Aleea Davidson’s Picture Choice: Two
Title: Wither Part 6
Warning – The following submission contains scenes depicting non-graphic violence and mild sexuality. Reader discretion is advised.
They made their way back through the alley, gulping chilly, fetid air and holding it seconds before re-encountering the slumped mass of bodies. With the shock factor eliminated, Glen doubted he or Mara would have been able to resist puking at the stench otherwise. They kept their eyes averted, though Glen couldn’t deny a perverse, morbid curiosity.
Who were they? Why were they there?
When he’d looked before, one of the shapes had seemed smaller, child-like. The thought made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end, and he battled a ludicrous urge to check and make sure the nameless, faceless people were truly dead. He didn’t need to breathe in the stink of decomposition; it settled on his skin with an oily, rancid residue he doubted he’d ever completely wash away. Nothing with that particular reek harboured a pulse, and he was no damn hero.
He kept moving.
By rote memory, he managed to avoid the worst of the slime leaking from the garbage containers, keeping a firm grip on Mara’s hand. Despite the cold air that turned their exhalations into a foggy vapour, both their palms were slick with nervous sweat.
They passed a soggy, tattered poster floating in a murky puddle. It offered a glimpse of pristine blue sky dotted with marshmallow clouds, something so far removed from their surroundings it seemed to mock them. It was a glaring reminder that carefree days basking in sunlight would be few and far between in their future. What little could be had would occur in snatch-and-grab fragments of stolen time. UV Tolerance should have been a blessing, but in this world it put a target on their chests.
Mara gripped his fingers tighter as they stepped over the image, and his resolve to help her grew. In the foulness of the alley, he found a purpose and clung to it tenaciously.
When they reached the end, he turned and laid a finger across his mouth, asking for silence. He could barely see her face under the hood of her jacket, but he caught her nod of agreement.
Cautiously, Glen peered around the corners. Noise came from the riot area; the din of angry yells interspersed with shrieks of dismay or glee—probably both. The residual smoke lingering in the air stank of smouldering wood, telling Glen disaster had been averted, maybe from the rain, maybe from someone with a fire extinguisher and half a brain.
With the way clear, he gestured Mara should follow, sticking close to the building fronts where thicker shadows clung like midnight-coloured drapes. The area ahead looked deserted, though he could see some lights coming from the building they were headed for. He hoped that was a good sign.
They passed no one, only slowing a few times to avoid scattered obstacles. The odd, abandoned stand and stacks of crates heaped without order across the cracked and weed-pitted pavement were more annoyance than hindrance.
Nearly there, beginning to feel a sense of elation combined with fear that it was too easy, Glen almost froze at the sound of an engine and the glare of headlights cutting a wide swath through the night. The slight hesitation caused Mara to collide with his back, jarring him into action. He spun and pushed her into the nearest deep-set doorway, cursing when his fumbled grasp encountered a knob that wouldn’t turn.
Trapped, doubting the scant coverage would keep them from being seen, Glen used his body to pin Mara to the locked door, his mind scrambling.
“Put your arms around me,” he ordered. She hesitated for a second then complied. Glen heard the military jeep he’d passed earlier shift gears and slow. He couldn’t see Mara’s face, it was so dark, but his hands found her hips like they were drawn there magnetically.
“I’m going to lift you. Wrap your legs around my waist.”
They didn’t have time for her confusion. “Trust me, Mara. Do it. Right now!” Combined with the burst of adrenaline rushing through his system, her slight weight was shockingly easy to heft. She gasped, the sound muffled yet distinct. Thankfully, her legs encircled his waist right as the slight squeal of rusting brakes reached their ears.
“I’m sorry,” Glen told her, rushing the words out fast. “Just follow my lead. Pretend with me.” His lips hit hers using the pretense of a kiss to mutter explanations into her surprised mouth. “I won’t hurt you. Don’t be scared. We need them to think we’re just two lovers taking advantage of a quiet place. Maybe they’ll move on.”
Pretending to be oblivious to scrutiny, Glen anchored Mara’s back firmly to the door, pushing her long skirt up her thighs. His heart pounded in his chest as the beam of a flashlight hit the wall beside them, and still, he couldn’t help noticing how silky and warm her skin was under his hands, how lithe her muscles were as they twitched in surprise. His conscience labelled him a lecher for every pleasurable itch in his traitorous fingertips.
“Don’t freak out. We’re acting, that’s all. I have to make it look real. Christ, I’m so sorry, just...”
The beam found them, spotlighting their forms in a weak luminescent haze, batteries running low on juice.
Still, it was enough light Glen could finally see Mara’s face clearly. Her eyes were wide with fear.
“Remember your book?” he asked, still speaking almost directly against her lips, a frantic, fast whisper. “We’re Rex and Samantha, okay?”
She nodded, startling when someone in the jeep emitted a raucous snort that was half laugh, half bark of surprise.
“Well, what have we here?” The voice carried despite the distance between the doorway and the road.
Glen grit his teeth and flexed his hips, moving them lightly against her, wanting to give the impression of sex without actually molesting her and pretty much failing. He kept waiting for her to slap him or scream, but she followed his lead the way he’d asked. His admiration for her went up another notch.
Another bark of laughter, this time from a different source, caused Mara to cringe.
“Man, ain’t you ever seen two people getting romantic?”
