Scavenger Hunt

 

Rose shuddered as she peeped outside her window; the dull, orange light of the sun slowly giving way to the artificial luminescence of the halogen street lamps. She paced from side to side, being careful not to wake her six-month old son that lay snug in her arms. He had fallen asleep only a few minutes before; but as most parents would welcome the silence, Rose had nothing else to occupy her mind from the coming night.

She walked into her room and placed her baby into his crib. Behind her, Jennifer, the family’s nurse, was mixing up a tonic in a glass jar.

“It’s almost time, I presume,” asked Jennifer.

“Uh…yeah…I guess so. How’s he doing?” Rose asked.

“He’s through the worst of it. It should be another day or two until he’s up and running,”

“Lucky it wasn’t anything more serious. I don’t think we can afford that right now.” Jennifer placed the glass jar on the table next to the bed and looked over at Rose.

“You don’t have to go, Rose. You can manage just one week,”

“One week is one week too many, Jen. I’ll be alright,” said Rose, as she walked over to her bed. Her husband Marcus slowly opened his eyes and met hers.

“How are you doing, honey?” she asked, wiping sweat from his brow.

“Better…but I’m not sure you should be heading out there right now,” Marcus said softly.

Rose smiled. “We’ve talked about this, babe,”

“I know, Rose…but it didn’t hurt to try. You be careful out there, yeah?”

“I promise.”

Marcus took a sip of the tonic, closed his eyes and went back to sleep. Through the windows, the sun had completely set and flashes of blue lights from portable lanterns had signaled the general start of the scavenging hours.

Rose dressed for the night ahead, putting on her white dress shirt and black tights, over which would go a black overcoat and a long, black cloth skirt. Perched on her head was her father’s black slouch hat, long worn from many ventures out into the night and completing the ensemble were dirty black hiking boots. She then turned her attention to her leather belt full of supplies, such as bandages, ointment, a compass and other small goods to see her home safe and sound. Lying next to the front door were her weapons of choice: a navy blue composite bow and a quiver full of arrows as well as a short double-edged gladius for close encounters.

Rose laced up her boots, adjusted her attire and strapped the gladius to her waist. Her outfit looked a little large for her, an aspect commented on by Jennifer as she walked into the living room.

“So how long has it been?” asked Jennifer, leaning against the doorway.

“Three years. Since we got married,” answered Rose as she placed the bow and quiver around her back.

“Nervous?”

“I wasn’t until you asked me. Thanks a lot,”

“Good luck out there, Rose. May you find something worth something,”

“Thank you, Jen. Don’t forget to lock the door, yeah?”

Rose stepped through the door and walked out her small apartment and into the barely illuminated darkness. Outside in the neighborhood, doors were locked shut and curtains were pulled closed. Other houses and apartment complexes in the area were burnt and charred or completely abandoned. Trash was strewn across the street and lawns were left to overgrow the remaining houses.

She continued walking down the street towards the center of town. Already, other scavengers were making their way outside their own rundown homes and collecting themselves in groups, each armed with their own eclectic set of weapons. They ranged from older teenagers to people who should have been out of the game years ago.

“Yo, Rosie!” she heard a familiar voice yell out to her. Rose turned her head and met the smiling gazes of her friends Ricky and Gertrude.

“Hey, you two,” said Rose “Marcus told me to expect to see you guys out here,”

“How’s he doing, by the way? I never thought I’d see you out here again,” said Ricky. He was dressed in a gray polyester jacket with the collar popped up, something only his girlfriend Gertrude would find attractive, and blue, ripped jeans that had clearly seen better days. Across his back, a wooden cutting axe complemented the black and brown lever-action shotgun that both lay perpendicular to each other. Rose was pretty certain that he had never had to use the axe in his life, even for cutting wood.

“He’s getting his rest. And don’t get used to it, Ricky. It’s only going to be for tonight,” said Rose.

“It’s going to be like old times!” said Gertrude as she squeezed Rose with an overbearing hug and and a big, lipstick smeared smile on her face. Like Ricky, she sported a smaller, dark red colored version of Ricky’s jacket, only with the collar popped down. Gertrude was always one for ease and comfort, thought Rose, so that’s why she took the bare essentials to scavenging, such as the six-shooter revolver that hung from her shoulder and stainless steel machete that set on her waist opposite the revolver. And, of course, the lipstick.

