Walkabout, Episode 3: Gangs

Walkabout, Episode 3: Gangs

A Story by J. R.

Hyde and Anne continue their journey.


Anne had awaken and stood over Hyde as he lay on the cool ground. The sun had not yet risen and the sky was an ethereal cobalt blue. Glassy droplets of virginal morning dew sat over the dead leaves covering the earth. She picked up a small leaf and crushed it in her hand, opening her hand again to watch the pieces fall back to the ground.
No sound but the rushing of a nearby stream.
She could hear the crackling of footsteps over twigs and leaves. She turned and peered through the rows of gaunt trees with outstretched limbs like the arms of beggars. Out on the road were three people.
A young woman with sunken eyes encircled with dark bags like the mask of a raccoon trundled off to the side. A brown knit stocking cap clasped tightly over a long mop of matted, filthy ginger hair. Her body was angular and thin, like a human figure sculpted out of knife blades. A nylon bandolier adorned with pouches fastened over a gray v-necked shirt with the logo of a defunct music group stenciled onto it in black paint. Brown carpenter's jeans clung to her hips and tucked into camouflage pattern rubber galoshes.

A stout, hunched man in a tweed hunting coat shouldered a large army knapsack with cooking pots dangling from it, rattling every time he took a step; a scoped revolver with a big, square barrel was tucked into his belt. 

The other man looked to be of Arabic heritage. Long, curly black hair hung down over his eyes. His chin bristled with uneven beard stubble. He wore a sweat stained burgundy tracksuit with mustard yellow stripes with a navy blue duffle bag dragging behind him.
Shaking, Anne crept back to where Hyde lay and shook him and hissed into his ear:
"Hyde! Hyde! There are people out in the road."
Hyde clambered up to his feet and took a gander at the vagrants out on the blacktop.
They had limp, unfocused stares, glaring ahead for thousands of yards, inattentive and numb.
A miasma of filth hung over them and radiated out from them. Anne wrinkled her nose and took a step back from them. Their skin was turned gray with dirt accumulated over years and years of wandering.
They stood still and watched as the three vagrants tottered on down the winding path of black asphalt, muttering amongst themselves in hollow voices.

"Who were they?" Anne whispered to Hyde, who rested his hand on her shoulder.
"I don't know."
"Were they good people?"
They waited for a while in the cover of the trees until it was certain that the travelers were gone.
"Maybe we should have called to them." Anne said.
"We don't know if they were robbers or not."
"What if they weren't?"
"Then I guess they weren't."

They settled down beside a grandfather clock lying on its side in a mass of leaves. Rotten and stripped of all metal parts, even the hands were taken.
The gutted clock made Hyde think. 

What was the world like before this? He had only the faintest idea and Anne did not know at all. In a generation, no one would know at all.

"I'm hungry."
Anne had her hooded jacket unzipped revealing a black shirt a size too large for her slight frame.
Hyde looked in the direction of a small creek.
"Let's get you some food."
Hyde crouched down near the rushing stream and got out the pocketknife and the roll of electrical tape. He got a long stick sitting close to him and fastened the knife to one end with the electrical tape, making an improvised spear.

Hyde held the spear in both hands as he watched the water. Small, silver scaled fish glided along the bottom.

He raised the spear and began spearing the fish with quick, precise motions.
In a few minutes, he had caught four fish. He had Anne gather sticks to build a fire while he cleaned the fish with the knife. 
They had a modest fire going, surrounded by stones, with the fish being cooked over the flames.
They sat and ate around the fire while Hyde told Anne stories his father told him about justice and kindness, but there were times when he started to wonder if they existed anymore.

They laid the bones and heads in a little pile in the edge of the clearing.

"Does anybody eat the fish heads?" Anne asked, poking the dying embers with a stick.

"I'm sure some people do. Dad used to say Eskimos eat the eyes of the fish they caught."

"Do you think there are still Eskimos around?"

"I don't know. Maybe there are still some left."

