Sunlight warms my face as I ride my bike behind my dad, trying to keep up as my little legs paddled.
“Daddy! Wait!” I paddled faster but I kept falling behind no matter how hard I tried to keep up, I could see him grow smaller in the distance.
I stopped wanting to cry and again yelled for my father, he suddenly stopped to look back and yelled my name, “Jane!”
I continued to ride towards my father failing to close the distance between us.
Starting to panic tears began to sting my eyes and run down my cheeks.
‘Why won’t he ride back to me? I want my daddy!’
Firm hands grasp my shoulders forcing my head to roll back and forth.
“Jane! For god’s sake! Wake up!” My eyes snap open to see the panic-stricken face of Peter. His eyes wide and full of fear.
Deeply confused and still waking from sleep I blink sleepily up at him, not sure what he really wanted.
“Get up! We have to get out of here! Now!” Letting go of my shoulders he stormed off across the room.
I watched him pace from one side of the bedroom to the other, tearing clothes from cupboards and throwing them towards a suitcase.
He then continued his frantic march to and fro from the bathroom to the bedroom, checking items while softly muttering to himself.
Wakefulness now emerging I started to quickly feel the light sting of uneasy nervousness, clenching the blankets between my fingers I continued to watch him pace worryingly about the room.
Face dripping with perspiration, his dishevelled black-brown hair stuck up wildly, hands clenched closed forming white-knuckled fists.
The ‘clicking’ of Peter loading his sidearm had startled me fully from my sleep.
“Are we in trouble?” My eyes remained glued to the sidearm.
He glanced at me, quickly tucking the sidearm into a holster securely attached to his hip.
I started to shake a little, “Peter? What’s happening?” I choked almost suddenly too afraid to speak.
He halted in the middle of the room leaving a sudden eerie silence, I could hear the blood pounding through my ears.
Realising I still hadn’t moved, he approached me slowly.
Holding my trembling hands, I could feel his felt just as cold and clammy as mine did.
He was as scared as I was.
“Sweety, my love, you need to get dressed, ok?” Fighting back the sting of tears I nodded.
Tucking my cellphone under my chin while clumsily trying to get dressed I desperately try to call any family members I could but the lines were busy.
“Come on! Please!” I begged as I dialled my sister’s number again but the lines were busy.
I could hear random car horns going off outside and people arguing.
‘What on earth is happening? It hasn’t gotten that bad yet… Has it?’
Accidentally stepping on the TV remote, the TV suddenly switched on.
I dropped my suitcase not believing what I’m seeing plastered on the TV.
Every channel displayed an Emergency Broadcast on repeat.
“Only information we can get is broadcast over the radio, come on, get Shadow and meet me in the car.” He said switching the TV off.
Quickly I leash Shadow, our German Shepherd and lead him downstairs.
Shivering outside in the car with Shadow’s head resting on my shoulder.
Being very early in the morning it was fairly dark outside, yet the streets were utterly full of desperate people looking like they too were trying to escape.
Looking around I almost half expected to see some kind of danger.
I jump with a squeak as Shadow lets out a violent prolonged growl, turning to my window I try to see what’s wrong.
“What is it, boy?” Cupping my hands around my eyes I struggled to see through the night’s darkness.
His growls grew louder as I start to hear the rhythmic ‘crunch’ of shuffling feet on gravel, whatever it was it was close.
I could almost feel my heart stop as the shadowed outline of someone appeared standing motionless just 10 feet from the car.
“Peter!” Faintly hoping the outline was, in fact, him I started to feel quite frightened.
Dragging each step the shadow began to slowly move closer towards the car.
Shadow’s growls became louder, growing with intensity, it definitely was ‘not’ Peter.
The sudden thump of the trunk closing made me nearly jump out of my skin, provoking a sudden high pitched squeal!
Peter quickly tore the driver’s side door open and slammed it closed.
Breathing heavily I quickly looked back out my window, the shadow had disappeared.
“If we hurry we might make it.” He muttered to himself.
Turning the car keys the car lights flashed on revealing the hidden shadow as a very sick looking man.
I let out a loud horrified scream at the sudden apparition before me.
Looking like a stunned deer in the car’s headlights the sick man just stood there unblinking, eyes bloodshot and weeping bloody tears with his hands twitching unnaturally at his shirt.
“What. The. Fuck.” He slowly started to reach for his handgun.
“Drive.” I urge tightly squeezing Peter’s shoulder.
Slowly the sick man began to disturbingly contort his body towards us.
“Drive!” Shaking Peter’s shoulder I again try to desperately urge him to move.
The man if you’d still call him that suddenly launches towards us, charging at the same exact moment Peter finally decides to turn the engine over.
Flooring the gas pedal I brace being pushed violently forwards as the car skids backwards then suddenly jerking my body into my door as the car swerves doing a 180 to drive forwards again.
