Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: I See Angry People (Part 5)
I woke from a dream of being trapped on a boat on the ocean, by myself, with waves tossing my boat around, threatening to wash me overboard, and carry me to a watery tomb.
It was raining. Pouring, actually. Thunder, lightning, howling wind. I knew the sun was up, I could see the trees around me, green leaves and all. I could only do that when the sun was up. So, I’d been out for a while. I didn’t know how long, and with the sky filled with clouds, I had no way of telling what part of the day it was.
And I was soaked to the bone. Which didn’t strike me as a bad thing, given the wound in my arm. Clean water on a wound couldn’t hurt, so I held my arm out as best I could, and let it get soaked. Once the caked on blood, sweat, and dirt were washed off, I tied the wound up in a shirt sleeve, and decided I needed to chance calling on the animals for help.
I let out the howl the wolves had taught me, and listened. Nothing. Nothing but silence, the sound of the wind, the rumble of thunder. There were no wolves in hearing distance.
I screamed like an eagle, and was rewarded a few minutes later when an eagle screamed back. I screamed again, and waited. A golden eagle landed on a tree branch nearby, and stared at me. I chirped, the way Jillian had taught me.
The eagle studied me a while, then screamed, flapped it’s wings, and motioned its head, liked I should follow it.
We headed north, further from the fence. I was tired, hungry, and weakened from my wound. The eagle knew. It circled back frequently to check on me, make sure I was keeping up, that I knew where it wanted me to go.
After a few hundred yards, my arm was on fire again, and I felt blood leaking from the wound, running down my arm, dripping off my elbow and fingertips.
The eagle guided me to a pair of houses in the middle of nowhere. Two well kept, neat houses, fully painted, yards edged and mowed, sidewalks clear, and a truck in each driveway. Opposite the houses was a warehouse with a sign, “Tommy’s Garage”.
The eagle motioned me to follow it into the clearing. I hesitated, the last human I’d encountered was a berserker with a gun who shot at trees, and screamed, “Nothing’s getting past me!”
The eagle screamed, then landed on a lamp post in one of the front yards. In the pouring rain, the wind and the lightning. The porch light on one of the houses turned on, and a man, and woman, opened the door, and peered out. “What is it, Scotty?”
The eagle screamed again, then turned toward me and flapped its wings. “Is someone out there, Scotty?”
The eagle screamed again.
The man raised a rifle, and cautiously stepped from the house, “Who’s there?”
I held up my hands and stepped forward, “Don’t shoot.”
He pointed his rifle at me, and studied me.
“I’m Frank.” I looked at the eagle, and screamed. The eagle screamed back, extended its wings, and took to the sky, headed for its home to wait out the storm.
“You speak to Scotty?”
I nodded. “He brought me here.”
I was getting a bit dizzy, and stumbled a bit.
“You OK, Frank?”
“Bastard shot me.”
He put the rifle down, saw my arm, turned to the woman, “Put on some hot water, and get some thread and needles.” She didn’t ask why. He walked through the rain to me, shook my hand, “Tommy.”
I wobbled a bit.
“You’ll be staying with us a while. At least ‘till we get that arm patched up, and get you on your feet again.” He guided me to the front door, “You’ll be safe here.” Next thing I knew I was in a kitchen, sitting at a table. “This is Joy, my wife.” She smiled. “His name’s Frank.”
She rested my arm on the table, “Oh heavens, Frank. You’ve been shot.”
“One of those idiots guarding the fence, no doubt,” Tommy mumbled, “Wasting good bullets. Shooting at nothing.”
I did my best to not scream as Joy washed the wound with soap and hot water. I ground my teeth and tried not to bite my tongue. “I wish I had the anesthetic I had at the hospital.” Joy smiled. “I’d knock you out, and clean you up, and you wouldn’t know a thing.” She smiled.
“I’m a good doctor, don’t you think?” She smiled again. A friendly smile. Tommy chuckled.
“She’ll take good care of you. Have you stitched up, and getting better in no time.” He laughed then, “Want a beer?”
“He’ll need something stronger than that, dear,” Joy motioned him to one of the kitchen cabinets. “A glass or two of the good stuff.”
Tommy poured a glass of whiskey from a bottle. He poured another for himself. He and I chugged them down, and he poured two more. That’s when Joy started stitching me up. They made a good team, her doing her work, and him distracting me as much as he could. It still hurt like someone was stabbing my arm with an icepick. But at least the bleeding had stopped.
“So, Frank, what brings you to these parts?”
“I’m looking for something.” I winced as the next stitch went in.
“Where you from?”
“It doesn’t really have a name.” I wondered how I could explain the tiny settlement in the mountains. “I call it Jessica’s place.”
He nodded. “Where’d you live before the world went ape shit crazy?”
“Tommy!” Joy gave him an angry look.
“I know. I know. You keep telling me it was a virus of some kind. All I know is people went off the deep end, and started raping and killing and everything went to hell.”
Joy sighed, another stitch went in, and I winced again. “It was a virus, you know.” She looked at me. “Infected people’s brains, pulled down parts of their cognitive abilities. Turned them into wild animals.”
Tommy nodded, “Whatever. I just know the world went crazy.”
“It didn’t have a real name,” I decided to answer Tommy’s question. “Just a small place, with a few families, and a farm market.” I tried to smile, but winced instead as another stitch went in. I took another sip of the whiskey, “I lived at home, with Mom and Dad, and my sister.”
“Oh.” Tommy looked at the floor a bit. “They didn’t make it?”
I shook my head.
“You from anywhere near Denver, or Boulder?”
“You don’t have a clue where you are, do you.”
I nodded, and winced again. “I just kept going west.”
“Kentucky, I think. What used to be Kentucky.”
“You walked here from Kentucky?” Tommy shook his head. “Fella, you are a long way from home.”
We spoke off and on while Joy finished stitching my arm up. Tommy pulled out a clean shirt, clean pants, and underwear. “Take all the time you need.” He and Joy showed me to the bathroom of their house. They had running water. Hot water.
I hadn’t had a hot shower in years. It felt good to soak in the water for a few minutes. I got dressed in the clothes they’d handed me. Back in the kitchen, I met their neighbors, Kathy and Ben. An old, retired couple. “Ben’s a bit of a gun nut,” Joy told me. “He’s managed to chase everybody off with his canons.”
Turned out Ben had a dozen or more assault weapons. An AR-15, an AK-47, and loads more I didn’t recognize. The man was armed to the teeth.
Tommy asked for everyone, “So, what brings you this far west?”
“I’ve been looking for,” I paused, “someone.”
“Yeah. I don’t know them. But I’ll recognize them when I find them.”
Tommy and Ben nodded. “No one like who you’re looking for around here.”
They set up a cot in the garage that night. A cot with blankets, and pillows, and sheets. They turned on a wood burning furnace in the garage. “You’ll be warm and dry in here.”
Kathy said, “I’ll check on you once the sun’s up. Bring you some breakfast.”
“We don’t get many,” Kathy paused, “many civilized people through here. We take care of the ones that turn up.”
“Tommy?” I asked, “What was that fence?”
“That’s a long story, Frank. A long story indeed. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.”
We all said goodnight, and they went back to their houses. I stretched out on the bed. My body did the rest, and I was asleep in no time at all.
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Mark woke up in 2010, and has been exploring life since then. All his doctors agree. He needs to write.