"I wish I could meet one."

"Maybe you will." Hyde said, drinking out of a bottle of water.

They were on the move again minutes after.

A choir bus lay on the side of the road; its roof was rusted through. Hyde climbed into the bus and searched around. A pocket bible lay on the floor, its pages gnawed to bits by rats. Hanging from the driver's rear view mirror was a bead necklace.

A black leather briefcase sat in the left seat in the back row, it contained clothing, a coat, a polo shirt, some jeans, and black socks, none of it fit him. Under the driver's seat was a can of hair spray. 

Hyde turned the can around in his hands and sprayed some on the window to see if it still had any in it. The white foamy chemical streaked down the filthy bus window.

He stuffed the spray can into his pack and got off the bus.

"Was there anything in there?" Anne said, craning her head to get a better look at the bus.

"Just a can of hair spray."

"Hair spray?"

"Stuff that people used to put in their hair, to make it look good."

They pressed on down the highway. A paper cup rolled down the blacktop, propelled by a low breeze. Small piles of trash, paper bags, fast food wrappers, soda cans, dotted the ground. 

The fragments of a shattered compact disk glittered in the sun.

"What if we get lost?"
"We won't get lost." Hyde said, 
"You promise?" She said, her green eyes glowing warmly.
"I promise."

There was a long row of wrecked vehicles on the road, like a funeral procession stopped dead in time. 
Bones of various species littered the sides of the road; they were stained yellow and scratched where the teeth of hungry dogs scratched at them. 
There was a tree stump, thick and knotted with a rusted axe jutting out of it; the handle was splintered in half.
Eventually they found themselves standing before a supermarket. Red and yellow tile decorated the exterior, the roof was the same shade of red and the tiles were falling off, revealing dirty, dark gray concrete.
The glass door had been broken down some time ago by desperate mobs. They stepped inside to find the store empty. Shelves stood bare except for rusted empty tin cans, plastic jugs, and broken glass jars and bottles. A sign hanging in one aisle announcing 10% discount on canned pears.
"I don't like this place." Anne said, holding Hyde's arm. "It's so dark."
"We won't be in here long."Hyde said, comforting her.
"But what if someone's here?" 
"There's nobody here."
"Are you sure?"She asked, looking up at him.
"I'm sure." He said, scanning the ravaged store.
Some shelves were knocked over and broken and lying on the cracked white tile floor. A thick blanket of dust covered the floor and shelves. They paced around the store for a while, searching for anything of use. Hyde found a bundled length of yellow nylon rope lying next to an empty refrigerator box.
Hyde walked down a row of shelves; a neat stack of notebooks lay unmolested on the bottom shelf. Boxes of pencils lay open with their contents strewn around the cool floor. Hyde noticed one particularly thick book. He picked it up and thumbed through it, on the pages were numerous pictures of exotic animals. Lions, tropical songbirds, and others posed on the plain white pages. It was a coloring book, one in unusually good condition. Hyde settled his pack on the floor and stuffed the book inside. He made sure Anne didn't see him with it, he wanted to surprise her. 
Searching the same aisle, he found a small box of crayons; the blue and orange box was scratched slightly but otherwise in excellent condition. He placed the box next to the coloring book in his pack and began searching the other aisles.

Anne was running up to him holding a little gray box. She presented to him a box of rifle ammunition with some flourish and grinned widely, as if proud of her find.
"It's a box of bullets; I found them under the counter next to the big glass case."
Hyde got his rifle and ejected one of the rounds from the magazine. He held the bullet and compared it to one from the box in Anne's hands, a perfect match.
"Thank you, "He said, taking the box and holding it close to him.
Anne smiled again, wider this time.
"Did you find anything, Hyde?" She said.
"I found something, but it's a surprise." He said, 
"Oh. What kind of surprise?"
"You'll have to wait. You're going to really like it."
"I can wait."
They walked out of the supermarket. Weather-beaten shopping carts lay scattered on the lot. An old jeep stood alone with a 'FOR SALE' sign hanging in the window.
A group of bedraggled crows took turns drinking out of a puddle in a cracked recession in the pavement.
They were on the road again after leaving the parking lot.
They passed by a barbed wire fence, the wire was twisted and rusted and bore a faded "TRESSPASSERS WILL BE SHOT" sign. 
Hyde immediately stopped and stood still, listening for some phantom noise in the silent country road.
"What is it, Hyde?"
"I hear something."
He heard a faint, mechanical roar far off in the distance. There silence for a moment while he stood listening, then the roar sounded off again, louder this time.