I scream as the attacking man slams into my window cracking it, slapping the glass like a mad beast trying to get at its prey screaming incoherently into my face.
He looked almost possessed, eyes wide, pupils dilated, mouth gritted like an angry dog, hands tearing at the glass.
Deeply shocked at the man’s condition my eyes were continually locked with his.
The screams were garbled and high pitched like a man being burnt alive and drowned at the same time.
Never had I seen eyes filled with so much rage before and definitely not directed at me!
I felt Peter’s arm swing over my chest pause and fired one shot, splintering my passenger side window and hitting the man in the head dropping him instantly.
Clasping the sides of my head, now deaf with the painful ring of tinnitus.
‘Please make it stop! Please!’
I tightly tuck my head between my knees willing all to be well. Struggling to hold me upright in my seat I stare at Peter blankly watching his mouth silently try to yell something at me.
Fading in and out of consciousness the ringing now only starting to fade back allowing for normal hearing.
“Are you ok?” Able to finally hear him I nod still shaking a little, my equilibrium was beginning to regain normalcy.
“Yeah?” He looked at my face and back to the road gritting his jaw.
“I’m sorry!” He looked guilty but shook it off adjusting his shoulders.
“We have to make it past the border before the military starts closing it.”
“Ok,” I whispered under my breath.
Taking my hand and gently squeezing it, “I won’t let anything happen to you.” Kissing the single tear escaping down my cheek.
Placing his head on my shoulder, Shadow also attempts comforting me with licking the other side of my face.
Glancing left and right at both the ‘men’ I love so dearly, I couldn’t help but smile.
I kissed Shadow’s snout, graciously receiving his licks of comfort, repaying him with an affectionate scratch behind his ear.
Images of the man Peter had shot a few hours earlier had burned itself into my mind, stuck on repeat like a broken record player.
Turning on the car radio I tried desperately to rid myself of the disturbing mental cinematic.
But I was rewarded with only static sounding through the radio as though it was purposely taunting me.
“Fucking stupid thing!” Losing my grip on myself I kicked the glovebox.
“Here, I’ll put it on the Emergency Ch.” Peter flicked the radio over until a message could be heard.
A repeated message entailing civilians to stay calm, stay indoors and to report sick relatives to the CDC for quarantine. That relief parcels will be delivered on time and the government is doing everything in their power.
Obviously not helping my rapidly rising anxiety I quickly switched the radio off.
I could now almost physically feel the anxiety burning through veins like a corrosive acid eating away at every part of myself.
“Why are we running then?” Having lost any control over my emotions I looked at Peter waiting for ‘any’ explanation, I bloody needed one!
“They said to ‘stay’ indoors! What are we doing?” He hit the steering wheel shaking the dashboard.
“You can’t see the bigger picture!” Raising his voice he then paused, trying to compose himself.
“I’ll explain in time, I promise.” He looked at me tightly pursing his lips, then quickly looked back to the road.
I kept staring at him still waiting for my needed and now rapidly changing to ‘deserved’ explanation.
“Why are people attacking us! Why did that man act in such a way you ‘had’ to kill him! What was wro-.” He cut me off sharply, holding his hand up as a means for relent.
“Jane, I know this is hard for you right now but all I really care about is us and getting to the cabin in one piece.” Giving up on receiving my much-needed explanation I swiftly jerked my head away not wanting to hear anymore.
Confused and passed the point of being upset I felt as though I was going to be sick.
“Everyone will have the same idea to flee, hopefully I don’t think the border is closed, Brian said borders everywhere are being closed by the military. Only a matter of time.”
“Brian is at the cabin?” Surprised he was able to call him.
“He’s heading to the cabin, spoke to him on my two-way radio transceiver, phones are backed up and will probably remain useless.” Pulling out a small portable windup radio from the glovebox, he handed it to me.
“I know, I tried contacting my family before we left.” I felt an ache of worry for them. “Couldn’t get through to anyone… Not even Jackie.” Jackie being my younger sister a painful ‘ache’ of worry infected my stomach.
“The cabin? The one in Caribou Targhee forest? Idaho? We’re going to Idaho?” Stunned at how far we were ‘fleeing’ rapidly turned into an extra layer of fear at ‘why’ we were fleeing so far away.
“We’ll be safe there.” As though reading my mind he placed a hand on my knee noticing my discomfort.
Frustratingly lost in the dark I slammed myself back into my seat.
“What about my sister!” Tears burned my eyes as I began crying ‘again’.
Fed up with my lack of control over my emotions I roughly rubbed away my tears with my sleeve.
‘Will you stop crying! For God’s sake, Jane! Pull yourself together!’
“They’ll be looked after” Looking at his face I could tell he was lying, trying to protect me from more pain.