“Easy, “ Glen whispered. “I have to...” He pushed his hips into her again, his scattered nerves fighting the action even as a part of him thrilled to it. His mind repeated a litany of go away, you fuckers, hoping they weren’t planning to stay and watch like perverts getting their own free soft-core porn show. Regardless, he needed to make this look believable, and he knew they weren’t doing a great job of it.
“Help me, nymph. Pretend with me, and they might leave.” He felt her suck in a deep breath, and one of her hands moved from around his shoulders to the back of his neck. Her fingers trembled as she threaded them through his hair, hanging on. Glen found a rhythm with his movements, adding a little more speed the way a man would if he was really lost in the moment.
Mara made another gasping noise, and though he knew it was involuntarily, Glen urged her to do it again. “That’s it. That’s the right sound. Keep it up.” Her eyelids lowered, and he watched as she bit the inside of her cheek.
“Should we break them up?”
Mara made another little noise, louder this time as Glen circled his hips. It was impossible to avoid contact with her, pressed as tight as they were. Every flex brought inevitable intimacy. Her pupils dilated slightly, and Glen had to fight his body interpreting that sign as a sexual one. It was a losing battle, and her eyes widened again when she felt the proof. He wanted to apologize but didn’t, couldn’t. He was a man. She was a woman. As fucked up as this was, he couldn’t control the erection that pressed against her. He didn’t even want to.
“Nah. Leave them alone. In this screwed up world, you gotta get whatever good you can, anyway you can. Besides, we got more important stuff to do. Daylight’s only a few hours away. I want to get this meat back to base before it goes bad and before my lily-white ass gets fried by the sun.”
The engine revved, tires making that distinct purr over wet road as they crept forward.
Someone let out a catcall whistle of approval before yelling, “Give her a good thrust for me, dude!”
And then, amidst a lot of raunchy laughing, they drove off, leaving Mara and Glen once more in the dark.
They both went still, panting for air as if they were running. The adrenaline continued, lending a sharper edge to his arousal, something desperate and hungry and not in the least fake. Mara licked her dry lips, and it damn near made him groan. It was all he could do not to start moving again, to ignore everything rational and make them both feel good for a while. The way she was breathing and still clinging made him consider she might want the same.
Slowly, sanity returned.
Easing his body away, he helped Mara stand, feeling a mix of shame and lust hit him as he watched her skirt slither back down her thighs, covering her nearly to the ankles. He hadn’t really kissed her, yet he could swear her taste was in his mouth—something sweet and fresh and nothing he had any right to.
“Are you okay?” he asked. “Can you make it the rest of the way?”
A flash of irritation turned her mouth down at the corners. “I’m fine,” she snapped, moving around him, her spine ramrod straight. Glen bet her cheeks were red and regretted he couldn’t see her clearly. He liked attitude and strength, and he was beginning to believe Mara had both in spades. He wanted to smile.
“Let’s go,” he said, instead.
They travelled a few blocks in silence to where the meat was supposedly being sold. Mara seemed to withdraw into herself with each step they took. Glen wasn’t sure if she was upset with him over what had happened or if she was simply anxious to get what they came for.
As they stepped up to what was once a thriving business, Glen saw her shoulders droop. Defeat washed over her, and he found it painful to witness.
The store was empty, save for a few lamps hooked up to a small generator that sounded like it was keening its final death knell. The raw, metallic smell of freshly butchered meat hung in the air, but the steel meat hooks hanging from a homemade rigging were empty. In the center of it all, a man sat on an upturned bucket. His hands rested on the smock of his apron, rust coloured stains creating a gory Rorschach test of blotches painted in blood instead of ink. He looked up at their arrival, his eyes shiny wet and smudged with exhaustion. Under a thick smattering of arm hair, Glen spotted familiar blisters; another UV Intolerant soul doomed.
“I got nothing left,” he said, his voice a dry croak imbibed with dual meaning, dripping despondence. “Military cocksuckers cleaned me out. Promised me gas. Enough to keep my genny running for three months, they said.” He laughed then erupted into a fit of coughing. Mara took a step closer, and Glen stopped her. What the butcher had wasn’t contagious, but it could make him dangerous in other ways. His mental stability certainly wasn’t good.
When he stopped coughing, he spat a gelatinous glob of blood, adding to the crimson-smeared floor. One of the lights winked out, the other dimming slowly.
“We can trade,” Mara told him, pleadingly. She reached for the bag Glen still carried. “I have batteries and...”
“I told you, there’s nothing left.” The man waved his arm around and choked out another phlegm-filled laugh. “If I did, I’d give it to you for free. As you can see, I don’t have any use for it.” His smile was slightly deranged and rueful. He got up and walked to a battered butchers block counter, swept aside a heap of dirty rags and picked up an old Colt M1911 Pistol.
Glen caught Mara around the waist just as the butcher raised the gun to his temple. She screamed as Glen shoved her back out the door, using his body to shield hers even though he knew the sharp retort of a bullet leaving the chamber wasn’t meant for them.
Neither registered the thud of a body hitting the floor, but Glen instinctively protected Mara from the sight.
Meat begets meat, he thought unkindly as his gorge rose in a sour, hot wave up his throat. He held Mara close, keeping himself between her and the door as he walked them away, just a post-amorous couple on a midnight stroll through crazy town.
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Aleea lives in her imagination most of the time. It's an interesting place to be... Occasionally she can be coaxed out to chat on Twitter, though she finds it akin to torture to stick to that absurd 140 character limit. (@Aleeab4u)