“Like old times,” said Rose with a half-smile.

The trio walked out of the populated neighborhoods and towards the old city limits. The collapse of local society left the main streets and downtown areas completely barren and bombed out from the wars that had followed. Nature then aimed to reclaim what it could from humanity. For the safety of the residents living in the former suburbs, the entirety of the core city area was closed and completely off limits during most hours of the day. Tonight, however, had a very different feel than most other nights.

Rose, Ricky and Gertrude approached chain link fence set up beneath an underpass of a former freeway. This was just one of many entrances to the old city center that now formed the main scavenging grounds. Here, amongst the craters, cracks and charred remains of cars was a large temporary camp set up by tonight’s scavengers looking to enter the no man’s land of the city center. It was a very jovial atmosphere in the camp, as most scavengers had brought their beat up old pick-up trucks, trailers and bicycles and started a tailgating party filled with the smell of savory meats, smoke and alcohol. Every one of the revelers were scavengers, indicated by the thick cloth clothing, faded leather patches and ramshackle weapons each one carried. Loud music blared in the night and, generally, everyone was having a good time, undeterred by what lay beyond the fence. So, it was business as usual, Rose thought to herself.

“Do you girls think we have some time to get some ribs? Or maybe a hot dog?” asked Ricky as they passed several grills and chests full of beer.

“Maybe when we get back,” said Rose, her gaze completely on the metal gate.

“What’s the rush?” said Gertrude “We have all night, Rosie,”

“Gertie, you don’t even eat any of this crap,”

“True, but Ricky does and maybe somebody here would be willing to get us a drink,”

Rose sneered at her. “I don’t think so,”

“What’s the matter, Rosie? You used to love hanging out before the scavenging. It’s where you met Marcus, by the way,”

“I know, I know…it’s just that I really want to get back to them as soon as possible. I want to get this over with quickly.”

Ricky and Gertrude looked at each other and nodded. They moved towards the gate and were let into the other side by a local gatekeeper.

“Watch yourselves out there, you hear?” the gatekeeper said to the three.

“What do you mean by that?” asked Rose.

“There’s been a lot of noise coming from down there the past couple of nights. Techies been running amok, trashing up the place and frightening scavengers when they can.”

Techies, she thought to herself, so Marcus wasn’t exaggerating.

Marcus, about a year ago, had started telling her stories of the techies. He had told her these were people who had abandoned society and took up residences in the abandoned city center, content to live their lives connected to whatever technology they could find. Most, according to her husband, had lost their minds and could only live by staring endlessly into a glass screen. Needless to say, Rose was not at all excited to see these people in the flesh.

“We’ll be careful, chief!” yelled Ricky, snapping Rose out of her thoughts. They walked into the barely illuminated night. Scavengers before had tapped into the town’s electrical grid and provided power to the few remaining lights left in the area. Despite this, the trio turned on their flashlights and walked down a row of shops, fast food places and ruined, bombed out industrial parks. They waved and smiled at other scavengers who walked by them, some carrying loot and other carrying beer bottles.

Like trick or treating on Halloween night.

“So where to?” asked Rose.

“Not sure, really. Last time, most of our scavenging was done over the old community center. Didn’t get too much that night, sadly,” answered Ricky.

“Well, what’s a place that nobody else really goes to?”

“The old civic center and library,” said Gertrude in a rare moment of helpfulness “but there’s a severe lack of power there, so that’s why nobody goes,”

“Then what are we waiting for?” said Rose. Ever impatient, Rose led the other two down the dark, burnt out but oddly welcoming neighborhood streets, passing by empty schools, destroyed shopping centers and wide-open, weed-infested soccer fields. The occasional scavenger that passed by the trio eventually disappeared, leaving them completely alone as they spied the towering town hall ahead of them.

“What’s that up ahead?” asked Rose.

“It’s the civic center, darling. You really need to start paying more attention,” said Gertrude as she adjusted her lipstick.