“Stop the car.” My stomach lurched uncontrollably. “Now!”
Peter pulled over just in time for me to burst open my door and vomit down side the car.
I sat with my feet hanging out the car, arms propped up on my knees and my face hanging between them.
“They are all going to die!” I cried hopelessly into my hands.
Peter got out and kneeled before me, the morning sun started to rise shining onto his dark brown hair.
He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
“This Virus X… Brian and I have seen it before.” I looked up at him shocked.
“When? In Afghanistan?” I asked confused, “But that was six months ago.”
He looked away not sure of what to say.
I could hear the faint sounds of fighter jets far off into the distance.
“It’s really all falling apart, isn’t it?” Gazing passed Peter off into the horizon. I could hear the faint sounds of ‘carpet bombings’. Peter got back into the car, touching my shoulder I grabbed it and nodded. I knew he meant well and we had to move.
I curled up into my seat and soon sleep enveloped me, I welcomed it gratefully.
Soon I started to dream of bloodshot eyes and maddening screams.
Holding a gun directly at Peter’s face I stared into his eyes, now inhuman and filled with pain.
My hands shook as I squeezed the trigger ending his pain in a single explosion of brain matter and blood spraying my face.
The light ‘splatter’ had awoken me, raindrops lightly covered my face making its way into my shattered passenger side window. Shocked in my own dream I eyed Peter slightly disturbed.
What if I had to do the ‘impossible’? Could I? I shuddered pushing the awful thought aside.
I stretched yawning, “How far is the border?”
Peter ignored my question constantly checking his rear view mirror.
“The car behind us, the driver is infected.” His face had turned an off white, “I didn’t know they could do that.”
“Do what? Drive?” I looked behind us and noticed the car swerving as though the driver was drunk.
“Why? Why shouldn’t they be ab-” My head jolted, violently being whiplashed.
I tasted blood, I had bitten my tongue!
“Hold on!” He grabbed the steering wheel violently swerving away from the stranger’s car, narrowly avoiding an attempt in ramming us off the road.
“He’s trying to kill us!” I felt my head painfully crash into the side of my window frame as our car was successfully rammed causing it to skid out of control. Spinning 360 degrees the car jerked then flipped.
The sickening sensation of weightlessness, vertigo stemmed deep inside my stomach.
Everything was floating, the world spun then crashed into an abrupt darkness.
A single gunshot roused me, looking around I could feel glass underneath my arms as I fought to pull myself up.
Confused I noticed I was laying on the ceiling of the car, Shadow’s barks finally caught my attention.
“Peter!” Hearing no response I slowly pulled myself out of the car and saw Shadow tearing at the sick man’s leg.
The same man that ran us off the damn road!
Peter struggled to keep the sickly looking man off of him, having dropped his gun he was starting to rapidly lose the fight.
I quickly ran over to the gun, picked it up and aimed it at the man.
I began to shake nervously, not knowing entirely what I was doing, I closed my eyes and fired. Both stranger and the man I loved fell lifelessly to the ground.
“Peter!” Screaming I ran to him, horrified I had just lived my earlier dream.
“I’m… I’m ok.” Peter coughed, pushing the now dead man off him. “Good shot.” He laughed but was quickly cut off noticing my expression.
I fell to my knees, a cold chill enveloped every corner of me as I shook uncontrollably.
I hadn’t shot anyone before, I couldn’t look away from the dead man’s face and the surprisingly clean bullet wound centered in his forehead.
Peter held me tightly whispering ‘words’ of comfort, unheard over the cascading flicker of images now flooding through me.
“I’m. I think. I’m in shock.” I stated this quite calmly and matter of factly, “Yes. I’m going into shock.” I started to giggle uncontrollably followed by bouts of tears.
Scooping me up, he sat me down on the side of the road.
“Shadow! Stay! Guard!” Ordering his trusted canine he quickly ran back to the now destroyed car, grabbing both our packs and whatever else that could be salvaged.
I jumped a little as both backpacks were dumped at my feet.
“There’s a small diner about five miles away, we have to walk now, maybe we can find another car.” I watched him cross his arms.
“Fuck!” Past the point of frustration he angrily punched the air and kicked a small piece of metal presumably from the car.
Shadow quickly licked at Peter’s hand, wining softly trying to soothe his master.
“Thanks buddy.” He softly scratched Shadow’s ear.
Pulling myself together I finally managed to gather my thoughts enough to stand myself up, slipped my pack on and handed Peter his substantially heavier backpack.
He grabbed the backpack smiling at me, “Thanks.”
There really was nothing else we could do but start walking.
Cabin located in Caribou Targhee Forest Idaho
“Do you think they’ll be ok?” Maggie sat by a small fireplace breaking small faggots of sticks for added fuel.
