The Telephone

By Michael Berry All Rights Reserved ©

Other

Chapter 12

Sarah trudged through the mass of notes and information of her memory as she hammered across the road in the pink Cadillac. She mentally moved aside notes that had either been sorted or to be put aside for later.

It was a difficult job. She wished she could walk the corridors of her mind and sort the notes herself, mentally create it as a kind of records office. She wondered how making plans for yourself only with no indication of other people would create so much confusion. She always thought that providing for yourself and other people would be the hardest, trying to remember their particular foods and likes and dislikes and having to store them in your mind. But, perhaps, it was easier that way because other peoples constant reminding wouldn’t allow you to forget what they wanted. But, when it was solely for you and no one else, you have no one to remind you and a lot of things disappear into the back of your mind until you remember them when its too late.
Got it! She thought to herself as she located the correct notes. She mentally placed the list as if holding it in front of her.

BEANS
SOUP
CARROTS
CHECK GASOLINE
COFFEE

She often reminded herself that it was probably easier to actually write down lists instead of mentally storing them, but she found her old method better and more reliable.
She looked down at the gasoline meter. It was a quarter of the way to being empty. She was always surprised as to how fast it ate up fuel. She briefly considered pulling over and filling it up with the small bottle of gas in the back, then remembering that that too was empty.
Crap. Always the same, wherever you go.
She knew she was only a few streets from the gas station. She sharply turned to the right and into Main Street, a left to Hammond Street then another left to Miles Road. She immediately saw the gas station just up ahead.
It was a sad and pathetic looking gas station, somehow more worse off than the rest of the city, despite them both suffering the same fate at the same time. Perhaps it was the past employers constant attempts at making the place as spotless as possible. There was never a time when she drive past and didn’t see them strenuously wiping the signs and the main building with a wet cloth.
The sign saying GAS STATION that hung in the air looked as if it wouldn’t for long. Dirt and decay and the cruel weather had faded the sign so much that it was almost impossible to read. At one time, it would have shone with brilliant electrical lights to any passer-by, its own little Las Vegas.
The main station was heavily stained on one wall with gasoline that had spilled from an open tank that now lay against the wall gathering dust. The windows were black with dirt and dust, tiny hints of clear glass still remained. She couldn’t tell at the moment, but she hoped that no one else was inside gathering supplies. She would have to either find another gas station or fight for the supplies here. She really didn’t want to have to engage in a battle for the food and fight their frantic attempts at taking her with them for company.
A large newspaper stand lay flat on the concrete floor, dusty newspapers and magazines were scattered everywhere, blown around by the wind. The same ominous headline was spread across every front page:

‘GERM WARFURE HAS BEGUN!’
‘THE END APPROACHES!’

Sarah looked at the date of one of the newspapers.
September 20th, 2135

She was only a young kid then, but she could still remember the horror of what came like a deadly cloud from the neighbouring continents. Most of the plague had spread invisible and silently through the air, breathed in by unbeknownst people. The rest had came in great warning less downpours of unusual rain from pure black clouds. People ran screaming for cover anywhere they could find it. Some forced themselves into other peoples homes and killed their owners when they shouted for them to leave. Chaos ran through the streets, turning the city and everywhere else in the country into a frantic battle for survival as everyone avoided the disease and from themselves.
Sarah had been forced from out of one hiding place after another by those desperate for a place. She was searching desperately for her father, wishing for him to be coming home to her when he saw what was happening. She knew it was a long shot that he’d still be alive after what the army had met up with abroad, but a faint grain of hope still remained. She ran from street to street, desperately searching for anywhere to escape the killer rain and the silent predator in the air. In the last moment before the rain had covered most of the city, she spotted a great of people rushing down a tunnel into an underground shelter. They didn’t seem to be fighting each other to get inside, so she knew that this was her only chance of survival.
She ran for the tunnel and had made it inside just as the last few people were scrambling inside.
They all spent and endless and deathless eternity with each other waiting for the rain to stop and the disease to dissipate. Sarah was forced to watch some of them die and be pushed aside like trash to one end of the shelter. The stench of their corpses got so bad that the others had no choice but to open the heavy metal door and push them outside. Everyone’s mourning and cries of suffering were incessant. They were her constant companion as she battled for sleep. Sarah kept herself sane imagining that her father was out there somewhere looking for her, or that he was beside her, keeping her warm in his jacket, safe from the strangers and the dead that surrounded her.
She was overjoyed to see that some had brought a great supply of food with them. She hesitated to think what would have happened if they hadn’t.
After months of listening to the endless showers raining from above, it was finally time to leave the hell that had been their home and step forward into a new world. A world purged of all life and plunged into an unending silence. The survivors fled into the streets and searched for their lost loved ones and other signs of life, desperate to escape the obvious, that everyone else had gone.
Sarah emerged transformed into a new person, brave and determined to survive and not sink into despair like the others. She knew now that her father was no more. It was her now, no one else she had to care for. She walked from the entrance of the shelter into a new tomorrow.

