She knew everything. Understood everything.

                 “Well,” he said. “I’ll go with. We can put Oliver in that wrap of yours.”

                When she responded Will could hear the smile in her voice. “Scared that I won’t make it?” she asked.

                He didn’t respond to her question but looked out at the broken road, wishing, somehow, that someone would come fix it. But there were no more pavers around. They were all commandeered when the war started to help build bunkers and fortifications. Out in the countryside, cars or any vehicle were a rarity.

                He found the road curious. It was made of cement, he knew, but it sometimes broke apart in rock-like chunks. And where the road went, no one knew. He knew one of the roads led to London, which one he wasn’t sure. It just kept going in either direction, winding around the distant hills. He read about them in old books left over at the abandoned school house.  They were a mark of a past era, the era before the war.

                “We’ll leave Bruce here. To watch the house,” Will said. He looked down at the old dog, who watched back at him sadly. “We’ll only be gone for a little while, Bruce,” he told the dog.

                Bruce whined and laid his head down on his paws. The brother and sister fetched their ration tickets and walked down the broken road and into the dry brush, dirt sifting into their cracked shoes. Lucy wrapped Oliver to her back and the gurgling boy looked wide-eyed at the dead wood, ash falling from the high limbs.

                Flimwell used to be much larger, but during the war most of it was destroyed and burned down. Walking through the brush, Will could see the remnants of brick, stone and wooden buildings. Some even had steel supports, but most metals were scrapped to help build the new Flimwell. It was situated around the Centre, a small warehouse that stored food and housed the markets whenever merchants came by. There was also a diner and a lookout radio tower. Most residents of Flimwell lived close in town"most, except Will and Lucy. They lived in their parents’ old home.

                “Ah, so the Hamiltons are back,” crowed an old man from outside the Centre. He was thin and weathered, smelling of tobacco and mold. It was the manager. He always gave Lucy extra powder. There weren’t many children in Flimwell, none nearly as young as Oliver, so the manager always gave her a bit more than the ration ticket stated. “And Will,” said the manager, surprised. “Nice to see you come ‘round town. Maybe we’ll have a party.”

                They moved into the Centre and the manager opened a steel crate, pulling out some cartons of white powder. Lucy provided the ration tickets and the manager pushed the cartons across the counter. She stuffed them into her patched bag.

                “Will,” said the manager. “I think I’ve got something you’d be interested in. It’s in the back.” He shuffled off behind the counter and waved at him to follow.

                Before he could say a word, Lucy interrupted Will’s thoughts. “I’ll make Ollie more milk. It’ll be a few minutes,” she said. Lucy was already unwrapping Oliver from her back. Will shrugged and followed the manager, who was disappearing through plastic double doors.

                “Some merchant came by, dropped it off….”said the manager. “Said he had too many cases like it to carry about. Nice too.” He stopped before a black, folder-like case. The manager clutched his twisted back and unzipped the case with his free hand. Inside were scratched, yet clean metal tools, glimmering faintly in the gas-light. “Full set,” said the manager. “Tweezers, scalpel, picks, scissors, needles…Look at this.” He picked up a screwdriver with a crossed point. “They called these Phillips screwdrivers in the old days…not common anymore.”

                Will was surprised. It was a nice set of tools. They talked about its price, what Will could possibly bring in to trade for the set. The manager eventually zipped it back up, saying it would stay there until it found a buyer. It was only until they came back into the main warehouse did Will become upset.

                A group of hairy men sat huddled about the counter, drinking from old bottles of whiskey. They were talking among themselves and every few comments eyed Lucy, who was watching Oliver as he sat on the floor sucking on a bottle.

                “She’s a cute one,” muttered one man. “The one with that runt. Wonder if it’s hers.” His face was covered in facial hair insomuch that all Will could see were his eyes and nose. “Wouldn’t mind keepin’ her around, if you know what I mean.”

                “Well, why don’t we, boys?” said another man, clean shaven and pale-eyed. He grinned, revealing an ugly row of rotten teeth. “Bring her home tonight, eh?”

                A surge of anger fired through Will and he marched over to the counter. “You leave my sister alone,” he spat.

                The mercenaries laughed and sneered at him. The pale-eyed man said, “Oh, so she’s your sister. Mind if we borrow her?” They laughed and the man grinned.