Being a small slender woman, brown eyes and slightly curled sandy coloured hair. She looked like the typical housewife and certainly didn’t feel comfortable under these circumstances.
She had grown rapidly unnerved waiting for her husband’s close friend and to-be wife.
Brian shrugged sitting at a small dining table, he combed his fingers through his brown hair a little matted from lack of sleep.
“As long as they get here, heard from Peter a few hours ago.” Each click of a bullet being loaded into its chamber cut at her patients.
“And what makes us so safe ‘here’?” She shot up, stormed over to Brian and slammed her hands onto the table, making the random bullet casings jump and roll.
Avoiding eye contact he continued loading the bullets into the barrel of the gun, emphasizing the monotonous ‘clicking’.
“Because ‘I’ say so.” He grumbled clenching his jaw.
Growling angrily, Maggie swept a bunch of bullets onto the floor and stormed off outside, slamming the door behind her.
An orange glow noticeably ‘not’ were the sun was supposed to be burned in the distance.
The smell of burnt pine hung in the air, a forest fire had started blazing.
“Brian!” Maggie yelled anxiously.
Bursting through the door rifle-armed and loaded, he looked like an alarmed soldier.
“What is it?” Swivelling his head rapidly he looked for any signs of danger.
“Look!” Maggie pointed to the horizon. “A fire!” Brian lowered the rifle resting the barrel on his shoulder.
“I expect everyone is too busy to put it out, it’ll probably burn for a while before burning itself out.” He spat as he reached into his side pocket, pulling out a small packet of cigarettes and lit one.
“Good chance it won’t reach here, so don’t worry about it, ok?” Maggie worriedly crossed her arms, turning her back to Brian.
“How will Jane and Peter get through?” She said impatiently tapping one foot.
Fed up, Brian set off away from the Cabin, cursing softly under his breath.
“And where are you going?” Maggie demanded, dabbing unseen tears with her sleeve.
Halting in his tracks, he circled back on his heel.
Anger started to build within him as he stormed back to his wife.
“Where I’m going is no-.” His mouth slammed closed, his grey eyes filled with guilt at the sight of his wife’s teary face.
“Making myself useful!” He erupted flushing red with shame.
“Hopefully get us some dinner.” And disappeared into the forest.
Maggie stormed back inside, slamming the door behind her.
“Fool!” Tears kept welling up in her eyes as she marched towards her room.
Looking frantically in her bedside cupboard she finally found what she was looking for.
Holding it closely up to her face the small box cutter gleaned almost welcoming, she sniffled half smiling as she raised her right sleeve revealing old and new scars alike.
She had been doing this for a while, her husband too caught up to have noticed her ‘self soothing’ had started again.
Closing her eyes softly as metal met flesh, all feeling of fear had quickly dissolved as blood trickled down her forearm.
Just a small cut but enough to ensure ‘numbness’ even just for a little while.
“Stupid woman.” Brian grumbled kicking aside a rock that had set his empty trap off.
“Doesnt know I’m trying to keep her alive.” He reached down to inspect the trap, cleaning aside leaves and small branches.
He carefully placed his rifle beside him so as to free his hands ready to reset the small coil-spring trap.
Grabbing both metal jaw hinges he leaned his full weight down to spread the mouth wide.
The sudden snapping of a coil-spring trap usually is designed to ‘ensnared’ the foot of a small animal, keeping it alive until found later, there to be slaughtered.
Seemingly out of nowhere a fighter jet roared overhead, startling Brian making him slip awkwardly.
At first he didn’t even notice the sudden predicament he was in, looking up for the loud noise that had distracted him.
His hand felt strangely immobile as he tried to stand up. He looked back down and just blinked stupidly trying to make out exactly what was wrong with the picture he was seeing before him.
Reality quickly took hold with a pure white hot pain that seemed to vibrate up his arm, blinding him from everything else.
He let out an agonizing scream, collapsing to one side, balling himself up around the trap.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” He kept repeating, the only word he was mentally capable of vocalizing.
The trap had jammed on his left hand, painfully crushing the last and second last knuckle of his pinkie and ring finger.
The trap had easily snapped the small delicate bones in his fingers, bending them to unnatural angles. A small bone could be seen protruding from his pinkie finger, the sight instantly made him feel sick.
After a few agonizing minutes Brian’s adrenaline levels had spiked making it possible for him to at least contemplate touching the trap.
He threw up instantly at the mere sight of his mutilated hand and had to quickly look away.
The thought to yell for his wife hadn’t even occurred to him, really what could she do anyway?
“Fucking stupid woman!” He almost laughed at the stupidity of his words, it wasn’t her fault. Guilt began to seep back into his heart, remembering the look of tears in his wife’s eyes that he stupidly caused.
Sweat had drenched his face and chest by now, shock slowly seeping in like the bitter cold that surrounded him.