"Let's go! We got to hide, let's go!" He hastily whispered to here as he pulled her over to the side of the road and ran into the woods lining the side of the highway.
They lay down flat in a drainage ditch a few paces from where Hyde heard the noise.
"What is it?" Anne whispered, frightened and clinging to her brother.
"It sounds like someone's coming"
They lay in the ditch and watched as a rickety old van rumbled down the asphalt. One headlight was out and the van was stripped bare of paint. The engine coughed and sputtered and died as the van lurched to a halt.
Five men poured out of the vehicle. They were dressed in patched, dingy clothes. They carried with them rifles and shotguns that had been cut down to an easily concealable length. Two men turned to the back of the vehicle and dragged out a pair of wretched looking people, a man and a woman. Both of them were naked save for a dog collar clasped tight around their necks. Their wrists were bound in rope and they were being led out of the vehicle by chains hooked to their collars. Their bodies were dotted with big, dark bruises. They stared into space with an expression of utter despair.
One of the men cussed as he opened the van's hood and began working on the engine.
"Who are those men?" Anne whispered to Hyde, who was gripping his rifle.
"They're part of a gang." Hyde said.
"What are they doing with those people?" 
"They're taking them somewhere."
"Somewhere bad?"
They watched as one of the men ejected the shells from his shotgun and started cleaning the barrels with a thin wire brush. The chained woman began sobbing which spurned one of the men to yell at her. She was silent for a few minutes then resumed sobbing.
The man who yelled at her stomped up to her and slapped her hard. Her cheek was red and throbbing with pain as she whined like a dying dog under her breath. 
The man who was digging around in the van's engine slammed the hood shut as the van roared back to life. The chained prisoners were led back into the van by two big men with shotguns as the gangsters climbed back into the ramshackle vehicle and sped off.

They lay there in the ditch; the road was once again silent.
"Why were the man and lady in chains?" Anne said, shaken by what she had seen.
"They were slaves. They were probably taking them to put them to work or sell them off." Hyde said, his arm around her.
"Why would they do that?"
"Because they're bad people, they do these things to people who can't defend themselves."
"We wouldn't do that to anyone, would we?"
"No, we'd never do that."
"If they caught us, would they take us as slaves?"
"They probably would."
Hyde stood up and looked around him. When he was certain that no one else was around, he took Anne by the hand and they hurried off into the forest.
They set up a camp in a small clearing. The trees were thin and tall, with crooked limbs and white, ashy bark. 
Hyde stood guard with his rifle as Anne sat watching a squirrel dart along the ground.
"I'll kill anyone who touches her."
Hyde thought to himself.

© 2011 J. R.

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I read the first paragraph and now I feel like never writing anything ever again. So descriptive! So visual and audible! I felt like I was actually there! Bravo!

Posted 11 Years Ago

This has some great prose in it. Your opening is spectacular.... but why go into such amazing detail on characters that aren't featured in this chapter?
I think the story solidifies when they reach the supermarket.
The dialogue relationship between Hyde and Anne is well defined in their interactions. Nice touch.
The environment is coming alive, watch for continuity breaks.
This is gonna be EPIC. write on.

Posted 12 Years Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on January 31, 2011
Last Updated on February 7, 2011
Tags: post, apocalyptic, city, ruins, girl, plants, gangs, hyde, anne


J. R.
J. R.

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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