“No, I meant, what’s that?” Rose pointed ahead at large group of people sitting and standing around an intersection just before the civic center proper.

“Looks like we have techies up ahead. Just don’t pay any attention to them,” said Ricky.

There was a group in particular that caught Rose’s attention. A young blonde woman sat with her back against a lamppost, with two men of similar age sitting behind her. All their faces were buried in the harsh glow of a smartphone, completely oblivious to the disrepair of their clothes, tangled and knotting hair and generally terrible odor.

“Those are techies?” she asked.

“Revolting, aren’t they?” answered Gertrude

Rose slowed down and quickly examined the woman. Her green eyes had glassed over with the images from the tablet; not in a figurative sense, but actually physically glassed over. Small clumps of her hair were falling out, revealing small patches of glass and gray metal underneath what had been her scalp. Rose then noticed the USB ports that protruded from deep with her shoulder, poking through the skin and leaving that area dirty and infected. Several USB cables lead from these ports to the lamppost, possibly charging something digital deep within.

“Don’t get too close, Rosie! You just might catch it!” yelled Gertrude. Rose turned her attention to her friends and rushed to meet them.

“Make a friend?” asked Ricky.

“That’s one of the most awful things I’ve ever seen,” answered Rose.

“…and how long have you been doing this?”

“Too long. How did they get like that?”

“I dunno really. Everybody sorta agrees that they do it to themselves, probably as a way to feel something or so the legend goes.”

Rose looked back at the young woman.

I’m not so sure about that.

Shaking off the first encounter with the techies, the three entered the civic center plaza, a once beautiful looking place with that included an overgrown sculpture garden, decayed fountains and dull, rotted murals. The town hall itself was missing an entire side of its concrete building, letting the party get a good look into the darkened and destroyed offices inside. The library next to it, formerly a place full of children and librarians, was a burnt, hollowed out shell of its former self.

This could’ve been a great place to take the family.

“Anything?” Ricky asked Gertrude.

“Nothing, dear, there’s barely any power in these parts, like I said,” she answered him. Indeed, it was silent, even for an abandoned city. Rose sighed, feeling slightly guilty about having left her family and leading her comrades to this empty area.

“I’m sorry, you guys, this is my fault I suppose. Gertie, what would be another good place to go to?”

Gertrude didn’t answer and only stared out into space.

“Gertie?” asked Ricky “What is it, honey?”

Again, no answer. Rose and Ricky turned around and was greeted with a softly glowing lamppost.

“Ohhh…this is gonna be a good night…,” Ricky whispered with joy in his tone.

Rose’s heart started to pump faster. In the shadows next to the lamp, something crawled and clanged.

Here we go.

The creature itself was no more than three and a half feet tall but was about seven feet long from its rubber-covered copper tentacles in the front to its foam and plastic tail. Its six aluminum and hard plastic limbs were covered in auxiliary cables and fiber optics wires and extended out from its body like a spider’s. The torso, if one could call it that, was jumble of old stereo equipment, discarded CD players and various computer equipment. Most intriguingly, the creature was covered in a varied sort of smartphones, tablets and MP3 players; two of which acted as the “eyes” of this mechanical monster.

Just looking at it made Rose uncomfortable as the creature wandered underneath the lamppost, apparently trying to feed off the power. Her body tensed up and she was unable to make the slightest move. Fear had taken its grip on her.

I’ve hunted plenty of these things, she thought to herself, so what’s stopping me now?

Rose wondered if it was the size of this creature. Compared to the usual lot, it was the largest one she had seen and surely it was the largest that Ricky and Gertrude had seen. But seasoned scavengers aren’t accustomed to tense up when their prey appears, even one of this size.

Poor thing. Rose wasn’t sure if she was referring to the creature or herself.

“Rosie!” Gertrude loudly whispered to her “Get yourself together, honey,”

Rose snapped out of her daze. “What are we gonna do now?”