Shaking uncontrollably, laying on his back he remained stationary.
“Hey honey, caught dinner!” His eyes shifted sideways to the trap.
“My fucking fingers!” He yelled attempting to calm himself with a joke. It didn’t work.
Curling back into a ball again, he moaned helplessly.
He started to estimate when his wife would at least notice something was wrong.
Four? Maybe five hours? It would be dark by then, did she know the locations of the traps? No! Because she wasn’t interested in little suffering animals!
“Woman!” He yelled aimlessly at the sky.
Rubbing his mouth, he suddenly felt extremely thirsty. With his free hand, he went to work blindly searching around himself knowing he had placed his canteen somewhere.
Instead, his hand first found his rifle and an idea flashed before him, clear and deeply unnerving.
It definitely was not a ‘good’ idea but an idea nonetheless.
He looked at his rifle and then back at the trap and gulped deeply.
“Oh... Fuck me.” He whispered suddenly feeling the urge to vomit again.
Grabbing the rifle he slowly aimed the barrel so that the end just rested pointing at the tip of his two trapped fingers.
His right hand shook uncontrollably as he held the trigger.
“Ok… 3… 2…” He quickly dropped the rifle and slammed his head back almost crying. He couldn’t do it.
“Fuck you! You fucking Cunt! You fucking coward!” He cursed himself, the trap, the trees, the sky and everything in it.
Now feeling almost accustomed to the immense pain, he started to feel brave enough to look a little closer at his trapped hand.
Maybe he was brave enough to pry the trap open ‘one handed’?
It would hurt but it maybe it would hurt ‘less’ then blowing the tips of his fingers off!
Slowly he sat up, carefully cradling his hand and the trap around it. Shuffling his knees beneath him, he kneeled, leaning slightly over the trap he examined the metal jaws of the trap.
The tips of his injured fingers had started to slightly change in colour.
He pinched the tip of his trapped ring finger, expecting pain he winced stiffly but there was none, he couldn’t feel it at all.
Curious, he then pinched just below were the trap had bitten down.
The sudden jolt of pain made him bite his tongue, he gritted his teeth as he began to sway, fading in and out of consciousness.
“Can fucking feel that!” He stated obviously.
Gulping large amounts of air, he swallowed deeply as he tried desperately to muster enough courage for what he ‘had’ to do next.
Deciding to use his left foot, he held the trap steady, standing on one half of the trap. His right hand would hopefully pry the trap open, hopefully just ‘enough’ for him to slip free.
If that didn’t work…
He nervously looked at the rifle then quickly back at the trap.
“Ok! You fucking bitch!” Damning the trap in attempts at hyping enough adrenaline into himself.
“Open!” He let out a loud prolonged scream as he lifted as hard as he could.
His right hand suddenly lost its grip as his boot slipped from underneath him.
Falling to the ground he rolled to his right, breathing heavily he raised a now free, though badly injured looking hand.
He smiled extremely happy with himself before blacking out.
Maggie had started to boil some water, a nice cup of hot tea was in dire need.
She sat staring at her husband’s radio, gingerly sipping from her cup.
Brian had told her specifically ‘not’ to touch his radio unless it was an emergency.
Finally deciding that the safety of her friends was indeed an ‘emergency’. She smugly switched the radio on, almost yelling, she spoke into it while hoping for a reply.
“Hello?” A loud hum of static rolled through the radio. Rapidly growing impatient she nervously bit her lower lip, fiddling with a small teaspoon as she waited.
“Can anyone hear me? Peter? Jane? Hello?”
Resigned to the fact there was not going to be any reply she quickly turned the radio off, firmly placing it back on to the kitchen table.
Looking at the kitchen’s wall clock, she began to worry.
“They should- ‘Will’ be here soon.” She said trying to reassure herself.
The front door slammed open, sending papers flying and disturbing the table cover with the sudden intake of wind.
The front door revealed a rather pale looking husband.
“Honey! What on ear-” She was cut off, noticing he had tightly wrapped his left hand with his jacket painfully holding it by his side.
Maggie quickly ran to the bathroom, grabbed a first aid kit and ran back just as Brian fell down next to the kitchen table.
Maggie a short 5′2 and barely weighing 110 pounds struggled to help lift her 6′3, 220 pound husband.
After much effort she determinately helped him at last ‘plop’ into a nearby chair.
“Let me see.” Maggie soothed, grabbing her husband’s uninjured hand, slowly pulling it away from him defensively guarding his injured hand.
Slowly she unwrapped the hand and gasped softly at the wound.
“You silly man, what did you do now?” Brian smirked softly.
“Can you fetch me some whiskey before touching it… I’ll tell you all about it after.” Brian being half Scottish always had a handy supply of the best branded Scottish whiskey.