Sarah looked up from the paper she held in her hands. She reinforced herself after her pondering, her fingers tightened, her lips were tight closed. She threw down the paper and walked into the gas station.
The inside of the station was littered with groceries and strewn objects. Shelves were pulled to the floor, covered almost completely with open cans and numerous other foods and drinks. The drinks cabinet was almost empty, aside from a few dusty old bottles. Dust covered everything, despite the obvious signs of constant foraging for food and supplies. The air smelled thick of rotting and spoilt food.
Jesus, hope theirs something left in here.
Sarah knew she couldn’t go to the supermarket for the supplies, the place was almost completely free of supplies. The survivors usually kept their foraging there and seemed to ignore the smaller stores and gas stations, most of the time.
She picked up a small plastic carrier from the side of the desk and began to look round the mess at her feet. She really didn’t want to have to search through junk, but she had no choice. Hopefully any cans that were left behind weren’t open. Most people usually take as much as they can carry and run, fearing lynching from others.
She moved a few empty cans aside as well as a half empty bag of potato chips. Underneath was a can of Tomato soup, bent at the side but still okay. She placed it in the carrier. She searched around for a can of beans, but found only empty cans and the occasional few that were partly open.
God dammit, people and their damn hurrying around. Can’t they just take their food and go without tearing everything else apart?
She decided that it was futile to search through all of this mess for anything and decided to search the back storeroom. Hopefully the survivors frantic efforts to survive didn’t give them time to search everywhere. She climbed over the desk onto the other side and immediately spotted the storeroom door. It was open ajar, the lock had been busted.
Shit, can’t they leave me anything around here?
She slowly pulled open the door, hoping that there wasn’t anybody enjoying themselves with the food inside. She listened for the sound of the chewing of food or any signs of life. Silence, there was nothing at all to be heard. Relaxing, she pushed open the door, the faint light from outside poured into the pitch black room. Sarah quickly recoiled when she saw the heavily decomposed corpse sitting upright against a stack of boxes, its arms hung by its sides, its head tilted to the side, the jaw open wide. She guessed the body had been kept preserved by being locked inside, until someone busted the lock and allowed the air to seep in. She could see from the amount of boxes in the room that they hadn’t stayed to claim any of it when they came, obviously they weren’t used to seeing a body that hadn’t rotted to dust.
Sarah looked at the corpse and smiled, silently thanking it for keeping the supplies protected.
She placed the carrier on the floor and turned round giving a quick look at her car. She knew that given half the chance, others would steal the car from her, she’d seen them do it before. She guessed it would be safe enough what with the fading pink light. She turned round and began to check each of the boxes. Luckily, their names were printed in bold on the front so there was no need to waste time in opening them. She found boxes for nearly everything you could want in a kitchen. Their were boxes of all manner of foods and drinks, including a great supply of booze. Their were boxes of coffee and tea and condiments, and frozen foods.
Well, guess I’ve hit the mother load.
She knew it would be best taking everything in here with her. If she left it in here, others would surely find it and that would be another shopping area lost. True, she could leave the body in here to keep it as a deterrent, but there would always be the possibility that not everyone would be put off by it. Plus, now that the air had already begun to get to it, she had no clue as to how long it would last before it rotted into dust like all the others. No, better to shop for everything now while she had the chance. She always preferred to use the term shopping instead of foraging, it made her seem like an animal like the others that scurried around the city.
She ignored the plastic carrier on the floor and chose to carry a few boxes out each time to the car and placed them o the back seat along with the numerous tape machines. She wondered if they would bash against each other in the drive home and decided to fix the plastic cover over them tighter, making any kind of shuffling nearly impossible.
In four trips backwards and forwards she was done. The storeroom was empty, aside from its constant guardian. She placed the boxes in every available empty space she could find. She hoped that no one would see what she carried as she drove back, but with the speed she drove, they’d be lucky if they saw even the car.
She looked at the gasoline pumps beside the car and realised she had forgotten to fill it up. She slapped herself on the forehead.
Christ, I should have done it before I went into the station. Think you idiot, think.
Whenever she went out for any reason, she always made sure that her fuel was up, and most important that whenever she filled it up that it was done right away before anything else. She didn’t want to have a gang of survivors coming after her and she couldn’t start the car. It was also a risk to fill it up before doing anything else, as anyone could steal it with a full tank. Sure, she could find another car anywhere, but this was hers and had been for years, now. She wasn’t about to let it fall into their hands.
She took hold of the pump and forced it into the car. The gasoline pumped into the cars engine, the currency meter on the pump body steadily rose as dollars continually increased. After a few minutes, she took it out of the cars engine and placed it back inside the main pump body. She enjoyed watching the charge increase, but she couldn’t enjoy it and leave the pump inside the car, it would seriously screw it up.
She wondered how long the fuel in the underground tanks would last. Before the war, she’d never heard anyone ask the question of what happened to fuel when it was left. She thought that it may lose its consistency or ability to do what it was meant to. The thought made her a little nervous. If the fuel dried up one day or was simply useless, their was no other way of keeping the car going. True, it wasn’t essential that she needed the car, but it was the best escape whenever she ran into any others in the streets that wanted either her or the car or both. It had been over twenty years now, and the fuel still did its job. Hopefully, she wouldn’t have to worry about it one day.
She gave a final check of the plastic cover on covering the back seat and climbed back into the driving seat. She started the engine, it roared with power and renewed strength. Obviously, the gasoline had done its job. She raced out of the gas station and onto the streets on the road home.

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