“Classic encirclement, ladies. I’ll go right and Gertie, you go left. Rosie, baby, you stay here and be ready with that bow.” Rose nodded and sighed as the two silently scattered away to their positions, being careful not to scare off their prey. She had dreaded this night ever since Marcus had fallen ill. When they had gotten married, he promised her that her scavenging days were over. Over two years later, she had not even touched her scavenging equipment; preferring that Marcus handle this business.

I can’t believe we still must do this, Rose contemplated as she removed the bow from her back and notched an arrow. Ahead of her, Ricky silently walked behind a sculpture while Gertrude, with not even the slightest hint of stealth in her body, casually walked behind an empty trash can.

The creature, whom Rose had noticed had a limp leg where a few cable wires were exposed and shredded, lowered its head towards the base of the lamp. Rose’s hands trembled with anxiety.

Calm down, she told herself, or else you won’t get another shot like this.

Sweat dripped down her forehead, getting dangerously close to her eyes. She pinned the left side brim of her slouch hat to the side and grasped the arrow fletchings and bow string with her left hand. Years of archery training suddenly kicked in. Rose slowed her breath down to calm her heart rate. The slightest tremor would throw off her aim, even to a target as close as this one.

Ricky, with a big smile on his face, beckoned to an unexcited Gertrude if she was ready. She nodded and readied her revolver. He then turned his attention to Rose, who nodded back. She pulled back the arrow and bowstring across her chest and held it for what seemed an eternity. The creature, completely unaware of Rose and her companions, lifted its chest up, exposing its large, red CPU system that acted as its heart.

Forgive me.

Rose released the arrow, flying across fifty feet of open, darkened pavement. The four-inch, Bodkin-tipped arrow struck its red heart, spraying out sparks and completely immobilizing the creature. Its electronic, distorted cries signaled the attack from the trio. Rose lowered her bow as Ricky jumped out from the sculpture, shotgun in hand and began firing at the creature while Gertrude, still behind the trashcan, fired several shots from her revolver.

Shards of glass, metal and rubber flew all over the pavement as the rounds hit the creature. After a few seconds, the firing stopped as all light from the creature faded. The screeches and howls from a few seconds ago lead into an ominous silence.

“Woooo!” Ricky’s voiced echoed across the complex “That’s what I’m talking about!”

“Okay, calm down there, Ricky. Let’s just grab what we came for and get out of this creepy place,” Rose said, still drenched with sweat.

“Agreed, Rosie,” said Gertrude as she removed her machete from its scabbard.

The two approached the downed creature. Ricky, with his axe, hacked away a large section of one of its limbs containing a variety of smartphones, auxiliary cables and aluminum pipes, sending small pieces of the dead creature flying all over the ground. Opposite from Ricky, Gertrude carefully sliced away pieces of copper and whole lithium batteries from the torso of the creature, humming to herself as she did.

How does Marcus manage to scavenge like this? Rose pondered as she watched her friends mutilate their prey with equal parts awe and disgust. Small, useless pieces such as worn rubber, plastic covers and old Styrofoam fell away, revealing more of the inside workings of the creature.  Ricky and Gertrude, with smiles on their faces, tossed one another several pieces of chrome plating, worth several dollars each if you sold them to the right buyer in the big city.

“Rosie!” she heard Gertrude yell “Dinner’s ready!”

Rose, sucking up the awful feeling in the pit of her stomach, walked over to the disemboweled prey. She used her gladius to cut several smartphones and tablets out from the creature’s exposed chest and a few strands of HDMI cables. Organizing everything into her sack, she flung it over her shoulder as the others finished their scavenging.

“Need any help. Rosie?” Ricky asked her, noticeably struggling with his own sack.

“Uhhhh…no thanks, Ricky. The more I get, less time Marcus has to be out here,” she answered him. Gertrude, eager to get back to her own vain life, took point on the journey back out of the scavenging grounds. The group of techies that the trio witnessed on the way to the civic center was nowhere to be found, unnerving Rose a little bit.

What’s so important to take them away from their tech?

They strolled on into the darkened streets, passing by trashed cars and broken glass bottles. The soft howl of the wind blew pieces of paper and plastic across dead lawns. Ahead, a knocked over streetlight blinked its red light while sparks sporadically flew out from the base of its steel pole. This was most obviously a recent act of vandalism.  