Placing a large bottle and shot glass on the table Maggie poured a shot and slowly set to trying to ‘fix’ the bloody mess her husband made.
He threw the shot back, immediately having its medicinal effect he exhaled thankfully and promptly poured another shot for mercy’s sake.
“God, I wish Jane was here, she’s the nurse!” Maggie only knew the very basics, dressing cuts and disinfecting wounds.
“We’ll have to wait until Peter and Jane arrives, your fingers will need setting and I have no idea how to do that.” She peered worriedly at the hand and its fractured appendages.
“Let’s hope they arrive soon, I’ll have to at least clean it.” She began to dab the wound with a wet cloth.
“Tell me what happened, this is going to hurt.” She began to carefully dab at the angry looking wound.
Brian suddenly jolted upright almost tearing his hand from his wife’s grasp.
“Well!” Brian sharply inhaled, grey eyes like storm clouds glaring at Maggie.
“I started to set one of our traps when a bloody ‘jet’ flew over my damn head.” He exhaled deeply raising his fringe. “Scared me half to death and well… My hand slipped.” He suddenly felt quite stupid lowering his gaze.
Maggie had just finished binding the wound, looking quite pleased with herself she patted her husband’s shoulder.
“There, leave the sticks in, it’ll keep the fingers straight until Jane can properly tend to it.” She wiped her hands slowly down her apron, still clammy from the whole ordeal.
“Thank you.” He mumbled. “I nearly decided to shoot them off…” He raised an eyebrow humorously.
“What?” Maggie gasped but after seeing his gaze she softly clipped him over the head.
“I tried contacting them, no answer.” Maggie called out from the bathroom washing her hands. Brian lowered his brow concerned.
“Yeah?” He grabbed the radio staring at it.
“Yeah, I’m really worried, Brian.” She answered but before she could enter the kitchen again he had stood back up and had started pacing now in deep thought.
“Where is this Diner?” I asked exhausted.
We had been walking non-stop for at least five hours,
Peter had decided to walk us off-road ‘just in case’.
“It should just be over that hill.” He thoughtfully slipped my backpack off, slinging it over one of his shoulders.
Thankful for the sudden lightened load, I rolled my shoulders stiffly, getting rid of an uncomfortable kink that had been gnawing at me for the last hour or so.
Bursting ahead of us, Shadow sprinted off, having heard something rustle in a nearby bush he happily barked at it.
I smiled at his dopey dog grin as he scratched furiously at the bush.
“Hopefully, we can find a new ride .” I shot a look at him, halting in my tracks I snatched for his arm.
“You mean ‘steal’ a car?” Trying not to smile, he beared an awkwardly stiff grin.
Trying to hide his smile, he rubbed at his chin trying to look serious.
“Well, it’s either that or we walk the full way.” I looked ahead thinking for a bit.
“How long would it take to walk exactly? It can’t be ‘that’ far.” Throwing his head back, Peter let out a laugh so loud it echoed over the empty valley surrounding us.
“About two weeks!” His laugh had dissolved into an uncontrollable silent chuckle. “We’re still over 600 miles away.”
“Two weeks?” I whispered to myself, almost offended by the idea.
“I guess we have to but-.” I trailed off as a pang intruded my stomach.
“But what about the owner? They’d be stranded.”
Peter gave a single understanding nod but chose to remain silent.
‘What kind of people would we be then?’
I looked down feeling slightly disgusted with the idea.
Standing atop the small hill, we had a clear view of the small off road Diner.
‘Mike’s Truck Stop Diner’.
“I thought there would be more people.” I looked towards the highway, I was particularly taken off guard by the fact that there was not ‘one’ car on the nearby road. I had expected it to be crammed bumper to bumper, full of cars eager to flee whatever we were also fleeing.
The only cars I did see though, were the three lonely vehicles parked outside of the Diner.
Noticing the worried look on my face, Peter followed my gaze.
“I bet by tomorrow, the border will most likely fail and then yes, there will be ‘a lot’ more people. Desperate people. Hopefully we’re long gone by then.” He kneeled down by my feet.
Plucking on a small blade of grass, he rolled it between his thumb and index finger as he silently scouted out the Diner.
“What are we waiting for?” I knelt by him looking at the three parked cars, “do you know how to ‘steal’ a car?” But it wasn’t the cars Peter was worried about.
“You should stay here, I’ll go down and signal when its safe.” My mouth fell open but before I could huff a single word of protest he was off down the hill.
Sitting next to me, I looked to Shadow, “He always like this?” He tilted his head, giving me a dog like shrug.
Patting him I watched as Peter disappeared into the Diner.
After a few minutes, Peter rushed out urgently waving his arms about, signalling me down the hill.
“What on earth?” Quickly dusting myself off I threw my backpack on and struggled to drag the hefty load of Peter’s pack.
