After the Apocalypse
Chapter 76: The Last Homely Home

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

Descending the steep stairs, they came into a dimly lit room, approximately 30 feet square. The walls were lined with shelves of supplies, and there several free standing shelves along one edge. Along the other edge there were fold down bunks and in one corner a double bed was partially hidden by a screen. There were three people in the room, an elderly woman, Jenny, who in better light looked to be about fifteen, and a boy of about twelve.

"What's the Scout Law?" asked the kid, still pointing a pistol at them.

"T-T-Trust w-w-w-worthy, L-L-Loyal..." began Joe.

"That's enough," said the old woman. "Take your friend in the back there. Both of you should strip to your underthings and climb into bed."

"But I'm not tired," began Dave.

"Hy-hy-hypotherm-m-mia" said Joe.

"Oh!" said Dave, "I hadn't thought about that."

He helped Joe to the back where they both stripped down and crawled into the large bed. The woman came in with another blanket and spread it over them. Dave could see that the girl was working at the stove and he suddenly realized how hungry he was.

"So are you boys out at the camp?" asked the woman.

"I'd rather not say," said Dave.

"Probably not," replied the woman, "I'll just leave that question for now. Would you mind telling us why you're here and how your friend got so wet?"

Dave was uncomfortable. He didn't like answering questions anyways and he wasn't sure how much he could trust her with. Finally, he decided he'd better not risk losing her hospitality. "We were scavenging supplies and he slipped. He landed in some water."

"Hmmm," said the woman. "Not a lot of water around here these days. Where's your vehicle?"

Dave didn't see much harm in that one, "We left it on the edge of town."

"When?"

"Last night."

"I see."

Jenny returned with two bowls of soup and some crackers. Joe sat up in bed enough to eat, but he couldn't seem to hold the spoon steady enough. Jenny fed him the soup and he managed a wan smile and a brief thank you. She returned a shy smile of her own.

"Oh dear! Where are my manners? My name is Emily and these are my grandchildren Jenny and Timmy."

"I'm Dave and this is Joe."

"Well, you're welcome to stay here until your friend is warmed, but I'm afraid we can't risk much more than that."

"Ruh-ruh-risk?" asked Joe.

"Not everyone around here likes strangers," said Jenny.

"I bet they're the ones," said Timmy. "Are you the ones?"

"The ones what?" asked Dave.

"The ones who killed Nick Whately."

"No."

"C'mon, you can tell me. I hated him ever since I met him."

"We didn't kill anyone, I don't even know who this Nick was."

"He was Deacon Whately's son" said Emily. "A few days ago, a stranger shot him and one of his friends dead near the Radio Shack. The Flock's been looking for them ever since."

"The Flock?" asked Dave.

"That's just what we call them," said Jenny.

"Hu-hu-hu-who are they?"

"They're the ones who are holed up at the hospital. The Deacon is there and he says he's going to take them all south to safety when the weather breaks."

"The hospital?" said Dave, looking at Joe meaningfully.

"Yes. They've got quite a few people there, perhaps even a hundred."

"Why haven't you joined them? I mean it's got to be kind of hard, you and two kids..."

"We're doing better than you!" said Jenny, her eyes flashing with anger.

"Now, now dear, he probably didn't mean any harm." She turned to face the winter campers. "Deacon Whately's got some strange ideas, plus he's mixed up somehow with the militia. I'd just as soon not be involved with that kind of people."

"The militia?!" asked Joe and Dave together.

"Oh yes," said Emily. "We had quite a few members around here, including my son."

"Your son?" asked Joe, suddenly nervous.

"Don't worry, he and his wife left on a second honeymoon the day after Christmas," said Emily. "Of course, I wish he were here now"

"We all do," said Jenny, momentarily stopping her feeding of Joe to wipe her eyes.

"Why would anyone want to go to stupid Hawaii anyhow?" asked Timmy.

"No poisonous snakes," replied Dave.

"What?" asked Timmy.

"No poisonous snakes. Hawaii doesn't have any."

"Uhm, sure," said Jenny, her voice nearly dripping with sarcasm. "I'm sure that's why they went."

"So tell us more about this Flock," said Joe.

"Not much to tell," said Jenny. "The Deacon went around telling people God was punishing us and that God had asked him to guide them to the holy land. Most people were looking for someone to tell them what to do and since he was the only one talking they signed up."

"The militia too?" asked Joe.

"No," said Emily. "Those idiots", she continued, ignoring the scathing looks of her grandchildren, "are running around town at night blowing things up. We were monitoring their radio for a while, but it got stupid. Apparently they think we might get bombed again."

"And they're eliminating targets" said Dave.

"Right," agreed Emily. "Now I think you boys should get some rest and we'll talk more later. You both look like you've seen some rough times lately."

"Thank you," said Joe. "We appreciate your kindness."

"It's our pleasure. We haven't had any visitors worth talking about since we decided not to join the Flock."

She pulled the curtain shut and dimmed the lights in the sleeping room. The two weren't telling her everything, but she had become convinced they might actually be at the Scout camp. Timmy had seen a group of men take a lot of stuff from Meijer's. He hadn't recognized either of these two, but it was starting to make sense. There might have been a large group out there. She wasn't sure what that meant for her and her grandchildren yet, but she was pretty sure it was a good thing. She hadn't told the kids yet, but her heart medication was running out. In another week she'd be out of pills and there was not telling how long she'd survive her arrythmia after that. Perhaps these boys could be persuaded to take them in.

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