“So, guys, where the heck are we?” asked Rose.

“Shuttle stop, Rosie girl. Why walk, when you can be driven?” said Gertrude. As if by some sort of black magic, a pair of headlights appeared down the street. The headlights belonged to an ages-old pick-up truck that was barely functioning and held together in some places with duct tape. The driver, a middle aged lady with a large serpent tattoo running down her face, stopped at the bus stop and lowered her window.

“Fee’s gonna be a few batteries…or anything else you got in those satchels!” she said with a small smirk. Ricky tossed her a few batteries and climbed onto the back of the truck. Gertrude followed him with Rose being the last one on.

“Where to?” the driver asked.

“The north gate, please,” answered Ricky.

“You got it.”

Rose hunkered down in one of the pick-up’s corners as the truck bounded down the dark streets. They passed other trucks full of scavengers, ready to find their prey, or ones full of people hauling back their trophies. The truck turned a corner at an abandoned mini mall and continued down the main boulevard.

“So how was it back out in the field, honey?” Gertrude asked Rose, playing around with her small flashlight.

“I remembered why I decided to stay home,” answered Rose.

“Couldn’t have been that bad, Rose,” said Ricky.

“Exactly! Maybe you were just nervous about going out again,” Gertrude said, flicking the flashlight on and off.

“I was nervous. Still am. I’m not really sure what it is, but I’m just having a bad feeling,”

“…and what possibly could that be?”

Suddenly, the truck screeched to a halt, nearly sending Ricky flying onto the pavement had he not been hanging onto the cab of the truck. He didn’t say a word either, rather content to be stare towards the front of the pick-up.

“Ricky, what’s going on?” asked Rose. He didn’t answer. Rose stood up and glanced to where he was looking. Illuminated by the headlights was a whole row of techies standing silently in the middle of the decaying, cratered road, led by the girl that Rose had noticed earlier. Their eyes, glassed over and lifeless, blinked with various colors and images. Rose’s heart sank. And here she thought Gertrude was actually right for once. The techies took a step forward in unison.

“Hey, driver! Might wanna back this thing up!” Ricky yelled as he pounded on the roof of the cab.

The car sped backwards through the darkness as the techies gave chase after them. The truck dodged destroyed cars and vans, nearly sending Rose, Ricky and Gertrude flying off the truck bed. At a sharp corner, the truck backed into a brick wall, knocking Gertrude into Rose. The techies approached closer and closer, little blue lights steaming out of holes in their bodies. Ricky raised his shotgun and took aim

“Don’t shoot!” yelled Rose as she shoved a confused Gertrude off of her.

“Why the hell not?” Ricky asked with a completely puzzled and panicked look on his face.

The pick-up lurched forward, barely missing the first of the techies to reach their location. Unexpectedly, the techies did not fall behind immediately but rather kept up a rather quick pace, reaching out towards them. After a few minutes, the pick-up turned another corner and left the last of the techies behind.

“Did you see how fast they were running?” said Ricky, sprawling out on the truck bed.

“They aren’t human anymore. That’s for sure,” said Gertrude.

“No, they still are,” said Rose “for only a little while longer,” Rose answered.

“What in the world made them do that? I’ve never seen techies move more than a few feet,” the driver yelled out from the cab.

“Not sure, but let’s just get back. I don’t want to stay around here any longer,” hollered Rose over the sound of the speeding truck.

The truck eventually made it back to the chain-link gate, and climbed out of the truck bed. The gatekeeper from before sat completely alone; the large group of scavengers either gone on their hunts or went back home for the night.

“You’ll never guess what happened to us!” the driver said from inside her truck.

“Techies give you a hard time?” the gatekeeper asked.

“Yeah! How’d you know?” asked Rose.

“Lot of injured scavengers been coming back this way the past hour. Like nothing I’ve ever seen before,”

“Well, it was an intense ride to say the least. I’ve gotta get back and warn whoever is still out there,” said the driver, bidding farewell to the group and turning her truck back towards the darkness of the scavenging grounds.