Shadow followed closely behind, nose at my heels.
By the time I got mostly down the hill, Peter dashed towards me.
“There’s a man inside, he’s been shot.” Rapidly relieving me of his pack, I started to also slip my own pack off.
“I told him you were a doctor.” Shocked I threw my pack at him but due to its weight, it simply fell only a few feet from me.
“But I’m not, Peter! I’m a nurse!” Abruptly cutting me off he held a finger to his mouth as he stepped closer to me.
“Yes I ‘know’ but.” Looking over his shoulder, he made sure no one was listening, “I talked them into giving us one of their cars so-”
“Ok!” I whispered loudly, “how hard can it be?”
Taking in a deep breath I took a moment to analyze the situation.
Once sure of the ‘inner doctor’ I had fabricated within myself, I gingerly took a step inside.
Blinded by the lack of light I peered around the room until my eyes properly adjusted. A single candle sat flickering on the register, being the only source of illumination I felt slightly timid, jumping at imaginary shadows that seemed to jump from table to table.
“Hello?” I called out, skittishly wringing my hands together, “is someone hurt?”
“He’s in here.” I let out a silent scream, squeaking like a frightened mouse.
A young boy of about 12 stood behind the counter, poking his head out of the kitchen door.
I coughed trying to swallow my heart back into my chest cavity.
The gun shot victim was an older man, presumably the young boy’s father, resemblance being obvious. He had been laid out on a small table holding tightly a small blood soaked dish cloth to the side of his lower abdomen.
A young redheaded woman, which I also presumed was the boy’s mother, sat by the man, softly whispering to him while holding his hand closely to her chest.
She raised her head as Peter entered the room, he supportively clutched my shoulder, letting go as I walked towards the table and the injured man whom lay upon it.
“H-hello, my name is Jane. I’m a… Doctor.” I tried to sound convincing but after hearing myself not even I believed it!
“Hello.” The woman smiled widely, she reached out her arm calling me to come closer.
“My name is Carol, this is my husband, John. My poor Bear. A looter broke in and shot him!”
‘Looter? Looting? Already?’
I tried to keep a calm demeanor, feeling my outer confidence slipping with each breath.
“Um.” Pushing aside any thoughts of ‘looters’ I quickly went into ‘medical mode’, “do you have any disinfectant? Or spirits? To clean the wound.” Looking to the nearby kitchen sink I saw a bar of soap. Still overly nervous I took to preparing myself for an ‘operation’ as a means of staving off the inevitable.
I spent the better part of 5 minutes scrubbing my hands vigorously, trying to put off the likelihood that I may very well kill this man!
‘And for what? A car?’
I looked over to Peter who had busied himself with teaching the young 12 year old boy a card trick.
I swallowed my fear, feeling it plop like a weight into the pit of my stomach.
Walking back to John, I shook off my hands, attempting to still the trembling and started as best as I could to examine the gunshot wound.
“Nice to meet you, John. My name is Jane, I’m going to be your ‘Doctor’ this evening.” I smiled through my teeth, almost impressed with my fake Doctor’s bedside manners.
John smiled weakly up at me and coughed making himself wince painfully.
Being careful, I raised the dishcloth hoping the wound was minimal.
It wasn’t actually that bad. The gunshot wound was located just below the right floating rib, a small hole no bigger than a quarter. I was thankful to see that it hadn’t bled much, though I was unsure of any internal bleeding.
Checking underneath him for the exit wound, I wormed my fingers gingerly beneath his side. Not being able to feel any, I took the chance of causing the patient further pain, slightly rolling him to his side.
Having the full view of his back I still couldn’t find an exit wound.
“Damn.” I whispered to myself, “ok.” I breathed, carefully contemplating my next course of action.
‘The patient isn’t pale so no great loss of blood, his breathing looks fine, so neither lung has been hit. Just… Pull it out, ok? Simple.’
Looking at John, I quickly realized it wasn’t going to be that simple. I had forgotten that I had no kind of anaesthetic agent to give the poor man.
“I’m going to have to remove the bullet. Carol, do you have any tweezers?” She nodded, dashing to her handbag.
“Oh! And if possible a sewing needle and thread.”
I then leaned towards John, “Now, this might hurt a little. I’m going to have my fiancé, Peter hold you still, just for a few minutes, ok?” He nodded, squeezing his eyes tightly shut.
Waving my hand I signalled Peter over.
“I need you to hold him still.” Clapping his hands together, accepting his ‘order’ he walked around the table and firmly placed his hands on John’s shoulders, “hold him, ‘very’ still.” I added seriously.
I took the tweezers from Carol and quickly disinfected it with a bottle of vodka. I nodded to Peter, queuing him to ready himself and quickly poured a small amount of the spirit over the open wound.
As expected, John jumped like a bucking Bronco, yelling every kind of expletive possible, even ones I had never heard before.