                “Leave her alone.” Will pushed at the pale-eyed man and was immediately shoved onto the floor.

                “Come to fight, eh?” the pale-eyed man said.

                Will shot to his feet and punched the man in the face. The man was surprised by the force of Will’s little fist. “So you are a fighter,” he said.

                “Don’t touch her,” Will snarled. It was all he could manage to say.

                “Or what? You’ll shoot me?”

                Will’s eyes narrowed. “You bet,” he said.

 


                By the time they returned to their parent’s home it was early afternoon and Will set about to clean the well, a project he had been working on for the past week. Bruce and Oliver were taking a nap upstairs in the old nursery, which only consisted of a crib and a chest full of clothes and diapers. Much of the house was empty. Will and Lucy had sold many paintings, rugs and extra furniture to pay for food and other supplies. With their parent’s dead for almost a year, there wasn’t much they could do except continue living in the house. The windows were all broken, the piano in pieces. There was no electricity, so their refrigerator that would normally keep rations fresh was used to store cans and processed food.

                The well was entirely different matter. It was something that could not go into disrepair. Water was too valuable to let stew in a dirty well, so Will had dropped a ladder into the shaft, climbed down and cleaned the walls and filtered what was left of the standing water.

                After a few hours of work, Will finished and went inside for a drink. He opened his canteen and took a few gulps, loosening the red handkerchief that was about his neck. It was then he heard the screaming. It was faint and sharp and it jolted Will to his core. Standing in the doorway, he heard it coming from the dead wood that stood behind the house. The screams came again and again.

                It was Lucy. He knew.

                Will dashed to the stair cupboard and tore it open. Inside was a large shotgun with wood handlings. It was his father’s shotgun rifle. Will grabbed it and began loading cartridges as he rushed through the yellow grass. She was still screaming"what she was saying, he didn’t know, but that didn’t matter. He burst into the dead wood and followed the noise further into the forest.

                He found her beneath that mercenary; she was pinned to the ground. Snarling, Will took the rifle and swung it at the mercenary. It hit him square in the jaw and flipped the mercenary clean onto his back. The man’s face was bleeding. But there was no time. There were no rules. Justice had to be paid and justice was often brutal.

                Will swung again, but missed this time. The mercenary was alert and he scampered to his feet.

                “Aw, the little brother comes to save his sister,” said the man. “I raped her"so what? She’s just a w***e.”

                Stepping between the man and Lucy, Will aimed the rifle toward the man. Despite all his anger, Will’s heart was pounding out of his chest and his fingers were becoming slippery.

                “Got your daddy’s gun,” said the man. “So shoot me. Shoot me! Be a man and shoot me.” The man’s face was black with streaks of dirt. He leered and taunted. “I raped her,” he kept saying.  “Raped her, so shoot me!”

                Will fired. Not just one shot, but nine. Once he started, he wasn’t sure how to stop. His anger, his anxiety and fear all flooded Will’s mind. His hands were shaking so much he had to stop. He thought he might have a seizure. He killed a man. He shot him. He was only a kid, only twelve. He killed a man.

             Will lowered his father’s rifle and looked at the dead man.  It was bloodier that he thought it would be. There were gaping holes in the man’s face and chest, his back arched into the ground. His face was entirely blown off.  His arms were flung back, blood seeped into the dirt. Such depravity, thought Will, but he did it for Lucy. He promised he would, but the man’s body was all he could see.

© 2011 Armes


Author's Note

Armes
This story came to mind from a song 'Dustbowl Dance' by Mumford and Sons, so if any of you have listened to the song, please let me know in your review.

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Featured Review

Great story! The build up of suspense, only to be cut-off for a few moments was tantalizing enough, then to bring it to a close suddenly and unexpectedly at the end was awesome. I felt sympathy for the kids and read faster as the story progressed. Very nice work!

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Great story! The build up of suspense, only to be cut-off for a few moments was tantalizing enough, then to bring it to a close suddenly and unexpectedly at the end was awesome. I felt sympathy for the kids and read faster as the story progressed. Very nice work!

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on January 8, 2011
Last Updated on January 8, 2011
Tags: Post-Apocalyptic, England, Guns, Rations

Author

Armes
Armes

Seattle, WA



About
I'm a writer, an almost-artist and not-very-often pianist who enjoys observing and sharing. I enjoy discussions from literature to history and all the little bits in between. more..

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