“We better get you back, Rose. Take it easy, buddy,” Ricky said to the gatekeeper as they group turned away and walked past the gate towards the neighborhoods. Rose looked back towards the overpass to wave bye to the gatekeeper when she noticed large missing sections of fence on top of the freeway several meters away from the underpass where the gate is.

Very curious…

Not knowing whether it was something that was already there or not, Rose turned her attention to lugging her sack to the empty park not too far from her own apartment. Upon reaching the park, the trio sat down on an old wooden bench and rested themselves. Ricky and Gertrude immediately went about scouring their bags like two children at Christmas time.

“It’s been sort of a strange night, don’t you think?” asked Gertrude, closely inspecting a cracked smartphone.

“Define your definition of strange, Gertie,” Rose said.

Gertrude rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to her bag full of goodies. Rose sighed with relief. They had only been out for about two hours and already she was exhausted. She tried to take her mind off the mechanical creature they had stripped apart and the group of techies that had nearly run them down. She looked forward to getting home and seeing her family again.

Perhaps I should find myself a normal job soon, she thought to herself, once the baby is old enough, Jennifer can look after the boy and the hunt can finally begin.

No pun intended, Rose chuckled to herself.

A soft clanging of metal behind her caused Rose to immediately regret her choice of comedy. She turned behind her and noticed a small LED light sitting in the middle of the dimly lit overgrown field. The light pulsated lightly, almost as if it was beckoning Rose to come to it.

“Guys…do you see that over there?” Rose asked. Gertrude and Ricky turned to look at the light.

“It’s a light, Rosie,” Gertrude said “Some poor somebody must’ve dropped it on their way home. You know, something like that could be worth five dollars if you go to the right buyer…”

It was then that more LED lights popped up around the grass. The first bits of metal and rubber broke through the surface and propped itself up on its hind legs. Glass clanged together as phone and tablet screens switched on to static. The creature itself towered over twenty feet tall and was a mess of wires, glass, dirty plastic and random metal appliances. Rose, frozen with awe and terror, noticed the monster’s much more humanoid shape than the last creature they had scavenged. Along with the clumps of dirt, rocks and grass, Rose noticed small bits of what seemed to be human flesh stuck in certain joints running along its inorganic body.

“Rosie?” said Ricky.

“Yeah, Rick?” answered Rose.

“Do you see what I’m seeing?”

“Oh yeah,”

“What do we do?” There was a pause as the creature turned its head to look at the trio.

“Running might be good about now.”

The metallic monster stepped towards them as Rose, Ricky and Gertrude around the park. Rose unslung her bow and readied an arrow. Gertrude, almost in a total panic, fired wildly at the creature; the bullets missing or taking off small pieces of its body. Rose looked to Ricky who was fumbling with his shotgun shells and failing miserably to feed them into the weapon.

Some scavengers, Rose thought to herself I’m gonna have to get these two back in the game.

She noticed the creature this time around had three CPU systems hiding underneath the bundle of optic wires that acted as its ribcage. If she was going to do this, she was going to need the help of her friends. The creature started towards Gertrude, giving Rose enough time to run over to Ricky.

“Rick, you need to get close and take out one of its CPUs. I’ll take care of the other two,” Rose relayed to Ricky.

“Yeah, you got it,” he said, levering the shotgun.

“And you better hurry, I think Gertie’s starting to lose it.”

Rose, with bow and arrow in hand, watched as Ricky ran up underneath the distracted monster and fired off a shell, destroying one of the CPUs. The monster howled in pain and lurched back, giving Gertrude enough time to join Ricky. Rose inched close to almost point blank range and fired off an arrow, piercing the second CPU. She turned her attention back to her quiver to grab another arrow. Looking up, it was a split second before she realized one of the creature’s giant limbs had knocked her skyward, landing with a hard thud on the overgrown, spiky grass.

“Rosie!” she heard Gertrude yell “Oh, God, Rosie! Ricky, keep that thing away from her!”

Rose, in addition to the intense pain she felt all over her body, noticed a small stream of blood trickle down her forehead. Gertrude, her panic under control now, swabbed Rose’s forehead with a small handkerchief.