“Now the fun part.” I whispered sarcastically to myself.
Using my left hand, I spread the bullet wound wide, swiftly inserting the tweezers I noticed the tweezers sank three quarters the way before hitting the solid hard projectile.
“I’ve almost got it.” I assured John, he looked to be greying out as his skin had turned an off white colour.
It took me a few goes before I finally had a firm hold of the bullet, continuously slipping at the moment of extraction.
Finally I expelled the bloody thing, yelling with accomplishment.
Letting go, Peter let out an audible sigh of relief.
“Good job, baby.” He patted me firmly on the behind as he passed me. He smiled flirtatiously back at me before sitting down with the boy, reassuring him.
I smiled softly watching him walk away, turning back to the job at hand, I grabbed the small sewing needle.
It was way too small but had to do for now, dipping it in the vodka I tried my best to ‘bend’ it slightly into the approximate shape of a ‘stitching needle’.
The needle looked like the tiniest boomerang in the world!
I bit my lip looking at it then looked at the wound and back again.
It was like stitching hard leather, threading the needle through flesh my fingers continuously slipped.
“Damn it!” I angrily stomped my foot in frustration.
“Is it… Nearly done?” John’s voice cracked, now reaching the upper limit of his pain threshold.
“One more.” And with a final push the wound was closed, messy but closed.
“Keep it clean, you don’t want it to get infected.” I had no idea what to dress it with.
“Carol, do you have any clean cloth? Maybe a clean shirt?” She had a blank stare, not knowing what to offer.
Peter walked over handing me a roll of bandages.
“Here.” He looked hesitant, not wanting to give them up.
“Thanks…” Confused, I accepted the bandages.
Leaving the question of randomly appearing bandages until later, I bound John’s lower torso and stood back to admire my handy work.
“All done!” Wiping my palms down my thighs I was more then relieved that it was finally all over.
“Thank you... Really! You saved my husband’s life!” Carol hugged me tightly.
“Papa! Are you ok?” Almost knocking me to one side, the little boy charged towards his Father.
Wrapping his arm around the boy, he kissed his son’s forehead.
Feeling Peter loom close behind me I turned around. Staring at Carol he crossed his arms, his whole demeanor had dramatically changed since the moment I had finished dressing John’s wound.
“Our ‘deal’, will you uphold it?” Tension started to build in the room.
Producing a set of car keys from her handbag, Carol held them tightly in her hand.
“The green van. Pretty much full.” Holding the keys out, Peter went to accept them. Moments from touching them, Carol suddenly pulled the keys away, hugging them to her sternum.
“Could you….” She paused for a moment, not able to make eye contact she stared blankly at the floor.
“Could you take my Joseph with you? My son, he’d be better off-” Quickly grabbing her hand, Peter violently tore the keys from her grasp.
“No.” A single but effective word. I saw something in his eyes I had never seen before. For a fleeting moment I thought I saw a kind of dark seeded coldness, a coldness I thought he never had.
“Sir, please! He won’t be any trouble!” Carol desperately grabbed onto Peter’s sleeve.
Standing in the middle I felt quite helpless and sorry for both the boy and his mother.
Looking down at Carol and the hand that stopped him from leaving, his face grew progressively darker.
“No. Let go or I’ll break it.” I was taken back by the threat but kept quiet, wrapping my arms about me holding myself.
The woman reluctantly let go, covering her mouth in a bout of fear and tears.
She began to cry softly as Peter grabbed my hand and forcibly pulled me towards the exit.
He never took his eyes off the small family.
Once outside we quickly found the van, it looked pretty old and beat up but in a drivable condition.
Shadow jumped in quickly making himself comfortable in the backseat.
I slumped in my chair exhausted from the whole ordeal.
“Did we have medical supplies the ‘whole’ time?” I already knew the answer but was furious.
“Of course. But I was not going to let ‘them’ know that.” I looked at him agape.
“They gave us a car, Peter! A car!” I felt like hitting him, clenching my fists I hit my knee instead.
He paused, smiling softly at me, “Jane, you’re too kind. That kindness is going to get you hurt someday.”
“What? I don’t understand what my kindness has to do with anything!” I felt terrible about the fact that we had both cheated a small desperate family.
“Jane… What was the ‘name’ of the Diner?” I hesitated, confused and angry I had to think for a moment.
“Mike’s Diner!” The name finally popping into my head, “but so wh-”
“Yes. ‘Mike’s’ Diner. Mike’s. Now, Jane. Where was Mike?” Staring at him, my mind finally clicked over as realization started to churn my stomach.
“Jane, my Angel.” He grabbed my hand, forcibly holding it even as I tried to snatch it away, “‘they’ were the looters. Poor Mike is probably dead and we’re most likely, driving his car.”