“Don’t get up too quickly, honey. Once Ricky’s led that thing away, we’re going to find ourselves a safe place to hide,” Gertrude said, dabbing the kerchief to Rose’s head.

“No, Gertie,” Rose said, pushing away Gertrude’s hand “We are not.”

She used Gertrude’s shoulder to get herself back on her own two feet. Rage boiled up inside Rose, overriding the still noticeable pain the wracked her body. She limped towards the creature, who was still swiping at Ricky.

“I’m done shooting arrows at monsters. I’m done hauling around heavy sacks of junk. I’m done watching my husband go out night after night and not knowing if he’s coming home. I’m done scraping by every single week. I’m done with this stupid night. Gertie…grab me my bow!” Rose bellowed with a huge snarl on her face. Gertie, awed with Rose’s sudden determination, gently handed over Rose’s bow and quiver.

Rose took aim, waiting for the moment the creature turned its front towards her. Ricky, taking a quick glance at the two ladies, ran towards them with the creature in tow. Rose took a deep breath and released the arrow. The steel Bodkin tip ripped straight through the last CPU, sending sparks and pieces of plastic and silicon spraying on the grass below. The creature howled one last cry before smashing into the ground, all of its screens fading softly into the darkness of the park.

There was a brief moment of silence. All three of them knew they had just witnessed something that nobody else had seen before. For Rose, after the first scavenge and nearly being mobbed by the group of techies, it was all just too much for her to bear. At this point, home seemed like the most beautiful place in the world.

“Funny…almost looks like a person, doesn’t it?” asked Gertrude.

“Well this person’s going to make us famous, don’t you think?” answered Ricky, a smile starting to find its place back on his face.

“I knew this was going to get worse,” said Rose, lost completely in thought.

“What do you mean?” asked Ricky.

“Nothing…nothing at all. Hack off a few of those speakers and I’ll leave the rest for you two celebrities,” she said. Ricky did as she asked and placed them into her sack. The value of these speakers would finance her family for the next two weeks.

“You sure you don’t want to stay? Scavengers are going to be swarming this place soon, asking just what the heck just happened here,”

“Ricky! Shame on you! Can’t you see that she’s in pain?” Gertrude chastised Ricky “You go home, darling, and get some rest. We’ll check in on you tomorrow.”

Rose grabbed her sack, hurled it over her shoulder and limped towards the street.

“Rosie!” she heard Ricky yell “Are you sure?”

“Goodnight, Ricky,” she yelled back as she walked down the block.

#####

Rose, still feeling the effects of the hit, reached her apartment stairs and collapsed from exhaustion. It had been only about three hours since she had left her home but felt like it had been an eternity. She dreamed over holding her baby again and lying next to her husband, away from the terrifying nights of the scavenging. Marcus would have to go out again, but maybe there were some jobs in the big city that she could look up.

Probably a fool’s dream, she thought.

Nevertheless, she would try anyways. A night like this demanded that she try. Out on the street, a small group of scavengers raced down the cracked street towards the park where she had killed the creature. Ricky and Gertrude were terrible at keeping secrets. Tomorrow, her name would be everywhere, but for tonight, Rose reveled in being a nobody.

“Rose, you’re back! Are you okay, honey?” she heard Jennifer’s voice call from up the stairs. Rose didn’t move.

“Yeah, just fine, Jen. Just a little tired is all,” she answered.

“Everything go well?”

“Yeah, just dandy. Got us enough to get through for the coming weeks,”

“Well, I’m so glad to hear that.”

Rose remembered her desire to find work in the city. “Say Jen, I was going to ask you something,” she said, turned her head up to look at Jennifer. It was then she noticed that Jen’s left pupil had almost completely turned white and taken on a glassy appearance. Rose turned away and laid her head back on the stairs.

“Well?” Jen asked,

“Nothing, Jen, it can wait until later.” Jennifer nodded and went back inside. Rose, disheartened, sighed and turned her attention back to her bow.

“I’m going to need more Bodkin tips.”

END.

By J.R. Rustrian

 

J.R. Rustrian is a part-time writer living in Southern California. He often writes about science fiction, fantasy and horror and hopes to make a living at it.

 

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